The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough starter by Nancy Silverton-maintenance

Vassiliki's picture

Sourdough starter by Nancy Silverton-maintenance

Hello everyone! :)

I am new here. 

Hoping I will get an answer!

I have done sourdough starters again but I am so confused about this.

I feel silly for asking this... :)

So I have made the sourdough that Nancy Silverton has in her book "Breads from the La Brea bakery".  I have it in the fridge for about 3 weeks since day 15 or the procedure because I am so confused about what to do next.

Wanting to move to maintain a smaller amount as she describes on page 37 but couldn't seem to work out the proportion of water and flour descibed. She says "match the starter with flour and water each time instead of doubling it..."

I assume I should go with 1:1:1, 1 cup starter, 1 cup water, 1 cup flour all at once and that's it.

Of cource I will take the starter out of the fridge for a few ours, feed it , let it out for a few hours and then put it back in the fridge for a week and then repeat.

Thanx in advance to everyone that will take the time answering. :)

Vassiliki, Athens

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

How you keep totally depends on what suits you. I bet no two people keep their starters exactly the same. There are some good guidelines though. Feeding the starter it's own weight or more in fresh flour is called a healthy feed. Equal amounts of water and flour by weight is 100% hydration. This is popular as you always know how much water and flour there is in any amount of starter. Don't keep too much starter. It is difficult to maintain and can be wasteful. Keeping a small amount and using your starter to build off shoot starters to go into the dough - aka levains - is more manageable. Think of your starter as a petri dish where you keep all the yeasts and bacteria from which you build preferments more geared to the breads you are making. 

For example...

A maintenance build might be something like this: 20g starter + 40g water + 40g flour. 

100g starter at 100% hydration. Allow this to activate and bubble up by 80% and then refrigerate. It can last in the fridge for a while. When you run short or if it starts to develop hooch then you refresh it. 

When it come to baking take off a little starter the night before and build a levain. 

Once your starter runs low and gets down to about 20g, take it out of the fridge, give it some TLC, top it back up to 100g and refrigerate. 


David R's picture
David R

If you measure with cups, you lose some control. Measure everything by weighing, instead. It's much more reliable.

You can use cups if you need to. It's not a disaster. But your results will be less predictable.

Doc.Dough's picture

A lab operation would keep perhaps 100mg of starter for each sample but you need enough that you can see it.  30g of starter is just fine.  A small polypropylene 5.5oz food service cup will handle it. And at that scale you aren't throwing away much flour each time you feed it – about 1/2 oz per feeding at 5g:10g:15g or about a pound of flour in a month if you feed it once a day and refrigerate it overnight - 2 lb of flour in a month if you feed it twice a day and leave it on the counter.  The appropriate refresh ratio can be anywhere from 5:10:10 (1:2:2) to 5:10:15 (that is a 1:2:3 ratio to make 30g total). Mix it and let it sit for 12 hrs then refrigerate or refresh again.  Starter is pretty tolerant.

When you want to make bread, feed it again, taking 5g out as seed for the next feeding and then use the remaining leftover starter to initiate a levain build.  If you will need 200g of levain for your bread, use all of the leftover from the last refresh cycle, subtract that from 200 then divide the result by 2. Lets say that you have 20g left:  200-20=180g;  180/2=90g.  So add 90g of water and 90g of flour to the 20g of residual starter and you will have 200g of starter if you let it sit in a warm place overnight.  That is just like running a refresh at 20:90:90.  If you need to use 200g to make bread, plan on making 210 to allow for scraper and bowl losses along the way).

By the way, if you are going to make a huge batch of bread and need a few Kg of levain, just repeat the build using the 200g you made in round 1 [200:1800:1800] and you will have about a gallon of starter and it took a couple of days. At that point you are one step away from opening a bakery.