The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New Sourdough Baker Nonna

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nonna's picture

New Sourdough Baker Nonna

  I am on the 4th day of the great pineapple starter and everything went as planned!  My question is why to throw away all but l/4 of the starter and add flour and water?

 Am I suppose to throw away all but l/4 of the starter everytime I feed it?  Could I keep the throwaway and start another batch?  Sorry if I am naive but am new to this wonderful event!!! Thanks so much,


Trishinomaha's picture

I think you'll find as many sourdough starter methods as there are people on this board sometimes! I followed the rules pretty strictly for the first six months or so and then was ready to experiment a little when I got a little feel for it. I have three starters - two of them are already a year old. I think it depends on how often and how much you're going to bake. I try to feed all three regularly although they spend most of their time in my fridge. If I'm favoring one starter for awhile I save about 1/4 cup of the ones I'm not using in a small container in the fridge till I'm ready to freshen them up again for baking. If I'm going to use a starter for a recipe on Saturday, for example, I might pull out all three starters on Thursday evening after work and follow the 1/4 c method and give them all a good feed and continue to feed till Saturday morning. Two of the starters then go back to cold storage. For the starter I've chosen to use - it will get 1/2 c. flour and 1/2 cup water. Depending upon what the recipe I'm using calls for in amounts I will continue to feed until I have enough starter. Don't throw any leftovers though - it makes great pancakes on Sunday morning! That is my simplified method of doing things and it works great for me. There are a lot more experienced people here so I'm sure you'll  be able to read about all sorts of methods and choose one that works for you.

Most of all in the bread baking adventure - make sure to relax and have fun with it!


sphealey's picture

=== Am I suppose to throw away all but l/4 of the starter everytime I feed it? Could I keep the throwaway and start another batch? Sorry if I am naive but am new to this wonderful event!!! Thanks so much, ===

Ask away - we love questions on this site!

Eventually you will be able to use the excess to make bread. Four days after starting from scratch however your happy yeast/bacteria farm probably isn't strong enough to raise dough by itself, and it might still go through a cycle of producing less-than-appetizing smell/taste before it settles down. So you are discarding the 3/4 to give the yeast and bacteria a clean fresh environment and encourage it to develop a healthy balance.

After the starter is stable, the routine you follow depends on how long you store the starter between bakes. I store mine in the refrigerator for a week, so I take it out on Friday night for 2 hours, feed it and discard the excess, let it sit at room temperature overnight, and then I am ready to feed in the morning and use the removed starter for the levain. If you bake with the starter every day you don't have to discard any because the starter will be well-fed and fresh.



nonna's picture

Hello I am a beginner baker and the pineapple starter is doing great!!! I am wondering why I should throw out all but 1/4 cup of starter on day 4? 

 Do I continue to throw out all but 1/4 cup starter everyday when I feed?  Could I keep the throwa

SourdoLady's picture

The reason for discarding most of the old starter is because the yeast spores will have consumed all of the nutrients in the flour and it is nothing but a swimming pool of waste that your yeastie babies are wallowing in. They need new flour for more food.

You can do whatever you want with the discards. It can be added to pancake batter, cake batter, quick bread batter, brownies, etc. In most cases it won't even change the outcome of the recipe, other than maybe making it a bit better.

nonna's picture

Thanks to all for your knowledge - after a week of throwing away all but 1/4 cup of starter each time and adding equal parts flour/water (1/4 cup each) how do I accumulate a cup plus of starter for my loaves if I keep throwing out?  Thanks I will get it soon!

sphealey's picture

Let's say you are keeping 300 g of starter, removing 150 g at each feeding and replacing it with 150 g of flour and water in your preferred proportions.

Let's also leave refrigeration out of the picture for the moment and assume you are feeding/baking every day.

Once your starter is well-established, you feed it and let it grow to double volume (or triple, or whatever your standard is). Then you remove 150 g, set it aside for baking, and feed your starter the usual 150 g of flour/water.

If your recipe calls for more than 150 g of levain, you take the 150 you have set aside, feed it the necessary additional amount of flour and water, and let it grow for 8 hours or until you are ready to bake.

German receipes typically use a doubling process where you start with 50 g starter, add 50 g flour and 50 g water and let that grow at 83 degrees F, then add 150 g flour and 150 g water and let that grow in the refrigerator overnight, then add 400 g flour and 400 g water at 83 deg F, and so on until you have a ball of levain the size of the Moon.

It should be noted that professional recipes don't work this way. Professional bakers use all of yesterday's starter and remove enough for tomorrow at an appropriate point. I don't trust myself not to forget that critical step of removing the mother starter, so I do the starter and dough steps separately.

If you are still having trouble with this, _The Bread Builders_ has a very readable diagram that shows the process. Just ignore the labels that say "50 kg" and think of reasonable kitchen-sized amounts.


ehanner's picture

I have found that it is easiest for me to keep an active well fed starter on the counter and take a small portion from that (storage starter) to inoculate my dough. I try to keep the starter as small as feasible since it is way easier to end up with much more than you actually need. For example I refreshed my starters tonight with this process. I started by tossing all but 1 heaping Tablespoon of the old starter. That is about 30 grams or so. That's actually more than I need for my usual daily bake. Then I added 90 grams of water and whisked it in. The flour is measured at 120 grams and stirred in well. Now I have 240 grams that will be ready to use any time tomorrow if left at room temperature.

I'll get up early and take 1 tsp (about 12 grams) of the now active starter and whisk it into 162 grams of tepid water. Beat it until frothy with a hand whisk or fork. Then add everything else like 250 grams flour, 5 grams salt and maybe a dribble 1/2 tsp oil. Beat it with a spoon or use your hands and a scraper to incorporate everything. Cover for maybe 10 minutes and knead for a few minutes. Turn out into a oiled bowl, cover and wait for 1 hour or so and do a stretch and fold. Repeat after another hour. When the dough has doubled (6 hours for me) gently tip it out, shape and cover and place it on the surface you want to bake on. I use paper mostly. Proof for 1 hour or slightly longer but don't be concerned about doubling. Bake as normal. (slash-steam-rotate once) 25 minutes at 450.

The thing I didn't get when I first started sourdough is that more starter is not better usually. If you make sure your starter is healthy and active and was recently refreshed, then you only need 5% of the total flour weight to raise the dough. Using less starter assures that there will be plenty of food for the beastys and some left over for oven spring. I hardly ever proof longer than 1 hour and a half and usually 1 hour is plenty if the proofing temp is over 70F. It might take a little longer so you need to be flexible and make sure the primary ferment is a good double. When you get this relationship between activity/temp/food you are on your way.
Good Luck,
EDIT: I changed the salt back to 5 grams. My mistake, I usually double this mix.


nonna's picture