The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough starter -- feeding question

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sourdoughlee's picture

Sourdough starter -- feeding question

I apologize if I'm asking this question in the wrong place but I don't see anywhere else to ask it.

I'm having great, really wonderful success baking my sourdough bread. As it turns out, I bake about every four or five days so feeding my starter hasn't been a problem.

One of these days though I'm sure I'll let time slip by before baking and I need to know how to feed my starter. I've read through numerous posts and have been unable to find out the following: When you feed your starter, what the heck do you do with it then? Should you leave it out to ferment for a couple of hours before refrigerating it or just plunk it into the fridge right away. I've read a lot of web pages by a lot of experts and I have been unable to find out this little detail.

Thanks in advance for your enlightening responses.


A little humor: What is an "expert"? An expert is a person who learns more and more about less and less until pretty soon he knows everything there is to know about nothing.


SourdoLady's picture

Every baker has "their way" of doing things, so don't be surprised if you get different answers. I always save no more than 1/4 cup of old starter and then I feed it 1/2 cup each of flour and water. I let this sit out on the counter, covered loosely until it is nice and bubbly--usually an hour or so. Then it goes into the fridge until I need it to bake again. Putting it in the fridge makes it go semi-dormant so you want it to be nice and active going in but not to the point where it has consumed all the nutrients in the flour. You can feed it more flour than water if you like, so the starter is thicker. It will go longer between feedings if it is thicker.

sourdoughlee's picture

Thank you SourdoLady. What you say makes sense. How soon will it then be ready for another baking?

I apologize for such basic questions but, as I've said, I've been baking so often that I just haven't had to worry about feeding.

SourdoLady's picture

You are welcome--glad to help. It will be ready to bake with when you take it out of the fridge, let it warm up to room temp, feed it at least double the amount of flour as you have old starter, and let it proof a minimum of 8 hours (or overnight). If it has been in the fridge for more than a few days, I would dump out all but 1/4 cup of it before you feed it. You always want to keep the proportion of old starter small in relationship to new food. More food=more vigorous starter. These guys eat a LOT! I know it all seems very confusing at first, but once you get used to the routine it is simple.

What kind of starter are you using? Is it a wild yeast starter? Did you make it yourself, or get one that was already established?

sourdoughlee's picture

It is a wild yeast starter and, preferring the "purist" approach, I made it myself. After making two or three really attractive decorative bricks I slowed down a bit, spent a couple of weeks developing it, and now have a really viable starter. How about you?

I know it sounds strange but I've been baking what I think are really great loaves of sourdough bread for three or four months now and, since getting my starter developed, haven't "fed" it once. I really appreciate the information you've provided. Spring and summer are coming along with fishing and camping so I'm sure I won't be baking as much and thus I became concerned about feeding and caring for my starter.

What kind of loaves are you making? And what kind of textures and crusts do you prefer?

My primary goal was to make a good, high rising loaf, using a bread pan, that would yield large bread slices for sandwiches capable of completely covering a slice of bologna. I can sure do that now (and then some) but I'm starting to think about trying some more exotic loaves. Any suggestions?

Paddyscake's picture

You say above to feed double the amount of flour as you have old starter before proofing..does that mean you don't add water?
I dumped all but a 1/4 cup of starter and added 1/2c flour and
1/2 cup water. So when I'm ready to bake I'll add 2 1/2 cups flour?
or that plus 2 1/2 cups of water? Sorry to ask so many questions..
but just when I think I get it..I don't!!! LOL
Thank you!

SourdoLady's picture

Yes, you do add water also. You wouldn't need 2 1/2 cups of flour/water when you are ready to prepare your starter for baking. That would result in a LOT of starter and you probably won't use that much unless you are baking multiple loaves of bread. I would feed it at least 1 cup flour/water.

Lee, I like to bake free-form loaves on a baking stone. It is more of a challenge than panned loaves. I always do autolyse, dough folds, and refrigerator retards with my dough. And, wild yeast is the only way to go. I also made my own starter. I can't believe that you have not been feeding your starter. You better start feeding it or it will croak on you! You will find that it will rise your bread much better when it is kept fed, also.

I'd post some pics of my bread but I need to get some more memory put in my PC before I upload any more pics or my PC is gonna crash.

sourdoughlee's picture

Hi Sourdolady,
To clarify, I haven't been "feeding" my starter but it is getting fed because I've been baking so often. I bake about every four or five days so each time I bake it is getting fed. But I've never just fed it without baking.

I'd like to see some of your bread photos. Are your loaves suitable for making sandwiches or more as an accompanyment with a meal? I've seen a lot of photos and the loaves are either long and skinny or round. In either case not really shaped for making sandwiches.

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

My sourdough rye makes great sandwiches:

Picture of loaf