The Fresh Loaf

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How to maintain a starter that is in the refrigerator

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Mac's picture
Mac

How to maintain a starter that is in the refrigerator

Hello all:

New to sourdough so this, I'm sure, is a basic question.  I have a great starter and made two, really tasty, loafs of sdb.  I put the starter in the refrigerator but am unclear on how to maintain it while it's in the cooler and not being used.  The next question is when I'm ready to bake again what is the procedure to get the starter out of the refrigerator and ready for baking.

 A point in the right direction would be most appreciated.

 Thanks! 

 

Yumarma's picture
Yumarma

 Take the starter out of the fridge, feed it a standard feed, give it an hour or two to wake up and start eating, then pop it back in the fridge. Some people think it needs to double then should be put back in when it is at it's peak - so several hours on the counter - others think once you've given it fresh flour/water and it's had a bit of warm up time, it's good to go back in.

 Doing this once a week seems to be the standard although some people have let their starter sit unattended for much longer and it came back fine, although very long periods may mean several feedings before it's back to it's normal, bouncy self.

 As for starting up a bread starter, I myself do the above feed and instead of tossing the extra, I use that to make a separate batch as required for the bread recipe. So my "mother" starter remains safely tucked away in the fridge while the 'discard' is used in the recipe.

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Paul

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I get lots of email through sourdoughhome.com and many of the emails are from people in trouble.  The usual issue is they aren't taking good care of their starter and it slowly fades and dies.

 

Dr. Sugihara did research and found that fresh starter survives freezing better than a mature one.  My less formal experiments suggest the same is true of refrigeration.  Neither a refrigerator nor a freezer are some sort of science fiction stasis box where nothing ages.  Your starter is declining as surely as the celery will wilt and decompose.

 

I usually suggest every two weeks or so people pull their starter out of the fridge, feed it until it is fully vibrant, feed it one more time and then refrigerate it at once.

 

There are signs when starter is in distress.  It throws off hooch, it takes more than a day or two to revive and/or it becomes  discolored.

 

If my starter has been in the fridge for less than a week, I find I can just use it.  If it has been in the fridge for more than a week, I prefer to feed it up until it is vibrantly healthy and I have enough to bake.

 

My prefered feeding regimen is to feed the starter enough to double it's size with each feeding, and to feed it an equal amount of flour and water by weight.  Or about 2 parts of water to 3 parts of scooped flour by volume.

 

Hope this helps,

Mike

 

holds99's picture
holds99

Hello Mac,

My suggestion is to go to Mike Avery's Sourdough Home website and take a look at the downloads available.  They're very reasonably priced and if you're just getting started with sourdough my suggestion would be to download "An Introduction To Sourdough Baking".  It's well worth the small price.  On page 19, VI. An Introduction To Caring For Your Starter you'll find information re: feeding and maintence of your starter.   Here's a link:

http://www.sourdoughhome.com/breadshoppe.html#introsd

I'm certainly no expert but I can tell you from experience you'll save yourself a lot of time, frustraton and flour if you understand how the process works and what you have to do to get your starter cranked up ready to bake.  I just finished revving mine up using Mike's feeding/refreshment procedure and it worked great.  I had a couple of previous "also rans" baking Leader's Pierre Nury light rye bread as a result of not having my starter active enough before mixing it into my dough.  Anyway, best of luck with your sourdough adventures.  Looking forward to seeing some of your postings.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

DaytonaDoug's picture
DaytonaDoug

I have a perplexing problem.  I have to work for away from my home to pay for all my fun things.  I'd love to bake sourdough bread, but as I am away from home for 3 to 4 weeks at a time, I'm not sure I could keep a starter alive.  Any thoughts other than begging a cup of fresh starter from Holds99 every time I get back to town?

 Life Is Good

DaytonaDoug

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

Well, Mike has previously mentioned that a starter can be frozen for a good month without problems.  So I'd suggesting freezing the starter between uses.  Then, when you want to use it, defrost it at room temp, feed it a 2-3 times at 12 hour intervals using a 1:2:2 ratio to get it going again (make sure it's really lively and bubbly), and then use it like normal.  Then, when you're ready to store it, feed it, then freeze it.

DaytonaDoug's picture
DaytonaDoug

FancyPantalons,

I'm a little confused about your ratio.  Could you explain what is the 1, the 2 and the second 2?  I'll sure be giving the freezing a try.  Thanks!

Life Is Good

DaytonaDoug

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The next time you refresh your starter and before you head out the door, take a tablespoon of  your starter, mix in 1/4 c water and work in as much flour as you can and still have dough.  Then put it into a jar at the back of the fridge.  3 weeks later should be perfect!  Take out a walnut size chunk from the middle, add water and flour to your favorite consistancy and then let it ferment on the counter top.  Ta Dah!  

When you plan your next escape, repeat! 

Mini O

Yumarma's picture
Yumarma

 Whenever you see ratios mentioned in regards to starters (at least on this site) in that X:X:X format, it means X parts of the old starter to X parts of water to X parts of flour

So using 1:2:2 as an example)

1 part old starter to 2 parts water to 2 parts flour

If you used 30g of the old starter, you'd then add 60g of water and 60g fllour  - this is pretty much the quantities Mike Avery uses for basic starter amounts and gives you 150g total or about a half cup.

You'll see other ratio amounts when starters are kept more solid or wetter. 

--------
Paul

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I actually don't freeze my starters.  Many bakers do, but I haven't.  Early on, I was told that killed a starter, so I avoided freezing.

 

I've since learned that freezing doesn't kill a starter, but I have good luck with refrigeration, so I haven't had any reason to freeze starter.   I don't preach against freezing, it's a good technique.  Just one I don't use.

Mike