The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Worth keeping a starter?

bobbywilson0's picture

Worth keeping a starter?

I built up a starter from scratch, made a loaf with it, then just let it sit in my fridge thinking I would use it and then didn't. I didn't feed it, pretty much just let it sit refrigerated for about a month. I realize that to keep a healthy starter you must feed it and stay on top of the maintenance. I like sourdough now and again, and will probably use it more and more often as I bake more bread, but I am not really interested in the maintenance overhead, or in using up my flour to use it occasionally. Is it reasonable to let it hang out in the fridge, and just revive it a couple of days before I want to bake?  



JessicaT's picture
JessicaT (not verified)

Sure. I too do not bake more than once a month due to various things such as school, etc etc. What I did is make a firm starter and let it hang out in the fridge. It has been about 2 weeks since I last baked a loaf of sourdough and fed the starter and it has yet to start creating hooch.

KansasGirlStuckInMaryland's picture

If you keep it refrigerated you don't have to feed your starter very often.  I would say once a month is nice.  If you keep it small it will only cost you a couple of tablespoons of flour and then a couple of days before you are ready to make bread get it out and give it some nice feedings to build it up.  There are stories on here about people finding that starter that got shoved to the back of the refrigerator and found 6+ months later.  A bit of tender loving care and the starter was ready to go again.

bobbywilson0's picture

thanks for the tips, i'll slowly start feeding it again

Yumarama's picture

Since you specifically mention concern over the use of flour, I would presume that your starter is rather voluminous in which case yes, you'd be tossing hefty amounts of flour into it (and into the compost) semi-regularly. I've seen some starter recipes - from well known bakers - that get you hanging on to 2 or more cups of starter. 

Unless one were using their starter very regularly and using all excess for bread making, there's little need to keep a large starter, it's not really any "better" than a small quantity. And it causes the "tossing out big loads of flour" problems if it's not getting used for bread.

So as KansasGirl above notes keep it small and your discards will be minimal. You can use as little as 10 grams (about a heaping teaspoon) of old starter, add 20g of water and 20g of flour and you have a total of 50g, about a quarter cup of starter. (That's a 100% hydration starter, by the way, getting fed on a 1:2:2 ratio.)

Refreshing this small starter every couple of weeks is adequate and requires just a little flour - about 3 tablespoons - and maybe 5 minutes of time. Even if you toss this out every couple of weeks, it's a minor quantity. I just took this picture to show what 20 grams of flour looks like... not a lot.

20 g of flour

Now I'm not suggesting feeding your refrigerated starter every two weeks is the "best" practice but it certainly is going to keep it going without much issue. So if you do go with feeding every two weeks, it means you're essentially using half of the amount you see above each week, about 1.5 tablespoons. This should not be an amount to worry over.

But most importantly, keeping your starter means you CAN make delicious sourdough bread whenever you want. Fresh bread once a month? No problem! Every two or three months? Wonderful! So, is that worth 10g of flour each week and 5 minutes of feed time every 2 weeks? I'd say yes. But you need to decide for yourself.

Another way to go: make your starter "stiff" which means even more flour such as a ratio of 1:2.5:5 [S:W:F]. This way even sitting in the fridge for extended periods, it will have plenty of food to survive. This is, as you can see by the ratio, a 50% hydration starter. 

Yet another: If you think you won’t get at it for many months, consider drying your starter. Then you can rejuvenate the flakes any time later on. It will take more time and feeds to get it back up to speed but you'll have no worries about the "maintenance overhead".

Hope these tips help you out.

bobbywilson0's picture

thanks, i think I will give this method a shot

rsherr's picture

What about freezing it?