The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Yet another SD starter question

tattooedtonka's picture

Yet another SD starter question

O.K. Im still not understanding some things.  I have read the recipes for a SD starter here, and in 4 different books, and I am still a little lost.  I have looked around here first to try to find some answers to some of my thoughts, and Im sure someone at sometime already may have asked these.  For those of you who may have already answered, Im sorry for asking again.  But here it goes.

1st) Why do you throw away half your starter at each feed.  I get the reason on the formula side, but not the practical side.  Wouldn't it be more useful to seperate the two halves and then create two starters?  Maybe not at first, but by the third or forth feeding.  Or is there no upside to having multiple starters?  For instance, what if one of your starters goes bad, you would then have a sister batch from it to go with.

2nd) I have read the recipes, but how do you folks store them normally?  Do you just leave on your shelf, or counter, indefinately?  Or do you only bring out and care for when you are close to baking days and freeze the rest of the time?  I guess I still am not really asking the right way.  How about this, "Over a two month period, where is your starter usually found in your kitchen?"

3rd) Why?  Other than trying to create a true sourdough, for sourdoughs flavor.  If you are just going to put a bunch of more intense flavors into the bread, like garlic, or herbs, or fruits, why not just use yeast?  If the true sour flavor isnt the dominent flavor, are you just doing it to save cost on store bought yeast?  Or is it related to longevity of shelf life of the finished product?  Or is it just because you can?  I am really interested, this is not a slight, or meant as an insult to any hardcore SD folks, Im just curious.  I am interested in your reasons.

I have only been making breads for about a month.  Ive made ALOT of bread during that time for a home baker, but not alot if your a pro.  I have been reading about SD since the beginning of my learning.  But wanted to wait until I felt good with yeasted breads before I moved forward to something more involved.  It only seems that the more I read, the more questions keep popping up in my head as to whys, and what for. 

 Thanks to all of you who have taught me so much so far, I am interested in getting your feedbacks again.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

1)  Some throw away others not.  But if your starter is larger than what you need, you need to scale down.  You can easily scale down to just 10g or a tablespoon or so, any smaller, it tends to dry out or get lost on the scales.   After you use your starter, you can save a spoon full to make more of your starter within a day.  When I have too much starter, many times I dry it for backup just in case something goes wrong.  

2)  Mine two split starters are in the refrigerator.  I have dried in small glasses in the cupboard, and none in the freezer. (I also have sour cream starter, yoghurt, and cheese starters but in the freezer.)

3)You listed all the reasons.  Each person has his/her own reason.  I like putting it in mainly for the flavor and adjust my starters and recipes to my situation. I like to experiment, but I know many who don't.  

Hope this helps.  Half the fun is figuring out what is best for you and the way you like to bake. Mini Oven

SourdoLady's picture

There are several reasons why you need to throw away (or use in a recipe) the excess starter before feeding. The biggest reason is because once the yeasts have fed on the starches in the flour, there are no nutrients left in it for them to consume. Essentially, it is waste--much like our bodies process food and we eliminate the waste. The difference being that you have to help with the elimination!

Another reason is that once the yeasts have feasted on the food they grow and multiply. This means there are thousands, maybe millions, more hungry yeasties competing for food (flour). If you don't get rid of some of them you will have to feed very large amounts of flour or they will starve to death. I typically only save about a tablespoon of old starter before feeding. I then feed it 1/4 to 1/3 cup of flour and enough water to obtain the consistency that I like. I leave this out on the counter for about an hour or until it is good and bubbly and then it is put into the fridge until I want to use it again.

It is best to refrigerate your starter in between uses because it slows down the yeast growth to a manageable rate. You can leave it unfed for several weeks if needed, but it is best to feed it once a week or so. If you are baking every single day you could possibly keep your starter on the counter 24/7, but even then it would need to be fed two or three times a day to stay healthy.

Why use sourdough? Most of use do it for the challenge of doing it and the flavor. If you are adding a lot of strong flavored ingredients for specialty breads, then you may be just as well to use commercial yeast if you prefer. Once you have baked a loaf of plain white, wheat or rye bread with sourdough, though, you will probably be hooked just like the rest of us SD nuts. The flavor is exceptional!

Sourdough also has many health benefits. It is rich in B vitamins and the lactobaccilus is good for the digestive system. I don't know a lot about the benefits but I have read articles about it.

Are you convinced to try it yet?

Susan's picture
  1. I keep about 40 grams of starter in the refrigerator. Since I bake 3 or 4 times a week, I use all the starter I make, withholding only 1 T each time to refresh for a new batch.
  2. My starter lives in the fridge and comes out for baking. It sits on the counter for a few hours (depending on temperature) after refreshing, and then back into the fridge until next time.
  3. I like that SD bread lasts and lasts; I don't much like yeasted bread anymore, it seems to be missing something; it makes GREAT toast; and they said it couldn't be done well outside SF. Hah!

There is no one right way to make SD, whatever works for you is the answer.


tattooedtonka's picture

Thanks mini, and to you SourdoLady.

Sourdolady please let me state, that I have had plain sour dough bread, and I do like it.  Especially the breads I have had from the west coast.  So I do appreciate the bread itself.  I just dont understand the benefit when you make a bread where the sour flavor is overpowered by the added ingredients.  It you are going to make a strong bread like a garlic where garlic is your dominent flavor does it really matter that it is from a sour recipe? 

Thank you mini for letting me in on the fact that some folks do indeed split their starters off into mini's to save.  I understand the principle of not keeping it all in one size due to most folks probably do not want to end up with 20lbs. of starter.  But it seemed to me to be a waste.  You spend all that time (10-12 days) just to be throwing out a sizable quantity of your efforts over the time. 

Also when you folks make your sourdoughs how much longer is your shelf life of the bread compared to regular yeasted bread?

Thanks again folks




mountaindog's picture

Hi TT - you got some great info above from SD Lady and Mini Oven and Susan - I would just add that I myself like to make mostly sourdoughs these days not just for the sour flavor, but for a flavor I like better in general. Sometimes, depending on how the dough is handled, the bread is not sour in the least, but it is very flavorful, due to the longer time needed to ferment the dough compared to using yeast. Having better underlying flavor in the bread can enhance even breads that have other flavorings added.

I used to make only yeast breads up until last November and always loved them, but I must admit since making sourdough, then going back and making a yeast bread recently, I was disappointed in the "yeasty" flavor from the commercial yeast, I really prefer the flavor of a naturally-leavened bread. That yeasty flavor from commercial yeast is something I never even noticed before getting into sourdough baking. But that is just my tastebuds and no afront to those who prefer yeasted bread. It's a matter of personal preference, but there is a distinct difference in flavor between the two forms of leavening. You should go with whichever you like better.

As for shelf-life, I notice a distinct difference there as well. A lot depends on the shape and size of the bread, but in general a large yeasted country boule would get stale in my house in about 2 days if only the cut end is covered. (A baguette or batard in about 1 day). All of my sourdough boules last us about 6 days before the little heal that is left at that point starts to get dry, and even then a light toasting brings the flavor and moisture right back.

tattooedtonka's picture

Susan thanks for your info.  I will definately refer to your post as to how to store mine as well.  Pretty cut and dry.

Mountaindog, your information answers alot for me.  My biggest problem to date has been shelf life of my breads.  Different folks and different books says different things.  My breads however perform best if I just place cut end down on a wooden cutting board and leave out.  And even at best my breads have only stayed fairly fresh for a couple days after baking (boules, my batards go hard in a day).  This is one of the questions I was looking for an actual user answer on.  The time line you state is much more desirable, than my couple days.  I understand results may very.

I cannot say I have yet aquired the specific flavor of yeast in my breads.  Probly due to the fact that I have been only eating my breads for a month.  And the fact that even though they are yeast breads, they are fresh breads that have been far superior to anything I can buy at my local store.  So to me they taste great.  I understand your explanation of flavor profiles, and appreciate it.  I was already solid in the belief that I would undertake SD, its just nice to get actual user input as to some of the whys and hows.  I dont think any of my books stated anything other than the generic "sd will last longer than yeasted bread".  And length is such a relative term, especially when used by our gender.  SO it is nice to get actual days as an example. 

Now I just need to figure out the proper time to start my run with a starter based on my work schedule vs. feeding schedule.

Thanks again.


pumpkinpapa's picture

I use white starter, whole wheat starter, and spelt starter (I have a rye starter growing too). And each one has it's own pro's and con's depending on the recipe. Plus I use yeast's too. Sometimes the starters and yeast combine as well, depends on what my path is.

I used to toss out the starter as I keep mine wet, but now I throw it in everytime I do a multigrain to expand the flavours or just to see what comes about. I never know if it's going to be a brick or a delicious recipe to repeat :)

As far as life span, I've found that starter spiked bread lasts about 6 days, Desem lasts the longest with cut side down at 14 days. Thats sitting out on the board, when it finally dries out it makes great french toast or a topper for soups.

tattooedtonka's picture

14 Days out in the open air, thats one heck of a bread.  I came across an old post about Desem not long ago where it showed some photos of it in a bucket, and growing.  I dont really know much about it though, so I guess I now have something else to research....



redivyfarm's picture

First, thanks for initiating this exchange. It addresses a lot of questions and observations that have been knocking around in my brain. By coincidence, I had cut partial loaves in zip locks on the counter. After about a week the yeast bread molded and the sourdough hybrid is still going strong. There are only two of us in this household so I really appreciate that the sourdough culture seems to inhibit spoilage. From my cheesemaking experience, I tend to believe that it is indeed the case.

By the way, nothing compliments the bite of garlic better than the tang of sourdough!