April 16, 2021 - 7:17pm
When to feed starter after baking?
Hello, I am a COVID-triggered sourdougher, so still inexperienced ?. I bake infrequently, say every few weeks, so keep the starter in the fridge. It's around 300g. I use 150g per loaf, so i feed it with 75g water and 75g flour. A few questions:
- do I feed the starter immediately or wait until next time I bake?
- if its immediately, do I put it straight into the fridge or leave it at room temperature until it doubles in size, then put it in the fridge?
- should the jar be sealed tight or loose, to allow a little bit of air flow when in the fridge?
If you want to make starter maintenance easier on yourself, look at the "Most Bookmarked" group on the right hand side of the home page. Look for the topic "No Muss, No Fuss Starter". This particular contribution to the site is popular because it works and it's easy. You really can't go wrong following the advice.
It has taken me a few months to get into a routine that works (for me!) - I think you will find yours in time. People have all kind of methods, I found.
I tend to keep about 80/90 grams in the fridge, use about 60 a week to bake and feed the remaining 20 once a week, to keep it to my total 80/90. When I feed it I let it ferment for a couple of hours at room temperature, until I see it rising a little. I don't let it double because then it's going to be hungry again and you'd have to discard and feed again which is not what I want to do.
Once it has started fermenting, is a bit bubbly and begins to rise, I put it back in the fridge. I keep mine in a weck jar closed with clips, so it is tight but some air can still come out. From what I've read, don't use a jam jar with the lid screwed on tight as it might explode, most people use weck or kilner type jars.
I do take it out every couple of days and give it a stir to allow some air into it, then put it back.
I hope this helps.
That’s a lot of starter to maintain.
To answer a couple of your questions, I prefer to feed my starter, allow it to peak which in my starter’s case isn’t double in size it is usually 3.5-4 times rise. Your starter once at peak and placed into the fridge at < 4ºC will keep very well and if you use it within 2 weeks you won’t need to refresh it before use. Past 2 weeks it will need refreshing prior to using it.
The jar should be loosely covered. As you can imagine there maybe some pressure built up in the starter so you don’t want it tightly covered.
Seeing that you only bake every few weeks, I would probably feed more starter twice before each back, that way it is more active so your levain will be more potent.
I tend to keep very little starter. I aim to have 3-5 g left after two bakes. To that 3-5 g I’ll feed it 1:3:3 to 1:5:5. For each of the two or so bakes I do per week I’ll use 7-15 of starter to build a levain for each bake. That way I’ll have 3-5 g left over to refresh. It is a simple maintenance routine and has little to no waste, I hate waste.
I’m not sure if you’re using your starter directly as a levain, I think you are. You might find your breads turn out better if you think of what you keep in your fridge as starter and then for each bake you make a fresh levain from it. So I think you’re using about 150 g of starter and baking with it. So if you need 150 mg levain, you could do a 1:2:2 build of starter to water to flour so you’d need 30 g levain, 60 g water and 60 g flour and have your nice freshly made and active levain for your bread.
Thank you, I didn’t know it was better to let the starter peak before putting it back in the fridge after a feed. I’ll start doing that too. I love that I keep learning so much from experts on this forum
I’m no expert Alessia, I’ve only been at this for two years and have learned a lot from more experienced bakers here. But also realize, there are many ways to maintain a healthy starter, mine is just one method. If I know I’ll be using my starter within the next 1-2 weeks, I’ll let it peak and then refrigerate. The reason for this is that if I haven’t let it peak, when I use some to build a levain, it may not be at full strength. So you might be starting with a less than optimal starter that you’re using to build a levain. By letting it peak, you know your starter is at full strength and therefore you’ll be most likely to build a very active levain.
Of course, if you’re a patient person, you could say that sure I can use my starter at less than 100% strength and I’ll just give my levain more time to build to full strength. That too is true, but always having a fully strong starter every time you go to use it makes sourdough baking more predictable which in my mind is a good thing.
Another approach similar to Benny's. Caveat, I have only been doing this 6 months or so, definitely not an expert and am definitely learning from everyone here. A lot. ?
I keep a smaller amount of starter than some people do, not as small as others. I tend to feed mine about every 7-10 days.
Generally I keep about 50 gm in the fridge. After I taking out whatever I need for a particular bake (which varies) I often just give it a stir and put it back. If it's been 10 days or I'm starting to get low, I feed it 1:3:3. I mark the level, and it stays on the counter until I see activity. Once I see it's starting to rise about the 25% increase (well below peak) it goes into the fridge. I haven't had discard to use in a while now. And when I am building a levain, I add my starter, allow the levain to triple (usually 5-6 hours, depending on kitchen temperature), stir it down, and let it double again (usually in 1 hour).
I have confidence you will be able to figure out what works well for you. It just takes a little experimenting.
Oh, so you let the levain rise twice before you use it? Another new thing I've learned today :-)
I thought (clearly wrongly) that if you wait until after the peak, the levain/starter will be weaker, and you'd need to feed it again before using, but thinking about it now, mixing it into the dough is like a big feed, so it makes sense.
Next time I feed my starter, i will let it peak too.
Another idea you can experiment with....
Briefly keep 2 starters. Feed them the same. Allow one to show activity before refrigerating Starer A), and the other to peak before refrigerating Starter B). In a few days, build a couple of leavains, whether you plan on baking or not. Do one build with A, the other with B, label them, and see how they do. Does one rise faster than the other? What happens when you stir them down after they seem to have peaked - do they double? How fast? You can learn a lot about your starter by this kind of trial. Our starters, flours, kitchen temperatures etc. are all a little different. Once you figure out which method produces the best results for you, you can go back to keeping just one. Use the other in a discard recipe. ☺️
Edit to add PS - not everyone does what I do to insure their levain is ready for baking. It's my way of being sure it's in good shape.
we don't know anything about your starter, so it is hard to say how to maintain its microflora best, so that it is thriving and not changing with time. The original recipe for your starter probably has instructions for its care in between bakes, hasn't it?
Some starters are prepared for baking, refreshed thoroughly, then a portion is used in baking while the remainders are refrigerated.
Some remainders must be refrigerated young, one hour after feeding, they continue to mature in the fridge, others - fully mature. They don't mature anymore in the fridge, but the microbes start to die off slowly, they don't tolerate cold too well, so it is best to store them with the maximum number of microbes to begin with. It depends on the kind of starter that you have and on how you store it: as is, floating in water, covered by water, covered by flour, blended with flour to a stiff paste, etc.
Other starters are used straight from the fridge, no problem, and their refreshment has nothing to do with baking itself, they are refreshed when they are depleted and it's time to create a new large batch of starter from which to take portions for baking as time goes by. With those you can have a reserve that would last you 1- 4 months, so you would create a new portion 3 times per year and be perfectly happy.
Starters are all different. It depends on the starter.
But the jar is usually sealed tight, to prevent mildew growth. When the starter is lethargic in the fridge, it doesn't need air to breathe. Generally speaking, starters don't need air flow, just to protect the surface from mildew. In the past, when bakers used a small ball of bread dough as a starter for the next batch of dough, they were storing it inside flour, or covered with a thick layer of flour to form crust. This dry crust was preventing starter from becoming moldy and poisoning bread. So yes, seal your jar tight, please.
Thanks everyone for your comments, very informative. I’ll definitely adopt the the levain approach. I have read quite a few recipes, all different so get a bit confused sometimes.
The bread I’ve made has tasted pretty good, but always looking for ways to improve!