Managing Your Sourdough Starter

Before you watch this video on sourdough starter maintenance, please know that it really isn’t a big deal to keep your sourdough culture alive and healthy. A good starter is naturally very hearty and robust. If I were as strong as my starter is, I’d be competing in Iron Man competitions. At a minimum, all you have to do is throw some flour and water in once in a while to keep it alive during periods when you’re baking infrequently. To keep it near optimum health, feed it once a week or so and keep it refrigerated.

If you’re baking regularly, say weekly or bi-weekly, it’s easy enough just to feed it after using the amount called for in your recipe before returning it to your refrigerator. If you really want to be sure your starter is in optimum shape, feed it once or twice the day before baking or the two days prior to baking day. In addition, here are a few points that are worth noting…

  • When you feed your starter, feed it with approximately equal weights of flour and water. That equates to about 2/3 to 3/4 cup of water for every cup of flour.
  • As a general rule of thumb, the amount you feed your sourdough starter depends on how much of it you have to start with. When practical, you want to approximately double the amount of starter you have each time you feed it. However, if you already have a couple cups of starter on hand and typically only use a cup of starter in your recipe, it doesn’t make sense to have to double the existing two cups of starter. In this case just dispose of a cup or more of the starter and then double what remains.
  • If it’s been a long time since you’ve fed your starter and you don’t plan on baking for a while, don’t feel like you have to go through a big rigamarole to keep it happy, just stir in a 1/2 cup of flour and about the same amount of water and forget about it. That will at least buy you a few more weeks before you have to worry about it again.
  • If you really don’t think you’re going to use your starter at all for a very long time, (some people don’t bake during the summer months, for example), you could dry some starter and freeze it. It will store this way indefinitely. Then revive it in the fall. See the videos on drying starter and reviving dried starter.
  • If you need a whole wheat or rye starter, it’s easy to convert your white flour starter by just a few successive feedings with the flour you want. You may have to adjust the water as some flours are thirstier than others.
  • Be sure to store your starter in a container that’s not air tight. This comment from Madelyn dramatically (and humorously) illustrates why.

I’m really belaboring this subject. Once you’ve played around with sourdough starters for a while and baked some with it, you’ll know all you need to know and develop a sense for what works best. If your bread is not rising as much as you think it should (you’re not getting the desired oven spring) then try what I said about feeding your starter a couple of times in the 12-24 hours before starting your recipe.

As with anything on this web site, if you have any questions or comments about anything please ask in the space below.

Jan 13, 2011 Update: In this video I mention a favorite recipe of mine that calls for 2 cups of sourdough starter. It’s been so long since I shot the video (and many favorite recipes ago), that I’ve forgotten exactly which recipe I was referring to. I do know it was in Ed Wood’s book, Classic Sourdoughs. He has many recipes in there that call for 2 cups of starter.

{ 1402 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate April 27, 2012 at 5:15 pm

I have just pulled a VERY neglected starter out of my fridge – I think the last time I baked was about a year ago. I poured off most of the hooch, and fed the poor hungry thing. It looks a little dark, probably because I originally made it with whole rye flour and have used the same to feed it, but I will be interested to see if I can nurse it back to health over the next few days. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

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John Wohlfeil April 25, 2012 at 12:14 am

I have a package of your sourdough starter & want to make pancakes. Can you advise me on the procedure ? Thanks John

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Breadtopia April 25, 2012 at 8:41 am

Hi John,

Have you activated your sourdough starter yet? Once you do that, there are some good recipes here – http://www.breadtopia.com/sourdough-waffles-and-pancakes/

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Arthur April 23, 2012 at 8:02 am

I have recently started growing my own sourdough starter (not having baked a bread in my life, not even with instant yeast ;-)). I liked the idea of a home-experiment, and it was great! Following the instructions on this website, I had three going at the same time, all with whole wheat bread flour, but one with water, one with pineapple juice, and one with a liquid instant sourdough I got from Germany. In the end, the third one “won” (I keep the house pretty cold, and I think I simply gave up too quickly on #1 and #2). I now have two starters which are doing well: I have split #3 into #3a (whole wheat bread) and #3b (white flour, by feeding #3 with increasing amounts of white flour).

My favorite, #3b (no name yet) is now about a week old now. After 3 days of 2:1:1 (100 grams starter, 50 grams water, 50 grams flour), I started feeding is 1:1:1. That works well, and after about 8-12 hours it doubles. The starter stays inflated for hours! (is that normal?).

I read somewhere (this website or another?) that I should now start feeding the starter a 2:1:1 ratio (so for example, 50 grams starter, 100 grams water, and 100 grams flour). It’s supposed to be healthy enough to bake when it’s able to double itself within 8 hours after a 1:2:2 feeding . If it doesn’t, I should only feed it once per day until it can double itself within 8 hours at 1:2:2 feedings (which probably takes about a week).

Can you confirm this? Is this what I should be doing with my starter? Or should I stick to 1:1:1 and feed it twice a day? (as noted before, with that feeding, it can double itself after about 8-12 hours at about 65 Fahrenheit, and stays inflated for quite a few hours — so much so that I don’t quite know when it is “fresh” to start baking with).

FYI: Although I wasn’t sure if it would rise, I baked my first ever sourdough no-knead loaf with this starter yesterday (as per video recipe) and it was awesome! (The only changes I made were to put the seam-side down on parchment paper, and then simply lower the entire loaf with parchment paper into the Dutch oven). I can upload picture later.

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Anita April 24, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Hi Arthur,
Sounds like you’ve been having a successful experiment. Yes, #1 and #2 needed more time, about 3-4 weeks, since you started them from scratch. Your #3 German starter already made a great loaf, so it’s in great shape. It is my understanding that if you leave it at room temperature, it is best to feed it every day; if you refrigerate it, you can let it go a week or more between feedings. It just depends how often you want to bake bread with it, how much time (and flour) you want to use maintaining it, and/or how you feel about throwing out the excess. The general formula is 1-1-1 (by weight).
I bake once every few weeks, and only feed my starter at that time. I give it one regular feeding, following a 1-1-1 formula (by weight), and then about 8 hrs later a smaller feeding, like 4-1-1 . It doubles overnight in the refrigerator, or in 3 hrs in an 82-85* location. I use up to 2 cups of starter per recipe so that I won’t have to discard anything.
Once you have a strong starter, it is ready to use in a recipe when it collapses (after at least doubling) – the recipe becomes the ‘next feeding”. Or, if it has been in the refrigerator less than a week you could just take it out and make a bread recipe without feeding. Those other formulas you mentioned may serve a particular recipe or method, but don’t seem necessary in general. Hope this is helpful.

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Patty April 22, 2012 at 11:10 pm

I guess I should have read your web site, because I just got an answer to my question about putting a lid on my starter jar, thanks to Madelyn’s funny story.

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Mary Ann Mogavero April 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Hi, I just watched your video, great stuff! I am a total greenhorn when it comes to sourdough but very excited to start. I was gifted for my birthday dehydrated, my friend reactivated it and now i want to feed it and get it in tip top shape. I have four cups of liquid, how much flour and water do I add to feed and put in fridge?
Thank you for your time.

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Frieda April 9, 2012 at 11:13 am

I have read that you can buy a starter from let’s say overseas, like the middle east or Russia and you will have that starters unique flavor. When you constantly use and feed this starter I am thinking that it begins to take on the flavor and uniqueness of your own particular environment and your flour and water and loses whatever uniqueness it had when you received it. If not so, what am I missing.

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Frieda April 9, 2012 at 11:07 am

Do you taste your starter before you use it? If so what flavors are you looking for?

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Julie March 31, 2012 at 3:23 pm

I have questions about starter maintenance. I received my starter dry, via a lady I found on line. I got it going according to her directions and after about 4 weeks of trying bread (not good) sourdough biscuits (very good) and sourdough pancakes (awesome) I am starting to get the hang of it. I am wanting to get bread perfected, this is the frustrating part. I get confused about the feeding of the starter. I have had my starter on the counter since the day I got it going. I have been feeding it faithfully, but my starter is more of the consistency of pancake batter, which is great for pancakes and biscuits. Now I am reading that the feeding should consist of equal parts water and flour to match the amount of starter. Is this type of feeding what I should always be doing, or is this type of feeding for preparing for bread baking only? I hope this makes sense. For example, I took out about 2 tablespoons of my active starter and fed it 2 tablespoons water, and 2 tablespoons flour. 8 hours later I weighed out the starter in that jar and then added equal amounts of flour and water. I have been keeping this schedule and ratio going (however, I do discard some of the starter so as to keep the starter quantity less rather than too much. I do enjoy working with sourdough and learning about it, I don’t even mind the flops. But I would love to start saying that the bread was as great as the biscuits and pancakes. Thanks for your time. Your site is so helpful.

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YesMaybe March 31, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Hi Julie. What Eric seems to do is: (a) keep the starter at 100% hydration, and (b) double the starter each feeding. I do more or less the same thing. Now, what does this mean? The hydration level is how much water the starter contains, as a percentage of the amount of flour. However, this is by weight, not by volume. Since you’ve been adding equal amounts of water and flour by volume, that means your hydration level is more than 100% (because a tbsp of water weighs more than a tbsp of flour). Nothing wrong with that. If you want to transition to 100% hydration to get a thicker starter, you just need to use less water. Now, with regard to baking bread, I don’t think this makes much of a difference. Whether your starter is thicker or more watery, as far as I know, only makes a difference in as much as it affects the overall amount of water in the bread. So if you’re bread isn’t coming out well, my guess is it’s either too much water overall, or something else entirely. So maybe look into the recipe and try different things. Anyway, here’s how I feed it:
Say I have 50g of starter, then I add 25g of flour and 25g of water. But I’ve also added more, like 50g of flour and 50g of water, and it gobbles it up just fine. Either way, it’s 100% hydration because it’s equal amounts flour and water.

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Stu Borken March 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Take the rubber seal off the jar and save it for another day. When you close the jar it will not be air tight.

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Udo March 20, 2012 at 10:21 am

Hi,
I´m a bit confused about which container to use: The text above says it should NOT be airtight. But the two yeast containers I bought at Breadtopia (glas jar and smaller pla stic jar) are airtight, the glas jar has a rubber seal even. So how to explain this contradiction?
Please advice, thanks!
Udo

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Breadtopia March 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Hi Udo,

The Klip It yeast container (plastic one) is for storing the dry instant yeast and that is, and should be, air tight. The glass jar is for storing the live starter and with that one just don’t use the rubber gasket.

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Christine Hunt March 18, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Phyllis, I agree with Linda. Revive the starter and work it for a while to get that tangy sour taste your looking for in your baked goods. Mix up some flour and water and add the dried starter according to the directions that came with the dry starter. Take a week or more to build it up. You could even put it in the frig for a week or so once it gets going to help that flavor develop.

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Phyllis Skillman March 18, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I DON’T KNOW WHAT I AM DOING WRONG BUT I CAN’T SEEM TO GET SOURDOUGH TO WORK. THEY SENT ME LIVE AND IT DIDN’T DO ANYTHING THEN THEY SENT ME DRY AND I USED ONE TEASPOON AND THAT DIDN’T WORK EITHER. I STILL HAVE 2 TEASPOONS LEFT AND I AM AFRAID TO USE THEM FOR FEAR THEY WON’T WORK EITHER. I FOLLOWED THE INSTRUCTIONS. SOMEONE HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS AS TO WHY I’M NOT GETTING SOURDOUGH. THANKS

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Linda March 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Did you revive the starter before using it. Most recipes I have used call for at least 1/2 cup of starter. I started with the dry, followed the directions on the card attached. It took a couple of attempts before I got the tang I wanted, but it is working like a charm now.

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Peggy Silverstein March 18, 2012 at 8:29 am

I have baked bread on an ocean going sailboat. I never thought of making my own starter until now. I am making a starter in NYC but need to travel with it to Equador to meet the boat. What is the best way to travel with my starter?

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Christine Hunt March 18, 2012 at 9:39 am

Hi Peggy, I’ve never tried it but seems like drying it would be the best way. Check out this video – http://www.breadtopia.com/drying-sourdough-starter-for-long-term-storage/
Good Luck

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Alicia March 16, 2012 at 9:18 am

Okay, really need some help here. I’ve had a starter “going” for about five days now. I did 50g of whole wheat flour and 50g of water from our tap. The first 12 hours it didn’t bubble a lot, but did smell so I waited another 12 hours before feeding it. It was then alittle more bubbly, but not foamy on top. I have fed it every 12 hours since. splitting it in half before each feeding. Some days I try and feed it twice a day to get it going. It rises a little, but no where near doubling it’s size. I can see a few bubbles that are forming on the surface and a few little bubbles inside the starter. It just isn’t foamy or growing, but does smell sour. I have it in a glass bowl in a warm spot. lightly covered by a piece of plastic wrap (not air tight seal) . What am I doing wrong?? Thanks in advance for the responses
(Picture below is between feedings)

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Christine Hunt March 16, 2012 at 10:10 am

Hello Alicia, The first thing that comes to my mind is your tap water. Are you on city water or a well? If it’s city water, then it’s probably chlorinated which will kill your starter. Looking at the picture, it appears your starter is trying. Maybe pick up some bottled water and see if that helps. Also, you may need to feed your starter with as much as half the flour/water as there is starter a few times to get it going. My starter does not like an area too warm. Maybe move it to another spot that has a temp of about 70 degrees. Finally, before giving up completely and starting new try putting it in the frig for a few days then take it out and feed it for a few more days. Sometimes that little jolt will get it going.
Christine

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Barbara March 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I’ve been making bread with my starter 3 or 4 times a week. usually i feed it after removing some to make bread, then feed it, leave it covered overnight on table, then put it in snap-top container in the fridge. yesterday after putting in the container, i left it on my kitchen counter. this morning i opened it and it smells like mild alcohol. this has never happened before.

i love the starter because it came from a friend and the bread was great. can it be resurrected?

how can i get it back to the non-alcohol smell? is that even possible?

thanks everyone!

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Breadtopia March 16, 2012 at 4:49 am

Hi Barbara,

That’s really not a problem at all. When that happens you can easily remedy it by just feeding it well. So you don’t end up with a ton of starter, you might want to toss a good bit of the old starter before feeding so you can at least double or triple the volume you’re starting with.

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alicia March 13, 2012 at 8:59 pm

My starter isn’t doubling in size when I feed it, but it is bubbly ahfter 12 hours. Can I use it for bread? Any suggestions?

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Christine Hunt March 14, 2012 at 10:59 am

Hello Alicia,
How much flour and water are you giving it? You may need to give it more. As I understand it, the general rule is to feed about 1/4 – 1/3 the starter you already have. So if you have 2 cups of starter, feed 1/2 cup flour and add water to consistency you want, usually the same as the flour you add. This is working for my starter very well. When I’m not baking so much I put it in the frig so I don’t end up with too much starter. Anybody else?
Christine

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mathilda March 13, 2012 at 11:20 am

Hello! I have a small question about the maintenance of the starter. Should I keep it in a jar with the lid closed tight or not? I’ve read somewhere that the lid should not be screwed on tight. Is that correct or not? Thank you so much for your great videos and tutorials. Much appreciated!

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Breadtopia March 13, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Hi Matilda.

That’s pretty much correct. Even just a tiny crack will keep pressure from building up too much.

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Linda March 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I have been keeping my starters in the old Ball canning jars with the glass lid. I don’t use the rubber gasket on it so it is not completely air tight. I love the looks of those jars and so far they are working great.

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mary March 13, 2012 at 8:57 pm

I keep mine in a mason jar also but just cover it with a piece of plastic wrap and a rubber band when it is in the fridge. When I feed it, I leave it on the counter with the plastic on top, loose, with no rubber band until it is done bubbling. Works great and no messy lids to clean.

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Kate March 11, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Thank you so much for your wonderful video! I am just getting “started” with using my starter, and have — with your help — successfully revived a neglected one and made some pretty darn good loaves of bread (not to mention sourdough pancakes). I’m a convert!

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Judy Lucas March 11, 2012 at 10:51 am

Love your video. It’s been about 35 years since I made sour dough bread for my growing family (1970′s). I am having so much fun. My husband and dogs are enjoying the results! Two questions:
1) Every time I bake now, I sneeze and itch. Have you heard of allergies to yeast?
2) I made the starter with a potato recipe. After about 2 months of use, it developed a brownish, speckled hooch. I tried to rejuvenate one cup of it in another jar (left it on the counter with a cloth over the top, but it just didn’t look or smell right. I tossed it out. (The glass jar was a crusty mess and took forever to clean.) Should I have tossed it or just given it more feedings and attention?
3) Do you recommend homemade starters or packaged ones for newbies? Thanks!

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Danielle March 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Hi,

Your videos are very educational. thank you.

All the websites and recipes I see for starter are always using white flour. Is it ok to use rye flour, or 14 grain flour or spelt, kamut….any kind other than white?

I tried it with 14 grain flour for the starter and when I actually baked, I added white flour so it turned out well but I coudn’t see the grains in the bread. The bread wasn’t white but a light coloured golden colour, it was quite good actually. Do you have any advice for me please?

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Elizabeth March 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm

When my starter dough ferments and forms the hooch on top, should I dump that out once I refrigerate the dough or does it not matter?

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Elizabeth March 9, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Turns out my question is answered in the video :).

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Nancy March 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Is starter ruined by mold? My has green mold splotches on top. Informative video – thanks!

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Breadtopia March 8, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Hi Nancy,

You can skim off the mold and “refresh” (feed) your starter a few times to bring it back to a healthy, non-moldy state.

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Gwen February 25, 2012 at 6:25 am

Do Pur and Britta filters purify water? What brand water filter would qualify as a water purifier?

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Christine Hunt February 25, 2012 at 11:04 am

I’m glad you brought up water, Gwen. I live in a rural area. It takes me a good fifteen minutes to get to town to shop so I didn’t have purified water on hand when I decided to make my first starter. However, since I am rural we get our water from a well. So I decided to give it a shot with our everyday drinking water. My starter is thriving and my baked goods come out great from day one. I am interested in knowing why it’s important to use purified water? Is it because so many people have chlorinated water?
Christine

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Breadtopia February 25, 2012 at 11:11 am

Yes, that’s correct. Most municipal water has chlorine which is put in there to kill harmful microorganisms. It may or many not significantly hurt the starter which is full of nice microorganisms, but it surely doesn’t help. Since it’s super easy to rid the water of chlorine, one might as well do it.

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Gwen February 25, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Christine: when I first started baking with starter we lived in the country and had our own well. After we moved to Houston and had ‘city water’ I couldn’t figure out why all my breads were failing. We finally made the connection to chlorinated water. Then we started using bottled water for any breads that used starter or had a long cool rise. I didn’t realize that my Britta filter would do the same thing.

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Patti February 24, 2012 at 11:20 am

I made a sour dough starter over a year ago and put it in the back of my frig and forgot about it. I had surgery six months ago and was preoccupied. I pulled it out and feed it once or twice and tried to use it in the no knead recipe. I forgot how many bubbles it originally had when I made it. Obviously I had a lovely VERY HARD FLAT bread. So thanks for this video it was very helpful. It is actually bubbling pretty well again , I’m nursing it back to health. I am afraid to use it still. About how many feedings do you think before I can use it?

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Michael A. Brennan February 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm

My 100% hydration starter is very active but when I stiffen it to a 50% sweet starter, it seems to lose its activeness. I have tried several times to make panettone based on this recipe: http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/12/07/panettone/
Each time the final dough fails to rise sufficiently and I have a bread that is about 1/3 the height it is suppose to be. My last batch had very good gluten development which allows for the dough to rise high. So, it must be an inactive starter. Any thoughts?

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Gary February 13, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Kim, I just pulled a starter of white that had been sitting in my refrig for about six months. I opended it up got rid of a dark liquid and let it sit for about 8 hours. I let it sit and in about 4 hours after feeding it was acting the way it should.

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Madelyn February 19, 2012 at 9:19 am

People have been asking how to make their sourdough more sour. I never pour off any ‘hooch’. I only let a little develop and then feed it and stir it in with all the flour. I actually think letting some hooch develop on the top contributes to the sourness of the starter.

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Madelyn February 19, 2012 at 9:22 am

P.S. Mine never sits more than a week without being fed so I just realized Gary said he had let his sit for 6 months. Well, maybe I’d pour that off. :-)

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kim February 20, 2012 at 10:56 pm

We just got back yesterday, and so far my starter seems happy. I’ll give it a few days before I bake, but I suspect all is well. Thanks for all the help!

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Stan February 11, 2012 at 8:41 pm

This is my sourdough with “enhanced” starter. No trace of any off taste whatsoever.

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Les February 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Stan,
Very interesting!
I have often wondered about trying that as I make wine sometimes too.

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Stan February 11, 2012 at 9:37 am

Linda, thanks for responding.
Generally speaking, wine yeast is refined yeast cultures working in higher concentration of alcohol. (baker’s yeast, I think, will die in about 7 to 8% while wine’s typical alcohol content is around 13%)
To make longish story short – I used for my starter less than 1 gram of Wyeast Nutrient Blend (http://www.wyeastlab.com/hb_productdetail.cfm?ProductID=15).
Linda, I can’t describe the colossal difference that minute addition did to my starter!!!
I’ll be baking tonight and most definitely I’ll share my further findings with everybody.. However, I don’t anticipate any adverse results due to the small amount of the inclusion.

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Linda February 11, 2012 at 7:39 am

Stan….Sounds interesting, what is wine yeast ? please let us know how your bread tasted and the outcome of the loaf. Regarding your comment about living above sea level now. Common sense says it surely must have an effect on the starter but to what regards I have no idea :-/ You might want to look at Sourdough Companion website as they have an abundance of people who will reply to your comment . regards

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Stan February 10, 2012 at 11:16 am

Since I didn’t hear back from anyone, I did little experiment:
Besides loving sour dough I also make my own wine.
So, I decided to add very little pinch of wine yeast nutrient to my starter.
I was shocked by the difference!
After only couple of hours my starter almost tripled in its volume.
Now, I only hope it will not alter the taste of my bread.

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Jennifer February 10, 2012 at 8:25 am

I love your site! It’s so fun and helpful and easy to follow!

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stan February 7, 2012 at 9:48 pm

I used to live in eastern Washington and didn’t e/periance any problems with my starter. Now, I live in town at 7200 feet elevation. I noticed my starter is not even remotely as active as it used to be. Have to say, it smells nice and sour and my breads are tasting good but at same time bread baked here is much denser then in the past. Does anyone has any experiance baking sourdough at this elevation? Any words of advise will be greatly appriciated. Thanks in advance.

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Stu Borken February 6, 2012 at 11:47 am

I did not feed my starter for about 6 days and kept it on the kitchen counter. When I looked at it and smelled it, there was this rose color to the hootch and the odor had an unpleasant edge to it. I think Serracia got into it so I pitched it and ordered a dry starter from you and will start anew and I have learned my lesson.

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Michael February 6, 2012 at 9:00 am

Maybe this is covered elsewhere. When maintaining starter is it necessary to bring it to room temperature before feeding every week and before using and if so how long before feeding or using? Also if reviving after neglect is it necessary to bring it to room temp? Is distilled water or nonchlorinated spring water better? Thanks for any help.

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Breadtopia February 6, 2012 at 11:05 am

Hi Michael,

No it’s not necessary to bring starter to room temp to feed or use it. Generally, no need to use distilled water. And non chlorinated water is better than chlorinated water.

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Charlie February 2, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Quick question, what make the bread particularly sour. Just made a loaf of Whole Wheat bread, with wheat berrys, and it was really sour. The issue was the bread didn’t rise correctly, slow and spread out rather than up, but it was sour, on the positive side dogs though it was great.
So anyway, is the starter gone bad or was it not done correctly.

Appreciate any feed back.

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Linda February 12, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Charlie, was just reading your comment about the dogs loving the bread. A few years back I gave my dogs a sample, 1 of them got sick after that. The vet felt that the bacteria in the sour dough did not agree with him.

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Charlie February 13, 2012 at 2:44 pm

If one cooks the sourdough bread correctly, no bacteria should be alive. I have three large dogs, and they will fight for a piece of the sourdough bread. I have made them biscuits by doing a single rise, then rolling out, cutting and baking for an hour at 350, turn off the oven and let them set in the oven for at least 12 hours or overnight. I have done some testing and figure the bread was not stiff enough, and I let it set too long hoping it would rise instead of spread out. So I have to keep to the firm and elastic dough and if its not up where I want it, I’ll work in some more flouir and maybe a bit of yeast. If its too sour, dogs still get it.

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kim February 1, 2012 at 5:03 am

I bake a lot and I feed my starter daily. I also travel frequently and have had good luck storing starter in the fridge for a few days here and there w/out feeding it. My question – in a couple of days, we’re off to Australia for two weeks. Looks like you’re saying I can throw my starter into the fridge and it’ll be fine unfed for that amount of time (really like 16 days). Is that the case? And when we get back, how long will it take for the starter to be vigorous enough to bake with? Thanks.

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Breadtopia February 1, 2012 at 7:15 am

Hi Kim,

Yes. Of course feed it super well and put it straight away into the fridge just before you leave. You shouldn’t have any problem restoring it to optimum health with a couple feedings when you return. There are scads of people who’ve gone much longer without their starter dying but if you want to be crazy safe, dehydrate a bit of starter by smearing some on parchment paper and let dry at room temperature (or your oven with just the light on). Store the dry stuff in a plastic bag and give me a call in the morning if you ever need to.

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kim February 1, 2012 at 8:32 am

Thanks so much! I’ll do both, just to see how it all works.
And I can’t resist posting a pic of my latest loaf, since you offer the chance. This one came out of the oven last night. :)

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Breadtopia February 1, 2012 at 9:04 am

Fantastic crust.

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kim February 1, 2012 at 10:03 am

Cheers. I’m really happy with it.

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Gary February 13, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Very nice looking loaf.

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Alicia March 4, 2012 at 9:43 am

Kim,
I love the look of your loaf. I’m just starting out and would love a great recipe. Would you be willing to share yours?
thank you
infinite.t@gmail.com

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kim March 4, 2012 at 10:21 am

Hi Alicia – I’ve been baking the basic country loaf from the Tartine Bread book. I can’t recommend it enough! The cast-iron method creates an amazing crust. One note – I’ve found that I need to add extra flour to the dough at the kneading and shaping phase – could be that I’m using German flour, but it’s worth a mention. Good luck!

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Linda January 28, 2012 at 5:52 pm

I don’t make sourdough bread that often, so I am thinking of freezing some of my starter. My question is, does the starter need to be fed first? Thanks for this site, it is very imformative, and I really enjoy the recipes and videos.

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Basia February 19, 2012 at 9:04 am

Hi Linda!

I’ve successfully frozen starter for up to a year. My theory was to catch the starter just before feeding – when it was at least several days old. That way, I reckoned, there would be abundant, strong beasties when it was revival time. Seems to have worked! I thaw the starter for 24 hours in the fridge prior to revival. Then I feed it and let it sit at room temperature for at least another 24 hours prior to using it. That gives them plenty of time to wake up, have some brunch, and show me that they’re ready to get to work! Hope that helps you.

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Christine Hunt January 28, 2012 at 12:21 pm

I made a white flour starter. I usually bake with whole wheat or some other flour but when I decided to try this all I had on hand was icky old white flour.
I made two batches. One for me and one for my brother. Interestingly enough, one batch is slower than the other. They were made exactly the same and placed in the same spot in the kitchen. But, happily both are working and viable. Now, I’m anxious to make a loaf of bread.
I am wondering if other flours can be added to this white flour starter. It seems like it shouldn’t make a difference. I guess I’ll find out the first time I try it.
Also, I am interested in knowing how whole grains, seeds and nuts will affect the outcome of my bread? I always add lots of those to my breads.
I’ll experiment but it would be helpful if anybody has comments.
Christine

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Tempest January 28, 2012 at 6:57 pm

I inherited a bit of starter that my dad has made and managed these past few years. Not being a baker, I fed it a few times according to this post. It bubbled and about doubled in size. I made some bread (failure–but on my part, not the starters), refridgerated the starter, and fed it again today with the intent to try to make bread again tomorrow. However, it isn’t rising like it did last week, and it doesn’t seem to be bubbling. What happened and how do I fix it?

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Anita January 31, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Hi Christine,
My starter is also a white flour starter but every time I use some of it to make bread I usually use about 1/3 spelt or whole wheat flour in the recipe. It also helps the bread to rise better if the remaining 2/3 is white bread flour , but regular, all- purpose flour works OK too. I also have made Eric’s rye bread recipe and a squaw bread, and they were both great. As for adding seeds and nuts, I just made a sesame bread by adding 1/2 cup toasted seeds; it did require a little more water in the recipe- I probably should have just reduced the flour by 1/2 cup. Next up are sunflower seed, cracked wheat, cherry walnut and corn rye loaves. Experimenting can be fun – I’m sure your varieties will turn out fine.

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Tracy January 22, 2012 at 6:24 pm

I have never made homemade bread until this year. I found a recipe for a beer starter and it has turned out great! feed it and bake from it weekly and now the neighbors and friends are asking for my bread! Thanks for all your great tips!!

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Alan January 16, 2012 at 3:54 pm

My sourdough starter was successful for two weeks, but then turned moldy.

I used your pineapple juice recipe to make the sourdough starter. The starter was vigorous and smelled good. The starter took about 7 days to get going. I made two excellent loaves of sourdough using your clay Romertopf Baker and your oval proofing basket during the next week. They looked just like your pictures and tasted great.

Yesterday, at the start of the third week, I opened my jar of starter and was surprised to see gray fuzzy mold growing above the starter in the top of the jar. The starter smelled bad and had a gray semi-solid layer on top. I threw the moldy starter away.

I did not refrigerate the starter. Is this why it turned moldy? Is there something else I should have done?

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Breadtopia January 16, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Yes. It needs to be refrigerated between use and fed about once a week.

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Alan January 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Ok, I will remake the starter and then keep it in the frig. I am curious though. In the “old days” before easy refrigeration, how were the starters kept from going bad?

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Alan January 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm

By the way, I am so happy with the clay baker and the rising basket that I ordered them for my son also.

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Breadtopia January 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm

If the starter is fed frequently enough, like daily, it doesn’t have to be refrigerated. Or maybe a lot of moldy starter was used ;).

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Michael A. Brennan January 15, 2012 at 6:34 am

My starter is bubbling but is not rising very much. Any suggestions. I am feeding it twice a day now for the past week.

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Breadtopia January 15, 2012 at 6:49 am

Hi Michael,

When starter is bubbly but not rising, it’s usually because it’s too liquidy. The bubbles from fermentation are just rising to the top. Stiffen the starter quite a bit with more flour and less water and the dough will trap the bubbles and rise. That’s the idea anyway.

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Michael A. Brennan January 15, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Thanks, I will do so. Also, on the stollen recipe, should the marzipan melt into the bread or remain round and firm after baking. I know this is the wrong page and not on topic but any answer is appreciated.

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Breadtopia January 15, 2012 at 8:09 pm

It should pretty much retain its original shape and consistency.

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Tiga Bu January 11, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Eric, thank you so much for this wee video; it has made the job of revitalising a starter that was given to me a week ago that much more manageable (O: Great site, and great energy.

Moran Taing (Many thanks),

Tiga

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Gary January 2, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Mark thanks for that info. I was wondering if anyone would know approximately what the proof of the alcohal was in the hooch?

Mark in the past I to have made hard apple cider it never gave me a head ache but then again I never drank it in large amounts had a neighbor that I use to make it for he loved it.

Happy New Year to all my Breadtopia buddies.

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mark January 3, 2012 at 2:53 am

Gary,

I think the proof is greatly influenced by many different factors like the amount of time of brewing, temp. of room, amount of sugar feedings, etc. I was making lots of this stuff, so I had batches a couple of months old that got pretty strong, but I never did any testing on it.
Maybe it wasn’t even stronger, but I sure remember a difference.

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Gary January 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Mark

I make bread for the homeless and have 4 five gallon buckets going constantly of wheat and another 2 five gallon buckets of white in refrigeration that I haven’t touched in about 4-5 months that is constantly producing hooch so I know it can be reactivated with some feedings. My wheat produces about 1 cup per bucket ever other day.

There are many applications for alcohol besides consumption, I am wondering if with time it can be used as some sort of fuel so we may use it on our mobile locations.

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Hoobie January 30, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Hi.

I’d also point out (as per Stu’s response below) that the alcohol level is probably low-ish. Different strains of yeast have different characteristics. Reflecting their occupation’s different concerns, Baker’s yeast produces more carbon dioxide while Brewer’s yeast produces more alcohol, while some yeasts can digest some slightly different kinds of sugars that other yeasts can’t. In fact, there are bunches of different brewer’s yeasts from different companies for different styles of beer that make use of these subtle differences.

Sourdough uses wild yeast. I can’t claim to know how much CO2 it creates compared to how much alcohol, but since it works well as a leavener and since (for the most part) brewers aren’t interested in wild strains, I suspect this hooch is on the lower alcohol side of things.

-hoobie

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Miriam December 31, 2011 at 11:02 pm

In the video, you spoke of feeding your starter several times before baking. Did you mean daily?

Also what makes a strong sour taste to the bread? The bread I used to make never tasted sour even though the starter smelled healthy and sour and was vigorous.

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Breadtopia January 1, 2012 at 6:51 am

Hi Miriam,

You really only need to feed your starter before baking if you’re not already feeding it regularly. Roughly speaking starter should be fed about once a week to keep it healthy. Then if you want to feed it again within a day of baking, that is probably ideal. I’ve baked bread plenty of times with starter that hasn’t been fed in a week or so with fine results. If you want more sour in your bread, you’re more likely to get it with old starter. Fresh, well fed starter is more likely to produce bread with little or no sour taste.

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JessikaRose December 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I just received a present from my mom, Sheila, for Christmas. She ordered all sorts of awesome things from you (she noticed me watching your videos and looking longingly at your store). We are so excited to get our starter ready to use! We have been feeding it with distilled water. Is that ok? The starter seems healthy and vibrant, but we are wondering if there is a better option. Thank you so much for making my Christmas awesome!

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Breadtopia January 1, 2012 at 7:20 am

Distilled water is ok. I’ve heard that the better option is just purified water instead of distilled. Purified water would simply be tap water run through a charcoal filter. Or spring water if you’re buying it.

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mary January 1, 2012 at 10:18 am

I have been working with a starter since Dec.2010. I know, that is really young, but it is coming along well! I keep in a glass canning jar in the fridge with plastic/rubber band over the top. If I haven’t used it, I pull it out every two weeks and feed it. I started using bottled water but then got lazy and switched to tap water and it has been fine. With that said, we live in the Seattle area and have good water, not full of minerals, ect. so that may make a difference. I just got thinking that the pioneers that made bread didn’t have purified or bottled water and probably used well water? Just thought I would add that!

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jennifer December 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Okay this is my 2nd attempt on a proven family sourdough starter recipe. When I tok the starter out of the fridge it was not activting in the amount of time it should be per the recipe, so I fed it 3 times 8 to 12 our apart per a previous recommendation. It wa clearly active as it was bubbling away. So I made the dough. It asked to let it raise overnight. Well it barely did. I’m used to dough at leas doubling. Said to punch it down and alow to raise in pans bfore baking. Again barely rose and this was several hours. Well I’m baking them now hoping they will rise some more. I feel like I’m baking flat bricks. Are my pans to big? Wy aren’t they raising?

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Anita December 27, 2011 at 3:37 pm

what does it mean when your starter smells like finger nail polish remover!!?? This doesn’t seem quite right. I put it in the fridge at about 14 days of age after baking two nice loaves of bread a couple days apart. Pulled out a day or so ago to make more bread and started to feed it first and it’s not growing double AND smelling like the above mentioned item. ANy idea what’s going on?

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Les December 24, 2011 at 4:26 pm

I found your video on maintaining your starter very helpful. Recently I tried to revive my starter that was neglected for about four months. I poured off the houch and kept a quarter cup. After feeding for three days, it still had an alcohol smell. Would this starter still be good for baking? It does look active.

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Breadtopia January 1, 2012 at 7:41 pm

You can often get old neglected starter back to its former healthy self with a series of feedings as you’re doing. If you can get it to look and smell like you remember it, then it’s good.

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Stu Borken December 22, 2011 at 7:30 pm

The hooch is an alcohol which was consumed in “the old west”. It’s not any more alcoholic than beer or wine and probably less.

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Gary December 22, 2011 at 11:53 am

Does anyone know if the houch can be consumed as an alcohol?

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mark December 22, 2011 at 6:30 pm

I’ve drank it, but not in large quantities. I remember making up real apple cider, big head ache time. Probably the same result. The flavor is nothing to savored, but it’s really not that bad.

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