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.

{ 1344 comments… read them below or add one }

Marci Fredericksen September 15, 2013 at 3:54 pm

I made my starter in 2006, keeping it in the fridge and feeding it every month or so in the beginning. I haven’t fed it for about a year now, and it still smells delicious, so I’m going to try to feed it again to see if there’s still life. Do you think it’s a good idea to use a starter that hasn’t been fed for over a year? I suppose if it starts reacting to today’s feeding, that means it lives and will continue to make delicious bread?

Thanks!

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Regina September 13, 2013 at 8:34 pm

In ths video, you mention a recipe using 2 cups of starter, but your no-knead sourdough video says to only use 1/4 cup of starter. Why such a large difference in the two videos? Thanks!

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Breadtopia September 14, 2013 at 11:19 am

The no knead recipe is a long fermentation recipe and that’s what you get when you use a small amount of starter.

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Dawn August 30, 2013 at 6:15 pm

If I want to make a second starter to just keep in case in the fridge, do I need to feed it before I put it in the fridge? I just put some starter in the fridge without feeding it and there was black liquid on top.

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Barbara Raber August 29, 2013 at 7:53 am

I have four starters in my refridgerator. Two of them have black-ish liquid on top. Are they okay to use? Do I just stir in the black liquid before using?

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Jon August 28, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Is it normal for starter to smell like alcohol? Mine seems healthy, but smells like alcohol. Not an unpleasant smell, however. I keep it in the refrigerator, but can take it out, feed it, and it will be doubled and very bubbly in 3 hours. I usually feed it once a week with about 1 cup AP flour and 3/4 cup water.

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Heather August 24, 2013 at 7:53 am

When you use the starter for baking, do you use it right out of the refrigerator or do you bring it to room temperature?
Thanks

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Breadtopia August 24, 2013 at 8:28 am

I use it straight out of the fridge most of the time.

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Maira August 23, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Hi Breadtopia.
I’m from Brazil. My starter will be into the fridge for 5 days because i have to travel.
Do you think that i’ll have a problem with my yeast?
Thank you.
Maira

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Breadtopia August 23, 2013 at 12:44 pm

It shouldn’t be a problem at all. Just feed it before you leave.

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Dave August 21, 2013 at 8:05 pm

I’m new to sourdough and have followed you instructions for sourdough starter. I’m happy to say 15 days later I have a very active starter and will continue the regular feeding for another 30 days to develop better flavored breads. My question is the starter doubles in size after feeding within 2 hours and smells great. When disposing half the starter down the drain before feeding, I run hot water so the starter does not clog the drain. I notice though the smell when mixed with hot water is not as pleasant as is when in the crock? Is this normal? Thanks for your advise in advance…

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Ren August 19, 2013 at 6:45 pm

While on the Oregon Coast last week, picked up some starter at the Sourdough Bakery in Winchester Bay.(A “must stop” for anybody driving thru) Made my first loaf of No Kneed today in an old ‘Griswold No9′ dutch oven. A little on the heavy side, but darn tasty. My question is: What do I put inside the oven before it gos in the oven to pre-heat to 500*?? Just found your website and it’s the bomb!! Keep up the good work and the videos.

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Bubba August 20, 2013 at 9:48 am

Ren,

Because I subscribe to the “wetter is better” school my dough is somewhat unmanageable so pouring out of a proofing basket or other container into the preheated dutch oven is sloppy, unwieldy, cumbersome,etc. I often resort to parchment paper. I do the second proofing in parchment paper in a container just a bit smaller than the dutch oven. I do this a couple of hours before ready to put in the oven. I then just lift the parchment paper ladened dough into the dutch oven and crunch the lid over the paper and cook for the recommended 30 minutes. Then I take the lid of and cook anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 minutes longer. This sets the hardness of the crust the longer you let it in. This is personal preference and may also depend on how good your dentures are. The downside is that you can’t get those pretty rings from the proofing basket imprinted into your bread.

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nancy herring August 15, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I am using a starter a friend gave me made up of potato flakes,sugar,and water. It separates out (hooch I suppose) daily. Do the same rules apply to this type of starter? I have been making good sourdough bread with this so far. Thanks for the videos and info.

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Peter Mareš August 13, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Hallo Eric et al.

Congratulations on excellent service and website, thank you. I received your live sourdough starter in England, last Saturday, 10 August 2013, order #38994. After 5 days in transit, it activated perfectly :o) I am feeding it daily, doubling its volume as per your website instructions on management. The flour I am using is organic, wholemeal Spelt.

After days 1 and 2, the starter had risen twofold, after feeding. However, today Tuesday, 13 August and day 3, it produced hooch which has separated out. The combined volume as under double yesterday’s after feeding. The starter ‘goo’ is fine and bubbly. Do I have a problem, please?

My concern is because I already have a very, very sleepy starter/hooch in the fridge, which is reluctant to wake-up – I caught this strain myself last year and it was OK until 3 weeks ago. Any ideas on this, too, please?

Thanks again.

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Breadtopia August 14, 2013 at 3:55 am

Hi Peter,

I wish I could tell you with some certainty. Hooch forming is often from too infrequent feedings, but that’s apparently not the case here. Two things come to mind. One is to stiffen up your starter if it happens to be too runny. The other is to switch to an all purpose or bread flour (the all white stuff) based starter or at least start a second batch of starter with white flour. Use equal weights of flour and water. It easier to manage a white flour starter. You can always go back to whole meal once y0u’re satisfied that your starter is healthy again.

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Peter Mareš August 22, 2013 at 4:31 am

Hallo Eric.

SUCCESS! Thanx to your detailed advice the starter has reactivated, with a vengeance. I now have 3 jars of various ‘strains’ on the go AND my ancient starter is also back in business. It all came down to the refresh ratio of water:flour as well as the use of white flour and repeat refreshes/feeds for the ancient brew…

I baked last night, 21 August, using your stretch-and-fold routine and have 2, cracking, wholemeal Spelt sourdough loaves. If you wish, I can send photos and recipe.

Many thanx again, keep up the excellent work!

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Nancy Herring August 8, 2013 at 8:33 am

When you say feed it a couple of more times to beef it up, do you feed it 2 or 3 days in a row? And do you pour off a cup every time before feeding?

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Anita August 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm

When I feed my starter to make it stronger, I feed it every 10-12 hours, about 2, maybe 3 times. It is easy to see how strong it is because it rises faster and higher- more than double- and the bubbles are bubbling and popping more than before. So it is ready in a day or day and 1/2. I leave it out at room temperature, so it needs to be fed that frequently to stay healthy and not spoil. You could feed it even sooner- once it starts to collapse and deflate, it is ” hungry”. Setting a 10-12 hour interval makes it easy to plan the baking . Yes, you would discard extra starter before feeding each time. The amount you discard depends on how much you want to end up with for your recipe(s) and how much you want left over to refrigerate (or kept on the counter). I try not to discard any, but it is difficult to manage that way.

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Ron Schoenberg August 1, 2013 at 2:44 pm

I purchased a sourdough starter kit from Breadtopia. I came with a two quart size tight fitting jar, but the recipe and everything I’ve seen on this site says that the container should NOT be tightfitting. What am I suppose to do with jar that appears to be a large part of the cost of the kit.

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Breadtopia August 1, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Hi Ron,

Just don’t use the rubber gasket and you’ll be fine. When you latch the jar without the rubber gasket in place, it will allow the necessary air flow but not enough to dry out your starter.

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Lewis July 27, 2013 at 10:05 am

I am confused. Just starting to get My sourdough starter going. Today is day 3. I will add a cup of flour and 3/4 cup water. When I feed the starter do I always leave it out until it doubles and then refrigerate, or feed and immediately refrigerate?
Thanks

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denny July 27, 2013 at 9:27 pm

refrigeration is for slowing it down. don’t refrigerate during the “start your own starter” process. refrigerate an active starter that you aren’t going to use right away. the advice above pertains to an already active starter/sponge.

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ben q July 17, 2013 at 8:34 pm

so I’ve got a starter going, it’s about a month old now, I started it with wholemeal flour and plain old tap water, equal parts by weight, after about 4 days I started disposing of half at each feeding (I feed it every 12 hours) when it was 7 days old I started gradually switching to plain white flour and pouring half into a jar I keep in the fridge, my original starter I keep on the bench. The jar in the fridge I freshen up every 4 or 5 days with some plain white flour and a bit of water (if it needs it, I usually just end up using it all and starting again with a clean jar) this is the stuff I use for baking with, straight out of the fridge. I was also thinking of switching my feed over to a mix of equal parts wholemeal, rye, and white flour (equal parts water and the 3 flour mix) as my breads tend to be a mix of any of these three. Am I doing this right, or can my method be improved? should I be letting my fridge starter reach room temperature before using it? should I feed it before using? bread baking is nothing new to me, but getting sourdough right has got me a little flustered

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Diane Whitlow July 16, 2013 at 11:01 am

Dear Eric, The previous starters I have used called for sugar, water and flour. I have never used “good” starter before. Will my bread still have that slightly sweet taste my husband loves? Or, can I add the sugar (Yacon Syrup he doesn’t know about) before I make bread? Just received your starter. Have fed it and put it in a place to grow. Thanks.

Diane

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Breadtopia July 16, 2013 at 11:19 am

Hi Diane,

I’m not sure I get your question. Even though I don’t add sugar to my starter, you certainly can. It just speeds the fermentation process so you have to factor that into how long you let it sit out and how often you feed it. Sweetener in bread dough will speed the rise too. Bread outcomes can easily span the spectrum of sweet to sour depending on the recipe. Sure, add some Yacon Syrup if sweet is what you’re looking for and what your husband likes.

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Sherri Petersen July 9, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Hi, again!!

I received my live starter Sunday, & immediately mixed it with sifted flour & spring water as per instructions. Monday night I added an additional 1/3 cup of sifted flour & 1/4 cup of spring water. My flour seems to be extra-dry as the amount of water never seems to be enough to allow an easy mix of the new ingredients into the starter. Does it hurt to add extra water to get a smooth consistency? It’s now Tuesday afternoon & there are no bubbles at all, & the starter smells like just flour & water – not sourdough!! Could the overnight stay of the live starter packet in our hot mailbox have killed the starter?? How long is it going to take to be sure?? Needless to say, I’m getting anxious!! Comments, please!!
Thanks ever so much!!

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Breadtopia July 9, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Hi Sherri,

It’s ok to add a bit more water.

Give it another day but, yes, high heat will kill yeast so if you don’t see some clear signs of life soon, it may be a goner. Let me know and we can send more if necessary. A packet of dry starter will tollerate temperature extremes.

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Sherri Petersen July 12, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Hi!

It’s now Friday night. I’ve fed my starter daily as per instructions, but no bubbles, just some clear, tan-colored liquid that has separated at the top. Should I continue to feed it, or get some dry starter & start all over??

My ex-husband made sourdough EVERYTHING & had no problems with his starter. But then he’d had his for years & fed it practically every day!! His Sourdough Chocolate Cake was to die for!!!!

Anyway, please HELP!!!!

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Breadtopia July 14, 2013 at 6:28 am

We’ll send you a packet of dry starter. It’s the same stuff and should work out fine for you.

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Sherri Petersen July 14, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Thank you ever so much!!!! I hope the dry starter works out. I’m sitting here looking at my poor, inactive starter that I had such high hopes for…. I guess I need to throw it away??

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Breadtopia July 14, 2013 at 7:32 pm

It’s probably not likely to come back at this point.

Carole Beckett August 21, 2013 at 11:26 am

I had the same concerns as Sherri Petersen. My starter was thick and unresponsive and smelled like flour and water, even at 24 hours after the addition of the 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup water. I was convinced I was going to have to start over again. But shortly before I hit the 36 hour “deadline” it started to bubble and smell deliciously sour. I now have about 2 cups of very active starter and will be mixing up my first loaf this afternoon!

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Charlie July 9, 2013 at 11:40 am

I’ve been playing with Sourdough for a couple years now, ever since I found your site, watched your video and went from there. You share excellent information. Thank You.

Now I’m in need of guidance, on the bread, I get a lovely loaf, but when slicing, the middle falls apart, which makes for a messy slice.

Also anyone have any good Dog Biscuit recipes. I’ve been basically making a bread and just not letting it rise, mix it roll it cut it and bake it, then let it dry for a day or so. My dogs love sourdough and there are a couple of sites that say yeast keeps the fleas away. But would like some recipes as The pups would probably like a change.
Thanks
Charlie

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Maribel R. July 8, 2013 at 8:26 am

Hi to all. I’m new to this page and haven’t looked at the video yet. I’ve never baked sourdough before. About 4-5 weeks ago I was given a starter for some sourdough Amish Friendship Bread, which I fed according to instructions for the 1st two weeks (once weekly): 1 cup flour, 1 cup whole milk, 1 cup sugar. After that, since I wasn’t ready to bake, I stored it in the fridge, feeding it again after another week. Then I took it out and left it on the counter, feeding it the same until now. The smell has changed from sour to alcohol-sour, and it keeps developing air, I take the air out from the bag and mix daily. Most of it is mostly thick liquid, but the top is more thick-creamy looking. Is it still usable? And if so, how should I handle it? I have quite a bit of starter, probably about a quart now. I live in very hot and humid weather, in the Caribbean. If it’s still usable, can I store it in portions for another time? Or maybe it needs to be all thrown out…

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Breadtopia July 9, 2013 at 8:46 am

I think you might be better off tossing all but about a 1/4 cup of what you have now. Mix a cup of flour and about 2/3 cup of water with your 1/4 cup of starter and let it sit at room temp until it (hopefully) starts to show signs of life. Then follow the info on this page.

The info on this page (above) and the video should be all you need to know to keep a healthy starter.

No need to use sugar or milk, especially in your climate.

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Maribel R. July 9, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Will do! Thanks, I’ll let you know how it goes…

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Maribel R. July 13, 2013 at 10:12 pm

And for some reason I can’t make the video play… any suggestions? It is displaying this message- “Error loading media: file could not be played.”

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Breadtopia July 14, 2013 at 6:30 am

Which browser are you using? 

A few people have had issues but the vast majority can watch them without problems. The issues have been mostly around the Internet Explorer browser
They should play fine in Firefox, Safari and Chrome. Chrome is probably your best bet. If you go to www.google.com/chrome and follow the instructions for installing Chrome, you should be fine.

Otherwise, most of our videos (including this one) are on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/breadtopia

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Maribel R. July 14, 2013 at 2:09 pm

I use Chrome, so I have no idea what the problem is…

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Tanya Darling June 30, 2013 at 2:20 pm

I have made my starter, and purchased Reinhart’s Whole Grain Bread book. He sometimes answers the question about how to supplement starter for commercial yeast recipes, but in some cases, he does not address it. I specifically do not like the flavor that commercial yeast lends to bread… Do you have thought or comments on converting recipes?

What an amazing book by the way…it brings together things that I had intuited, and heard in “lore”, but never understood. I am so excited to get into it.

Thanks,
Tanya

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Leslee Baell June 29, 2013 at 8:20 pm

How often can you use a starter that is maintained in the refrigerator?

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Gabi June 28, 2013 at 12:58 am

Hi,

I’ve been trying to revive my starter which had unfortunately been in the fridge unfed for one month. Today is the fourth day and I’ve been feeding it twice a day. There are some tiny bubbles in the starter but it’s not the real thing. Should I continue trying or should I just dump it and start anew. I still have some of your dried starter. I’m on the other side of the globe compared to you. Perhaps the starter doesn’t like it here ??? :)
Gabi
from Hungary

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Breadtopia June 28, 2013 at 4:34 am

Hi Gabi,

Maybe try to get some of your remaining dried starter going at the same time as you’re trying to revive your existing batch. If one or both of them work out, then dry some of that for a backup. Here’s the link for drying starter: http://www.breadtopia.com/drying-sourdough-starter-for-long-term-storage/

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Gabi June 28, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Thank you for your reply. It is almost certain now that my previously unfed starter cannot come back to life. I’ll start fresh with the dried starter and definitely pay more attention to managing it.

Kind regards,
Gabi

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bong carlos June 26, 2013 at 6:06 am

Hi, in making 1 loft of bread, how much starter dough I need ? Or if i going to bake 4 cups of flour how much starter dough I need? Thnaks

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Tom June 11, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Anyone ever use Pablum instead of flour? Also can I used a dissimilar flour from what I will be baking with?

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JudyK June 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Some ancient no-knead dough was going to be thrown away, but it smelled so good that I began treating it like starter. Then it, too, grew ancient and hoochy over time, but by then I was sentimentally attached to it. Revived the yeasty-beasties and now the clay baker is turning out goods with more tang than ever.

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laurence May 28, 2013 at 11:21 am

Hello, I’m completely new to the wonderful world of sourdough baking and a neighbour here in the UK has just given me a sourdough starter which I’m about to add to. I plan to make a spelt loaf and watched your really informative video but I don’t have either a proofing basket or a cloche baker. When I bake ‘regular’ bread I leave my dough to rise in a old mixing bowl in the airing cupboard and then bake my bread directly on an oiled and floured baking tray ….. can I do this with a spelt sourdough loaf. One final question ….. you recommend the no knead method for a spelt loaf – will it not work as well if I knead the dough – I’m fearful the no knead result may be too ‘runny or loose’ if I don’t have a specific cloche baker. Any help would be much appreciated by this limey novice!
Thanks
Laurence

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shalom May 28, 2013 at 7:59 am

I’ve read here that it is ok to use starter for bread any time from the peak after feeding to a couple days or so. I’ve also read that it is common for starter to fall. I haven’t seen this question: When you measure say 1/2 cup for a recipe, it seems like you would actually be getting less starter in the recipe if measured before the fall vs after the fall. Does this affect the loaf in some way or does it not matter?

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Helmar May 28, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Just thoroughly stir the starter before measuring.

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shalom June 13, 2013 at 9:12 pm

duuuh, I should have known that. lol

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Rebekah May 15, 2013 at 1:28 am

Hi, I have a 4 week old starter. About a week ago it started smelling quite strong. Not the pleasant sour smell prior to this. Also it developed a layer on the top, sort of a bloom but not mould if that makes sense. I scooped the top off and continued to feed. It still smells very fruity/vinegary/nail polish removery. I baked a loaf of bread -your whole grain sourdough recipie and it was a total success in everything but the taste. VERY fermented tasting. Really really sour. Is there any way I can remedy this starter? Thanks so much for your advice.

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Bob May 7, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Instead of building up a starter over a couple of days for a 2 cup amount in a recipe. I just feed it large equal weights of water and flour. I have started with as little as a tablespoon of starter and added as much as 200 grams each of water and flour. Let sit for 12 hours it will more than double over 12 hours. Do you think there would be anything wrong in doing it this way? So far it seems to be working great.

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Jamie April 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Question regarding the management of my starter….do I really have to throw out some or could I take the proposed discarded amount to start another kind of starter?
I’m an avid bread maker along with other culinary delights but have never made my own sourdough starter.
I’m on day 3 of my starter using rye flour(day 1)(day 2 was unbleached AP flour) and pineapple juice. It’s very thick, not liquidly like in the pic’s and videos???? Has been since the 1st day. Is this normal or should I add a little water?
Thanks
Jamie

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Breadtopia April 29, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Hi Jamie,

Sure, you can use it to make another starter or any baked goods.

There aren’t a lot of “normals” in getting a starter going. There are countless ways to go about it. A thicker starter might even be better as thicker doughs rise better than liquidy ones, so it might be easier to tell when it’s doing well.

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Sue Robson April 15, 2013 at 7:01 am

My starter was growing and bubbling beautifully until I fed it for the first time and now it is flat and not doing anything, what did I do wrong?

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Stu B. April 15, 2013 at 8:54 am

There is nothing you could have done wrong if you just added flour and spring water without chemicals. Did temperature change to kill the yeast with heat? Did it cool to retard the yeasts action? If it did live and bubble and create alcohol it could have put itself to sleep with too much alcohol. Pour off the hooch and add more flour and spring water.

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Anita April 15, 2013 at 9:48 am

It is possible that you added too much water in proportion to the flour when you fed it. it should not be a soupy consistency, but more like a thick batter. I feed with the same volume amount of water that I have of starter- for example, 1 cup for 1 cup. Then I add slightly less than double the volume amount of flour – in this case would be 1-3/4 to 1/7/8 cups. If you can weigh the amounts in ounces or grams, that would be the most accurate. Each ingredient should weigh exactly the same amount- starter= flour= water.

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susan Robson April 23, 2013 at 6:20 am

Thanks, Ill have another go

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Jeff April 7, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Fair warning: all these timetables are accelerated in warm weather. (Source: I live in LA and my starter gets a little crazy if I leave it out for too long)

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James April 5, 2013 at 1:18 pm

My question is when feeding my starter why does everybody say to dump out half of the starter then and equal amounts flour and water. To me that seems a bit wasteful. I have a cup of starter and I want to feed it and at the same time build it up to about to 3 ½ cups because the recipe I’m wanting to try calls for 2 ½ cups of starter how do I achieve this.

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Tom April 5, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Hi James,
If I’m not going to use any of my starter I’ll pour out half of it and feed the rest. Otherwise, I just feed and use what I need. I even keep a jar of “pour out” starter in the fridge for pancakes, pizza crust, cakes, etc. These typically don’t need the “rise” from freshly fed starter.
Tom

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James April 5, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Hi Tom
Thanks for the reply on what to do with the pour off but what I really need to know is what do I do to build up my 1 cup of active starter to about 3 ½ cup so I have the 2 ½ cups needed for the recipe I want to make and still have a cup left of active starter

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Barbara April 5, 2013 at 3:54 pm

I don’t think you have to pour off, just double (or even triple) your starter at each feeding until you have the amount you want. You only pour off if you don’t want you starter to get bigger and bigger. I never pour off, I just bake the morning after each feeding. Every few weeks I grow the starter until I have ten+ cups of starter and then use 9 cups to make a HUGE batch of pizza crusts to freeze.

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Colin J April 6, 2013 at 8:32 am

James,
We pour off our starter when feeding it so that we don’t end up with a huge amount and then have to feed it even more to keep it alive (waste of flour in the feeding). When I put my starter away in the refrigerator I typically pour off everything that will come put of the jar and then just mix in 2 ozs water and 2 ozs flour back into the jar. There is always a tablespoon or more that clings to the sides of the jar and doesn’t get poured out so that is enough to keep my starter going. It is also healthier for the starter if you only keep small amounts. When I want to bake, I’ll pour as much from my jar as will flow out into a bowl and add water and flour to that bowl as well as feeding my jar. I usually feed that bowl twice before using it for baking, once in the evening and then again in the morning. This way I can build up to 3 or 4 cups of starter to bake with. I only bake on the weekends when I get home so this works for me. If I were home during the week I would keep a starter feed on the counter that I could just use from as well as my back-up in the fridge.

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TA FoX April 4, 2013 at 1:10 am

Howdy Mark,
I love you’re site, the videos are Brilliant! I’ve been trying to make decent sourdough all summer with little success until I found breadtopia.
My question is about when to use my starter after feeding it. My starter seems to be at its peaks around 6 or 7 hours after feeding, then it falls. Should I be adding it to my recipes around the time it peaks, before or after?

Sorry if the answere to my question is outlined on the site somewhere. I couldn’t find it.

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Breadtopia April 4, 2013 at 8:28 am

Around the peak is best but it should still perform well long after the peak. You can feed your starter and refrigerate after it’s risen a good bit. Then draw what you need from the fridge within a few days of feeding. Even up to about a week before it needs feeding again. These are rough guidelines, but should help give you an idea of what you can expect. After a while you’ll get so you just know from experience and what your starter looks like, how to manage it.

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TA FoX April 5, 2013 at 10:19 pm

much better results today! Thanks for the speedy reply.

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Alyssa March 30, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Hi, Thanks for all the wonderful info. Since you have so much great information I’m wondering if you have a recipe for Sourdough Rye that has no wheat. For whatever reason I can’t eat wheat but Rye and most other grains are just fine.

Thanks!

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Breadtopia March 31, 2013 at 6:18 am

Hi Alyssa,

Not exactly, but you could just experiment with following this sourdough rye recipe and substitute the white flour with something you can eat. It will likely be a lot denser is all.
http://www.breadtopia.com/sourdough-rye-bread/

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Heather April 4, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Alyssa, you also might like to check out the rye recipes in the book that’s recommended here on Breadtopia– How to Make Bread. I am thinking of at least 1 (and I think maybe there are more?) 100% rye recipes. They turn out quite dense. They are baked in a loaf pan, and so it is a totally different type of loaf than the Breadtopia rye recipe. There are great instructions & ideas in this book.

Also, I haven’t tried this yet but I want to try subbing Einkorn flour for the white flour in the Breadtopia rye recipe – the Jovial brand product is sifted, and I would think it would not make the loaf as dense as other whole grain flours. It might be worth a shot if that grain works for you.

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louie knutson March 26, 2013 at 4:23 pm

when you feed your starter do you add any more sugar or yeast and how do you know when you can use it to make your sour dough bread

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Claudia March 25, 2013 at 9:55 am

Years ago I made sour dough bread. Decided to try it again and ordered starter. Looked at my bag of starter today. It has a spot which has changed color to a sort of tan surrounded by starter and empty in the center. So what do I do? I could open bag and rescue the rest of the starter or I could mix strange area with rest of starter in bag and proceed w/feeding.

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Anna March 23, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Hi, I’m new to working with sourdough starter. I recently tried to revive some dried sourdough starter that had been stored at room temperature for over a year. I started out adding 1 Tbsp lukewarm water and the same amt flour 2x a day for 3 days and then started adding about a 1/4 c. of water and a bit more than a 1/4 c. of flour 2x a day for the past 4 days. During this time the starter has been stored at room temp, (approx 68 to 70 degrees). Throughout this whole time there have been small bubbles forming in the starter but it just does not look as vigorous as I think it should. It also does not seem to be doubling in volume – the growth is only about a quarter of what would be double if it is even that much. It is getting hooch liquid on top between feedings and smells somewhat sour. I am just not sure what to do at this point. I hate to give up on it but I’m not sure what to do to increase its activity. If anyone has any suggestions I would be grateful. Thanks

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Anita March 24, 2013 at 12:10 am

Sounds like it is too liquidy and soupy. It should be a thick batter consistency. I feed my starter with almost twice the volume of flour (lightly spooned into cup) as water. If you have a kitchen scale, then weigh equal amounts of flour and water. If you already see some bubbling, this should work.

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Josh March 22, 2013 at 3:54 am

Thank you for the information in your video. Does it matter if the starter is in an airtight stoneware crock? I recently acquired some starter from my father that he has had for close to 28 years. It has been poorly maintained to say the least. I am trying to reactivate the portion I received. I just fed it and am leaving it on the counter to see if it comes back to life? I have to admit that I didn’t find your video until I had already stirred the hooch back into the original starter. Does that matter a whole lot? If it does not reactivate do you have any suggestions that might save this starter. It still has that sourdough smell and that is giving me hope. Thank you for your time and help.

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Mary March 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm

I’m confused… When do I feed it, for baking? Also if I take out what I need for baking to I feed it again?

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Mark Jordan March 17, 2013 at 9:32 am

I started my sourdough starter about 2 weeks ago. it seems to have taken. but lately, when i remove/add from the starter, the replaced starter will double in volume, but later, like the next morning, it seems to have collapsed. when i remove the existing cup and add the new flour and water, it again will double, then collapse several hours later. Is this starter viable? What is happening? Am i doing something wrong?

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Breadtopia March 17, 2013 at 9:37 am

Hi Mark,

That’s all good and totally normal. As the yeast exhausts much of the available nutrients from the flour, it will collapse. If you want to slow down the whole process (like if you’re not going to need your starter for a while) just stick it straight away into the fridge.

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Breadtopia March 17, 2013 at 9:38 am

Hi Mark,

That’s all good and totally normal. As the yeast exhausts much of the available nutrients from the flour, it will collapse. If you want to slow down the whole process (like if you’re not going to need your starter for a while) just stick it straight away into the fridge after feeding.

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KayDunn March 9, 2013 at 12:38 am

Getting my starter going – new at this. But the recipes here (for all white flour) call for some yeast. What recipe should I use for no yeast – just the starter – for rising. And I don’t mind kneading.

This is fun!

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Mark H. March 9, 2013 at 7:58 am

Use the Sourdough No Knead Method found on this website. Use all unbleached white flour. I use 15.2 oz. weighed. Then use all the other ingredients (1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 1/2 cups purified water 1/4 cup starter). My white loaves come out great!

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Paul March 2, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Hi

I have a sourdough starter that was started from rye. Even with a gradual increase in relative proportions of white to rye, as soon as I get past about 1:1 ration, the starter becomes much less active. At a 4:1 ratio of white:rye, with a 1:2:2 feeding by weight of the mother, it will only rise about 1.5 times its volume. Still can’t get to that elusive doubling.

Using 00 white flour.

Can anyone provide any tips? Would be greatly appreciated.

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Kathy March 2, 2013 at 8:45 am

I decided to experiment and change the hydration on my starter. I weigh my ingredients, so I mixed 8 oz. of starter with 4 oz. of KA unbleached bread flour and 3 oz. of well water. When I prepared dough the next day, the dough was dry, doubled easily overnight and was much easier to handle. The crumb is good, although I miss the larger holes. I bake my bread in a cast iron dutch oven, and lower it into the pot on a piece of parchment. However, my bread is still really flat on the bottom, and the bread is very dense. Tasty as heck, but “heavy.” My starter is a year and a half old. Suggestions?

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Christine March 2, 2013 at 11:29 am

Are you pre-heating the dutch oven? I does make a difference.

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Kathy March 2, 2013 at 11:56 am

Yes, I preheat at 450 for 1/2 hour. I then bake, covered, at 450 for 40 minutes, then remove the lid and brown. I’ve tested internal temp and it’s at least 180. I think it’s just dense bread. We tend to favor it toasted, which really brings out the flavor too.

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Christine March 2, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I don’t heat mine up that much. I just make sure it’s warm so my dough doesnt’ get the big surprise yours is getting. Try just warming the dutch oven up a little so before putting the dough in…say five minutes or so in your hot oven.

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Kathy March 2, 2013 at 2:42 pm

thank you, I’ll give it a shot!

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lenobabe April 4, 2013 at 6:01 am

Kathy, In my experience more white flour and higher hydration gives you bigger and better holes. Personally I would rather have a healthier denser loaf. Also when proving, my dough seems to be lighter with more holes, although small ones, when I prove in a warm place. Microwave Combi oven with the light on constantly and heated for 1 minute then turned off while I stretch and fold.

Mark H. March 2, 2013 at 7:45 am

My starter is almost 4 weeks old. I have been feeding it and baking regularly. My last no knead bread had some of the sour tanginess. I am hoping this will continue to develop over time. The dough is incredibly active and rises over twice its size. I think I am going to try some baguettes and batards. For the batard, I will try the loaf shaped clay baker. For the baguettes, I will try to simulate the steam injection ovens by putting water in hot cast iron and spritzing the oven walls with water. I become increasingly fascinated with all of this.

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Kathy March 2, 2013 at 8:37 am

I feel as though I am reading your personal journal. Very fun! I started by using the baking stone I bought here at Breadtopia. It’s a quality stone and does allow one to try a variety of shapes. For example, I enjoy making two small round loaves instead of one large one. One small loaf is perfect for dinner. And long loaves yield consistent sized slices. It’s also fun to roll things into the loaves. My favorite is grated cheddar with diced jalapenos. Or tons of cinnamon sugar with raisins. You end up with a swirl. Keep up the good work!

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Mark H. March 2, 2013 at 9:22 am

Thanks for the support and suggestions. I will try the two variations you suggest. They sound really good!

Wish I could help you with your starter. I am still a novice at this. I try to make sure my starter is not too thick, thin enough to stir with a spoon but somewhat thick nonetheless. I add water to thin it if necessary. I feed it with 1/4 cup of unbleached white flour and then fill the 1/4 cup measuring scoop about 3/4 of the way with filtered water. (Maybe try filtering your water?) This results in incredibly active starter that doubles in size and raises bread beautifully. Perhaps I got lucky in that my local wild yeast is robust.

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Aleda February 25, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Hi mark! Great video :). I recently acquired a rather old starter that apparently came from Andrew whitely :) it is a rye starter. I got a decent amount so I was planning on keeping half in the fridge and half on the counter:) I would realistically bake 1-2 times a week, and I live on Vancouver island. So when I feed my refrigerated starter should I take out a cup before I feed?… Can I use this cold cup to bake?… When I feed this one should I let it warm before placing back in the fridge, or can I just stir, put the lid on and place right back in the fridge?… Also with my counter jar… Should I keep this jar sealed or leave it open to the air?…. And when feeding that one what is the minimum I can et away with feeding it while its on te counter?… And when I do go to feed do I still take some out first then do my feeding? An can I use that ‘discarded’ amount for baking?… Sorry for all te questions!!! I just really don’t want to kill this amazing opportunity :) any advise you could give me would be greatly appreciated!

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Suzie February 20, 2013 at 6:48 pm

I accidentally mixed in the “hooch” liquid with my neglected starter prior to watching this video. Can I still feed it and use it in a few days?

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Breadtopia February 20, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Sure. Some people mix it in as a matter of course.

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Mark February 10, 2013 at 2:49 pm

and the crumb!

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Mark February 10, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Here is the loaf. It is all KA unbleached white bread flour. The starter is maturing and there is more depth of taste and a much better texture.

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Kathy February 10, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Looks amazing, Mark, but do you need to feed your starter twice a day? I keep my starter in the fridge and feed it once a week whether I bake or not. And when I feed it, I bake the next day. So far, so good, although I got more oven spring when we lived in California than I do now in New Hampshire. Oh, and there is a really good English muffin recipe on http://www.thefreshloaf.com. Hav fun and good job!

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Mark February 10, 2013 at 3:01 pm

btw I am “Mark H.” AND “Mark” on this site. Don’t know why I have the dual identity.

I fed my starter twice a day for the first 4 days after it reached maturity. Now I have it in the fridge. For this last loaf, I scooped out a heaping tablespoon of the refrigerated starter and fed it with 1/4 cup flour and an equal weight of filtered water. I stirred it and came back a few hours later and stirred it again. After about 5 hours, it had more than doubled in size and was bubbly and active. I used that starter in my recipe.

I am now feeding my refrigerated starter once a week.

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Mark H. February 9, 2013 at 12:42 pm

My new starter reached maturity 3 days ago and I have baked 2 loaves that rose beautifully and tasted amazing. I have been feeding the starter twice a day since then and even poured some out to make room. Last night I put the starter in the fridge and it calmed down a bit. This morning I scooped out a heaping tablespoon of starter and fed it with 1/4 cup of flour and an equal weight of water. I stirred it twice and now it has doubled in size and is really active. I will prepare my dough today and bake tomorrow. I believe I can feed the cold starter in the fridge and it will grow only more slowly.

The wheat bread I baked yesterday was fantastic!

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