Reviving a Dried & Live Sourdough Starter

Scroll down page to view “Reviving a Live Sourdough Starter” video

Reviving a Dry Sourdough Starter: 6 min. 38 sec. long

Reviving a dried sourdough starter is a fairly simple matter that should meet with success most of the time. This video covers the details but I’ll jot down a few steps here so you don’t necessarily have to.

Note: The following written instructions have been revised slightly since the making of the video. Watch the video but follow the specifics of the written instructions.

  • Soak 1 tsp. dried starter in 1 Tbs. lukewarm purified or spring water for a few minutes to soften.
  • Stir in 1 Tbs. all-purpose or bread flour, cover loosely with plastic and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. While not necessary, stirring again once or twice during this 24 hours will expedite the process.
  • Stir in another Tbs. of flour and 1 tsp. of purified water and let it sit as before. Within the next 24 to 36 hours you will most likely start to see the bubbling action of fermentation begin. (If not, something is most likely wrong and you should try again).
  • Now stir in 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup of water to your activated starter and continue to build the starter with once or twice daily feedings until you have a sufficient quantity to use for baking (amounts vary per recipe). You may double or triple the quantity of starter with each feeding. Feeding with approximately equal weights of flour and water (vs. equal volumes) will result in a good consistency for your starter.
  • Once you have a cup or two of healthy starter, store your starter in a container with a loose fitting lid in the refrigerator. Once refrigerated, weekly feeding is sufficient to keep your starter happy. Just remember to hold back some starter when baking as your seed starter for the next time.

Post your questions/comments below.

Reviving a Live Sourdough Starter: 3 min. 56 sec. long

Reviving a live sourdough starter is even simpler and faster than reviving a dried one. Just view the video and/or follow these steps.

  • Spoon out the contents of the zip lock bag into a small bowl or container.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of room temperature purified or spring water. Mix just until the flour and water are incorporated and you have a smooth consistency. (Don’t use tap water as most tap water contains chlorine which is not good for the yeast).
  • Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about 18 – 24 hours. At this point you should see signs of life in the form of some bubbling.
  • Feed the starter again by mixing in about 1/3 cup of flour and 1/4 cup water. Cover and let sit as before for 6-12 hours.
  • You should now have a pretty lively and hearty sourdough starter.  All that is left to do is build it up to the quantity you desire with once or twice daily feedings. See the video entitled “Managing Your Sourdough Starter“.

Post your questions/comments below.

{ 162 comments… read them below or add one }

Tammala Froman January 25, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Hi! I just found your site while trying to finger out how to keep alive the very old starter that was given to me. I love your site. I didn’t even know you could dry starter and store it, revive it the back with it. How neat. Will be checking back with your site often.

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Dave Womack January 13, 2009 at 8:28 pm

I thought I would share my sourdough starter recovery story. I had taken I hiatus from sourdough baking and neglected my San Francisco sourdough starter that I’d originally gotten from a reputable place like Breadtopia :) from somewhere on the world wide web. I had the starter in two jars stored in the back of my beer fridge in my garage. The starter was perfectly healthy the last time I had messed with it which was somewhere in the by past neighborhood of 18 months. After getting back into bread baking with the NK method (and this site), I decided to try to restore my pitiful looking specimens. You must keep in mind that at least three times I had my hands on the jars intending to toss them in the trash, but I remembered reading something about recovering starved starters and so I put them back. My first attempt did not take. After three days of two a day feedings, there was a slimy mess that smelled of paint thinner (acetone?) and thinking there was no hope I took a sample from the second jar and tried again. After three days I had a healthy great smelling blob that made my heart proud. I didn’t want to get too excited until I baked a loaf which I finished tonight. The result was wonderful, perfectly sour bread and I am so happy to be able to combine a great bread making method (NK) with a great flavorful ingredient. I’ll forward a couple of pictures to Eric. Thanks for the fun and informative site.
P.S. I’ll be drying some starter real soon ;)

Dave Womack's Sourdough

Dave Womack's Sourdough Starter

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Breadtopia January 11, 2009 at 10:24 am

Hi Lorraine,

This sourdough bread recipe is about as basic as it gets: http://www.breadtopia.com/sourdough-no-knead-method/

As far as how much sourdough starter to use in place of dry yeast, I think is largely a matter of experimentation and personal preference to some extent. Some commercial yeast recipes aren’t going to convert well to sourdough either. I really think you just have to mess around with it to find out.

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Lorraine Hicks January 6, 2009 at 6:28 pm

G’day Eric Happy new year
I stumbled across your web site looking for starters and was glad to find loads of information and informative vidios even with bluppers. Any way I have not yet got started, but I would love a a basic sourdough bread recipe that I could use my starter with. Also I noticed a few bread recipes, e.g. the no knead bread, they used dried yeast, how would I know what amount of starter to use for recipes that use yeast.

from Lozza

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Amy January 5, 2009 at 1:08 am

The best way to help a defunct sourdough from my mom is by adding wild blueberries, it will perk right up. If its a tough problem then use to make pancakes in the morning, feed that night then use to make pancakes next morning and feed again at night. Save dried bits of sourdough starter to add to defunct starter if a problem occurs. Watch out if the liquor turns orange or purple, especially if you have little ones in diapers, you’ll have to start new with some dried bits.
By the by I’ve finally published that sourdough cookie cookbook, here’s the link
http://www.lulu.com/content/5584017 or look up Amy’s Sourdough Cookbook on lulu.com under e-books. All eggless and wonderful.

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Bob Packer November 25, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Kay,
I have a self made starter made with potato flakes (named Spuds) that I use every weekend to make sweet sourdough (is that an oxymoron>). It is fed with dried potato flakes, sugar and water.

I usually incorporate cinnamon, raisins and pecans in it. Of course, that varies by whatever I grab out of the cabinet, having used dried cherries, dried cranberries, etc. Tip: plump the dried fruits in water or rum or some other liquid so they will not absorb too much water out of your dough.

Bob

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Breadtopia November 25, 2008 at 10:14 am

Hi Kay,

Anything in or around the range of tap water temperature to room temperature is fine. Water temperature isn’t really a big factor.

I haven’t used potato flakes in starter, but plenty of people have with good results.

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Kay Manning November 25, 2008 at 10:05 am

Hi, Thank you for this great video and all the information. I have a question …what should the temp of the water be when you are adding it to the starter you are making? Also, have you ever used dried potato flakes in your starter? I took a class last week in making sourdough bread and she used a starter made with this. It turned out really good and has a good flavor.
Thanks for any information.
Kay

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Breadtopia November 13, 2008 at 4:29 am

Hi Amanda. The chances are good that it will recover. It will just take longer than usual. Keep doing what you’re doing as see what happens.

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Amanda November 13, 2008 at 1:35 am

Hi! I just got one of your live starters in the mail this week and tried to revive it. The first feeding went well — it started bubbling within a couple hours and grew quite a bit. Then I made a bit of a mistake. I was supposed to feed it again in 24 hours, but forgot to do it and ended up feeding it for the second time about 40 hours after the first feeding. That was around 12 hours ago. I looked at the starter just now and there are only about 3 bubbles on the surface. Have I killed it? I will try feeding it again before I go to bed, and hopefully will have some more activity in the morning… any thoughts are appreciated.

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Susan Daku November 11, 2008 at 3:33 am

Hi! Does anyone have any input for a good artisan bread book for NKB? I’ve sort of narrowed the list down to “The Handmade Loaf”, Baking Artisan Bread”, and “Artisan Baking”. Just looking for some tried and true formulas that work well. Thank you, Susan

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Susan Daku November 6, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Hi Tom. Thank you for your reply to my book interests. I”ve done quite a bit of research on Amazon new and used books and “Artisan Bread in Five… was one of my choices. However, after reading customers’ comments I thought it would be a bad choice. Apparently the books web has posted a rather long errata sheet with major errors and adjustments. Too much yeast & salt; rising times and baking times are off, just to name a few. You mentioned other titles that deal with slack doughs {artisan}. I’m very much interested in what you have in mind. Thanks! Susan

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Tom Maynard November 5, 2008 at 3:19 pm

NKB fits my style and I just want to incorporate more formulas into this technique

If your library has a copy, take a look at “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. All their bread is no-knead, and they give dozens of different bread formulae, and other recipes to go along with the breads.

Eric has a books section, so that’s also a good place to start looking.

There are several other titles that deal specifically with “slack” doughs. I can pass along the titles if you’re interested.

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Susan Daku November 5, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Hi Eric, Thank you kindly for your feedback. I’ve been researching some of the artisan bread baking books on Amazon and was wondering{ as a matter of personal preference on your part} which are “the best” to buy? There are too many goods, the bad and the ugly reviews which leaves me in a puzzled frame of mind. What do you think of Artisan Baking by Maggie Glezer and the Handmade loaf by Dan Lepard? I find the NKB fits my style and I just want to incorporate more formulas into this technique. Thanks again Eric

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Breadtopia October 22, 2008 at 4:00 pm

1 cup of just about any kind of flour is going to be pretty close to 5 oz. I can’t imagine a cup of anything, and especially rye, being anywhere near 2 3/4 oz. I have no idea why the wide variance.

You are supposed to fluff up your flour before measuring it. When you see me carelessly digging out scoops of flour in the video it’s because that recipe isn’t so precise that it matters all that much. When I’m following a recipe that gives the weight of ingredients, I use a scale and am pretty careful especially if it’s the first time I’ve made it.

As for liquids, I just use regular ounces. I don’t even know how to do it differently. I just figure a cup of water is 8 oz. If a recipe gives fluids in volume, like Tbs, I measure it with a tablespoon. If is says ounces, I weigh it.

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Susan Daku October 20, 2008 at 9:34 pm

Hi Eric Thank you so much for your reply to my post on sourdough rye starter. I am in a bit of a dilemma on weights and was wondering if you could help me sort through the confusion. I purchased a terrific scale {even does fl oz!} but I am getting various weights on flour types. One site says rye flour of 1 cup measurement is converted to 2 3/4 oz; another says 4 1/2 oz? Which of these are acceptable? There seems to be a quite a large range. Also in your ANKB recipe on your video are you measuring your liquids in fl oz or weight ozs? By the way, the rye sourdough starter turned out awesome! I am using Roger’s no additive dark rye. Thank you once again for your super site! Susan

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breadtopia August 5, 2008 at 5:44 am

That’s great, Bess. Let us know if you need any help.

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Bess R August 5, 2008 at 1:00 am

Hi Eric, Got my order that was fast. My starter revived great and is alive and doing well. I haven’t baked sourdough bread. But I am looking foward to it. My family is so happy I am going to bake yeast bread and sourdough bread again. Your web site is very helpful, Bess

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Dano July 22, 2008 at 1:10 am

I just wanted to put in a comment about reviving neglected starters. I had one that sat in the back of the refrigerator, neglected for a couple of months. Successive feedings weren’t getting very much activity. It wasn’t dead, but after a week of feeding it daily it just wasn’t looking very good.

I was thinking about starting over from scratch, when I found through searching that the famous San Francisco sourdough contained lactobacillus. In my refrigerator I also stock that in the form of yogurt.

Just about 2 teaspoons of yogurt added to the starter kicked it into high gear. It turned into a very vigorous starter that turns out tangy sourdoughs. Once in a while if I want that extra kick I might add a tiny bit of yogurt to the starter for an extra sour loaf.

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Tom Maynard June 6, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Eric,

Your dried starter is certainly quite vigorous: I’ve got visible activity after only two hours on the countertop!

I let it soften for about half an hour (i was interrupted), stirred in the tablespoon of flour, and I’ve got big bubbles on the surface now only 120 minutes later.

I can’t wait to bake with it.

Tom.

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Pauline Fletcher May 12, 2008 at 6:57 pm

It didn’t do anything all day and I was about to give up on it and start with a fresh batch, when it seemed to grow before my eyes. It is now double the size and I have put it in the fridge. Great Video, it really helped to see someone actually do it.
Thanks

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breadtopia May 12, 2008 at 6:50 pm

No, I don’t think the dried yeast will do any harm.

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Pauline Fletcher May 12, 2008 at 7:03 am

I dried my starter and it seemed to be ok as I could see it start to bubble but after the first few days it did not increase in volume, it still had bubbles on top but did not increase in volume. I just put a 1/4 tsp of dried yeast in to see what will happen. Will this do any harm?

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breadtopia March 7, 2008 at 6:48 am

Hi Cathie,

I hope you are able to revive your starter. 30 years ago I was out of the country for 6 months and froze my starter. I was unable to resuscitate it. I later learned that you should dry your starter before freezing it. However, I’ve also heard cases of people freezing starter from it’s live state and still getting it to come back. So, as with most things, there’s different takes on the story.

As far as adding potatoes or whatever, I don’t think it really matters all that much. There’s plenty of food value for the yeast in regular ol’ flour. But considering what’s a stake in your case, I would use purified water and the best organic flour you can find.

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Cathie Whitlock March 5, 2008 at 10:03 am

I have a starter that has been kept alive in my family since the wagon train days. The last four years I have been traveling in a RV and it did not like that at all, so I froze it and have not cooked it since 2004. It is still in the freezer, but would like to bake bread again now that I am stationary. I used to “jump start” it with a mashed, boiled potatoe. Any ideas?

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breadtopia February 17, 2008 at 10:02 am

Hi Josephine,

It’s unlikely the coldish kitchen is the culprit. At colder temps starter will still thrive, but just multiply at a slower clip.

When I want to create a warmer spot for proofing or whatever, I use the oven with just the oven light bulb turned on. It gets warm in there but not too warm.

As to why you’re not seeing the bubbling, it’s hard to say without having seen the whole process you went through. One thing I’ll say, although it’s obviously just a guess in your case, is that if your starter mix is quite wet, you won’t see bubbles as much as if it’s dryer. If you’re not already doing this, when you feed your starter use equal WEIGHTS of flour and water ( ~ for each unit volume of flour you use, use about 3/4 of that volume in water).

If you’re already doing this, then it’s possible you just need to give the starter more time to do it’s thing.

Be sure you’re using purified or filtered water of some kind too. Just not ordinary tap water.

Keep me posted.

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Josephine February 17, 2008 at 8:00 am

Hi Eric. My starter is a few days old and still is not bubbling. It does smell sour. I’m thinking I should just start over and that my Illinois kitchen is just too cold. Is there a way to cover the starter to try to get it to over 70 degrees? I’ve even thought of using a heating pad under it. Thank you.

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breadtopia January 30, 2008 at 5:19 am

Hi RB,

I was out of commission yesterday, I hope this catches you before you leave…

You’ll have no problem keeping your starter healthy and happy by just feeding it before you leave and keeping in the fridge with a loose fitting lid. Another feeding when you get back and it’ll be as good as new.

It will survive a lot longer than a week unattended in the fridge. I’ve left some untouched for weeks at a time and, while it looks pretty yucky by then it still revived easily enough.

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rb January 29, 2008 at 9:06 am

I have my starter going well-

My question is- I’m going on vacation for a week- what would be the best way to preserve/store my starter while I’m gone?

rb

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breadtopia December 30, 2007 at 11:44 am

Hi Darryl,

I have no idea, really. It sure seems like it would be at least in the area of weeks or months, but not so sure about years.

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Darryl Patton December 29, 2007 at 10:18 pm

Hi!

Have I ever enjoyed your website and videos!!! Just wondering how long dry starter would remain viable if not frozen but stored in a dry area. Days/years???

Thanks,

Darryl

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breadtopia August 7, 2007 at 3:02 pm

Hi Richard,

Most of the time I think reviving a dried starter is going to go faster than starting from scratch. But the main reasons for reviving a dried starter is that it’s almost always going to work, where starting from scratch isn’t as reliable. Plus, you can revive a favorite starter from the dried form and be somewhat confident that what you get is the same as what you started with in the pre-dried form. Starting from scratch may yield (for better or worse) a different strain of yeast.

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Richard August 7, 2007 at 2:43 pm

Hi,

I am just curious about drying the starter and reviving it again. It seems to me that starting a fresh starter from scratch is just as easy (i mean timewise). What i mean is, if it takes just as long in reviving a dried starter isnt it just as good starting a new one

Richard

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breadtopia July 28, 2007 at 9:18 am

Yea, sure. I think that’s one reason why people use rye starter. Also those who are gluten intollerant as rye has next to no gluten in it.

Managing a rye starter might be a little different. I can’t remember off hand – I think you have to feed it more often.

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rlabohn July 28, 2007 at 8:04 am

hi eric…just made a nk bread with sour dough starter..came out great…one question,,could i use rye flour as the starter base??? i would like a more sour or tangy taste and thought rye would do it…whaddya think??

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breadtopia July 10, 2007 at 7:03 pm

No problem. I add equal weights of flour and water so your ratio of 1/3 c flour to 1/4 c water sounds good.

Once your starter is going strong, you don’t have to feed it 2x/day at room temp unless you’re baking every day. Keep in the fridge and feed it every few days or so.

Ideally you would about double the starter each time you feed it, but it’s not necessary to go to that extent. I try to add at least 1/4 fresh flour. After a while you can just tell from looking at it what it needs. It’s also very hearty and forgiving so there is a lot of latitude in what you can get by with.

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rlabohn July 10, 2007 at 6:52 pm

hi eric,,sorry to be a pest..one last question…how much flour and water do i add to the starter for the twice daily feeding..i think i made a mistake altho the starter looks fine and doubly bubbly..for each feeding over 2 days i used 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 c water…was that correct or should i have used an amount of flour equal to the amount in my jar??????

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breadtopia July 5, 2007 at 9:41 pm

Hi Kay,

Your starter actually sounds like it’s doing just fine. There’s usually a fair range of acceptable times when you can use your starter effectively. I guess you could say the ideal time is after you have fed it and it has just finished doubling. At that point it’s at its optimal health and vitality. But you can often see excellent results even well after the doubling period. In other words, the starter can look pretty listless and still come roaring back as soon as you use it in your bread recipe.

Just make sure you have enough starter on hand so that when you take some out for baking, there’s still plenty left over for the next baking.

Don’t worry about messing up. The worst case is nothing works and the starter dies (highly unlikely) and I’ll mail you some more starter (free refills for customers ;)). With a little practice and some inevitable trial and error, you’ll be an expert before you know it.

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Kay Merritt July 5, 2007 at 8:53 pm

HI
Now thzt I have enough starter to use the 1/4 C for the NK bread – when do you use it? Before you feed it again? after you feed it and it has doubled? Maybe I need to watch the video again. The 1st batch (w/whole wheat flour) doubled nicely. Then a short time later it went down to where it was before it doubled.
But I really need to know WHEN do you take out enough to make the bread? Kay

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Kay Merritt July 5, 2007 at 8:42 pm

Hi Eric
It is a good thing that you put in a little more starter than one needs for the 1st try. I used whole wheat flour for the 1st feeding. then switched to KA bread flour. That batch of starter goes up and down like an elevator but just keeps on bubbling. I got the 2nd batch by scraping & washing out the envelope with the 2 TBS of water frin tge 1st feeding. It looks better than the 1st one. All is not lost. The 1st attempt is in a jar in the refrigator. Will keep t rying with bread flour. Kay in Austin TX

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breadtopia February 6, 2007 at 6:01 am

I haven’t measured by weight before. I just put in several times what is necessary to get the starter going in the unlikely event the first attempts fail.

The dried starter is used to make a batch of live starter. How much of the live starter I use per 2 lb loaf depends on what the recipe calls for. The amount varies widely.

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Rick February 5, 2007 at 10:10 pm

How many oz are there in one package? Also how much do you use per 2 LB loaf? Thanks Rick

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breadtopia February 5, 2007 at 3:09 pm

Hi Rick. My starter would require the refresh steps mentioned to bring it to baking readiness.
Eric

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Rick February 5, 2007 at 2:19 pm

I purchased a bread mix some time ago that had a sourdough starter packet(dried) in the box. I really enjoyed the bread and have been trying to find a supply of the dried sourdough starter. I was wondering if the dried starter that you supply would work the same way or would I have to go through the refresh steps you mention in you website? Thanks Rick

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breadtopia February 3, 2007 at 6:34 am

Hi Terry. Your questions are good and likely helpful for others.
I think your starter is good to go. The feeding schedule is more flexible than I may be making it seem. You can feed it again once it’s doubled if you need to keep building up the volume.
You would be hard pressed to mess it up now as your starter is very hearty.
At this point the main thing is just to keep enough on hand so when you take what you need for baking, there’s some left over to feed again or just store until the next feeding.
I’d bet everybody manages their starter differently and they all work fine.
If you do mess it up, I send you some more – - free refills!

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Terry February 2, 2007 at 10:35 pm

Hi Eric, my starter has now doubled in size in just 6 hrs. Your video says to feed it twice daily feedings. Does that mean every 12 hrs or should I feed it when it has doubled after 6 hrs.? And do I do this for a couple more days before I bake with it. I started it on Jan. 31st at 5pm and it is Feb 2 at 10pm–54hrs total? Sorry for all the questions but I’m afraid to mess it up. Thanks, Terry

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breadtopia January 31, 2007 at 7:52 pm

Hi Terry.
That would be a good place to start. It’s pretty basic and so can be a good frame of reference for further recipes and experimenting.
Using more starter probably would make the dough rise and peak sooner. Which is more a reason not to add more starter. The longer the proofing period the more time the natural flavor of the flour has to develop, as a general rule.
Having said that, I’m planning to experiment with more starter because someone told me they tried that and it made the bread more sour which I kinda like sometimes. It’s fun to try different things.

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Terry January 31, 2007 at 4:01 pm

Hi Eric, I just received my order (my that was fast!) I can’t wait to revive it and see how it does. After it is fully refreshed and active in a few days would you recommend the no-knead sourdough bread on your site? And also if I use more starter in that recipe will it take less time to rise? Thanks again, Terry

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breadtopia December 16, 2006 at 6:29 pm

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the nice feedback. Makes my day!

If you want, you can add your name and email (upper right corner) to my list of people to be notified when a new video posts. Your email will be kept private.

The holidays will take me away from my computer for a while, which is probably a good thing, but I already can’t wait to return and get working on some more videos. It’s a blast.

Thanks again.

Eric

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Peter Markham December 16, 2006 at 5:46 pm

Hi

I have baked the NY Times No-knead bread and it was very good, I think as good as any of my attempts since I started baking again 9 mts ago, and a lot less fuss and mess. I have no 2 on the go now.

The videos are a great help and I will revive my home made sourdough and try again with that.

Thanks for a great website.

Regards, Peter

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