Sourdough Starter Maintenance

I have now been making sourdough bread on a regular basis for about 8 months?? How did that happen? I wasn’t initially excited about sourdough, because I associated it with the super sour loaves you get at chowder houses and such. I couldn’t imagine having that on a regular basis. But as it turns out, the sour flavor can actually be quite subtle and lovely. We have become accustomed to it, and enjoy it very much.

Having fun with different shaped loaves. Why not?

I experiment with sourdough recipes all the time. And not just recipes. Shapes, scoring, you name it. It’s just fun. Soooooo, back in August I posted about how to use the “scrapings” method for starter maintenance. This method is perfect for you if you aren’t going to bake very often, and you don’t want to have discard leftover. As for me, I have started baking with my starter often enough that I want it at the ready whenever the fancy strikes. And I am happy to use my discard to make other things, like these yummy whole wheat sourdough crackers.

So yes, I have become one of those people that keeps their sourdough starter in a jar on their counter and feeds it once a day. How did that happen again? It’s not a big deal though. I feed it only a small amount, and the whole routine only takes about ten minutes. A small price to pay for my own personal unlimited wild yeast supply. So here’s how I do it.

I have two 16 ounce jars with straight sides (for easy access and cleanup) and lids that can sit loosely atop the jars or be screwed on tightly. The jars weigh the same, which can be helpful. In the picture below, you see on the left a jar with starter in it. This starter has not been fed, so it is “hungry”.

I place the clean jar on my kitchen scale and pour 40 grams of the unfed starter into the clean jar.

I then zero out the scale and pour in 40 grams of room temperature water. I prefer using water from our Britta Filter water pitcher, but tap water is fine.

Next I zero out the scale and add the flour. 40 grams. I like a combination of rye flour (6 grams) and King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose flour (34 grams)  in my starter for liveliness and flavor, but really, 40 grams of any decent unbleached all-purpose flour will do.

Then mix. I have a long narrow one-piece silicone spatula that makes mixing easy, and the spatula is easy to clean also, so I highly recommend getting one. Scrape down the sides of the jar so you can see what’s going on in there.

I like to place a rubber band at the level of the starter so I can see how much it grows. Usually a starter will triple in size when it is at its peak, and will stay at that level for an hour or two before it starts to collapse. My starter is a 100% hydration starter, which means that it has the same amount of water as flour. It usually takes my starter about six hours to reach its peak. It is when it is at its peak that the starter will be the most effective in your sourdough bread recipes. (I know, I know, TL;DR). Anyway, I place the lid very loosely on the jar and keep it in an out-of-the-way spot in my kitchen. If I want to bake, I know that my starter will be ready in about six hours. If I don’t want to bake, I can just feed the beast again the next day when I feel like it. Here’s what it looks like after a couple of hours.

It’s always exciting to see the starter begin to grow.

Here is what it looks like when it’s ready to go.

Tripled in size, bubbly and ready to go!

And now you may ask, what do I do with the leftover starter, otherwise known as the discard? Well, you may want to have a third jar. Whenever you have leftover starter, just pour into your “discard” jar. So now it’s starting (starting, hehe… no pun intended) to get confusing. Here’s how I keep it straight. The rubber band only goes on the jar of the starter that I am feeding or I am going to feed. There is a jar that I keep in the fridge that is just for discard… my leftover starter. In the photo below, the middle jar that is full has discard in it from a week or two of sourdough feedings. The jar on the left has the leftover starter, which I am about to pour into the discard jar. The jar in the background on the far right is the starter that I just fed. Whew.

Background jar = just fed starter. Jar on left = leftover starter. Jar in the middle = discard.

When I accumulate enough discard, I usually make sourdough crackers, because they are SO so good.

Whole wheat flour, herbs, butter, and a whole lot of discard!

But I’ve gotten completely off track. I just want you to envision a positive outcome for all of that discard. And there really isn’t that much discard. Sometimes I decide to just do a 30/30/30 starter, which makes 90 grams of starter (obvi). My regular sourdough loaf recipe only calls for 50 grams of starter, and so I would have 40 grams of starter leftover. But you see, I would be cutting things very close, because there is a tiny bit of evaporation that happens during the process, and some of the starter sticks to the spatula or the jar, etc., etc., so I prefer to do my regular 40/40/40 starter, to be on the safe side.

For inspiration.

In a nutshell, mix 40 grams unfed starter with 40 grams water and 40 grams unbleached all-purpose flour. Let it sit loosely covered on your kitchen counter. Once the starter has tripled it is ready to use. This should take maybe 6 to 8 hours, depending on the temperature in your kitchen, how active your starter is, etc. If you do not want to bake with the starter, you can leave it until the next day. Pour 40 grams of it into a new jar, along with 40 grams of water and 40 grams flour and mix. Either throw away the discard, or save it in your fridge for another use. This is if you want to feed it every day so that you have active bubbly starter available on a daily basis. If this seems excessive, you can always feed your starter, let it sit on your counter for an hour or two, then pop it in the fridge. It will stay dormant in there for quite a while. Put it on the lowest shelf in the very back, which is usually the coldest spot in your fridge. When you are planning on baking, pull the starter out and feed it for a day or two to bring it back up to speed. And that’s it! Time to get started!


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5 Responses to Sourdough Starter Maintenance

  1. This is really helpful! I had some starter for a while but sadly it is no longer with us. I used to make sourdough pancakes and waffles with the discard and they were the best I’ve ever had! I love the idea of sourdough crackers.

    • angelamara says:

      Hi Alicia! I’m so glad this post was helpful (and not confusing!). Sourdough pancakes and waffles are so so good! It’s worth it to have that starter around just for the discard recipes. And hey, I have starter to share with you any time you like. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Pingback: Sourdough Crackers | and everything nice

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