Once I figured out how to get a sourdough starter active, the next step was figuring out what to do with it. Here are the basics of how to care for a sourdough starter.
Getting Started With Sourdough
I talked about the difficult time that I had when I first attempted to make a sourdough starter in this post. Once I stopped trying so hard and getting overwhelmed by all of the advice out there, I finally got one going and have had my starter for over five years now.
After getting a starter going and active (seeing those bubbles never gets old) the only job left is to care for it. Sourdough requires some attention but don’t worry, it takes up very little time. Here’s how to care for a sourdough starter.
How to Care for a Sourdough Starter
After your starter is alive and active, you will most likely want to store it in the fridge when you are not using it. If you plan to bake with it just about every day then go ahead and leave it out on your counter. You’ll just need to be sure to feed it every day. This can use up a lot of expensive flour quickly.
If you aren’t planning to use it every day, it’s best to keep it in the fridge. It can go into a dormant state here and won’t need daily feeding. I keep my starter in our fridge even though I use it a couple of times every week. If you aren’t going to use it for over a week or two, pull it out one day, feed it, and put it back.
The morning before you want to bake bread with it, pull it out of the fridge. I like to feed mine in the morning and then again that evening so that the following morning, it’s ready to be made into some bread. If I’m just using it for pancakes or tortillas or anything else that just needs sourdough flavor and not the rising action, I will just use it that day.
Now it’s time to pour some of it out into a separate bowl. Remember to avoid using metal dishes with sourdough as it can cause a reaction. Stick with glass or pottery. Leave a little starter in the jar to keep it going.
If your jar (or whatever container you are keeping your starter in) starts to get some build-up from where you are always pouring it out, that’a fine. You can either scrape it off or transfer your starter to a new container every so often.
Feeding the Starter
After I pour some of the starter out into a bowl, it’s time to feed my original starter. I usually feed it a heaping 1/4 cup of flour. If I’ve dumped most of it out then I will feed it a bit more, a heaping 1/2 cup of flour.
I use a high-quality all-purpose flour or freshly-milled wheat berries, depending on what I’m making.
Next is the water. Not ice cold and not burning hot, just warm. I add 1/4 cup or a 1/2 cup, depending on how much flour I’ve used.
We have delicious well water so that’s what I use. I know some people that use filtered water and some that use tap water, any of those should be fine.
And then it gets stirred up really well. It should be the consistency of pancake batter. Add more water or flour as needed, measurements don’t have to be perfect!
Tuck it back into the fridge until next time. Remember not to tighten the lid, just put it on loosely.
Activating the Batter
Next, flour and water get added to the starter that was dumped into the bowl. I choose the amount based on what recipe I’ll be using. Usually, I will add a heaping 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 of water. Then I will repeat those amounts that evening and by the following morning, there’s enough starter for a loaf of bread or two, depending on the recipe.
Stir it up really well and then cover with a tea towel or a loose lid.
The sourdough should sit out on the counter for the day. I like to place mine on the island that’s behind the wood stove. My starter loves the warmth from the fire and gets nice and bubbly there during the wintertime. If you don’t have a wood stove or warm spot in your kitchen, just keep it away from cold or drafts.
- Don’t let sourdough overwhelm you! Just give it a try and find what works for you.
- Add whatever amount of flour and water that you want, more or less depending on the recipe, it doesn’t matter as long as your starter is getting fed.
- Don’t panic if your starter seems to get yucky in the fridge if you’ve forgotten about it! Pour off the old stuff on the top and scoop out the clean starter on the bottom. As long as you have just a little, you can feed it and get it going again.
- If you want to make sourdough pancakes or waffles or biscuits in the morning, pull your starter out the night before, pour some in a bowl, feed it and return it to the fridge. Then feed what’s in the bowl and let it sit overnight. By the morning it will be ready to make a delicious breakfast!
- Sharing your starter with others who want to learn how to bake with sourdough is an added bonus! I just pour some of mine into a fresh jar, feed it a little, and pass it on. Sending along some instructions for care is also appreciated!
When I first got started with sourdough, I felt overwhelmed and frustrated and it took me a while to get the hang of it. I hope these simple steps show that sourdough doesn’t have to be difficult. Find a system that works for you, and as long as it is getting fed once in a while it should do just fine. With a little care, you can keep your starter for years to come.