Sourdough Recipes

Feeding Your Sourdough Starter

Feeding your sourdough starter doesn’t have to be a complicated, brain bending task. This easy starter guide will help you understand how to feed your sourdough starter in a simple way so you can make tons of sourdough recipes!

sourdough starter in measuring cup

Do you have a sourdough starter yet?
Sourdough is a form of leaving that consists of a symbiotic relationship between bacteria and yeast in a mixture of flour and water. It likely originated in Ancient Egypt (around 1500 BC) and was likely the first form of leavening available to bakers. Even after yeast was cultered and used for baking, sourdough continued to be popular, and played a huge part of the
culture of the California and Alaska Gold Rushes. Starters can be kept alive for years, and were often passed down through families. The older they are, the more personality it will get – becoming more unique and tangy, and bread made from different starters will taste differently because of this.
A friend gave me a bit of her sourdough starter a few weeks back, and I have really fallen in love with it! The scientist in me loves the process of each week weighing and feeding it (its not complicated at all, but it makes me feel like I’m in a lab again), and I really like finding unexpected ways to use it. Sourdough starter isn’t for bread alone. There are tons of awesome things you can do with it, and I’ll be showing you lots!
Trying to look around online about how to feed and maintain your starter will make your head swim. There are, literally, 3 billion ways to do it. And everyone’s way is “THE BEST!” It is completely overwhelming – do you keep it in the fridge or on the counter?
How do you feed it? 50% Hydration, 100% hydration, 87% hydration? It is ridiculous. When my friend Grace gave the starter to me she told me to just google it, but I eventually had to call her begging for her help, because Whoa, it’s crazy out there.
Because I haven’t made my own starter, I can’t really tell you how to do it. Well, I could, but that would be cheating. I suggest you start asking around and see if anyone you know has some. Or, head over to The Fresh Loaf and check out the procedure for making your own starter.

How to Feed A Sourdough Starter

I settled on what I think is the easiest method to feeding a sourdough starter.
  • I keep my starter in the fridge, covered.
  • Once a week (on Saturday, it just so happens), I take my starter out of the fridge at let it sit on the counter for a bit to warm up.
  • Then I get out my scale and weigh it, and the put it back in its container. Lets pretend the starter weighs 200 grams.
  • I get a bowl out and into I measure 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water.
  • Mix this up and add it to your starter, mixing it well. This is called a 100% hydration because you are essentially doubling your starter.
  • Loosely cover your starter back up and let it sit for a few hours on the counter.
  • Then I remove a half (the part you remove is called your “discard”. You can either bake something with this or give it to a friend, or sadly, throw it in the trash if you don’t have time to bake with it), place your remaining starter back in the container and place it in the fridge again.
  • Now you are done for the week!


Sourdough Starter Storage Container

How you store your sourdough starter depends on what you like best. The most important part is that your container is at least twice the size of your sourdough starter. You need room for it to grow and expand, and you need room for the sourdough stater to have access to air.

  • A glass mason jar. This is my favorite option because it is easy to clean,  you can see what is going on inside, and you can control how tightly the lid is on.
  • A food storage container with lid. This can be plastic or glass, just make sure it is big enough, and that you remember to crack the lid when the sourdough starter is doubling so that the pressure doesn’t explode it. I don’t like these options as well because they are often wide and squat instead of a taller glass jar, so its harder to tell when your starter has doubled in size.
  • Stoneware crock. These are great because this is what sourdough was originally kept in. This is also a great option because its obvious to tell it apart from the other jars and containers in your fridge. They are also made from sturdy non-reactive material.

No matter which type of container you choose, its important to make sure you keep your container clean. Over time, your  container will form crusty bits of dried flour and starter at the top. Its totally normal and fine, just make sure you take your starter out and clean the container.

*Important Note: Make sure your container is clean and free of soup, and also back to room temperature before you put your starter back in.

What if I want to bake with my sourdough starter often?

If you would like to bake with your sourdough starter more often, you may leave your starter on your counter, loosely covered. Make sure to feed it every 12-24 hours.

If you want to bake with your refrigerated starter mid-week, simply pull out 1/2 cup to 1 cup of your starter a few hours before you plan to bake with it. Loosely cover it and let it “wake up” on your counter. As it sits, it will rise a bit (ok, it will probably double, at least that is what mine tends to do), so make sure you place it in a container that is big enough or you will have starter oozing across your counter.

What if I left my sourdough starter out too long?

The good thing about sourdough starters is they are pretty resilient. Just feed it again!

What is the liquid on top of sourdough starter?

The liquid that forms on top is called “hooch” and is what happens when your sourdough starter hasn’t been fed in a while.  It is the alcohol that is given off as your wild yeast ferments. It means your sourdough starter is hungry and ready to be fed. When your sourdough starter has been left hungry for too long, the hooch can turn from clear to dark colored. You can choose to pour the hooch off before feeding your starter or you can mix it back in – the choice is yours.

How to tell if a sourdough starter is bad?

Sourdough starters can have a wide range of colors and smells. Unless you have mold growing in the sourdough starter, its probably  ok.

For ideas in how to use sourdough starter, click here to see more recipes using sourdough starter

1 Comment

  • Reply
    January 14, 2018 at 11:37 PM

    Oh Lady, I am so happy to have found your blog! I am just getting back into sourdough (I got the Oregon trail starter and love it!). Thank you for so many good recipies (found you because I was looking for a sourdough cornbread) and for this entry which is so useful!

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