Sourdough Part II: Care and Feeding Of The Starter

image-sourdough-olive-breadBaking sourdough bread can be a pleasure, but a bit like owning a pet. Miriam continues the series on baking great sourdough bread and how to maintain your starter.

Earlier in the week, we covered how to make the starter for your sourdough recipe. But your starter needs to be fed. Yeasts need to be supplied with fresh nutrition. The way to feed a sourdough starter is by removing part of it and replacing what you removed with fresh water and flour.

Let’s say you removed 1 cup of starter, leaving 1 cup in the jar. Add one cup of water and one of flour to the jar. Stir well and allow it to stand at room temperature for an hour or two, then put it away, loosely covered, in the fridge.

Don’t screw a lid on the jar: the starter needs oxygen to stay alive. And it keeps fermenting and creating CO2 even in the fridge, which could eventually cause the lid to pop open and spew starter all over.

If you’d like to maintain a larger quantity of starter, you can replace with larger quantities of fresh flour/water mix. Just keep the ratio of flour to water at 50%-50%. It will take longer to see yeast activity – keep the starter out overnight before using or refrigerating. In the winter, when I bake a lot, I like to keep 4 cups of starter around.

The starter also needs to be kept clean. Put only clean spoons into it, and wash your jar every so often. First put the starter in a clean bowl (any material but wood) clean and wash the jar with very hot water and soap. Then replace the starter in its clean jar and mix in the new quantity of flour/water. You won’t regret the extra work once you appreciate the delicous breads your little darling produces.

STORING THE STARTER: If you bake frequently, you will be taking starter out for use and feeding it again often to replenish the supply.That keeps a good, live culture going, so you can keep the starter in a quiet place in your kitchen and not bother about refrigeration.

If you think you won’t be using it very often, you should feed it once a week and put it back in the fridge to rest after its overnight shift outside. In very hot weather or if your kitchen is really hot, refrigerate anyway.

HOW TO USE THE STARTER: Use it at room temperature. If it’s been refrigerated, bring it out at least an hour ahead of time. Stir it up to get it going. Remember to retain at least a cup of the original starter, or you will have to go through the whole process over again next time you want to bake.

The Recipe, Part III of Green Prophet’s sourdough series, here.

Meanwhile, go back through our archives and read here on how to start your starter.

More good eating on Green Prophet:

Photo of sourdough olive bread by Miriam Kresh (

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