all about starters

At its most ba­sic, a starter is a mix­ture of flour and wa­ter that con­tains live wild yeasts and bac­te­ria and is used to nat­u­rally leaven bread. If you want to make sourdough bread you will need to ac­quire or make your own starter.

Food & Drink - - BASICS SOURDOUGH 101 -

AN AC­TIVE well-fed starter, oth­er­wise known as a “ma­ture” starter, should show lots of bub­bles at both the top and sides and have more than dou­bled in size.

Car­ing for Your Starter

BAKER’S PER­CENT­AGES for starter and dough al­ways re­fer to the pro­por­tion of liq­uid rel­a­tive to flour. Starter that is made up of equal parts flour and wa­ter is called a 100% hy­dra­tion starter.


A CLEAN JAR. Wash­ing the jar ev­ery time you weigh and feed your starter will keep only ben­e­fi­cial bac­te­ria in the mix.


RE­SULTS: feed your starter with the same flour ev­ery time. Dif­fer­ent flours con­tain dif­fer­ent bac­te­ria and will make your starter’s be­hav­iour in­con­sis­tent.

feed­ing Your Starter

HOW TO FEED YOUR STARTER: Weigh out what you have (keep­ing in mind how much you want to end up with for your bak­ing) and add, at the very least, an equiv­a­lent amount of both flour and wa­ter. You can in­crease your starter by up to four times its quan­tity in any given feed­ing. Al­ways re­mem­ber to keep some starter aside to feed and use for fur­ther bak­ing projects.

FRESHLY FED STARTER will be­gin by look­ing like a lump of dough, but will look aer­ated and ma­ture after 4 to 6 hrs at room tem­per­a­ture. It should smell pleas­antly sour like over­ripe fruit and not too much like vine­gar. If you drop a por­tion of ma­ture starter in luke­warm wa­ter it should be full of enough air to float.


ONCE A WEEK. If you aren’t plan­ning to bake, feed it and let it be­gin to rise, then cover loosely and place it in the fridge. The starter will feed very slowly and after sev­eral days a grey liq­uid will form on top. This liq­uid, af­fec­tion­ately called “hooch” can just be stirred into the starter at the next feed­ing. If you pour it off you will change the hy­dra­tion level of your starter and im­pact the ra­tios of any recipe you use it to bake with.


THE FRIDGE UNFED for a pe­riod of a few weeks or more it has be­come dor­mant and may re­quire sev­eral feed­ings to ac­ti­vate it again. If you plan to leave it for an ex­tended pe­riod of time you can freeze or dry your starter. See re­source sec­tion on page 82 for good places to look for this in­for­ma­tion.

THE ONLY TIME you should dis­card your starter is if it be­gins to grow mould. Throw it out and be­gin again.

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