Starter: Care & Feeding
So, you bought a packet of my sourdough starter and you’re not sure how to take care of it, or perhaps you’ve been given an active starter from elsewhere. This post is for you! Taking care of your starter is really very simple, but it never hurts to have detailed directions.
In the first section, Dry Starter Quickstart, I’ve put together a quick 51-second video showing the very basics of reviving dry starter powder, and included step-by-step text instructions just below the video. The second section, Dried Starter Diary includes links to our four day-by-day video how-tos for reviving a dry starter packet (skip to second section and click “Dry Starter Diary”). In the third and final section, Maintaining Wet Starter, I explain how to keep your sourdough culture alive indefinitely (skip to third section and click “Maintaining Wet Starter”). You’ll never have to live without good bread again!
Dry Starter Quickstart
Reviving Your Starter Packet
- Dump your starter packet into a jar. Your first container can be pint-size (literally), but you’ll want to scale up later.
- Mix in 100ml (3oz) 80ºF water. The better you mix it now, the quicker the yeast will rehydrate and magically come back to life.
- Mix in 100g (a generous 2/3 cup) flour. Whatever flour you have is fine, as long as it’s not self-rising flour.
- Put the lid back on the container loosely, and leave it out on the counter.
- Wait. If you don’t see any activity in 24hrs, add another 25ml of water, and give it a vigorous stir.
- You should see bubbles in the starter goo within 32 hours from step 1.
- When you see the level of the starter rise by an inch or so, move it into a 32oz jar, and add another 100ml water and 100g flour. Don’t dump any out this time!
- After another 12–24 hours, you should see the overall level of the starter rise even more, with more and larger bubbles throughout (don’t bother feeding it again UNTIL you see it increase in size).
- At this point, take two tablespoons of the bubbly starter, put it back in the first jar, and add another 100ml water & 100g flour. Assuming it puffs up to at least double its size within the next 8–12 hours, you’re ready to move on to Ongoing Care & Feeding!
- IF YOU FOLLOW ALL THESE DIRECTIONS, and your starter does not spring to life, feel free to contact us with your questions!
Dry Starter Diary
Starter Start-Up Video Diary
Click each image to go to that day’s video (and blog post). Drama! Action! Excitement! New smells! Gloop and bubbles! My amazing not-at-all dreary voiceovers! Enjoy… this section is for all you visual learners out there. 🙂
Maintaining Wet Starter
Ongoing Care & Feeding
Basic instructions first! Photos second! Footnotes below the photos!
- I recommend keeping your starter in a quart-size jar, with a lid you can screw on loosely. At the quantities specified below, it will only expand to a pint or so at peak activity, but it’s good to have room to spare.
- To feed it, dump most of the starter out of the jar.* You only need about a Tbsp in there to feed your next batch.
- Add 100 ml of room temperature water to the jar and mix it until the starter remnants are dissolved, then add 2/3 cup flour and mix it together completely. Remember to put the lid back on loosely! (I usually feed it 1/3C whole wheat and 1/3C white flour. If you feed it 100% white flour, it puffs up faster, so keep it somewhere cool!)
- It should be 2–3 times its original size when it’s ready to bake with. If you’re baking right away, proceed to the recipe!
- Plan to feed it about 12 hours before any time you want to bake. (Baking is going to take 18-24 hours from when you first mix the dough to when your bread comes out of the oven, so plan ahead and don’t be in too much of a hurry. ;-))
- If you’re not planning to bake right away, you can feed the starter every other day, and keep it out on the counter. Or you can put it in the fridge after a feeding, and feed it once a week. (Don’t leave it out on the counter longer than two days without feeding though, because other stuff can start growing if the yeast goes dormant.)
*If you feel guilty just dumping the starter, here are other things you can do with it:
- Keep the discard in a jar in the fridge, as backup starter, until the fridge container gets full, then dump it.
- Add a little extra water to it, and spread it out on some parchment paper to dry. It’ll keep for months that way! (That’s how I prep my starter for sale.)
- Feed it to your dogs! I’m not even kidding. My dogs get excited every time I feed the starter, just in case I am giving them the extra. (In the photo above, Jack actually jumped up and ran over to me when he heard me feeding the starter. He’s been known to wake out of a dead sleep if there’s a chance he’ll get some sourdough starter.)
- Use it in pancake batter, or crackers or something else! Google “spent sourdough starter recipe” or “discard sourdough starter recipe” and you’ll find so many ideas!
- Eventually realize you have so much starter discard so often there is no point feeling guilty about it, so just feed it to the dogs all the time, or throw it away if you have no dogs (it’s OK!).