Feeding a Sourdough Starter

After much reading of bread books, and research on The Fresh Loaf forums, I have come up with a system for feeding my two pets sourdough starters living with me, so that they can feed me with bread!

I have two sourdough starters right now, a whole wheat starter that I built up from scratch, named Fluffy.  The recipe for Fluffy came from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads, and started off as simply pineapple juice and flour.

Pineapple juice?  I hear you cry.

Why yes, pineapple juice.  Apparently, pineapple juice helps to inhibit the growth of Leuconostoc bacteria, and is a reliable method.  I was sold after reading Debra Wink’s fantastic article about it.

So after building up Fluffy (which only took about a week), following Peter Reinhart’s instructions, I needed to place him on a regular feeding schedule.  And here’s what I do:

Taking Care of Fluffy (Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter)

If I’m going to be baking bread from Fluffy when I do my weekly feeding, I have to do three things:

  1. Make sure that I’m building up to the amount I need for the actual loaf of bread (most of Reinhart’s recipes call for around 14 oz or 396 g, so I use the formula below for Building Starter to Bread.
  2. Feed a little bit of the extra starter so that I still have some starter on hand, using the formula below for Feeding Starter.
  3. Discard the rest (either into Sourdough Starter Discard Pancakes, a jar in the fridge for pancakes later in the week, or into the garbage).

Building Starter to Bread

  • 100 g starter
  • 227 g water (at room temperature)
  • 298 g whole wheat flour

Feeding Starter (just keeping a little bit on hand)

  • 28 g starter
  • 65 g water (at room temperature)
  • 85 g whole wheat flour

For either formula above (a ratio of around 1:2:3 of starter:water:flour), I simply weigh out the ingredients, mix them together, and place them in a clean jar, and mark its current height with a piece of tape labeled with the time.  Using a jar allows me to watch the rise of the starter so I can see how quickly it is doubling and therefore gauge how active it is, and when it is ready for bread.

To make life easier, I usually keep my starter in the fridge so I only have to feed it once a week, or before I want bread.  2 hours before I want to feed Fluffy, I take him out of the fridge so he can come to room temperature.  I then feed him, and place him back in the fridge only after he’s had a chance to really eat the new flour I’ve fed him (around 8 hours later).

As to my second starter, my white flour starter is named Snowy, started from Fluffy and was converted to a liquid levain from Daniel Leader’s Local Breads… all that this technical talk comes down to is that Snowy is a much higher hydration than Fluffy, and looks much more like pancake batter.  I follow the same directions for care and feeding as I do for Fluffy (above), but with the following formula:

  • 50 g starter
  • 175 g water (at room temperature)
  • 135 g white flour

This comes to a ratio of around 1:3.5:3, making it a high-hydration (liquid levain) starter.

Seeing as I’ve just fed both starters, there should be some lovely breads this week… stay tuned!

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Categories: Bread, Vegetarian


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3 Comments on “Feeding a Sourdough Starter”

  1. December 22, 2009 at 1:53 pm #

    Cool! Sadly, I let SOF pass away… How sad! It was bound to pass, as we were leaving TO for more than 2 weeks. :((

  2. December 22, 2009 at 2:45 pm #

    I can always give you a new SOF in the new year 🙂 I’m always discarding bits of poor Fluffy!


  1. Tweets that mention Feeding a Sourdough Starter « The Kitchen Operas -- Topsy.com - December 14, 2009

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by daniel rios, Lindsay Isaac. Lindsay Isaac said: more than you ever needed to know about my sourdough starters, and how I feed them: http://bit.ly/8A5Xnl […]

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