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Maintaining Heritage Sourdough Starter
If you have obtained a small amount of starter from a friend or from Sunrise Flour Mill, use these guidelines for building it up and maintaining it.
- First, the quantity of starter needs to be built up by feeding it and doubling it in size every day for 3 or 4 feedings. This will bring it up to its peak strength. 30 g of it can be used to make a levain, keeping the rest as starter. About 1-11/2 C will be enough to do this.
- Estimate the amount of flour and water in the beginning starter.Every time it’s fed it needs to be doubled in size meaning flour and water always will be added in equal parts so that the result will double the size of the starter.Estimate or weigh the starter. As an example, if the starter weighs 100g the feeding will be 50g of flour and 50 of water. Add water first and mix it well with the existing starter, then add flour until the desired viscosity is obtained. Initially, with the small amount of starter we provide, about a tablespoon each of water and flour will be added the first time; two of each the second time; four of each the third time. Three or four days after this feeding schedule the starter should be ready to use for a levain. Take the 30g needed for the levain, feed the starter again and put it in the refrigerator.It should not need feeding again for a week.
To use it again in a week
- Take it out of the refrigerator the day before making a levain and feed it. The next day take what is needed for the levain, feed the starter again, and put it back in the refrigerator. It should be good for another week.
- The routine works well for baking once a week. After several weeks if the starter is losing strength, it can be refreshed by leaving it on the counter and feeding it a few times at 12-hour intervals. It should regain its strength. The once a week routine can then be maintained.
- Variation of a day or two in the routine is not going to be critical, but in three days it may start to lose strength. There could be some darker colored crust forming. Remove the discolored part and find a small portion of the starter that looks like the original. Use that to feed and reactivate it. A clean container should be used for this restart. From this condition it should be fed a few days before baking with it.
Long- term storage
- Thicken the starter so it is like a stiff, dry bread dough.Cover it with flour and put it the refrigerator. It can survive like this for several weeks.
- To revive it, shake off the excess flour and reach into the center starter to get a spoonful of what looks like active starter. Proceed with feeding it and building it up as before.
This is a very active starter based on feeding the starter and baking with heritage flour. Other flours may react differently. The starter is a very good substitute for using commercial yeast. If a more sour taste is desired, will require longer fermentation with the levain and the bulk fermentation of the bread dough. Experiment with slow-fermented doughs that are one or two days old by keeping them in the refrigerator. Longer and cooler is sometimes the best. Leaving a dough in the refrigerator for 24 hours develops the more flavor. The longer the ferment the more sour the dough will become. You will want to experiment to discover what best suits your taste. To reduce the volume of starter when you are building up its strength and volume, see our recipes for using discard starter. Scallion pancakes, regular pancakes, English muffins, and adding to regular baked goods all work well. It’s a good alternative to throwing the excess away.
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