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How to take care of your sourdough starter

Congratulations! You've just received a jar of King Arthur Flour's fresh sourdough starter. Your sourdough starter may look a little the worse for wear after its trip to your home. It may also have a sharp, astringent odor; this is normal. What it needs is food (King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour) and water.

Also, it's important that you:

  • Feed your starter within 24 hours of receiving it.
  • Don't consume the raw sourdough starter.

Let's get started.

photo: starter
Here's your container of starter.
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1) Add 1/4 cup lukewarm water to the starter in the container. Stir to dislodge the starter, and shake/stir to combine. Pour into a large glass or ceramic bowl.
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2) Add 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water and 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All- Purpose Flour (hereafter known simply as "flour"). Mix till well combined.
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3) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature (about 70°F) for 8 to 12 hours.
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4) After 8 to 12 hours, the starter will be bubbly.
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5) Stir the starter, and discard about half. Mix in 1/2 cup lukewarm water and 1 cup flour.
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6) The starter will be fairly thick, like pancake batter.
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7) Cover the bowl, and let sit at room temperature for another 2 to 4 hours, till bubbly.
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Note: Steps 8-10 are a repeat of steps 5-7. Taking the time to “go the extra steps” will make your starter stronger and more vigorous.
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8) Stir the starter, and divide it in half; discard half, or give to a friend.
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9) Feed the remaining half with 1/2 cup lukewarm water and 1 cup flour.
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10) Again, the batter will be thick. Lumps are OK; don't bother to stir them out.
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11) Cover the starter, and let it rest at room temperature for another 2 to 4 hours.
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12) The starter will be bubbly, though not as bubbly as it might have been after its earlier rises.
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13) Stir the starter down. Place it in a stoneware or glass container, loosely covered with a lid, or a screw-on top, not fully screwed on. Refrigerate it until you're ready to use it in a recipe.

To make "fed" sourdough starter

Most sourdough recipes will call for 1 cup or so of "fed" sourdough starter. Here's how to turn your refrigerated starter into "fed" starter.

 fed1
1) Up to 12 hours before beginning a recipe, stir the starter and discard 1 cup. Or give 1 cup to a friend, or use 1 cup to make waffles. However you do it, you want to get rid of 1 cup of starter.
 fed2
2) Feed the remaining starter with 1/2 cup lukewarm water and 1 cup flour.
 fed3
3) Let it sit at room temperature, covered, for 4 to 12 hours, till bubbly. It's now "fed" and ready to use in a recipe.
 fed4
4) Once you've removed however much starter your recipe calls for (usually 1 cup), feed the remainder with 1/2 cup lukewarm water and 1 cup flour. Let this remaining starter sit, covered, at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours, until bubbly.

5) Stir down, return to its container, and refrigerate.

To keep sourdough in the refrigerator

If you're not planning on using your sourdough starter for over a week, take it out and feed it once a week, if you remember. But starter that hasn't been fed for a month or more will still probably be just fine, if you follow these steps:

 storage 1

1) Your sourdough may have a substantial layer of green/gray/brown liquid on top. That's OK; it's simply alcohol from the fermenting yeast. However, if the liquid on top is pinkish; or if the sourdough smells "off" or bad (not simply tangy, or like alcohol), then your starter has attracted the wrong bacteria, and should be discarded.

 storage 2
2) Stir the liquid on top into the starter below.
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3) Keep stirring till it's smooth, then discard 1 cup (8 1/2 ounces).
 storage 4
4) Add 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour and 1/2 cup lukewarm water.
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5) Stir till smooth, then cover and refrigerate it; no need to wait for it to become bubbly.