Feeding and Maintaining Your Sourdough Starter

Once you've successfully created your own sourdough starter, you'll need to feed it regularly. If you bake a lot of sourdough treats, you may want to keep it on your counter, at room temperature. While this means feeding it twice a day, it also means your starter will be ready to bake when you are. If you're a more casual sourdough baker, store your starter in the refrigerator, feeding it just once a week.

Yield
about 1 1/2 cups starter
Feeding and Maintaining Your Sourdough Starter

Instructions

  1. To store your starter at room temperature: Stir the starter well and discard all but 4 ounces (1/2 cup). Add the water and flour. Mix until smooth, and cover. Repeat every 12 hours. Remove 1 cup starter to bake with when it's expanded and bubbly, then feed the remaining starter immediately; revert to your normal 12-hour schedule for subsequent feedings.

  2. To store your starter in the refrigerator: Take the starter out of the fridge. There may be a bit of light amber or clear liquid on top. Either drain this off, or stir it in, your choice; it's simply a byproduct from the fermenting yeast.

  3. Remove all but 4 ounces (1/2 cup) starter; see "tips," at left, for ideas on what to do with it. Add the flour and lukewarm water to the remaining starter. Mix until smooth, and cover.

  4. Allow the starter to rest at room temperature (about 70°F) for at least 2 hours; this gives the yeast a chance to warm up and get feeding. After about 2 hours, refrigerate.

  5. To ready your refrigerated starter for baking: Take the starter out of the fridge, discard all but 4 ounces (1/2 cup), and feed it as usual. Let it rest at room temperature for about 12 hours, until bubbly. Repeat as necessary, every 12 hours, until you notice the starter doubling or tripling in volume in 6 to 8 hours. That means it's strong enough to leaven bread.

  6. For the final feeding prior to baking, add enough flour and water to use in your recipe, with a little left over to feed and maintain the starter for the next time you bake. For instance, if your recipe calls for 1 cup (about 8 ounces) starter, add 4 ounces each water and flour. If your recipe calls for 2 cups (about 16 ounces) starter, add 8 ounces each water and flour.

  7. Once the starter is bubbling and vigorous, remove what you need for the recipe and set it aside. Feed the remaining starter as usual. Mix until smooth, and allow the starter to work for about 2 hours at room temperature before putting it back in the refrigerator.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Use "discard" starter to make pancakes, waffles, cake, pizza, flatbread, or another treat; see our recipes for discard ("unfed") starter. Or, simply give your excess to a friend so he or she can create his or her own starter.
  • Sourdough baking is as much art as science. This method for maintaining sourdough starter is just one of many you might choose to follow. It doesn't exactly match the process in our "Baker's Companion" cookbook, nor some of our recipes online, nor what your neighbor down the street does. And that's OK. If you have a process you've successfully followed before, then stick with it. Or try this one and compare. All good.