How To Feed Your Sourdough Starter
Welcome home your new sourdough starter baby! Feed it and maintain it well and it will last you a lifetime! Believe it or not, sourdough starter is a living thing and it's pretty dang hard to kill, so just try not to completely forget about it and you should have little to no issues! I'm here as your sourdough resource too, so please reach out to me at anytime if you have any questions concerns or if you need someone to help you troubleshoot.
You should name your starter when it arrives for Good Luck and if you can, stick it in the refrigerator as soon as it arrives as well! The sourdough starter tends to feed on the flour and water faster if its left at room temperature so if you leave it out of the fridge for too long without feeding it, it will eventually starve to death. But just note that it takes ALOT to get to that point and would need to sit out on the counter for upwards of a month without feeding before it gets to that stage but still I wouldn't test it and I just recommend for the best health of your starter to get it in the fridge as soon as you can. Again, just keep in mind that it is super hard to kill your starter but you don't want to neglect it completely, you'll be surprised how tough it is. Sourdough starter is naturally mold resistant also but ALWAYS use clean utensils, bowls and mason jars when feeding your stash.
Feeding needs to come next, please try to feed it within a week of receiving it but if it was me, I'd feed it the day it arrives as its just the best thing to do for your starter as it is living and will be hungry once it arrives to you. You will want to try to feed it the best flour possible, so buying or ordering your flour before your starter arrives is setting yourself up for success. I highly recommend Central Milling Flour, I use their Artisan Bakers Craft Plus Bread Flour for all my baking needs and it is the best. They also have a wide array of other flours too! I do not recommended to ever use an all purpose flour to feed your starter or to bake sourdough with, it just doesn't perform well.
Your starter doesn't have to be fed weekly or even bi-weekly, as long as you keep it in the fridge, it can actually go 6-8 weeks without being fed for the most sour flavor desired. You will still get a great and very strong sour flavor from a starter that was just fed but it will be much stronger if its not. Just note that a starter that hasn't been fed in awhile is going to be slightly less active when you go to make your bread than a starter than has just been fed but they will make equally great bread that will rise wonderfully in the oven. I tend to split my starter stash up into a few different mason jars so I can let some age more than others. Also alot of the starter discard recipes I have for you guys call for un-fed starter, so it helps to have multiple batches going.
FOR MY VISUAL LEARNERS HERE IS A FAQ + HOW TO FEED/CARE YOUR STARTER IN-DEPTH VIDEO!
FEEDING YOUR STARTER AFTER IT ARRIVES, STEP-BY-STEP
I generally recommend to feed your starter 4 times within 48 hours to build up your sourdough starter stash. But technically, you don't need to feed it that many times if you feel like you have enough starter to bake your first loaves with and at least a 1/2 cup of starter left over to continue your starter mother.
If you do feed it the 4 times as I recommend, you should land with at least a quart of starter or more at the end of the 48 hours. Just note at anytime after you feed your starter you need to wait 12 hours before starting any sourdough recipes as the starter needs time to feed on the flour and water. Also remember to always feed in a 1:1 ratio- meaning 1/2 cup water:1/2 cup flour, 2 cups water:2cups flour; and so on.
Step 1/Feeding 1: Refrigerate your starter until you are ready to feed it. For the first two feedings you are going to feed 1/2 water and 1/2 cup flour. Once you are ready to feed it, pour out all of the contents from the bottle it was shipped in into a glass or plastic bowl, fill the bottle with filtered water not distilled, screw the lid back on and shake it to get every last bit of starter out of the bottle, pour it contents into a half cup measuring cup to see how much more you need to top it off with water to fill to the top of the cup and then dump the 1/2 cup water into the bowl with the starter.
Add 1/2 cup of your flour to the bowl and using a clean whisk, mix it up until no clumps remain. Pour starter into a clean quart mason jar, clean drips from rim of jar, add plastic wrap or very loose fitting lid to the top of the jar and then set in the fridge to feed for 12 hours. No need to mark the side of the jar to look for rising and falling either. You only need to do that process if you are making starter from scratch or if you are re-activating dry-active starter. Because this is wet-active starter, it is already in its risen form and will not rise a ton after being fed but it should bubble some. The better the flour you use, the more bubbles generally are witnessed after feeding.
*IMPORTANT: Again its important to mention, I recommend to feed another 3 times below to build your starter stash up. Truthfully though, you can build it up as slow as you'd like. So after the first feeding, if you don't want to feed again for a couple days or even a week or so, that's totally cool, your starter will be just fine. The only reason I have you on the 4 feedings within 48 hour schedule is only so you can begin baking right away but this is your journey so take as long as you need to build your stash.*
DO NOT SIT ON COUNTER. This starter is already wet and active so it does not need to feed on the counter and in fact room temperature is not recommend for starter that is wet-active because it is indeed already active. As you learned above, as it sits at room temp, it feeds faster and we do not want it feeding faster than it will be already. So keep it happy by keeping it cool!
How your starter will look after feedings.
Step 2/Feeding 2: After 12 hours has passed from the first feeding, its time to feed again but just know you don't have to feed right at 12 hours on the dot. If you are not home or have plans you can feed it again at anytime.
Repeat basically everything from step one to feed a second time. Dump the contents of the jar into a clean bowl, use a clean silicone spatula to get all the rest of the starter out of the mason jar and then feed it again with 1/2 cup flour and a 1/2 cup water, whisk together until no clumps remain and then pour the starter into a new clean mason jar, clean any drips on the rim of the jar, cover and stick back into fridge to feed for another 12 hours.
*IMPORTANT: PLEASE use a new clean mason jar and utensils every single time you feed. A dirty, caked up mason jar will certainly breed bacteria.*
Step 3-4/Feeding 3-4: After another 12 hours has passed we are repeating the same exact steps again but this time we are going to ramp up the feeding to 1 cup flour: 1 cup water for feedings 3 & 4.
After the 3rd feeding, stick back in fridge to feed for another 12 hours and then repeat feeding it 1 cup:1 cup ratio for the 4th feeding. Making sure to change to new jars and use clean utensils every single time.
After the 4th feeding, wait 12 hours once more and then you will have enough to start using your starter to bake sourdough bread with and have enough of your starter mother to continue. Cover the mason and stick in fridge until you are ready to bake with it or until it needs to be fed again.
Maintenance and Care for your Starter:
This is the HOOCH, it will be a array of different colors. Grey, black, brown or tanish.
Your starter only needs to be fed every so often. The more often you feed, the more mild the sourdough flavor will be. If you let it age 6-8 weeks in the fridge before making bread, it will give more of a rustic sourdough flavor, one that taste unlike any sourdough you've ever had. Generally I'll feed my starter every 2-3 weeks or until there's a decent amount of hooch on top of the starter. Hooch is the dark liquid that forms on-top of the starter as the starter feeds on the flour and water and ferments. Its normal and just means its time to be fed. Mix it all back into your starter before feeding. The HOOCH will be an array of different colors usually grey, black, brown or tanish which are normal colors. Red, pink or orange SMEARS on top of the starter indicate bacteria and mean it should be thrown out completely and you should start over if you don't have other batches that are not affected. How much to feed depends on how big your stash is, a smaller stash needs 1/2 cup- 1/2 cup ratio where as a larger stash will need 2:2 -4:4 cups ratio.
Sourdough DISCARD Concept: Discard is literally just starter you want to discard out of your stash before you feed so that you don't eventually end up with a refrigerator full of starter. Some people literally throw it away but I think its sinful to waste it and literally with the hundreds of sourdough discard recipes out there, there's not a single reason to throw it away. When I'm ready to feed my starter, I will take however much starter I need to discard out of my stash, then I'll make something with it with one or two of my discard recipes and then I feed the rest of my starter and stick it back in the frig.
Note that you don't HAVE to discard any of your starter at all. You can continue to feed it and let your stash grow infinitely, but I mean, who has the fridge space for that? Grow your stash to as big as you want and then start discarding starter with my great discard recipes!
Lastly, have fun with all of this you guys! I will do my best to make all my recipes and instructions as care free as the baker that I am. And if I, the most care-free baker you'd ever meet can be successful with sourdough, SO CAN YOU! Also, just remember I'm your free sourdough resource so please message me on social media or email me and I'd love to help out! Best of luck and thank you again for your support of our small business and blog!
Below I'll make sure to post all my sourdough recipes as I get them posted to my new platform.