I’ve caught the sourdough bug. But the problem is, I still haven’t wrapped my head around it completely. So I’ve been doing some experimenting. And this is basically my notes, journal, blog. Hopefully at some point, I’ll re-write this all to be instructional but for now. It is what it is.
How do I feed my starter?
At the moment I have a starter my friend gave me, which I keep in the fridge for a week at a time. It needs to be fed (which you can do when you bake a batch of bread) reserving some active, fed starter for next batch. But this week I still have bread left over from last week. So I’m trying to figure out how to just feed it enough to make sure it retains it’s activity enough to hibernate in my fridge another week. There are far too many conflicting ideas on the internet. So, I’m documenting my journey, my dough ups and downs. And I know soon I’ll figure it all out.
What is discard, when do I get it and what do I do with it?
To try and get the hang of it, I’m feeding them 2x a day, and observing them until they obviously double in size within a 4-8 hour window. Which is when they are supposed to be “ripe” for leavening bread. Each feeding so I can keep the amount of starter in the jar manageable, and not just growing exponentially, I have what is called “discard”, or less than fully active sourdough starter. Meaning, it contains wild yeast, it is sour, but it’s probably not in the state where it can leaven something by itself. Which is where – sourdough discard recipes come into play! You need to “discard” some of this flour & water mixture, so that you can replenish the remainder of the starter and keep a manageable amount of material in the jar, with minimal flour waste. Once your starter is active enough, and you use most of it for your recipe, you don’t really need to discard anymore. Unless you have too much to store.
How often and how many times do I have to feed my sourdough starter that was refrigerated?
What happens with different types of flour?
Feeding #1: Monday AM: My first step was to take the starter she gave me out of the fridge and separate it into 2 starters, one fed with equal parts by weight whole wheat flour and another fed the same ratio 1:1:1 with plain white flour. I did this because I’m curious how it reacts to whole wheat, and also because I want to make more whole wheat breads. After feeding them both, I noticed that they were active, but using the rubber band method, they rose, but didn’t double in size. Now I thought maybe it’s because I fed it 1:1:1 when the recipe she gave me calls for about 1:4 (flour):6 (water). This larger ration is supposed to give the starter more food for a quicker rise. Also maybe it didn’t double because I didn’t let it come to room temperature first? But there were no starter maintance articles I saw that talked about letting it come to room temperature before “counting” the hours to doubling.
Feeding #1.5 so after about 8 hours, discarded all but 1/2 cup of each (and made blueberry sourdough muffins with the discard). The strange thing was the whole wheat starter was more active than the white starter. So I decided to just add a little more water and flour to the white starter (feeding 0.5) but not the whole wheat starter – and I let them sit out over night (in the draft free oven) to see if they would rise more. It looked like they had, but they caved in over that time period and we’re back down in size.
Feeding number 2.5 Tuesday 8 AM: So in the morning I feed them again 1:1:1 by weight, but I always add a little extra water just because it the starter seems really stiff when do 1:1:1. This time they rose again nicely, but again didn’t quite double in size by the time 8 hours went by.
Feeding # 3.5 Tuesday 4pm: So I discarded all but .5 cups or about 100 grams of each again. And then fed them again 1:1:1 by weight. At this point I have almost 2 cups of discard. So I made up a delicious banana bread recipe (based on this recipe) to use the discard in. I put them back in the oven with the pilot light on intermittently and a thermometer. It’s between 70-80 degrees in there. After about 3 hours it rose to almost double, but not quite, and then fell back down again. Does this mean it peaked? Should I feed one more time?
This article talks about needing to feed up to 3 times every 8-12 hours to reactivate a refrigerated starter enough to leaven bread. But, the recipe my friend gave me, just has me remove 1/2 cup from fridge, has me feed it 1:4:6 (or 1/2 starter, 2 cups water, 2 cups flour) for 6-12 hours until that doubles or triples, and then has me build up a bread recipe from that the next morning. And it worked fine.
Observation Tuesday 9pm – after 5 hours into the 2nd feeding… Both failed the float test. They havent risen again. Do I leave them over night? It’s too early to feed them again? What are my next steps.
I left them out overnight Tuesday, fed them again first thing Wednesday around 8am. By about 11:30 they both passed the float test. 1 teaspoon in warm water! Hallejuah! I finally get it. It looked like they had risen almost half but not exactly. So I realized, “double” is not an exact. Almost double works too. I left them out, this time for 24 hours (since this is all an active starter needs) before the next feeding. The next morning, Thursday, I fed them one more time, let them sit out fot 1-2 hours and them put them in the fridge because I knew I couldnt keep up with feeding schedule for this weekend.
Saturday night, I took them out of the fridge to get ready to bake with them the next day. Within 1 hour of warming up they were already showing signs of life with no feeding! Hopefully I wont have to reactivate them with 3 feedings before they are ready to leaven bread. I am having a hard time with all this discard. I just want to keep baking!
So tonight, Saturday, I discarded all but 200 g from my white starter and 150 from my brown starter and fed again. Tomorrow I am hoping they are active and I have enough volume to make whole wheat buns and bread. (hopefully I have enough flour). And then I experimented with discard again.
I’m trying to make this recipe for cinnamon buns, but 1/3 discard is all it called for! That’s crazy because I am swimming in discard from my experiments last week. I doubled the recipe, and then replaced some of the flour and milk with more discard.
I am using this rule of thumb from King Arthur on substituing flour for starter in a specific recipe….
“I’m using 8 ounces of ripened sourdough starter. So that means I need to reduce the flour by 4 ounces (to 8 3/4 ounces); and reduce the liquid by 4 ounces by eliminating the water (2 ounces), as well as 2 ounces of the milk“
So for the double cinnamon bun recipe, I used these proportions. I will write out the recipe later if it is bomb.
So instead of 5 cups flour and 2 cups milk, in addition to starter, I used 3 cups white flour (18 ounces), 1/2 cup whole heat flour, 1.5 cups milk, 10 ounces whole wheat starter discard. well see how it turns out!
Fed starters at 8pm Saturday night. For buns need active starter by 7pm, a total of 2 cups stater, feed white starter again at 3pm. For whole wheat bread recipe, need active starter around 2:30pm. Feed whole wheat starter around 10.
How long does discard stay good for?
up to a week in the fridge, indefinitely if frozen.
My goal is just to intellectually and tactically understand this process so I can use any recipe with confidence.
Sourdough banana bread
- 4 flax eggs each "egg" is 1 tbsp ground flax with 3 tbsp water,
- 500 g ripe bananas about 10 small, 5 medium/large
- 1 large splash vanilla
- 2 cups hydrated, active sourdough starter
- 2 cups oat flour
- 1/2 cup coconut oil melted, or liquid
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 3 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- macadamia nuts and chocolate chips to taste
- In a large bowl or stand-up mixer break apart bananas by hand. Add sugar, vanilla, and flax eggs and cream until well combined.
- Add starter, oil, flour, salt, baking powder and mix until well combined.
- Fold in nuts or chocolate chips.
- Pour into 2 oiled loaf pans
- Bake in preheated oven at 350° F for 60 minutes until knife comes out clean. If the tops start to get too dark, cover with foil.