“What’s your daily sourdough routine so that you don’t have too much or too little starter for all your family’s baking, so that you’re not baking every day, and so it’s not overwhelming?” Sarah M. asks on today’s #AskWardee. I’m sharing my answer below!
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From Sarah M.:
“Hello! I have a question about sourdough. I’ve been interested in maintaining a sourdough culture. I’ve started twice and don’t keep it up. I feel overwhelmed by the thought of having to feed it daily. On top of that, to feed it daily and not use up any. And conversely, to feed it daily and then be forced to make bread products all the time. I’m hoping you could give a real-world example of how you work sourdough products into your menu planning in a way that your family isn’t eating bread for every meal, and yet is able to have plenty of bread products for your weekly menu plan. So an example weekly/monthly menu plan where you’re being a practical steward of your sourdough habit. 😉 Thank you for all the work you and your team do! The site is one of the first websites I check each day.”
Wow! I love hearing that, Sarah M.! Thank you! My answer is below.
By the way, I’m focusing on the routine of an established sourdough starter here. If you want help making your sourdough starter, be sure to grab my easy, free instructions here.
1. My Goals
I have developed a routine for caring for my sourdough starter so that…
- I never have too much starter…
- …but I always have enough starter, too.
- My starter is always active and healthy.
- I don’t waste flour.
- I always have options.
- And, I don’t bake with it every day!
When I go out of town, I store my starter in the fridge for a week or so. Otherwise, I leave it out at room temperature on the counter all the time and care for it with twice daily feedings.
It’s possible for it not to be overwhelming or waste or bake everyday… it’s in how you feed it.
And the key to that is…
2. Maintenance Feeding
Only feed it what you need to build it up for when you need it. If you are going to bake something that requires a bit more, feed it a bit more on that occasion.
This way, you’ll nearly always have enough, and usually not ever too much. (Of course, adjustment is needed to account for your family’s baking goals.)
What is a maintenance amount? A tablespoon or 2.
How often? Every morning and evening (regular feedings are essential for the starter’s health and activity).
If you’re keeping a cup or less of starter, a maintenance feeding is all that’s needed!
3. So…My Routine?
Take this with a grain of salt and adapt to your family’s needs!
Every morning: I feed my starter 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour, plus some water (a bit less than the flour). Same thing each evening.
Every 2nd or 3rd day, I have enough starter to bake our favorite bread — the no-knead artisan einkorn loaf. (It’s inside the Einkorn Baking eCourse at Traditional Cooking School.)
Since our family has regular pizza nights, I feed my starter to make sourdough pizza.
If I was baking more often, I would feed my starter more. If I was baking less, I would feed it a bit less OR store it.
4. What About The Flour For Feedings?
No need to stress over grinding fresh flour or using certain types of flour for maintaining the starter!
You can feed with any flour; it doesn’t have to be the flour you’re using in the recipe.
I grind fresh flour for whatever I bake. I have a bit leftover, inevitably. THAT is what I use to feed the starter. So I don’t have to grind fresh flour or go through much effort to keep it going.
5. Keep It Simple!
If this wasn’t simple, I wouldn’t do it.
The process is so simple, I can ask one of the children to feed the starter for me if I don’t have time.
6. What Container Do I Use?
You can use a jar or bowl, ceramic or glass. I use a bowl covered with a plate.
In the summer, I put a cheesecloth between plate and bowl to keep the fruit flies out. I change the bowl every other week or so — more frequently in summer because it’s warmer and the bowl gets cruddier sooner. 😉
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The #AskWardee is the live weekly show devoted to answering your niggling questions about traditional cooking: whether it’s your sourdough starter, your sauerkraut, preserving foods, broth, superfoods or anything else to do with Traditional Cooking or your GNOWFGLINS lifestyle.
I share tips and resources, plus answer your questions about Traditional Cooking!
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I want to know: what is YOUR daily sourdough routine?
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I really enjoyed the video.
It helped answer questions I had.
I have shared the link with a friend I gave some starter to
and hope she will be less overwhelmed with her starter.
Woohoo! I learned a LOT from this video! It is so freeing to know I don’t have to discard some starter every time I feed it, and I only need to feed it a smaller maintenance amount if I’m not going to use it right away. Seriously, so freeing. I started my sourdough about 6 weeks ago, and I’ve been kind of going crazy trying to figure it out how to use it constantly. It’s good and strong now, so I can relax! Thanks for answering Sarah’s question!!!
I keep my starter in the fridge. It seems to do better this way and I take it out the day or two before baking to feed and get the amount I need for my recipes. When I have taken out what I need, I feed it a small amount, let it get active then put it back in the fridge. It has also lasted months in the fridge when I had morning sickness (multiple times actually:)) and has recovered really well. Love sourdough!
Diane Markesbery says
I tried sourdough once and became overwhelmed and stopped. So now I can take up the pleasure of sourdough again and leave the overwhelming “chore” in the past. I really feel encouraged to begin again thank you for your help .
Dee Bradfield says
Thank You for your podcast! I tried sourdough starter before and became overwhelmed. You have inspired me to try again.
Thanks. I had a similar question, but never got around to asking. I had tried to make a sourdough starter about a year ago, but it went bad. I tried again with your instructions about a month ago, and this time it is doing great, but I am still learning to adjust the feedings so I don’t end up with too much. The other day, I brought bread to a potluck dinner to get rid of some of it. Also, I think I read somewhere that you could freeze sourdough starter for future use, so I put a couple of cupfuls in the freezer, rather than throwing them out. If the starter is still good when I thaw it, I may be able to take a break from baking during the summer without having to begin the process over again. I am curious to know if anyone has tried this.
Yes! My sourdough has survived the freezer, and “comes back” well~
This is so timely! I am almost finished with my second attempt at starter and have been thinking about these very issues as I prepare to begin baking. I missed a couple feedings and was worried that I might have to start over again, but thank you for mentioning that it can bounce back! Based on my recipe directions, I felt dismayed as I calculated how much money it would cost to feed the starter a half cup of einkorn flour twice per day and how much flour would be thrown away- but your advice clears that up and makes SO much sense! Thank you!
I am so excited to have found Wardeh and all of your inspiring information about traditional food preparation. Thank you for sharing with us!
Thumbs up here.
I absolutely love this podcast. I listen to every single one and have learned so much!
Deb M. says
I LOVE that pretty colorful bowl you use! May have to see if I can find something like that for mine if I go to having it out on my counter all the time. Thanks for the info!
Hello! I had two jars of einkorn starter because I was baking so much last weekend! The only problem was feeding it twice a day the 1/4 cup of water and 3/8 cup of einkorn flour. It responded beautifully though, and I was very happy with it! However, it was using a lot of einkorn flour. I have reduced my starter because I won’t be baking till this coming weekend and not at the maximum that I was last weekend. I keep my starter in a half pint jar, and I would say there is about 1/3 cup of starter at the moment. I have been following your advice about feeding it a maintenance amount of 1-2 tbsps of einkorn flour and a little less than a tbsp of water. However, I have noticed since I started this on Sunday night that no matter what time of the day it smells like paint thinner! Is it just taking awhile to adjust to the smaller feeding? I reduced the amount of starter I was keeping so it would not consume the smaller amount so fast. It was doing so well with the larger feeding and always smelled sweet, but now it stinks. Also, I usually feed my starter excessively (every 4-6 hours) two days before baking, should I feed it a smaller maintenance amount each time or go back to feeding it the 1/4 and 3/8 amounts to insure the starter will perform right and then after baking fall back to keeping a smaller starter and maintenance feelings? I just don’t want to screw the starter up on the days I am baking. Thanks so much if anyone or Wardee could advice me.
It does sound like it needs a bit more for your maintenance feedings, we would increase those to 3 or 4 T and see how it does. It’s a juggling act and you need to find the right amount for your household and your starter. 🙂
Traditional Cooking School
Thanks! I was thinking since it was less than a month old that it might not be able to handle minimum feedings like Wardee’s starter does. Hers might be a bit more stable and mature than mine. I will increase the feedings, and hopefully, it will grow stronger. In a couple of months I might try to reduce the food again. Thanks so much for answering my question.
Fed my starter less than a 1/4 cup of water and 4 tbsps of einkorn flour. The starter came to life like a slingshot!! It went from being a quarter full to filling my jar to 3/4th full. I think I made it very happy! ???? It also smells like fresh yogurt again and the starter stretched itself so high I could see the strings of dough forming like a spiderweb. It’s never been so active before, Thanks again for the advice.
I am new to sourdough and am soaking up all this great info! A friend shared her half rye, half spelt starter with me and I have been learning with that. I’m reading a lot about einkorn and just ordered some flour. Do I need to make an einkorn starter to use your recipes for einkorn bread, or can I use my current 100% hydration rye/spelt starter and just add einkorn flour as the recipe calls for it? I’d rather not have to maintain two starters, and I like the one I have and finally have learned how to keep it healthy and what that looks like. However, if it’d better to do 100% Einkorn in these recipes, I would take a portion and transition it to Einkorn. Thanks!!
Vicki Henry says
You don’t need to keep 2 starters. Your current starter can be used with any gluten type flours. However, if you would like to transition your starter over to Einkorn here’s a post: https://traditionalcookingschool.com/food-preparation/how-to-transition-a-sourdough-starter-to-einkorn-aw069/
If you’re using an Einkorn recipe than you should be able to use your current starter. You may need to watch to see if you need to make small adjustments since Einkorn is less absorbent than modern wheat flours.
~ Vicki, TCS Customer Success Team
Paula Clare says
Thanks for the starter maintenance info! To maintain a 100% hydration starter, should we add equal portions of flour and water?
You are very welcome! We don’t worry too much about the percentage of hydration, we go off how the dough feels when working with it. 🙂
~Peggy, TCS Customer Success Team
Carol Roper says
In the past I have made sour dough but got overwhelmed as mentioned. I am so pleased I decided to join this Traditional cooking school and am getting started all over again. This ASK WARDEE has calmed my worries about sour dough because we love it and I know it is healthier for us, plus I think it is fun!!