“Can you use cold flour or water in your sourdough starter or recipes?” Tami T. asks on today’s #AskWardee. I’m sharing my answer below!
“Keep it warm, keep it warm, KEEP IT WARM!”
When someone comes to me with sourdough trouble…
…the first question I usually ask is, “Are you keeping it in a warm place?” or “Is it warm enough?”
Because sourdough starter needs to be warm to be active and strong and useful in your baking.
Which begs another question…
If it needs to be kept warm so badly, can you feed it with cold flour or cold water? Will that kill it or is it OK?
Really great question. And funnily enough, someone emails at least weekly to ask it. So I know it’s on your mind!
It’s on Tami T.’s mind as well, because she recently asked:
From Tami T.:
“Is it helpful for sourdough bread ingredients to be warmed to room temperature before mixing?” –Tami T.
And my answer? See below…
1. Yes, It Is Helpful.
It’s helpful for ingredients to be warmed to room temperature before mixing. Or feeding your sourdough starter.
The reason is: the sourdough starter is happiest when it’s warm. It’s active, eats food, it’s just happy!
This is why I love to feed my starter and create my bread dough with flour that’s even a bit warm from grinding. And I put warmish water in the starter/dough.
2. Can You Feed Cold Flour, Water, Or Other Ingredients, Though?
Yes, you can.
Think about if you take a break from your sourdough starter by putting it in the fridge for a week or so. What happens? It slows down from being chilled. Does it die, though? No. Does it still eat its food? Yes.
So, if you have cold ingredients for your starter’s feeding or for the recipe, no big deal. Just account for extra time for everything to come back up to room temp (because the cold ingredients will cool the starter/dough). And make sure to keep it in a warm place so that it’s nice and cozy when it gets back up to temp.
3. Can You Feed Cold Ingredients Strategically?
Yes. Think about summer, when your starter is hot all the time. You feed it and it blows through its food in no time. So when you go to make your bread dough, you’ve missed the active peak. This is a timing issue.
You can use cold ingredients to feed your starter so it doesn’t hit its peak quite so fast, which may be more convenient with your schedule.
Same thing goes for dough. You create your dough but you know you’re not going to be ready for the next stage in time. Use cold-ish ingredients to slow it down so it’s ready for the next stage when you are.
It takes some trial and error to time it exactly, and frankly, I wouldn’t try timing anything exactly. Which is the beauty of traditional cooking. However, we can use the temperature of our additional ingredients or flour/water for feedings to our advantage.
The converse is true. Use warm flour/water/etc. when you need the activity to go fast! Because maybe you’re in a hurry!
What Is The #AskWardee Show?
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!
When: Wednesdays at 10am Pacific / 1pm Eastern
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I want to know: Do you ever use cold ingredients in sourdough starter or recipes? Why or why not?
...without giving up the foods you love or spending all day in the kitchen!
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