How to look after your Sourdough starter
How to look after your sourdough starter
Dear fellow bread friends,
So now that you have made your sourdough starter, you need to know how to keep it alive.
A sourdough starter is a bit like having a pet. Although it can’t follow you around at dinner time, meowing at your heels, you must remember to feed it. But what do you feed it with, you ask? Last night’s leftovers? … a tuna mayo sandwich? … cat food?! No surprisingly enough, none of these will do the trick. A sourdough starter is a living thing and without fresh flour and water the wild yeasts will die. And they definitely will die if you feed them cat food!
So how do you feed your starter?
It is important to develop a consistent routine, preferably feed your starter at the same time each day.
Now that your starter is strong and established you only need to add a small amount of it to the fresh flour and water. A good ratio to use is 1:4:4.
For example, 50g starter: 200g flour: 200g water.
Once you have mixed your starter with the flour and water, leave it to ferment for about 8-12 hours.
When is the starter ready to bake with?
You can test if your starter is ready to use by dropping a little bit in a jug of water and seeing if it floats. If it floats, then there is enough carbon dioxide in the starter to make your loaf rise.
There are three main stages of an active starter. Young, ripe and mature. A few hours after feeding, the young starter will have some bubbles and a mild yoghurty flavour. Usually between 8-12 hours the starter will enter the ripe stage. This is the ideal stage to use it. It will have lots of bubbles and a more sour, tangy flavour. The starter will reach the mature stage once it has doubled in size and has started to drop back. There will be fewer bubbles and usually they are smaller in character. It will have a strong acidic flavour. You can use your starter, to make bread, in any of these stages but it will have a weaker flavour in the young stage and a weaker fermenting strength in the mature stage.
How do you store your starter?
If you plan on baking bread regularly (2-3 times a week at least) then you’ll have to feed your starter every day. Of course, if you don't plan to make bread every day, you can put your starter into the fridge. Although we don't recommend you do this for longer than a week without feeding it. You will need to take it out of the fridge, preferably three days before you want to bake with it. If a layer of liquid has appeared on top, pour this away and start up your daily feeding routine to get your starter lively and active again.
We hope that you enjoy making your sourdough starters and please look out for our future blog posts about how to transform your starter into a delicious loaf of sourdough bread.
See you soon,
From The Cambridge Oven