These instructions for the care and feeding of the sourdough starter available in our online shop, are courtesy of Katy Chan, my daughter, executive chef and partner in Blue Collar Bakery and Cafe Neon. Katy informs me that tradition demands that every new batch of sourdough starter must be named, and so the sourdough starter that we sell is named Walter.
Walter the Sourdough Starter
Water – clean, room temperature water at 76 F/ 24.5 C
Flour – organic, unbleached hard flour
Feeding – Perpetuating the Starter
- Discard all but 1 tablespoon from inside the container
- Tare the container with remaining starter on a scale
- Pour in equal parts by weight, water and then flour
(30-50g of each water and flour is fine to maintain when not baking)
- Mix well until you see no lumps and close the lid until the next feed
- Place in an area where you easily can watch the fermentation
Feed your starter daily if storing at room temperature, and twice daily while leading up to mixing dough and baking. Early in the morning when you wake up is a great time to feed, and/or late afternoon or evening. If you are only feeding once a day, do it at the same time every day, say when you make your coffee in the morning. Place it by your coffee so you see it every day and remember!
Building Leaven for Bread Making
- Remove the required amount of ripe starter from Walter’s container, and feed with water and flour according to your recipe’s instructions. This ‘leaven/levain/build’ will be the rising agent for your dough, and will follow the same cycle of fermentation as your starter does. Use/mix your dough only when the leaven is fully mature/ripe.
- Feed Walter as usual to perpetuate/maintain
Two Days before you want to bake, and one day before you want to mix…
Feed the starter 2 solid feeds before doing the leaven build. On the second feed, make sure you will have enough to mix the leaven/build and perpetuate the starter.
It is perfectly acceptable to keep your starter in the fridge between bakes, or if you are away from home for up to 1 week. Follow the instructions for a regular feeding and allow the fermentation to start for about 1.5-2 hours at room temperature before storing in the fridge. It can remain in the fridge for up to one week before requiring feeding again.
Follow instructions for preparing for a bake, by bringing the starter back to room temperature and feeding twice a day for two days before preparing the leaven for mixing your dough.
Water from the tap is perfectly acceptable, unless you have very hard water. Always allow your ‘feeding’ water to stand at room temperature for 24 hours to let any chlorine dissipate. Keep a litre of water in a closed container with your scale and feed flour with the starter on a tray or basket, so feeds are easy, and all the components are at the same temperature.
Keep Walter the starter in a clear container so you can easily watch the stages of fermentation though the side. Open the lid and smell the stages of fermentation to become familiar with them.
A round, clear container is an ideal home for Walter. This way you can mix the feeds easily inside the container, and the stages of fermentation will be visible through the sides. The container should be AT LEAST three times the volume of your starter, at its lowest point, right after you discard and feed. Once a week, clean the container well and dry it, to remove any build-up on the sides. It’s not necessary to clean it every time, you will risk introducing contaminants such as other food debris and oils.
Always use a clean utensil to feed and mix – I like a tiny, long spatula.
For accuracy, weight is always best for feeding and measuring recipes.
Discarding spent flour and water from the starter’s environment is the only way to make room for fresh flour and water to maintain/feed the bacteria. It might seem wasteful, but it is the only way to keep the starter alive. There are many recipes for using this ‘discard’ like english muffins, crumpets, crackers, pancakes and more. You can save your discard in a container in the fridge for recipes such as these.
A starter or leaven is ready when a small amount of it floats in water, or is approximately doubled in volume. At 76 F, Walter will be ready to make bread/mature 4-6 hours after being fed.
Last, but most importantly…Don’t worry if you accidentally kill your starter! You can always get more from me.
Message me on Instagram if you have any questions!
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