Help !! Oven spring and refrigerating your starter

lenohbabe's picture

Please help with two things.

1. What makes good oven spring ?? especially what gets that great wide opening where a loaf has been slashed.

2. Is it best to refrigerate your starter straight after feeding or wait till it reaches its full volume?  If you refrigerate straight after feeding would you need to let it return to room temperature before using again ?  If you refrigerate after starter gains full volume, could you use it straight from the fridge ?

Thanks in advance for your wonderful knowledge


264 users have voted.


farinam's picture
farinam 2012 February 17

Hello lenohbabe,

Oven spring and the width of the grigne are not necessarily the same thing although they can be correlated.  It is possible to get a good increase in volume of the loaf in the oven without the grigne opening much at all.  Conversely, it is possible to get a very wide grigne with a very flat unsprung loaf.  Basically it is a combination of factors as I understand it (and I am prepared to be corrected).  These are, not in any particular order, the quality of your shaping and the skin of the loaf that is formed in the process, the depth, angle and pattern of your scoring of the loaf, the correctness of your dough development and proof, and the duration of maintaining a flexible crust when the loaf goes into the oven.  Most of these, I would have to say, come mainly from practice that is best served by selecting a simple recipe and making it multiple times to minimise the effects of recipe variations.  Once you are comfortable with knowing the look, feel and smell of the dough during its preparation you will probably find that your efforts will be rewarded.

On your second question, I assume that you are talking about your stock that you keep between bakes.  My usual method is that I draw an aliquot from my stock that I feed to form the levain for my dough.  That usually sits on the bench until it is well grown (often overnight).  I replace the material removed from the stock with fresh flour and water and the replenished stock goes straight back into the fridge.  Occasionally, and particularly if I am planning sequential bakes, I will leave the stock out on the bench to give it a holiday from being locked away in the fridge.  If you happen to be talking about the levain that is to be used to make your dough, I think it could be used straight from the fridge as the other ingredients would raise its temperature pretty quickly.  However, I am not sure why you would be retarding your levain.

Hope this helps and good luck with your projects.


lenohbabe's picture
lenohbabe 2012 February 18

Thanks Farinam, you answers are greatly appreciated as they explain clearly and precisely.  I do lose you sometimes when you throw in a Sourdough word i am not familiar with........levain ( my pre-ferment I think ?)........ its a case of   You say "potato," I say "patattah"  You say "tomato", I say " tomata" ................

Seriously, your knowledge is a blessing to a site like this and its wonderful you take the time to help others trying to grasp the skills of sourdough bread making.  I have a myriad of questions in my head so please be patient/

thanks again


hitz333 2012 February 17

Thank goodness for farinam and people like him. I am still working on getting good oven spring and a good open grigne myself. I'm glad he mentioned the shaping because I think that is one area where I really need improvement.


As for storage starter, I put it straight into the fridge after feeding, because I tend to go a while (weeks to months unless I am bingeing) between bakes. It continues to ferment in the fridge, just not as quickly, and the longer it is in there unfed, the more chance you have of it getting taken over by bad bacteria or just losing its "oomph." That said, I have left mine alone for over six months and with about four feeds (every 12 hours is what I usually do unless it is very warm in the kitchen) it was as good as new. For the most part I take it out 24 hours before I want to prep my dough and do two feeds to build it up to the amount I need and to refresh it for use. The amount I keep in storage is only a couple tablespoonfuls or so.

lenohbabe's picture
lenohbabe 2012 February 18

Yes hitz333 , Farinam and others  like Leaddog and Old Possum  are assets to a site like this. They never fail to come up with the goods.  Farinam is the top of my league table at the moment  

And  thanks for your comments too, everything is digested.  Also thanks for commenting on my Chocolate Sourdough Blog its nice to know someone read it. 

  I do refrigerate my starter after feeding and like yourselves had had great success with that method. I wish I could be brave enough to only store a couple of tablespoons of starter.  My paranoia about it dying  makes me keep 3 different blends  rye , white and whole meal and I never store less than 150g.   I rotate them in order of "last used"...........actually i probably waste so much flour and time  looking after 3 when one would do the trick

Merrid 2012 February 21

The terminology isn't precise amongst all the various authorities, which is why it can get confusing.

The stock that you keep between bakes can be variously called "mother culture", "stock", "starter" or "starter culture", along with many other variations. Individuals usually try to keep their own terminology precise, though.

The first stage of a dough - a pre-ferment - can be a levain, which usually means specifically a sourdough preferment, and is usually called a sponge. However, "sponge" can also mean (in at least two of the books I've read) a specific type of preferment, usually a high hydration one of 100%. This can also be called a "poolish", although that term is also used for preferments which aren't specifically sourdough (and in some cases it's assumed that a poolish ISN'T sourdough). A stiffer levain/preferment is called a "biga", although again, some people use that to mean a yeasted low hydration preferment rather than a sourdough one. On this site, the various stages of building a dough are usually called "stage" or "sponge" or "sponge stage X", and the hydration of each stage is stated specifically.

Hope everything is clear as mud now!


As for your original question, you can put your stock in the fridge directly after feeding as it will still actively rise in the fridge, albeit much more slowly. You could wait until you see it start to rise before you put it in - it really doesn't matter that much. I wouldn't wait until it has peaked, because that leaves you no extra time and rather defeats the purpose of refrigerating it - at this stage, all that will happen is that the yeast will go dormant and the bacteria will increase the acidity, but that may have other effects on the dough stages.

I don't use mine straight from the fridge because it can be difficult to see what stage of activity it's at when it's cold. You usually try to use the starter at its peak of activity and before it dies down; if you're confident you know what stage your starter is at straight from the fridge by all means, go ahead and use it then. You may find you need to allow extra time in your dough steps but if you're not too worried about the schedule and aren't aiming for a specific flavour profile it should work out OK.

lenohbabe's picture
lenohbabe 2012 February 22

Yes !!!   its as clear as mud

Jokes aside, i think I've got it now, basically there are loads of names for the same thing.  I have definitely grasped the terminologies  now, your very clear and precise explanation has done the trick.

I am also realizing that one mans success is another mans failure.  I had read on another site that i could use the starter straight from the fridge, mine however rises in volume as it comes to room temperature so obviously if I did use it straight from the fridge it would not be at its peak..............Voila' ....................sorted !!!


I have another fridge question, however I will post as a forum that way  other newbies, probably with the same mundane question can view it.

You guys are all such experts, I applaud you

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