wishfish's picture

I'm just starting out on this adventure and I'm still confused by some of the basics.


I have managed to create a starter that seems pretty active but I'm not sure if I've got in on the best maintenance regime.


When I use my starter or I need to refresh it is the idea to have a small quantity of starter compared to the quantity of fresh flour used to feed it? For example, if I had 1/2 cup of starter what would be the optimum quantity of flour to feed it?

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Thraundil 2012 July 13

 Hey! Just noticed noone has replied to your question here yet. The answer depends alot on your type of starter. I am going to assume its a white wheat starter. What I usually do with mine is to "activate" it with half as much flour as there is starter, in your example quarter cup flour and quarter cup water. After 8 hours it should bubble, here I feed it with as much as there was original starter, in your example half a cup of flour and water. After 3-4 hours it should be fine to bake. But if you want (this is often easier for a normal daily schedule) its perfectly fine to wait an additional 4 hours, feed it again, and THEN wait 3-4 hours and bake. In fact, this will promote the taste of the final bread. 


What I usually do with my starter on regular day: 

6 pm. I take my box of starter out of the fridge to let him warm up. He weights around 200 g. 

10-11 pm. I feed him 50 of flour and 50 of water. Then go to bed. 

~8 am next day before I leave for work. He is bubbly and happy from being fed. I reward him with another 100 of flour and 100 of water. 

7 pm. I come home. He is very active and eager. I feed him 200 of flour and 200 of water. 

9 pm. He is now bubbling furiously and smell wonderful. I save 200g of him in the fridge and use the remainder for the dough. I mix it, let it set for an hour, knead it for a like 20 mins and slap it in the fridge. The following day when I come home from work I imidiately shape breads and let them proof for 3-4 hours at room temp before baking. 


So my answer ended up rather long. Hope thats not a problem :) I like to be thorough! 

davo 2012 July 13

First, 1/2 cup is quite a lot of starter to keep I reckon. I keep in the fridge and do two feeds to wake it up - a bit like the poster above, but I would always err on the side of feeding more new flour/water than the amt of starter you are keeping. If ths sstarter is too big at feeding time, throw out the extra you don't need, or mix into pancakes, whatever. This gives it a lot of food and opportunity to get really active before it starts to starve again. I would typically treble the size of my starter twice at 12 hr intervals -  believe me others feed at a much higher rate of new food. Lesser rates of new food would suit (and require) less activity in the starter.


If you wanted to mix into a final bread dough from active starter/levain, a reasonable way to do it is take say 100 g starter, add 200 g water and 300 g flour (give or take dep on starter hydration, I would use more water as my starter is around dough consistency and this mix ratio works better for 100% hydration starter) plus salt (2% of total flour weight including the starter). (Or for larger or multiple loaves, use any larger proportion of this mix ratio). Mix it, rest 20 mins (most leave salt till after this rest but I don't bother, I just put into the bread dough mix),  knead it, then "bulk ferment" it for around 2.5-3 hrs during which you do stretch and folds at around 30-40 min intervals. Shape the loaves, place in a floured/towelled bowl or banetton upside down and then proof for 5 or so hrs at room temp, or longer in the fridge with a warm-up period until it's ready (google "poke test"). Then bake.


With the remainign starter, just feed it a bit and put back in the fridge. If you don; bake for a weeek or two, discard most, feed and re-fridge around weekly - but don't fuss - it'll survive a few weeks if neglected, but might take a few feeds in a row at room temp  to wake up.

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