Sourdough starter from unknown origin


I have a sourdough starter given to me by a Polish lady; unfortunately, I am unable to contact her to ask the question I am about to ask you.  I have been using this starter for about 3 months and have been using the starter with good success.  She told me just to keep it in the fridge and use it every 2 weeks.  Unfortunately, the recipe she gave me makes two very large square loaves (the Pullman pan 16 x 4 x4), but I have been using half the recipe.  I can't possibly use that much bread, even with giving some of it away.


Anyway, the last couple times I have made the bread, the starter seems to lack some "life."  It still has that marvelous sour smell and exhibits none of the signs of spoilage.  I'm wondering if I should be feeding it, even if she told me it wasn't necessary.  Since the method involves mixing and rising overnight, I have tried leaving the starter on the counter all day and even then it does not seem to "lighten up."  There are bubbles in it, though.


I use rye flour, whole wheat flour, wheat bran and a combination of other grains like buckwheat, oatmeal. and cooked wheatberries or farro.  I also use a combination of seeds like sesame,flax, sunflower and pumpkin.  It's a very dense bread and comes out so nice and it's awesome toasted.


Anyway, I add the jar of starter to the dough and return a jarful of the mixture back to the jar -- before adding the seeds, though.  The dough, after having risen overnight in the pan, does seem to rise just a little, and as I said before, the bread is awesome.  Just concerned about feeding it -- I don't even know what, if any, yeast was used in the first place.


Can you help with this?  I appreciate any help I can get.  Thanks -- Betty

131 users have voted.


HopesHope 2012 June 27

I'm not an expert baker.   


I have always fed the starter before putting it back in the fridge, by replacing what Ive used.  This is what I was taught. 


If you use say 190gr of starter, then replace it with 90 gr flour and 90 gr water, let it sit out on the counter until it doubles or triples and then put it back in the fridge until next time.



The bread you described sounds really good..   Where did you find the recipe,  and would you mind sharing it? 




Take care





Betty 2012 June 27

Thanks very much for your reply.  I was thinking of feeding it like I have read in various sources, but I was afraid that somehow it would "spoil" the mix, since the person who gave it to me said it was not necessary to do so.  The directions I was given say to use the entire jar (I have a 12 ounces of the starter) for the recipe.  So if I understand correctly what you are saying, I should remove half of it and then replace it with an equal amount of flour and water.  Is that right?  But then my recipe does not use white flour at all -- it's all whole wheat and rye flours.  I'm going to give it a try anyway -- I'll just use half the starter as my project.  Thanks again for your suggestion.


Glad to give the recipe -- here it is:


1 cup flax seeds                                                 1 cup rye flour

1 cup sesame seeds                                          1 kilo whole wheat flour (2.2 lbs)

1 cup sunflower seeds                                        2 Tbs. salt                 

1 cup wheat bran                                                1 Tbs. sugar

1 cup oats                                                           2 Tbs. honey, dissolved in 1 cup water

1 cup cold boiled buckwheat (kasha)                 1 jar sourdough    

                                                                            5 cups cold boiled water 

You can use any combinatin of seeds and addititions you please.  I have used pumpkin seeds and have even used dates or tiny chopped apples to it.  Particularly delicious is cooked farro in place of kasha and/or oats.


Mix all ingredients and put into oiled pans.  This recipe makes two large loaves -- the Pullman pan, 16x4x4.  It's easily halved.  Leave out overnight, covered with a cloth.  The next morning, bake in a 350 oven for 1 1/2 hours.  Freezes very well -- I let it cool absolutely completely and slice it before freezing it.                   

chazzone 2012 June 27

 Years ago, I used to keep a large starter in the fridge, and take out what I needed to build for a given recipe, but I ran into exactly what you are describing.  

Then I changed strategies, and only keep a small amount (a couple of ounces) of starter in the fridge, and when I want to bake, I build the amount of starter that I need from that.  

You'll get the best rise out of the starter when it is actively growing before you add it to your recipe.  

So, if I need 12 oz. of starter, I take the 2 oz. out of the fridge, and add 6 oz of flour, and 6 oz of water and let it double.  Once it does, I put 2 oz. back into the fridge, and use the rest in the recipe.

This ensures that my starter is at its most active, and also makes sure that no nasties build up in the reserve.



Betty 2012 June 27

Thank you very much for your response.  I am getting the idea that I really should feed this starter, even though my instructions from the person who gave it to me say otherwise.  As I responded to another person, I will take half my starter and try feeding and see what happens.  Thanks again, and happy baking to you!

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 July 21

Hello Betty,

What your original donor told you is OK and this approach is often used.  Instead of keeping a 'starter' you just keep back a piece of the dough that you have made.  For a plain loaf, this is no different really to a freshly fed 'starter' other than that, depending on when you take it, it might contain some salt.  Some people will then feed that before making a fresh loaf, as much as anything, to ensure that it is still viable before committing a 'valuable' resource (flour).

I am not sure what the effect of your other ingredients would be if you take the 'saver' after they are added to the dough.

Let us know how your experiment goes and keep on bakin'.


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