How do I Maintain Sourdough Starter / Once a Week Baking with Sourdough Starter / Baking Schedule

Updated: 10/26/2018
I have had the starter for almost 5 years now. Yesterday a blogging friend asked a question about maintaining starters and that prompted me to revisit this post. Everything in this post holds true today too but my baking habits have changed. I do not bake every week anymore. Sometimes I bake weekly, other times I bake after 2-3 months. My starter works perfectly every single time. I have updated this post for the infrequent baker.

Original post:
If you are here then you have a new/active sourdough starter that is just about ready to use to bake bread or you have one that you are already actively using to bake bread. You need some help in getting the process into a schedule that fits your families needs. You have come to the right place.

If you do not have a starter yet then you should get one started. All it takes is flour, water and time. I used the book Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish to get me started. I now have an active starter that I keep in the refrigerator to be revived when needed.

It was when I started to maintain the starter that I realized I needed a schedule to ensure I had an active and bubbling starter when I was ready to bake. While there is a lot of information available on how to schedule a baking cycle and the proportion of the flour/water for the feed there is very little on how to customize this for your needs.

Another problem is that most processes described online result in some amount of discarded or spent starter. The quantity of the feed directly impacts the amount of discarded or spent starter. A very small quantity is needed to keep the starter going, the rest is discarded. While you could find recipes for discarded and spent starter a better idea would be to work the quantities of the feed and tweak your process to never have to discard your precious starter.

When I was a weekly baker I refrigerated and refreshed the starter every week. I revived the starter on Saturday morning and mixed the dough on Saturday afternoon/evening. I returned the starter to the refrigerator after I had taken out what I needed to mix the dough. I baked on Sunday. If you do not wish to bake as frequently don't worry. The same process can work for you. Just start on the day before you are ready to bake.

2. I use 100% hydration, equals parts of water and flour. This process will work with most high hydration starters. To increase hydration you can gradually, over a few weeks, increase the percent of water to flour. I had started with a 85% starter as the pictures show and increased to 100%.

My schedule is as follows

The day before I am ready to bake
I take out all 50 gm of my starter from the refrigerator and place it on the counter top for 30 minutes. It starts to bubble and is ready to be fed.

I transfer it to a mixing bowl. Feed it with equal parts of flour and water, usually 50 gm or 75 gm each, giving me 100 gm or 150 gm for use in my recipes. If I need close to 300 gm then I use larger quantities of water and flour for the feed.

Covered with a plate, it rests on the counter top for the next 4-8 hours depending upon the weather. When it starts to bubble it is ready to be used. Please note a 100% hydration starter will have a thinner consistency than the picture below. Someday I will update the pictures here.

4-8 hours after feeding, typically the same afternoon/evening
I transfer all but 50 gm of starter to a separate mixing bowl. The 50 gm left behind is to be stored.

I put this 50 gm of starter back in the mason jar and refrigerate it until the next baking day. Again please note higher hydration starters have a thinner consistency.

I use the fed starter I have moved to a separate bowl to mix the dough as needed.

Baking day
I follow the recipe for the bread or pizza. Most sourdough recipes, with the exception of crackers, call for overnight bulk rise and fermentation. The day after the dough is mixed you are ready to bake. For crackers the dough is ready in an hour.

If you are looking for ideas on what to bake, there are a lot of recipes in this space. Search for sourdough or look through the recipes to find the sourdough recipes.

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