Maintaining my sourdough starter

Dec 2014: Well, for some reason my starter died. But that’s OK because it was turning out to be more work (both maintaining it and baking with it) than I had time for. I’m back to instant dry yeast and much more successful loaves. I’m sure I’ll do the sourdough thing again at some point, but for now I’m very happy to be baking in a simpler world again.

2014-12-02: 7:00 p.m. kept 100 gm of S.A.1 and added 300 gm freshly-milled hard white wheat + 225 gm water. Sat out for 12 hours, then refrigerated. It didn’t quite double in size, but got up to about 1 1/2 times the original volume. I’d call it a moderate success, and I’m relieved because it was my last piece of living starter.

2014-12-1: S.A.2, fed with hard red wheat flour, bombed. Nothing happened all day, or the following day when I stirred it around. Tossed in the garbage.

2014-11-30: My notes are really spotty for my starter this weekend, but long story short I tried refreshing S.A.1 in order to bake a whole wheat sourdough sandwich loaf. Once again, after the first feeding it did OK, rose about 1 1/2 times after 12 hours. But then when I fed it again and left it overnight there was no activity. Perhaps I’m straying too far from the ABED mother starter instructions…but I also keep reading that there are a million ways to maintain a starter so it seems like I shouldn’t need to follow that book to the letter. In any case, not wanting to throw a bunch of dough away, I used it to make Cranberry Orange Sourdough Muffins and (instant-yeast-boosted) Flatbread.

I also took a bit of S.A.2 and added hard red wheat flour and water to see if I can get it refreshed with just one feeding in order to bake a loaf of bread with it.

It seems like maybe I’m fussing with the starters too much, and that mine can just be kept at small amounts in the refrigerator, increasing the quantity as needed with just a single feeding.

2014-11-26: My little tiny starter looked active, and I fed it with some hard red wheat this time. 12 gm starter + 36 gm freshly-milled hard red wheat flour + 27 gm water (S.A.2). After sitting on the stove top all morning, I kneaded it into a ball and moved it to the refrigerator. At some point, I’d like to see if I can tell a difference between using this starter fed with hard red wheat flour and the one fed with hard white wheat flour.

I tossed the starter that died. And now I have a little colony of starters in the refrigerator because I’m afraid of losing my main one. I’d much rather keep some extras around than start over again.

2014-11-25: My refreshed starter sat out overnight and in the morning showed no signs of life. It was a little bewildering — I have no idea what I did to it, but it appears to be a goner. Luckily, I had saved some of the original mother starter. At 7 a.m., I mixed 25 gm of the original starter (calling it S.A.1, as in Sourdough version A) with 75 gm freshly-milled hard white wheat (unsifted) and 56 gm water. Mixed 50 gm of the new, 100% hydration starter (calling it S.B.2, as in Sourdough Version B) with 171 gm flour and 96 gm water, bringing it closer to the original formula Reinhart outlined. Placed these in a slightly warmed oven for the morning.

At 12:00 p.m., removed both from the warm oven. S.A.2 has more than doubled. S.B.2 has done nothing. I stored a bit of this one in a jar and set aside to see if it ever comes back. Fed 50 gm of S.A.1 with 170 gm freshly-milled hard white wheat (unsifted) and 128 gm water, kneaded together, and after sitting on the counter for about an hour and a half, set in slightly warmed oven for approx. 2 hours. It essentially doubled in this time (3 hr 45 min). Stored the remaining 106 gm of S.A.1 in a jar in the refrigerator, as a backup.

Also, on a whim, I decided to see if a teaspoon of my starter would float in water, as I’ve read it will. It sunk straight to the bottom…and rather than toss the tiny bit of starter I decided to see what would happen if I fed it with a little leftover flour and some water. I covered it and left it sit out overnight.

2014-11-24: At 8:30 a.m., kept 1 oz of starter and added 3 oz freshly-milled hard white wheat (sifted) and 3 oz water. With the discarded starter, I made pitas again. I put the starter in the slightly warmed oven and things seemed to be going well. Since I was refreshing this starter to bake Thanksgiving bread with, I fed it again in the evening, 4 oz of water and 4 oz of flour. .

2014-11-22: Kept 1 oz of starter and added 3 oz of freshly-milled hard white wheat (sifted) and 3 oz water. Kept on counter for 4 1/2 hours, when it was 1 1/2 times larger, and then refrigerated. I’m hoping that using a smaller amount of the starter and refrigerating it before it’s double in size helps future doughs rise better.

2014-11-19: Kept 2 oz of starter and added 3 oz freshly-milled hard white wheat (sifted) and 3 oz water. For this feeding I started the conversion to equal weights flour and water to make the starter less firm. Set on counter for 6 hours, covered with plastic. Used 50 gm for 100% Whole Grain Sourdough Ciabatta and returned the rest to the refrigerator.

sourdough feeding 2014-11-19

Sourdough starter doubled after 6 hours on counter

2014-11-14: Kept 50 gm of starter and added 170 gm of freshly-milled hard white wheat flour and 132 grams of water. This ratio (which is the formula from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day sourdough starter instructions) has been giving me a very thick starter. After kneading in the new ingredients, I loosely covered the starter and left it on the counter for about 8 hours. Forgot to do the three next steps: degas by kneading it into a ball, covering tightly and refrigerating, then venting the container after two hours.

Refreshed sourdough starter

Doubled sourdough starter (rubber band indicates height of ball when first set in container before it spread out)