Your Friend just gave you a Sourdough starter….now what?

Since beginning my sourdough journey I have given baby starters out to more people than I can remember (and I remember a lot. I’m like an elephant. Is that even a true thing? okay anyways…) and the questions are always the same. I get it, I had the same questions and ran into the same problems! Here’s a very quick intro to how to grow your sweet little starter baby into a bread making beast and the most popular questions I get about starting out with an already active starter (If you are starting from a dehydrated starter, go here for how to activate a new starter).DSCN0053 - Copy

How much do I have to feed it? 

The “proper” ratio for feeding a sourdough starter is an easy 1:1:1 ratio. One part starter, one part water, one part flour. I can attest that it is not necessary to be exact, just eyeball it and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, sometimes I just have a little bit of flour left after epic baking days….so I feed what I have until the next day when I can get out to buy flour and give it a full feeding. I do try to have a basic 1:1:1 feeding before baking.

When do I feed it?

This is up to you! I like to feed mine every night before bed, so it’s ready for the morning, just in case I want to do fresh pancakes  for breakfast! But really, it’s up to you when you feed it. Just make sure you feed it roughly 8-12 hours before you plan on using it for a recipe!

What do I feed it?

This depends on the type of starter you have. Make sure you get that info from the friend you get your starter from! I use a white flour starter because the flour I use is whole white wheat. If you want to use brown wheat, or any other kind of flour, it’s best to have the correct corresponding starter.

I think I killed it, how can I tell?

It’s actually pretty difficult to kill sourdough starter! I have left mine on the counter for a week without feeding it (we were moving, okay? Please don’t judge…my children barely ate that week) and it perked right back up once I started feeding it again!

I fed it the wrong flour (did I kill it?)!

That’s okay! Just dump out half of the starter, re-feed with the proper flour, and move forward.

I did not put it in the fridge (did I kill it)?

Starter only needs to be put in the fridge if you are not planning on feeding and using it in the near future. At ease soldier.

I left it in the fridge for months (did I kill it?)!

Starter will last MONTHS in the fridge, in a dormant state, without being fed. I repeat; it is actually very difficult to kill a sourdough starter. This stuff walked with the dinosaurs, it’s not going out that easy.

Once I take it out of the fridge, how do I prepare it for baking?

Your starter will likely need 2-4 feedings before it is ready to use, depending on how long it was in the fridge for. Once it is doubling in size in roughly 4 hours, you’re good to go!

What is this weird black stuff on the top (did I kill it)?

Hooch. That’s what it’s called…it’s basically just the alcohol from the ferment collecting on the top. I take that as the starter telling me I am hungry! Feed me! I just stir it back in with the next feeding, though some people prefer to dump it out. I hate dumping.

What is this weird crust that formed on the top (did I kill it)?

Seriously people. Why are we such a paranoid society? That starter is not dead. When in doubt, 99% of the time it’s not dead. Unless there is green fuzzy mold growing, it’s almost certainly fine! That hard crust formed because the top layer of your starter was exposed to air. Peel it off, feed your starter, and cover it with a towel if you don’t like the hard crust 😉

Did I miss anything? Post any further questions in the comment box and I’ll add them to the list!

Now go make yourself some awesome, healthy, gut lovin’ sourdough bread!

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