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Question about sourdough starter

  • MrsJTW Nov 20, 2010 01:07 AM
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I am pretty new to baking bread. My question is, does the sourdough starter keep indefinitely, or do I need to make another starter?

I am confused because the book I am using doesn't specify. I began the starter 3 days before baking. (I think it actually may have turned into 4 days.) Then, the night before baking, as the book instructed I added more flour and warm water to the starter and let it sit covered. Then yesterday I divided this in half. I put one half in the fridge. To the other half I added the rest of my flour, yeast, and salt and went on to make my bread.

The book says that from now on (after going through the steps to make the starter) I will start at the point where the night before baking I add flour and water to the starter and go on from there. Since it's only half of the original starter I am not sure, but does this mean that I cut it in half again, save half, and bake with the other? Or do I use the half in the fridge to make another batch of bread and then begin a new starter to make more bread in a few days?

Thanks for the help! I am mixed up.

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  1. I would delete this question of mine if I could. I am thinking now that I reread my cookbook several times, that every time I want to make bread, I am adding to the starter and THEN dividing it in half so I can always have one set aside to make bread again. I did begin another starter anyway for the practice and to have extra on hand. I think I read that the starter should be used within two weeks though and am wondering if that is right now. I apologize for being so confused and perhaps posting a question prematurely.

    7 Replies
    1. re: MrsJTW

      youre right with your answer. after the dough ferments the first time, you divide it before moving on to proofing and rising. part of it goes back into the fridge as your "new" starter (after being fed again) and the other part becomes the base of the recipe you are using.

      my starter has been going for about 2 months now, but i know there are starters out there that have been around well over 100 years!!

      1. re: mattstolz

        Thanks! =) Yeah my husband and I were joking about what if when we're 80 years old we are still eating bread from the same starter. Wouldn't that be wild! =)

      2. re: MrsJTW

        I too sometimes have difficulty understanding recipes. If you are not using 'The Bread Baker's Apprentice' by Peter Reinhart, I suggest that you get a copy. Another good book is 'The Italian Baker' by Carol Field. However, the latter book does not cover sourdough.

        I only bake bread, and leave the pastry baking to my wife.

        1. re: ChiliDude

          Thanks for the suggestions! =) I used to have a bread book that I never used when I was younger and it got left behind somewhere.

          1. re: ChiliDude

            I just wanted to second the recommendation for the Reinhart book. About a year and half ago I started my bread baking adventure and I was looking for a book that was not just recipes but also explained why I was doing what I was doing. The book has been absolutely invaluable to me.
            I have kept my start for a little over a year now and I find the longer I keep it the better it gets. Or maybe I just appreciate it more. :) I have gone as long as 3 weeks without feeding it and have still been able to use it. I can't remember the ratios off the top of my head, but he has great instructions for rebuilding it.

            1. re: girleatseverything

              Good to know. THANKS!

          2. re: MrsJTW

            No reason to feel bad about your post. What's written thus far will help others too.
            If it's bread baking you're interested in and if you want the best possible resource for shared information on that subject you will want to focus on this site:

            http://www.thefreshloaf.com/

          3. Also, if you don't bake weekly, feed your starter. After a few weeks it will die if not fed. Mine gets bottled water, a mix of AP white, a little WW, and a little rye, and a little sugar.

            3 Replies
            1. re: tim irvine

              Good to know! Thank-you! I VAGUELY remember hearing that you need to feed it before, but the book I have didn't say that. I think somewhere it said that you would have to use it every two weeks or it would be no good. Might be a lot of baking, but we LOVE bread so maybe I'll be able to keep it up weekly. And sorry, but is that all-purpose and warm water, just to make sure?

              1. re: MrsJTW

                when youre feeding it, you can really use almost any kind of flour you want, depending on the bread you wanna make. you can even transform your starter based on the feeding. for example, if you had a white flour starter and you wanted a whole wheat starter, you could feed it every day or every other day (or up to once a week) by pouring out half the starter, and replacing it with equal amounts of whole wheat flour and water (i dont think it has to be warm, since youre just gunna put it in the fridge!) until you have a significant amount of whole wheat flour in there. can do the same thing to transform from wheat back to white, white to rye, etc

                1. re: mattstolz

                  Thanks for the info! Rather than change the whole starter though I think I will just add some rye flour to the half I will be baking with so it will be a blend.