Ask a dozen bakers how they look after their sourdough starter (or leaven), you’ll probably get a baker’s dozen replies. Everyone starts by avidly following guides to get started – Dan Lepard’s method in his excellent The Handmade Loaf is how I started mine, several years ago now.
After a little while, and probably with too much confidence and too little experience with a healthy touch of laziness, I wondered about just keeping the starter in the ‘fridge and just “feeding” it every-so-often rather than following the strict tending routines as some guides suggest? What would happen? Is there an easier way?
Well, I think there is and it is what I do. Some suggest tipping away the excess starter when feeding it to keep the culture vitalised. I’m a bit too mean for that – even though I’d give it to the chickens rather than the kitchen sink. So, I don’t throw any away, and only feed the starter when I need to bulk it up for a bake…unless it is going to be a long time until the next one, in which case I treat it with a bit of flour and water once in a while, when I remember.
So, now I live with a couple of starters in small Kilner pots (the plastic ones, 250ml, with clip-on lids – better than glass and metal), one white and one wholemeal. They sit in the ‘fridge from one week to the next, undisturbed and apparently happy. They have been left for a good 3 weeks – probably more if I am honest – with no ill effects that I can detect. They don’t look pretty, but they don’t need to win beauty contests.
When I want to do a bake, I take the starter from the ‘fridge and empty all of it into a bowl and add the flour and water that I need for the recipe I am to follow. I add in the ratio of about 5:4, that is for every 100g of flour I add 80g water, stir it up and leave covered at room temperature for about 24 hours – 48 makes it more lively.
When I come to bake, I put a dollop – to about 1/2 full – of the starter back into the Kilner pot and put it safely back into the ‘fridge before I forget and bake the lot. With the rest, I follow a recipe and proceed as usual.
It isn’t the most scientific method, but is really easy with no waste and little effort. For me that is perfect!
In a nutshell:
- Get your starter going – follow Dan Lepard’s method or get a sachet
- Keep your starter in the ‘fridge in a plastic Kilner pot
- A day or two before you need to bake, then remove it from the ‘fridge.
- Add flour:water in the ratio 5:4, stir, cover and leave at room temp 24-48 hours. It’ll begin to bubble away in a few hours.
- Just before you bake, put some starter back into the pot (I half-fill a 250ml Kilner) and return the pot to the ‘fridge.
- With the remainder, follow your favourite recipe.
How do you care for yours? Maybe you’d like to comment about my method or tell about yours? Just click on the comments button at the bottom of this article.Print