Felix's Sourdough Instructions
A few important notes about your starter:
Your starter is a live culture consisting of wild yeasts and friendly bacteria;
Treat it like a pet: Feed it regularly to keep it in tip-top shape;
Sourdough food consists of water (not hot) and bread flour (organic is best as no nasty pesticides will fight with your yeast);
Like a pet, your starter will behave (and sometimes smell) differently in different weather conditions. Humidity and temperature will influence the activity levels of the starter.
A well fed, active starter will make the proving process shorter and thereby prevent long, slow rising which can lead to very sour tasting bread.
Discard some of your starter prior to every feed to avoid having too much starter.
The following instructions are just a guide and don’t have to be adhered to with precision:
You’ve received your starter in the mail, what now?
Firstly, get a container that can be closed with a lid (glass jar, Tupperware, etc.). Wash it out well with hot, boiling water and a little soap. Do not use antibacterial liquids/sprays, you’ll kill your starter. Rinse out VERY WELL. Allow the container to cool down if hot.
Now decant your starter into the container and feed as instructed below.
How to feed your starter:
As a rule of thumb feed the starter with the same amount as it weighs. The starter that you received will weigh 120g. So mix 60g of flour and 60g of water into your starter until well combined. Now put the lid back on, either tightly or loosely. Remember, the starter will produce carbon dioxide so pressure will build up in the container if closed tightly, so watch out when you open it again.
It’s fed, what do I do now?
Put it somewhere where the temperature is fairly constant with no draughts. Ours are left on the kitchen counter. Some people put them in airing cupboards. As long as it isn’t too warm it should be fine. Aim for 16-22⁰C.
When can I use it?
In theory, you could use it as soon as you’ve received it in the mail. However, it won’t be that active as it hasn’t been fed whilst travelling to you (See point 5 above). The ideal method is to feed it once or twice a day to get it very active and bubbly. How long this takes depends on how nutritious your flour is (point 3) and your kitchen conditions (see point 4, above).
This is part of the fun of using sourdough, and will take some time on your part to figure out. As a general rule, if you feed the starter in the morning, you can use it in the afternoon/evening.
If I keep feeding it won’t I end up with too much?
True. A good idea is to discard half of your starter prior to every feed and then to feed it enough to make up what you have just discarded. For example, if your starter weighs 120g you would discard 60g so that you are left with 60g. Now feed with 30g flour and 30g water so that your total starter is 100g again.
If you don’t discard any prior to feeding you will have to give it more flour and water with each feed. This is because the volume of starter is increased with every feed which results in more yeast cells requiring more food. Think of the yeast cells as pets that produce many offspring. The more offspring they produce the more food they will need!
Storing your starter:
If you’re not baking every week and don’t want to feed your starter every day, and end up with buckets full of the stuff, you can keep it in the fridge.
The low temperature of the fridge will make your starter inactive. In essence, it will go to sleep. It can sleep in your fridge for a long time. We’ve had one strain which was revived after a year’s sleep without any issues.
So go ahead, give it a good feed, make it a bit stiffer (like cold porridge), tighten the lid and stick it in the fridge. Two things to note:
A layer of brown liquid may separate on the top of your starter. This is normal and should be discarded when you next feed/revive it.
To revive your starter from the fridge, just feed as normal and store in its usual place outside of the fridge. It may take a few extra feeds to get it going again.
Troubleshooting & FAQs:
If you experience any problems with your starter please contact Quiver Tree Baking immediately as refunds/replacements will only be issued if you have contacted us within the first three days of receiving your starter.
My starter is not showing any signs of activity after its first feed:
It may have got a bit too warm or cold in transit to you and will need a few additional feeds to get it going. Try feeding it twice a day for a couple of days. Discard half of the starter prior to every feed.
The bread tastes very sour, like vinegar:
Make sure your starter is active before using it. If it isn’t it will result in long, drawn-out proving times which will result in higher levels of acidity.
There you go!
Remember, sourdough can be temperamental and will take a while to master. These instructions should only serve as a guide and are a reflection of what works for me. After a while you are likely to find your own way and methods which is the beauty (and fun!) of working with sourdough.
If you’re a first time baker I would strongly recommend the following book which is a great introduction to bread baking (yeasted and sourdough):
‘Bread’ by Daniel Stevens (part of the River Cottage Handbook series).