Viroqua Food Co-op Recipe Blog

Care and Feeding of Sourdough Starter

Posted byLaura Poe Mathes, RD on Fri, Jul 10, 2020 @ 10:06 AM

BlogImage-2020-sourdough starter-cover

What to do when the supply of yeast is sporadic? Now’s the time to try sourdough bread!

To create your own sourdough breads at home, you need to begin with a starter. The following guidelines are to make a 100% hydration starter, meaning it is made strictly with equal parts flour and water, by weight. You can use white, whole wheat, rye or a 50/50 blend of white and wheat flours for your starter. For best results, use unbleached, unenriched flour, and non-chlorinated water.

Ingredients here are measured by weight rather than volume to ensure the most accuracy in baking – accounting for different kinds of flours and even scooping methods – to produce the best bake possible. If you are wanting to get serious about quality baking, I cannot recommend using “weight instead of volume” enough. Kitchen scales can be easily obtained through most online retailers of culinary accessories.

In a small mixing bowl or glass jar, mix equal parts (by weight, not volume) of flour and water together and stir well. I typically use 75 grams flour and 75 grams water. Cover with a cloth and let sit at room temperature for two to three days. If your kitchen is cooler than typical room temperature, then it may take a few extra days to get your starter going. When you start to notice bubbles forming and a tangy smell coming from the mixture, it is time to begin feeding it.

Every day for the next three to five days, discard all but 75 grams of your starter. Then mix in 75 grams each of flour and water and stir well. You want the mixture to have the consistency of pancake batter, so if needed, add a little more flour or water to get it to the right thickness. Cover with the towel again and let sit at room temperature.

After several days, the mixture will become bubbly with a sweet and fruity smell a few hours after feeding, and it will go through a cycle of rising and falling between feedings. It is now ready to use in recipes.

If you bake regularly, then you can store your starter at room temperature. Kept this way, the starter would need to be fed one to two times per day, depending on how warm your kitchen is; a warmer kitchen will likely lend itself to two daily feedings. Again, discard all but 75 grams of starter before each feeding, and then proceed with equal parts flour and water. Don’t throw away that starter, though! If you don’t have a friend to give it to, it’s great to use in pancakes, waffles and even tortillas!

If you only bake occasionally (once a week or so), store your starter in the refrigerator in a covered container. To re-activate it, feed it the day before you plan to bake. It will be ready to use when it bubbles and goes through the rise and fall cycle after feeding. A dry crust or brown liquid may form on the top of the starter when stored this way, but it can still be used. Simply discard the top layer and continue to use the starter as usual….

Continue reading the rest of this wonderful article about sourdough starters and other homemade breads by visiting Edible Madison, issue Winter 2017
Poe Mathes, Laura. “Caring for a Sourdough Starter.” Edible Madison. December 2, 2017.


Put that excess starter to use!
With folks staying at home with more time to experiment in the kitchen, many are turning to sourdough baking as their new hobby. But, with this renewed interest in nutrient-dense, traditionally-leavened bread, comes the issue of what to do with the sourdough discard. Some “waste” is inherent in the process of feeding a sourdough starter: you start by discarding half of the starter, then feed it equal parts flour and water by weight. This can be done daily for regular bakers or, in my case, one to times per week for less frequent baking.

Between uses, the starter can be stored in the refrigerator until I am ready to feed it and bake with it. The discarding step is done to keep your starter at a reasonable size and to keep microbial balance in the starter as well.

Instead of tossing the starter in the trash, save it up to use in other recipes, such as waffles, quick breads (such as banana bread or cornbread), cakes and cookies, scones, biscuits, and fritters. Or, save it to pass on to a friend who may want to start making sourdough themselves. Either way, do your best to prevent food waste by putting that extra starter to good use… May I suggest some tasty sourdough pancakes to get started?

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Sourdough Pancakes

Serves 4

½ cup sourdough starter discard – active or from fridge
1 cup warm water (about 75° F)
1½ cups flour (whole wheat, white, spelt, or a combo)
3 eggs, lightly whisked
¼ cup milk
4 Tbsp melted butter, cooled
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp real maple syrup
½ tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
Pinch of cinnamon
2 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
Butter for cooking the pancakes

Optional: berries, chopped nuts, bananas, dark chocolate chips

  1. The night before you plan to make pancakes (if making them for breakfast; otherwise, do this 4-8 hours before pancake time): Stir together the starter, water, and flour in a bowl. Cover with a cloth and let sit on the counter overnight.
  2. In the morning, or just prior to making the pancakes: In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, melted butter, vanilla, and maple syrup until smooth.
  3. Gently fold in the flour/starter mix, being careful not to deflate the air bubbles built up during the overnight fermentation.
  4. Sprinkle in the salt, baking powder and soda, and the cinnamon. Gently stir into the batter.
  5. Just prior to making the pancakes, stir in the vinegar or lemon juice.
  6. Heat a skillet to medium-high heat. Add plenty of butter to grease the pan.
  7. Using a 1/3 measuring cup, ladle the batter onto the hot pan. Cook on the first side until the pancake is covered in small bubbles, about 2 minutes. (If using add-ins, dot these evenly across the top of the pancake just prior to flipping to the second side.)
  8. Flip the pancake and cook another minute or so, until the middle is cooked through but not overcooked or burnt.
  9. Remove from the pan and keep warm until serving. Continue with the rest of the batter until all is used.
  10. Serve with plenty of butter and maple syrup, or your favorite pancake fixings.

* Feel free to double or triple recipe to serve a bigger crowd or to freeze and serve anytime you get the hankering for a pancake. Simply heat up


Tags: Recipes, DIY, Bread, sourdough