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Preparing Fresh Sourdough Starter for Baking

Once you have activated your dehydrated sourdough starter culture, it’s time to bake your first loaf of delicious sourdough bread. But how do you go from rehydrated sourdough starter to sourdough starter that is ready for baking? What is meant by ‘Fresh Sourdough Starter?’

What is Fresh Sourdough Starter?

The term ‘fresh sourdough starter’ refers to sourdough starter with yeast and bacteria in an optimal state of activity, ready to use as leavening in a recipe. If your starter has been stored in the refrigerator and fed once per week, there are a few extra steps involved to get it ready for baking. Please refer to our article on Making Fresh Sourdough Starter for instructions.

If your starter has been maintained at room temperature, and you have been through the steps for Activating a Dehydrated Sourdough Starter, then you have fresh sourdough starter already! The next step is to build up enough starter for your recipe.

Determine How Much Starter You Need

Check your recipe for the required starter amount, or try our recipe for Basic Sourdough Bread. This recipe calls for 2⅓ cups fresh starter. Your recipe may call for anywhere from 2 to 4 cups of fresh sourdough starter. The procedure for preparing fresh starter for baking will be the same, regardless of the amount required.

While activating your sourdough starter and during maintenance feedings, the instructions called for discarding all but ½ cup starter before each feeding. However, once the starter is active and bubbly for 3 consecutive feedings, discarding is no longer necessary, if you are preparing to bake. 

Feeding instructions for building up starter are exactly the same as feeding the starter to activate it, except that no starter will be discarded.

Build up Enough Sourdough Starter for Baking

  1. Measure the amount of fresh starter you have in the container. 
  2. Feed starter with flour and water:
    1. If using a scale to measure ingredients, combine equal amounts by weight of starter, water, and flour. For instance, 50 grams starter, 50 grams water, 50 grams flour.
    2. If using measuring cups, combine 1 part starter, 1 part water, and a little less than 2 parts flour. For instance, ¼ cup starter, ¼ cup water, slightly less than ½ cup flour.
  3. Mix vigorously.
  4. Cover the container and let starter sit for 8-12 hours.
  5. When it is time to feed again, repeat steps 1-4 until you have enough starter for your recipe plus some extra starter to continue feeding for your next baking session.
  6. Once you have enough starter for your recipe, always prepare your bread dough when the starter is at its peak of activity, about 4 hours after it has been fed.

Retain Extra Starter

As you build up enough starter for your recipe, make sure you always retain a little extra, just ¼-½ cup is enough. What do you do with this extra starter? 

  1. If you bake infrequently, store the extra starter in the refrigerator and feed it once per week. Read our instructions on Maintenance Feeding for Sourdough Starter
  2. If you plan to bake again within a couple of days, follow the steps above once more to build up enough starter for baking.  

The cycle continues indefinitely. As long as you continue feeding a portion of sourdough starter, you will always have some to bake with.


Planning Feedings and Baking

If you are new to sourdough, you may have trouble at first with timing. Knowing just how long it will take to build up enough starter and then being ready to bake right away may not always work out. The good news is that as long as you continue feeding the starter to keep it active, there is no hurry to bake. If you find that you’ve built up too much starter, discard some or use extra starter for other recipes that do not require so much planning, like pancakes, crackers, or muffins.



Jar of sourdough starter with paper cover

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