Hello again, friends! I hope you’re as excited as I am to talk about sourdough starter maintenance!
This is a series! Learn how to take your starter from idea to reality in the following posts.
Part 2: Sourdough Maintenance and Hydration Percentages
I first wrote about getting your sourdough starter off the ground a couple weeks ago. You might be surprised to know that my sourdough starter *still* lives on my counter top.
Well, the sourdough pros said that a real, strong sourdough starter should sit out for at least 30 days to develop a strong flavor. I read so many blog posts where people said to send ‘em into the fridge after a few days or a week, but that seemed unfair.
I mean, my sourdough yeasties were working so hard. Why would I not want to take full advantage of their complex flavor abilities??
So, I’ve been doing my own sourdough maintenance.
Here’s the basic rundown of the sourdough maintenance process I’m following:
- Week 1: Feed twice a day once the starter has begun.
- Week 2: Feed once a day after splitting the batch in half.
- Week 3: Ditto.
- Week 4: Ditto. Then, you’re good! Go for the fridge.
From this point on, bring the sourdough starter out once a week. Allow to come to room temperature over 12 hours. Then, remove one cup of starter mix, and add water and flour.
This was one of the trickiest aspects of sourdough starting for me to grasp. Bakers have all kinds of weird math they do, often involving percentages and hydration.
When it comes to sourdough, the most important thing to remember is that you’ll do well as long as you remember to feed the thing.
If my understanding is correct (which it might not be), a 100% hydration set up would require you to add the same amounts of water and flour.
You should be using grams instead of the volume quantities I follow, but hey, I don’t have a kitchen scale.
If I was doing a 100% hydration, I would add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour.
Instead, I do a 50% hydration. That means I add 1/2 cup of water for every 1 cup of flour.
You could do a 25% or 33% or 75% hydration if you want. Simply add a different amount of water to each cup of flour.
Here’s a little chart:
- 25% hydration — 1/4 c of water — 1 cup of flour
- 50% hydration — 1/2 c of water — 1 cup of flour
- 75% hydration — 3/4 c of water — 1 cup of flour
- 100% hydration — 1 c of water — 1 cup of flour
Are you seeing the trend? Always keep the same amount of flour, but adjust the water based on the hydration percentage you want.
Why should I care about hydration percentages?
Well, this comes down to baking. Since many bread recipes rely on 50% hydrations, I decided to go that route. It makes a much doughier starter, which is very thick and heavy. It does crust over on top, but the starter gladly eats up those crusty bits once you stir all in together.
I find most recipes recommend a 75% or 100% hydration. This will result in a much wetter, more fluid starter. I consider switching to this one at times, since 50% is so thick. But, it really doesn’t matter.
How can I change my hydration?
Really, this is pretty easy. If you *always* measure the quantities of water and flour you add to your starter, you’ll have an idea of which percentage you’re using. This makes it easier to modify the mix to meet a specific hydration.
If I wanted to change my hydration to 100% (from 50%), all I’d need to do is add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour. I would probably follow this hydration pattern for a couple of days to make sure that it was done right.
In my experiences, flours are flexible. They don’t mind anything off by a few percentage points. They’ll forgive your inexperience. But, do try to follow these guidelines for optimal bread making experiences.
Do you have any questions about the sourdough starting process? I’m no expert, but my little beast is alive and well!
This post was shared at Butter Believer’s Sunday School.
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