Is your sourdough not performing the way you would like? With a little sourdough starter troubleshooting, you may find you just have a weak starter, and strengthening it is easier than you might think.
I have loved sourdough artisan bread for years. However, what I learned once I started down my own sourdough journey, is that sourdough is an art.
Let’s be honest if sourdough is an art form, then its like a fine art.
Like all arts, it can take years of practice and refinement to get that perfectly beautiful loaf. Not to mention lots of things can go wrong and you may not be sure what that is.
For sourdough baking one of those things can be a weak sourdough starter.
Luckily sourdough starter troubleshooting, and strengthening that starter is way easier than you might imagine.
Weak Sourdough Starter
So you know your sourdough attempts are not up to par but how do you know or what are the signs your sourdough starter is weak?
Here are a few things to look for in an underactive starter
- Your starter has only a few and very small bubbles in it (or worse you see none at all)
- You have been in the habit of not feeding it regularly
- When it has been fed it rises only by a small amount and does not double in size (mark your starter jar or use a piece of tape to mark where it starts and stops)
After you have decided you do in fact have a weak starter, fixing it is a cinch. All you need is a little commitment to the starter, and of course flour and water.
Sourdough Starter Troubleshooting
When it comes to troubleshooting your sourdough starter, think of it like a pet, a plant or even yourself. Living things all tend to like the same basic things.
- Start by feeding it regularly. Once a day is good but if it is severely neglected try feeding it every 12 hours.
- Make sure you put your just fed starter in a new clean jar, for some reason microbial life flourishes in a clean home too. (Make sure you are NOT using antimicrobial dish soaps for your starter jars, defeats the purpose you know).
- Do your best to use organic flour, it would blow your mind to know what goes into flour from the field to the mill. (some of those nasty things will kill those microbes in your starter).
- Lastly, let your microbes invite over more friends! Ok, let me explain. Your starter is alive and either full or not so full of microbial life. If there is little to no microbial life happening in your starter you will have an ineffective starter. My favorite trick to boost activity in my starter is to feed it and then place a breathable cover over it (tea towel, coffee filter, etc. and a rubber band) then set it outside in a clean cool (not to hot or too cold) piece of nature. Even an hour or two of this will dramatically boost your microbial activity.
So we have talked about how your starter likes being fed regularly, likes a clean home, clean food, and friends. See what I mean its just like you, me, or your favorite pet.
The cool thing is that even though it likes all these things it can withstand lots of neglect (trust me I have done this) and still survive!
So if you have a neglected starter, it’s easy to bring it back from the brink of the dead.
How to Feed your Starter
Like all arts remember everyone may have their own twist on this, so there is no complete right or wrong here.
The way I like to feed a starter is like this:
- Discard 1/2 -2/3 of the starter out (or use in a discard recipe).
- Pour starter into a clean bowl.
- Add 1/4 C. water & 1/3 C. flour mix well.
- Pour the fed starter into a clean jar.
- Place in the fridge and feed once a day, or on the countertop and feed every 12 hours.
If you are trying to bring a starter back from neglect you can do this every 12 hours. If you need to feed your starter more for a larger recipe, just feed more in the same ratios.
I don’t know about you I have a love affair with sourdough! I love all the delicious things you can make, breads, pizza, cookies, crackers. But the key to all these great homemade foods a strong and active sourdough starter. However I have been guilty at least a time or two of neglecting my sourdough starter to the point it was weak and underactive.
And while starters can get weak, be under active, and suffer neglect, luckily a little attention and starter love and that neglected starter can bounce right back. That way you can get on with your art and make the world most beautiful loaf of bread ♡♡♡
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Beth is a mother of 5 living on a handful of acres in an old farmhouse in central Kansas. Beth has a background in the military and health and fitness however her passions come from her homestead life. Beth is an enthusiastic homeschooling mom, avid organic gardener, chicken & goat wrangler, who is obsessed with herbs and natural remedies and maintaining an all-around Do-It-Yourself lifestyle. Beth loves to share all she has learned about and sustainable living. While striving for a healthy, natural life, family-centered life.