Step 1: Remove your start from the fridge after a few days, or is starting to accumulate liquid on the top. This liquid (there will be more of it the longer you wait to feed your start) is a waste product created by the start feeding. It’s alcohol mixed with excess water from the previous feeding. Pour off the liquid and stir your start.
***At this point, you would measure out any starter that you want to use to bake with. After it’s stirred, just measure out what you need, then continue to feed your remaining start to keep the cycle going.
Step 2: Your start will double in size every time you feed it. So if you begin with 1 c starter, it will turn into two cups after you feed it. Add the same amount of warm water as starter you have and stir it together.
Step 3: Now add a heaping amount of whole wheat flour to your starter. Again, use the same amount of flour as you have starter. For example, if you have 1 c starter, add 1 c water and 1 heaping cup flour. Mix well. The consistency should be like thick pancake batter.
Step 4: Screw on your lid. Place it back in the fridge and you are done!
Try to keep your starter either in the door of the fridge or at the front of the fridge somewhere. This serves two purposes: first, you see it all the time and it reminds you to check on it and see if it needs feeding, and it’s also not as cold and will help it to grow better.
Above is a starter that has been pulled out of the fridge to use. You can see the bubbles on the surface. To track your start’s progress, you can place an elastic band around the jar to mark where it is after a feeding, then you can see how much it grows. I used to do this all the time, but now I just look for bubbles. If it’s bubbling up, it’s happy and healthy!
You can increase or decrease your start whenever you want. I wanted more last time, so I added 2 c of water and flour to my 1 c of starter, giving me 3 c of starter when it was done. I had plenty to bake with and try new recipes with (I am having way too much fun finding ways to use my start). I now have two very active and thriving starts in my fridge that make me happy every time I open the door.
I like to keep at least 2 c of starter on hand at all times. Most recipes for two loaves of bread will require 1/2 c starter, plus you can make pancakes, waffles, crepes, muffins, scones, pizza dough, etc. If you start using it regularly, you will find more and more ways to use it and will want to make sure you always have enough.
Even if you aren’t going to be using your starter to bake anything, you must keep feeding it. Just take out half of it, throw it in the compost pile, down the drain (it’s really great for septic systems), or give it to the chickens, and feed the other half. That way you keep it healthy, but don’t have to stress if you don’t have time to bake something that day.
Starter can also be frozen (think ice cube tray) and kept for up to a month that way. Just remove the frozen cubes, thaw, and feed and you should be ready to go.
That’s all there is to it! Take good care of it, and it will give you plenty in return!