Frequently Asked Questions
- What does a healthy sourdough starter smell like?
- What does a healthy sourdough starter look like?
- How can I tell if if my sourdough starter is ready to use (gluten only)?
- How do I know if my sourdough starter has gone bad?
- How do I maintain my sourdough starter in the refrigerator?
- Does it matter what type of water I use for my sourdough starter?
- Can I use Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour to make sourdough?
- What can I do with discarded sourdough starter?
- How do I share my sourdough starter with friends?
- How do I incorporate different flours into my sourdough starter?
- Does the ratio of water to flour change the sourdough starter?
- How to I make my sourdough more sour?
What does a healthy sourdough starter smell like?
A healthy sourdough starter should smell clean and sour. It will have varying levels of "sourness" as it grows, and the aroma will have similar notes to that in vinegar, wine or beer.
What does a healthy sourdough starter look like?
A healthy sourdough starter will be milky white (unless you’ve added whole wheat, rye or other dark flours) and bubbly.
It is normal for liquid (sometimes called “hooch”) to accumulate on the surface of your sourdough starter. This typically happens if excess time passes between feedings. It is normal for the hooch to be clear, grey, dark grey or brown in color. You can pour off the liquid or stir it back into your starter.
How can I tell if if my sourdough starter is ready to use (gluten only)?
To determine if your sourdough is active and ready to use, drop a small amount (about ½ tsp) in a small bowl of cool water. If the starter floats at the surface, it is ready to use. If it sinks or floats under the surface of the water, the starter needs more time sitting at room temperature to activate, or it needs more flour and water as fuel.
How do I know if my sourdough starter has gone bad?
Sourdough starters are generally hearty and can be brought back from even the brink with some TLC. There are, however, a few key things to look out for. If you see any of these present in or on your sourdough starter, it’s time to compost and start again from scratch.
- Orange, pink, or red streaks, dots or blobs.
- Mold of any color
- Presence of infestation (gnats, ants, etc.)
How do I maintain my sourdough starter in the refrigerator?
To maintain a sourdough starter in the refrigerator, feed once per week following the 1:2:2 ratio maintenance method (aka, one part starter to two parts flour and water).
Remove at least half the amount you will be using from the refrigerator four days before baking. Allow the starter to sit at room temperature for 24 hours, then begin feeding it with a 1:2:2 ratio (perhaps for three days before baking. This will ensure your starter is active and strong for baking.
Does it matter what type of water I use for my sourdough starter?
Yes, it does matter what type of water is used in the sourdough starter. We recommend using filtered water for the best results. Tap water with few chemicals is fine. Highly chlorinated or sulfuric water will affect and possibly inhibit healthy yeast and bacteria growth.
Can I use Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour to make sourdough?
Yes, you can use either Millet Flour or our Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour to build a gluten free sourdough starter.
What can I do with discarded sourdough starter?
As you build up and maintain your starter, much is discarded along the way. While it may not be strong enough to leaven a loaf on its own, it can add flavor, improved texture and happy healthy bacteria to other recipes. Here are some of our favorites:
How do I share my sourdough starter with friends?Transfer at least 4 oz of sourdough starter into a clean jar. Instructions for feeding and maintaining the sourdough starter are linked below.
How do I incorporate different flours into my sourdough starter?
Using a portion of mature basic wheat sour, you can change the flavors and textures by switching up the flours used for feeding. Most flours will be interchangeable at this point: white, whole wheat, durum wheat, spelt, Kamut®, etc. Alterations will need to be made when using rye and triticale flours, which contain more acetic acid than other flours (rye more so than triticale). To convert to a rye sour, follow the recipe below. The excess of acid in rye necessitates the addition of salt to slow down the fermentation process.
Rye Sour Water (55°F) 7.5 oz Basic Wheat Sour, mature 2.5 oz Rye Flour 7.5 oz Salt 3 g
Mix water and sour until dissolved. Add the rye flour and mix very well; scrape down sides. Cover with cheesecloth or a clean towel and let sit at room temperature for 18–24 hours.
Does the ratio of water to flour change the sourdough starter?
Adding more water tones down the flavor of the sour and the looser consistency allows for more leavening action. Less water has the opposite effect. The temperature of the water also affects the flavor and leavening power: warmer water makes for a milder and more active sour; cooler water creates more acidic flavors and decreases the amount of leaven.
How to I make my sourdough more sour?
The more you feed your sour, the milder the flavor and increased leaven. Sours become more and more acidic as they feed on decreasing amounts of sugars with fewer feedings.