Feeding the Starter

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Pancakes »

There's really nothing much to see in the starter at this point.

Soon it will be bubbly and have interesting and pleasant smells.

If at any point it gets moldy or you see a weird color that looks like mold or something strange, throw it out and start again. It should look like some sort of grey right now because of the rye flour. As we add more all purpose flour it will look more dough colored.

Also, once it starts smelling you should smell sour smells and, when it's really fresh and well fed, fruity smells. If it smells bad - throw it out and start again.

People get romantic about their starter. "It's one hundred years old," they say.


Starting today, we're going to throw out some of the starter and refresh the rest by adding flour and water.

This was the part that my wife hated. She thought it was so wasteful.

But here's the thing. We need to feed the starter proportional to its size. So if we don't throw some out it will need more and more flour until we're feeding it in 25 pound bags of flour. That would be wasteful.

So just as a calculation, say we throw out all but 1/4 of the starter each day.

Then day two we'll have just 1/16 or about 6%. Day three we'll have 1/64 or about 1.5%. At the end of the week we'll have less than one ten-thousandth of what we started with.

So if it goes bad, throw it out and start again.

There are many strategies for feeding the starter.

Some people let the initial mix sit for another day or two until it begins to bubble and smell. They scrape off the top and keep about 20% of the starter and start adding flour and water once a day.

We're going to initially treat ours like a pet and feed it more often. Once it starts bubbling and smelling I'll give you some options.

Here's what we're going to do on day two:

About 24 hours after your initial mix (and no it doesn't have to be exactly that), take out about half of your starter and throw it away. I dump mine in the sink but I have a good disposal that breaks it up.

For me, half of the starter is about 140g which is about 1/2 cup. It's not so important that you get this precisely right.

Add a mix of half and half rye flour and all purpose flour. I used 60 g rye and 60 g all purpose. Note that we are introducing all purpose flour so the mixture will be a little lighter and a little smoother today. By volume this is a little less than 3/4 cup. Half and half by volume is fine but actually there will be a little more rye than flour as the flour is heavier.

Add 150 g water or 3/4 cup.

Stir this together and lightly cover it again and put it in a warm place for another day.

Here's what we're going to do from now on (well until we check in again):

Twice a day - approximately 12 hours apart

Throw out 2/3 of the starter keeping 1/3. You should have 1/3 cup of starter or between 90 and 100 g.

Add a rounded 1/3 cup of all purpose flour (60 g) and 1/4 cup of water (60 g).

Stir, cover, store in a warm place.

We'll check back in a couple of days to see how it's looking.

I'm thinking of making pancakes tomorrow and maybe english muffins or pita later in the week.