Sourdough Starter Questions – Do you have to put sugar in your starter?

A slew of questions have come with your requests for sourdough and here are three of them answered.  I'll post more as they come.  It's so good to hear that many of your are having sourdough bread success for the first time!

How much starter do I need to reserve for the next time? 
If you are making a big batch of flour (or mailing over 100 cups of starter as I did) you can easily increase the amount you have by simply adding more flour and more water in equal amounts.  You always want to have at least 1 cup remaining.  So, for the folks who just received starter in the mail or are gifted starter at another time, add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour to your starter.  Stir and let it do its thing for a day.  Repeat and then your starter should be ready to use.  My no knead recipes call for 1 cup of starter so this process will give you more than enough.

You don't put any sugar into your starter?  Why is that?
Well, I'm not a food scientist, but the way I understand it is, the flour has all the sugar the natural yeast in the starter needs to flourish.  That's why it's called "feeding" the starter.  Adding sugar to the starter causes the yeast to binge, but then it also gets starved once the sugar is gone.

Can't I use different flours in my starter?
Sure.  The flour I use for my starter is King Arthur all-purpose white flour, but you can use any flour that you like to continue to feed and replenish your starter.  I use white flour because it's the most versatile if you only want to keep one starter going, but use a variety of flours in your breads.  Occasionally, I run out of white flour and feed my starter with either whole wheat or six grain flour and it takes about 5 feedings before it turns back to predominantly white.  I'd assume the same would be true if you used spelt, rye or whole wheat exclusively.


© 2009 Anne Mahle

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