Category Guides

How to Store a Sourdough Starter

So many intangible inputs get mixed into our sourdough starter each day besides the raw, physical ingredients: the time needed to mix, attention, observation, and perhaps a little worry now and then — all the resources constantly tugged at, and contributed to, by daily life. At first glance this list might seem like a lot of fuss needed to keep a small, bubbling culture going. But really, it’s a smidgen of time in the day and, I think at least, the resulting bread is always justified. There’s undeniably a lot of value in maintaining a healthy and regularly fed sourdough starter, but sometimes we do need a vacation, don’t we? Luckily for us a starter is not only incredibly resilient, but it also can be sent into “low power mode” by following a few tips on how to store a sourdough starter for a longer period of time.

In the past I’ve talked about placing a starter in the fridge for around a week to reduce required maintenance, and this is always a valid option. However, what if we’re going to be gone longer than a week? Or two weeks? Or a month? I’ve experimented over the years with ways to store my sourdough starter and have found the following methods to all be effective means for storage and quick revival.

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The Importance of Dough Temperature in Baking

Baking bread at home certainly comes with challenges (or as my enigmatic college calculus professor used to tell me, opportunities for continuous growth). Baking bread at home with a consistent outcome has even more. But there’s a crucial facet of baking that can help us bakers increase consistency that isn’t always immediately apparent: the importance of dough temperature in baking.

Because temperature is one of the main contributors to vigorous fermentation, it’s key that we maintain a sufficiently high, and stable, dough temperature through the entire baking process. Of course, this does become more difficult when ambient temperatures begin to drop (hey, winter!) — and sometimes we don’t even realize it’s happening. Continue reading

Weekend Baking Schedule

The primary goal in this post is to help you get into a schedule for baking fresh, healthy bread every weekend without having to worry about refreshing your sourdough starter during the week. Ok, I know it’s hard to bake every weekend, but I do believe this post outlines a manageable schedule for fresh bread most weekends. It can be challenging to carve out time from our busy work schedule day after day to devote to sourdough starter maintenance — with two kids at home believe me, I get it. So what can we do? What kind of weekend baking schedule can we devise to help reduce the amount of worry while still ensuring we can have fresh bread when we want it? This post will go day-by-day through an entire week and outline exactly what I do each day to address exactly that.

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Sourdough Starter Maintenance Routine

My baking focus has lately been predominantly on my sourdough starter maintenance and maximizing fermentation, and I’ve made some of the best bread I can remember (all the bread pictures in this post were made with this starter). This is somewhat a continuation of my Managing Starter Fermentation post that I wrote quite a while ago, but pinpoints on followding my process of initial feeding, watching the rise to peak, building a levain and finally discarding a portion of my sourdough starter over the course of a day.

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Baking with Steam in Your Home Oven

Steam burns hurt. Like really, really hurt. The small mark on my left forearm begs the question every day: Maurizio, was it really worth it?

But before we talk about my new baking badge of honor, let’s concentrate on overcoming the challenges of baking good bread at home. While many of these challenges present themselves early on in the two-day process (fermentation, flour selection, mixing, shaping, and so on), there is that key component at the end of this whole ordered procession: baking with steam in a high-temperature home oven.

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