Category Starter

Frequently Asked Sourdough Starter Questions

First some news about The Perfect Loaf:

I can hardly believe it but my website has been nominated as a finalist in the 7th annual Saveur Blog Awards! I’m a finalist in the “The Food Obsessive” category (yea, I think it fits!) — sites dedicated to a single, focused topic. Thank you so much to everyone who nominated this website, it truly means a lot to me and to be among some of the top blogs out there is an honor.

Update: The Perfect Loaf won both the Readers’ Choice and Editors’ choice award for The Food Obsessive!


Your sourdough starter —  a mixture of yeast and bacteria (the good kind) that co-exist to naturally leaven bread, add complex flavors, aid in digestion and unlock health benefits — it’s no wonder it quickly becomes part of your family1. I’ve been maintaining mine for many years now, but really it’s nothing mystical or magical, it’s a culture I give nourishment (flour + water)  and in return it happily does work for me without even realizing it.

I’ve been compiling this list of frequently asked sourdough starter questions for almost as long as this website has been around. Each time I receive an email or comment asking a question about what I do in a particular situation, I’ve saved it away and have added the most commonly asked questions below. This page is an on-going compilation of the most asked questions and as such it will be updated frequently with new entries as they come in.

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  1. Mine is aptly named Brutus after the trouble it gave me creating it in the beginning

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 following 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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A Trip to Northern Italy (and What I Did with My Sourdough Starter)

I’ve been separated from my good friend ‘baking’ for a short stint, but only because I traveled out to northern Italy, specifically the Veneto region, to attend a very important wedding: my brother’s! His fiance and her family live in the area but most of my family is in the south, with just a few up north, and so it’s a convenient central point for everyone to congregate and celebrate — and we sure did. Countless bottles of prosecco, sent back for recycling with nary a drop, provided ample proof of the full-day event. Prossecco is the life-blood of this area and every square inch of farmland has a vineyard placed on it, soaking up the rich soil to produce those lovely little pale grapes.

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My Top 3 Leftover Sourdough Starter Recipes

Should we take a break from baking for a bit? How about just one entry… Trust me it will be worth it when you try a few of these starter recipes. Plus, it still is related to baking when you get down to it, this entry is just going to help us make even more incredible food from our family member Brutus1, or whatever you named your sourdough starter. There is no limit to his providing.

The following recipes are tried and true here in my kitchen. Being that my sourdough starter is always feed twice daily I have plenty of excess in the morning & evening and you can add in a bit more to your feeding if you need a little more. Many people see this excess as “waste” but it’s something that can be used for many things besides going into your trash bin. After all, this “waste” is the levain we typically use to give life to our sourdough loaves from a mixture of simple ingredients — the life of your bread if you will.

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  1. My starter was donned the name Brutus after trying to get a few of his kin started unsuccessfully. I was just in the middle of reading a brief history of Julius Caesar and the name seemed appropriate for such a stubborn character in my life.

Baking Sourdough Bread with a Stiff Starter

Baking in the winter always presents problems here at my house: it’s cold! Probably not quite the cold you get in other parts of the world but it sure is cold to me, and my starter. Kitchen temperatures are consistently hovering between 68º and 70ºF which really inhibits yeast and bacteria activity. I’ll typically offset this by changing the percentage of mature starter carryover or by heating up the water used in my feedings, but you really want to try to keep your starter around 75º to 80ºF — this is not easy to do when winter is bombarding your area. You just have to make do with the warmest spot you can find in your kitchen, for me this is next to my whisky collection… almost poetic.

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