Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sour Dough Starter Experiment - When to Cook With Your Start

I love my sour dough start. I love that it gets all bubbly and makes bread with only four simple ingredients... the sour dough start, flour, water, and salt. I love that I can use it to make pancakes, chocolate cake, biscuits, waffles, and just about any other baked good. But I'm still learning about sour dough and one thing I wanted to understand better is this: after feeding the start, when is the best time to use it to bake with?

So I got researching. I read a lot of articles, books, and blogs and here is what I found out:

The best time to use a start after feeding is right before (or at the same time) the start reaches its peak but before it starts to fall back on itself.

Now if you are new to using sour dough you are probably thinking what the heck does that mean. Let me explain. After you feed the sour dough start (mix the start with water and flour) and leave it on the counter at room temperate the start will bubble and expand and get larger. This bubbling is caused by the gas produced as the bacteria and yeasts that compose the starter "eat" the flour/water. After a while the start will reach its peak and be as large as it will get. After this the starter has less food and produces less gas so the start will fall down on itself and the bubbles will disappear. You want to use the start right before it gets to its peak for the best performance when making bread.

So how do you know when your start will get to its peak?

You will need to conduct an experiment. You will need to mix your start at 100% hydration (an equal amount of starter, flour, and water, mixed together by weight). Put it in a jar and then check it every hour. Every hour that you see the start rising or falling, put a mark on the jar with the time indicated next to it. You will then be able to tell when your start rises and falls and how fast this happens.

Here is what mine looked like after I was finished with the experiment:

So based on this my sour dough reaches its peak approximately 6 hours after a feeding. So I would want to use my starter about 5-5.5 hours after a feeding to bake with. I wish I would have checked on the temperature in my house at the same time, but I totally spaced it. However it was a nice day (for it being April in Idaho) and we were comfortable inside. The time will have to be adjusted if it is significantly hotter or colder in our house.

If you live in my area and would like a sour dough start please let me know and I will try to get you one.

Good luck with your start and if you have any great recipes please let me know (you can always leave a comment with the link)!


  1. great information I have never made sourdough bread or anything else with sour dough. I will have to find some recipes and try it,

  2. I have ate sour dough before but I have never made it. This is a great post.

  3. I have never made sour dough before to be honest I was to scared to even try! After reading this post I may give it a go now that i better understand what to do!

    I would love to make my own home made breads :)

  4. I don't know if I would like sour dough, it seems intimidating, but this is a cool post.