Preparing your Summit Sourdough Starter for the Fridge : The Sourdough Starter Fridge Hack for Beginners
Embarking on the sourdough journey is both exciting and rewarding, but for beginners, the prospect of daily feedings and care may seem a tad overwhelming. Don't worry, there's a game-changing solution: the sourdough starter fridge hack. Life gets busy, and not everyone can commit to daily sourdough rituals and feedings. By stashing your starter in the fridge, you grant yourself the luxury of time. It slows down fermentation, reducing the need for daily feeds and attention. For those just dipping their toes into the world of sourdough, the fridge offers a forgiving learning curve. It provides a safety net, allowing you to explore the basics without the stress of constant monitoring.
How to Do It:
Ensure the Starter has been Fed: Feed your sourdough starter as you normally would. Discard a portion of the starter, and then add equal parts (by weight) of flour and water. I suggest equal part feeds 1:1:1 for refrigerator time up to 2 weeks
eg:) 115g starter - 115g flour - 115g water.
If you plan to leave your starter in the fridge for more than 2 weeks, provide it with extra food to eat, such as a 1:2:2 feed.
eg:) 100g starter - 200g flour - 200g water
- Allow the Starter to start Feeding: Allow the starter to start to rise ( 1 to 2 hours) indicating that it's actively fermenting and ready for refrigeration. This can take a few hours, depending on the room temperature and the activity of your starter.
- Refrigerate the Starter: Place the container with the starter in the refrigerator. The cold temperature will significantly slow down the fermentation process. Ensure you DO NOT use an air tight or tight fitting lid. You want a lose fitting lid to prevent your jar from exploding.
- Maintenance: To maintain your starter in the fridge, take it out once every week or 2, depending on how much food it was initially given. Allow it to come to room temperature before you discard and feed again with fresh flour and water. Allow it to sit at room temperature for a few hours until it becomes active again. After that, return it to the refrigerator.
- Use a Clean Freshly Sanitized Jar: Ensure that the container has a loose fitting lid, your starter will still off gas carbon dioxide in the fridge and using an air tight, tight fitting lid could cause the jar to explode.
- Label and Date: It's helpful to label your container with the date so that you can keep track of how long it has been in the fridge and when it was last fed.
When You're Ready to Bake:
Bring to Room Temperature Before Baking:
If you're planning to bake, take the starter out of the fridge a few days before. The rule of thumb is it will need 1 day of recovery for every week it has been in the fridge. So if it was in the fridge for 3 weeks, remove it 3 days before you want to bake.
- If your Sourdough Starter has a layer of dark liquid on top - don't be alarmed! This is called hootch and is a sign your starter needs food. Most people pour it off to inspect for mold. Any signs of mold and your starter should be thrown away.
- Allow the sourdough starter to come to room temperature before you discard and feed again with fresh flour and water. You will need to likely do this for a few days to wake it back up.
What Happens When I Put My Starter in the Fridge:
Putting your sourdough starter in the fridge doesn't exactly mean it goes to sleep, but rather it significantly slows down its activity. The cold temperature of the refrigerator acts as a natural way to inhibit the fermentation process. In essence, putting your sourdough starter in the fridge is like putting it in a state of hibernation—it's not asleep, but it's certainly taking a rest. This is a helpful strategy for bakers who want to maintain a starter with less frequent attention or need to pause their baking routine for a while. Here's what happens when you put your sourdough starter in the fridge:
1. Slowed Fermentation
The cold environment slows down the metabolic activity of the wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria in the sourdough starter. This means that the production of carbon dioxide and acids, which cause the dough to rise, is significantly reduced.
2. Reduced Microbial Activity
The yeast and bacteria in the starter become less active at lower temperatures. This reduction in activity helps to extend the time between feedings. While the microorganisms are not completely dormant, their metabolic rate is substantially decreased.
3. Extended Feeding Intervals
When your sourdough starter is in the fridge, you can go longer between feedings compared to when it's kept at room temperature. This makes it more convenient for those who can't attend to their starter on a daily basis.
4. Preservation of Microbial Balance
The cold environment helps to maintain the balance of the microbial community in the starter. This balance is crucial for the development of the unique flavors and characteristics associated with sourdough bread.