Learn how I have been maintaining an easy sourdough starter without daily feedings or discards for decades and still bake delicious breads!
Are you tired of daily feedings or discards?
Are you intimidated by such a commitment of maintaining a sourdough starter?
You have come to the right place!
In this post, I am sharing how I have been maintaining my sourdough starter without feeding it or discarding any. I am still baking delicious breads, such as this hearty European-style whole grain bread or a classic artisan-style no-knead bread. I even make sourdough pasta with this starter.
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Why you should listen to me
I basically grew up with sourdough. My mom would bake her bread about once a week (or more as we got older and ate more). She actually learned how to make a sourdough starter and bake sourdough bread from my grandmother who had learned it from her mother and so on. I don’t know how many generations this goes back but you get the drift.
My mom used the no feedings no discard method. It was only in the last few years that I became aware of the method that involves daily feedings and discards. Before then, I was using the no discard no feedings method for decades.
At this point, I have two sourdough starters: one for my white artisan-style bread and another one for my wholegrain bread. They get used at different intervals.
And just if you’re wondering, no, I have not named them.
Why use the no discard no feeding method?
You might be perfectly happy with your current sourdough method.
If on the other hand, you only bake once or twice a week, this is perfect. Maybe you bake infrequently or just don’t want to commit to this daily maintenance.
Or you want to take a break, lets say because you’re going on vacation. That is probably why you have read this far.
Well, keep reading because this is for you!
How to keep a sourdough starter with no feedings and no discards
Since there is a cycle, I am just starting at the point where you have your ripe sourdough starter on the counter.
Use the starter for your recipe but be sure to keep about a golf-ball-size in the jar( about 1/8 to ¼ cup). However, this does not have to be very exact!
Now you add a lot of flour to it. Mix it all in so that your sourdough starter becomes very dry and almost not manageable. It’s also great to have extra flour underneath and on top of the starter. I like to press it down with my fork or spoon.
Put a lid on your mason jar or other non-reactive container and place it in the refrigerator. Done! It’s as simple as that.
When you want to bake
As you know, baking with sourdough requires a bit more forethought than baking with yeast or baking powder. With this no feed no discard method, you need to add just a little more time.
Lets say I would like to bake on Wednesday, I take my starter out of the fridge Tuesday evening before I head to bed. By this time, I have this whole routine down.
Simply add about ¼ -½ cup of water to your dry starter and stir it well. When it was sitting in the refrigerator it essentially became inactive. Now we are re-activating it.
In the morning, you should have a ripe, active sourdough starter that you can use as you would normally.
Sometimes, I like to create a hybrid method: that means I will activate my starter, let it sit for about 16 hours, then discard half of it and add flour and water to it. I will then bake the following day. This step is completely optional, though!
What happens next?
When you are ready to bake or use your sourdough starter, simply remember to keep a bit left. Now, you can go back to the top and repeat the steps outlined there.
How long can I keep the sourdough starter in the refrigerator?
My short answer: I have kept it there for 6 weeks and still used it successfully.
Here’s my longer answer: Having had my sourdough starter sit in the fridge for 6 weeks was pushing it a little. It had a strong, almost pungent smell. At that point, I definitely recommend taking it out 2 to 3 days before you’d like to use it and do 2-3 feedings with discards. While I don’t recommend letting your starter sit in the fridge that long on a regular basis, I baked with it without any problems.
Usually, I keep my whole-grain sourdough starter in the refrigerator for about 10 days or so. Even keeping it for 2-3 weeks is no problem.
Which method is best for you?
Now that you know how easy it is to keep a no-maintenance sourdough starter, you can also decide which method works best for you. As I mentioned above, I sometimes add a feeding and a discard to my starters to give them a boost. I like to call this my “hybrid method”.
That might be a perfect option for you. But once again, if you’re baking and using your sourdough starter on a daily basis, you’ll want to stick with keeping it on your counter and taking care of it there.
I hope I have given you the knowledge to make sourdough work for you! I know it has for me!