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 to maintaining a sourdough starter?
The good news is there is another way!
In this blog 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. This method is perfect for any home baker who does not use their sourdough starter on a daily basis.
Ready to learn my Super Simple Sourdough method?
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My experience with sourdough
I basically grew up with sourdough. My mom would bake a loaf of sourdough bread about once a week (or more as we got older and ate more). She actually learned how to make her own 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.
Fun fact: up until a few years ago, I didn’t even know that there was another sourdough method that involves daily feedings and discards. I really thought that everyone was using a sourdough method similar to ours.
At this point, I have two sourdough starters: one for my white artisan-style bread and another one with whole wheat flour for my German sourdough 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 for your sourdough starter?
You might be perfectly happy with your current sourdough method. But then I guess you wouldn’t be reading this article.
So, if you bake twice a week or less, this method is perfect for you. Maybe you bake very infrequently or just don’t want to commit to this daily maintenance. Also, you will be using less flour for your feedings. These days, when everything seems to be getting more expensive, this method is a great way to save some money. You also won’t end up with too much sourdough starter that you don’t know what to do with.
Or you want to take a break, let’s say because you’re going on vacation. That is probably why you have read this far.
Well, keep reading because you will love this easy way!
How do the no feedings and no discards sourdough starter method
Since there is a cycle, I am just starting at the point where you have your active starter on the counter. If you don’t already have your own starter, you can read here how I make a new one without feeding or discards, either.
Use the starter for your recipe but be sure to keep a small amount of starter in the jar( about 1/8 to ¼ cup). However, this does not have to be a very exact amount!
Now you add a lot of fresh flour to it. It has to be so much flour that your leftover starter becomes very dry and almost not manageable. For best results, 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 with your sourdough starter
As you know, baking with sourdough requires a bit more forethought than baking with commercial yeast or baking powder. With this no feed no discard method, you need to add just a little bit more time.
Let’s 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 without having to think about it much.
Simply add about ¼ -½ cup of filtered or bottled water to your dry starter and stir it well. You can use warm water if you like, especially if you have a very cold kitchen. When it was sitting in the refrigerator it essentially became inactive. Now we are re-activating it.
By the next day, you should have a ripe, healthy starter that you can use in your favorite recipe. You should be seeing lots of bubbles in your sourdough starter. If you are skeptical about your starter, you can always use the float test.
Sometimes, I like to create a hybrid method: which means I will activate my starter and let it reactivate overnight. The next day, I add equal parts of flour and water to it. That way, I will have I will then bake the following day. This step is completely optional, though!
- Pro Tip #1: If you are not certain about your sourdough starter, you can always add a little bit of instant yeast to your recipes. Don’t feel like you are cheating when you do that! Yeast is a natural part of the sourdough cultures next to lactic acid bacteria.
- Pro Tip #2: Especially if you are using your sourdough starter for bread dough, you can use rye flour instead of wheat flour. The former makes a particularly active sourdough starter.
What happens next?
When you are ready to bake or use your sourdough starter, simply remember to keep a bit left for your next batch. Now, you can go back to the top and repeat the whole process all over again.
Sometimes a picture says more than a thousand words. Therefore, I have created this cheat sheet of the life cycle of your sourdough starter with my method. Simple click on the picture below or the link to get your free printable PDF.
I also have a recipe video that shows you exactly how to use this no discards sourdough method in real life.
How long can you 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, pungent, very sour smell. At that point, I definitely recommend taking it out 2 to 3 days before you’d like to use it and doing 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. However, people have told me that they had “forgotten” their sourdough starter in the back of their fridge for over 6 months, and was still fine.
Which sourdough method is best for you?
Now that you know how easy it is to keep a no discard 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 or if I want to bake more than one bread. 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.
The pros of the no discard sourdough starter method:
- you will waste little to no flour
- no more discarded starter
- it’s the easiest way for beginners and first time bakers
- you don’t need a kitchen scale (even though I do recommend you have one!)
- it is the best way for baking less frequently
The cons of the no discard sourdough starter method:
- can be challenging for people who want exact measurements and instructions
- not necessary for people who use their discard sourdough starter every day
Ready to bake? Here are some sourdough recipes you might enjoy:
Easy Sourdough: No Feeding, No Discards
- ¼ cup ripe sourdough starter
- 1 cup flour
- Pinch off about ¼ cup of sourdough and place in a glass jar or non-reactive container.
- With a fork work in 1 cup of flour or more until the dough is very stiff, dry, and crumbly. Heap some more flour on top.
- Place a lid on the jar and place the sourdough starter in the refrigerator.
- The evening before you want to bake, take the jar out of the refrigerator.
- Add some filtered or distilled water to it. With a fork, stir the water into the sourdough starter until you have a thick consistency. Don't worry about any remaining clump.
- Let this mixture sit out at room temperature until the next morning.
- Use your active sourdough starter according to the recipe.
- Don't forget to keep back ¼ cup of starter to repeat the process.