Last Updated on September 15, 2021 by Stefano
Every Sourdough Starter requires maintenance. In other words we need to feed it. In this Stiff Sourdough Feeding and Maintenance Guide I explain you what I do to keep a healthy Sourdough Starter. Moreover we will explore how to use stiff sourdough in your recipe while keeping enough stored.
Before going into more details I need to be clear and precise. The Stiff Sourdough is heavily influenced by the conditions of the environment where you keep it. Also the Flour you use is playing a super key role. At the end of the day we are really talking about a form of life. As every form of life it needs that you feed it and take care of it. Even though a blog post is never long enough to cover everything, I made this Guide to be tangible and connected to the real experience.
More in details I am sharing how to deal with the most critical and common situations you will face after you create your Sourdough. I am referring to the proper way to feed your Sourdough only for keeping it active but also how to prepare enough Sourdough to use in a recipe and keep enough stored for the next time.
What you can expect from this blog post:
- Why do you need to feed or maintain a Stiff Sourdough
- What maintenance and feeding of Sourdough is about
- How and when do you need to feed Stiff Sourdough (hands-on)
- Calculate amount of Flour and Water to regenerate your Stiff Sourdough Starter
- Bonus: video summary of the whole process
I am confident you will enjoy my Stiff Sourdough Feeding and Maintenance Guide. After reading it you should be able to answer to most common questions about the Italian Style Stiff Sourdough Starter.
Why do you need to feed or maintain a Stiff Sourdough
So, you just created your Italian Style Stiff Sourdough following my guide. Now is time to feed it over time. Before explaining why let me tell you a personal experience. I was always afraid to start a Sourdough because of the maintenance. I mean, you need to take care of this natural yeast. To somebody (included myself) this is sometime intimidating. You start thinking about the time you have to dedicate to the process to start. And then you will need time to feed what you just created.
Well, I can tell you: don’t be afraid of the time it takes! Firstly it is not really time consuming. I calculated around 15 minutes every time you feed your Stiff Sourdough Starter. Secondly you can’t believe the satisfaction that it will give you even just feeding it. Seeing your Sourdough growing and then smelling and tasting is an absolute satisfactory pleasure.
But why do we need to feed or regenerate the Stiff Sourdough? No matter if you are creating a Stiff Sourdough Starter or a classic Liquid Sourdough Starter you are managing a form of life. There is a nice article on the website of American Society for Microbiology that I recommend you to read. It explains much better than any word I can use the Microbiome of the Sourdough.
Another very well explanation and pleasant reading is in this other article. For the sake of simplicity I will tell you that we need to feed the microbes population we have in our Sourdough Starter. In order for this to happen we need to provide the food. Food is directly coming from the Flour, especially from the “sugar” that is in flour. After some time the food (complex sugar) in the flour ends. Therefore, taking part of your Stiff Sourdough and mix it with fresh Flour and Water gives new food for your microbes. This is a very simplistic explanation of the reason to feed a Sourdough Starter.
What maintenance and feeding of Sourdough is about
The reading the previous paragraph should have given already an explanation. However I think it makes sense to distinguish the feeding from the maintenance. In fact they don’t always go together, according to my interpretation of the words. Let’s consider the feeding activity what you do on a regular basis to keep your Stiff Sourdough Active. If we feed properly and on a regular basis we do not need to add maintenance.
I consider the maintenance of Sourdough Starter something that goes over the regular feeding. Let’s call it an extraordinary feeding. For example you may need to store the Stiff Sourdough Starter for long time when you are on vacation. Or you can experience that a Sourdough Starter becomes acid, too much acid. In both case you need to apply a non-regular maintenance.
In this article I am going to cover the standard feeding or regular maintenance. But we will do it in a way that will reduce as much as we can the needs to have a non-regular maintenance, especially when it comes to keep the Stiff Sourdough balanced in its acidity.
In few words I am going to share how I am feeding my sourdough starter. Therefore we will explore what is the ideal ratio for feeding sourdough starter, how often is best to feed a Stiff Sourdough Starter and in general the few steps you need for your Sourdough Starter care.
As a last step I will also share a way to calculate how much Stiff Sourdough Starter you want to feed when you are using it in a recipe. I perfectly know that this is not always obvious for new owners of a Sourdough. It is critical to always keep part of the Sourdough Starter for the next recipe. You should never use all your Sourdough Starter for a single recipe!
How and when do you need to feed Stiff Sourdough (hands-on)
And we are finally at the most juicy part of my Stiff Sourdough Feeding and Maintenance Guide. The one where we will have our hands dirt in flour and … Sourdough!
If you followed my Guide you should now have an Italian Style Stiff Sourdough Starter of more than 200 gr. Moreover you probably already started storing it in fridge in its typical snail shape I shown. In any case the action to feed the Sourdough is pretty simple. You only need Flour, Water and of course part of the Sourdough Starter you already have.
Ingredients to feed your Stiff Sourdough Starter
Let’s start with amount of ingredients:
|"Old" Sourdough||50 gr|
As you noticed we are feeding now the Stiff Sourdough with a different ratio. Indeed we are not keeping anymore the classic sourdough feeding ratio 1:1:0.44 we have seen at the beginning. On the contrary we are using the ratio 0.5:1:0.44. In other words, in the feeding phase, we are taking exactly one part of Sourdough and will add there two times of Flour. At the same time we keep using 44% of water on the new flour. At the end we will have a Stiff Sourdough with hydration at 44%.
There is a number of reasons behind using the 0.5:1:0.44 ratio. The most critical one is that using this ratio you will help the Sourdough acidity to remain stable. As a direct consequence you will reduce the future needs of applying special procedures for what I called before the maintenance.
One more important note: always use the same flour! Don’t change brand or type of flour. This is so important! Changing the food for your bacteria will alter their life. The risk of changing flour is that your Sourdough Starter will lose strengths or even die. If you really need to change Flour you want this to happen progressively, not all at once.
The Stiff Sourdough Starter Feeding process preparation
First thing first: take the Sourdough out from the fridge. If you are going to only do a feeding, without using part of your natural yeast, you can immediately manipulate it for feeding. On the contrary, if you want to also use it in a recipe I recommend you to wait for about 1 hour before feeding. In this way the Sourdough will reach the room temperature.
Secondly you prepare the ingredients. Again, if you are only feeding, and you are following my schedule you will prepare 100 gr of Flour and 44 grams of water. If you need to also prepare a recipe you want to feed part of our Sourdough to be stored and part to be used in the recipe after it doubles/triples. If your case is the latter I will provide you with a calculator at the end of this section. The calculator will help you to know how much ingredients you need to feed your Stiff Sourdough Starter and keep enough for your next recipes.
Let’s start the Stiff Sourdough Feeding
Once you have all ready is time to:
- take the needed amount of your already mature Sourdough. You want to take it from the inside, removing the external and dry parts;
- Once done reduce the sourdough in smaller parts and put in your Stand Mixer bowl (if you use that);
- Add water and start the mixer at low speed:
After about a minute stop the stand mixer and:
- add the new flour;
- mix till you have all flour absorbed. If needed help the mixer stopping it and scratching the Flour from the bowl;
- Stop mixing when the dough is more or less smooth even though not compact (in my Kenwood Stand Mixer it takes between 7 and 8 minutes till here);
- Take it out from the mixer and make a Sourdough Ball:
Last phase of your Stiff Sourdough Starter is to stretch it and fold it to make it stronger. You’ll have to repeat the folding below until the Sourdough is smooth enough.
Especially the folding is pretty important. You will see how it is done in the picture below. Also the Video that I am going to add at the end of this blog post will give you a much better idea of all the steps:
When the Sourdough is then smooth and you manage to stretch it pretty long, you do a last folding in the opposite direction than before. Finally you stretch it for the last time and then roll it to get your snail!
And we have finished. Now:
- make a X cut on the surface of your Stiff Sourdough Starter Snail;
- put it in your container;
- Wait for 30/60 minutes before storing it in fridge again.
That’s it. As you can see, the Stiff Sourdough Feeding and Maintenance is not that complicated!
Calculate ingredients to feed your Stiff Sourdough Starter for Recipe and Storing
When you are going to only feed your Stiff Sourdough Starter then it’s easy to calculate ingredients. As I told you before we use the ratio 0.5:1:0.44. In other words we take half part of Sourdough, one part of flour and less than half (0.44) part of water.
To give you an example: if you have about 200 gr of Sourdough Starter stored in your fridge you will take 50 grams from the center of it and you will feed it with 100 gr of Flour and 44 gr of water. In this way you will end up having again almost 200 gr of Sourdough at 44% of hydration to be stored.
Things are a bit more complicated if you want to use Stiff Sourdough Starter in a recipe. Or if you want to increase the amount of Sourdough to store. In fact this is when you have to calculate ingredients differently. This is an activity that is not obvious for everyone. To facilitate this calculation I prepared a Free Sourdough Recipe Calculator that will help you with ingredients.
You can always use it for free! It’s definitely not perfect and for sure there will be bugs in it but it helped me and will do same for you.
Bonus: video summary of the whole process
As a conclusion to this Stiff Sourdough Feeding and Maintenance Guide I wanted to share a video. It is a short one that highlights all the steps of the previous paragraphs. Therefore you can have a quick and fast reference
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