I’m going to show you how to keep a small sourdough starter. Why? If you hate throwing away lots of sourdough discard, or you don’t bake as often as you would like, this system will probably work for you.
As I said in my original post explaining How to Feed and Maintain a Sourdough Starter, there are a million ways to feed, maintain and use a sourdough starter. I urge you to read through both of my sourdough feeding methods to see which works for you.
If you don’t have one, check out my post to learn How to Make a Sourdough Starter.
Why would you keep a small sourdough starter?
I have always maintained my sourdough starters at 12 oz. Since I write all my sourdough recipes to use 8 oz of starter, that means that each time I use my starter I’m left with 4 oz to continue the feeding cycle.
Keeping a 12 oz starter is convenient if you bake as often as I do. If I’m baking several times per week, I’ve always got enough starter on hand to bake when the mood strikes.
But if you bake less frequently you may find yourself discarding lots of the starter just to maintain it at 12 oz.
It is possible to maintain a smaller starter, which means you have less discard. But the trade off is that you’ll need to allow extra time to grow your starter each time you want to bake.
Once the starter comes out of the refrigerator, it will need a couple of feedings to become active and to have enough volume to bake.
How to feed & maintain a small starter:
- Start with 3 oz of active starter. Store the starter in a small container (pint size) in the refrigerator between baking sessions.
- 36-48 hours before you want to make your dough, take the starter out of the refrigerator.
- Weigh 1 oz of the starter into a quart size container (to accommodate the rising starter). Discard** the other 2 oz of the starter. Feed the 1 oz of starter with 1 oz of all purpose flour and 1 oz of water. You now have 3 oz of starter again.
- Leave the 3 oz starter it at room temperature for 12 – 24 hours. During that time it should double in volume and then begin to settle again. If your starter has been unfed for several weeks and is quite sluggish, you might want to repeat steps 3 and 4 again before proceeding.
- Now you will feed the 3 oz of starter with 3 oz of all purpose flour and 3 oz of water. You will end up with 9 oz of starter.
- Set the starter aside until it has doubled in volume. This usually takes 4-6 hours depending on the temperature of the room and the ingredients.
- Once the starter has doubled in size and begun to recede, remove 1 oz of starter to a pint size container. Feed that with 1 oz each of water and all purpose flour. Use the remaining 8 oz in your recipe.
- Leave the 3 oz of starter at room temperature for 2-3 hours to allow the yeast to begin multiplying, then refrigerate until next time you’re ready to bake or you need to feed it.
Scroll through the step by step process photos to see how to feed a smaller sourdough starter:
Since you’ve got your starter fed, peruse the entire list of My Best Sourdough Recipes. Have fun!
**I know you hate to throw away that sourdough discard. Even though you only need to discard 2 oz, you can save-up that discard in the refrigerator and use it in any number of recipes. Check out these recipes that use sourdough discard.
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- 1 oz (28g) plus 3 oz (84g) sourdough starter
- 1 oz (28g) plus 3 oz (84g) unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 oz (28g) plus 3 oz (84g) water, room temperature
- 1 quart glass or plastic container
- Wooden spoon or spatula
- Kitchen Scale
- Weigh 1 oz of your unfed starter into a clean container. Discard the extra starter or save it in the refrigerator to use in a discard recipe.
- Add the 1 oz flour and 1 oz water and mix until combined. Set aside at room temperature.
- If you're not baking, refrigerate 3-4 hours after feeding.
- Feed refrigerated starter weekly if you're not baking. Each time you feed you will discard 2 oz and use the remaining 1 oz to complete the feeding cycle.
- When you're ready to bake with your starter, you'll need to take it out 2 days before baking and grow the starter with the following steps. Feed the starter as described in steps 1 & 2 (see note). Leave the 3 oz starter at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Feed the 3 oz of starter with 3 oz of all purpose flour and 3 oz of water. You now have 9 oz of starter. Leave it at room temperature for 4-5 hours until it doubles in volume and begins to recede and then it should be ready for baking.
- Use 8 oz in your recipe and reserve the last 1 oz to continue to feeding cycle.
If your starter has been unfed for several weeks and is sluggish, you might want to repeat the 1 oz feeding again before proceeding to the 3 oz feeding.