Starters Part 1

Starters. It’s been three years, and I’m not very good at judging my starter. I’m getting better at it. I know I learned that for my every 8 hour feeding schedule, I could feed it a ratio of 1:3:3: 1 part starter to 3 parts flour to 3 parts water. Temperature is critical; I keep my starter (and my water!) in my Brød & Taylor proofer at XX degrees. This works well, but I’ve been learning a few things recently.

First, life gets in the way, right? As much as I picked times that work for me, I’m not always home to feed it. I used to be rigid. I’d be mad if I got home late, and my starter had gone too far. I’d then feed my starter with a ratio between 1:2:2 and 1:3:3 hoping to “get back on schedule.” These “late” times happened too often, and my starter was often too acidic; it’d never really get back to “strong.”

I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure this out, but I started looking at my schedule and thinking about what may be happening around the time that I’m supposed to feed my starter. There are two things that I do now if I know I’m going to be late for my next feeding. I either feed it less flour and water, so that I can feed it early. Or, I feed it more flour and water knowing that I’m going to feed it late. It’s like feeding a baby. If I get it right or at least close to right, my starter doesn’t get cranky. Babies cry when they get cranky, and starters just don’t do their thing as well as they should.

The second thing I learned is that 8 hours doesn’t always mean 8 hours. Once again, I used to be rigid. I’d set a reminder on my phone for 8 hours, and at 8 hours I’d feed my starter. Like a baby, my starter doesn’t work that way. If I’m around, I now like to look at my starter an hour before I feed it. I look to see what the top of the starter looks like, and I look around the edges too. Then I decide, should I look in again in 15 minutes? 30? 45? Or just wait an hour? I’m learning, but I still don’t know my starter well enough to really know how much longer it needs.