Continuing with my current “How I’m Going To Learn” series--I’m going to talk Starters.

All us newer bakers wonder whether we timed our bulk fermentation or our proof correctly. We should also be wondering whether we timed our Starter fermentation correctly. It’s the first and most important of the three fermentations we have to judge.

There’s no “correct” way to maintain a starter. You can keep it in the fridge all week to bake on weekends. You can feed it 1xday, 2xday, 3xday, and even 6xday. You just need to get to know your Starter. Intimately.

I draw a mark on my jar when I start, and I try to mark the jar every two hours. I also try to mark it an hour before I refresh it. I’m beginning to understand how it grows. You want it to grow fast and stay strong.

To me, strong means if I hit the jar at the bottom, then the Starter doesn’t collapse.

To me, fast means it doubles or triples in 4-6 hours for my 8 hour feeding routine: 5am, 1pm, 9pm. It fits my schedule well, and I think my Starter is now stronger than it ever was.

Time and temperature are how we control fermentation and are important when learning how your Starter grows. I now keep my Starter at 80-81F in a @brodtaylor proofer. When I refresh it, I first take the temperature of my flour. I then calculate my water temp. I want the average of the flour and water temps to be about 80F.

This is working for me to get my Starter stronger. I don’t know if it’ll work for you.

I’m just a beginner like so many of us in the Instagram Bread Community. I really think you have to find what works for you and your schedule. Once you get to know your Starter intimately, then it should starter getting stronger. If you get your Starter strong, then you’ll have an easier time building strength and structure. And if you get those right, you’ll be on the path to making better bread. You still have to get to know how your dough grows during the bulk fermentation and during the proof.

Judging fermentation is a challenge, and as you get better at judging the three different fermentations, then you’ll have better bread to eat and share with your family and friends. That’s why I love this craft of making naturally leavened bread.