sourdough starter in a jar

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In this post I am going to help you use your sense: see, touch, taste, smell, and hear your sourdough starter to help you develop your sourdough intuition.

Disclosure: Some of the links shared are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

A brief sourdough background

I have been using sourdough my whole life.

I will never stop being grateful for Great grandpa and his humble gift.

One Christmas, he didn’t have a lot of money so he gifted my dad some of his starter and a recipe book. My dad used his starter weekly and made us pancakes, cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, and biscuits.

As I grew up, I started baking more and dove into using sourdough in my bread and then really started diving into the WHY behind sourdough.

I don’t know that great grandpa ever dreamt it would be what it is today

But because he chose something so simple and so humble we get to keep his memory and stories alive. 

He’s the reason I say sourdough is in my blood. 
He’s the reason I believe sourdough is my culture. 

If you haven’t started your sourdough journey and want to, head to The Flouring Home Shop and grab your starter today. Yes, this starter is dried from my starter that is from my great grandfather!

couple standing in front of a cabin
my great grandparents

Sourdough Intuition

Unpopular opinion but that should be no surprise at all! Because I break all the sourdough rules but I don’t use one common tool that most sourdough bakers use today.

I don’t use the float test to determine if my sourdough starter is happy, active and ready to bake. 

Instead, I read my sourdough starter. I use my sourdough intuition to know if its ready.

I don’t stress about using my starter at its peak height or use it when its just fallen. I simply USE IT!

I know that sourdough is hardy. I know that sourdough is forgiving. I know that if left alone and not manipulated, sourdough will do it’s job.

Sourdough is meant to be left alone and to ferment. Therefore I seldom use leavening agents in my baking. I strictly use sourdough.

The caveat would be if I need to adjust acidity then I may use baking soda to help neutralize my bake.

sourdough starter in a jar next to a bowl and spatula
infographic stating 7 signs your sourdough starter is happy

Signs your sourdough starter is happy

When harnessing my sourdough intuition, I LOOK for my starter to tell me:

  • DOUBLED OR TRIPLED IN SIZE or VOLUME
  • SUPER BUBBLY
  • SOMETIMES OVERFLOWS 
  • ACTIVELY SEE BUBBLES POPPING
  • SOURDOUGH STRANDS
  • SMELLS YEASTY AND SWEET
  • LOOKS VISIBLY DIFFERENT FROM WHEN IT WAS FIRST FED
  • AND IF YOU REALLY FELT INCLINED, YOUR SOURDOUGH STARTER SHOULD HAVE A SWEET/FERMENTED FLAVOR (but you really don’t need to taste your starter as the other signs will suffice)

I use my senses to see, touch, taste, smell, and hear your sourdough starter.

If you watch and listen closely. You can see your sourdough bubble. You can see it essentially breathing. You can HEAR the bubbles popping.

You can smell the sweetness and the fermentation occurring.

Be sure to save and share this to remind yourself of what a happy sourdough starter should look like.

sourdough starter in a jar
bubbly sourdough starter
you can see the sourdough strands on the wall of the jar
close up of an active and bubbly sourdough starter
bubbles on a risen and active starter

What to do if Your Sourdough Starter Needs Extra Nourishment

one trick my great grandpa swore by and it’s a family secret that I’m spilling:

HERES THE FAMILY SECRET!

Be sure to save this and reference this guide for when your starter needs some extra love and nourishment.

POTATO WATER

Potato water is the trick he taught us to refresh your sourdough starter

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Begin by discarding all but 2 tablespoons of the starter 
  2. Grab a potato (I prefer idaho Russets), peel it, wash it and slice it. 
  3. To a pot, add your potato top with filtered water (DO NOT SALT YOUR WATER) and bring to a boil 
  4. Boil your potatoes until they are fork tender and remove from the stove. 
  5. Allow your potatoes and water to cool because the very last thing you want to do is pour the hot boiling liquid on top of your starter.
  6. Once your water is at room temperature pour off a 1/3 cup of water and add that into your 2 tablespoons of starter. 
  7. mix well and add a half a cup of organic all purpose flour (my choice of flour is from Central Milling). 
  8. Mix and incorporate your flour top with a lid, beeswax wrap or a wet dish towel and set aside to rise 

Sourdough Tip

Place your sourdough starter in a warm environment (but not the microwave or the oven) and give it time to feed itself and rise like normal. 
On top of your fridge is a great warm location

Remember sourdough takes time and you can’t rush the process but you should see that your starter has doubled in about 12 hours if your house is cold like mine is (it was 60° this morning) 

A cold environment wont STOP fermentation, rather it SLOWS fermentation. So time is your friend.

Try this nourishment method and let me know if it works for you 

This method is what my great grandpa swore by and it’s allowed us to have a sourdough starter that’s at least 80+ years old.

Sourdough Resources

Happy Baking! – Boots

Disclosure: Some of the links shared are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

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8 Comments

  1. Wow! I love that you have a Sourdough heirloom 🙂 I love the history. Thank you for making sourdough more simple! It’s discouraging when people make it so complicated.

  2. This is such helpful information that I haven’t stumbled upon on any of the other sourdough blogs. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and family history. What a beautiful story.

  3. This post is so helpful! As a complete sourdough newbie, it can be so overwhelming. But these tips help so much, I’m saving this post for future reference!

  4. This is so helpful! I will be sharing this with some friends who are new on their sourdough journey! Thanks for sharing!

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