How quickly can my sourdough starter be ready to bake with after refrigeration?

How quickly can my sourdough starter be ready to bake with after refrigeration?
How quickly can my sourdough starter be ready to bake with after refrigeration?

This is something that I’ve been wondering and this is going to save me time and cut down on the amount of flour I’m using to resurrect my sourdough starter Gabrielle.

I’ve been baking with my sourdough starter (Gabrielle) for some time now. Even though she came to be this time last year (during UK lockdown 1.0), it wasn’t until August’20 that I actually took the plunge to bake a loaf. Since then I’ve pretty much stuck to the script (same recipe/method) and I’ve achieved consistent results in my bakes and with the preservation of my starter.

The experiment started as soon as Gabrielle came out of the fridge. Normally I take 3-4 days feeding her before I start the process but I wanted to see if I could bake with her much sooner saving time and reducing waste (although you can bake with the discard – see the end of this article for details).

Day 1

In the morning I took the jar out of the fridge. There was an obvious layer of liquid sitting on the top of my starter which is referred to as hooch. If you’re new to sourdough baking this isn’t a sign that anything is wrong. It’s quite normal and should just be poured away. I left the lid on loose and let her come to room temperature before doing anything.

Straight from the fridge with a layer of hooch.

That evening I fed her with 60g water/60g strong bread flour. I should add at this point I should add that I didn’t discard any of the refrigerated starter. The starter was left in my utility room overnight and during the evening I noticed that I achieved quite a good rise from the off.

Day 2

The following morning (at around 10am) I discarded half of the mixture and fed her again as I had the night before (60g water/60g strong bread flour) and left her again to rise. At 3.30pm I noticed that my starter showed signs of being quite active so I made the decision to bake with that night and made the decision to feed her again, this time 30g water/30g strong bread flour. This was enough of a boost to take the starter to where I would normally be happy to bake after 3-4 days of feeding, so that evening I prepared my dough.

Hydration percentage

While I normally favour a loaf with a high water percentage (hyper hydration), I decided to try a loaf with a lesser % of water. I’ve been used to baking sourdough with quite a wet dough after the first prove, but with these loaves my risen dough was more akin to a loaf that I might traditionally bake with yeast.

Sourdough with rye after 1st prove
Loaf preparation

With the children packed off the school, the coast was clear to deal with big bowls of dough and turn them into bread. With a little time shaping, resting, tightening the shape and manoeuvring dough into a proving basket for the final prove, the countdown to baked bread had started.

Even dough needs time to rest
Transferring the dough from the basket

After an hour in the proving basket it’s time to bake – it’s funny that baking is the quickest part of this process! I prefer to bake oval loaves and my oval baskets produce loaves that perfect fit my enamel chicken roaster and I find it easier to slice! BUT, before you can start baking, you need to remove your dough from the proving basket without disturbing it too much. My secret is a well floured basket, sheets of baking parchment and of course my perfectly shaped roasting tin.

I scatter the top (which is actually the bottom) of the loaf with flour and lay a sheet of baking parchment over the top so that there’s an even amount of parchment all around (you don’t want the dough to touch the tin). Then I place the tin over the top of my proving basket which then enables me to turn the whole thing over so that the tin is sitting on the work top. I then carefully life the basket and I wait until I feel the dough ‘unstick’ itself from the basket. I’m now free to score the top of the loaf before I cover it with the lid and bake!

Timings

Every cook knows the capability of their oven over time and I now (after months and months) bake my bread for 20 minutes with the lid on, a further 30 minutes with the lid removed and a final 10 minutes with the loaf taken out of the tin and placed on the oven shelf.

The lighter of the 2 loaves is my regular sourdough and it’s still cooling down (you’d be surprised at how long a loaf actually takes to completely cool down). The darker loaf (or burnt as my husband called it) is a rye sourdough. I used a little more starter than I would normally, included some honey and replaced some of my usual strong bread flour with rye flour.

Sourdough with rye

The proof of the pudding (or bread rather) is in the eating and I’ve promised the children the very first slice slathered with butter. I’m happy to say that the children were delighted with the bread and I’m happy that I can now bake much sooner than I would have done before.

Regular sourdough
Love your sourdough like you would your own children

You may have noticed that my sourdough starter has a name (Gabrielle) and that I refer to ‘it’ as she and her. I have spent the best part of the year growing, feed and nurturing her and she’s something that I look after. Giving your sourdough starter a name gives you a sense of connection and you’re more included to take care of it as you would your child. My starter is called Gabrielle. Why? Well every time she comes out of her sleep in the fridge and she will ‘Rise Again’ – one of her biggest hits! What will you name your starter?

A note on things you can make with your sourdough discard

Putting your sourdough discard to use really does mean that you’re getting the most from your flour. I’ve made some crumble topped muffins using some of my discard and they really were delicious. I have included recipe links below. Simply click on the images to be taken to my recipe!

Blueberry Crumble Sourdough Muffins
Raspberry Crumble Sourdough Muffins
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The Lean Cook