When do you feed your sourdough starter before you use it?
I've read a couple different things about the optimal time after feeding that sourdough starter has the most rising potential - some had feeding consistently for a few days to build, others just said the day before you want to start baking, another place said starter had rising potential only within 3-5 days of feeding. Any clarifications? Can I use some starter to bake with if it hasn't been fed in a week? Mine is active, refrigerated most of the time, smells good, and the starter still seems plenty glutin-y, so I don't think it's anywhere close to starving after going a week. I typically use pre-ferments so my starter wouldn't go straight into a final dough. I'd love to hear how others manage feeding/baking schedules! Thanks!
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I'm not a huge fan of really strong sour doughs so thanks for the information on how to control the sweet vs sour aspects of the starter!
If the recipe doesn't call for a preferment, I will do a feed equal to the amount of starter needed in the final dough (thank you, baker's percentages!) and treat that similarly to a preferment.
My base starter seems to go dormant if it's more than a week since I've fed it, but it perks up when I whisk it with a fork to incorporate some air. I tend to feed it every few weeks.
If you save only a small amount of starter, you may want to do gradual builds in the days before baking so as to have enough starter to bake.
I think there are also individual variables, such as the strength of the yeasties, the type of flour you are feeding, and the temperature of your kitchen. Trust your instincts and your taste buds!
When I think of my great-grandfather, Franz, operating a village bakery in the days before electricity and gadgets, using a wood-fired hearth oven...I realize bread is pretty forgiving.