Maintaining my starters that are always kept in the fridge and timing with respect to starting the dough?

First, after a refresh, do I put back in the fridge right away or let it mature (8-12 hours) first? Second, if my timing for baking is delayed, can I put the refreshed starter in the fridge for 12-24 hours, remove what I need and start the levain without another refresh? Third, if I build a levain, can I put in fridge for 12 hours then pull out, bring to room temp, then continue?Thanks

Paul S
  • Posted by: Paul S
  • April 1, 2019
Table Loaf
Recipe question for: Table Loaf


Boorayin April 19, 2019
I have the same question: if I'm refreshing it and then plan on refrigerating it for five days until I near my want-to-make-a-loaf time towards the end of the week, do I refresh it and put it *right* into the fridge or do I let it ferment for some period and *then* put it in the fridge, please?
BakerBren April 22, 2019
I think the best practice is to let your starter sit out after refreshing for a few hours before putting it back in the fridge for a long rest. But, you can put it right back in the fridge if that isn't practical for you for some reason.
BakerBren April 1, 2019
Paul, how often are you refreshing? Once a week? Once a day? That can have an impact on your timing but I'll answer based on an assumption that it's once a week.
1) Yes, best practice is to leave the refreshed starter at room temperature for 8-12 hours. That favors yeast activity and leavening power over lactic or acetic acid production. But if you know you won't be baking with it right away and just want to maintain your culture, putting it in the fridge again is OK.
2) Pulling culture from the refrigerated container to start a levain works but your results may be less voluminous than with another proper room-temp refreshing.
3) If you build a levain, there shouldn't be a need to put it in the fridge to slow things down unless you have a really warm 80F+ environment. At 60-70F, 12 hours is about right for a levain build. But, if you want to hold the levain build for 24 or 30 hours then refrigerating can help slow things down. Better yet, make your final build on schedule and put your shaped loaves in the fridge to slow things down. While you can use it to your advantage, know that different temperatures (and hydrations) lead to different flavor profiles in sourdoughs. For more information about that, look up the Detmolder method. Good luck and bake on!
Paul S. April 2, 2019
Awesome. Thanks for the quick reply and great info. Yes I try and bake once a week so do not want to be tied down to daily feedings. I do want to build some breads with more "sour" flavors and I had heard that extending the levain build time in the fridge was possible. I also understand that extending the proofing in the fridge works even better. I did not know that hydrations can affect flavor profiles. Will definitely check out the Detmolder method. I am new to sourdoughs, and I still need to figure out a schedule that works for me, but I have had early success so am looking forward to growing as a home bread baker and getting better at it. Cheers.
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