Can I use sourdough starter straight from the fridge? This is a very common question!
The short answer? No! You can't use a sourdough starter straight from the fridge.
In most cases, you will need to feed the starter and let it peak before you try to use it to bake bread.
Of course, like most things, there are a few exceptions.
This blog will explain why you can't use sourdough starter straight from the fridge - as well as one instance where it might be ok.
Why You Shouldn't Use Sourdough Starter Straight From The Fridge
You know that feeling when you first wake up, before you've had your coffee? You're awake, but you're not quite with it yet, not firing on all cylinders so to speak.
Well that's how your sourdough starter feels when you first take it out of the fridge. Depending on how long it's been in there, it's been in a very deep sleep.
It's used all of its energy and is hibernating.
Using it before you refresh it and give it a feed is like expecting you to go to work before you've had a chance to have a good hearty breakfast and a strong cup of coffee! It's just not going to end well.
Your starter needs to be fed and given a chance to gather some energy before you put it work. And depending on how long it's been in the fridge, it might need 2 or 3 feeds to get it going!
Now I'm not saying you can't use your starter right from the fridge - you can of course do whatever you like. However, if you use a cold, unfed starter straight from the fridge, you will not be baking the best possible sourdough.
Chances are your bread will be under fermented, with a tighter crumb and you won't get the oven spring you usually do with a happy, bubbly and fed starter.
Best Time To Use A Sourdough Starter
The best time to use your sourdough starter to bake bread is a few hours after it's been fed and is at its peak.
It should be bubbly and mousse like in texture. It will have at least doubled in volume from when you fed it.
Once you've fed your starter, you don't want to use it before its peak as the yeast colonies will not be adequate to rise your bread.
Wait until it's peaked and then add it to your flour, water and salt and let it do its thing!
Now if you're wondering, I'm never around when my starter peaks or my starter always peaks when I'm asleep ... there are some little tips and tricks you can try to manipulate the time it takes for your starter to peak.
You'll find a full guide to adjusting the time it takes for your starter to peak here.
You might also find this information on creating a baking timeline useful.
Can You Feed Sourdough Starter Straight From The Fridge?
Yes, you can feed sourdough starter straight from the fridge.
If you've stored your sourdough starter in the fridge, you will need to discard first and then feed as per normal. For example you would discard all but 50g of starter and then feed 50g of flour and 50g of water.
You do not need to let the sourdough starter come to room temperature before you discard and feed (unlike when you thaw a frozen sourdough starter).
The amount of starter you leave in the jar will quickly come to room temp once you feed it.
If you want speed the process up, you could use warm water when you feed it.
When Is It Ok To Use Sourdough Starter Straight From The Fridge?
Ok, so we know it's not best practice to use sourdough starter straight from the fridge, but there are a few instances when it might be ok.
I'm a big believer that you'll always get a much better sourdough from a fed, active starter.
But if your starter is very mature, at least 12 months old and it was fed before going into the fridge, it could be ok to use straight from the fridge. This is particularly true if the starter was fed and placed straight into the fridge and has been there less than a week.
Chances are, your starter would not have exhausted all of it's food in that short time in the fridge.
You'll be able to see whether it's peaked in the fridge.
In this case, you don't need to let it warm up, you can use it as it is.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you're talking about actual sourdough bread - no - bake the sourdough straight from the fridge into a hot Dutch oven for maximum oven spring. If you're talking about sourdough starter - ideally it should be room temperature before you add it to your dough. If it is used cold from the fridge it would take a long time to come to room temp and ferment the dough.
You need to feed your sourdough starter regularly, even when it's stored in the fridge. Ensuring that it has adequate food is the best way to stop it molding and eventually dying while stored in the refrigerator. Keeping it in the coldest part of the fridge, at the back is also a good idea as it will keep it as stable as possible.
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