Sourdough starter can be fairly forgiving. If you’ve placed it in the refrigerator to take a break from bread baking, you may find yourself wondering just how long it’s been lurking in there when you’re ready to start baking again.  First thing to do is pull it out and take a look at it.  If it’s been in there for a long while without feeding, it will likely have an almost greyish-looking liquid called “hooch” sitting on the top.  This is totally normal and doesn’t mean that the starter has gone bad.  It will smell yeasty, reminiscent of beer.

If you see white or pink splotches over the surface of your starter or around the rim and edges of your jar/container, that is likely mold and it will smell off.  At that point, it should be thrown out and you should start from the beginning.  (See our post about easily starting sourdough from a packet.)

After you’ve determined that your sourdough is still viable, go ahead and mix in all the liquid on the top- don’t pour it out.

• Stir with a butter knife or spoon until it is all combined.
• Transfer the starter to a clean jar.
• Add 2 TBSP filtered lukewarm water and 3 TBSP unbleached all-purpose flour to the jar; mix well.
• Cover your sourdough starter and allow it to sit out at room temperature for about 12 hours.

You’ll begin to see some activity happening as the starter wakes up and starts fermenting.  If it’s only been in the refrigerator for a week or so, you’ll probably start seeing activity not long after removing it from the fridge.

Once your starter responds to the feeding and begins to bubble and increase in volume, transfer it to a larger container and feed it 1/3 cup flour, and 1/4 cup lukewarm filtered water.  After about 8-12 hours you should see some active fermenting, and a spongy, lively starter.  Then just simply feed your starter 1-2 times per day until you get the amount you need*!  Check out this handy page from Breadtopia on troubleshooting if your starter doesn’t seem to be responding, and what can be done.

*begin using equal weights of flour and water together for a good starter consistency.