The Telltale Sign Your Sourdough Starter Is In Need Of Extra Care

If you really enjoy wholesome, chewy sourdough bread, you might be one of the dedicated home bakers who has taken up the task of baking it in your own kitchen. And while sourdough baking is one of the oldest types on the planet (via Smithsonian), that doesn't mean it's always a walk in the park, especially if you're still honing your craft.

Making sourdough bread at home — which, most basically, consists of creating a yeasty, active "starter" out of flour and water and then adding it to a dough that will rise and then be baked (via King Arthur Baking) — can be littered with errors, from over-proofing the rising loaf to underbaking the bread, creating a damp, soggy interior.

One area that can be problematic for amateur sourdough bakers is caring for the starter. It's essential to maintain a healthy one if you want to bake great bread.

A liquidy, hoochy starter is a hungry starter

Have you ever made sourdough starter at home? If so, you'll know that maintaining this mix of water and flour that naturally incorporates wild yeasts from the air and thus becomes alive (via The Pantry Mama) is pretty much like having a pet. Once mixed, starters need to be fed with more flour, often anywhere from twice a day to once a week, depending on how often you use it (via King Arthur Baking).

If underfed, a starter can literally starve to death as the active bacteria go without food, and you will have to mix a new one together. But before that happens, your starter will give you a sign that it's hungry. According to King Arthur Baking, it will throw off tons of "hooch," the alcoholic liquid that collects on top of the starter as it sits. Some hooch is fine, the outlet explains, even hooch that has changed color and gone dark. But lots and lots of hooch means that your starter is running out of food and needs to be fed, stat.

Remember that when you feed a starter, you stir the hooch back into it and then discard a good amount of the starter. Otherwise, you'd soon be drowning in starter. But don't forget that you can make all kinds of delicious things with the discard, from pancakes to pizza crust to crackers. Happy baking!