On Feeding Bob

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Meet Bob.  Yeah, I’ve given my starter a name.  He’s now called Bob.  He’s kind of a blob anyway, and I actually don’t have any human friend called Bob.  I know quite a few Roberts, but no Robert I know is a Bob.  So there, I can call my starter Bob and no one shall be offended.

Here’s a photo of Bob when he’s just been fed breakfast.  Bob eats his breakfast at the same time Ella does hers.  Who’s Ella?  Why my kitty of course.  Ella and Bob are both fed breakfast while I wait for Miss Silvia to heat up.  Miss Silvia is my espresso machine-she has to heat up properly before I could make my coffee, for my own breakfast, and David’s.  You know who David is.  This is not getting too confusing for you, is it?  I’ve still got you with me, right?

So, about feeding Bob.  It’s quite important, the feeding of Bob.  Keeping Bob bubbly and lively is the key to baking happy bread.  Like this one for example.

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Gorgeous, yes?  Should I name my bread too?  Now that’ll be too much I guess.  Ok, no then.  Back to Bob, shall we?

Working out a schedule with Bob so that he fits my life as opposed to dictate it took a bit of planning.  Once I had it figured out, then it’s easy peasy.  I’ve got him now where I want him, and he’s helping me make bread 2-3 times a week without much effort on my part.

The key to this relationship, like any other relationships, is understanding.  I must understand what he needs, while not forgetting what I can afford to give.  There are plenty of instructions on how to feed and care for a starter that are so complicated they made me want to give up.  I’m sure you can find them too if you really wanted to read them.  There’s no need for me to repeat them for you here, I’ll just concentrate on telling what works for me.  My Bob is kind of low maintenance, I guess you could put it that way.

I keep Bob in a glass jar I bought from Ikea.  It’s got a metal top that I keep on, but the top doesn’t seal tight so Bob can breath.  The jar isn’t very big, Bob’s not very big.  He’s only about 16-18oz’s worth, oh, about 2-3 cups I’d say.  I feed him equal amount of flour and water each day, about 4oz each.  It’s important to do this by weight: just as Samurais live and die by the sword, bread bakers live and die by the scale. 

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There’s a little trick to keeping Bob in check.  Bob doubles in size every time I feed him, you see.  That’s how he grows, how he tells me he’s healthy and happy.  As I continue to feed him, he gets bigger.  So, before I feed him, I pour about half of him down the drain.  Yes, the drain.  It’s a bit of a waste, yes, but that’s the only way to deal with it.  If I kept all of him, I’d have to feed him a bigger breakfast than 4oz each of water and flour, and that would be a bigger waste, not to mention I’d eventually have to move him out from my jar into a swimming pool.

So, before I feed him, I pour a good part of him down the drain, about a cup’s worth.  Then I make a paste by stirring water and flour together, which is then fed to Bob.  Dump the paste in, and stir, stir, stir, mixing it in and giving him some air in the process.  That’s it.  Done.  Put the lid back on and let him sit on the counter until he’s ready.

Here’s a shot of Bob at his happiest.  See all the bubbles?  I wish you could smell the screen, because he smells heavenly.  He is at his best about 8 hrs after I fed him, which is perfect, because I usually make my no-knead Pain au Levain dough at night, and let it rest overnight to bake in the morning. 

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Here’s the picture of Bob in his jar.  Before I leave for New Orleans later this week, I’ll put him in the fridge, where he will be slumbering peacefully until I return.  Bob can go a few days in the fridge without being fed.  He’s healthy.  When I get home, I’ll take him out from the fridge and feed him twice before I use him again. 

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As you know, I adopted Bob from my friend Chris.  If you want to have a Bob of your own, but can’t find a kind bread-baking friend to share a starter with you, don’t let that deter you.  You can always start your own.  Check out this blog for example.

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  • http://allmarkedup.com Mark Perkins

    I’m glad you and Bob get along so well!
    But instead of throwing half of him down the drain each time you feed him, have you tried spooning it into a hot frying pan and cooking the mixture like a pancake? It’s tasty, and you don’t feel quite as wasteful…

  • http://cookingallday.wordpress.com Jesper

    Sounds like Bob’s a keeper to me. My blob lives in the fridge and when ever I need him, I take him out feed him, wait 6-7 hours until he wakes up and then on to the baking. That way you don’t have the waste issue. And you don’t have to bring him along on holidays etc. :)

  • http://www.kittalog.com Kitt

    Nice to meet you, Bob! Looks like you found a very loving home.

  • http://www.steamykitchen.com steamy kitchen

    The bread must have a name! Must be offspring of Bob and Wolf. or is it Thermador?

  • http://riceandwheat.wordpress.com riceandwheat

    Thanks for the link, Pim! I randomly looked at my blog stats and was shocked at the sudden jump, but then I realized why once I checked out this entry. Starting a starter was really neat (neat as in cool, b/c starters are actually quite messy) and now, I can have yummy breads (and cheese rolls, like the kind Cheese Board would feed you) whenever I want! Yum! I actually try to save leftover starter to use for pancakes and pizza dough, but that’s just because I’m a cheap grad student. :)

  • http://www.stirthepots.com Jeremy

    Pim, I am so happy to see your getting into sourdough, I have had the bug for many years now, even took classes at the FCI, but mostly have been staying in touch with forums to see what others are baking around the globe,from as far away as Australia, Germany,etc..
    I am feeding my starter,(one of many in the fridge!) so I will put up a post on your mixed flour no knead bread soon!
    Thanks!

  • http://freshginger.org Ginger

    Now that I know you have named your starter, you are definitely a kindred spirit in the kitchen! I am making a 100% spelt sourdough this afternoon. Thanks for the continuing Bob saga……How’s the cow share going? We are looking to join one in MI so that we can make our own cheese.

  • http://freshginger.org Ginger

    Now that I know you have named your starter, you are definitely a kindred spirit in the kitchen! I am making a 100% spelt sourdough this afternoon. Thanks for the continuing Bob saga……How’s the cow share going? We are looking to join one in MI so that we can make our own cheese.

  • http://gastronomyblog.com Gastronomer

    That post was ridiculously cute!! Makes me wanna start a starter just so I can name it ;-)

  • Angela

    Instead of pouring half of Bob down the drain, could you throw it in the compost I wonder? Or would that be on the list of compost no-nos…

  • Ricardo

    That is why I keep coming back for more … nice, nice, wonderful post. Good luck to you and bob!!!

  • Sharen

    We have a septic tank so Bob is terrific for going down the drain! Bob keep’s our septic tank happy. Don’t allow the starter to touch metal of any kind, not a spoon or lid. Use plastic, rubber or wood spoon for stirring Bob. Love your site!

  • http://www.tiffanyfree.com/tiffany-pendants.html Tiffany Pendant

    Oops, re-reading that it sounded a little critical, I was more wondering what I did wrong, how I can make it better. Any suggestions?