The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A Question About Starters

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BillG's picture

A Question About Starters

I've learned to make sourdough starters, thanks to this site!  Thanks to sourdoughlady for her formula and hints to making a starter using pineapple juice, and I've successfully made another using rye flour.  Both of these are distinctive in their mannerisms and flavors, but I've asked myself why do I need both?  I've considered discarding one or even [yikes] combining the two.  Is their any merit to this line of thinking?

I've made several loafs of sourdough bread, deliciously I might say, from each starter and most recently sourdough flap jacks [yum yum!] so I'm inclined to continue the lineages separately.  And if so, how many starters do most Bakers have?  Thanks!











SourdoLady's picture

Hi Bill--Glad to hear you had success making starters with my instructions. You may find that your two starters are very different from each other, or they may seem similar. The flavor and/or the rising time can vary with different starters. The rye starter will most likely have a more pronounced sour flavor than a white one. I wouldn't discard either of them until you have used them for awhile and learned their individual traits. They will also get better with time.  

mountaindog's picture

Bill - I have 2 starters going right now that are very active so I hate to get rid of any of it and am baking every day this week to use up the excess!  One is fed daily with whole rye flour and water, the other is fed daily with a mix of 75% white bread flour and 25% whole wheat flour, plus water. They are finally really active after a slow start, made only 2.5 weeks ago from the BBA recipe.

I plan to keep both because I've been using the rye starter in darker breads like miche or pain au levain. Today I'm trying the white starter in lighter Country French boules and sourdough baguettes. I'll let you know what difference I notice in the taste when done. My rye starter made a very flavorful miche and pain au levain, but not necessarily too sour a flavor, which I do not mind - it had a little bite but there were other nice flavors there too that you just don't get with using instant yeast as a leavener in the same recipe. You can see a pic of my starters here.

tony's picture

Mostly for simplicity's sake also because I typically use only a little starter (less than 2% of the final flour comes from the starter) to make a leaven for the final dough mix I just keep one starter going. This is a 125% hydration whole rye culture. Even when all the rest of the flour in the bread is white the rye flavor isn't noticeable -- except maybe in contributing to the overall complexity of the bread's taste.

sewwhatsports's picture

One of the things I have noticed it that as many people as we have post, we have that many DIFFERENT starters.  I keep both a liquid at 125% hydration with white AP flour and a stiff with 60% hydration.  That one is fed alternately with white AP flour and then a medium rye flour. Both are active, happy cultures. (Sorta like my kids these days <g>)  I did a pain au levain this weekend using the stiff culture recently fed with the rye flour and got great results.  It had a nice chewy crust, a moist, slightly dense crumb with big open holes.   The only negative was I think it was a little overhydrated as it spread some with the final fermentation though I got a good oven rise.

It was certainly the best tasting bread I have done recently.

Rena in Delaware

crumb bum's picture
crumb bum


I keep one starter at 177% hydration. 1 cup flour and 1 cup water for feedings.  A couple of thoughts on this.  One is when I need a stiff starter I add some of my liquid starter to create a stiff one.  Two, lots of recipes have you add a liquid starter to a quantity of flour and refridge overnight.  I think this gives you the best of both the stiff and liquid starters and you only need to maintain one.  I do wonder if I am missing out on a different flavor by not using an established dedicated stiff starter?  I guess I now have another New Years resolution.

Da Crumb Bum

demegrad's picture

This is a very good question.  I've often wondered this myself.  I keep one starter at 100% hydration, just measure equal amounts flour and water by wieght.  I figure that's sort of a nice meduim since I've seen some recipes with a stiff starter around 60% hydration and some liquid starters around like yours 175%, so I figure 100% is easy to maintain and convert to other starters.  I just keep one because frig space is usually a premium, and I don't like throwing out starter, but you have to sometimes.  It's hard for me to imagine that it would make a huge difference if you used something like a three day build which I've done with no problem in the past.  But hopefully someone else will be able to say that wilth more certainty than I can, so I'm very interested to see what comes up on this thread.


BillG's picture

Well I have to admit to this group my very bad bad. Somewhere back in the holidays my attention wandered to other matters and later to my horror I discovered that I'd left both my starters out of the refrigerator to a neglected part of my shelf, which became covered in disgusting mold. I had no choice but to throw them both out, losing the months of tending. Now months later I'm ready to return to this wonderful avocation. I'm going to try to recover a remnant, hopefully, from a person to whom I gave a sample of the starter. We'll see, maybe it's shoved to the back of her refrigerator! And if not, I'll have to start from scratch again. One of the things I've learned about myself is that my passions rule my attention. In the meantime I've focused on learning to make cakes, and on baking yeast based breads. My apology to the group for wandering away. Bill

SourdoLady's picture

Don't worry, it's not the end of the world! You can always make another. I'll bet that the one you gave your friend will revive just fine, even if it has been shoved to the back of her fridge since December. Starters are very resilient. I once left one unfed in my fridge for a year and it came back to life in about 36 hours after being unchilled and fed.

Another thing that you can do in the future is to spread out a couple of spoonfuls of bubbly starter onto a sheet of waxed paper, very thinly, and let it dry out completely. Once dried, crumble it up and put it into a small container or ziploc bag and store in the fridge. That will be your backup in case of disaster!