The Fresh Loaf

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Buttermilk starter . . . can I keep it going ?

JoMama's picture

Buttermilk starter . . . can I keep it going ?

Hello Fabulous Bread Bakers ...

Being the humble novice that I am, I come before you (AGAIN) for advice.

I made a buttermilk sourdough starter ... it sat out for a few days ... first loaf is now on the first rise.


Can I treat a buttermilk starter like a regular sourdough starter & keep adding buttermilk, flour & a mini-dash of yeast to it?

(For the person who emailed me because she did not like my bold print when I post messages .... for the record ... I CAN see the bold print ... I have great difficulty reading the regular print ... so please be gracious & don't holler at me again ... some people are handicapped in one way or another.  PEACE!)

inlovewbread's picture

Hi Nevie,

I'm not totally familiar with a "buttermilk starter" but to me it sounds more like a "sponge" as in, something you make once to use in a particular recipe. Personally, I would be uncomfortable with perpetuating the sponge beyond one loaf of bread as it is not a sourdough starter with the yeast/bacteria that carry on a symbiotic relationship- effectively keeping out unwanted bacterial strains. I don't know if buttermilk would do the same thing. I know that it is acidic, but over time it may end-up culturing other types of bacteria. 

I do have a friend that keeps a Betty Crocker "sourdough starter" going- but it really is a poolish- a flour/water slurry with commercial yeast. She sometimes adds milk to it, but doesn't do it every time because it sits out at room temp. 

If you really like the buttermilk starter, maybe you could try to keep it going with refrigeration between refreshments.

Hope this helps!

ps- I used bold so you would have an easier time reading it :-)

PaddyL's picture

When I want to make bread, I refresh the buttermilk starter the night before with 2 cups of buttermilk and 2 cups of flour.  Next day, I use a good two cups of the starter for my bread (4 loaves) and put the rest back into the fridge until I want to use it again.  We love the bread I make with this starter!

cgmeyer2's picture


i would like to make a buttermilk starter recipe.

would you be willing to share your recipe?

i do not have a problem with anything in all caps or bold.  i've been nearsighted all my life.

thanks, claudia

PaddyL's picture

This is the starter I use, and the bread I make with it at least once every ten days or so.  You can leave the starter for up to a couple of three months in the fridge without refreshing, and it will need nothing more than the usual refreshment before baking with it.
Buttermilk Starter

• 3 cups buttermilk
• 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 tbsp. active dry yeast (If you're using instant yeast, just 2 tsps. should do.)
• 1/4 cup honey
In the morning, mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and cover. (I had one of those big glass jars you see in cafes with biscotti in them, so I used that and didn't have any spill-over problems, but you could use a large bowl.) This is really active so will have to be stirred down several times during the day. It gets quite exciting, watching it rise then stirring it down only to have it rise again. In the evening, put the whole mess into a least a 2-1/2 quart container with a slightly loose-fitting top and put it into the fridge. If you're worried about spill-overs, put a plate underneath it. For the first few days, you may or may not have to stir it down. By the 4th or 5th day it should have levellod off. A couple of days later, say the 7th, you can use it to make the bread. I keep it in an empty plastic 2 litre ice cream container, with the lid on, and I've written "Brigid" on the lid, because that's what I called her and I'll always know that's my buttermilk starter. 
I named her "Brigid" because I first mixed her up on St. Patrick's Day, 2008.
The Bread

To make the bread, you must mix a primary batter the night before you plan to bake. Put the entire starter into a large bowl, and add 2 cups of buttermilk and 2 cups of flour, mix it well, cover with plastic wrap, and put it in a warm place (I use the top of the fridge for this.), on a counter out of drafts is fine, overnight.

• In the morning, or whenever you can get to it the next day, take 2 generous cups of the primary batter and put them into a large bowl, returning the rest to a container to put back into the fridge.

• 2 cups sourdough starter (from the primary batter as above)
• 3 cups milk (I use reconstituted dry skim milk powder.)
• 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter (I use vegetable oil.)
• 1/2 cup honey (or 1/3 or even less. I have used maple syrup when I found myself out of honey, and you can't taste the difference.)
• 4 tsps. salt
• 2 tsps. instant yeast
• 10 to 12 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I have used bleached flour with no apparent difference in either mixing or texture.)

Put the 2 cups of starter in a large bowl, and put the rest back into the fridge. Add the milk, lukewarm, the butter or oil, the honey, and the salt. Mix instant yeast with a cup of the flour and add that, followed by the rest of the flour, or as much as you can work in, beating well until you have a shaggy mess. Tip it out onto your work surface and knead it till smooth and elastic. Once I've got it all together in a less shaggy mass, I put the bowl over it and give it, and myself, up to 30 minutes rest. Go back to the dough, pick it up and slam it down on the work surface a couple of times, and you'll find the rest of the kneading much easier. Since it's such a massive amount of dough, you should give it, all told, about 12 minutes of kneading, but you can let it rest from time to time. Then plunk it in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise till double, up to a a couple of hours. Punch it down, knead it a bit, cut and shape it into however many loaves you would like, or rolls , or cinnamon buns. Put it in the greased pans, cover, and let rise till double, about an hour, depending on how warm your kitchen is. 
Preheat the oven to 350 deg.F. and bake your fully risen dough for about 40 minutes for loaves, half that for rolls. 

After adding the above ingredients to the starter, and while it's still batter-y rather than dough-y, I take out a good four cups and place them in another large bowl, then stir about 1-1/2 cups, plumped, dark and light raisins, sometimes some pumpkin seeds, into one of the bowls of batter. Cover the bowl and work on the other half till it's ready to be put to rise, then go back to the raisiny bowl and work on that one. You have two bowls of dough rising. When it has risen..... 
I shape the plain dough into rolls, or loaves. For the raisin bread, I divide that dough in two, roll each out, brush lightly with water, sprinkle on a cinnamon/sugar mix, then roll it up and put it into greased pans.

AlexK's picture

Hi! I mixed half of the starter recipe and have it on my counter. I am thinking about moving it to my fridge to slow down the constant rise. But I have usually read the people feed their starter, is this the case for this mix as well? And Should I only use is after the 7th day?

I've never worked with this kind of starter or any starter actually, which is why I feel a little hopeless and don't want it to spill or waste it. Thank you!

JoMama's picture

The above recipe for a starter is about what I did ... my husband says it is my best loaf ever ... not that I've been baking bread forever ... but I made gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches tonight & yummy noises could be heard for miles.

THANK YOU everyone for your kindness & your answers ... you incredible people are the best!


salma's picture

I started my starter a week ago on Sun. Refreshed it on Sun. a.m. and put up the bread p.m. Had a slice this Mon a.m. And it is fabulous. I made only half the qty of the starter and made half the bread I.e. two loaves. The whole time the starter was working itself, it had a delightful aroma and I kept wanting to make pancakes with it. May be I will try it. I was afraid to use so much rosemary in it so I used a heaping tablespoon. Should have used more. Surprisingly, the aroma with thecombination of honey and buttermilk kept reminding me of cardamom. It has a sweet smell. So next loaf (and may be some rolls) I will try cardamom. Thank you for a great recipe. Another starter to nurse!