The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Can I use an old lean dough as a sourdough starter?

Timmah's picture

Can I use an old lean dough as a sourdough starter?

This has been driving me crazy. I have some leftover lean dough and was wondering if i could leave it out over night and then let it refrigerate for a couple weeks and then use it a s a starter with some fresh dough. Will that work?

mrfrost's picture

It will a starter...but it is (probably)not sourdough. The predominant yeast in your "leftover dough"(aka, old dough) is common, commercial yeast. Sourdough yeast is "wild" yeast, cultured from the environment.

Now if that leftover dough was made from sourdough, then of course, you can continue to propogate it as such. But to really understand what you are doing/want to do, you can read up on the numerous and informative threads and lessons here, throughout the forums on starting, maintaining, and using sourdough.

One of many(more by searching):

Also, the sourdough forum:

frenchcreek baker's picture
frenchcreek baker

I have done this successfully. 

Immediately after baking a lean dough, I took one quarter teaspoon and fed it with a tiny amount of organic whole wheat flour and water, making a firm ball. I continued to feed the dough once a day. I did not throw away any of the culture before feeding until the starter very active. Then I increased feedings to twice a day, disposing a portion of starter before feeding and switching to organic white flour. I increased the proportion of water to flour to make a liquid culture as opposed to the original "dry" starter because I wanted a less sour final result. 

All told, I spent about two weeks until I used the final starter. I could have easily baked sooner but wanted to ensure my starter developed strength and flavor. 

I used this starter the other day to make the PAIN DE MIE AU LEVAIN posted by Sallybr on our forum. She translated this recipe created by a French woman who has a bakery and also bakes bread at home.

The bread had a wonderful sour flavor and rose well using the sourdough culture.  

Some will argue that the culture I created is not a "true" sourdough. While the quarter teaspoon of potato bread that I used to start the culture did have a smidgen of commercial yeast, I have read that over time the natural wild yeast will eventually "take over" the culture, especially with the small quantity of old dough I used along with the long period of feeding as a dry dough.

I am not a bread scientist and may very well be wrong. And according to the purists, I am dead wrong. All I know is that the flavor closely matched those breads I have eaten from La Brea bakery and others in San Francisco. It works for me. That is the beauty of home baking--access to the wisdom of the master bakers such as Hamelman, Leader, Ortiz; the advice of our forum bakers; AND the freedom to innovate in our own kitchens.