The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough vs sweet dough starter

erlinda100's picture

Sourdough vs sweet dough starter

New at baking and would like to make an authentic panettone. I do not want to spend a month making the sweet dough starter.  can I use sourdough starter and convert it to sweet bread starter? How would I accomplish this.  I see I can buy sourdough starter from kingarthur's site.  I do not see where you can purchase starters for sweet breads. Can anyone help me?


Yumarama's picture

"Sour" in sourdough means fermented. Like in "Sourkraut" which is fermented cabbage, sourdough is fermented dough. It doesn't mean "sour" as in bitter or acidic. Although sourdough can be acidic as the famed San Francisco sourdough is. But many un-sour breads are made with sourdough.

You could also call it "wild yeast" starter and avoid the term "sour" completely. It would be the same thing, though: fermented dough.

Some people strive for that acidic tone, others avoid it. Some want the sour/acidic taste but can't for the life of them get their sourdough starter to hike up the acid levels enough.

And the term "sweet dough starter" is unfamiliar to me. Can you describe what it is or where you're finding these instructions (if online, add a link please).

erlinda100's picture

I saw the comment about sweet starter on the wild yeast webpage

Below is what I saw:  

  • Develop the sweet starter (assuming you start with a healthy sourdough starter): every 4 hours for 2 days, at 85F
  • Mix and ferment first dough: 12 hours at room temperature
  • Mix final dough: 30 minutes or more
  • Ferment final dough: 1 hour, with a fold at 30 minutes
  • Proof: about 6 hours at 80F, or 12 hours at room temperature
  • Bake: about 45 minutes


erlinda100's picture

I just reviewed the site again, and lower down the page it appears to tell you how to get a sweet starter    follows:


First Dough Ingredients:

  • 388 g flour
  • 214 g water
  • 1.2 g (3/8 t.) osmotolerant yeast
  • 62 g egg yolk
  • 93 g sugar
  • 7.8 g (2-1/4 t.) diastatic malt powder
  • 93 g unsalted butter, softened (should be pliable)
  • 97 g sweet starter (instructions follow), 4 hours after last feeding
  • Sweet Starter

    Note: These instructions assume you are starting with a vigorous “regular” sourdough starter. If you don’t have a starter yet, here’s how to start one.

    1. If you are starting with a stiff (50%-hydration) starter, skip to step 2. If starting with a liquid (100%-hydration) starter, convert it to 50% by combining 40 g starter with 20 g flour. Ferment for 4 hours at 85F.
    2. For each subsequent feeding (except the final one), discard all but 28 g starter, and add 20 g flour and 10 g water. Ferment for 4 hours at 85F. Repeat for about 2 days.
    3. For the final feeding (4 hours before you will use it in the first dough), combine 56 g starter, 40 g flour, and 20 g water. Ferment at 85F. You will need 97 g for the first dough.   
    4.    Maybe I had better start with something simpler  :)Thanks for emailing me back   Erlinda  
    5. PS  Any baking cookbook you think I should buy?, cost doesn't matter


Yumarama's picture

Basically, all that's happening here is that you're making & maintaining a stiff starter. It's being fed a 50% hydration feed over a few days and fermented at 85º which is warmer than sourdough starters usually are kept at (70-75ºF). I'm really not sure why this is being called "sweet starter". It likely is not letting much acid development happen at these warm temps.

But it's basically still normal sourdough and requires a normal starter in order to make it "sweet".

Book recommendation? Sure...

Hamelman's Bread. Delves into a lot of the technical stuff happening in the doughs you're handling, gives you a thorough understanding of numerous precesses. And it's got great recipes. Short of "bread porn" pictures though.

Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. Again, a fair bit of background & technical info but the focus is somewhat stronger on the recipes than the previous book. There's plenty of photos for instructions and inspirations. I haven't read the new one, Artisan Breads Every Day although I made some of the recipes, so I can't say how that book as a whole is, but I'm sure someone else can do so.

There are also a number of threads in this forum that ask the same question with LOTS of input and reviews of numerous books, be sure to look those up for plenty more recommendations.

And yes, if this is your first forray into sourdough bread, there are simpler recipes to start with than the pannetone, as delish as it sounds. Probably better to learn the "basics" before trying the fancier moves. You can find Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough recipe (a few times over) on this site - do a search. You can also try Susan's (WildYeast) norwich Sourdough which is adapted form the Vermont recipe, that recipe is on the WildYeast site and probably here as well.

Both are good and have been done and discussed on here tons of times so there'll be a lot of info available to help you out right in this forum.

Buying a starter vs making a starter: Well, that's really up to you. Both can work. If you're extra eager and can't give a home grown starter the time it needs (2 to 3 weeks), then buying is certainly a faster alternative. However, growing your own does teach you one VERY important thing you will use - and need - in all your sourdough baking: PATIENCE. You must have it. Sourdough is not fast, sourdough bread is not fast food. But it can make some seriously awesome bread. 

There are quicker ways to make bread too, such as the vast number of normal commercial yeast breads and the "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" variety (again, search for examples), both methods can make great bread.

Anyway, there's lost of stuff thrown at you here, so check a few directions you might want to go in and then take the plunge in whichever one you decide on. Don't be afraid of messing up. Every single person here has done so and still does, no matter how advanced they are. We learn more from our mistakes and "hockey puck" loaves than if everything always came out perfect.


mete's picture

Somewhere I read that in the old days a housewife would take pride in making a sweet loaf of bread. To do this she made a tea out of hops and added it to the yeast. It would kill the sour yeasts but not the sweet yeasts.

I've made panettone with just packaged yeast and nobody complained !!.

erlinda100's picture

Paul, Thanks for all your help, I will check on the posts as you suggested for other books that would be helpful. sent another email to you  from my email directly to floydm if that is incorrect let me know.  Looks like I will have a good support system here.