The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Father Raphael's picture
Father Raphael


Does it really make a difference if sourdough starter is made using the simple process offered by Peter Reinhart or the complex laborious method offered by Nancy Silverton.

+Father Raphael

ehanner's picture

Starting a natural sourdough culture can be a relatively simple process. The bacteria/yeasts exist in large quantity in the whole grain flours of wheat and rye. The process used to wake them and nurture them to a state where they will rise bread dough involves avoiding the nasty bacteria that likes to feed on the same food supply. PR's process is well known and many have had good luck with it. I suggest however that you take a look at our own Debra Wink's solution to starting a starter using pineapple juice for the liquid in the initial stages. Debra is a microbiologist and has studied SD cultures and how they work and published many articles on the subject.

It isn't hard to get a good starter going. I've used the pineapple solution several times with fantastic results.


Father Raphael's picture
Father Raphael

Thank you.   Also, I have a barm, mother, starter, etc. made according to P. Reinhart and have made bread from it.  The results are: nice texture and flavor but barely sour, which I prefer over too sour.  I asked the question in the first place simply for the opinion of other bakers who may have made starters from Silverton and Reinhart.   Nevertheless, sour breads, for the reasons stated above, are my preference but I get bogged down when I read the following from Reinhart:  Refresh your starter, let it sit on the countery for 6-8 hours and then refrigerate it.  Then when ready to prepare (that is, within the limit of 3-4 days) take a portion of it, according to the recipe, and mix you ingredients and so on.  When finished, refrigerate again overnight, remove from refrigerator, shape, wait for prescribed time, and then back.  Subsequently, unless one bakes with sourdough almost every day, it is a 3 day process.   Why can't the starter be used, right after it is refreshed?   Why does it need to go back in the refrigerator until the next day?


Sorry about the long email

Father Raphael

pmccool's picture

Given Peter Reinhart's frequently stated appreciation of long, cold ferments to maximize flavor, I expect that some of his process is geared to achieving that end.

I baked his Deli Rye bread today and departed somewhat from his process in that I built the levain (or barm, as he calls it) before going to bed last night.  Then I built the starter this morning before breakfast.  When I got back from church, it was fully expanded, which is the point his directions say to put it into the refrigerator.  Instead, I made up the final dough.  Because temperatures here were in the upper 70's F today, the dough fermented quickly enough that I baked it by mid-afternoon.  And that even though I left out half of the yeast called for in the formula!  I won't cut into it until tomorrow, so I can't tell you whether I think there is a appreciable difference in flavor.  However, appearance and fragrance suggest that it will be just as good as versions that have been made following the formula exactly.  

So, my two cents is that the starter does not have to be refrigerated.  I would suggest that a just-refreshed starter does need to be allowed to peak before using, so that it has maximum capacity for fermenting the final dough.  Then again, you and I may be assigning different meanings to the word "refreshed".


Father Raphael's picture
Father Raphael

Dear Paul

Thank you for your input. I enjoyed reading your response. 

Although Mr. Reinhart encourages experimentation, I am hesitant because of failures in other areas, i.e. making scones.  Before baking, scrambled eggs was the limit of my cooking experience.   Nevertheless, I plan to once again try some things, in this case with sourdough.  After all, Mr. Reinhart makes changes occasionally, as indicated from one book to the next.   I hope I'm not sounding negative about him.  I started with the BBA and have purchased each bread book since.   Rarely have I used any other recipes.  I am grateful for his work and continue learning from him.

Again, thank for your help and the personal touch I felt from your response.

Father Raphael

clazar123's picture

I must have been in ignorance of all the difficulties there can be had starting a starter.I simply took a few tablespoons of flour and water and set it on my desk at work (I work in a basement that smells somewhat mildewy) and stirred it a few times for a few days. When it started showing signs of bubbles, I started throwing out some and adding fresh flour and water twice a day and always stirring several times a day. After about a week, I had a starter that started rising consistently. After about 2 weeks I started increasing the volume and made some bread. My starters are about 2 years old now and have had some ups and downs but generally perform well. If you take care of your starter, it will perform well. When I have neglected it, it went bad and needed to be nurtured back.