The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Another starter question...

JessicaH's picture

Another starter question...


I actually know very little about bread making.  I am active on a cheese making forum that suggested I could use my leftover whey in baking bread.  On that same forum I read that you make a sourdough starter with 2 cups of water mixed with 2 cups of flour and then let it sit 7-10 days? 

So I made the leap...I did 2 cups of whey with 2 cups of flour.  Will this work?

Also, if this does work, how do I use starter in a recipe?  I've made bread before but only with yeast packets so I'm not sure how much starter to use when making the bread.


Thanks ahead of time!


Yumarama's picture

I should start out by mentioning that I've personally never seen anyone discussing using whey instead of water in getting their starter going or for basic feeds either. This is not to say that it will be detrimental or that no one else has done it, just that I myself have not run across it.

Starter made with water? Yeah, seen that a lot. Pineapple juice too, it helps get the pH of the flour "soup" where the wild yeasties like it (see an explanation and photo diary here based on Debra Wink's Pineapple Juice method). 

So whey may be something worth playing with and seeing how it goes. It wouldn't be something I'd suggest for someone just getting their feet wet in sourdough or bread in general. My personal recommendation: start with the tried and true; experiment with the unusual stuff later.

Save yourself time, trouble and cash and cut back on your amounts a lot. You don't need to work with 2 cups of whey and 2 cups of flour for the starter; begin with 2 tablespoons of water (or whey or pineapple juice) and 2 tablespoons of flour. Keep it small and easier to handle and easier on the pocketbook too: feeding a starter 2 cups of flour daily for 2 weeks will use up over 7 pounds of flour.

As for recipes, you could do quite well, once the starter is active and lively, to follow Wild Yeast blog's Norwich Sourdough which you will see discussed in these threads quite a bit and people here will be vey familiar with and again can give you advice with as you try it.

I'd recommend you pick one bread to try and try it over and over and over vs switching from one bread to another and another and yet another. Why? Because you'll learn a fair bit from trying the same bread over and over and seeing improvements as you get more practice, make small changes and see what it does. 

I'd also very strongly suggest you look at getting yourself a scale and begin measuring your ingredients in weight, not volume. Again, lots of discussion on that in these forums so I won't bog you down here with details. You can do a search (the search box is at the top of the left column) and pull up all sorts of info on this issue. You can also look up Norwich Sourdough and see discussion on that bread and get plenty of help from previous replies. You can of course always pop in and ask your own questions if something isn't clear, lots of very helpful folk here.

And while your starter is growing up, you can try your hand at regular yeasted bread - see the Handbook in the menu bar at the top of this page. There is a pretty decent series of instructions for the beginner in there that leads you through the process and you'll learn plenty of good techniques using normal commercial yeast that you can later apply to your sourdough.

Hope this is helpful, ask away if you have other questions. And perhaps someone on here has indeed had experience with using whey instead of water in their starter. I'd be interested to see how that worked out too.


Yumarama & MellowBakers


Chuck's picture

The ridiculously cynical viewpoint:

If you already know and love bread baking (or seriously want to learn), reusing leftovers from cheesemaking sounds like excellentc ross-fertilization.

But if you haven't already dealt with bread baking and sourdough starter, the learning curve is way too steep when all you want to do is avoid throwing away a couple cups of whey. ("I've got some leftover nails, so I think I'll build a house."  ...huh?-)

leostrog's picture

I use a lot my fresh whey both with starter and both with final dough- and it's work exellent: i simply replace all my quantity of water with warm unsalted whey .