The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why not bleached? Why such high Hyd. to begin? Why rye?

kimemerson's picture

Why not bleached? Why such high Hyd. to begin? Why rye?

I want to make a sourdough starter using Caputo 00 flour for pizza. I have seen recommendations against making a starter with bleached flour and I am fairly certain 00 is bleached. Is this a real concern that will have a negative effect on the starter's ability to be made? Or is it likely a personal preference against bleached flours?


Also, I have seen recipes for liquid levain (130% hydration) that call for a first day of something like a 320% hydration, followed by the 130% thereafter. Why the larger hydration on day one? Why not simply start and maintain the desired hydration % all the way till the levain is made?


Next question: Why start a levain with rye flour as well as the white (for example) only on day 1 and then discontinue the rye from then on? Why is the rye used at all?




mrfrost's picture

1. Pretty sure that, in general, true Italian 00 flour is not bleached. Bleach is a very effective killer of most microscopic wildlife. Almost certain that Caputo is unbleached.

2. Not at all familiar with this, but will hazard a wild "guess" that the initial high hydration is to get the fermentation process off to a very fast start.

3. The rye plant, it's berries and flour are believed to have higher populations of the wild yeasts that one is attempting to culture.

kimemerson's picture


1. I wasn't 100% certain about 00 being b leached. It was an assumption. I hope you're right, though.

2. So would you figure I could just go ahead and make a levain at the hydration I want in the end? Start @ 130% and keep it like that? It makes sense to me. Just wondering.

3. How does the small amount of rye affect he final result if you don't want rye in the final dough?Or will it evenetually not be an issue by the time the levain is complete and has been used and refreshed a few times? Eventually, won't all the rye not even be present?

Again, thanks

mrfrost's picture

Again, these are just generalities, oversimplifications; possibilities as to why one may or may not be successful in getting yeast to grow and flourish. Not that one absolutely cannot start with or use bleached flour, or that yeast won't grow without rye.

2. As I don't know the context within which the process is being used, and/or the recipe, I won't comment on that. I will say that personally, for recipes I am unfamiliar with, I usually try to follow as written, on the first attempt.

3. Yes, the rye is virtually gone after a couple of refreshes. Optimally, your starter has been well established by the time you are ready to use it in a recipe.

Good luck.

kimemerson's picture

the bleached or not bleached is, for me, a matter of personal preference. I prefer not bleached. I just wasn't sure if it mattered.

I have been using Dan Leader's levain recipe for liquid levain, which calls for a 320% hyd. on day one and then drops to a 130% thereafter. I started a Caputo 00 liquid levain which, after 10 days, was not happpening. (I have made successful liquid & stiff before so I have a clue). The only differences I can think of that I made were the substiution of the 00, no rye, and starting out right away @ 130%, not the suggested 320%.


My main purpose for having a levain for the pizza is nothing more than my own penchant for some sort of purity. I would like to make pizza without yeast. ADY is a commercial product. wild is.. wild. ADY was created in 1849 or something, in Vienna. Leavened doughs prdate that and that fascinates me. Pizza predates that too. So it;s just part of my pursuit of some concept of originality.


I will give the 00 another go, of course.



swtgran's picture

I have maintained my starter for over 20 years.  I started it without any commercial yeast, or rye flour, or fruit anything and I have used it to make many great tasting sourdough baked goods.  I used bleached all purpose flour to make and maintain it for most of that time.

I used to take it from the refrigerator, stir it, bring it to room temp, take out what I needed for the recipe, feed it with what ever amount of water and flour made it  a thin pancake like batter consistency, let it be on the counter for about 45 min. then put it away until the next time I felt like baking.

So far, nothing bad has happened to me, my family, or friends, or my bread.  I have sinced moved on to feeding it with unbleached all purpose flour, just because. 

I also maintain a whole wheat starter that has nothing in it but home ground white whole wheat and water.  It works beautifully.  It started right up, so to speak.

Now I use a scale, unbleached flour or whole wheat.  Come to think of it, I don't think I have any better success than I used to, it just seems like the right thing to do.  Must not be so bad, either, because I have won blue ribbons at the fair.

ehanner's picture

The rising power or ability as well as the flavoring imparted by the cultures iin your starter will be determined by how and what you feed the population of living things. How quickly the population of desirable individuals grows will vary depending on the seed (flour type), hydration, acidity, temperature and feeding schedule. Creating a starter is much like having a child. You wouldn't expect a new born to do any productive work. Children need to be fed and educated and nurtured before they become productive members of our society. The same applies to a natural levain, in a much shorter time span thankfully.

From all that I know and have read, The character of a starter or the suitability to produce a particular kind of bread or flavor is determined by the feeding schedule, the temperature and the hydration that is maintained over time. The culture will stabilize after a time, giving specific types of bacteria the  strength to prosper and multiply. Those that prefer more less acidic environments or warmer or colder environments will diminish in number and strength. In the end, we want a healthy stable culture. Once established, the population is very hard to ruin or kill. After all, it is nature doing what nature does best.

I keep a starter at a firm hydration (50: 80w :100F). When I need a liquid starter for a build, I usually feed a small amount of the mother culture once or twice at the required hydration and that seems to work fine. Hope this helps.

Suggested reading: Debra Winks Pineapple solution


flournwater's picture

I use bleached flour routinely when making bread.  Never had a problem.

Emelye's picture

From what I've read, from second hand sources I admit, chlorine gas is used to bleach the flour.  That presents 2 concerns.

First, chlorine is toxic at a certain level.  While it may not be toxic from one slice of bread made from bleached flour it seems wise to me to avoid even small amounts of toxin that are so easily avoided when I consider how any unavoidable toxins I undoubtedly ingest.

Second, I suspect the bleaching process is used in lesser quality flours whose acceptability is then increased by its lighter shade.  Again, this may not affect the bread discernably, I suppose, but it seems that it ought to.

It's like the artificial sweetener, Splenda™.  This stuff is a sugar molecule adulterated by a chlorine atom.  The proponents of the stuff say it passes right through with no harm done to the person ingesting it.  I still have to wonder, however, how much the liver has to work on it before deciding it's not good enough to use.

It seems such a small thing, I know, and using unbleached and unbromated flours just feels better to me.

MichaelH's picture

I must question your post.

First, Chlorine gas is just one of several chemicals that is used to quickly oxidize flour. None of them are toxic in the finished product. The FDA and hundreds of millions of bread eaters say so. If it seems wise to avoid it anyway, you should abstain from eating, drinking and breathing, because there are minute amounts of substances in everything, that when given to laboratory rats in hundreds of pounds, will kill them.

Second, "suspecting" lower quality flours are bleached to mask their inferiority does not make it so. "Supposing" that "it ought to" is not a valid claim.

Third, "wondering" about how the liver works is daydreaming, not science.

Your preferences are your business, but trying to scare others into agreeing with you is not approriate.

For the record, I too use unbleached flour, because I grind my own wheat for most of my baking.

Lastly, welcome to the forum.



flournwater's picture

Go  .... Michael.  True science wins over theoretical "science" (or overactive imaginations) any day.

Emelye's picture

Since we are expposed to so many toxins that we have no control over, I feel it's a good thing to avoid them if we can.  The toxins do not only affect flour and bread, they affect upstream and downstream envirnments as well.

As far as "scaring" people is concerned, I'm sorry you interpreted it that way.  Next time I'll try to be more clear regarding my personal opinions.

ssor's picture

diet. Common table salt is sodium chloride. One of the digestive conponents is hydrochloric acid. Chlorine is used to sanitize our drinking water. I hear people making scary talk about "Chemicals" in our food but remark about a fragrant smell of wood smoke which contains some 250 chemicals some of which are very harmful if we immerse our bodies in a tub full.

G-man's picture

It's like the nitrite/nitrate thing in cured meats. Celery and spinach contain very large amounts of nitrates. If we had a problem processing nitrates and nitrites, spinach would have destroyed us as a species.


Yes, if you inhale a large amount of chlorine gas you probably won't feel very good. About 4,000 people die per year in the USA from fatal inhalation of dihydrogen monoxide, yet without water our world would be uninhabitable.

DavidEF's picture

Dihydrogen Monoxide is very dangerous indeed! I just looked it up online, and boy have my eyes been opened! Here, see for yourself:

By the way, I've also read from various sources that in large doses, oranges are carcinogenic, and don't forget that apple seeds contain a significant amount of arsenic!

May we all remember that anything that occurs naturally in our environment has a good and useful purpose that supports life. And anything that is taken out of its natural context can be harmful or even deadly. We live in a world where everything is considered dangerous, except the things that really are dangerous. Even mercury has healing properties, if used properly.

Now, back on topic, I've used bleached AP flour to feed my starter. I switched to unbleached recently, even though it is a little more expensive. While using bleached AP, my starter always smelled like a fresh bowl of interior house paint. Now, it has a more pleasant, slightly sour smell. It smells natural, like something that can be eaten. I think I'll keep it that way.

As for using it to start a culture, I would think it has to do with giving the yeasts and LABs the very best environment to flourish in, at least at the beginning, when there are not so many of them. You want the most natural, comfortable environment for them to be encouraged to multiply exceedingly. That is also the reason for the rye flour. As was already mentioned, rye flour has more of the little yeasties and LABs to get you started. The more you start with, the faster you fill up, as they spread exponentially. I don't know why the higher hydration is used. But, if you're following the recipe, you might as well follow the recipe in that regard as well.

ssor's picture

Rye flour, whole wheat and buckwheat a spoonful of each and two spoonfuls of orange juice. This morning I added a spoonful unbleach white and a spoonful of water. Kitchen temperature is in the very low 70's. I just put a toothpick sample under the microscope to check progress because there isn't much happening to the naked eye. I have a very active yeast colony started.

raspberry's picture

Hi, I was googling to see whether rye flour gets bleached and landed on this page. Just want to add something to the bleached-unbleached flour discussion. I was having allergies w/ difficulty breathing(astma-like), itchy palate, nose, eye etc. I went to an allergy specialist. He ran the test with many needle pokes on my arm. It showed I have dust mite, maple pollen etc. allergies. He suggested changing my mattress and Claritin and stuff ,that was about it. After a while I changed a few things in my life and now have the allergies under control. I can say I am mostly symptom free w/out any medication. So those things were: Switching to unbleached flour (I can really tell that if I eat bleached flour such as in pastries that a friend cooked etc, my symptoms of shortness of breath and itchy palate, itchy nose etc starts), switching to nonhomogenized milk (or should say buying farm milk and boiling it at home), using raw sugar, peeling the skin of apples and some other fruits.) I wanted to share this experience of mine hoping someone with allergies can try and benefit from what I did.