The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Motherdough Perfection!

flyguyjake's picture

Motherdough Perfection!

Hi All,

This is my first post on the forum and I've thoroughly enjoyed reading many of your posts. I love SD bread and have recently over the past few months started baking SF SD bread. I would like to draw on your experiences working with a Motherdough. Specifically nurturing a Motherdough similar to Boudin.

I've seen  a few videos of baker Fernando @ Boudin showing off the Motherdough and he always asks people to smell it as he rips it open and squishes it back to expel a big whiff of ripeness! Everyone's expression is shear amazement, and he says it can clear your sinuses! How the heck do they get it so ripe? Fernando says they feed it very strong flour for the bacteria to have plenty of food. Strong flour?

I've read that in Southern California the bread will taste different due to local bacteria, I'm fine with that but I'd still like to get my Motherdough as ripe as possible with the end result as naturally tangy as can be. I have two cultures from which I started my two Motherdoughs; KAF & Cultures for Health SF SD.

Here are my questions;

1) Do your starters have a nose biting pungent smell?

2) What hydration level would produce a pungent Mother? Lower hydration = more sour right?

3) What temperature should I store the Motherdough at? I've heard 48*? Which temp best promotes the lactic acid development?

4) What flour do you think Boudin is using to feed Momma? 14% protein? White, Wheat, Rye? I've seen bags of Mello Judith in videos.

5) What feeding schedule would produce the most lactic acid?


Reference videos;

0:25 Fernando brings out motherdough. Look how firm it is and the dark creamy color.

1:25 motherdough vault

In this video you see Fernando explain that they feed Mother very strong flour. You can also see how dense the mother is and how much darker the color is.





LindyD's picture

Hi Jake,

The only time my own sourdough starter has a nose biting pungent smell is when it's past its prime and needs refreshing.

As to your question about lactic acid, I think Debra Wink contributions to TFL will be helpful to you.  Here's a link to her article on lactic acid:

She's written much more, which you can find by using her name in the TFL search bar.

Happy reading...

[edited to add an additional terrific link: ]

flyguyjake's picture

After reading Debra's post on the 3 stages of sourdough posted here;

Please allow me to start over. I desire to maintain a "stock culture" where Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis and wild yeast Candida humilis thrive. I have on hand a dried SF SD culture containing Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis bacteria and wild yeast Candida humilis that I wish to use.

So my new set of questions become;

1) Desired PH?

Debra states that the ideal PH for Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis is a PH of 5.5, but the growth of the bacteria is inhibited at 4.0-4.5 so how do I maintain PH above 4.5 at all times?

2) Hydration? Is there an ideal hydration level for both the bacteria and the yeast? Does RO water play a factor?

3) Optimal temperature? Ideal for bacteria growth is 89* and for yeast growth is 82* according to this article;

4) Type of flour or combination thereof? Rye? Wheat? 14% protein?

5) Back-slopping percentage? inoculum 1/3?

6) If household refrigerators are too cold 40* and below, why do companies that sell starters tell customers to put the starter in the refer? Wouldn't this ruin the starter over time by killing off the bacteria?




Andrew P.'s picture
Andrew P.

The cultures will continue to grow at refrigerator temperatures and need to be fed with flour, water and perhaps a little sugar every 2 to 3 weeks, but it slows them down, so one doesn't need to feed them every day.  This is suitable for people who bake sourdough bread occasionally, or who bake larger batches and freeze their loaves, as my mother did for decades.  My father was a school teacher, and since he had the summers off, my parents would typically travel for a month during his vacation time.  To keep the starter alive, my mother would put it in the freezer and revive it 6 to 8 weeks later, without fail.  Freezing reduces the feeding requirement to zero.  The only concern then is gradual drying out.

Wild-Yeast's picture


Strong flour is the keyword.

High protein - high gluten flour at 50% hydration always yields the ripest and sharpest of sponge ferments. I use high protein durum flour (the gluten at this stage doesn't seem to be as important as the protein) for a sour sponge. And yes, it has an unmistakable scent when the container is opened. All fermentation is accomplished at room temperature through 85 dF (29.4 dC). High protein (~14%) - high gluten commercial flours work just as well...,