The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

noobie, very confused over recipes calling for "1 cup sourdough starter", do they mean pre-ferment?

beakernz's picture

noobie, very confused over recipes calling for "1 cup sourdough starter", do they mean pre-ferment?

So I've got a good healthy starter.  I feed it once a day which is removing all of it but 50grams, then adding 100gms water and 70gms organic rye.  Over the next 24hrs it doubles and I repeat the process.  Now I have all this leftover starter I do not want to throw away.  I then see recipes for pancackes and biscuits.  They call for 1 cup starter + 1 cup flour etc.  But someone here in new zealand says to me that that would be WAY too powerful, that they would only need 1 cup starter to make 75 loaves.  So is the recipe right?  I actually use an entire cup of raw starter?  I don't want to cook something nasty or overpowering that makes me ill.  If it's pre-ferment then why don't the recipes call for it.  I'm not even sure how to make a pre-ferment that meets the requirements of said recipes so that I have "1 cup starter".  Thanks for any help clearing this up.

RobynNZ's picture

Hi there

In general recipes for using up starter 'discard' do not rely on the leavening power of the starter. In fact, they will often include chemical leaveners such as  baking powder, baking soda. They usually don't include any long fermentation steps. My favourite pancake recipe can be found on SusanFNP's Wildyeast site.  If you use the search box here on TFL, you will find numerous ideas for using spare starter.  

Your starter is very liquid. The easist way to calculate the hydration of the starter is by adjusting flour weight to 100.  In your case for every 100 grams of flour you are using approx 143g water.  This is known as a 143% hydration starter. [A 100% hydration starter is made up with equal weights of flour and water, for example 100g flour & 100g water]

Susan's recipe calls for 511g 100% hydration starter (I guess she has recalculated from ounces,when I make the pancakes I half her recipe and use 250g of 100% hydration starter).  In order for you to use her recipe you will need to add some flour to your starter to achieve the same flour:water ratio. In 500g of 100% starter there is 250g of water and 250g of flour.  425g of your starter will provide 250g of water, and 175g of flour. You will need to add 75g of flour to 425g of your starter to achieve 500g at the same consistency as Susan. Of course this is something you can experiment with, you may actually prefer looser (thinner) pancakes than she makes.

Now when it comes to bread baking, in making a basic 1kg dough mix, I use 10 grams of my starter to prepare a levain the night before I make my bread. Using your friend's logic 500g of my starter would seed about 50 loaves. But of course flour and water are used to build up the levain, in fact we are just making a bigger 'starter', in which the yeast and bacteria population is encouraged to grow. Then when we mix up up the final dough and ferment it,  it is the same thing again, we create what is essentially a huge "starter".  Be it seed, or  levain or proofed bread dough the components are the same flour, water, natural yeast (and for the bread dough, additionally, salt). So, you do not have to worry that by using a large portion of starter in say pancakes that you will get sick. 

What bread have you been making?  I saw your post the other day about a DO. How have you got on using it? 

Where abouts are you? I'm on Waiheke. 

Try some pancakes for breakfast - they're delicious!

Cheers, Robyn




beakernz's picture

Hi, great info thanks!  I have a LOT to learn no doubt.  I have not made bread yet, tomorrow is my first breadmaking day.  I have a pre-ferment sitting overnight and in the morning will begin with the dough.  I'm in Dunedin so having to make good use of the hot water cupboard :)

Grenage's picture

While it's common for folks to take a small amount of starter and use that to build a levain, many people will simply take straight from the starter what they need; that's what I do.   Recipes may or may not assume one way or the other, but it doesn't make any difference.

After all, a levain and a starter are the same thing; you're just building in one container, or two.  My average loaf (900g) contains 150g of starter/levain.

Craig_the baker's picture
Craig_the baker

When you say Dunedin, do you mean Dunedin,FL? If so, hi neighbor!! Im just north of you in Palm Harbor. :-)