The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Extra ingredients in starters

saradippity's picture

Extra ingredients in starters

I've been thinking a lot about certain starters (like a supposedly Amish recipe that I have that includes dairy, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and eggs) that have extra ingredients in them. Certain spices might permeate the liquid more, like how the flavor of soup might be enhanced from slow cooking, but my understanding is that they might also interfere with the process, as certain spices or flavorings may have antibacterial properties. I know I heard that many people have successfully put eggs and dairy in their starters, and if my friendship bread recipe is valid than obviously it has withstood the test of time and therefore it works. But is it a waste to add these extras or does it change the process in a beneficial way? 

Like, if we add dairy, does that mean that we have a sourdough culture overlapping a yogurt culture, therefore enhancing the process? If we add sugar to the starter, does that mean the sugar would be consumed and the flour would not be as consumed, altering the flavor in a beneficial way, or does it mean we've just had our yeast eat the sugar and it's gone and wasted? If we use a regular starter and add these extra ingredients to the final dough instead, how is the flavor profile and yeast activity changed? Is there any benefit to having eggs in the starter rather than the final dough, does the cinnamon slow down the yeast's consumption of the final product and therefore it doesn't get the "sour" flavor profile, ending in a sweeter bread, or does the cinnamon in the starter mean your starter has a greater likelihood of failure and less rise?

I know that's a lot of questions, and I haven't gone over all of the ingredients, but... in general, what is your thoughts or experiences with any ingredients other than flour and water in a starter? Have you noticed anything that indicates something should or should not be included in the starter versus the final dough?

phaz's picture

personally, I would keep a starter a starter, just flour and water. I wouldn't want to interfere with the natural balance a starter has developed over time. build up your starter so you have enough to play with and experiment a bit. you could have some interesting experiments there! don't forget to post results. I'm sure all would be interested.

saradippity's picture

I bet I end up doing just that, perhaps just one ingredient at a time, making a control loaf (the ingredient in the final dough) and an experimental loaf (the ingredient in the starter for two days).... Hmm. I need more jars. My starter is still maturing, though he did just throw his first tantrum today (blew his lid off his plastic container). I want to make sure I get consistent results and flavor off of him before I go and let him have children I can perform mad science research on.

BreadBro's picture

When it comes down to it, the only two things you really need out of a starter are the LABs and the yeast. Flavor you can easily add later when you're making the bread.

Some people do use things like grapes (the must on the grapes contains yeast) to help boost their fledling starter, but I think its unnecessary. I built mine up from only whole wheat and water, and I couldn't be happier.

DavidEF's picture

I've had the Amish Friendship Bread recipe pass through my house before, years ago. It didn't call for any spices, eggs or anything weird in the starter. It did call for flour and sugar, and if I recall correctly, maybe milk. The other stuff was added when you made the bread. Sounds like you got a bad copy of the original recipe.

saradippity's picture

Yeah, it's a little cheap eBook, I got it for the simplicity of a lot of the foods.

dabrownman's picture

i will put something new in the starter,  Whey, potato water, potato flakes, milk ,corn flour, sweat potato flour, oat four etc - just to keep it on its toes and at its peak.  Just flours and different liquids.  You can always separate out a special batch to do this too.  I think starters like variety as much as we do - since we likely evolved from them :-)

Antilope's picture

From BakeWise by Shirley O. Corriher, on page 479 is a chart showing various spices and their positive or negative effect on yeast activity.

Here's a link to the page on Google Books:

saradippity's picture

Awesomesauce! I knew there had to be at least some info on the subject. I totally almost bought that book and decided not to, I was looking online and made my decision based on the description. I made the wrong choice, it looks like the kind of info I'm in to.

Antilope's picture

The has an e-copy of "CookWise" by Shirley O. Corriher that you can check out to read on your computer or read online. The baking section has a lot of the same info as "BakeWise". Here is the link:


the hows and whys of successful cooking

1st ed.

Shirley O. Corriher
Published 1997 by William Morrow in New York .
Written in English.

About the Book
In "CookWise", Shirley Corriher, the "Sherlock Holmes of cooking", reveals the astonishing drama set in motion every time a potato hits hot fat to become a French fry or the oven's heat bakes the outside of a chicken into a caramel crust. "Corriher is a true original--an experienced cook and teacher who also happens to be a trained chemist and a great storyteller".--Harold McGee.

Edition Notes
Includes bibliographical references (p. 480-491) and index."