The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

sour dough starter/mother starter?

christinepi's picture

sour dough starter/mother starter?

I've been trying to figure out the secrets of sourdough baking without the help of a book, but I finally realized maybe it would be better to consult one. So I picked Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. To my horror, everything is "different": there's talk about seed cultures leading to mother starters leading to sourdough starters... I just use the basic type sourdough starter that everybody here seems to be using, feeding it regularly 1:1:1, and using recipes based on using this type of starter. Is there some way I can use my starter and make that work in one of Reinharts' sourdough recipes? Or should I start over completely for his recipes and make a seed culture etc etc?

Janetcook's picture

Your starter will work.  Just use the amount he calls for in the formulas with the same hydration level and you will be just fine.

People/authors use different names for the same thing…or so I have learned, but what it all boils down to is getting a wild yeast starter that will work in your breads and a way of maintaining it's integrity so it stays healthy.


adri's picture

I don't know Peter Reinhart but from what I've red from your post, his method seems to be the European (maybe just German and Northern European Countries) way:

1. Keep a few grams of your Sourdough and store it in a cold place (fridge)
2. Take this stored dough as a seed starter and feed it in 1 or 3 steps to a ripe sourdough.
3. Keep a small part (step 1) and use the rest in your Bread dough as you would use your "continuously fed starter" the American way.

If you feed it in 3 steps, it has the advantage of better reproducibility in taste and timing which is needed if you want to sell the bread (look and taste) and work on a lot of breads simultaneously (timing). For home made bread that may differ a bit every time, you really can follow a much simpler approach.

Also for rye bread this approach is a good one. Traditionally rye needs the sourness to form a stable crumb. The above approach gives sourness and a rise. Today's rye flour has less enzymes so the sourness isn't that important anymore. But still: No rye without sourdough.

I use a simpler approach (ratio by weight):

My seed starter: - every few weeks or when I'm running low
I keep a seed starter in the fridge that I refresh every few weeks 1:2:2 (seed starter:rye flour:water) until it peaks in 4 hours or less.

My sourdough (starter): - the evening before I bake (10-18 hours earlier)
I use a ratio of 1:10:10 to 1:20:20. Let it ferment overnight on falling temperature. (In the cold oven with a teapot full of boiling water). The different temperature levels will give you different things: high: flavourful lactic acid; middle: yeast; low: strong acetic acid.

My bread dough: - about 1 hour before I heat my oven
Ratio 1:2:x on rye bread; On wheat or spelt I need less sourdough (starter).
There is no more "bulk fermentation" on this dough. After 10 minutes of kneading (and maybe another 5 after 10 minutes of pause) I will directly form the loafs and bake them 1 to 2 hours later.

If you want to try this, just take a teaspoon of your starter as seed starter.
If you want to experiment: Bake the bread with your starter (just take the amount of starter the recipe demands in the final dough) and a newly fed starter ("Sourdough", "Mother Starter", whatever you call it).
Or just try it with your starter. If it works, it works.
But I was really surprised about rich the flavour when I first tried the "feed a new starter from a seed" method.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I'd like to frame your last comment in Real 24k GOLD.    (many of your others as well)

My only trouble is that my oven is much larger and so I might have to use 2 or 3 teapots!  Lol!  (or one cup in the microwave)

lg  Mini

adri's picture

Thanks Mini. I like reading your comments as well.

Using the microwave oven is a good Idea. I'll use it for my final proof in the banneton next time while the baking oven is preheating.

How big is your oven? (or: How small your teapots? ;)) About 1,7l of boiling water will get my oven to about 30°C (86°F).
Can you switch on your light seperately?

Greetings from Linz (Upperaustria) :),