The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Does the type of starter really matter?

theresasc's picture

Does the type of starter really matter?

I have a lively little rye starter and I have found a couple of breads that I would like to try to bake that call for a white starter.  Other than a different flavor imparted to the bread, will using a rye starter instead of a white impact the bread?

dabrownman's picture

I use a small amount, 6-10 g of stiff rye starter, to make all of my breads regardless of what kind they are.  I build a levain over 3 stages to get the prefermented flour to 10-20% or so of the total flour in the recipe.  The levain is fed what ever the bread is going to be, White, whole wheat, rye, durum or multigrain etc.  Seems to work fine for me 

If you are making an 800 g of white bread and use 150 g of whole rye levain then the change would be noticeable and the bread quite different but the way we do it, it has maybe 6 g of rye and unnoticeable - at least to me. 

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)


You have a couple of options.

1. If only a small amount of starter is asked for then won't harm the recipe. Sometimes enhances the flavour adding a bit of Rye. 

2. You can do builds from your starter, using preferments, changing the levain into the flour asked for. For example... 

Recipe asks for 150g of mature white starter. 

18 hours before do the first build of 16g rye starter + 17g white bread flour + 17g water. 

12 hours later you'll have 50g of mature white starter. Then onto the 2nd build. 

50g from first build + 50g white bread flour + 50g water. And because the starter was already mature this second build will be quicker so 4-6hrs later you'll have 150g of white bread flour levain for your recipe. 

It's advisable to do a few builds anyway to give it strength. This way by taking some off your rye starter to do builds with you'll keep your Starter as rye and you'll build a levain what the recipe asks for. 

theresasc's picture

I appreciate the quick response - it is sort of what I thought, but this starter road is a new place for me.  Nice to hear from experienced bakers.

subfuscpersona's picture

As has been said, it depends...

What is the hydration of your rye starter vs the hydration of the white starter you would like to use? If they're different, then ideally you would match the hydration of your rye starter to the white starter which can be done when you build your rye starter to the amount of white starter called for in the recipes you wish to use.

In the bread recipes using a white sourdough starter, what percentage of the total flour weight is contributed by the sourdough starter? If the flour weight of the starter is no more than 15% then I think you're safe replacing your rye starter for the white, given that the hydration of each starter is the same.

An all rye flour sourdough starter contributes little to gluten development in the final dough. If the flour in the *white* starter recipe exceeds 15% of the total flour weight you might want to consider scaling back the amount of starter and adjusting the recipe for this change.

You should be comfortable using the bakers percentage for these modifications. While I normally maintain a 100% white flour sourdough starter in small amounts I routinely will vary the flours feed to the seed starter to reach the amount required in my final recipe. I particularly like rye for the feeding for the flavor component.

Hope this helps - SF

richkaimd's picture

I think of it this way:  any sourdough culture serves primarily as a carrier of yeast, not flavor.  It can be thought of as a more liquid fresh yeast (the kind that maybe now in most supermarkets isn't sold anymore but when it was came in paper wrapped small cubes), dry active yeast or rapid rise yeast.  I never think of it as a purveyor of flavor.  For flavor I vary the temperature and duration of the bulk rise.  The shorter the rise (higher temperature, more yeast or both), the less the sour flavor; the longer the rise (cooler temperature, less yeast) the more the sour flavor.