The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Are sourdough starters exchangeable with different bread recipes?

wvdthree's picture

Are sourdough starters exchangeable with different bread recipes?

Hello all,

              I'm new to baking bread but having been baking almost daily for the last ten days and have benefited greatly already from this site. I have been baking straight doughs  and ones with pre-ferments and have been fairly successful. I want to use these types of doughs to learn about techniques,what dough handling feels like etc. before moving onto sourdough style breads. It seem like they are perhaps more forgiving than sourdoughs. I've been using Lahey,Hamelman and Forkish.


     I am currently reading a lot about starters thru books,TFL and other websites and forums. Frankly it's making my head spin there is so much information available. My question is this; can I use a starter from another recipe to make breads from Forkish,Tartine etc.? In other words,are starters and bread recipes interchangeable? I know this will seem like sacrilege to many as many people here are strong Tartine/FWSY devotees. My issue is that I would like to build a starter that is as low maintenance as possible,maintains a smaller quantity of starter and also limits waste of discards. I really would not make use of the discards in pancake/muffin etc baking. I have found a few such recipes and am considering starter one this weekend. I currently have FWSY from the library and am waiting for Tartine to arrive.


     To build a levain most recipes call for x amount of a "mature starter" plus water,combinations of flours and salt. If I make a 1:1:1 starter with a combination of rye and whole wheat flours can I use this for many different bread recipes? I'm guessing that in general yes but that final,finished results of a baked loaf may vary. This is one important variable and substituting a different starter may result in different finished result than the author intended. Anyway,I think at this point you get the gest of my question. Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated.










Danni3ll3's picture

starter from Dabrownman on this site. Basically, it is a very thick starter that lives in the fridge. When you want to make bread, you take a small quantity and feed that in stages until you have enough for your recipe. Usually 3-4 stages will do it. This way, there is no waste at all. 

And as long as the hydration is what they call for in the recipe, you can use any starter. If they don’t specify the hydration, it usually means a 100% starter which is one fed equal amounts of water and flour by weight. 

I do a slightly modified version of the NFNM starter. I just feed mine till it is thick without measuring otherwise the rest is the same. When it gets low or if I happen to have left over Levain, it gets fed. Dabrownman has his last 6 months in the fridge. 

leslieruf's picture

Most folks here maintain their starter, be it white, rye or something else, then build the levain for each bread according to quantity, hydration and flour type required for each bake.

good luck, and happy baking


eddieruko's picture

*technically* not all starters are the same, be it white, whole wheat, rye or a blend... variables such as temp, grain type, quality, and maturity, etc. can affect how each of those starters leaven the dough. 

that said, when looking at recipes... if it calls for 250g levain (perhaps with 50g starter, 100g flour, 100g H2O), the starter can be whatever you want/have available. most probably maintain one starter. some like to experiment with different starters and see how they affect the bake. i would recommend starting with one starter and getting comfortable with a feeding schedule that you like.

one helpful tip as you get started... don't feel like you have to be bound to really strict schedules and times. you'll bake great bread if you don't autolyse, whether you autolyse for 30 mins or 2 hours, whether your levain is "young" or right at peak maturity, whether you folded exactly at 1 hour intervals or went to church and came back 2 hours later. don't let your dough or schedules run your day. as you bake, you'll get curious how all of those various levers can be adjusted to suit your schedule, ingredients, and vision. 

happy baking!


Edo Bread's picture
Edo Bread

Some would say in some ways all starters ARE the same. A substrate that allows the production of yeast and bacteria (the active ingredients) - if you use it for flavor or to to have dough rise in a given time, those could be other attributes.

An interesting read on the subject:

dabrownman's picture

from the No Muss No Fuss Starter post from 2014.  I have been using this since late 2013.  I know can keep it for half a year though since I bake less often today.

I thought I would make a post on how I keep my starter for those who have an interest in doing the same.  My method is based on several wants.  First, I don’t want to maintain or feed a starter for up to 16 weeks.  Second, I want to keep as small amount of starter as possible so that I can bake a loaf of bread each week using a bit of it and still have it last 16 weeks.  Thirdly, I want a starter that is sourer and has a higher LAB to yeast ratio than the normal 100 to 1 found in most starters.  Finally two more wants, I don’t want any waste and I want to make any kind of bread with it.

No Muss No Fuss Starter

To make the rye seed starter, an easy way that works every time that you can use to make bread in 5 days is:

Take 30 g of rye flour and mix in 25 g of water.  Cover with plastic and let it sit for 24 hours in a warm place 74-78 F is best

Day 2 Add 30 g of rye flour and 25 g of water mix, cover and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 3 divide the mix in half and add 30 g of rye flour and 25 g of water to each half and let sit covered in a warm place for 24 hours

Day 4 toss half of each and add 60 g of rye flour and 50 g of water to each.  cover and let sit in warm place for 24 hours.

Day 5 use one to make a loaf of bread using it as a levain.   The other one becomes your mother by adding 30 g of rye flour to it to thicken it up and let it sit for 12 hours.  Now you have the seed or mother to make a NMNF starter but I would not do so for at least 3 more weeks until your mother is stronger.

Happy NMNF baking


wvdthree's picture

Thanks all for the helpful comments and links! I hope to get my starter started today. Special thanks to dabrownman for having the exact solution to my query.