The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough question-fermenting dough vs traditional starter method?

Tmoulti's picture

Sourdough question-fermenting dough vs traditional starter method?

Greetings everyone,  first post today!  So I was wondering if instead of fermenting a water and flour mixture (the normal way),  you could just mix together e.g. bread dough and let it sit until it's strong enough for leavening and then use it to bake bread? Could this actually work,  and if so,  how would it differ from the starter method?  Thanks.  

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

Nice to have you here. Can you explain a bit further? I understand fermenting water and flour [to make a sourdough starter] but what do you mean by "just mix together" bread dough.

Do you mean just flour and water into a dough and wait however long till it rises and then bake it? Or do you mean using dough from a previous bake AKA pate fermentee?

I suppose the reason why you wouldn't just make a dough, minus any yeast - bakers or natural, is because it will lack a viable and stable starter and therefore you will be at mercy from the elements. It might very well not rise at all. Or it might take too long and it'll go mouldy. You could get a fermentation but the flavours will be off due to unwanted bacteria which good bacteria in viable starters have out competed against bad bacteria. Conditions would have to be just perfect for a spontaneous rise and checks all the right boxes for a nice loaf... etc.

You're basically doing the same thing when making a starter from scratch but you're cultivating it in such a way that you're left with a strong and healthy starter before using in a bread. This way all the good stuff goes in rather then just waiting and hoping all goes right.

Tmoulti's picture

Thanks for the response.    Yeah, I simply meant making a dough and then letting it ferment until ready for baking.    

David R's picture
David R

Your plan might work, but it's like creating a professional sports team by buying a ball, setting it in the middle of a field, and hiring people in the same order in which they show up.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

take time and your gluten matrix may deteriorate before the organisms get organized.  Look up "back slopping". That is what has speeded up the process of making a wild sourdough culture.  

There are several starters started in the way you suggest, but when the starter seems ready and has sorted itself out, it will not be baked but be used with fresh flour to make a dough.  Chances for a great loaf improve significantly.  :)

David Mackie's picture
David Mackie

What you are suggesting is along the lines of using a poolish or biga.  You mix flour and water and leave it overnight or longer and then use that in the final mix.  It does ferment a certain amount in that time and adds complexity (and structure) to the bread.  For example baguettes use a poolish.  Ciabatta use a biga (a biga is a stiff poolish)

But no you can't leave it for example a week until it is all frothy and then try to make bread from it as the mixture won't have any strength and you won't be able to get any gluten development.  

The way I make bread is I keep a starter going (about 100-200g) and then when I want to bake I build a levain for that particular bake.  Take a tablespoon or two of starter, add the required flour and water, leave on the counter for 8-12 hours (put an elastic around the container at the initial height of the volume so you can tell how much it has grown). I discard the rest of the starter and take a little left over from the build, add flour and water and put in the fridge until my next bake (if you bake every day you don't need to put in the fridge).  I bake about once every 7-10 days. I always make a 100% hydration starter and levain (equal flour and water) and adjust the flour/water mix in the recipe to get the desired hydration for the final dough.

This build gives you a nice young fresh levain which has more lactic than acetic acid so is sweeter and more complex and less sour.