The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough loaf without a starter

HappyBear's picture

Sourdough loaf without a starter

As I know several days in advance when I will next bake, do I really need a starter sitting in the fridge?  After all, if it takes 6 days to develop a starter and each day it is fed ~50gm flour ~50gm water at the end of the six days I would have 300gm water and then I could just add the remaining flour to get it to 75% hydration.

I have just tried this and the resulting loaf tasted absolutely amazing.  One of the things that I did was 'stretch' the embryonic starter while feeding it so that the gluten was already well developed by the time the last flour was added.

I was wondering if anyone else had tried this method?

Anon2's picture
Anon2 (not verified)

If all goes according to plan! Your experience this time might not be the same experience next time. Makes sense to save some starter and refrigerate it till the next bake instead of starting from scratch each time. 

What happens if you wish for another bake 3 days later? The baking bug hits you midweek and there's no starter ready. 

While your method can work often, even if all goes according to plan, you might not want the bugs which show up in starter in the first few days ending up in the final loaf. Feeding and discarding also serves to nurture only good bacteria and strong yeasts. While it also stops too much starter accumulating you're also providing the ideal environment for the survival of the fittest without any off flavours which might occur. 

Another reason I can think of is a starter when it first matures is not like a starter which is nurtured beyond that. In other words it continues to improve over time after initial maturation. 

Why is your method any easier than keeping a starter in the fridge and not continuously making a starter from scratch? Your way is not a loaf without a starter it's many loaves with many starters. 

HappyBear's picture

The big advantage of doing it this way is that I can explore all sorts of different starter tastes without having loads of jars of starter in the fridge!  Currently, I am doing a Khorazan based loaf, so the initial flour for the first 2 days is Kamut, then I will add the other flours that I want in the loaf.  It looks pretty good as it started bubbling by the second day - we shall see what happens. 

Anon2's picture
Anon2 (not verified)

However one can keep a single starter and explore too. That's what building levains is all about. Allows you to keep one mature starter and use it to build off-shoot starters all the while having security and more assured success. One doesn't need endless starters and feeding schedules. 

I hope you have success but building doughs over a week might not always work, can suddenly go quiet for a few days or by the time it's ready the flour has degraded and/or has some unwanted bugs resulting in off flavours. 

But exploring is learning and fun. Looking forward to hearing about the results.

Carvendive's picture

I'm so new here that I probably shouldn't say anything. However, my situation requires that I dump my starter in two weeks as I'm going to be in my RV for the next 6mo. It has limited refrigeration and my wife says No Starter.  So I've been researching... I'm going to try this (which sounds similar). Worst case I'll have some hockey pucks to throw at the 'gaters ;-)

It's called a Poolish:

200g Flour

200g Water

Pinch Yeast

Once mixed, a poolish style preferment will be ready to use in about 12-18 hours, assuming an ambient room temperature of 68-72°F/20-22°C and my yeast usage doesn’t exceed .2% based on the flour’s weight.

idaveindy's picture


Don't dump it out!   Dehydrate it for long term storage.  Instructions here:


phaz's picture

If you have a set schedule to make a loaf, there's an even easier way to go about it - fridge not needed. But, schedules are nice when they can be flexible - and when it does flex, you gotta to. Cold, yeast, salt, time, temp - and more - are all tools one should be acquainted with - Murphy's Law - something will happen, and it'll be at the most inopportune time - the more options ya have the better. Enjoy!

idaveindy's picture

"After all, if it takes 6 days to develop a starter and each day it is fed ~50gm flour ~50gm water at the end of the six days I would have 300gm water and then I could just add the remaining flour to get it to 75% hydration."

That's a problem.  Doing it that way, your feeding ratio goes down every day.  The minimum is generally 1:1:1. 

Two potentially harmful situations  can crop up:  a) You could get some mold or bacteria creep in before the starter turns acidic enough to kill them, or kill enough of the mold spores  or bacteria cells. b) the "old" flour degrades and becomes too large a percentage of the starter.  Then if that degraded, proteolytic, starter is too high a percent of the loaf, you just get a mess.

Sometimes the stars align and a whole-grain starter is ready within a few days. but you can't reliably count on it.


There are other ways to avoid the problem of too many jars in fridge:

- using a firm, 50-60% hydration starter/biga stored in fridge or at room temp. Low hydration means you don't have to feed it as often.

- "desem" method, room temp. Long story.

- dehydrating starter. Takes about 6 days to revive, but you get the same strains of bugs back, and so you're not rolling the dice each time.

- Keeping small amounts, 10 grams of starter, in small jars. And "building a levain (from the starter)"  for the loaf, not directly using "starter."   This was a hard thing for me to wrap my head around when I first  began sourdough. I still don't do it, but at least I think I understand it now.  It's that "old flour" in a slowly built-up starter that hurts. "Young levain", built in 12/24 hours, means almost all new/freshly fermented flour, minimizing the presence of old/degraded/protelytic flour.

Hope this helps. Bon appétit!