The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Leftover starter

Floydm's picture

Leftover starter

This question was sent to me via email:

I have been making bread since the mid 1970's. During the past few years, I have been experimenting with starters instead of using variations on the straight yeast dough method.

More recently, I have been experimenting with starters, sour dough, and
related approaches based on recipes and instructions from several of
Peter Reinhart’s books. The bread usually comes out fine although
the process is labor-intensive and time-consuming.

With all of the reciepes in several of his books, I seem to wind up
throwing away a lot of starter or seed. Starting with a small
beginning batch, I let it rise. After the indicated period of time, I
work on it for a few minutes. Instructions say to let a portion of the
starter rise again and suggest that I can discard the rest that is not
needed. Too much starter retards growth of the yeast and the ripening
of the dough.

Am I reading the instructions correctly--does the starter/sour dough
method always give the cook excess dough at the end of each step or
rise that must be thrown out?

Thanks to whoever can provide an answer or guidance?

FYI Reinhart was on one of the cooking shows on NPR. Either he or the
host offered an email for listeners with questions. I asked this same
question but did not get an answer.

I believe the answer is yes, you always end up needing to discard some extra starter.

The last story I can find on that Peter was in was this story about pizza from November. If anyone can find a more recent one, please post it.

andrew_l's picture

I used to suffer badly throwing away good starter! But I've got a partial solution to this now.

I take 30 grams starter, add 30 of water and 50 grams of organic white bread flour, mix, ferment an hour or so, then cover it and put into the fridge. This stiffer starter keeps very well in refrigeration.

When I make a loaf requiring 300 grams active starter, I begin the day before I need it, take 20 grams of starter from my stock starter, add 45 grams water and 45 grams flour, mix and cover. The original starter gets fed with 30 grams water and 50 grams flour, mix and refrigerate (It grows slightly each time and eventually it can either be split into two so two starters are running, or you go back to taking 30 grams of this starter and 50 of flour, 30 of water, discarding the rest.

In the eveing, you take all of the active starter - 100 grams, allowing for the bits that stick to the side of the bowl, add 100 grams water and 100 grams flour. Mix and cover.

next morning - voila!! - 300 grams active starter, waiting to go. It responds very well like this and can raise either a 1 or a 2 kilo boule very well.

While you are still discarding some starter every few weeks, you can use this discarded amount to raise a sourdough pizza - so none ever goes to waste. And I'm quite sure that for centuries this is how it was done - flour was FAR too valuable to waste any!!


andrew_l's picture

Bill, I tend to maintain 3 starters, using the method above. Two sit ignored by and large - they can last for months, until you want to activate them.
The one I use most is the one which gets fed most. I just hate wating good ingredients by chucking it!

KazaKhan's picture

I've only been using a starter for 8 days, the starter itself is 16 days old. Up until it was ready to use I threw 50% or more away every day. But since last Monday I've been using 70-80% of my starter every day to make bread. I feed the left over starter and let sit for 2-4 hours (or I might split it at this point and let it sit again for more starter) before it goes back in the fridge. And I must say I'm suprised how easy it is to make good bread with nothing more than flour, water and a bit of salt and the yeast in the starter of course. This was todays effort :-)

andrew_l's picture


what a fabulous loaf! Exellent shape. Is it free formed or raised in a bakset?

KazaKhan's picture

Thank you andrew, it is free formed I don't have any baskets yet.

dirider's picture

I've been pumping up my 100% hydration starter to make SJ Sourdough for a club luncheon this weekend. As I fed my starter, setting side excess to keep the formulae balanced, I noticed that it continued to thrive under refrigeration.

This morning I got an idea and 'what the heck' nothing to lose, mixed in a little salt, let it come up to room temp, then gently scooped it into a lightly sprayed glazed ceramic baking dish.

3 hours on the sideboard and it got bubbly bubbly. Preheated the oven to 460 deg convect, 12 min with 1 ice cube, then 16 minutes more, and finally 7 minutes with oven off and door propped open.

Oh la la! Black Forest Ham with melted Provolone on crispy sandwich bun, Lovely...