The Fresh Loaf

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Mad Scientist Bread made from excess starter

ryeaskrye's picture

Mad Scientist Bread made from excess starter

This is a post I created elsewhere and thought I would post here as well just to get some feedback. It is my first post at TFL, though I have been lurking on the fringes for a bit. I got into sourdough baking roughly 18 months ago and have gleaned much from this site. I also have received much help from Teresa at Northwest Sourdough, where I originally posted the following:

A small story, with a recipe...

I have been out of town for a few weeks. Prior to that, I had neglected my starters for a month or two...maybe even three. Feeling guilty, I decided to refresh and feed them and get them all back on track. I have five starters – a San Fran, Teresa's NW, Teresa's Desem, Ed Wood's South African WW and my own rye from scratch – all kept at 166% hydration except the desem at 80%. Refreshing them would be an undertaking entailing no small amount of excess starter waste. 

Which I also felt guilty about. So...

I collected all the excess (~700g total) in a single 1.5L jar. I then added about 100g of the desem into the jar. Just for fun I decided to play mad scientist and see what kind of bread this strange brew could create. Now, I know this is not conventional, and it is way too much starter to use in a recipe...I'm an amateur and don't know any better... but I figured I'm tossing it anyway and proceeded thusly, aiming for a 70% hydration dough:

700g of mixed and varied starters at 166%
100g of Desem starter at 80%
64g of warm filtered tap water 
462g of bread flour
180g King Arthur Flour Harvest Grains Blend
16g kosher salt

I began by soaking the KAF grain blend for 5 minutes in 2 cups of boiling water and then straining.

I mixed all the ingredients, except the salt, by hand until just blended and let autolyse for 20 minutes. I then hand kneaded for around 10 minutes (but FORGOT to put the salt in) and stuck in the fridge. It struck me about an hour later that I forgot the salt and I went back, added it to the dough and kneaded/folded for another 10 minutes and stuck back in the fridge.

14 hours later I took it out of the fridge and left at 68°F for 3 hours. I then dumped the wet dough out on a heavily floured board and pre-shaped into 2 pan loaves and let them bench for 10 minutes. I re-shaped and stuck into oil-sprayed loaf pans and covered with plastic wrap and proofed until doubled (2.5 hours) at 72°F. Pre-heated the oven to 450° at 1.5 hours in.

I slashed the tops 1/2 inch deep down the center lengthwise, sprayed with water, stuck in the oven and put a cookie sheet on top for 15 minutes. Turned the oven down to 400° and baked another 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. They actually had a fair amount of oven spring. Dumped on wire racks and cooled for 1.5 hours before cutting into my creature.

I can't believe it, and it doesn't make any sense, but this bread turned out absolutely amazing. While it doesn't have big holes inside, the crumb is very light, very moist and deeply flavorful. The crust is thin, crispy and has a divine flavor that is certainly enhanced by all the seeds/grains in the harvest blend. We even made heavenly toasted cheese sandwiches for dinner using this bread. It is now about 5 hours after the loaves came out of the oven and there is only 1/2 loaf left. I guess that's better than throwing away almost 2 lbs of starter.

I'm not sure this can be replicated with any success, but I may have to try...

Here's a couple of pictures from what was left the next morning:

Looking at the crumb again, while it has no large holes anywhere, it is airy throughout and is almost lighter than most breads I've made. It really doesn't make much sense to me that this worked, but there you go...


Wisecarver's picture
Wisecarver (not verified)

Love the style you used in this post.

The delayed addition of salt is top secret. ;-)
Nice job.

Soundman's picture

Hi John, and welcome to TFL!

I have never made bread out of mostly starter castoffs, as you did, but I have lately been taking all my castoffs and adding them to my current sourdough. I agree about the wonderful effects on flavor these globs of disenfranchised dough bring to the table.

Your bread looks delicious, and quite airy. The whole grains must have added a lot of flavor and texture to the bread. I have yet to really get into using soakers. Some time soon, I hope.

The last time I made dough with a high percentage of castoffs, it spread out instead of up, but the crumb was still very open. I wonder if protease and amylase didn't have a field day and that was why the bread declined to spring in the oven. It's also possible that I over-fermented and over-proofed this dough, because it was rising and doubling much faster than usual. So perhaps we can conclude that the yeast in all the castoffs are still capable of putting their muscle behind the fermentation and rise? If so, using a recipe like yours one might want to think about getting the dough in the oven faster than usual, shortening both bulk fermentation and proof-time. One thing's for sure, the flavor will be there regardless!

In any case, nice job, and keep showing us your efforts!

Soundman (David)

ehanner's picture


That looks pretty darn good to me. Especially the crumb image. Very nice job and I like your adventurous spirit!


ryeaskrye's picture

Thanks for the compliments.

One additional note would be that the starters sat in the jar for a few hours (maybe around 4 or 5) before I started and had become a bit foamy. Something was active in there, but I'm not sure what it was feeding on.

I have to believe the African WW, the SF and the Rye starters were completely spent after 4+ months of neglect, but the NW and the Desem had likely been refreshed within the previous month or so.

I would be curious if anybody else ever tries this, whether it works or not.

Maybe I should neglect my starters more often?