The Fresh Loaf

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Unfed starter loaf beefier than fed?!

imeluna's picture

Unfed starter loaf beefier than fed?!

Hi All! I'm an amateur sourdough baker and I'm confused. Have been making successful loaves for a while and decided to go against the rules and make a loaf using unfed starter. Side by side comparison with the *fed* starter shows the *unfed* loaf much beefier than the fed starter loaf. Granted it didn't taste as sour, but it still had a decent crumb and overall good flavor. Why would an unfed starter produce such a successful and dare I say more robust loaf? I'm stumped. 

HeiHei29er's picture

How long had it been "fed" prior to mixing in the dough?  LIkewise, when had the "unfed" starter last been refreshed?

imeluna's picture

I had just fed and peaked the fresher starter before baking with it and it had been 3 days since last feeding the other.  So I guess it wasn't as long of a wait. 

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)


  • Who said unfed starter is going against the rules? 
  • Why should unfed starter be unworthy of making bread? 
  • One can make the same loaf twice and get different results. Not always down to the starter though.

Too name a few! 

Without knowing the recipe or method it'll be difficult to say why, however as an example... For the amount of active starter given and the time you let it ferment for its over proofed. Take the starter from the fridge and use it unfed (which doesn't necessarily mean it's any less healthy but might be a bit slower) but because it's not as active what was over fermented becomes just right and voilà a better bread. 

Another 'reason'... Even though an unfed starter doesn't mean it can't make bread that's just as nice you've gotten them mixed up. 

Scoring can affect the rise. You might have scored one better than the other. 

If you baked them one after the other and the fed one later it might have over proofed. 

Two breads in the oven at the same time and your oven has an uneven temperature. 

You're underestimating the readiness of the fed starter. 

imeluna's picture

Thank you, I like the reasons you listed. Actually I suspect reason #1 might be the most likely. Never realized it but it seems to make a lot of sense. Yay!

And for the record, I use unfed starter regularly for crackers. I don't discriminate for other types of bakes, but I was under the assumption that it would not lend to great results for bread. I'm so glad I was mistaken! 

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

One being is starter that hasn't been fed in a while will have off flavour a compromised gluten. Sounding too much in a dough will have poor results. In which case feeding it or making a levain is the way to go. 

But three days in the fridge is not long unfed. Any longer then use a smaller amount to counteract the reasons above. 

If it's been quite some time it just makes sense to check it's health before using rather than waste a dough. 

But unfed won't translate into unhealthy otherwise how will it leaven a feed? 

Uzbek's picture

If you put the starter in the fridge, it has limited starter concentration, and slows down immediately. 2-3 days later, it is still a freshly fed starter, because bacteria did not manage to go through all the food you gave it. 

What you normally do is take it out of the fridge and feed it once. And then for some, it will rise as usual (meaning the starter had been in the fridge long enough to slowly consume all the flour, and it is a normal high-concentration starter) or take much longer (which we often mistake for 'my starter needs couple of feedings to recover', but actually is totally fine, the reason being it is still a very fresh starter with a lot of unconsumed flour and limited actual sourdough). Since you go by raise/deflate observation, after one cycle which took or did not take long to fully rise, after one feeding you have recovered your starter to 100% concentration which you are accustomed to.

So your 'unfed' starter will result in smaller rise (or longer rise, you just wait) if you use it right away in the dough, if it was held in the fridge under a week. And will give you a very good, speedy great rise if it spent 10 days in the fridge.