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Sourdough Starter in our Recipes

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Yes, you can use activated sourdough starter in our recipes.  My own sourdough starter, after I activate it from the fridge, is about half water and half flour (you can find recipes for naturally-fermented sourdough starter all over the web, and one of our future books may have a recipe of our own). I’ve found that about 1 1/2 cups of activated sourdough starter works well in our full-batch recipes, which make 4 to 5 pounds of dough.  This means that you need to decrease the water in the recipes by 3/4 cup, and the flour by 3/4 cup. At the end, you’ll probably need to adjust water and flour to create a dough that looks and feels just like what you get with our yeast-based recipes.

So, having done this, do you need to use commercial yeast in addition?  I found that I still needed some yeast in the recipe, though I could use a lower dose, which I’ve posted about before in the context of our yeast-risen recipes.    That seems like a good compromise.  I did experiment with zero-yeast versions, but I found them a bit temperamental– didn’t store terribly well so we decided not to put that in our books… yet!

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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228 thoughts on “Sourdough Starter in our Recipes

  1. Hi! I’ve been making the bread using the lazy sourdough shortcut, and it’s good, but not quite sour enough for my taste. Is there any way I can get it to sour up a bit?
    Thanks

    • You could try a sourdough approach, click on our FAQs tab and scroll to “Sourdough starter: can I use it with this method?” But, we’ve never published a sour starter recipe (though they’re all over the web).

  2. I’ve been using the lazy sourdough method with the master recipe – is there a max length of time I can keep doing this or is it indefinite? Thank you, Lori

    • If it’s without eggs or dairy, I go indefinitely. But– see our FAQs tab above and click on “Gray color on my dough: Is there something wrong?”

  3. Hi Jeff and Zoe,

    Yesterday I won a First Prize Blue Ribbon at the California State Fair for my bread using Goldrush Sourdough Starter granules in my unique recipe. I have further simplified the sourdough preparation process, combining past methods and procedures while adding my own shortcut and taste touches. It works beautifully and conveniently for today’s busy bakers, and it is absolutely delicious sourdough bread! The Judges at the State Fair (all baking professionals) were quite surprised when I told them (AFTER they awarded the prizes) that this was from a no knead sourdough yeast bread recipe! I started serious bread baking two years ago by reading your books from the library and watching YouTube videos. My very own copy of the latest edition of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day arrived days before my bread entry was due at the California State Fair, and I was still referring to my notes and your book the night before the Baking Contest.

    Vicki Taylor

  4. Please let me know if you can read the Recipes for Shortcut Goldrush Sourdough on my Facebook page (under “Vicki Gardiner Taylor”). I “Followed” the Artisan Facebook page, so that should help. If not, we’ll find another way.

  5. Jeff, I’m so glad you checked it out. It’s also nice because this is a much cleaner and more controlled to making home-made sourdough. By not relying on wild yeast, you’re not introducing unknown things and pollution floating around in the air into a starter. And by not handling a starter repeatedly over long periods of time, you don’t risk introducing undesirable elements into your bread. Last but not least, if the dough from Recipe #2 should ever happen to develop an “off” taste, you can start clean with Recipe #1 again, which is pretty easy to do! – Vicki

  6. Looking for an Artisan/5 minutes a day sourdough bread recipe (that uses actual sourdough starter). Is it in one of your cookbooks?

  7. I am trying to make a sourdough starter with water and flour…this is the third day of fermentation. Yesterday, the second day, it had a good amount of bubbles, I fed it again last night, 4 oz. Each flour and water. Today it is frothy and bubbly on top, and when stirred, had water on the bottom…it smells like sh—t. Really! What is going on? I am ready to dump it and start over with a different flour. I expected a nice yeasty fragrance from the amount of bubbling, but no, doesn’t smell spoiled, just sweetly shitty.

    • Yeah, that’s not normal. Sounds like it went “anaerobic,” meaning that bacteria flourished which live in a low-oxygen environment–they’ll smell that way. I can’t see why you got that though. Yes, your original flour could have been contaminated with a bad actor. Or you need to aerate the mixture every day (doubt that but it could be worth a try). Could your fermentation vessel have been contaminated? Wash it in very hot water and soap next time.

      Or start with different, maybe fresher flour. If these ideas don’t help, I’m stumped.

  8. I cultivated an absolutely wonderful sourdough starter and followed your instructions here of substituting 1 1/2 cup of starter and reducing flour and water by 3/4 cup each. My bread came out delicious and great in every way except for the fact that it was very heavy, dense and did not rise noticeably. It had minimal oven spring. Can you give me suggestions on how I can make the bread rise more and be puffier? Do I need to add some commercial yeast as you suggested in this post?

    Thanks.
    Daniel

    • Options:
      1. The starter wasn’t fully activated when you mixed the dough. Might have needed a much longer rise.
      2. Room too cool. Might have needed a much longer rise.
      3. Levain-risen doughs are definitely finicky about long-term storage in the final dough (as we routinely do with yeasted doughs). May not be able to get away with that with all doughs.
      4. Whole-grain versions are even finickier.

      Bottom line– a little commercial yeast will make a big difference in loft without changing the flavor much.

  9. I came across your book and was thrilled with the prospect of a simple way to bake bread. After a few batches of success with the basic recipe, I decided to start experimenting with sourdough. I got a starter that seems quite powerful, easily doubling in size when fed. The first two batches were a great success but then I started having problems with rising. I thought I reduced the yeast too much (to a 1/2 teaspoon) and increased it this last batch. The first two loaves rose well and then the third flopped.

    I used a cup and a half of starter and one whole package of yeast. The dough doubled as usual. The problem is when it goes in the oven. It flattens some when I score it and I am not getting the oven spring. It gets worse as time goes on – the dough for this last loaf that flopped was 10 days old. Any idea what might be my problem and how to remedy?

    Thanks. I am loving the process and hope I can get things back on track.

    • Hi Ron,

      I think the only issue is that the lower yeast batch won’t have the same strength at 10 days, so you may be better off using it within 7 days. If you have a bit left in the bucket, you can mix that into your next batch to jump start the flavor. You can also use that older dough to make pizza and other flatbreads, where the flavor will be incredible, but you don’t need the dough strength for a big rise.

      Thanks, Zoë

      • Thanks Zoe. In another thread you talk about reducing yeast to as little as 1/2 teaspoon. Is storage generally an issue with less yeast (with and without sourdough starter? Do you have an idea on how long dough can be stored with yeast reduced to 1/2 teaspoon (with starter)?

      • Hi Ron,

        I would say that it is going to lose some rising power at the end of a week. I actually have some in my refrigerator right now, so I will give it a test at the end of the week and let you know.

        Thanks, Zoë

  10. I have just started reading up on fermented foods and am trying to get more of these into my families diet. I have so far been using the lazy sourdough method (pâte fermentée) in my doughs, and am curious whether this method grants any of the health benefits of fermented foods, like using a true sourdough starter? What do you think? Thanks!

    • Well, what we can say is that as our dough ages, there’s a gradual uptick in the population of naturally-occurring yeasts and bacteria– micro-organisms responsible for the complex flavors of sourdough and our dough as well– once it ages. In fact, you can start a naturally-fermented sourdough with commercial yeast. As the commercial yeast die off, you’re really culturing with the naturally-occurring yeasts and bacteria.

      So there’s a theoretical similarity between the two, though probably not if you make our bread on day one, but more so if the dough is fully aged or you used the pate fermentee method. That said, I’m more conservative than most web sources about purported health benefits from fermented foods. I don’t think we have much real scientific evidence one way or another. The reason I eat sourdough and other naturally-fermented foods is because of their rich complex flavor. Which is reason enough. If there’s a health benefit proven sometime, all to the good.

  11. I love your books. Thanks to them I’ve been baking bread for 5 years.I recently decided to try sourdough. I made my own starter and followed your tips. I made a batch of the master recipe using 1 1/2 cups of starter and 3/4 cups less water and flour. I also added 1/2 TBS of commercial yeast. I made some baguettes and it worked great, but I noticed within a week the rest of the dough became very wet. I added more flour when I shaped it but by the time the resting period was over it was too wet to hold it’s shape.

    What would be my best bet to try differently next time I make a batch? Less water but use the regular amount of flour? Is it best for sourdough in this method to be given a shorter rest time after shaping in general? Is there something else I should adjust?

    • We’re still in the process of testing sourdough, but my impression is that it over-sours and starts generating too much liquid sooner than commercial yeast batches. You may be able to combat this by making a slightly drier dough to compensate, as you suggest. Less water, yes.

      I’m guessing that you shouldn’t try to manipulate the resting time, but I could be wrong.

      • Thanks, Jeff! In my next batch I only decreased the water by 3/4 of a cup. Since the moisture also seems to increase as it’s stored, I thought I’d try adding some seeds since they can absorb liquid over time. That seems to have done the trick! The dough has stayed in good condition for a week.

  12. Hi Jeff and Zoe. Just want to give an appreciation for your books — Artisan Bread in 5 and Healthy Breads in 5 — they are great and transformed my entire bread baking operation. Much easier, quicker and the bread is better than before. But this website is every bit as valuable as the books! I admire the patience and generosity in how you respond to your readership. I’ve learned a lot from the website as well as the books.

    As far as the sourdough question is concerned — just wanted to let you know I’ve been experimenting with adding sourdough to the whole grain master recipe. (I use 1/3 spelt, 2/3 AP) I mix a half batch of the master adding my usual sourdough starter discard to the liquid. My ‘usual’ discard is about 6 fluid oz. (1/2 lb) That’s all I do, I don’t change anything in the master, just add to it. My sourdough starter is close to half water/half flour by weight. The bread turns out fantastic! The half master plus the sourdough makes 1 large loaf, about 2lb cooked weight.

    Thanks again for all you do. My family thanks you also. That brioche cake with apples and streusel… (they don’t live by bread alone)

    • Fantastic Brenda, thank you. Not surprised at your success with this, I do something similar. It gets trickier if you want to omit the yeast in the new batch, but that works too.

      • Hi Jeff, and happy holiday. The Glorious Fourth, and I made my hamburger buns for the feast already, in about 5 minutes :>)

        I want you to know that this is something I did NOT do before discovering your techniques. But now I not only make HB Buns in addition to bread, I have plenty of time, energy and inspiration for yeast sweetbreads. Again, many thanks.

        “It gets trickier if you want to omit the yeast in the new batch, but that works too.”

        I’m not going there! Thankfully not a puritan when it comes to sourdough. I was already trying to use commercial yeast as the riser and sourdough just for the fermented grain it generates. But I had a hard time doing this, no success until the Master Recipes came my way.

        Thanks for letting me know you are doing something similar. It’s all a big experiment, no? That’s the thing I like about your website — you and Zoe are so laid-back, so encouraging of people to follow their instincts. You are both excellent teachers and I’m grateful to have discovered your ways.

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