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The Bread Bakers Forum


This starter is begun with rye flour because rye ferments very easily and is an easier starter to get going than a wheat starter.  When I first made it, it had a bubble or two within a couple hours.  It is about as fool-proof a recipe for starter a new starter as you will find.

The procedure is to start it with rye flour, then transform it by changing what you feed it.  The original rye will dilute to nothing over time and you'll end up with a white flour and water based starter, but it had the advantage of beginning its life from highly fermentable rye flour.  Once you have gotten it going well you can convert it to white flour or whatever other grain you choose - it could be whole wheat or pumpernickel or even spelt, or you could leave it as a rye starter.


Phase 1 - Combine 2 oz organic rye flour (room temp) with 4 oz spring water in a clear container.  The batter should be about the consistency of very thick pancake batter, add more water or flour if necessary. Cover & let it sit for 36 - 48 hours at 75 - 77 degrees (a little cooler is okay but over 80 you will incubate the wrong kind of bacteria and your culture will have an unpleasant bitter taste).  You should start to see tiny bubbles forming after about 24 hours.  By the time it has activated, there will be a noticeable network of small bubbles throughout the batter & there may be a layer of foam or froth on top.  (If the batter has not activated within 48 hours, feed with 2 oz water & 2 oz flour (add more of either if necessary for the consistency) and let it sit another 24 hours or until you see some definite activity.)

Phase 2 - Stir the culture down, notice how soupy it's become.  The batter should have a noticeable sour smell & a mildly tangy taste at this point.  Add 2 oz water & 2 oz flour and stir vigorously until well-combined.  Let it sit for 12 hours.  It should be showing a fair amount of activity at this point.  You should see lots of foaming & bubbling through the sides as well as on the top.  Don't be concerned if the culture deflates & loses volume.  This means the yeast has exhausted its food supply, but it will continue to increase in acidity.  Don't worry if your culture isn't dramatically active yet.  As long as there is some noticeable activity going on and the mixture smells & tastes sour, you're on the right track.

Phase 3 - The culture should now have a pronounced, sour, fruity taste and smell, it should not taste musty or bitter (if it does, discard and start again, paying close attention to the temperature of the culture at all times).  Now you can start converting it into a white (or other) flour based starter.  Use 6 oz of the starter, add 3 oz water & 3 oz flour, stir vigorously.  Let it sit for 12 hrs at 75 - 77 degrees F.   Begin substituting a small amount of rye flour with the new flour you wish to use.  Each time you feed increase the amount of new flour until you are using all new flour.

Refresh it again, setting up a maintenance level of 12 oz of starter.  This will be your "mother" starter that you use to build the sourdough starters/sponges needed in individual recipes.


Each time you take part of the mother out to build a starter, refresh it with equal weights of flour and water to bring it back up to its maintenance level.

To maintain - Use 6 oz of the mother culture (discard the rest), add 3 oz water & 3 oz flour, stir vigorously, let it sit at room temp until doubled in volume.

A strong mother will double in 8-12 hours.  If yours does not do that, let it continue to sit out until it has a nice tangy taste and smell; discard all but 6 oz and repeat this procedure.  Repeat this procedure as many times as necessary until the mother doubles within 8-12 hrs.  It may take several days.  Don't get discouraged, it's worth the effort.


To use for recipes - Combine 1/2 c (5 oz) mother starter from the refrigerator with 3 oz flour and 2.5 oz warm water (85 - 90 degrees).  The mixture will be stiffer than the mother. Let it sit, covered, until doubled in volume (if it doesn't do so go back to maintenance procedure).  When the starter has doubled, it is ready to use in a recipe.  Measure the amount needed and discard any that remains.


See Starter Maintenance if your starter is ailing or you need more information on maintaining your starter, .

See Baking with a Starter  for some recipes and tips on finding other great sourdough recipes.

See Sourdough Definitions for help in understanding some sourdough technical terms.

This recipes was inspired by "AMY'S BREAD" by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree.

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