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Sourdough Starters with Different Character

I’ve continued experimenting with my sourdough starters and how to make good loafs. The different starters seems to call for different processes – or at least very different rising time … with different quality and sourness as a result of that.

I made a basic whole wheat sourdough loaf, based on a whole wheat starter – that came out flavorful and nice, but too flat. I split the dough into two loafs thinking there was enough dough to rise and fill two bread tins. But I overestimated the rising potential.

Whole wheat sourdough bread based on a basic recipe

Whole wheat sourdough bread based on a basic recipe

Next time I used my all-purpose starter, and decided to try a different approach, no recipe this time, just estimating how much liquid I had going in the starter and how much more I needed in addition to flour – to make one loaf.

This is what I did:

– I took the starter out of the fridge and left it on the counter without doing anything until it held room temperature.

– Then I scooped 1 cup of starter into a bowl, added two cups of flour (1 cup whole wheat + 1 cup regular bread flour) and 1 cup of water to make a sponge and left it to rise, expecting to leave it for about 12 hours.

But it had increased in volume only after one hour – and by 6 hours I had to start working with it because it had tripled in size.

– So I added two more cups of flour, 1 tbsp of salt, 1 tbsp of olive oil, and kneaded well in the kitchen machine. I shaped a loaf, placed in a loaf tin and left it to rise again, this time planning on leaving it over night.

Again it increased within only an hour and was ready for baking after 4 hours, with a fine round top way above the edge of the tin.

The bread came out nice and airy, a family favorite – but it didn’t have much of a sour flavor.

A not-so-sour wheat sourdough loaf

A not-so-sour wheat sourdough loaf

I figured I’d try the same procedure with my rye-starter. My rye based sponge did rise, but very slowly, and not to same volume. After shaping the loaf I left it to rise for another two days … and was ready to throw it out thinking it was probably bad, but then I discovered it had actually made some progress. So I stuck it in the a cold oven and baked on 395 F for about 45 minutes. The taste was super-sour, not at all bad … but I would have preferred more air.


These two loafs are based on different flour starters (all-purpose and rye) but have the exact same amount of water and flour, and are made by following the same steps (just left to rise at highly different time length.) They came out quite dramatically different. It is fascinating – and frustrating at the same time.

Now I need to find the middle path between my fast and eager all-purpose starter and the slow but flavorful rye. The all-purpose starter needs slowing down, and the rye needs speeding up … Maybe the clue is the temperature in the room. We shall see.

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I'm Currently living in Florida, USA, but I'm Norwegian born and bred. At the moment I enjoy baking bread and blogging about it. I enjoy blogging in general, because I like writing. But I'm trained as an illustrator, originally ... in England. One day I'll write a book. About bread. And illustrate it myself. Maybe. Life will see.

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