Starter - questions on recipes adaptation

Hi, when dealing with recipes using only fresh or dry yeast, how do one incorporate starter, do you change the proportion of yeast if you add starter.

Since I’m quite new with starter, I’m still trying to understand, for example for a bread recipe requesting 500 g bread flour, 8 g dry yeast, 300g water, 12 g salt. It didn’t ask for sourdough starter, but if I add 125g of starter without adjusting anything, am I right or wrong? Also, what is the proportion if I want to replace completely the yeast by starter in this case?

Thanks everybody.

Starter replaces the dry yeast. Starter is the sourdough yeast you have developed.

I also see many recipes have a combination of dry/fresh yeast accompanying starter. That’s the base of my questions.

Can you share an example because I have not run across a sourdough bread recipe that uses both.

This is my go to, including the sourdough starter instructions.

For a standard loaf of bread, I use dry yeast; no starter.

Ok, I found the purpose but I have never tried it and was taught it wasn’t necessary if the fermenting was done at the right temperature conditions. NJ is too cold now for starter unless I warm up the container the yeast is proofing in.

I’m taking an example from my new bread book Larousse du pain. For 3 x 300g breads (la gâche), I’ll try my best to translate to English.

  • 500g coarse bread flour (T65)
  • 350g of water 20ºC / 68ºF
  • 100g of starter (levain liquid) or 25g of dry yeast
  • 3g of fresh yeast
  • 10g of salt

Mix everything either by mixer or by hand, knead until the dough is elastic and smooth.

Cover with a moist tea towel and let the dough rest for 1.5 hour

Divide the dough into 3 parts, shape the dough and let it rest for another 30 minutes, covered with moist tea towel.

Flatten the raised dough to 15 cm / 6 in diameter and let it rest for a further 1.5 hour.

Heat the oven 230ºC / 445ºF with a tray. Cover the plate with parchment paper, sprinkle some flour , put a cup of water in the oven and cook the bread for 18 minutes.

I’ve yet to try bread that uses 100% starter. I don’t know if the starter has enough force to be solo to raise the flour. Or it’s my starter that has strength problem, how do you know if a starter is strong enough?

I’m def trying this recipe. I can’t offer an answer to your original post, without trying the recipe you posted here. I bake a loaf of some sort of bread monthly but sourdough only when the weather is warm enough. Based on the link I posted from CI, the addition of a tiny portion of dry yeast added to healthy sourdough starter will boost the ferment and cut the rise time by half.

It should float in a bowl of water.

It’s cold here too. I heat up the oven or microwave slightly and then check the temperature and toss the starter or the proofing dough in it. Usually it works.

Didn’t work for me by oven light. We don’t own a microwave. I use a heated towel on low setting during the proofing time.

There is a tip from a chef, she uses a large plastic box putting directly on the heater to proof the dough.


I need to reheat the oven from time to time (e.g. once an hour) to keep the heat. I can’t keep the oven on, the problem is the lowest setting of the oven is too hot for the little beasts.

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That’s why when all this care to develop a loaf works, I say a little rock n roll prayer!

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My mom put the covered bowl of yeasted dough on the floor, next to a radiator.

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This is actually a very complex question! Part of the answer is that it depends both on the hydration level of your starter and its strength/maturity/ability to rise. The other part of the answer is actually another multi-part question - how much time do you have to devote to proofing and how sour do you want the finished result to be?

In your first example, you listed a recipe with 500g flour and 300g water, which is 60% hydration (amount of water divided by amount of flour). If your starter is also 60% hydration, then no matter what amount you add, it will not change the hydration level of the recipe.

However, if your starter is 100% hydration, it could change the hydration level of the recipe fairly significantly depending on how much you use. Say you add 150g of 100% starter, which is 75g flour and 75g water. Your recipe now has 575g flour and 375g water, or 65% hydration. That 5% difference in hydration is enough to change the texture of your finished product (not necessarily for the worse, but it will be different from what the recipe intends).

An easy way around this is to subtract your starter from the amounts of flour and water in the recipe. If you want to use 150g of starter at 100% hydration, your recipe would convert to 425g flour, 225g water and 150g starter (all other ingredients would remain the same).

As for the actual amount of starter, that is a matter of both desired speed and flavor, and depends upon the behavior of your starter. I store my starter in the fridge and only wake it up when I want to use it. I give it a day to wake up but it still tends to be a bit more sluggish than a starter that is store at room temp. Therefore I usually use more starter than most books would suggest - I often see recipes calling for 10% starter (so 50g starter in a recipe calling for 500g flour), but I usually use closer to 20%.

Then there is the question of how fast you want things to happen. Starter is slower than commercial yeast by nature, but if you want things to move faster, use more starter and/or proof the dough at a warmer temperature. You can also add some commercial yeast to the mix - it will provide a reliable and fast rise while the starter just adds flavor (although IMO this technique does not produce nearly as good a flavor as a starter-only rise).

Knowing how your starter will behave takes some trial and error. I generally only use starter if I know I have plenty of time to let the dough proof before I want my bread. Usually an overnight bulk rise followed by 4-6 hours after shaping works for me, but sometimes I put doughs in the fridge to allow them to slow ferment for a few days.

Final question is flavor. How sour do you want the finished product? My starter produces more sour flavor with warmer proofing. Cold proofing gives me less sour but more complex flavor. Again, as you get to know your starter you will be able to judge better what flavor it will give you under what conditions.

As to how to judge whether your starter is strong enough to raise bread on its own, if it reliably doubles in size after feeding at room temperature within 6-8 hours, it is plenty strong enough! As I mentioned, mine lives in the fridge so it sometimes doesn’t pass this test, but it will still raise a loaf if I give it enough time. I try to make sure mine is active but hungry when I mix it into a dough, by which I mean it has been removed from the fridge and fed a couple of times over the preceding day or two, but is ready for its next feeding. The flour and water in your recipe effectively ARE its next feeding! The float test mentioned earlier may or may not apply depending on the hydration of your starter and whether or not you de-gassed it before testing.

Hopefully this helps! If you let me know what hydration your starter is, I would be happy to help you figure out how to convert your original recipe for starter only. :grinning:

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This thread got me in the mood today to bake a loaf of bread. Just two of us so only one loaf. No starter, I proof my yeast just in case. Knead for 10 minutes the old fashioned way. Turned out great. Thanks for the encouragement.:slightly_smiling_face: