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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262 thoughts on “Sourdough Starter in our Recipes

  1. Hi there.

    Great book. Many thanks!

    I’ve been trying to use my own sourdough in the master recipe, but with mixed results. Typical of me I have never actually made the master recipe on its own, I’ve galloped straight into trying to use the sourdough. Big mistake. I have today made the master recipe so that I can fully understand what I’m aiming at.

    I’ve given up on extracting the starter ingredients from the master recipe, and am now going to focus on changing my starter recipe to suit the master recipe…if that makes sense. Essentially, I’m going to try to make my starter match the consistency of the main recipe.

    Now, please tell me if my logic works…..If I can make a starter which is exactly the same flour to water ratio of the master recipe….will that work, or do I need to take anything else into consideration?

    What complicates this slightly is that I’m using UK ingredients.

    My initial attempts worked on the idea that half my starter has 1/4 cup water to 2/3 cup flour, therefore subtracting that amount of each from the main recipe will work. Wrong! Very very wet dough.

    I have already compensated for UK “Strong Bread Flour” by adding 1/3 cup of water as advised elsewhere.

    1. Hi Anthony,

      We are just finishing up the edits for the UK edition of the book, due to hit shelves in January. It will have all of our recipes adapted to metrics and UK measurements. Until then, I think your plan of substituting the starter is going to serve you well. If the consistency is about the same as the dough you can just add it to the recipe, without extracting any of the ingredients, if you are only adding 1 cup of starter. I have done this to good results.

      For the recipes in the UK edition we call for plain flour, but as you mentioned you can use strong bread flour and add more water.

      Thanks! Zoë

  2. Hi,

    Just tried out your master recipe using my sourdough culture instead of yeast.
    Worked out great. Good rise, perfect crust. (Shame I can’t post a pic here!)
    There’s something about the wet overnight fridge storing that seems to result in really smooth and stable gluten chains.

    1. Noelle: Thanks for the feedback. See the “FAQ” about “Photographs” for instructions on how to get pictures out to the community of users for our books. Correct though; you can’t post them here. Jeff

  3. Jeff,

    On future edits of the book, when listing quantities, wouldn’t it make more sense to have a 3 column ingredient list? Left column is yankee measurements, middle is the ingredient, and right column would be metric.

    I live in the US, but I prefer to have all of my recipes in metric and by weight for things like flour. A good kitchen scale with the tare function can cut your prep time in half.

    1. James: Thnx for the suggestion, you’ll see what we do in the 3rd book– something like this for the dough recipes. Jeff

  4. I have always enjoyed baking bread, but absolutely LOVE it since I got your books! Thanks so much. I want to send bread to a good friend stationed overseas; suggestions, or is this just not a good idea?

    1. Joy: well, to be honest, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Our bread isn’t very good 24 hours later, let alone 5 days later. You could try the crackers I suppose. Maybe send them the book? 🙂

  5. i used the Milk & Honey Raisin Bread recipe (ABin5), adding 1 C raisins , 1 C dried cranberries, 3/4 C apricots, 3/4 C prunes, 3/4 C walnuts, 3/4 C pecans and 1/2 C pumpkin seeds – shaped it like a stollen – it is gorgeous and delicious.

  6. Just wanted to say I love the first book and the inspiration it has given me to get back to baking bread for my young family! I’ve been using a sourdough starter with the flour and water adjustments to the master recipe and it is wonderful! It is the only kind of bread my picky toddler will eat, so that is saying something 😉 Just today tracked down split firebricks for my oven (so cheap!) and can’t wait to try the other recipes from the book in the newly improved oven. Thanks again!

  7. I am now on my 4th batch of the Master Recipe and love the flavour the “Lazy sourdough shortcut” is giving each batch. My question is how long can I continue this before have to actually wash out the dough bucket or can this go on indefinitely?

    1. Hi Perry,

      As long as you are continually filling the bucket with fresh ingredients this can go on and on and on. This is the premise behind sourdough starters that have been around for generations, some have lasted for over a hundred years. Ok, I can’t recommend that you let your bucket go that long without washing, but it can go for a very long time.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. At the older version of California Adventure at Disneyland, they had a San Francisco Sourdough bread factory. It was fascinating to watch the process. It was noted in the very humorous video presentation that miners heading to California during the gold rush, carried the sourdough starter in their pockets for the entire trip. They kept reusing the same starter which is still in use today. Fascinating!

      2. Hi Schneb,

        That is a great story! People went to great lengths for their bread!

        Cheers, Zoë

  8. Perry: One exception– if your doughs have eggs or other ingredients that can spoil, we recommend washing the bucket after each use. Jeff

  9. I just made a challah batch so that I can make the cinnamon rolls. If they taste as good as they look, I’d like to give them as Christmas gifts. Can they be assembled and then frozen before baking? Or assembled and refrigerated overnight? Or anything that would make them more flexible as gifts?

    1. Kelley: Yes that should work, may be a touch denser than when you make them up fresh. Refrigeration overnight definitely works nicely. Jeff

  10. I bought a large glazed floor tile (17 x 17) at Walmart and I’ve been using the back side as a pizza stone. Is there a danger of it containing lead or something? It did crack but it is so big that I can bake 4 loaves of bread on it at one time even with the crack. I have not been able to find any reason not to use this stone. Please help.
    I had been using the New York Times method of baking artisan bread, but yours is so much simpler, and makes beautiful bread. I also love the idea of having more dough on hand for when I want to bake on a moments notice. Thank you so much. I’ve ordered your book and can’t wait to get it.

    1. JoAnn: Unglazed tile is supposed to be fine (though I’d check with the manufacturer). But from what I’ve read, I wouldn’t use glazed tile, even on the back side, unless you can get specific information from the manufacturer as to its food safety. Jeff

  11. I’m having trouble with my boule’s coming out in weird shapes, typically the top gets displaced to one side. Are my slashes not deep enough? Any other suggestions? Hoping not to have to bake in a dutch oven. Thanks…..

  12. I just made the ten-grain bread on pg 111 of “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day”, last night. The receipt calls for the oven to be at 450 degrees. I did this, and used the broiler pan with water as instructed, even though this seemed a little hot. Two things happened, my stone split, and the loaf was bordering on burnt on the outside. However, the bread was very good in taste and texture. I have been striving for that crisp/chewy outer crust, but not so dark. Is the intent to be baked at 450?

    1. Hi Peggy,

      Are you using an oven thermometer to check your true oven temperature? Some ovens can run hot.

      What kind of stone are you using?

      Let us know and we can figure out what is going on with your bread. Thanks, Zoë

  13. Hi,
    I recently started trying your recipes, as well as Mr Lahey’s recipe, and love them. I found your recipes and a rendition of the Lahey method in old Mother Earth News magazines I’d saved. I recently purchased ABin5, HBin5 and Mr Lahey’s book, too. I saw your posts about using a dutch oven, which I was going to try on my own anyway, as I don’t have a pizza stone. Much thanks for introducing me to bread making!

    My question: If I end up with a smallish amount of dough left after making loaves throughout the week, can I add this to a new batch (as a sort of sourdough starter!)? Or should I limit the amount of old dough added to a new batch?
    Thanks again, I love the bread recipes, Sherrill

  14. You do not seem to distinguish whole wheat flour from the stone ground variety, however in my experience it is much more difficult getting the stone ground variety to rise significantly. Given that the stone ground flour is the healthiest kind, do you have any tips for me. At this point I am assuming you are not using stone ground whole fleat flour in your recipes, correct?

  15. Hey Jeff, just wanted to let you know that if you have a self-cleaning oven, you can lean your baking stone against one of the walls and run a short self-clean cycle (like maybe 2 hours) and your stone will look as good as new. This tip also works great for anodized cookware with oven-safe handles.

    1. Niko: People have suggested this but I can’t get a manufacturer to sign off on it, so I guess we’re operating at our own risk here. Jeff

  16. I can’t remember what post I asked this question on so I’m asking again:). Please give some advice on purchasing a pizza peel -wood vs metal. I’ve been using the parchment paper method and ready to step it up. Thanks.

    1. Ruth: Slight preference for the wood– absorbs a bit of moisture which seems an advantage. But the metal has its fans too– I’m not sure it makes much difference. I like a thin and wide one, which accommodates larger pizzas (start with smaller ones first). Jeff

  17. Thanks, Jeff….I did order the metal one from King Arthur. It arrived in a huge flat box and is quite large. My small 1# doughs may look a bit silly and lonely on that huge flat surface but now that you have spoken I’ll give it a try. I also like the idea of wood. Next time, I will ask first before I buy:)

  18. My question is about making a sourdough version of the master recipe.

    Supposing you try to substitute sourdough starter for yeast as in the original post, how much additional yeast is then necessary? Zoe only says “less” in the post.

    Do the rising/refrigeration times change? If so, to what?


  19. Hi! I made your master recipe in the Healthy Breads book, baked the first loaf 24 hours after mixing. Because of what I had available, I had to modify it by using WW pastry flour and high gluten unbleached white flour (KA Sir Galahad) but no added gluten. It rose nicely, good oven spring, nice looking somewhat chewy crust, good holes, but the interior was kind of crumbly. I made another loaf the next day using the fold method and got the same result. Help??

    1. Chris: Sounds like not enough gluten compared with our recipe. It will work well if you add in the gluten, though that WW pastry flour is particularly low in gluten and you may need extra. Remember that recipe is mostly WW so the KAF high-gluten stuff wasn’t enough to make up the difference.

      If you want to use up these flours you can try decreasing the water– match moisture level to what you see in our videos, click tab above. Jeff

  20. Hi Jeff, Thanks for the quick response! I’ll get some gluten and WW bread flour next time I’m at the store. BTW, I have only seen gluten in tiny boxes, Bob’s or Hodgson. What’s your favorite, more economical source?

  21. Hi!
    I am very new to sourdough. A few weeks ago I started a starter on my counter and then moved it to the fridge. I have been feeding it weekly and it appears to be growing, bubbly with a sweet, tangy smell (like it is supposed to be, from everything that I read).
    In your post, you say that you ‘activate’ your starter. Please help me to understand what exactly you mean by this. Do you mix it with flour and water and let it sit overnight, do you mean the starter that is bubbly and tangy – like mine- or something else?
    Thanks for your help!

    1. Reesa: You can store starter in the fridge for longer if you “dry it out” a bit; that is, once the culture is going well, and you’ve fed it for several cycles, you can stir it down with more flour till it’s pretty dry. Then you can feed monthly— for the monthly feed, you dump half, and add a mixture of flour water to get back to the “wet” stage.

      It then bubbles up– that’s what we mean by “activated” starter. Just fed, and about 50/50 flour and water. You can consider your stuff to be activated right after a feeding and after it’s had some time to bubble, even if you’re not doing a “dried-out” version for less frequent feeding. Jeff

  22. Is the malt powder in Montreal Bagals (book 1) the same as Red Mill Malted Barley Flour? I can’t find malt powder. Thanks

    1. Hi Pat,

      No, it is not the same as the flour you mentioned. It is a sweetener that is traditional in these bagels and other breads. You can just substitue sugar for the malt. It will have a slightly different flavor, but they will still be wonderful. Or you can order non-diastatic malt powder from

      Thanks, Zoë

  23. So, I’m interested in using the sourdough like Jeff said. Do I need to let it sit for 24 hours like I would a regular batch of sourdough? Or can I mix it in (with additional yeast), let it rise and then put it in the fridge?

    1. Hi Tricia,

      You can use the starter on its own, which requires the dough to sit for a considerable amount of time, or you can add commercial yeast to the batch and use it as our recipes are written. Some people like to replace all the yeast with their starter, others just want the flavor of the sour starter, but want the convenience of the commercial yeast.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. I’m new to sourdough so don’t understand your instructions. What would be ‘”a considerable amount of time” with a room temperature of 78 degrees? I’ve noticed my starter bubbles faster at higher temps.

      2. Hi Janet,

        Yeast grows in warm environments, so it makes sense that your starter will bubble more in a warm room. It can take from 10 to 36 hours for the initial rise, depending on the starter and the temperature of the room.

        Thanks, Zoë

  24. My bread looks fantastic coming out of the oven, but after it cools, the crust gets soft. I’m NOT baking on a pizza stone and I’m heating the water up in the oven when I turn the oven on to pre-heat it.

    1. Hi Betsy,

      What dough are you using? Make sure that your oven is true to temperature with an oven thermometer. It sounds like your bread just isn’t baked long enough. What sized loaf are you baking?

      Thanks, Zoë

  25. I’m making half of a batch (2 loaves). I’m using the epi dough and the master recipe. I will check for oven’s temperature with a thermometer

    1. Hi Betsy,

      You may also want to let the dough rest a bit longer before baking. Are you in a very humid climate?

      Thanks, Zoë

    1. Yamina: I believe both of our books have potato breads— which book do you have, I’ll confirm and send you to the page… Jeff

  26. I read about your Artisan Bread in 5 minutes and couldn’t wait to go home and make a batch. I made a regular batch, however after an hour to hour & half, I realized I only added 6 cups flour instead of 6.5. Can I still add or mix that in once the dough sat for 2 hours?

  27. I’m such a newbie at this and I feel sorta silly asking this. But the basic recipe that you have in your Artisan Bread book, is this basically a sourdough starter? I mean, I made the recipe, it’s sitting in the fridge and it tastes like sourdough now…. Is this considered sourdough?

    1. Hi Charisa,

      The dough naturally goes through a fermentation which can make the dough smell and taste like sourdough. The longer the dough sits, the stronger this becomes. Some people like it stronger in flavor, some like it less so, you will have to play around and decide. This is not, however, a traditional sourdough bread.

      Thanks, Zoë

  28. Thank you!! I guess I have a follow up though (again, bread novice here). Since the dough is fermented (making it taste and smell sour) does it have the same health benefits of a “traditional sourdough”. And in a question like that, since a traditional sourdough is made by mixing the flour, water, sugar (sometimes yeast) and letting it ferment, how is this not the same thing as sour dough? I’m so grateful for your help. (I love your book, by the way, and I just finished using up my first batch/bucket today. Have another sitting on my counter rising right now).

    1. Charisa: We’re not sure of the scientific evidence behind health claims regarding “sourdough,” the result of natural yeast’s fermentation in our or other doughs. Clearly, our doughs develop some of those naturally-occurring cultures.

      Usually, sourdough starters involve a “replenishment” process, where you periodically throw away half the starter and replenish with fresh flour and water. We don’t do that.

  29. Can you tell me if there is a difference in resting time at room temp for a shaped boule dough made with sourdough starter? I made 1/2 batch of the Peasant dough from AB in 5 with my starter and 1/4 tsp of active dry yeast.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      The initial rising time will be significantly longer, but the resting time before baking is typically the same or just a little longer.

      Thanks, Zoë

  30. Hello,
    I love your Artisan Bread in 5 minutes recipe. I have baked it several times now and always forget that my regular size oven won’t hold all four loves. Next time I’ll remember. It is so good I guess I’m wanting to make sure there is enough to go around.

    My question is can I make sour dough starter or just purchase it online? Thank you.

    1. Hi Diana,

      You can make a sourdough starter or purchase one. That is something we have not spelled out on our site, but if you google it you’ll find several methods for making it.

      Thanks, Zoë

  31. I was wondering if anyone was having problems
    cleaning loaf pans when using the master mix?
    It seems to leave a gummy residue that does not want to come off. I only use pans when I need bread for toast.

    1. Gary: To some extent, yes. I just soak it for a while and it rubs right off with a synthetic-bristle brush.

  32. I have made a sourdough starter using 2 cups of rye. I have use some of the starter about 180g. How do I feed the remainder starter? How much flour or water to I add to the remaining starter?
    Your advise is much appreciated.
    I have tried your artisan bread in 5 minutes and it turn out very well. I have ordered your book from my local book store in Singapore as it is currently out of stock.
    Do you have a recipe in your book on rye sourdough with walnut and raisin? Love this bread and am still struggling to make it.

    1. Hi Nellie,

      We don’t cover sourdoughs in our books. They are not really the focus of our method, since feeding them and maintaining the starter is more than a 5 minute process. We talk about using them, if you already have one, but not the care taking. We are working on a method that requires less work and time. We’ll write about it as soon as we’re happy with the results.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. I have had very good luck feeding all of my starters the same. 1 cup starter – 1 1/2 flour to 1 cup of water. This will leave you enough to do the normal mix using 1 1/2 cup starter, 5 3/4 flour, 2 1/4 water to compinsate. Should have enough starter left over to put back in the fridge for next time.
        I cut back the yeast by 1 tbs. Rye starters are quite finniky for me, you will have to experiment with the yeast.

  33. My new favorite for toasted sammys, garlic bread, etc.
    5 3/4 flour
    2 1/4 water
    1 1/2 sourdough starter – after overnight feed
    scant 1/4 cup minced dried onion
    scant 1/4 cup minced dried garlic
    1/8 cup shredded fresh parm
    1/2 cup chopped sharp cheddar
    2 tbs salt
    1 tbs yeast
    I keep in the fridge for a week before baking, feed starter Fri night, bake on Sat.
    New mix goes in the fridge for next week.
    Sounds like a lot of onion and garlic, but the flavor is very mild. My Sunday breakfast would not be the same without it!
    Any leftovers turn into croutons, with a dash of Italian seasoning for soups and salads

    1. Gary — your recipe for garlic sourdough is fantastic! I didn’t do the garlic, onion, or cheese, but I did everything else. I tried one with it set out overnight on the counter and another in the fridge for a week. The latter had an excellent sourdough taste and the former had just a hint. They both rose and baked exactly alike. If true sourdough is what you’re after, folks, and you still want the convenience of the 5 minutes a day method, try this technique!

  34. I have baked countless batches of the master recipe with much success, so much so that I am the ‘bread lady’ around here (thanks to you guys!)
    I have a girlfriend whose daughter is on a strict diet of no eggs, no yeast, gluten free, no soy diet. She came to me asking if I could bake a bread for her daughter and I, in turn, looked to you.
    Do you address any of this type of bread baking in your healthy bread book? I couldn’t really find any yeast free options in this thread other than varying amounts of success and wondered if that’s still the case.
    I appreciate all your help!

  35. Hi Guys,

    I tried using white spelt flour for the master recipe and followed instructions exactly the doughh rose nicely the collapsed in the fridge and when i took it out to form was quite sticky added lots of flour and baked it was ok but a bit on the flat side is what would be the solution?

    1. Is there any alternative in any of your books to using vital wheat gluten for the gluten sensitve who don’t need to go completely gluten free?

      1. Eli: No alternative product, but you can do without the VWG if you’re willing to make adjustments and experiment. VWG only appears in Healthy Bread in 5 ( because we much preferred the structure of the loaf when we pushed whole grains beyond 50% of total flour, and that’s what that book is all about.

        1. You need to decrease the liquids in the recipe. 1/8 cup? 1/4 cup? more? Need to experiment
        2. You’ll have to tolerate less structure to the loaf. So it won’t hold a shape as nicely, especially once the dough’s stored for a few days. Loaf pans would contain that.

  36. I have been using the sourdough starter I made to make the European peasant bread. I used KA European style flour. It is great. Is it possible to make a double recipe? I let it sit in fridge for a week before baking.

    1. Hi Joanne,

      Yes, you can double or triple the batch, as long as you have room in the refrigerator and a bucket that is big enough!

      Cheers, Zoë

  37. Hi Jeff and Zoe,
    Happy New Year!

    HELP!!! I don’t know if you can help me, but I thought I’d ask.

    I am having a challenge with success. A restaurant owner asked if I could make her some sourdough.

    I use the AB5 recipe with 12 ounces of starter (35 oz flour), but I use the full amount of yeast and kosher salt. I tried cutting the yeast and salt, but it didn’t rise well enough. I refrigerate dough overnight, preferably a few days. It’s AWESOME!

    I thought she’d want a few loaves a week. Turns out she wants probably a dozen 2-pound loaves (maybe more) a week!

    I’m going to try 6 loaves at a time, mixed in 3 buckets for me. But I have a friend with a 20 qt mixer and commercial kitchen. She’s a baker, and I want her help supplying this customer.

    I don’t know if this recipe can be adapted to non-no knead, but I thought I’d ask if you have any suggestions. There’s no sugar, so no food for the yeast.

    I know I’ll have to get out my Kitchenaid and experiment, but I thought I’d start with you first.

    Thank you ever so much!
    Judy in Northeast Tennessee

    1. Hi Judy,

      Are you asking if you can make the dough in a mixer? Yes, you can mix it in large batches in a mixer with the exact same results.

      Thanks and congratulations on the big contract! 🙂 Zoë

  38. How do I make a sourdough starter to go with the master recipe? You mentioned in the post that you made it with flour and water…How long does it take to become a starter?

    1. Hi Esther,

      There are many kinds of starters out there. Some use commercial yeast and others are developed using just the yeast thats in the air. We haven’t given a specific recipe for a starter, but there are many to be found on the internet. It is an interesting idea for a post.

      Thanks, Zoue

  39. To me your method is sourdough! Maybe it is because I don’t make bread all the time and it sits in the fridge for at least couple of weeks. As you have written about, sourdough characteristics develop. Sometimes I’ll even use the dough as a starter but generally use more of the “starter” than the traditional way of making sourdough. I always save the last of the batch to mix in with the new. I used to just let your basic recipe develop but a few months ago I got some sourdough starter from a baker and mixed that in. Now I do not use yeast. Supposedly the dry yeasts will not stay alive like the yeasts in the sourdough. When making a new batch I have to wait an extra day for it to rise though. Thanks for your methods that I have enjoyed for a few years now!

  40. I have been making traditional sourdough bread for about a year….now I have found ‘A B in 5’…wow, what a difference it has made…no more kneading….but I don’t use commercial yeast….as I cannot tolerate it…so I went straight in with your recipe, but replace the 1 1/2 tblsp yeast with 1 1/2 cups of s/d starter, (which I have had going for well on a year now)….I don’t change anything else in the recipe….and have had perfect bread every time….fresh bread on tap…one could say…fan-tas-tic…thank you…hope this helps other people with similar yeast problems to mine.

    1. Thank you Lyn,

      That is wonderful to hear, I am sure others will be interested to read your experience!

      Cheers, Zoë

  41. I have been experimenting with this and have found what works and what does not. first, i tried the standard recipe and let it rise for 14 hours. Great proof but way strong yeast flavor. The yeast must have consumed to much of the natural sugars and what not. Haha. However it was a nice sprouted loaf in a sense. Ok so that didnt work. So what im doing next is taking 1 cup of flour and water with a 1/4 tsp of yeast to make a sponge. Let it ferment for 12 hours but not sure if it needs to be in fridge. Have not figured that part out yet. I love sourdough flavor. Anyway, after the 12 hours, ill mix up the master recipe but ill subtract out a cup of water and flour along with a 1/4 tsp yeast. Mix up as well and let rise, shape, proof and then bake. However, i have heard that when you add a sponge, you need to knead the bread for 5 minutes…. Not sure if that is myth or fact haha.

  42. I just got the the New Artisan Bread book for Christmas- loved the master recipe. Now I am making the oatmeal maple bread. I don’t have the recommended nonstick loaf pans…I have regular metal or glass bread pans…would these suffice, or could I do it as a free form loaf, like the boule?

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