Monday, June 14, 2010

Sourdough French Bread with unfed starter

Sometimes there is a demand, (Mommy, I want sourdough bread!), for sourdough, and not the time to make it properly.  Sometimes the state of the economy makes you loathe to throw your starter discard down the sink!!  Flour ain't exactly as cheap as it used to be...  So with all the chowder I have been making lately, I needed some nice soup sopping bread.  It's nearly impossible for me to find a storebought bread that will not affect my daughter's allergies and homemade is just so good and fresh anyway.  Sourdough is hands down her favorite bread and perfect for accompanying soup. 

Normally I use my starter a couple times per week and make sure it is good and happy before I put it back in the fridge.  This last time though, it had been well over a week since the last use and the starter was looking pretty sluggish.  It didn't have a large layer of hooch over it yet, but it was just starting to collect around the bubble mounds.  That and the starter was all soupy, like it gets when you neglect to feed it for a week... or more... Still, we had need of bread, just time to do a fairly standard loaf, and a "request" for sourdough.  So I figured I would try my neglected, unfed starter with the added yeast method. 

I very rarely use all white flour anymore but in this case I decided to give the starter all the help I could.  Thus came about a very successful french/sourdough batard made with unfed starter.  (When I say french sourdough, I mean a cross between french bread and sourdough bread.)  My starter is quite tart even when unfed so I ended up with a very happy, crispy/chewy crusted loaf with a wonderfully soft and chewy interior that did have a good hint of sourness to it.  It was great with soup and it would make great sandwiches too.  This will definitely go in my regular rotation for using up sleepy starter.  There will be no problem getting it eaten!  (If I had time and wanted to perk up the sourness, I would just combine the starter, water and half the flour or so an hour or two prior to starting the dough; in essence a prefeeding.)  Today I am making this loaf with part white whole wheat because the starter has been fed fairly recently and is quite happy despite living in the fridge.  (It is taking a tablespoon extra water for the whole wheat flour and perkier starter.)

Sourdough French Bread with Unfed Starter

½ cup (4 ¼ oz) (120.5g) sourdough starter, fed or unfed
¾ cup (6 oz) (170g) lukewarm water
1¼ tsp (7g) sea salt
1 ¼ (5.25g) tsp sugar
1 tsp (3.15g)  Instant Yeast
2 ½ cups (300g) all purpose flour

Combine all ingredients.  Knead to form a smooth, soft dough.  Add a bit more flour if needed, (older, "soupy" starter may require a couple extra tablespoons of flour).  Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until until doubled, around 90 minutes.  Shape into an oval or oblong loaf.  Place on a lightly greased baking sheet or a parchment lined peel.  Cover and let rise until quite puffy.  Around 60 minutes depending on the temperature of your kitchen.  Slash the tops and place in a preheated 425º oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  To get a nice crispy crust, spritz some water in the oven right when you put in your loaf.  You can just toss in a few tablespoons of water if you don't have a spritzer handy, just be careful of your oven window, wouldn't want to crack it!  Remove the loaf from the oven and cool on a rack as long as you can stand it.  (Bread cuts better when it is cool, but everyone knows fresh bread hot out of the oven can't be beat.)

This post will go to Yeastspotting.

adapted from King Arthur


  1. Hi there,
    I too have unfed starter in the fridge and this is such a great idea! Thanks for commenting about the Charcoal Braid at my blog. Hope you manage to find some charcoal powder in Seattle.

  2. Thanks for the how-to. I had some unfed sourdough that I was not in the mood to use in any of the recipes I had, so an online search brought me to your blog. I have my dough made now and resting in the fridge till morning when I'll shape then bake it.

  3. Thanks for this! I've been using sourdough starter for various things (crackers, pancakes, impossible pies, soaking oats...) for over a year now, but, believe it or not, have not tried bread yet! i have some starter that needs using and i think I'll give this a try today, it looks easy and rather fool-proof.

  4. I found your blog as I was looking for a sourdough recipe. This is a real keeper. So easy and makes a nice baguette. Thanks!!

  5. I LOVE this bread! I have made it a few times now and it's rising as we speak! Love the combo of french and sourdough-reminds me of Spaghetti Factory bread! Mmmmm

  6. This bread recipe is fab. Great solution to using under starter up. Thank you.

  7. It probably isn't as critical for a recipe like this, but do you have approximate weights for the ingredients? I'm trying to use cups and teaspoons as little as possible these days.

  8. Hi hereNT - I added gram weights for you. Here is a helpful resource for ingredient weights if you come across a recipe you'd like to try that does not list weights:

  9. This bread was my first attempt at using my discards for a loaf of sourdough while waiting impatiently for my starter to become fully ripe. It turned out great! Easy to make and was very delicious! Slight tang and nice crumb.Was gobbled up! thanks for such a great recipe!

  10. Thanks for the recipe but i didn’t use my discard. Instead i use my fed starter right out of the fridge. Since I live in the tropics with temperature between 85F to 100F, it’s never a good idea to leave starter laying around at room temp during the day. So i simply weigh it into my dough. Do you think it would work with whole wheat or spelt?

  11. Oh my yes, starter at that temp would have to be fed three times a day or more! I always keep mine in the fridge too unless I want to perk it up a bit. I do think it would work with both whole wheat and spelt, though you might want a little more water with the whole wheat and a little less with the spelt. Spelt tends to want 25% less hydration and likes to spread out as much as rise up. So a 50/50 blend for spelt is excellent unless you are using a banneton to help shape the rise. Kamut also helps the functional properties of spelt, but can be harder to find, especially if you are in an area with smaller grocers.

  12. Hello, has anyone adapted this to a bread machine? I have a little one loaned to me and I like to experiment with it.

  13. Hi RB, I'm sure this recipe would work fine in a bread machine! I prefer to use the dough cycle on a machine and bake the dough in the oven for best crust results, but you can always try. Probably a longer cycle to make sure it rises properly, though the yeast is your insurance for this dough. The recipe size is I believe approximate to a 1 lb loaf, so the right size for a smaller machine. Of course you will need to keep an eye on it the first time, all machines work somewhat differently. Here is a link to King Arthur's bread machine tips page for more advice: Bread Machine Basics

  14. This bread is AMAZING!!! Since the beginning of this pandemic, I average making a loaf of bread a week. I am not sure how I came to your page, but WOW!!! A loaf came out of the oven, was gone in 15 minutes. Second batch is rising as I type. Thank you so much!!!

    1. That's fantastic! So glad you are having such success, I really like this recipe and come back to it often. Thanks for letting me know it worked out!


Thanks for commenting, I love hearing from you! If you have any questions I will do my level best to answer them for you.