Single use sourdough starter?

I cannot find an answer to this anywhere on the web which makes me wonder, is it not possible?

In these COVID-19 times where yeast is as hard to find as hen’s teeth I am looking specifically for a sour dough starter small enough for a single use to bake up a small loaf of bread. I do not want to spend weeks tending it and feeding because with just the two of us it simply just wasteful. Kind of like a biga or poolish except fermented longer and active enough to actually make the dough rise.

Is there anything out there that I can make, leave to mature and ferment and use the entire thing to make one loaf of bread??? Looking forward to hearing whatever advice you experts can give. Thanks!

I’m on a roll with yeast (leavening) questions so here is my 2 cents.

The short answer is no.

BUT. Although you will see many articles about feed and discard 1/2, feed … THAT is not necessary. You can cruise this site and see many examples of bakers that use minute amounts of starter, or instead of making an overnight biga or polish or levain … use the total amount of starter.

For that last example … suppose a recipe calls for you to make a biga/preferment/whatever of 60 g starter, 60 g water, 60 g flour and let that get bubbly and then proceed. Well, what you really have at the bubbly stage is 180 g of starter. So, if you have a jar of starter that is 250 grams you can instead, use 180 g of that starter for your bread, feed your remaining starter (70 g left), feed 70-100 g water, 70-100 g flour, let that bubble up and then put it in the frig until you make bread next.

Starter does NOT have to be constantly fed. And even though many sites/books say feed once a week, that is not necessary either. The little microbes are pretty resilient.

And you don’t need as much starter as described above … that was just an example.

If you’ve made it this far and I understand you are new … bottom line, you can choose a method with no waste and minimal feeding. You might need to do a bit of feed and discard at the beginning.

Another alternative is Fermented Fruit Water … see the thread here: Fermented Fruit water thread

FWIW, I am single, the only human in the house … I’ve been making bread, sweet rolls, doughnuts, crackers, biscuits, pizza dough, focaccia, flatbreads for myself with natural leaven (sourdough) … for almost 5 years. I think I’ve thrown out a bit of discard twice in that time frame. Even if you have discard you can use it many ways other than pancakes and waffles. Search sourdough discard on this site, if you are interested. The starter care and use is not time intensive, nor is the baking … the time from start to end is longer than with commercial yeast, but hands on time is not more. And then: super taste, texture and health benefits :slight_smile:


Yeast difficult to find? You just aren’t looking in the right place!

Gadzooks Liz - I do believe you have just completely answered my question! And you are correct - I am a newb. I did successfully make a starter and this loaf of bread was the result - however, the starter is a greedy little entity and I just didn’t want to be held hostage to the feeding especially as I know I won’t be able to use it all! Thank you so much for the advice!

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Thanks Abe - I do actually make my own kefir! This is a great work around that I am definitely going to try!

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I culture kefir also and just for comparison, I think dealing with the kefir takes more time during a week, than taking care of the starter. I usually bake 1-2x per week … often a 1/2 or even 1/3 to 1/4 of a recipe. I happen to enjoy baking! But, about 3 weeks ago, I made a number of breads, sliced and froze and haven’t baked until this morning. Also did not feed starter, it has been living in the refrigerator. But, that cold, unfed starter went into a focaccia dough this morning and is rising fine.

If you feel up to reading more to give you and idea of options for baking on a limited basis and not having your life ruled by microbes:

Demystifying Sourdough Bread Baking by @homebreadbaker (Paul)


Challenging sourdough starter convention by @Fermentada (Melissa)

Lots of good info and more guideline than requirement. I am not a baker’s %, bake by exact numbers, know the ash content, etc. baker. I do KNOW my flours as in how the flours I use regularly tend (TEND) to respond. The other thing is schedule … I would say that most of the recipes can be mixed up either first thing in the morning or say early evening … then into the frig for 24 plus hours which lets time do its thing. There are many options which work and can work around your time availability with some flexibility.

I have run on again :frowning:

Your bread looks great! Water - flour - salt … Amazing :slight_smile:

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One last thing … if you do have discard and since you make kefir … Sourdough Naan Flatbread … I use kefir in place of the milk and yogurt in that recipe, i.e. add the recipe amounts together and use that much kefir. Also, I stick to recipe ratios … sometimes I have just a small amount of discard so say that is 50% of recipe amount, I mix 50 % of all other ingredients. It is a versatile dough. If you read the comment thread, you will see what people have used it for aside from “Naan”.

No, but I read someplace that starter can be frozen. Has anyone out there done it?

Liz already linked my demystifying post where I describe how I manage my starter, but I’ll reiterate that I keep a tiny amount of starter in a jar in my fridge which I feed about 1/3 of a cup of flour once every 3-4 months whenever i happen to think about it. I do discard when I feed, but it’s honestly not enough to make a single pancake, so I just feed it to my chickens.

When I bake a loaf of bread, I take maybe a gram (I don’t weigh it, I just literally dip the end of a teaspoon into the jar and use what sticks to the spoon), straight from the cold, unfed jar in the fridge, and mix it in with my dough. It takes longer to get going than if you are using a larger amount of active, recently fed starter, but once it takes off, it leavens the bread just as well. It really doesn’t have to be a big deal, or at all wasteful, to maintain a starter. I totally ignore my starter. It still loves me.

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Hi Liz - sorry it’s taken a while to get back. I wanted to thank you for the amazing resources you’ve posted here. Immensely helpful. So…there it was The Entity (sourdough starter) staring me down in the fridge. I thought okay I have got to try this a second time and see if I can produce a 2nd loaf. As far as feeding all I’d done was what the starter recipe instructions dictated: “what you remove for your loaf, replace with equal cups of water and flour, allow to sit at room temperature and refrigerate until ready to use again”. The lady who wrote this recipe had had her starter going for 35 years. Again I refrigerated the dough overnight, baked it this morning and voila!

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YEA!! Another beautiful loaf!! I’m happy to hear you gave it another go.

I remember that when I first started with sourdough … and I’d baked yeast bread for 40 years prior to starting sourdough 5 years ago … I thought the entire process a bit overwhelming. But as you (if you do) keep doing it, it becomes somewhat 2nd nature. And bonus: delicious, healthy (fermentation!! and no unpronounceable ingredients) bread that even costs less than store bought.

And you’re welcome. It can frustrating to week through all of the different approaches to starter as well as the baking procedure. One of my favorite “Paul-isms” (@homebreadbaker ) is something along the line of “there are lots of ways of doing ‘whatever’ they are all wrong except for what works for you”. I’m paraphrasing from memory, but that is the gist. Happy bread baking!

Thanks, Liz. I wish I had said that because I totally agree with it, but it was @MTJohn who wrote what I think you are paraphrasing in the demystifying post comment thread:

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Oops!!! So sorry @MTJohn … I should have looked it up.

Try making and using a pate fermentee - another type of pre-ferment.

Pate fermentee.

I make my bread, add a bit of flour and water to the starter and refrigerate it till I want to make bread again, and sometimes that might not be for a couple weeks or more. I might only have a couple tablespoons left in the jar after making bread. I add 1/2c unbleached flour and 1/3 c water and mix it up, put lid on jar and stick in fridge. That’s all. If I don’t use it for quite awhile it’ll take longer to activate, or just adding a bit of flour and water and sit out in warm place will activate it better. If a grey watery top on the surface, just pour it off and mix in the extra bit of flour and water needed for the consistency you like (I like my sourdough thick). The amount you add will also depend upon how much you need for a loaf of bread. My recipe calls for about 100 gm. I either do the no-knead artisan method (in 5 minutes a day book), or the mix and then fold about 4 times, then let rise method - and either bake that day, or refrigerate in the bowl and bake the next day. Sourdough is very forgiving and it’s almost impossible to kill. Even if left in fridge, unfed for a long time, removing the crusty yucky top to the bit of good stuff underneath can be rejuvinated. I’ve heard of freezing or dehydrating it, but I haven’t. My sourdough is at least a decade old.

No idea if this will work but I was just playing around with teff, trying to make Injera. Basic recipe is mix water and flour, let stand with loose cover for 24-48 hours (depending on the particular flour and ambient temp etc) and it’s ready. Mine only took about 24 hours to be a frothy, bubbling, sour smelling ferment. Probably could use some of that as starter with whatever flour you are using in your dough; just add “some” to the dough mix and see what happens…

When you make a sourdough starter it is common to see a quick burst of bubbling up. This is predominantly bacterial. Yeasts show up in greater numbers a few days in. Breads like Injera make use of this quick off the mark activity whereas a sourdough starter will have to be nurtured till the PH drops, the bacteria and yeasts form a symbiotic culture and its stronger. In fact its quite common for a starter to slow down and even stop before it matures fully. For Injera it will be fine but for your regular sourdoughs not ideal. Might be a bit of a hit and miss with some off flavours due to what can be leuconostoc bacteria.

Abe, thank you for the clarification. I was wondering if there was some perhaps less common bacteria in the teff. This has happened three times now in my three injera experiments; the growth was what I would call explosive. I’ve created 3 or 4 sourdough starters from scratch, using rye and kamut on different occasions and each of those took several days and gradually started to bubble. The teff just went “crazy”! The first batch, I’d only read one recipe that for some odd reason said to leave it sit for 4-5 days and longer was better. I not sure there were even any solid flour particles left by day 4 it was just a bowl full of foam and far too “sour” to be palatable. I could have tried cutting it with more flour but I just tossed it and only let the next batch go for about 24 hours and it tasted quite good.

I’ve never made Injera Geoffrey but its a sourdough “flat bread” and this enables it to be made from scratch with the quick off the mark burst of activity. You’ll get a slightly raised yet bubbly bread with more flavour and all activity (or most of the activity) is coming from the lactic acid bacteria which shows up first when making a sourdough starter. Yeasts need a bit more time and start to take hold once the starter becomes acidic which takes a few days. After which the bacteria that live in a sourdough starter take over, keep at bay other types of bacteria and live symbiotically with the yeasts. Breads like Injera will have the advantage of a lactic acid fermentation which will add more flavour, some extra lightness from the bubbling and will be more nutritious which is gotten from this relatively quick ferment but because it has no gluten one isn’t looking for a rise like we think of in a leavened bread so no need for a fully matured sourdough starter.

When flour becomes more available I think I’ll give Injera a try.