The Mother Starter

At first, I thought “mother starter” was just a kitchy name for the sourdough starter, but once it came together, I understood just how fitting the name was. When you finish with your seed culture, it really is a seed! No more than one cup volume, it grows instantly into a 4-6 C mass! It’s unbelievable! You can make quite a bit of bread with just half of a part three seed culture!


This is good news for all my sourdough eating friends though, I plan to just bake loaves back to back so that I don’t have to stall my bread baking with baking only sourdough for a month or longer.

before kneading...

Ok so directly out of Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday:

This is the starter you’ll keep in your refrigerator  perpetually and use to build your actual bread dough. To convert a seed culture into a mother starter, you’ll use the seed culture to inoculate a larger batch of flour and water to make a firm piece of starter with the consistency of bread dough.

To make the mother starter strong enough to function in a final dough, you’ll build it with three times as much flour as seed culture, by weight. This process will give the mother starter about the same feel as the final dough.

A little starter goes a long way, so the following instructions call for you to discard half of your seed culture or give it away. Or if you’d prefer to keep a larger mother starter on hand, especially if you bake often or in large batches, you can convert the entire seed culture into am other starter by doubling the weight of the new flour and water.


  • 2-3/4 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 C plus 2 TBS filtered or spring water
  • 3/4 C of half of the part four seed culture

Combine all the ingredients int he bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on slow speed for one minute. Or combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and use a large spoon or your hands to mix until all the ingredients  form a rough, slightly sticky ball. Transfer the starter to a lightly floured work surface and knead for two minutes, until the starter is fairly smooth and all of the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Place the mother starter in a clean, lightly oiled nonreactive bowl or plastic container large enough to contain the starter after it doubles in size. cover loosely with plastic wrap or a lid (but don’t tighten, as the carbon dioxide gas will need to escape). Leave the starter out at room temperature for 4-8 hours  (or longer if needed) until it doubles in size. The timing will depend on the ambient temperature and potency of your seed culture. Once its doubled, it should have a pleasant acidic aroma.

sneaky Mei! You turn your back for just a second....

When the starter is fermented, degas it by kneading it for a few seconds, then form it back into a ball, cover tightly and refrigerate. After a few hours in the refrigerator, vent any carbon dioxide buildup by briefly opening the lid or plastic wrap. the mother starter is now ready to use and will be good for up to five days.

Ok, so there you have it!

I was in the middle of loosing my mind right at the end of kneading together my seed culture and mother starter, so I kneaded and dumped it all into my dough rising bucket and stuck it in the fridge, a couple of hours later, I realized I needed to “proof” it, so I pulled it out and let it sit at room temperature. I have a feeling its going to take around double the time to  activate itself now that the wild yeast is probably sleeping….

Signing off for the night, mother starter, sitting in the oven, the warmest part of the kitchen, heat off of course, but protected from any cool breezes in the kitchen overnight, we will see what happens tomorrow!

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