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Did You Know

May 24, 2008 | From the kitchen of Rose

Many of you know that I am a great advocate of using old starter added to bread dough to enhance flavor, texture, and keeping quality, but much to my regret, not everyone is willing to make, buy, or maintain a starter. There are, however, other ways to introduce extra flavor into bread dough that are really quite simple. My favorite easy method is used in many of my recipes in The Bread Bible. It involves making a sponge with all of the water used in the recipe, equal volume (1 1/2 times the weight) of the flour, and half the yeast and allowing it to sit from 1 to 4 hours before mixing the rest of the dough. But did you know that using just a total of one quarter of the yeast means you can let it sit at room temperature overnight which gives you more leeway time-wise. By the way, the total amount of yeast in the bread dough remains the same, you simply add less to the sponge and more to the final dough in the second stage of mixing.

It is a good thing to keep in mind when you need to slow down fermentation. You can experiment with how much yeast to add depending on the amount of time you want it to ferment and the temperature depending or the time of year. In Summer you may need to lower the yeast, in Winter increase it. YOU have the control!


Tanya Metaksa
Tanya Metaksa
06/23/2009 12:08 PM

I made a biga at 3 PM and then let it stay overnight at room temp. 78 degrees.
Now it is 9 AM next day and I wonder if I should put it in the fridge, throw it out and start over again, or use it now.
Any thoughts?
I am making the Ciabatta from Rose's Bread Bible.


Rob--just look at any recipe that uses a biga, and you will find all the normal weight information, etc.


Hi Rose,

Yes, the biga sounds much more doable to me. In the BB, You only speak of water and flour in the biga in terms of volume (not weight), so does that mean I shouldn't weigh to acheive the 1:2 ratio of water to flour when making the biga? I'm so accustomed to weighing because of you, it feels strange to go back to volume. :) -Rod


do try a biga. it can sit in the frig for several days gaining in acidity and is really easy to do!


Hi Rose,

Thank you for the information. I saw your recent post, and I read the Bread Bible's section on making a levain, but I don't think I'm ready to take on the task. I guess I will stick to the sponge method until I become a little more ambitious. Thank you for your prompt responses! -Rod


rod, i did a search and it appears i never listed a general way in which to add old starter to bread dough. if you do a search under 'did you know' you will find my recommendations of using a sponge starter and of course in my book i give lots of possibilities such as biga, poulish, etc. but for using old starter, i.e. not recently refreshed, i will soon do a separate posting to give guidelines.


rod, you need to do a search on this blog--it has been covered in detail. the starter i use is a sour dough starter which is the consistency of biscuit dough. information for making this starter is in the bread bible but how much to add and how much salt to increase etc. is on this blog. i wouldn't add it to a soft white bread dough as it increases the strength of the dough and would make it less soft.

kzghy,the answer to your question is detailed in my book. this is far to general a question to be able to answer on a blog.


Dear Rose,

I would like to take your suggestion to maintain a starter to use in breads, but I'm unsure what kind of starter to maintain. What do you recommend, a pate fermente? How much of it do you recommend adding to a bread recipe? Can I add it to any bread recipe? And do I need to make adjustments to the recipe to compensate for the additional starter?

I love all your books and blog, by the way. I just made the banana feather loaf (delish) and have the starter for the cinnamon raisin loaf in the refrigerator right now.

Thanks in advance,


kzghy johnxon
kzghy johnxon
06/ 2/2008 05:42 PM

What is the difference between:

Tried a levain with a little yeast and without yeast. Both failures. I think my problem is temperature. Any tips for keeping a good temperature.


i shouldn't think so but maybe to be safe add it later. hopefully someone in your climate will have tried and will respond.


Katherine See
Katherine See
06/ 1/2008 06:06 AM

Thanks for the added info. Ms. Rose. One question though. Will powdered milk mixed with flour to cover the sponge spoil overnight if left out in the kitchen? Our ambient temperature I think is 26 or 27 degrees centigrade. Maybe hotter during the summer? I've been keeping the sponge in the fridge all the time. But I've been running out of space lately. Been making the raisin cinnamon spiral bread from your book. For your info too, I live in the Philippines. Climate like Singapore.


Yet Another Anna
Yet Another Anna
05/27/2008 10:23 AM

Thanks for this advice Rose, my fridge stays full to bursting, so I love the idea of being able to simply leave the bowl out overnight.


This is why I like this blog so much! Giving us information and learning how to improve homemade bread is great! Thank you.


Excellent information Rose... I love that I can always learn something new from you - thank you!!!



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