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I saw this question entitled "How can I bake bread using a mother culture?", but I have no idea what a "mother culture" is. Can someone explain what the term "mother culture" means?

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

A mother culture is sometimes known as a starter dough and is a fermenting dough that is used to 'start' the fermentation process in the bread you are going to make by adding a bit of the starter dough to the dough you are making. Mainly sourdough I think, but I believe you can use different mothers for different breads.

The starter dough is 'fed' flour and water to keep it alive and going, and then used everyday to make the days bread. The mother can then be kept going for many years and gives the bread made using it a distinctive flavour.

At least that's my understanding, I'm hoping to get a more detailed picture from this and the answer to my question...

Some information here and also on wikipedia

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The important part of that starter dough is (a) it contains a yeast culture mix that is known to give long results (since the same yeasts gave good results yesterday) and (b) it is kept alive and active, and thus will start growing and fermenting faster than, say, dried yeast. –  Peteris Jul 15 at 19:08
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There is a good blog post on the Al Dente blog that talks about getting started with a sourdough starter. They use a starter from King Arthur Flour that is supposed to be 250 years old. :)

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