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I have some sourdough starter that is liquid. If I try to make dough out of it and it turns out more liquid than solid, can it be mixed with baking yeast in order to produce a normal risen bread (like without the sourdough process)?

I think I might even have to add some extra flour when I add the baking yeast in the morning after a night of fermentation.

Thanks

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  • It isn't clear to me what "liquid sourdough dough" is. If it's a liquid, surely it would be a batter rather than dough? At which point it would make for some delicious pancakes but would be quite the challenge to make into bread without adding quite a bit of flour. Also the "sourdough" part to me suggests that it has natural yeast cultures already in it which eliminates the need to add any baking yeast to the "dough".
    – Abion47
    Oct 5, 2023 at 16:23
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    Or do you perhaps mean liquid sourdough starter? If that's the case, the starter presumably already contains the yeast you need for making sourdough, so you can just use it as-is without adding more yeast (though fermentation/rise times are generally a bit longer for starter vs. baking yeast). In my eyes, using the yeast defeats the purpose of using starter; the only reason I would supplement starter with more yeast is if I suspected the starter was extremely inactive and for some reason I needed bread that day (otherwise I would rather spend a few days to revive the starter before using it).
    – Abion47
    Oct 5, 2023 at 16:29
  • @Abion47 Well I need bread. My started won't rise enough and I think my dough will end up more liquid than solid , so I asked if adding some flour and baking yeast will make it rise like normal bread. As far as I understand most of the dough will be fermented and by adding the baking yeast I get my bread to rise and cook better.
    – Kermilli
    Oct 5, 2023 at 16:36
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    I think we need more details to give you a good answer. Can you please explain your procedure so far and the results, if you have any?
    – Stephie
    Oct 5, 2023 at 17:21

2 Answers 2

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I'm going to offer this as two answers: one assuming you are talking about liquid sourdough starter, and one assuming you are talking about a liquid sourdough batter.


Liquid sourdough starter is simply regular sourdough starter with a lot of water (typically 5x the amount of water vs flour). The differences that the water brings to the starter are mostly a matter of flavor, as the different starters will still ferment and rise like normal. A liquid starter not rising would make sense as there isn't a lot of gluten structure to trap the air, so the appearance of a healthy liquid starter would resemble that of a ginger bug or lacto-fermented vegetables - it will just make a lot of bubbles that get released when agitated.

Using liquid starter is the same as using virtually any other kind of starter. Simply take the greater water content into account when calculating the ratios of your dough and otherwise use it like normal.


Liquid sourdough batter isn't necessarily a bad thing (after all, sourdough pancakes are delicious), but it's highly unusual for making bread - even extremely high hydration breads still need to be dough before they can become bread.

The reason your dough is liquid has nothing to do with the fermentation. Dough becomes dough because of the flour, and in this case, it's because of the gluten in the flour. The point of the mixing and kneading step of forming the dough is to develop the gluten so that your dough has structure, so if your dough is liquid, you need more flour. Otherwise, when it enters the rising stage, the "dough" will not rise much if at all simply because, like with liquid starter, there isn't a proper gluten structure to trap the gasses being produced in fermentation.

If time is a concern, you can certainly add commercial baking yeast, and that will definitely kickstart the rising activity. The downside, though, is that the resulting bread will be noticeably less sourdough-y and taste more like just normal bread. Some people add commercial yeast to their sourdough precisely because of this - they like sourdough but don't want it to be too strong. Whether or not this is an acceptable compromise is ultimately up to you.

Now if your goal was to bulk-ferment a liquid batter before you add more flour to turn it into a dough, that is certainly an approach that would work (and would probably result in an awesomely soft and tasty sourdough), and this is all a moot point as you would just add the flour in the morning. At that stage, though, I would say that the sourdough starter has had plenty of time to replicate and spread throughout the dough, gobbling up most of the readily available food and nutrients, so I'm not convinced that adding commercial yeast at this stage would have much of a practical effect.

Other possibilities for kickstarting the yeast activity:

  • Add yeast food. This can be as simple as sugar, but you could also add potato starch (or even instant mashed potatoes).
  • Add more starter. If your dough needs more yeast, the most ideal solution would be to add the yeast that you started with.
  • Move the dough to a warmer environment. Yeast is a living organism, and as such, it doesn't work as efficiently in the cold. (For best results, keep your dough in a 95-105°F/35-40°C environment. You can go as high as 115°F/45°C, but as yeast starts to die around 120°F/45°C, getting too close to the line risks imperfections in your proofing environment causing parts of it to teeter over the edge.)
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  • The thing is that in the first days of making the starter I left it near a fridge(it was warm) and at first it rose then it stagnated and became liquid-like. I tried adding more flour but it still became liquid-like. So I guess if I mix my starter with flour it will become again liquid regardless of other factors like temperature . So if it happens that my dough doesn't rise properly after a night of letting it rise/ferment and it becomes liquid-like , would it make sense for me to add baking yeast and some extra flour in order for it to rise at some level ? I need it to rise and ferment.
    – Kermilli
    Oct 5, 2023 at 17:35
  • @Kermilli It sounds like while your dough isn't strictly batter, it's still liquid enough that once it reached a certain point in the rise, the structure wasn't strong enough to retain the air and it all escaped (or something else knocked the air out). At any rate, you should still add flour and rework the dough so it has more structure, and I'd also recommend adding sugar or potato starch as the bulk of your dough is now spent of food for the yeast and just adding more yeast won't solve the problem. You might even just start over with fresh dough and use what you have for... pancakes. :)
    – Abion47
    Oct 5, 2023 at 17:40
  • Abion: just for the readers, I wanted to clarify that what you call "batter" is what most people call "starter", and what you call "starter" is not something that most sourdough bakers use, at all. I've been doing sourdough baking for 25 years and have never gone above 1:1 water:flour ratio.
    – FuzzyChef
    Oct 20, 2023 at 17:51
  • @FuzzyChef I called it batter because when I answered the question, it wasn't clear whether the "liquid sourdough" that OP was referring to was a liquid starter or if it was a dough that had such a high level of hydration that calling it a "dough" was disingenuous rendering the term "batter" more applicable. Regarding liquid starter, it is apparently a thing, though I agree that it sounds highly unusual as I hadn't heard of it either before doing research for this answer.
    – Abion47
    Oct 22, 2023 at 22:08
  • It is unusual. I've never encountered it, either in person, or online.
    – FuzzyChef
    Oct 23, 2023 at 1:25
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I am not an expert, only a long time successful home baker, but I believe I understand your question. I have been baking sour dough for a long time. I keep my sourdough mother at a consistency of a thick batter. It matters not to me the ratio. Too thin, add a little flour, too thick add a little water. It works. My basic bread recipe is: 1/2 cup starter, 1-1/2 cups warm water, 2 teaspoons salt. If my starter is not very active I add a teaspoon of yeast. I stir in enough flour to make a strong dough. Cover and leave overnight. Next day I pull and fold the dough several times until it looks "right". Put it into a floured bowl the same size as my baking pot (which is a cast iron dutch oven) and let it rise to about 3/4 height. Transfer to the pot which was preheated in a 425F oven. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove the lid and bake until the desired color is achieved (for me it's usually 5 minutes or so). Keep your starter in the fridge if you don't don't want to feed it daily. Just take it out the night before you want to bake, and feed it. It should be ready and willing by the next morning, if not add yeast to your bread dough. This isn't cheating, sometimes it takes takes awhile for your starter to really mature.

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