How to Make Rye and Other Specialty Sourdough Starters

Filed in Real Food by on January 13, 2014 5 Comments
specialty sourdough starters

Kamut starter, Rye starter, Semolina starter

So, you have been experimenting with your own sourdough breads, and have a beautiful starter bubbling away on the counter top or resting peacefully in the refrigerator. But maybe the recipe you have been itching to try calls for a rye starter or a whole wheat starter or a semolina starter or some other specialty starter. What do you do?

Well, you can start a brand new starter using only rye flour, or semolina or whatever. That’s ok if you don’t want to make bread until next week. If you are like me though, you make these decisions at the almost last minute. I want to make semolina bread today or tomorrow, not next week. So I am going to share my specialty starter short cut.

Simply use the specialty flour on Day 7 when making starter from scratch (directions here), or when replenishing a resting starter. For example, if the recipe calls for rye starter, on day 7 add 1 – 2 cups rye flour instead of all-purpose flour. If the recipe calls for whole wheat starter, add 1 – 2 cups of whole wheat flour. If the recipe calls for semolina starter, add 1 – 2 cups of semolina or durum flour, and so on.

By using a specialty flour, you have in effect made a specialty starter. Is it exactly the same as a starter made only from one kind of flour right from the beginning? No, but it’s close. Besides, most of us don’t have the kitchen space to have several different kinds of starter going all at once. And once I have a starter bubbling away, I hate to dispose of it, don’t you? It almost seems mean, to throw away a living thing. Well, maybe that’s just my own issue ! 🙂

You can also use this same approach with your everyday starter to change the flavor of a basic sourdough loaf. Sometimes I use Kamut flour to give the starter a little different flavor, or whole wheat flour, and  I have even tried teff and buckwheat flours. Remember, there is no such thing as a BAD loaf of sourdough bread so we might as well experiment. There are only good loaves, better loaves, and great loaves.

Do you have  favorite specialty starter? Share with us!

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About the Author ()

Renee Pottle, an author and Home Economist, is fanatic about growing and preserving food for her family. She blogs at, and

Comments (5)

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  1. Jerry says:

    Hi Renee!

    Just curious. If I have an established starter, why couldn’t I just use a small pinch of the feeding discard to begin a specialty flour sourdough? After a couple of feedings it would essentially be almost completely Durham (or whatever) sourdough. Not an overnight process, but seems an easy way to come up with what I’d like. My current starter came from Carl’s friends and dates back to 1847. The little baggie looked like what I imagine crack cocaine looks like, and was hard as a rock! However, it started flawlessly and makes some superb finished products. Seems to work better when I keep it on the somewhat thicker mix side of things.

    Happy baking!


    • admin says:

      Jerry, absolutely. This is a great way to make a specialty starter. Since my starter has been plugging along for a few years now, I seldom discard any – just use a different method that I will write about probably this fall. But I essentially do the same thing by dividing the starter. It has been a regular white flour starter, to a rye starter, to a kamut starter, etc many times. Having a starter that goes back to 1847 is amazing. I am just a little bit jealous. 🙂

      • Jerry says:

        Hi Renee!

        Thanks for the reply!

        That starter is free for the price of a SASE @ !

        I started it according to their revised online instructions. After 12 hours I has some bubbles. Added 1/4 cup flour & water each, and it got very active after 12 hours. After that, half a cup same thing, and it went nuts.

        Wish I could attach pics.

        Also there a guy on eBay that collects and sells some very old starters fairly reasonably, and even sells the 1847 Oregon Trail version I have, but as I said you can get it virtually free. First thing I did was spread a bunch of it on parchment to dry before it shifted too much to local bugs. I’m in the habit of backing up everything! 😉

        Thanks again!


      • Jerry says:

        Almost forgot! I threw in a couple of bucks with that SASE just to help keep the cause going, but it’s not required. So rare to see the sort of altruism they’re displaying, but they’re following in the footsteps of Carl.

        Good luck!

  2. Doug says:

    Thank you for all the good information. I’m gonna try some other SD starters. I’ve always used white or WW flour for my starters.

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