We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

In Bread Making, what is the Chef?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The chef is an important step in the baking of all sourdough breads. It is a collection of wild yeasts gathered by setting out a flour and water mixture to ferment. This fermented mixture is known as the chef, starter, sponge, or poolish, depending on regional preferences. Pieces of the mixture are used to make loaves of bread, while the remainder is fed to keep the yeast colony alive. Some bakeries have been using the same chef for their sourdough breads for hundreds of years, producing consistent and sometimes famous sourdough bread.

Most leavened breads use yeast as a leavener. As yeast feeds on the starches and sugars in the bread dough, it creates carbon dioxide as a byproduct, causing the bread to rise. This rise makes the bread light and fluffy, rather than heavy or blocklike. A chef attracts wild yeast unique to the region in which it is cultured. It also encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria, which give sourdough and other breads made from a starter their characteristic soured flavor.

Making a chef sometimes requires a few false starts, and it may take several baking attempts to produce successful sourdough bread. Bakers should not give up, however, as homemade sourdough has a unique and wonderful flavor, and it is rather exciting to think of making bread from local wild yeasts.

Chefs start with flour and water mixed together to form a stiff dough or a batter, depending on regional preference. A half cup of flour and a half cup of water is a basic base, with equal amounts of flour and water being added periodically to feed the chef. Many people prefer to use organic whole wheat or rye flours, since they tend to harbor more wild yeasts. Others also add things like fruit, to encourage the chef to ferment more quickly and develop a unique flavor. Grapes and apples are two common choices of fruit.

After making the basic mixture, the substance is placed into a bowl and covered in a cloth. It should be left in a warm place, usually around 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) until it starts to bubble, at which point more flour and water are added to feed the yeasts. Depending on regional yeast populations, the chef may bubble anywhere between eight hours and several days. It may smell a bit peculiar at this stage, but do not be concerned.

For approximately four days after the first feeding, the mixture should be fed again every eight to 12 hours. It will start to smell rich, wholesome, and yeasty, at which point it can be used to make bread. A portion of the chef, usually around one cup, is broken off and used in the bread dough, while the rest is saved. The chef needs to be fed to stay alive, and many cooks keep it under refrigeration, which slows the growth without killing it. It tends to be the most healthy when it is used and refreshed frequently, which requires frequent baking.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon306219 — On Nov 28, 2012

If someone gives you a piece of their Amish friendship bread starter, can you use that as a sourdough bread starter?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.