For Early Summer! Rosemary Bread Starter

For Early Summer! Rosemary Bread Starter

Herbal bread starter (leaven or sourdough starter) may seem like something only for experienced bakers, but when I used tender young early summer rosemary sprigs, they started fermenting and bubbling up the same day, and the starter was done within 48 hours. You can bake homemade bread that's strongly scented with rosemary!

Ingredients: Makes 1/2 jar (a 10-cm diam., 8-cm tall jar with a hermetically sealing lid)

Fresh young rosemary sprigs
enough to fill about 1/3 of the jar
enough to fill up to 1/5 cm from the jar opening
1 teaspoon


1. Swish some boiling water around in a jar with a hermetically sealing lid to sterilize it, then let cool. Quickly rinse the young rosemary sprigs to wash off any dirt.
2. Put the rosemary in the jar, then add the sugar and water. Seal the lid, then lightly shake the jar by turning it upside down and right side up again. Store in a location where you can maintain a temperature of around 25℃. Once or twice a day, lightly shake the jar by turning it upside down; let the contents settle, then open the lid to refresh the air.
3. If you use freshly harvested herbs, in about 3 days, it should start to fizz. Shake, wait for the contents to settle, then open the lid. If there's a popping sound when you open the lid and you see the liquid fizzing up vigorously, the starter is done. You should aim for it to be ready in 5 days, but mine was done within 48 hours using freshly harvested young sprigs and stored in a perfect fermenting environment.
4. When the starter liquid is ready, remove the rosemary and be sure to store the starter in the refrigerator. Take 3 more days to make a starter sponge for bread baking. It has a wonderful aroma, and it's most suited to making focaccia, pizza, fougasse, or any other bread that's chewy, without being too heavy.
5. Characteristics of rosemary starter: It not only gives off a nice aroma when you are kneading the dough, but each mouthful of the bread fills your senses with a rosemary essence. It has a chewy, rather dense texture. Expect it to take a bit longer than other starters for the dough to rise.
6. No matter what kind of rich blend of ingredients you use for the dough, rosemary starter is not suited for making fluffy, soft bread. When I made rolls, they cracked and were quite dense and chewy, not fluffy. The type of bread you can bake with it might be limited, but the aroma is superb.

Story Behind this Recipe

I received lots of fresh organic rosemary sprigs from a friend's garden!
It was my first attempt at making herb based starter or leaven, but I gave it a shot.