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Q&A

For taking challah, (how) do you account for the flour in sourdough starter?

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I understand that one should take challah when baking bread made with at least 10 cups of flour. (That article says 14 for saying the b'racha but down to 10 for taking at all.) How does this requirement interact with sourdough starter?

A sourdough starter is a fermented mixture of flour and water. One "feeds" the starter from time to time with more flour and water to keep the fermentation process going. To make bread, you take some of the starter, feed it, let it ferment for a few hours, and then prepare your dough with it and more flour and water.

When deciding whether you've met the threshold for taking challah (and then the threshold for doing so with the b'racha), do you count the flour you fed the starter? Do you proportionally count some volume of the pre-fed starter? Or is it only the flour that goes into the bowl right before kneading that counts?

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Shulchan Aruch, Yore Dea 324:11, discusses what to do if the starter is tevel (has not had chala taken) and the dough is not (viz, it has had chala taken) or vice versa. So clearly chala must be taken from the starter if it's made of enough flour. If the starter has not had chala taken though it should have had, presumably [but contact your rabbi instead of relying on me] you can simply take the appropriate amount from the completed dough if it is, in toto, of the requisite amount of flour.

(That said, there's also a requirement to take chala: it's a mitzva, not only something that, if not done, bars you from eating the dough. So leaving your starter around without chala having been taken may be problematic. But that's not what you asked.)

If the starter itself does not have the requisite amount of flour, then I don't know. I'd guess that it still combines with the other dough and you take chala on the whole; on the other hand, maybe it's considered an example of "starter that doesn't require chala taken, added to a dough that does" (the classic example is where the starter is a non-Jew's): the Rama there says not to use such a starter because you're mixing chala-required and not-chala-required doughs.

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