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General Chaos Sourdough Starter Challenge

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bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

General Chaos Sourdough Starter Challenge

Well Bill and Katie, apparently all that General Chaos aka Sir Stinksalot needed was to be threatened with the arrival of a new kid on the block, "Flat Stanley" (from Katie's parchment experiments)! I used Bill's 1:4:4 for yesterday morning and yesterday night feeds. Each time the little guy doubled in a little under 8 hours!!!! Yippee!!!

So last night I really wanted to drill down on the proper amount of feeding for him every 12 hours (for now) and I tested 3 different formulations and the temp was 75.7 degrees yesterday and last night in the kitchen, with the following results:

1. Test 1 is a 1:4:4 feed using 1oz starter: 4 oz water: 4oz flour and I got a 100% rise at 8 hours.

2. Test 2 is a 1:9:10 feed using 1 tbsp starter: 9 tbsp water: 9 tbsp flour and I got a 30% rise in 8 hours.

3. Test 3 is a 1:1:1 feed using 1/4 cup starter: 1/4 cup water: 1/4 cup flour and I got a 10% rise in 8 hours.

So I know the 1:4:4 makes a happy starter for now... Bill am I looking for a starter that will double in 4hours? Do you think that in test 2 and 3 my sample was too small? Or do you think that the starter is just still building steam? I guess I will go ahead and wait for it to completely peak before feeding again this morning, then refead the 1:4:4 with the same ratio again?

Thanks Katie for your generous offer! It might be fun once I get this guy going to "trade" starters and have a "friends" starter going and do a tasting. To see how two geographically different starters taste side by side! :D

On a side note, General Chaos is really smelling ok these days. He hasn't been stinky in quite awhile even though he did have a pretty strong vinegar smell there for awhile! ;) Now he just smells acidic towards the end of his rise time.

Comments

kjknits's picture
kjknits

Hey BZ, great testing results!  You have a real science lab going on there.  I have yet to try any other feeding ratios beyond the 1:1:1 (which did nothing, but that was very early on in the process) and 1:4:4, which is what I'm doing every day now, every 12 hours (so, twice a day).  I use 40 g of starter and 160 g each of water and flour.  This leaves me with enough starter after the feed and rise to steal about a cup for baking, and leave enough leftover to feed again.  I've been keeping it on the counter and it is consistently doubling after 6 hours now.  (Then it sits there for another 6 and gets progressively more sour-smelling, until its next feeding, which I think is okay...?)  It raised the firm starter from the BBA basic sodo formula in 4 hours as expected, so I think it's doing well to double in 6 hours after a feed.

One thought--I don't think a smaller amount of starter makes a difference in how well it will rise--the ratio is more important (but Bill, correct me if I'm wrong).  I made a little jar of starter for a friend that I'm meeting tonight, and I used 10 g of starter and fed it with 40 g water and 40 g flour (1:4:4).  It doubled at the same rate as my big jar of starter, sitting beside it on the counter. 

And it would be fun to trade starters!  They always say different starters from different locations taste differently.  

Katie 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi BZ,

It sounds very good that it is rising by double in 8 hours after a 1:4:4 feeding and that it smells good. Getting sour smelling as it ripens after doubling is normal.

I notice Katie says her starter is doubling after a 1:4:4 feeding in about 6 hours. This is exactly what mine does too. The time it takes to double will be longer for a higher feeding ratio than for a lower feeding ratio. So, when you ask should the starter rise by double in 4 hours, the answer is only for about a 1:2:2 (by weight) feeding at room temperature. Mine actually takes about 4.5 hours to double after a 1:2:2 feeding by weight at room temperature. Basically, the time it takes to rise by double is affected by the feeding ratio, the consistency, the temperature, and the type of flour. So, you can really only compare the time it takes to double "apples to apples" if all those factors are the same. For example, after a 1:4:4 (by weight) feeding at room temperature using bread flour at 72F, my starter doubles in 6 hours. If the temperature, type of flour, consistency (like if you do the ratio by volume it will be much soupier and not the same feeding ratio either), or feeding ratio are different, then the time to rise by double will be different - even though you use the same starter.

As far as your two other tests, they appear to be done by volume, if I'm reading your post correctly. A 1:1:1 feeding by volume won't rise much, as the consistency will be soupy. The same applies to the 1:9:9 feeding above. It won't rise much because the consistency is too wet for it to rise in the same way a 100% hydration (by weight) starter would. That doesn't mean there is anything wrong with the starter at all. It's just that when you create a soup rather than a paste consistency, its nature is to froth and bubble rather than rise the way a paste would rise.

To get more typical results on the 1:9:10 test, you could feed 1 tsp of starter with 3 tbsp water and 6 tbsp flour. Roughly a 2:1 ratio of flour to water by volume will give you a thick paste. If you find the starter is too thick and more like a dough than a paste, then you could use slightly more water or slightly less flour. It should be a thick paste that can still be stirred somewhat with a fork, though it will be resistant to stirring. The paste may stand up a little after you've stirred it, but it should flatten out after a few minutes. At that consistency, it should rise in a more or less normal way for a paste. Normally, I find the 1:9:10 feeding by weight will rise by double in 8 hours. Yours will probably take more like 10 hours, if your 1:4:4 feeding is taking 8 hours. It will probably take more than 12 hours to get to a fully ripe state in your case.

For now, it sounds like the 1:4:4 feeding should work well for you on a 12 hour cycle. If the starter doubles in 8 hours, it has 4 hours to ripen, which should be good. One thing to notice is if it has stopped rising and started to dip in the middle after 12 hours. If so, then it should be a good time to feed it.

You may just have a somewhat slower starter than Katie's or mine, in which case it may just stabilize as it is. However, it may speed up with the higher ratio feedings, since it seems to have sped up in the last couple of feedings. If so, then you may get our typical results after a few more feedings at 1:4:4, i.e. doubling in about 6 hours at room temperature after a 1:4:4 feeding.

Katie, yours probably would double in 8 hours after a 1:9:10 feeding, since that's about what happens with mine. It seems to be just beginning to dip after 12 hours, if you want to try that. I've been using that feeding ratio for a while, and it seems to be very stable so far. However, feeding 1:4:4 every 12 hours should be fine for a maintenance schedule, too.

I think Katie's comment was correct. The sample size doesn't matter much, if at all. What matters is the feeding ratio and the consistency.

Sorry if this was too much information or too detailed. Good luck figuring it out. My guess is your starter will continue to strengthen if you give it a few more 1:4:4 feedings. You can probably make bread with it, even if the rise times are a little slower than Katie's or mine.

Bill

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

and please stop me if you get tired of all the questions! Believe me I will understand!!! But on the 2 other samples I started, could I recombine them and then use them for a recipe? And if I did, would I need to bother about knowing what "kind" of starter it is? For instance, a 100% hydration starter versus um, something else like a firm starter?

I would like to only keep the 1:4:4 going and to try making the pizza dough from Jeff Verasano's pizza site. It needs to age in the fridge a few days and Friday is "pizza club" day at our house. :D So I'd like to start it today. Here's his recipe for dough:

http://jvpizza.sliceny.com/ This is his website. It is really intense! Part of what got me started on baking is the desire to bake the perfect pizza and to save us money from ordering out. Pizza and chinese are the only two things we order out on and I've got the Chinese thing fixed now so that our home chinese is maybe even better than the take out but the pizza is still sucking wind! Mainly because of the dough situation. But, I am making progress and I'm saving us about $10 a week or more on pizza and about $5.50 a week on bread! Gotta love that!

Here is his recipe for dough:

Ingredient 1 Pie 3 Pies5 PiesBaker's %Grams Per Liter of Water
Filtered Water      108.00       324.00       540.00 63.50%                  1,000.00
King Arthur Bread flour, or Caputo Pizzeria flour      170.00       510.00       850.00 100.00%                  1,575.00
Kosher or Sea Salt          4.25         12.75         21.25 2.40%                       44.00
Sourdough yeast culture (as a battery poolish)        16.00         48.00         80.00 8.00%                     148.00
Instant Dry yeast - Optional          0.50           1.50           2.50 0.25%                          4.60
Total      299.25     

 

I was planning on making the 3pie quantity to test it out using AP flour since he maintains that he has made equally awesome pies with AP flour and it's what I have here. I haven't bought any special flours yet although I do have some vital wheat gluten I've had frozen for quite awhile.

I tried to look up his definition of a battery poolish but he doesn't mention what this consistency is so I'm gonna assume it's a 100% hydration poolish by weight.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi BZ,

He means a batter (battery is a typo of batter, I would assume) consistency poolish. The baker's percentages look wrong on that spreadsheet, by the way. Without specifying the consistency of it in terms like hydration, it's hard to say exactly what is meant by a batter. I think it usually would refer to a consistency of pancake batter, which might be 125% hydration, I think - slightly thinner than the paste you get using 1 part water to 2 parts flour by volume but thicker then 1 part water, 1 part flour by volume. Anyway, you can probably just use your starter as is. It won't matter that much. You can use almost any consistency that is generally like a paste to a batter, and you will be very close to what is intended. Then fine tune later when you see how long the rise time and what flavors you get.

Bill

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

you predict to happen with the dough? Will it:

1. Not rise or not rise well.

2. Be tough.

3. Be too watery.

4. Be too dry.

Thanks! I don't know enough to be able to look at percentages and spot a problem so any enlightenment you can shed would be wonderful!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi BZ,

I'm not saying the recipe doesn't work. I'm just saying the baker's percentages don't look quite right. They aren't way off, but some of them don't seem right, like 80 grams of starter in 850 grams of flour is not a baker's percentage of 8%, unless I'm starting to lose it here - always possible.

You might want to look at some of the recipes here on the site. I've seen some very good looking pizzas recently here on the site. I don't remember if they include sourdough or not. JMonkey refers to sourdough pizza doughballs, for example.

Bill

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

I was intrigued with trying his recipe because of his ongoing lol as he says "obsessive quest" for the perfect pizza.

Of course I won't even be able to come close on repeating it because not only am I using different starters and flours but also I don't have the kind of mixer he has and by his reckoning the mixing is "half the equation" type of thing. I would be hand mixing. So I don't even know that his recipe is important.

I've tried the PR pizza dough here and that was good but not quite what we're looking for. I tried a quick dough from Fine Cooking and it was amazing except it lacked flavor (because it was quick dough). I looked at Mike Avery's recipe and may try that too. It uses sourdough but I don't think does extra yeast. I could be wrong with my memory one never knows!

The first day I tried making dough using my preferment method and the sourdough but I believe not only did I rush it, my methodology was off and it was awful. Easily the worst I've ever made!

I will do a search for pizza dough on here and see what it brings up! I would imagine I could extrapolate from the PR recipe to get something that would allow the use of a preferment using the starter as a base. If I'm understanding correctly what I will do in that case is :

If the recipe is calling for 2 cups of preferment: I would take 2 tbsp of starter, 1 cup of water and 2 cups of flour and combine it then let it ferment 8-12 hours or overnight. Then combine with the rest of the dough recipe and let it ferment for 8-12 hours. While it's fermenting this 2nd stage, I would also be working the dough with stretch and folds to develop it. Then cut, shape and give a final rise. Then top and bake pies. Would that be about right for a methodology? 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi BZ,

Yes, I think that you have the idea, but I don't do a lot of pizza. It sounds right, but there are probably all kinds of tips you can get from the pizza experts here. I notice Katie posted some information about pizza on this site. Also, I posted a link to JMonkey's sourdough pizza doughballs. One thing to keep in mind is that yeast preferment recipes often contain very high percentages of flour contributed to the dough. For example, I know some recipes that contribute 50% of the flour from preferments. If you literally do that conversion with sourdough, you have to be careful that you don't let your sourdough preferment ripen too much, or the final dough will not rise properly. The higher acid levels coming from the ripe and large amount of sourdough preferment will cause a deterioration in the gluten, and the result is a poor rise, too much sour flavor, and a chewy crumb. A better choice is to just reduce the amount of preferment so that something like 25% or less of the flour is contributed by the preferment, and then just add the left over flour and water back into the dough. I hope that makes sense. Basically, a yeast preferment doesn't behave quite the same as a sourdough preferment. I think you generally need less sourdough preferment as percentage of the whole dough compared to the same recipe with a yeast preferment, especially if the yeast preferment is contributing a high percentage of the total flour - above about 30% or so.

The other thing is, I would add 1 or 2 tsp of yeast to your dough until you have more confidence your starter will raise dough in a reasonable amount of time on its own. With some doughs, especially ones with a lot of olive oil, I've found it just works better to add a little instant yeast to get the rise in the time you want, and just count on the sourdough starter more for a flavor contribution.

You can build a little test dough using 65% hydration, 2% salt, with 20% of the flour coming from your starter and see how long it takes to rise. You can even bake it and enjoy it.

For example, use 2 oz starter, 4 oz flour, 2.25 oz water, and 3/8 tsp salt and make a little dough. I would expect it to rise by double in about 5.5 hours with my starter, but yours will probably be different. Then you can shape a tiny loaf and let it proof for a couple of hours. It might be interesting to see how long it does take and if it bakes into anything reasonable.

Bill

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

the 2oz of starter with 4oz flour, 2.25oz (or close to that) water, and 3/8tsp salt. I made a dough and stirred it briskly for about 2 minutes with my spoon/fingers. And then I covered it and set it at room temp which today is still 75.7. So let's see what happens and I will report back!

kjknits's picture
kjknits

I can definitely vouch for the Neo-Neapolitan pizza dough on the Pizza Primer page.  And Pizzette posted one recently, too.  Both are great and also quite simple, and produce the best pizza crust I have ever eaten, anywhere, anytime.  They aren't sourdough, but they're still delicious.

Katie 

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

cups of starter on the counter this morning. (I fed them after he had gone to sleep last night! ) He said...now it's havin' babies???!!! :D hahaha! I can't remember where I read it but I think in either one of Bill's discussions or from Mike Avery, but sometimes a very liquid starter won't substantially rise in it's starter glass but still performs well when placed in dough. I'm thinking maybe this is the case with this one? It's pretty liquidy at 1:1:1. For some reason the 1:4:4: is much thicker but still liquidy does that make sense?

It sounds like Stanley is doing awesome and textbook perfect, yeah? I was wondering how low a sample we could take. 10g is pretty small so that is nice to know from your friend's starter sample! I hate to throw away as much starter as I do a day. It's about a cup or more! :eek: and I know it's only a $1.60 bag of flour but something inside me shrieks at the waste. Guess it's a throwback to when we were homeless as a kid when my dad lost his construction business during the 70's. I learned the value of a dollar back during that painful lesson and waste of any kind really hurts viscerally to me. But if I used all the starter for bread each time fed it and we ate it all we'd both weigh a ton in very short time! I don't know that my bread is good enough to even give away at this point so I doubt that the soup kitchen would even accept it! ;)

I think it would be super fun to trade starters Katie! We could have a cross-country challenge and both raise our starters together then bake our first breads together! And do a tasting! It would also be fun to see if you taste GC differently than I do and vice versa! :D Good times!

BTW, I visited your blog site yesterday and saw your beautiful sewing projects and gorgeous babies! You are so talented and have many blessings Katie, always remember to count them!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi BZ,

If you feed using weight, like the 1:4:4 feeding, the consistency will be a paste. If you feed by volume, like 1 cup starter, 1 cup water, 1 cup flour, you will get a soupy consistency. Roughly speaking a cup of flour weight 4.5 ounces, but a cup of water weighs 8 ounces, so putting 1 cup of water with 1 cup of flour is no where near a 1:1 ratio by weight. I think that's the difference between your 1:1:1 feeding and your 1:4:4 feeding.

For example, try weight 4 ounces of water. That should be 1/2 cup of water. Then, try weighing 1 cup of flour. It will probably weigh just a little more than 4 ounces, depending on you pack your cups with flour.

Bill

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

I did by volume last night because my scale doesn't weigh past the hundredths place so for instance 1oz of flour is .0625lbs and my scale only measures .06 or .07 lbs. (and it doesn't measure grams :(  ). So I figured to test out the 1:9:10 without wasting 10oz of flour, I would try it with a small quantity of starter and flour and not feel quite as bad about the waste (in case it didn't work). That's why I ended up using 1 Tbsp measure. But now I see I was measuring apples and oranges cuz of the weight v. volume variable. Didn't I tell you my scientific method was whacked! ;)

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi BZ,

No problem with the questions. I'm glad you're still cranking away. Hopefully, you're close to having it all working.

You can do small amounts by volume. The easiest way is to use double the volume of flour. In other words, if you need 4 ounces of flour, use 8 ounces of volume, and you'll be close enough, especially if you don't pack it down at all. So, if there are 2 tbsp of water, use 4 tbsp of flour to get a thick paste, in other words. To make it easy just assume the starter is like water. So, you can see in the next paragraph that I am taking 1 tsp of starter (1/3 tbsp) and 3 tbsp of water for a ratio of 1:9, then I'm saying use double the volume flour, or 6 tbsp to get the consistency you want.

I showed an example of using small volumes in the earlier posting, e.g. 1 tsp starter to 3 tbsp water and 6 tbsp flour for roughly a 1:9:10 ratio. You can get close to 1:4:4 by taking 2 tsp of starter, adding 3 tbsp water and 6 tbsp flour.

Yes, you can use your old starter, but add some instant yeast to the pizza recipe, so it rises in a reasonable amount of time. The ripe starter won't raise your dough well. After you combine them, you may want to feed that starter 1:1:1 and let it rise for a few hours before you use it. You can adjust the consistency when you feed it so it is a paste. When I say 1:1:1 I'm still using weights, so you could feed by volume using 1 part starter, 1 part water, 2 parts flour by volume.

When you want to grow enough starter for a recipe, take some of your starter and feed it in a ratio to get the amount of starter you want for the recipe. For example to create roughly 2 cups of starter for a recipe, you could take 2 tbsp of starter, add 1 cup water and 2 cups flour to it.  You will end up with an amount of starter that is roughly double the volume of the water you fed it. The amount of time it takes will be longer for bigger feeding ratios as discussed, but if you let it rise by double and ripen for a couple of hours, it will be good to use in a recipe. If you aren't ready to use the starter when it is ready, just refrigerate the recipe starter until you are ready to use it. Don't let the starter get way too ripe if you are going to use it in a recipe, but it can ripen until it starts to dip in the middle.

I hope this helps and is not too confusing. A lot of stuff going on at once...

Bill

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

And for sharing it! I actually followed this one very well. I think it may be the ratio symbol that causes me to have a seizure! LOL! It's like a blinking light to me!

When you make your starters for a recipe, do you use volumes or weights? Which do you think makes a difference? Do you think it would matter if for instance I did this:

To increase the starter for a recipe:

Work by volume using tablespoons or measures appropriate. Then once it rises and then ripens...

 

To measure for the recipe:

Weigh out the appropriate amount of starter needed for a recipe. (i.e. your pagnotta recipe calls for 400g of starter. Can I just use the scale at that point?)

 

Thanks! I don't give up easily on projects. :D I am bound and determined that this starter will work! :D So thanks for hangin in there with me and being a great mentor!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi BZ,

Yes, you've got the right idea. It should work fine to work with volume for the small amounts of starter and work with weights for the recipe, since your scale will be useful at the higher amounts in the recipe. The amounts aren't so critical for the starter, and you are doing it over and over, so you can become consistent using your measuring spoons. For recipes, weights are good to use if you can. It just reduces some of the uncertainty when trying to duplicate another baker's recipe.

I work almost entirely using a scale and with weights, but I have two digital scales that make it painless. One is an Escali from KA that I really like, but it costs about $65 for some volume to weight features you really don't need. There is a nice Escali that uses AA batteries and is small and costs $25 you can get on amazon.com and I'm sure other places that weighs down to 1 gram or 0.1 ounce precision. I would go for that one if you decide you want a digital scale at some point. I like that it uses AA batteries, too. I also have another fancy Escali that weighs down to 0.1 gram precision, which I use for the small amounts in my starters.

However, you don't need the fancy scales. You can work well with what you have. You just have to do a little more work converting the smaller weights to volumes and learning what works with your measuring spoons and cups. In the end, the issue is consistency of results once you've done a recipe once or twice. You can fine tune your results as long as you take some notes on the volumes you use each time. Maybe it's a little harder to be consistent, since you can fill a cup differently from one time to the next, whereas the weight should be very close to the same every time. Even so, with just a little bit of practice and attention you should be able to use volumes and be consistent.

Bill

kjknits's picture
kjknits

Whew!  Bill is right, there is a lot of stuff going on here.  I'm following it all with interest!  Bill, just curious...in the 1:9:10 ratio, which is flour, the 9 or the 10?  I'm guessing the 10, so it stays thick, but I have been wrong before. =)

BZ, thanks for the comments about my other blog.  It has been a pleasant diversion, until recently...now I'm consumed with bread. Or, I'm consuming bread.  A lot of it.

Katie 

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

As I've said before it's always more fun to do things together so to have someone else starting a starter for the first time in a couple of years is awesome!

And thou shalt not mention consumption amounts ;)  hehehe! We'll keep that 'tween us chickens, k? As far as I'm concerned no one needs to know whether the cinnamon rolls made 12 or 9! ;) bwahahahahahaha!