The Fresh Loaf

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Let's Compare Notes On Starter Maintenance Routines

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bwraith's picture
bwraith

Let's Compare Notes On Starter Maintenance Routines

I would like to compare notes on starter maintenance routines. Hopefully others would find this interesting as well.

To best understand each starter, please include the following if you post your starter information.

  • Hydration (water as a percent of total flour in the starter)
  • Feeding ratios used, fermentation times, temperatures used (please specify how the feeding ratio is measured, e.g. by weight or volume)
    • When storing
    • When refreshing in anticipation of a baking session
  • Type of flour used
  • Refrigeration or other storage methods
  • Any other interesting aspects of the starter

It doesn't matter what kind of starter you have. I'm just interested in collecting as many examples as possible in as much detail as possible. Anyone who has done this for a little while discovers a routine that works, so please share it if you have a moment. I'm guessing that the range of hydrations, feeding ratios, flour types, temperatures, and other aspects of these routines vary over a huge range.

I'm doing this as a blog entry, so we don't clutter the front page with too much detailed starter discussion.

Bill

Comments

dwg302's picture
dwg302

i've been keeping a 100% liquid starter in the fridge which i feed once a week if i'm not baking anything.   the total amount is around 240g of starter which i throw half out and feed it with equal parts KA bread flour and water.  after feeding i leave it out for an hour and then stick it in the fridge.   i've been measuring the temp in fridge lately and i'm worried that it might be a little too cold (around 30') and so i'm trying to get it around 40-45'.   i've always had a liquid one which i use for the Hamelman recipes, but i also bake with the Bread Bible by RLB which often calls for a stiff starter.   if so, then i simply convert it from liquid to stiff at the last feeding before mixing and that works really well.    the starter has pretty good energy and has been around for about a year and a half.   it was sluggish and not responding well the first 2 weeks i made it so on a hunch for one feeding i replaced 50% of the bread flour with rye and the thing went bananas.  i don't bake enough to keep it at room temp all the time so i keep it in the fridge until i need it.  i've been late on feeding sometimes and get a bit of liquid alcohol formed on the top of the starter which i scoop off and discard before feeding.    when baking bread i feed it about twice before mixing at about 12 hour intervals.   and i keep my starter in the nice white ceramic crock with the wheat designs on the side that they sell at KA.   i have not started a rye starter which is called for sometimes in the Hamelman book.  i've thought about starting a separate one from scratch but it seems like a lot of extra work and instead may just separate some of the white starter a few days before i'm baking a rye bread and just build that up with rye flour.  anyone had any experience with doing that as opposed to keeping a separate rye starter full time?   

well that's about all i can think off to say about my sourdough starter.   i'd be interested in hearing about other people as well and any tips about rye starters.

david

xma's picture
xma

Hi David,

I haven't been logging into this site as often as I usually do, hence the week-late reply.  About four months ago I started with two starters--liquid and pure rye, both according to Hamelman, with the intention of just keeping one after I decide which flavor I like better.  In less than a month, hands down, the rye won and I discarded my liquid starter.  I'm sure there are many factors affecting starters, but I remember being shocked that I discovered this late in my life that I prefer rye to whole wheat.  I just use my rye starter for all my sourdough needs, regardless of flour types and their ratio in recipes.

I haven't been scientific in maintaining my rye starter, and I vary my feeding ratios depending on how strong it's getting (bwraith caught me out on tasting my starter and got concerned about the health hazards of doing so, but yes, combining with smelling and rising times that's how I do it).  Be warned that I like MILD tasting sourdough.  In fact, I'm still working on getting as little sour taste as possible but with rich flavor. 

I usually feed 3 to 5 times a week, anywhere from 1:2: 2 to 1:10:10.  I'm thinking of being brave this weekend and try Hamelman's 1:20 for rye sourdough.  More often than not, I feed at 1:4:4.  I let rise in a cool place at 68F for 8 hours, the trouble with this being that it rises while I sleep so I don't know the exact time it doubles in volume.  Then I refrigerate the rest of the time. 

Here's the thing -- I always thought my starter was a bit sluggish, until that time I accidentally left it out in an extremely warm place for three days. (I thought I refrigerated it.)  I thought it was a goner by the time I rescued it, but I fed it attentively for a few days, feeding with a low proportion of the starter, and lo and behold, it performs better now.  Lately I've been thinking of 'accidentally' leaving it out again, and my kitchen gets really really hot...

leemid's picture
leemid

Otis is my oldest starter (Oregon Trail), maybe 8 months old? I used to maintain it wet, 100% hydration, for bread. Now I keep a small hardly used portion at 100% for quick breads... But I converted to firm at 50% hydration when I read RLBs Bread Bible just to see how it worked and have kept is so now for a couple of months or so.

I keep about 100g at any given time, in the fridge, week to week. On Thursday or Friday I use the entire amount to build for bread, exceeding my needs by 25g for keeping until next week. So I will build it to 425g (or more if doing two seperate builds on the weekend), use 400g for bread and add 25g water and 50g of Gold Medal Bread flour to the 25g of excess starter, knead it relatively smooth and put it right back into the fridge. I almost never do incremental builds to boost strength or size.

Just last night I did this usual routine with Franco (SF starter) but used cheap store AP flour just to see... I wasn't building for bread though, just maintaining since I brought bread back from Sonoma's Artisan Bakers and didn't need to bake. So I had built the week-old starter the day before, did it again last night because I was worried about it, and chilled it until later this week when I will bake again.

I have been using Gold Medal Bread for some months now, only because it's convenient. I have used store AP and can't say I didn't like the bread... I expect to buy a 25 lb. bag of flour today from a nearby brew supply store reputed to be the best that folks around here have ever found. It is strong and boosted with malt flour I think. I will write about it if it seems to hold any magic.

Bottom line for me is that I can't throw starter away; it's just not me. I can't maintain 100 grams, chuck 75 to build with 25 up to the amount the recipe calls for, to chuck part of that in order to make the dough. That's nonsense. I find that multiple builds does nothing better than one build. Otis is virile. He comes out of the fridge ready to crank out yeasties and make bread rise up with pride.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it,

Lee

firepit's picture
firepit

 

Two starters here, one white (Leon) and one rye (also Leon). Both are kept at 100% hydration, and are stored in the fridge for a week or two between feedings. When I feed them I pull them out, give them a couple of hours at room temperature (70-75 in the summer), discard all but 1/2 an ounce, then feed at 1:4:4 (1/2 oz. starter, 2 ounces flour, 2 ounces water), allow them to get some fresh air for an hour or so, then back in the fridge in their 1 cup airtight containers.

 

When I'm going to bake (which should be weekly, but it's been a busy summer), I'll pull them on a Wednesday morning, and feed as above, returning a portion to the fridge after an hour, then build up the remaining starter to the quantity and hydration needed for whatever I'm baking.

 

The Leons have been alive and kicking for about 3 months now, so I'm into a stable pattern, but I'm always open for suggestions. I'm still playing around trying to coax more sour flavor out, so this next weekend I may build up a much firmer starter. As for whether I should let it sit longer between feedings, or in a cooler spot, or if I should up the feeding ratios...well, I'm waiting to see what consensus develops on the not-so-sour sourdough thread.

HokeyPokey's picture
HokeyPokey

Bill

 

I've got three starters:

 
  • Name                : Marjorie
  • Flour                 : white organic
  • Hydration          : 100%
  • Age                   : 4 months
  • Start Method      : http://www.io.com/~sjohn/sour.htm
  • Feeding ratio      : Ones every week, trying to move to ones every two week. Feeding 1:2:2 by weight, it doubles in 4-6 hours, store it in the fridge, Following method in “Maintaining a 100% Hydration White Flour Starter” post. Use   straight out of the fridge in the next two days or store it in the fridge for a week or two
  • Notes                : Marjory doubles in 4-6 hours after a feeding, but takes a very long time to rise  during fermentation – loaves always look under-proofed, even if I leave it for an extra hour or so. However, she has a huge oven spring, and a wonderful crust – nice large wholes too. Just remembered, she is all think paste after the feeding, but goes very runny after a week or so in the fridge.
 
  • Name                : Froggie
  • Flour                 : French T55
  • Hydration          : 100%
  • Age                   : 1.5 months
  • Start Method      : son of Marjorie
  • Feeding ratio      : as above
  • Notes                : Froggie is a very active young thing – rises well ahead of his mother, only tried it out a couple of times, more updates to follow. Oh, and he gives a very crispy crust too.
  
  • Name                 : Brenda
  • Flour                 : WholeWheat / Dark Rye
  • Hydration          : 100%
  • Age                   : 3 months
  • Start Method      : www.thefreshloaf.com/lessons/myfirstsourdough
  • Feeding ratio      : as above. I had some organic Dark Rye flour, so I used that to feed it for about 3 weeks – got quite dark in colour, affects the colour of the crumb quite a lot – even with a little bit of starter, and the rest while, makes it look like a ww loaf.
  • Notes                : Brenda is one fast lady – rises up in 3-4 hours, very bubbly, races ahead during fermentations, with both white and/or ww flours. Tried it out with Apple Cider sourdough, Rye and Cumin sourdough and Sourdough pancakes (that’s for the recipe, Ruth) and it worked a treat! A bit more sour than Marjorie and Froggie, but doesn’t have much oven spring.
 Starters I am pondering about:
  • Grapes – does it affect the taste at all?
  • SourLady starter – tried is twice, failed both times, don’t want to give up
  • Milk – saw some wonderful Milk and Honey sourdough in a shop the other day – would love to try it
  • Firm – my husband likes a bit more sour flavour, and I think a firm ww starter is the way to do it
 Great idea for a thread, let me know what your finding are Lily
susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Age: 7 months

Hydration: 100%

Storage: On my kitchen counter all the time, unless I’m away; then it goes in the refrigerator

Temperature: Variable. No less than 60F at night (but currently considerably warmer) and between 70F and 80F+ during the day

Feeding: every 12˚, currently at 1:5:5 by weight. I might make it 1:4:4 or even less if it seems less peppy (if, for example, the weather is cooler, or if I forget a feeding)

Rise: Reaches peak volume, which is about 2.5x, in about 8˚, then holds at that level until the next feeding at 12˚ (may fall just a little, so I probably need to feed a bit more). I think I have casually observed that the rise seems to be greater on the last feed before use, when the mass of starter is greater, but I can’t say for sure.

Flour: White organic malted. I use 5% rye flour if it seems sluggish, or for the final feeding before using (if I remember)

Water: Crystal Geyser

Amount: About 100g after feeding, unless it’s the final feed before using; then I elaborate to whatever amount I need, still at 1:5:5

Container: Plastic 1-pint (like you’d get potato salad from a deli in). I change to a clean container about twice a week.

Method: Discard all but 8-10g of ripened starter. Add water, close lid tightly, and shake until starter has completely mixed with water. (My theory behind the shaking is to try to incorporate oxygen into the mixture, to promote yeast reproduction. I have no idea if it actually works.) Add flour and stir until just mixed. Replace lid but leave it cracked open slightly.

Susanfnp

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Susan,

You've described almost to the last detail what I've been doing with my 100% hydration starter for the last month. The only differences seem to be I actually use 90% hydration, so my typical feeding would be something like 10g starter, 45g water, 50g flour. I think due to the slightly higher hydration it rises to a higher peak. The starter doubles in about 4:45 at 79F but gets to about 3x, sometimes more, after 8 hours. If I stir the starter more when I feed it, the rise may be a little faster and reach a higher peak. I think this gets at your comments about how small details affect the rise time and other characteristics of the starter.

I've also been maintaining a Glezer style 60% hydration firm starter which I feed 10g starter, 30g water, 50g flour every 12-24 hours. Both the starter above and the firm starter were built from the original starter described in my blog that I had fed 1:2:2 and was about 2 years old. The firm starter reaches a peak of about 4x in 8 hours at 75F.

I recently fed both my 90% hydration and 60% hydration starters a 5x flour multiple and made 90% hydration "starters" out of them by feeding the firm starter 16g:48g:80g (starter:water:flour) and feeding the liquid starter 19g:45g:50g. They rose in total lock step, both rising in 4:30 at 75F. The two starters were maintained separately at different hydrations for a month, but so far they still behave identically when fed the same way.

Bill

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Feeding: every 12˚, currently at 1:5:5 by weight.

Update: I'm now feeding 1:6:6. This is working a bit better for the warmer weather and the starter maintains volume until the next feeding without starting to fall.

 

I think I have casually observed that the rise seems to be greater on the last feed before use, when the mass of starter is greater, but I can’t say for sure.

It turns out I was making this up. I have been observing it more closely and it does no such thing.

Susanfnp

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Susan,

You had mentioned feeding a little rye to your starter when it seems sluggish. Could you elaborate? I'm curious about the signs of sluggishness that would initiate the rye feeding, how much rye, how many feedings, and what the result is after you've done the rye feeding or feedings.

I have fed my starter about 10:45:50 lately, and I agree that during the day when it's about 78 degrees, it does rise and fall, whereas at night, when it's about 73F, it doesn't really fall after 12 hours, although it has reached its maximum height well before 12 hours.

Thanks, Bill

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

You had mentioned feeding a little rye to your starter when it seems sluggish. Could you elaborate? I'm curious about the signs of sluggishness that would initiate the rye feeding, how much rye, how many feedings, and what the result is after you've done the rye feeding or feedings.

Rye just really gets fermentation going, as David also noted above. I'm pretty sure I adopted this practice after reading it somewhere or hearing about it in a class I took, but I can't remember where.

The criteria I use are subjective and inconsistent. If it looks less bubbly, or didn't seem to rise as much, or it went a little too long after the last feeding, or if I just haven't done it in a while, I do the rye thing. I wish I could codify it a bit more, but sometimes I'm just a seat-of-the-pants kind of girl. (Remember, I'm an ex-engineer :-) I substitute (usually medium) rye flour for 5% of the white flour, for one feeding only. It just livens things up a little; a pretty subtle effect, really. Works for me.

 

Susanfnp

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Age:  I've had it six months, but it was a few months old when I got it. (Just for the record, I have successfully started my own sourdough in the past.)

Hydration: Roughly 100%, although I'll switch it to a firm starter or ww or rye when necessary.

Storage: The kitchen counter unless I have to leave very early in the morning (twice a week), and then it gets fed later in the afternoon.

Temp: It's warm in my house--75, but I sometimes keep it in my cool basement.

Feeding: Every 12 hours, 1:6:6.  If pressed, I have been able to expand it to 1:12:12 using 72 degree water (warmer than normal for me) and had it ripen in 12 hours with the resulting bread rising and tasting fine.

Flour: Conagra Spring Patent Flour, although I've got 100 lbs of Wheat Montana unbleached bread flour ready for use.

Water: Tap, which for me means chlorinated. 

Container: Anything that fits it for the rise.

Method: I eyeball it since I've fed it so frequently.  I scrape most of it into the trash if I'm just going to feed it again in the same container, get a heaping cup and add cool tap water (I got lazy and stoppeed using a thermom) until I get the right consistency.  I stir with a fork, which means we always have dried bits of dough on our forks, and frequently a clean fork is hard to find.  My 8 yr old daughter loves to feed it, especially if I expand it using rye: Just squeeze through your fingers until it's all mixed.

I realize in doing this how much my method resembles that of susanfnp's.  I used to do the "double it at every feeding" method and my starter was always on the verge of starvation and very slow to rise dough.  This is for me a much improved method and I find that I must use a very cool water in my mixing and keep the dough in my cool basement lest it rise too quickly.  And just to plug TheFreshLoaf, I learned this method on this wonderful site!

SOL

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Bill,

Nice idea, especially since starters seem to be so personal and so reflective of each baker's personality.

Like firepit, I'm very casual about my starter, which i grew from scratch about 2 years ago. I try to feed it about once a week, discarding about 3/4 of the old starter and adding enough flour (either Conagra bread flour or Arrowhead AP) and water to create a mixture with the consistency of heavy pancake batter -- probably 80-100% hydration. When it triples in bulk, depending on temp, I store it in the fridge in one of those clamp-sealed jars. One day before bake day, I take it out, feed it with flour and warm water and let it triple in bulk before taking what I need for whatever bread I'm making.

Right now, I'm building a rye sour for Nancy Silverton's ur-pumpernickel, which I expect to bake in the next couple of days. Interestingly, I was reading Eric's thread on Detmold technique and concluded that Silverton's feeding schedule is very similar, although she uses a three-day schedule, rather than the 24 hours in the Detmold thread. Also, she (and I) start with the white starter, which right now (Day 2) is probably less than 5% of the sponge. By bake day, I expect it will be around 1% or less.

Also, had a very scary experience a couple of weeks ago, when I accidentally used all of my sponge in a recipe I was making. Fortunately, when I pulled the mother starter out of its jar, I filled the jar with water only to loosen the dried residue -- no detergent. That move saved my life! After I realized what I'd done, I was able to use that water to rebuild the starter, which seems to have come through without any adverse consequences. In fact, it even seems more sour than it did before.

I'll share my pumpernickel experience in a few days.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Age: Created January 4, 2007 (roughly 5 1/2 months old as of today)

Hydration: 60%

Storage: Kept at room temperature unless I am out of town for more than a day or unable to feed within 24 hours of cresting and falling.  During those times it goes into the refrigerator

Temperature: Between 70F – 74F degrees now but during the time I first created it temps here were beyond frigid and my kitchen was normally around 67F – 68F.

Feeding: I now feed at 10g:30g:50g (starter:water:flour) and it quadruples in volume in 8 hours or less depending on its last feeding.  I was very happy for a long time feeding 15g:30g:50g where it would quadruple within 8 hours or less and often quintuple. 

I wanted to take it down to Glezer’s recommended maintenance and due to competition with you, Bill, I had to do it.  Previously, probably due to colder temps, I was not able to get it to quadruple consistently at 10g starter but this time I fed it twice at that level and it has consistently quadrupled within the gold standard for a firm starter.

I never feed it until it has fully risen and collapsed and then I wait anywhere between 5 and 12 hours (once in a while up to 16 hours later).

Rise: It crests anywhere between 6 and 8 hours and then may fall within 1 – 6 hours after that time.  I notice that as I pick up my jar, that movement will often cause it to collapse, once it has fully risen, and often it will begin to rise again and may repeat that several times before its final collapse (if I can't keep my hands off the jar).

Flour: King Arthur bread flour. 

Water: Omaha tap water.  I’ve never used anything other than tap water fresh from the faucet.

Amount: Starter 10g:Water 30g:Flour 50g

Container: Glass Kerr pint-size canning jar with seal and lid.  I use a new, clean container each time I refresh. 

Method: Weigh starter into a small glass bowl by spooning the gooey stuff and raking off with a dinner knife.  Weigh water by pouring the full amount on top of starter glob.  Use a stiff, silicone spatula to fraisage the starter along the bottom of the bowl to soften.  Then I break up the starter with the end of the spatula and give it a quick couple stirs.  Then I use a small size wire whisk (about the size of a Kitchenaid hand mixer beater) to vigorously beat the starter as you would beating eggs by hand.  It becomes a very thick foam.  Then I place the bowl back onto the scale to weigh the flour.  Using the spatula I mix the bulk of the flour into the water and scrape it onto my counter using a knife to scrape all bits off spatula.  I make sure to scrape the bowl of any loose flour not incorporated and dump onto the glob.  I then use the heel of my hand to knead just until the flour is completely hydrated.  I roll it into a small ball that I can plop into the glass jar.  Using the spatula I press the starter down onto the bottom of the jar and place the seal and screw the lid on.  While this method takes a bit longer than refreshing a liquid starter the entire process I just described takes me less than 5 minutes.  I then discard the rest of the starter or store in the fridge for 2 – 3 days in case I need extra. 

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

 Zolablue, I wonder if you are screwing the lid on to make the jar airtight?  I have heard that this can cause the container to explode because of gas buildup inside, but maybe this is just legend? I do know that when I forget to leave the top cracked a bit on my plastic container, I'll invariably her a loud "pop" a few hours later when the gas causes the container to flip its lid. Maybe this is not so much an issue with firmer starters?

Susanfnp

zolablue's picture
zolablue

The instructions according to Glezer for the firm starter, which is the one I made, are to place in a sealed container.  It has never been a problem at all. 

When I created Hamelman liquid starter as well as when I kept my firm starter converted to liquid (for experimentation purposes) I also placed them in sealed containers without problem.  For the liquid starters (that I tossed) I sometimes used the same glass jars (only if I was using a tiny amount) but mostly I kept them in the 1-liter Ziplock containers with the accompanying lid screwed on. 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I want to update the above info to modify my starter amount back to 15 grams.  I posted this also on my "Glezer Firm Starter" thread because I think it is important for others who might wish to try this recipe and method. 

 

I just cannot keep my starter as healthy and active at 10g rather than 15g.  Each time I've tried to take it down to the 10g it does well, often very well for the first few days, but then slowly starts to lose steam.  I have gone back and forth several times which now has afforded me the wisdom to know what works the best for my particular conditions and my starter. 

 

So change where I stated using 10g starter to 15g starter making that 15g starter:30g water:50g flour.  This is what works best for me, keeps my starter extremely strong and active and allows me to judge extremely well how my breads will respond to it.  End of competing to bring it down to 10g.  Mine just works best at 15 grams and I intend to keep it there now as long as I'm maintaining it.  I have no idea why it reacts this way but this is where it is and it isn't worth ruining a wonderful starter to ever try again.

Elagins's picture
Elagins

... and I don't know how to delete it. Sorry about that.

leemid's picture
leemid

I bake almost everything with my dry starters, but continue to maintain the original Oregon Trail starter I reconstituted back in Nov of 06 (read aught six. Did you ever think you would live to be able to say, "Back in aught six..."?) as a 100% hydration wet starter. I just now used it all up in a recipe for English muffins. I haven't used this wet starter in so long, I forgot what I was doing. I broke the hard and fast rule that you never make the recipe until you have replenished your mother starter.

So here the envelope sits on my desk. I wonder if it is still good, those little dry beasties...

Lee

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Mini O