The Fresh Loaf

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Why do I keep two starters

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FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Why do I keep two starters

Hi everyone,

I've always kept two starters - one wheat, one rye. Well I say always, I've only actually been using sourdough for a few months. At first, I kept them at 100% hydration and stored in the fridge. I bake roughly every 4-5 days, and alternate rye and wheat bakes so each starter is only used every 8-10 days or so. At the beginning, I wasn't discarding any of it, I'd just refresh, then store about 1/3- 1/4 and use the rest in the bake. However, I was suspecting that my starters weren't totally happy that way as I'd often have to use more starter than a recipe calls for, although I must say my kitchen is quite cold (rarely above 20 C).

After I went on holiday for two weeks, I took them out of the fridge and maintained at room temperature for a while. I worked out that in my cold kitchen, I could get away with refreshing them every 16 hours rather than the "standard" twelve (or even 18, at a push). However, I now had to discard a lot (which I stored for use in pancakes as I hate waste). More recently, I decided to lower their hydration to around 80%, this way I can only feed them once a day. Still, there's more discarded starter accumulating and I just don't get the time to bake all those pancakes! Especially as my favourite pancakes are white flour, kefir based, rather than whole flour sourdough based.

That said, I do like the convenience of not having to wait a day for my starter to warm up and get up to speed, and the comfort of knowing that it's probably healthier at room temp than in the fridge.

My question is then, do rye and wheat behave differently enough to warrant two starters? Or shall I just keep one to minimise waste?

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

If you search this site you get an almost infinite number of ideas about this.

The system that works for me:

I keep a fairly small amount of starters in the fridge (about 100g each) and refresh them once every two weeks or so.

Of these starters I use small amounts - typically 20g - to inoculate the "production sourdough" which I will use for baking.

The "production sourdough" is made to the correct amount for the recipe plus 10%.

For refreshing the "fridge starter" I usually use 20% of the old fridge starter (plus the desired flour and water) and then let the new mix sit out for 12 to 24 hours.

Juergen

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi FF,

Sounds like you are doing the same thing I was doing when I began using SD.  I too didn't like the waste when I was leaving them out on the counter. Even when I left mine on the counter I always did a couple of builds prior to baking with them because I only kept a small amount - less than 100g.

This past summer I moved them back into the refrig. and my waste dropped off big time - to the point of practically no waste now.

 When I bake I take about 10g out of my refrig. jar and build on that until i have the amt. neeeded for my recipe. I usually store about 100g in my refrig. and when it gets low I simply increase a build I am working on for a recipe and use the extra starter to start another refrig. batch.  Eg.  If I need 100g of starter for a loaf of bread I will build on 10g of refrig. starter until I have created 120g of fresh starter.  Out of that I take the extra 20g, feed it some fresh flour and water - I usually keep my starters stiff - <70%HL - and then put it back into the refrig. to be used in future bakes.  My refrig. storage starters last about a week - I bake a lot.

For my rye starter I do the same but am currently experimenting on keeping it a much higher HL - like 150-200%....

I was only keeping a ww starter but found that when I wanted a rye starter converting my ww to rye in a days time simply didn't create a very strong rye starter so I went back to keeping a separate rye starter again. 

Not sure if I helped any or added to your confusion :-) but sounds like you are doing a good job figuring this out on your own simply by being aware of what you are doing and how you want it done….just a process that takes time - at least for me it takes time!
Good Luck!
Janet

fermento's picture
fermento

You can try it both ways, but my experience is that wheat and rye breads do better with specific starters.

And as Juergen says, there are many ways to do it. If disposing of so much spent starter bothers you, you can reduce the amount quite drastically. Then when you are going to bake just build it up with a couple of feeds to get it up to size, and also up to vigor. If you use warm enough water to make sure the whole starter is at ideal temperature, it will get going quite quickly - and of course if you can also find a nice warm place for it.

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

My rye starter in the fridge weighs 80 gr (133% hydratation). I refresh it only when there are 10 gr left, no waste!  It can stay in the fridge even for months without deteriorating. I use just 20 gr of it to make bread with a  straight dough (almost 1 kg) without any problem. For more committing stuff (such as sweet dough) a preferment is imperative (most of the time at 80% hydratation).

The other starter fed with durum flour is drier (75% to prevent hooching) and works *almost* equally well. Rye seems to be more tolerant to long pauses.

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Thanks all,

I'm currently keeping around 80-90g of each starter on my counter. I could try and keep less, but I'm worried I'd be diluting it too much, and also a smaller amount may actually ripen quicker. I use a sponge with all of my 3-4 breads, so there isn't so much of a need to build up the quantity of the starter. However, when I used to keep them in the fridge, i had a couple of disasterous bakes when my rye starter (refreshed twice at 12-hr intervals with nothing discarded) couldn't double the sponge (which was about 60% starter!) in 6 hours. I'm still very new to rye doughs, so back then I was watching the clock a lot as I didn't know what signs to look for in terms of how ripe the dough was. I now realise I shoud have left both the sponge and the dough a bit longer, but still it's not a very good sign in terms of my starter's health.

Both my starters are fairly young (about 3 months?) so maybe after a month or two on the counter they'll be strong enough to live in the fridge again, but for now I think I'll stick with keeping them at room temperature, and I'll continue with 2 starters. I'll try and decrease hydration again though and see how that goes.

Can I just say Nico your starter is dynamite! Jeez!...

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

I noticed that my rye starter is very greedy: if I feed it with just a little flour it doesn't grow at all! It wants at least the same amount of flour and starter to show some sign of activity. This would explain your failure when the starter was 60% of the preferment.

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

ummm... guess what, such was the recipe! However I've since found another version which says to add more flour to the sponge.

With regards to feeding the stock starter, I always go by the recommendation from the sourdoughhome.com which is to at least double the amount of starter every time, i.e. the minimum feeding ratio for a 100% hydration starter would be 2:1:1. This is how I was feeding my starters when they used to live in the fridge. I didn't go for a higher feeding ratio because I kept up to 150 of each starter.

Now I feed them at such a ratio as to roughly match the weight of the starter and flour (e.g. 32g starter, 30 g flour, 24 g water). That may also help explain why my starter is healthier now!

It didn't occur to me that if you underfeed it it wouldn't grow at all. I just thought, it would grow and fall too quickly. Thanks for the insight!

Maverick's picture
Maverick

Quote:
I'm currently keeping around 80-90g of each starter on my counter. I could try and keep less, but I'm worried I'd be diluting it too much, and also a smaller amount may actually ripen quicker.

If you keep the proportions the same, then the starter will act exactly the same as long as the conditions don't change (temperature, etc). For instance, I keep my current starter at 100% hydration and it requires a 1:4:4 refresh in order for it to last 12 hours (if it is cold at night, then a 1:3:3 might be in order). So I can either use 10g starter: 40g water: 40g flour and end up with 90g of starter, or I can do 20g:80g:80g and end up with 180g of starter. Either way it will take 12 hours for my starter to begin to fall.

I don't know if I would go much lower than 5g:20g:20g (totalling 45g starter), but it is still the same. Maybe I'll try an experiment someday and try a 1g:4g:4g (9g total) and see what happens. I see no reason that this should act any differently, but I don't think I would feel comfortable keeping so little starter even though it really is the same thing.

lumos's picture
lumos

My starter grows even when it's fed with smaller amount of flour than itself. Actually it doesn't grow very well if it's fed with too much flour (more than its own weight)  suddenly after a long break (more than 5-6 days). I need to build up gradually over 2-3 times, increasing the amount of flour with each feed, to take it back to its peak condition.

The starter grows less when the hydration is higher, probably because the weight of water.  When I switched to 100% hydration once after having it at 60% for a long time, I thought I killed it because it didn't grow as much as it used to. 

varda's picture
varda

I am about to start baking out of Andrew Whitley's book Bread Matters.   I want to start with his simplest Russian rye and work up.    So I was asking myself the same question.   I already have two starters in the refrigerator - wheat and durum - and my focus on the durum led me to neglect my wheat starter.   I just decided to go with a rye starter in addition.  It seems to make sense to keep a rye starter if you are going to do any amount of rye baking.   Also people have posted some really nice wheat breads that are made with a rye starter so it opens up that possibility as well.   Whitley gives good instructions for how to maintain a rye starter, but he leaves out one critical piece.   He says you don't have to pay attention to it between bakes, but nowhere says to store it in the refrigerator.    I am guessing that's what he means.   I guess I'll see.   -Varda

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Varda,

When I started making the Russian Rye I had kept this starter out of the fridge for a few days at a time - I think up to something like 4 days unfed (if my memory serves me well). It then smelled very much of acetone, which I thought was a good thing at the time - now I know I was starving my starter.

I made a batch of Russian Rye this week, with a 200% starter which had matured for 12 hours at 24C (inoculated with 20% starter from the fridge). Great result as ever.

I also love the "Really Simple Sourdough" from Bread Matters - Rye starter plus wholewheat. That was the first of my breads to conjure up German tastes since I moved to England and started baking.

Juergen

varda's picture
varda

Juergen, I am now on day 1 of Whitley's 4 day regime to make a rye starter.   I decided to do it from scratch rather than use my wheat starter to get the rye going because my wheat starter is a little iffy right now.   With what you have said, his instructions for working with the starter going forward are a lot clearer.   Thank you for clarifying.   -Varda

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Juergen,

Saw your comment here about the 'Really Simple Sourdough' loaf and I am wondering if you blogged about it so I can take a peek at the formula????

I finally got my rye sour up and running and just finished baking one of Lumos's loaves that uses a rye sour and a mixture of 3 different flours. (THink the title of her blog was Pain au Levain with a Rye Starter.) A very nice loaf and wonderful dough to work with and I am thinking the one you mention in your response to Varda might be similar…so I am hoping you blogged about it somewhere….

Take Care,
Janet

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Janet, I am glad you had such good success.

The Really Simple thing I mentioned above is  - esentially - a very tasty brick made of wholemeal wheat and rye sourdough.

Nothing too much for the eye, but a symphony of flavour. I haven't posted about it yet, but I might do in the near future. ( I thought I should revisit Whitley's book a bit more thoroughly after all I've learned since).

Juergen

Updated: Formula for Really Simple Sourdough:

Wholewheat flour: 100%

Water: 70%

Salt: 1.6%

Starter (Rye at 200% hydration): 16%

Mix and develop some gluten; Don't worry about shaping; with wet hands make a sausage and plop it into a tin.

This leeds a LONG rise (e.g. 10 hours at 20C, watch the dough. Should increase by about 70%)

Bake - start hot and turn down to 210C after 10 minutes. Needs about 30 min for 500g loaf.

 

 

 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Juergen,

This does indeed look very simple :-)

Interesitng in that the bulk and proof are one event….I have never tried doing it so the results will be interesting.

A belated thanks but thank you just the same for the chart you posted in your blog - the one containing the different %'s of rye in various loaves. It is helpful to me now that I am delving into ryes.

Take Care,
Janet

GingeredWhisk's picture
GingeredWhisk

Although I am fairly new to sourdough, I rarely have trouble using my discard - there are so many other things besides bread that you can use your stater for - pancakes, waffles, brownies, cakes, pasta, pretzels, bagels, pizza, the ideas never end!! 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

I rye sour, one WW and AP (50-50) and one Mandarin, Minneola, Apple Yeast Water (don't ask).  I keep about 125 g of the SD starters (1 : 3 : 4) and bake with all of them every week several times so no waste, muss or fuss.  I can build to bake in a few hours easily rather than 10-12.   The YW is very strange, to say the least, but it is worthy of making any bread where SD is not needed or wanted but takes 2 days for me to get it all worked up for baking - I started today (Sat) for a Monday bake of Ping's Orange Turmeric.