The Fresh Loaf

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From Seed to Starter, or is it Levain?

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alpenrose's picture
alpenrose

From Seed to Starter, or is it Levain?

Hello:

After several tries, I finally followed the starter (seed)process posted here under Pineapple Lesson). It worked very well. I am now on day 7 and fed my little seed this morning at 0930 and it is now 1330 (1:30PM) and I have a doubled my lot.  NOW WHAT?  Do I have a sourdough starter yet, or is there next steps?

Can I try to make a loaf of bread now,or should I continue feeding it and start feeding it larger amounts, or more frequently every day?

Thank you again,

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

4 hours!  How much starter to how much flour?  Don't stir or knock it down.  Wait until it peaks.  If peaking about 8 hours,  wait until evening (to get it onto a 12 hour schedule) discard (take this discard and build for a loaf) and feed the starter more flour so it can go to 12 hours or until morning.  Keep notes.  

Now take the discard (also this evening) and give it water and flour in preparation for a recipe.  Pick one out.  How much discard do you have?  Off hand, I would suggest a ratio of (1:4:4) by weight and see what it does overnight.  

Mini

alpenrose's picture
alpenrose

Dear Mini--Thank you so much for your time and thoughtfulness, it is much appreciated. Right now I only have about 3.7 oz of starter, so I need to build it up to a larger amount. I will try doing a 1:4:4 (s,f,w) build up. Please correct me if I am wrong: this means that I will take my 3.7oz of starter and multiply by 4 to get the amount of flour, and the amount of water. I have also read the Aussie's suggestion and might try that one which is 100% hydration. Now the big question I have is this: If I do what I am thinking of doing will that also give me a 100% hydration?  That is to say am I correct: does hydration only refer to flour and water and not the starter at this point. I understand that later in the bread building process all things will be figured in relation to flour which will always be 100%.  Hope this makes sense!  Thank you again.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

First I find out how much starter is needed.  If the recipe says 200g of 100% hydration starter (water and flour weights the same) That means I need about 100g water and 100g flour plus starter amount.  If I do (1:4:4)  I need 25 g of starter to let it stand overnight.   The starter amount is so small (and it was previously a 100% hydration starter, right?)  and a little sticks on the cup and spoon and I might just feed what is left in the jar for later, I don't worry about having a few extra g.  Better a few more than too few.  I could figure it exactly to 90g each I suppose.  Enough for metric.

3.7 oz (105 g) starter... (1:4:4)   so if I multiply 3.7 oz x 4  (14.8 oz) and add equal weights of flour (yes you're correct, to make 100% hydration, equal weights of water & flour)...   3.7 x 9   I end up with total 33.3 oz starter (944g)    

Is 33.3 oz or 4.16 cups too much?  How much starter do you need? 

Baker's math flour is based on 100% but don't confuse that with starter hydration.  I'm not sure what you're asking.  When looking at baker's math,  the water % will tell you the hydration of the dough.     Many times the starter hydration and the dough hydration are different.

 

alpenrose's picture
alpenrose

Oh Mini--thank you so much. After  my last entry I got bold and took the leap. This is what I did-- I discarded the .7 oz of starter and went with 3oz starter then:

3 oz starter 

3 oz flour

3 oz water 
I put it back in the small bathroom, but did not turn on the heater--it's about 69 in there right now and it is 11:26AM my time.  I am printing up your last entry for future reference and will keep it with my other notes. Thank you again!

alpenrose's picture
alpenrose

Woops, I forgot to ask where did you get "9" from in doing your calculations. Also, is it standard to read the percentages like this 1:4:4 meaning that the 1 represents the starter, the first 4 represents flour, and the second 4 represents water.   At this stage does it matter what the percentage of the starter is relatvie to the whole total? For example: if I have 25 g starter and 100 g flour and 100g water it would it be correct to say that the starter is 20% of the total, but is that important, or do we just go with what feels right in the way the old starter is behaving?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

When I talk about feeding starters, I tend to talk about ratios and white them so (1:4:4) in the order that I feed the starter.  Written out that means one part starter culture: four parts water to dilute: and four parts flour to mix in.  If I add up all the parts it comes to "9."   I could scare you and call these fractions  1/9 , 4/9 , 4/9  and adding them up comes to 9/9 but prefer to just list them simply.    That is just one feeding suggestion to test a young starter.    It is common to write ratios for starter maintenance but be aware that some ratios are written: starter:flour:water (with flour and water reversed.)  If both ratios are the same for flour and water is doesn't make a difference... 100% hydration ... but if they are different, be sure you know what the author intends to say.   

Hydration is the water weight divided by the flour weight x 100 for %.  Four divided by four is one, one times one hundred is 100%.

The choice of 3oz of each starter, water, and flour would be a ratio of (1:1:1)  one multiplied by 3oz for each ingredient.  Percents would have to be figured.  What I can tell you about your starter is that you are feeding the starter the same weight in flour.  With the cool temperatures that you are using it will take your starter a long time to get active so it is probably better you use a higher % of starter or 33.3% or  (1/3) than what I suggested.  You did tease me with 4 hours!   If you are feeding the starter a 1:1:1 ratio and it peaks in 8 hours, you might want to give it a little bit more flour...  a (1:1.5:1.5) or a (1:2:2)and see how it behaves.  If that is too much flour and it takes too long to double and then peak, then return to the 1:1:1 every 12 hours or when it peaks.  That's when "we just go with what feels right in the way the starter is behaving."  :)

Is 25g 20% of 225g?  Not the last time I did math.  11.1% perhaps?  (1/9 x 100) or  (25 x 100)/225

alpenrose's picture
alpenrose

OK--so now it is 1630 my time and the starter is about 5 hours old and it has almost doubled! What d'ya think: should i do as you suggested and go to less flour ?  Or, should I halve what I have now and go with about 4 oz of starter and 16oz flour and 16 oz water. Am I correct would that give me 1:4:4?

Thank you again for your time--you have helped so much !

alpenrose's picture
alpenrose

1945. It looks like it doubled and I need to get some control over the timing,so I thought I would take your suggestion and try this: 3 oz starter 20z flour 20z water. If I understand this even a little I think what I just did was a 1:1.5:1.5 formula. I hope you haven't given up on me yet !

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

for a second cup of coffee!    After the last comment, it was late, I went to bed.  I'm about 7 hours ahead of you.  It is noon here.

I think your 3 oz starter, 3 oz water and 3 oz flour is working for your situation for a 12 hour feeding period.  

You can make it smaller with smaller amounts so there is less waste.  Just reduce the starter to one ounce and feed with one ounce of water and one ounce of flour.  In a couple of weeks you can reduce the starter amount more if you like.  I don't go under a teaspoon to feed with my old starter.

When you want to make a loaf, do not discard and just increase the water and flour until it just about peaks, then feed again if needed.   If you think that doubling and peaking are the same, they are not.  A healthy wheat starter will more than double.  In fact it is good to let it rise as much as possible in the beginning of it's young life so you can learn the timing of your starter and the bugs can balance themselves sooner.

Let your starter do more than double, just mark the height and not touch it and watch it until it rises as far as it can go in a tall, narrow measuring cup.  Mark with tape or rubber bands.   I would like to know if it triples or goes even higher.  You can then feed it (all weights equal) when it  stops rising, and starts to level off or form a dimple on top.  You can refresh or feed it shortly before it falls down and collapses on itself or hours afterwards if you happen to be sleeping.   If the cup is clean, you can see how high it rose.    

If you want to increase the flour amount forget the math, just add more flour and water (if needed) and watch the starter.  

(1 : 1.5 : 1.5) ratio using 3 oz of starter would be:  3 oz starter    4.5 oz water   4.5 oz flour   (reads four and a half ounces)  Where 20z ( is this 20 z or 2 oz? ) pops up is beyond my java.   I looked, my coffee just lies there steaming in my face.  I can only guess that the zero was used instead of the small "o."   If you want to, write the ratio (3 : 4.5 : 4.5 ) instead,  it's the same thing as (1 : 1.5 : 1.5)  that way you can remember it easier unless you reduce the starter to one ounce to feed.   Write both on a 3x5 card, date it and keep it handy.   As weather warms you will be increasing the amounts of flour or reducing the amount of starter to feed.  The feeds vary slightly around the year.  

What you want to remember is feed the starter equal or more flour than the weight of the starter when it is a 100% hydration starter.  Feeding a 3 oz starter only 2 oz of flour would not be good for your starter and the culture will slowly starve over consecutive feeds.    When using the starter to build more starter for a recipe, this rule does not apply.  It is only a maintenance rule. 

 

alpenrose's picture
alpenrose

Dear Mini:  Thank you for worrying about me. I hope I did not give you too many nightmares !!

I caught the error last night!  What I actually did was this: 2 oz starter (threw the rest away), 3 oz flour, 3 oz water. Tell me I finally got this part right: that means that my formula could be written thus--1:1.5:1.5.  Are you telling me that for the rest of my baking career I need only keep 1 or 2 oz starter healthy in the fridg, then all I have to do is build according to the requirements of the recipe I am working on the day or two before?  But Mini, I see all these pictures of jars full of starter and it looks like folks are keeping a lot more in the fridg.  Last night at midnight I got up and checked my starter--it was well past the doubled point, so I put it in the refrigerator. I am going to take it out now (0830).   Thank you again--you are much more appreciated than you can believe!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

with the oz's!   And you're getting the hang of it.   It really isn't too complicated.  :)

I do think it might be too early to stick the starter in the fridge.  It is pretty cold in there!  Your young starter is working but needs a few more weeks at counter temperature to really bring out certain bacteria.  So... yes, all those jars of starter... such a waste of space and flour!  You really only need to maintain a small amount.  

I use a wide mouth salsa jar, holds about a cup but I keep much less.  More than enough room in it.  When I elaborate, I use a huge friendly old coffee mug and if I build for loaves (plural) I even use the mixer bowl.  I hate washing dishes!    Even more so now that hubby has given me a guitar for Christmas.  I've got to build tough skin on my left hand finger tips.  The starter seems to like it...  me practicing.  At least it's not complaining.  Where was I?  yes...

Your starter needs to be at room temps for a while and your house is really not too warm so you can take it easy.   You will have noticed the fridge did slow down the starter.  This is a handy trick.  Bread dough will react similarly.  The difference between starters and loaves is that (we throw more junk into loaves and)  if the starter over-proofs it's no big deal.  If a loaf over-proofs, it is a pretty big "oops."  But nothing that can't be fixed.  With your young starter you want to get the beasties onto a schedule so you can predict your rises.   Wait a few weeks of scheduled feedings before chilling it.  It's worth it.  If you can't feed it for a few days, then look for a cooler spot or give it a little bit more flour (not water) to thicken it a bit more, like a stiff dough, and then return to your set schedule when you get back.  

While you're waiting build some extra starter for bread and save up discards for other baked goods.  Easy to just throw some into some other recipe without thinking too much about it.  (search for: what to do with discards) 

One good rule of thumb is never to wash the starter jar or container until you have refreshed or saved a portion of ripe starter to feed.

  • if you happened to use all the starter in a recipe, you can still pinch off a piece of dough, let it ripen fully and then feed
  • If you have baked all the starter in a loaf of bread, you can add a tablespoon of water to the dirty jar (swish around) and just about a spoon of flour (let it be a little runny, it can ferment faster) and watch it.  Feed it more water and flour when it shows lots of activity putting it back on schedule.
  • if you have several family members working in the kitchen, using the same container(s) for the starter (with all the warning labels "save" and "hands off!") will become familiar and becomes a built in safety net preventing accidental loss.  

When the starter is older, and you are refrigerating it, all you have to do is remove teaspoons of starter from the jar and elaborate to build what you need for baking.  When the jar in the fridge gets low or 3 weeks goes by, put in a new fresh one.  It is good to let it start rising before it goes into the fridge and wait a few days before using it so you know the yeasts are alive and well.  You don't want the starter to be too risen or the starter runs out of food before the week is out.  It is good if it goes thru a complete refreshing before going back into the fridge.  This can easily be done by using some of the starter you just elaborated for baking.  It is sort of a juggling act.    

It is also a good idea before starting to refrigerate to save some starter to dry and store as a back up starter.  It will take a few days to rehydrate and get the starter going again using dried, but is saves weeks if not a month of babysitting a new starter should something go seriously wrong with your active starter.   Basically elaborate an ounce of starter (as you are presently doing with  1:1.5:1.5 feed ratio) and then spread out the starter thinly on a sheet of parchment.  Let dry  turning it over when crispy enough.   When thoroughly dry, break into flakes or quick process into tiny pieces and store in a cool dark place.  Label.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

remove one oz to feed and weigh the rest of the starter in a mixing bowl.    Here's the recipe.  :) 

alpenrose's picture
alpenrose

Dear Mini--sorry to announce that it appears to have died--DOA.  Yesterday, I went boldly forward again. This time I split up my beautiful many cups of starter and tried to reduce the unnecessary (thinking all the while that it seemed I nearly had a good start on dough). Anyway what I did was this--getting ahead of myself surely, I decided I would make two starters 1-100% and 1-65%,(I practiced formulas for several hours yesterday, felt like I was back in  math class).  I put them in the guest bathroom with the room temperature set down to about 65 degrees. Nothing happened overnight, so I immediately stirred them both and raised the heat to where it had been before when I had finally found success. That was about 8 hours ago and nothing has happened. Well I shouldn't say nothing--there has been a little bubbling in my 100%--nothing in the 65%.  I have learned so much from you mini, I am saving your notes. Tonight at about 2200 if nothing has happened I will go back to about stage 3 of building a starter and re-feed it. . . or maybe I am at stage 3 now?  Oh dear  <:-|

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The temps are so low.  Be patient.  Even at 70°F the starter will be slow.  65°F is retarding growth.  I was worried the fridge would slow down or almost stop your starter.  Not to worry.  Don't throw anything away.  Any starter that gets ripe you can tuck into the fridge until you get enough together to make a loaf.  Do taste your starter and judge it for sourness. (you can spit it out... I would... wouldn't want to burp all day)  

It is not dead.  They are not dead.  Your are learning lots of info.  One obvious one... the firmer the starter, the longer it takes to ferment.  Just the opposite is also true.  The wetter the starter the faster it ferments.  (all within temperature limits)  After you see signs of life and get the starter matured and smelling great, try using a little of the 100% and add more water and make it more liquid.  It just means you add less water to the bread recipe.  

I would look for recipes that use a large portion of pre-fermented flour where you only slowly increase the size of the starter and to mix the dough, the dough may contain more than half of a starter build.  If you have a refrigerator, is there warmth coming off it?  Try parking a cardboard box on top toward the back or if the fridge is "built in" check out the cupboard above it for warmth.  :)

Julia W-B's picture
Julia W-B

Hi Alpenrose, I totally sympathise with your confusion and waiting patiently for "signs"!!  As dear Azelia (Azelia's Kitchen) once said to me in a similar state "its only flour and water - take some risks!"  It will get easier and dare I say it.... I er, well I really don't measure that accurately..... (sorry Mini.... ratios do my head in)  I maintain my starter with a bit of water and a bit of flour and put it back in the fridge! - kinda aiming for a thick pancake batter consistency - hasn't failed me yet!  and well er, um, well  to add further grist for the mill I only let my fed starter rest for 2 hours before making the dough - I get the best results from an overrnight resting in the fridge and when I'm really organised I make up 2 lots of dough and keep them in the fridge (in a sealed plastic container) for up to 6 days - works a charm!

http://www.azeliaskitchen.net/blog/life-cycle-of-the-sourdough-starter-part-i/ is a brilliant step by step photo series of what a starter will/should do - I can't recommend it highly enough for soothing confusion and frazzled nerves.  Best of luck with it all. 

hutchndi's picture
hutchndi

I actually did this! Back when I was a sourdough newbie, I set up a webcam aimed at my sourdough starter or my dough rising in a bowl so that I could view it from anywhere I had internet access to watch it's development. It was so exciting! I just might do it again.... You can still even find reference to it online, just google hutchndi's fabulous dough cam, I highly recomend the idea!

ah the good old days

alpenrose's picture
alpenrose

Hi--thank you ALL so much for your time and help--it is much appreciated.

I think what is giving me most problems is the timing part of this process. It seems that if I get the little bathroom warm enough and feed my starter at night say about 2030--then when I get up in the morning it has already peaked. I am not about to start getting up at 0430 to stumble around the kitchen! Not only would that be hard on DH (the kitchen is right off of the bedroom), but who knows what would happen to the starter!  Tonight I tried this:50g of 100%starter (I don't think it went much beyond double before I fed it again to a new batch). To that 50g of old starter I added 100 g water and 100g white four. My old starter was 100% Rye flour.  So now what do we do--place bets?  I put it to bed in the little bathroom with the heater on warm.  Pray for me and my little starter tonight!  Also for Mini who has been so patient!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If the starter peaks and you are asleep, you don't have to get up at night and feed it or bake bread!  Sleep on!  You want the starter to peak.  (Go back up the thread and read it all again.)  I doubt the bathroom is 85°F so you don't have to worry.  Not one little bit.   Have a good breakfast, pamper your partner, have a second cup of coffee and then get around to the starter after you've exploited using a nice warm bathroom.  (the starter is covered I hope) 

alpenrose's picture
alpenrose

Yes dear Mini--the starter is tightly capped with a plastic lid, but it is in a glass bowl; sheesh--I am not that dumb. However, I must admit to having given some thought to using my Provence Lavender Room Spray in the hopes that it would produce a more "provincial tang" starter ! ;-)

alpenrose's picture
alpenrose

Now, I have a 60% hydration and a 100% hydration going up, getting fed, coming back down, going up, etc. etc.  How long does this go on before it turns into a starter?  Smells good, albeit not "French Floral".

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You must be getting a good idea of how the dough is fermenting and how long it takes to rise.    

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

a comparatively easy fruit yeast water culture where you can shake the thing as hard as you can, for long as you can, 4 times a day while holding  it at a constant  82 F - all while praying for the best, some decent rain and some sunshine for heaven's sake ;-)