The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I would like to make a confession...

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bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

I would like to make a confession...

Do any of you share this dilemma? Please don't be afraid to speak up.

I must confess that when I ask questions like:

"Is there more yeast in a firm starter than a wet starter?"

And I get a thoughtful and well planned out, literate and very astute answer like Mariana took the trouble to post for us such as this one below:

"The leavening power of both forms of starter is the same in your translate it into flour content of each, since cell counts of bacteria and yeasts in starters are counted in cells per gram of flour in starter.

I.e. A fully functional starter will have 1 billion lactic bacteria cells per g of flour in your starter and about 10 million yeast cells per g of flour in your starter. If you know the amount of flour in your starter, you know how many cells you have, plus or minus a billion, he-he.

There is only a minor difference between performance of these two: not the leavening power, but the length of fermentation. Both will make your bread sponge and bread dough quadruple as required per recipe, however provided you use 2 starters in the same recipe interchangeably, liquid starter inoculates sponge with fewer number of bacterial and yeast cells and therefore quadrupling of volume of the sponge will happen a few minutes to an hour later.

The rule is that if you halve the amount of starter (i.e. the size of inoculation), expect to add another hour to fermentation at room temperature. Daniel Wing writes about it in Bread Builders book. Using 30g of firm starter (50% hydration) vs 30 g of liquid starter (130% hydration) will influence time of fermentation of the first intermediate sponge (refresher culture), but by the time you ferment your final dough, there will be no difference between doughs seeded with firm and liquid cultures.

********

It's pretty close to the same thing as when your little 6 year old child comes to ask you, "Mommy, Daddy, where did I come from."

And before you go getting all up in your misery chamber thinking you are going to have to explain sexual reproduction in the gentlist of terms for your baby 6 year old's delicate intellect...keep in mind. All I really need to know is that I came from Hermann Hospital. Cuz Molly came from Texas Children and Chip came from St. Joseph's.

What I mean by this illustration is I am your basic idiot. I'm an idiot. There I confessed it. What a weight off my chest. See? All I expected from that question was a yes or no :D. And now I read Mariana's answer and all of a sudden I'm seeing stars and planes and I may be having an out of body experience cuz I'm trying so hard to fathom what she's explaining that my brain is about to explode all over the puter screen then my dh will be really cheesed cuz not only will he not be getting breakfast in the morning but he will have to clean up the mess of it too!

So...I guess my question is, if you aren't a rocket scientist, can you still be a baker? In fact if you're more like a rock than a rocket, can you and do you still make awesome sourdough without hyping up your fight or flight system?

Ok, so how about it? Am I the only 6 year old in a room of brainiacs? *blush*

(btw, Mariana I'm not bustin on you. Please don't feel this way. Conversely, you are obviously leagues ahead of me intellectually, knowledge wise, etc...and your answers are so incredibly rich, I feel badly cuz I am asking you to carry on a conversation with a first grader! Ahem, that would be me...)

Anyone else here share in my less than stellar ability to understand the science of this?

That's all. Thanks for listening. I feel very relieved and just a little nekkid. :-/

 

andrekhor's picture
andrekhor

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to be a baker. But if you want to be the best baker you can be, you want to know what's happening at microscopic level so you can get greater control of the outcome of your breads.

 

http://eatmorebread.blogspot.com

mariana's picture
mariana

 

No need to worry, BlueZebra. You are a good baker and you are very smart. Unlike me, who has an unusually low IQ of 70 which qualifies me as 'educable mentally retarded'. For as long as we have quality ingredients and recipes that actually work, our loaves will rise.  

I am very sorry for the confusing explanation. Please forgive me. It took me several readings of Bread Builders, chapter on fermentation, to understand just what is written in the quote above:

each gram of flour in a starter 'comes with' fixed number of beasties attached.  Smaller amount of flour, means fewer beasties

Liquid starter has less flour than firm starter and fewer beasties, so dough made with liquid starter will ferment a few minutes longer to quadruple compared to the same dough made with firm starter.

In practice, bakers choose liquid starter when they want lactic acid, larger loaf and mild, almost undetectable acidic taste.

Bakers choose firm starter when they want acetic acid, stronger smelling and sourer tasing breads.  

Here I am talking about fresh young starters. Old starters, regardless of their form, liquid or firm, will be more acidic, sometimes to the point of not being acceptable in breadmaking anymore. 

 Both kinds of starters will leaven breads equally well, they are both starters, aren't they?

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

about making this confession!!! You do a brilliant job of communicating the information very succinctly. But it's me that has a problem understanding it. *blush* It is like something "broke" inside me between my years studying chemistry and biochem and today. Like there is a link that is broken in my head, cuz Bill, you and so many people have tried to help me by explaining the chemistry and my head starts spinning and I hear this little voice say,

"I see your lips moving, but nothing is coming out of your mouth!" *blush*

So, thank you for explaining it again for me! This explanation helps so much!

hedera helix's picture
hedera helix

I'm sort of in the same boat - albeit, not so much in direct response to my questions, just looking around the discussions here, the terminology, the techniques mentioned in an 'Oh by the way' kind of tone, which when I look into them confuse me immensely.

To be honest, before I arrived on this forum a few days ago, I thought I was a reasonably competent baker. Nothing fancy, but able to churn put a good loaf, and knew a bit about what Iwas doing and why. Now I see, with the benefit of everyone elses experience here, that I am in fact an absolute numbskull.

So much to learn, so many things to try out. But that's great! I enjoy baking, and it's exciting to think that what I thought I understood OK is just about to open up into a whole new unexplored world of mess and mini-triumphs.

Thanks to everyone who has confused me, because you've also inspired me. One step at a time, I'll be trying to unpick the labyrinth of techniques and terms. I just wish this site had a glossary. :^)

browndog's picture
browndog

We do, Hedera. Not comprehensive, but it does cover a lot of the terms you often see here.

I know what you mean about having one's self-image 'rearranged' by this site. Stumbling on to tfl has affected every aspect of my baking life, for the better. And I came thinking I was a pretty clever puppy.

BlueZebra, come on. You have exhibited some decidedly complex scientific thinking, and Mariana, a 70 IQ? Now I may be gullibe and slow to grasp, but good heavens, women.

The technical minutiae on site generally leaves me in the dust, but you can see it's a real pleasure for those who engage (and understand, huh.) Like talking about British sci-fi or critters is for me...Then my interests shift and I recall some 2-page thread that Bill and Zola or L_M or Mariana or whoever had once embarked on that had my eyes glazed and my tongue furry at the time, and it becomes a resource---a sort of garden that suddenly blooms for me as well. Sure, I wish that level of understanding came easily to me, but even though it doesn't, I still feel equal to a tub of flour and yeast. Usually. Hah. You have only to look at the results of your own kitchen to answer your question anyway, BlueZebra.

hedera helix's picture
hedera helix

Browndog - you're always there to help. Being new here, it is quite clear to me already that you are going to get terribly bored of me asking dumb questions, while I on the otherhand am going to revel in the help you give me.

 

browndog's picture
browndog

A bit of a mantra around here, Hedera, is 'No Dumb Questions', and let me tell you, it only gets boring when people don't ask. The human resource here is something. You'll see.

 

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

equivalent of having brain farts. Or let me see, kinda like fog lifting momentarily from my brain then coming down and closing in again! I also agree that Mariana does not have a 70IQ.

You say this very well about the garden of knowledge that blooms. I love your words browndog and the pictures you paint with them and with your camera! And I heart that you love Who and Trek!!!

And btw, just because I get a couple of good loaves lol, well...even a blind man can shoot fish in a barrel once in awhile! :D Ever notice that the recipes I bake are the ones that are all tried and true by you recipe developers and awesome bakers around here!? LOL and I'm sneaky in that I don't publicize the failures lol! :D

However, I am a pretty decent cook on non-yeasted items for sure!

edh's picture
edh

BZ and Hedera,

Please don't stop asking those questions! I rarely have time to post, nor the brain power to compose coherent questions, even if I did. This summer has been a low-baking several months, but lurking and reading here have kept me sane (well, that's a relative term...)!

I've learned so much, and gotten so many laughs since I signed on, I have trouble remembering Life Before TFL.

I'm still fighting with a sluggish starter; I've sworn off trying to bake with it until it shows signs of life greater than taking 10 hours to triple, but I'm also having occasional fun with instant yeast. Some of these threads send me into a panic, but they also inspire.

I'm definitely in the rock, rather than the rocket scientist camp, so I can't answer your original question, BZ, but I'd definitely say let's keep trying!!

edh

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

I envy those of us who understand these complex formulas and actions and reactions of the ingredients we use. I was a dolt with science and math for most if not all of my formal educational life. I do go back from time to time to read some of the scientific explanations we get here thinking that some day the "light bulb" will go off. At any rate, anytime we continue doing something we love, we've got to get better at it and there isn't a much cheaper more tasty hobbie than this one!

Trish

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

I'm pretty sure Michael Jordan couldn't give an in-depth explanation of the physics behind getting the ball from his hand to the basket. On the other hand, Sir Isaac Newton probably couldn't shoot a basketball. I doubt Mozart knew what a sine wave was, and it's not clear that Louis Pasteur could make very good sourdough bread.

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

Like I just posted yesterday on another thread, I'm lost when the threads turn to math and science. I try to follow for a time but get bored when it goes on and on and seems to go nowhere. For me that is. Others understand and love it. 

Basics are necessary but I think when you try to take it apart like a school science project you lose the instinct and mystery that is so important in making bread....and doing other things:) I say....just make bread.                                           weavershouse

breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

I don't think you have to know all the whys and wherefores to be a good baker. A lot of people are more instinctive bakers and that always impresses me. Those of us that tend to go deeper in the science of it mostly do it because we're geeky and it adds a different dimension to our hobby, but it's not necessary for sure. In some ways I think it takes away from the magic a little :)

I like the range of skills on this site, it makes it fun. It's really fun to watch people discover and learn. And, I've been thinking this a lot lately--I'm so impressed by how fast people get the skills. I feel like I baked homely bread for years, and didn't venture into sourdough or preferments for the longest time. Now, I see people here that go "I've been baking for 6 months and here's my first SD loaf" and it looks like something out of a coffee table book!

 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

The idea that there is a fixed number of organisms per gram of flour in a starter can be illustrated in a fun way with a little "science experiment"/"drag race", as follows.

Make a firm starter and a liquid starter by taking whatever starter you have and building these two starters.

1) For the first starter, feed it 1:3:5 every twelve hours at room temperature, e.g. take 10g of your starter and add 30g of water and 50g of flour and let it rise at room temperature for 12 hours. You'll have to knead this one a little to get it well mixed, as it will be a firm starter now. Go through a few feeding cycles to stabilize it.

2) For the second starter, feed it 1:4:4 every twelve hours at room temperature, e.g. take 10g of your starter and add 40g of water and 40g of flour and let it rise at room temperature for 12 hours. Go thorugh a few feeding cycles to stabilize it.

Now you have a firm starter and a 100% hydration starter that have been fed a few times. To race them, you need to convert them both to the same consistency with the same amount of flour and water in them. Do the following steps quickly, so you give them a fair and even start.

3) Take 32 grams of the first starter, which has 20 grams of flour in it, and add 80 grams of flour and 88 grams of water. This will create a starter with 100 grams of water and 100 grams of flour in it, of which 20 grams of the flour was from the starter.

4) Take 40 grams of the second starter, which also has 20 grams of flour in it, and add 80 grams of flour and 80 grams of water. This will also create a starter with 100 grams of flour and water, and which has 20g of flour from the starter.

If things are working as suggested, i.e. the power in the starter is per unit of flour, then you will see these starters rise in lock step, with no advantage gained by either one, even though one was seeded by a firm starter and one was seeded by a liquid starter. Make sure they are at the same temperature, or it won't work. Best is to put them next to each other and equally distant from any heat source.

I'll plead guilty to being one of the bakers coming more from the science side, as if it's necessary for those of you who know my style. However, one of the nice things about bread making is that you can do it in your own style, without any apologies required. I've learned a ton from people here who say they don't know much of the math and science of baking.

It's not at all my intention to browbeat anyone with the science part, although I do believe knowing some of the science and math can be valuable. I'm just enthusiastic about that piece of the puzzle (understatement) and it's almost impossible for me to resist sharing the science and math of bread making on TFL when I participate. I know it probably does get tedious when I drone on in science mode, though.

I'll apologize in advance for the next time(s) I become tedious in that way.

Bill

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

apologize!!!! I envy you all in fact! I wish I could converse on your level because it would mean I'm smarter than I am now!!! I love reading it, but I am embarrassed for not understanding it...

I think it goes back to when I first took algebra, word problems just ate my lunch although I have good reading comprehension skills in non-math areas. The picture that formed in my mind with your post above is...yes, but how do you attach the little Matchbox Cars to the yeast containers so they can race? *blush*

What I'm trying to illustrate for me is that somewhere in my brain is a disconnect that flips and doesn't allow me to fully digest the information even though I want that information. Instead, idiotic cartoons and pictures replace the information that I need. Maybe it's just immaturity on my part?

So I know I "CAN" follow a recipe when pressed, but I don't do well converting recipes or starter percentages or even following all the steps. I can write down the steps. I can catalog them in my brain and write about them, but I don't do very well always performing them. So I can truly say, that any "new recipes" that are bread related, from me, will be based on pure luck. I am a really good cook (non-baking) but that's only because of repetition and mimicry. I think actually I learn best from mimicry.

Again, please, please please NEVER APOLOGIZE for having a beautiful and sharply focused mind and technical ability. NEVER APOLOGIZE for being able to effectively communicate your precise information! You are never tedious!!! Not to me. But like a 6 year old, I lack focus and get confused. That isn't YOUR problem. That is MY problem!!!

I just simply wanted to know if I was doomed to ever get better than I am, because of my comprehension hiccup?!

Hugs Bill, you know I wouldn't be baking with Stinky today if it weren't for you and all the patience and help you've given me! I owe you my first born (loaf of bread that is! :D  ) So thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your help and support!!!!!

And thank you to every one here for all of the support and mentoring you do for all of us would-be bakers!!!! I heart every one of you!!!!

sphealey's picture
sphealey

=== The picture that formed in my mind with your post above is...yes, but how do you attach the little Matchbox Cars to the yeast containers so they can race? *blush* ===

For his science project last year my son was testing variuos concentrations of salt in a poolish (now where did he get that idea). Urged on by his chemistry teacher he set up our video camera on single-frame mode and left it pointed at the beakers of poolish overnight. The resulting pictures were pretty cool. Now that we have some decent video editing software I might be able to get that edited into a fast-action video and posted on YouTube.

But anyway that was a creative way to capture the results visually. Old-school performance test engineer me had advised staying up all night with a ruler and notebook ;-)

sPh

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Sounds very old school there, sph. I can't imagine staying up all night tracking an experiment ..., NOT.

Not that long ago, I helped my daughter blow up some wine glasses with a tone generator and a loudspeaker, demonstrating resonance concepts for a science class at school. We destroyed a very large number of nice wine glasses perfecting the system and doing demos, since good quality ones are the only ones that really work well unless you have the Grateful Dead's sound system. My wife was furious, but you can't stand in the way of scientific progress.

beenjamming's picture
beenjamming

I've figured for a while the batter starters were weaker on a per gram basis than firm ones simply because of the higher proportions books called for in formulas.  I keep a firm levain starter and have been wanting to use it in some of Leaders formulas based on wet starters, but have stuck to other breads just because I've not wanted to take the time to experiment. But now that I've got an idea of how much to substitute, I'm going to give it a shot.

Ben 

crumb bum's picture
crumb bum

Hey Bill

Your starter race example sort of reinforces my feeling that it does not matter whether a levain or build is seeded with a liquid or firm culture from a rising standpoint.  How about the aroma and flavor?  Is there any difference between the two.  It seems to me that since there is so little starter used,  the hydration, time and temp would be much more of a factor in aroma and flavor?  I have made bread using both and have to be honest with all of you not noticed any flavor difference between a liquid or firm started loaf.  I cannot shake the feeling that I am missing out on something though.  Why else would people keep 2 or more starters using the same flour, of different consistancies?  Are they just bread nuts or is there a reason?

By the way I love all the math and science of bread baking.  I feel as though this knowlege has given me more of an ability to just make stuff up and give it a whirl.  I think that this whole thing is a process and being at the beginning it is and has been important for me to learn all the science.  It has made me even more exited about the future of my bread baking.  I hope to at some point to just chuck some flour, water salt and levain into a bowl unmeasured give it a few folds and make a great loaf.  Like my Grandma. 

I would like to thank you ALL for the great Q and A's

Da Crumb Bum

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Da Crumb Bum,

Always enjoy your thoughtful posts. I believe it does matter somewhat which consistency you maintain. The pH that prevails over time in a firm starter will be higher because of the buffering effect of the flour in the firmer starter. So, that should be good for the Lactobacillus, since they are inhibited at lower pH. I would think that would change the balance of organisms in the culture more toward the Lactobacillus, and therefore the flavor might be different, even in bread raised from a small starter amount. Maybe other things also go on because of the slightly different chemistry over time in the firm starter. I read an article where Ganzle says that in cultures maintained at very low pH, e.g. using very low feeding ratios and high hydration, that different more acid tolerant species take over, so one would think the flavor would change somewhat there again. I offset some of those factors in my "liquid culture" by making it thicker. Also, I feed it 1:4:5, i.e. the feeding ratio is higher than 3x or 4x, which takes it more in the direction of the Glezer style starter, so I think the pH is higher for longer in my "liquid" starter becauseof that. Anyway, I don't notice any significant difference in flavor between my liquid and firm culture, but I imagine there are some subtle differences, if I were to do side by side blind tastings. For example, when I maintain my culture as a firm starter, it seems to develop a more intense flowery aroma. However, like you, I don't really notice any big difference in the bread either way.

Bill

Oldcampcook's picture
Oldcampcook

I reap a little tidbit every time I read your posts.  I am first to admit I don't understand it all, but I keep trying!

Every time I log on here, I get a bit more educated, even from people just asking questions.

Bob

Old Camp Cook

bwraith's picture
bwraith

I agree about the questions. I hope people will always feel comfortable lobbing them in here, regardless of who gives a shot at answering them. Every time I read one, it strikes me how complicated and hard to decipher bread making can be. I always end up learning new things, if I try to answer one, or even if I just follow the discussion of others.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Bill, I would very much miss your scientific input (and others) which I consider valuable even though, as an artist, my brain does work much differently and I do truly believe we (collectively) look at the world in very different ways. 

 

We all have our own passions and areas of expertise which require no apologies, BZ.  It isn't fair to compare apples to oranges as Susanfnp analogised so well.  We can just be happy to enjoy the plethora of information and choose to focus on the things that truly interest us.

 

As for starter wars, Bill made me do this one and I admit it was a lot of fun.  I had converted part of my firm starter to liquid initially in order to test its strength against a new-from-scratch liquid starter I created that wasn't so active.  So I had the firm starter and my converted firm starter (CGS) both from the same initial culture and fed them according to Bill's instructions.  I felt like I should have been on Mr. Wizard, if anyone remembers that guy. You can see how they marched in lock step here:  (crazy I know)

 

http://zolablue.smugmug.com/gallery/2931950#158185562

leemid's picture
leemid

I'm here almost every day. How did I miss this? Let me toss in my two cents.

I admit that I get lost sometimes in the details, whether it's science or just a recipe, but I'm okay. Since I'm okay, I'm okay with getting confused and moving on. I can always flag the spot and come back. I enjoy learning from the 'brains' and 'dolts' because on any given day I might be either. I've spent some years in my life thinking I was one or the other, and have gotten used to flip-flopping. So that's neither here nor there. If I couldn't make a decent loaf, I'd be reading and rereading, printing and studying, putting the info in order and reordering it to try to make sense, change my knowledge level and bake a good loaf. I'm either okay with the bread I make, or I'm too busy to improve right now. So on I slog.

What is it about this community that holds me tight? It's the people. I haven't laughed out loud at so many things in years. I haven't enjoyed so many conversations in years. I haven't made so many new friends in years. For me, this is a great place to visit regularly, and once in a while I feel like I belong, above and beyond the common acceptance by great people.

So, my friends, thanks for the memories. Thanks for the knowledge base, and for the questions that I would ask if I were first in line, and the ones I would never think to ask. Thanks for the answers I understand, and the ones I don't. And thanks for the witty, caring, humorous, friendly, inviting, simple or complex, helpful or not, answers given. May you all live long and prosper.

That's my story,

Lee

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

spHealy I would LOVE to see a utube on that!!!

Lee most excellent post and you just very eloquently said exactly what I feel in my heart!!! Thanks for that. *Mwuah!!!*

sphealey's picture
sphealey

I was going to post a long reply on this topic, but most everything has been said by someone above.

My remaining observation would be that question-askers might want to indicate what type of response they want. I think there is a concern among some question answerers that they don't want to insult the asker by replying at too basic a level.

A good example would be mixing flour and water. When I started out two years ago I had a lot of questions on how to mix flour and water - beginning with "should I use a spoon? If so, how?". THAT is basic. Yet Rose Levy Beranbaum wrote her masters thesis on stirring flour - so clearly it can be a complex topic too.

So in phrasing your question you might want to add cues such as "I am just starting out with ..." or "I know this topic can be complex, but I need advice for the true beginner right now".

I will say that clear, understandable, learnable technical writing is very very hard and I have seen few authors who can do it well. When my son was asking for pointers on writing up chem lab reports I told him to read some of RLB's Bread Bible recipes; Ms. Beranbaum writes very good technical reports. Tom Kyte of Oracle Corporation is similar - one of the few truely brilliant computer people who can also write usable textbooks that a beginner can start with and an experienced person still learn from. But there aren't many who can do that.

Two of my hints for question answerers: (1) avoid TLAs (three-letter acronyms - or any acronyms). (2) don't assume that everyone agrees on what words mean - I have read 10 definitions of "biga" from 10 different authors and they are all slightly different.

sPh

leemid's picture
leemid

When I went to work for Intel some years ago, I was bombarded with TLAs as though they were overdoing it on purpose as an initiation. Occasionally I would interupt and ask, "What does that mean?" The most frequent answer: "I don't remember."

You gott love it!

Lee

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Wow, with SPH's great post above, maybe everything really has been said. But I still need to add my 2 cents worth. ;D At times I've been totally brain-fried with all the information here. But since I love to cook and also love to know how things work, I've kept reading here and in a few bread books, and have come to understand much of what is written. To me this is part of the joy. But that's just me - a lot of good cooks would think I'm crazy.

In answer to your question "...If you aren't a rocket scientist, can you still be a baker? ... can you and do you still make awesome sourdough without hyping up your fight or flight system?" Of course! If you've learned to be a great cook in other areas, or even if you've learned to do anything very well, whether or not food related, then you can learn to make great bread. My Grandma made great bread, and while she knew what to do, she probably didn't have a clue why she did it. Scientific explanations weren't a part of a busy farm kitchen that fed 10 people with only the efforts of a woman and her daughter.

That said, I'd like to take a stab at a simple answer to the question, "Is there more yeast in a firm starter than a wet starter?" Think of a wet starter as a firm starter that has been diluted with water. In an equal measure of both starters, the wet one will have more water, thus less room for yeast-filled flour.

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

What a relief to find out that I am not the only mathmatically challenged member of TFL! At first I put it down to old age, which is my excuse for all sorts of things, but then I remembered that I was an absolute idiot at math. in school. I think I probably got the lowest ever marks in my O levels. So I get a sort of icecream headache when I see lots of numbers and scientific explanations. But as long as my bread is edible and I am having fun, does it matter? I was all set to make Susan's Country Semi-sourdough bread today but the weather forecast was wrong and instead of a high of 70* we have 80*, too hot in my kitchen. Thanks for this great topic, A

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

I was a math major, and then I turned into a computer geek.  While I'm still very involved in computers, I got tired of being a geek.  So I understand the math - but only when I'm able to focus.  This thread exploded since last night.  Lee wondered why he had missed it, but it was just started late last night.  I was suddenly faced with a thread with 26 replies and wondering if I had the time to focus.

As I said, I understand the math.  The theories of sourdough are clear to me.  Until I get into the midst of it.  Then I get totally lost.  So I go into it supremely confident, and then I end up all sixes and sevens.

So it's the amount of flour in the starter that determines the leavening power.  I have a question.  Typically a recipe calls for a certain quantity of flour - say 1/3 cup or so many grams - and rarely is it explained what kind of starter.  Should I assume a liquid starter, say 100% hydration?

Rosalie

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

my elevator to reach the top floor and come to a complete stop!!!!! Excitement city here! I know that everyone has been saying this but for some reason this just hit on understanding mode!

You just said, "The amount of flour in the starter determines the leavening power."

I apologize to everyone who has been saying this over and over to me...Ok, I understand, can I walk through this with yall?

Ok the reason the amount of flour determines the leavening power is because only x amount of sugar comes out a gram of a particular kind of flour at general atmospheric conditions...right? And that food so to speak can only support so many organisms. Kinda like it takes x acres to support a cow in the Texas Hill Country. Right?

So continuing along those lines, a firm and a wet starter have different concentrations of flour obviously...so there will be more yeast numbers in the firm? Did I get it?

And and and...to add even more, if you add things like diastatic malt to the starter, then that would make even more sugar available and would change the number of yeasties right?

But then somehow over time, they equalize in the main body of the dough??

And salt inhibits the reproduction of yeast so it controls the number of yeast...wait but there is no salt in the starter. Also no diastatic malt in the starter right?? So now I'm off track again, right?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Don't drop the elevator! You're there, hang on, the elevator lights are flashing and don't panic! The elevator only wants to know "which floor" you want and not trying to tell you "cable will break and you will fall!"

Starters are full of yeasts and bacteria. They like to eat and reproduce. You give them food (flour, malt, sugar) they eat and reproduce. You deprive them, starve them, they use up whatever food is there and they have to live off each other, reducing their numbers. (We never ever talk about wee beastie cannibalism, never, no never! Oops! Sorry, distraction.) Get it?

Salt can slow down the reproduction. Malt because it is a food, increases it. Once the yeasts and bacteria have eaten up the food you give it, your starter has a limited time.

Water in the starter has two major jobs. To make it easier for the yeasts and bacteria to mingle and get to the food. And help the yeasts and bacteria form their cells. As long as there is water, they can reproduce.

The question comes down to how you see the question. If you simply took one teaspoon of firm starter (volume measurement) , and one teaspoon of liquid starter and counted the yeasts and bacteria in them, the firm starter would have more because it has more food. It is concentrated because it has less water.

If you look at your starter using food/flour grams to measure, 10g of flour in each starter. Each would have the same amount of yeasts and bacteria but the liquid starter would have more water... and the liquid starter would look bigger because of all that water. They would be equal in raising a loaf but it would look like you put more starter into it.

As soon as you give them more food by mixing them into sponges and doughs, they get more food and reproduce. That is why most recipes start out with less firm starter than liquid starter. (elevator lights still flashing)(Bing)

What a thread here! Busy and thoughtful, all, while I traverse the skies. You guys are great, and warm sentimental feelings are welling up inside. Hugs on everyone!!!
Bill, we need to work on that experiment, lots of dry starters here each in their own little baggy. I will start a blog topic right away.

--Mini Oven

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi MiniOven,

Mini, good explanation. I think I lost track of which experiment you mean. Dry starters, each in their own baggy, sounds like the beginning of an experiment or a good story, at least, especially when mixed with travel between far separated parts of the world.

Bill

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

To find it. A discussion in topic: How different is one starter from another?

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2359/how-different-one-starter-another#comment-9682

Mini Oven

bwraith's picture
bwraith

MiniOven,

Yes, I'm still very interested to know how that turns out, if you do some side by side comparisons.

Bill

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

in the elevator all the way until the third paragraph from the bottom.

You, naughty naughty girl, then slipped a number in on me and all of a sudden I get this error message in my brain that sounds and awful like a "Dahlik" from Who, saying, "Does not compute. Does not compute. Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate!"

Sigh, then my head exploded and I died.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"If you look at your starter using food/flour grams to measure, 10g of flour in each starter. Each would have the same amount of yeasts and bacteria but the liquid starter would have more water... and the liquid starter would look bigger because of all that water. They would be equal in raising a loaf but it would look like you put more starter into it."

Let me re-word the paragraph: If you look at your starters comparing food/flour. Each being fed 10g of flour, Each starter would contain the same amount of yeasts and bacteria but the firm starter has a little water in it and the liquid starter has a little more water in it. Because it has more water in it, it appears to LOOK bigger. Both starters will raise a loaf. To the person just watching, it looks like the liquid starter is more because the volume is more.

--Mini Oven

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

the weight of the flour only in the starters, right? Which is why the volume of the liquid would be more?

Cuz if you measure 10g of starter in each, then there can't possibly be the same amount of yeasts in the wet v. the firm, right? Cuz the wet has less flour and more water by weight than the firm...

So if you are measuring the 10g of flour in each of them, THEN adding whatever water goes into them, then yes, the liquid would look like it has more volume than the firm, correct?

But both of these will raise a loaf the same way.

Did I get it?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

That is why when a recipe calls for 120g firm starter and you put in 120g of wet starter, you will have less leavening than the recipe. The result will be, that you will have to wait a little longer for the yeasts and bacteria to multiply and produce gas to make the loaf rise and the times will be off, most likely longer than what the recipe states.

If the recipe called for 120g liquid starter and you put in 120g firm starter, you will have more action/leavening than the recipe resulting in faster fermenting times.

That is why some kind of adaptation must be made if you have a recipe calling for a firm starter and you only have a liquid one.

Most turn their liquid starter into a firm one, wait the amount of extra time while the starter is developing and then use into the recipe. Converting from a firm starter to a liquid starter requires less time.

Mini Oven

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

I think I asked this question before but never got an answer.  Many/most recipes don't specify liquid or firm.  Should we assume liquid?  100%? 

Rosalie

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Gosh, Assuming can get one into trouble. But many times experience is the teacher. Looking around at the recipe and rising times can give clues but maybe just trying the recipe with what you have is the best. 100% is a good middle ground and a good place to start if no specification is made. Don't forget to mark your recipe with a note for the "next time."
-- Mini Oven