The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bewildered Beginner

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FadedEidolon's picture
FadedEidolon

Bewildered Beginner

Hello, everyone!

I've been baking with commercial yeast for about 8 years (and have been lurking on TFL for almost as long) and have recently decided to dive into sourdough baking. I've started with this tutorial which has produced a quite vigorous starter. I'm currently up to day 7 and am not sure where to go from here. Currently my starter is at 166%, right? (feeding is a 1:1:1 ratio of starter:flour:water by volume). Is this too wet? I've been feeding once/day at room temperature - should I do more? How long and at what volume do I need to maintain my starter so that I'll be able to bake with it? All my attempts at finding solutions have produced quite contradictory answers, and I'm not quite certain I understand the rationale behind any of them. Please advise!

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

The reason you got contradictory answers is that there are probably as many ways to make sourdough bread as there are bakers, and they all work fine for each of the people who prefer those methods.  I would suggest that you try the recipe posted by the person who wrote the guide you followed for growing the starter.  She gives more information about her method in the discussion after that posted recipe.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/257/my-favorite-basic-sourdough-loaf

 

loydb's picture
loydb

1) 100% hydration (1:1) is just fine for storing your starter

2) Here's how I keep mine. There are other methods, but this one works for me. I bake 1x a week on the average. I have a container with ~ 3 oz of starter in it that lives in my fridge. The day before I'm going to bake, I pull it out of the fridge, let it warm up for a couple of hours, then add 3 oz of water and 3 oz of flour (or whatever the actual weight of the starter is to do 1:1:1). This sits on the counter for 4-8 hours, depending on if I remember to set a timer. Then, back in the fridge overnight.

3) Next day, put 3 oz of starter in a new container, put it back in the fridge for next week. The leftovers are used in whatever I'm baking. If I'm not baking bread that week, I made crackers or pizza dough with the extra starter.

 

 

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Just a comment, the OPs starter is 1:1 by volume, which is more than 100% and may be 166%, depending on the density of the flour.  That is why I suggested continuing to follow the instructions from the person who wrote the tutorial, rather than trying to follow a recipe intended for a different hydration of starter.

loydb's picture
loydb

Doh, misread that completely. 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Hi FE.  There's so much info on sourdough out on the net that sometimes I think of it as the Sourdough Tower of Babel, especially when what you read in one place contradicts what you've read in another.

I was glad to see that King Arthur Flour published an easy to follow primer, which I think will answer your questions about feeding, maintenance, and when you'll be able to bake with your sourdough culture.  Here's the link:  http://www.kingarthurflour.com/tips/sourdough-primer.html

If you want to start out with a lean bread, there was a very simple sourdough formula posted here called "1, 2, 3."  All you need is your levain (sourdough), water, flour, and salt.  And a scale, since weighing your ingredients is crucial for accuracy and consistency.  Here's the link to that thread:  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/9346/123-easy-formula-sourdough-bread

Hope this is of some help, and welcome to the sourdough club!

livingthehomesteaddream.blogspot.com's picture
livingthehomest...

I will read the links above to glean what I can from them, thanks! I have a successful starter (from what I can tell) it is a desem whole wheat flour San Fransisco Starter, love the flavor :). It is full of air bubbles and grows between my every 12 hour feedings so I know it is alive and well, my new baby.

What I am struggling with is this. First of all I tried the 1.1.1 ratio for growing the starter using my postal scales which weighs by oz. and is acurate, however my starter was very runny and would easily just pour out of the jar, it was just a super runny foamy substance. So I was told to add more flour, which I did. Now I am just doing the ratio by volume but adding in about 1/2 to 3/4 cup extra flour until it is a good thick consistancy. I know this can't be correct but not sure what else to do at this point. My flour is fresh ground at home so it weighs lighter I imagine that store bought flour, plus being whole wheat will make it weigh less as well.

My bread has a wonderful flavor but is very damp inside, very heavy loaf that doesn't really rise as much as I would like. I am looking for a lighter fluffier loaf.

Next question. I am ready to put my starter in the fridge. Do I put it in right after feeding, hungry, inbetween?

When I am going to use my left over sourdough for pancakes do I need to feed it and let it sit for  a while before making pancakes? I notice my last batch of pancakes were almost flat, a bit tough and doughy inside.

Definitely needing some advice!

Thanks!

livingthehomesteaddream.blogspot.com

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Okay, so you aren't actually following the procedure in the tutorial for which you provided a link.

First of all, I also grind my own wheat flour, and I know for certain that it weighs more per cup than fully refined flour.  The best way to determine this for yourself is to measure it rather than imagining.  No offense intended, but if you have a scale then there is really no excuse to just guess what one cup of your flour weighs.  That way you can use volume if it pleases you to do so, and still have some idea of what weight you are adding if the recipe calls for weights.  Or just do it all by weight, if that pleases you.

You will get yourself needlessly confused if you try to follow everyone's advice.  There is no One True Way to do this.  However, there are general principles.

1.  General Advice #1 is to get a nice starter going, of some hydration, any hydration.  You seem to have accomplished this.  Feed it often enough that it can respond properly to your needs, and doesn't smell like ketones.
1A.  How I keep my starter is to remove it from the refrigerator the morning of the day before I am planning to bake bread.  I add cold water to it, stir it, and let it warm up gradually over the day.  In the evening I add one-third of the flour that is going into my bread, to my very runny starter.  I leave that on the counter-top overnight.  This is called making a pre-ferment, also known as biga or poolish depending on how much water and flour was added.  In the morning, I remove some of the pre-ferment and store it in the refrigerator for next time.  I bake about every 5 days.  If you plan to use your more often, then just keep feeding it at room temperature, or give it overnight out with some food every day.  Those are different schedules from mine but valid ones.  It's just that someone else will have to advise you on it.

2.  General Advice #2 is to soak whole wheat flour before you use it.  Almost all advanced recipes for bread contain a step called autolysis, which is letting the flour sit wet before you add the yeast to it.  This is usually between 10 and 30 minutes.  Whole wheat flour, especially home-milled, requires more time than that, and more water than expected.  The bran takes longer to wet than the starch, and commercial flours are tempered to a standard humidity which you don't do when you grind it yourself.  If you don't soak the flour in enough water for enough time, the dough will be dry and the loaf will not rise properly.
2A.  I soak the other two-thirds of the flour for my recipe in water overnight.  This may seem like overkill, but it works for me.  I also add yogurt and water roux, which are not necessary but I like the result.

3.  General Advice #3 is to allow sourdough longer to rise than dough made with commercial yeast.  Your culture will get stronger as it learns what you expect from it.  I know this sounds stupid on the surface, because yeast don't have brains, but you will be selecting the yeast and bacteria that perform best for you by the very act of forcing them to live as you wish them to live.
3A.  My culture now completes the first rise in two to three hours, and the proofing in the pan is complete in about 45 minutes.  It used to take most of the day and the bread was not very risen, but as we adapted to each other, things got better.  Here is one of my favorite photos to display my initial learning curve.  All of these loaves had good flavor, but you can see the procedure was improving.

Nine months later my starter and I were making this bread together.

Now, you may not want my type of bread.  That's fine.  The general principles are still the same: Keep a healthy starter, soak whole wheat flour longer than refined flour, and allow natural yeast more time to work than commercial yeast.  Bread still requires these things no matter the size, or absence, of holes in the final product.

For your pancake batter, you might try letting the batter sit in the refrigerator overnight, then warming it up for cooking in the morning.  That way you will have soaked the flour thoroughly while not wasting the small amount of rise possible in a thin sheet.  If all else fails, add some baking soda.  No one will know.  *wink*

livingthehomesteaddream.blogspot.com's picture
livingthehomest...

Thank you so much for taking time to spell this all out so carefully :) I think I can clearly see my mistakes, lets hope so! Lol. One correction I'd like to mention is, that I didn't provide the link to the information on how to do all of this, I had just found it but, decided to post BEFORE reading it.

So I am so embarrassed at my first mistake but I will own it anyway. I don't think I was actually using 1 part sourdough starter when adding the water and flour to it that is why is was so watery, geeze!! Just not paying attention I guess, but thanks to reading carefully your instructions the light went on! Also, I was confused when I watched a video of someone pulling out thier sourdough starter and it was SO elastic I thought something had to be wrong. But I see that actually it is okay to be runny when you first start, (adding the first flour) I will definitley be soaking my flour. The part about whole wheat flour weighing more, yes logically that does make sense since there is actually more in it with the entire grain there instead of just part. I was just thinking fresh ground wouldn't be so packed down, more air in the wheat, but what do I know, tee hee. 

Your bread does look much improved! I am going to print this out and use it as a guide to remember what to do and what I am trying to accomplish. Thanks again :)

FadedEidolon's picture
FadedEidolon

Thanks for your help, everyone. I just finished my first loaf of sourdough bread. It didn't seem to rise very much, but the flavor was just fine (to put it mildly), so I'll have to keep experimenting. I feel much more secure knowing I won't be too far off base.