The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Multiple Starters

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kap1492's picture
kap1492

Multiple Starters

Is there any benefit of having two different starters? I have a AP and WW, from what I have read is eventually they will become the same over time. Any difference in taste? Both are doing extremely well in the 10 days that they have been alive.

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

Depends on your baking practice, frequency and palate's sensitivity.  While environmental factors such as frequency of refreshment, temperature of growth, extent of growth, retardation etc. will contribute majorly to the character of a starter, so will the feed on which you maintain it.  WW is higher in minerals (ash) and protein, both of which will favor a subset of possible bugs (and consequent metabolites) that dominate your cultures.  So your AP vs WW will be different.  But how do you bake?  Do you bake 100% white breads only, or some with both WW and white?  If the latter, neither of your starters may be 'optimal', although both would certainly perform acceptably.  Many (e.g., me) maintain one starter on a mixed feed:  at least AP + WW and perhaps some spelt and rye (at <10% each).  That produces a chemically more complex and theoretically versatile starter population -- that won't be blind-sided by being expected to lift a dough laced with 'foreign' flours.  One pre-refreshment into a flour mix akin to that of your next bake should help a more generic AP/WW (spelt/rye) starter transition to a state better suited to perform acceptably in your bake.

That's my take from less experience than many here.  But it works for me.  I maintain just one on a flour mix that varies from AP/WW to AP/WW/spelt/rye, depending mostly on my whims.  When I started baking with natural levains, I made up ~8 different starters, one from every flour I could imagine using.  Total waste of (a lot) of time and flour.   Not even the most ambitious and creative of commercial bake shops would do that.  Just over-zealous newbies.  It must be a rite of baker's passage that one must do that and quickly recognize its folly.  That said, there are specialized starters people maintain who regularly bake breads that benefit from them, e.g., rye or durum.

But before you insinkerate one of your starters, you can do a split-bake, using your AP for one loaf and your WW for another otherwise identical loaf and convince yourself whether maintaining multiples is worth it.  And of course, let us know what you find!

Happy baking,

Tom

kap1492's picture
kap1492

You nailed it on the head about being over zealous, it is something that I do a lot but in a practical sense. To be honest I have not done a whole lot of bread baking so I am in my infancy when it comes to technique, knowledge etc. Bread is by far my favorite food, I can sit down and eat just bread alone and be perfectly content. With that being said, I want to try out every type of bread baked in every way imaginable. I personally prefer whole grain varieties but growing up on the average white loaf, I have a special place in my heart when it comes to the white variety. For me it is too soon to say what I prefer one over the other or any other variety. That is why I decided to create 2 different starters and was considering mixing up a rye batch to see what I like the best. But for now I think I am going to stick to the two and take your advice on trying both of them out and see where it goes from there. Today is the 10th day for both starters and the first day that I have moved to feeding every 12hrs. Both are neck and neck in terms of growth with the AP taking a slight lead in overall rise. With the above info taken into consideration, when should I start to use these starters? Both starters are kept at room temp 71-74. 

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

It's been so long since I started any starters, I barely remember what criteria I used to know when.  In fact, I think I recall thinking to hell with this waiting (esp for the freakin' 'float test' -- bugger that) and I just used one and whadayaknow, it worked.  But I think it'd be safe to say that any starter that doubles in volume after 6-12 hrs of incubation (varies with starter and temperature, feed, etc. -- can triple too) is ready for service in a dough.  Worst case = it doesn't work as well as you expect.  But beginner's luck rules sometimes in bread baking.  Go for it!  But make sure not to dump your entire culture in the dough (duh) - save some as your stock.  Obvious, but considering the consequences of forgetting that, worth a mention. 

I wish my 'room temp' were that warm this time of year.  T-shirt time!

Tom

kap1492's picture
kap1492

Yeah I am gonna give it a go once I feed up to the amount I need and 2 oz left over for continuing the starter. Living in the North East US we keep the house around 72 degrees. Gonna give it a shot using my new baking stone and the other in a DO. So needless to say we are gonna have some bread on hand, granted that they work out.

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

I keep three starters. White, W/W, Rye.  I find that over the years they have developed distinctive characteristic to the flour born and raised on.  My rule is the  predominant flour in the loaf gets that starter type.  But that's just me.

kap1492's picture
kap1492

From what I have read and correct me if I am wrong but lets say you have a white starter and decide you want to make a rye starter just save the discarded portion that you would of tossed out and feed it a rye diet. After a few feedings your white leftover will become a brand new rye starter.