The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New to starters

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neobliss's picture
neobliss

New to starters

Hi... I am new to starters and bread making in general. I have made bread every now and again but have really gotten into it as of late. I started a small 300g 100% starter and have been facing problems with hooch. I started it four days ago and waited 48 hours for the first feeding because I was not seeing any activity in the first 24. By 48 hours, it was nearly overflowing and I was quite happy to see this. On the following day, I went to check it and feed it and I found that it had quite a bit of hooch and was inactive. I mixed it up and fed it but has been quite wet for the past two days. What do I need to do to fix this? 

Also, I hate to waste so I use the 50% discards to make bread. I just deduct the water and flour from my recipe and use active dry yeast as stated in my recipes. Is this ok to do? Can't hurt it any but does it do anything for texture? Just wondering.

I am quite a newbie at this so any help would be much appreciated! Thanks!

 

UPDATE: After reading some of the forum topics, I decided to add another 75g of flour and it has thickened back up? Am I doing this correctly? This is now not 100% though... confused!

Ford's picture
Ford

Your starter will not be mature for about a month.  It will not hurt to use it, but  the results will be somewhat problematical.  I don't worry about the hooch -- I just stir it in and go with a normal refreshing.  I also use 100% hydration for my starter.

I do not know the method you are using to get the starter going.  Unless you are using the pineapple solution method or something that starts with an acid medium, the initial activity may be from a strain of bacteria called leuconostoc.  This may give a rather foul odor, but otherwise harmless and will go away after refreshing several times.  

Don't worry about the hydration just now.  The hydration will get back to 100% after refreshing a few more times.  Many people like a lower level of hydration.

Ford

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

new to starters but they are new to you too.  It depends on what you are trying to accomplish with your starter.  Liquid starters kept on the counter produce bread that isn't not very sour but they need to be fed often at 100% hydration and when out of food they expel hooch to tell you they are starving.  If you don't bake a lot or use the discards for pancakes, noodles and English Muffins, you will have a lot of discard and waste. 

For these reasons I keep 100g of 66% hydration starter that is only fed whole grains to replenish when depleted and I keep it retarded in the fridge too - all to bring out the sour.  If i bake once or twice a week out of it I will use 15 g of it each time until, 2 - 3 weeks later I am down to 30 g or so.  I will take 15 of that to bake with and use the other 10 g to build the starter back up to 100 g again over 3 feedings on the counter trowing nothing away.

I call this the no muss, no fuss, no waist, no maintenance starter program :-) 

Happy Baking

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

your starter isn't ready to use for baking.  The rush of activity that you saw in the second day was fueled by a particularly gassy type of bacteria, leuconostoc, not by yeast.  The starter is in that quiet phase now when so many people think it is dead and throw it out--please don't do that with yours!  In another couple of days, assuming ambient temperatures are 70F or higher, yet another regime of microflora will take over.  That one will include the yeasts and the lactobacilli that characterize a sourdough starter.  Once that has a few days of regular feedings to stabilize, you can start baking up a storm with your new starter.

Is your 100% hydration based on volume measurements, such as cups, or on weight measurements, such as grams?  It should be the latter, since the concept of bakers math and hydration percentages is based on weight, not on volume.  A cup of water weighs (approximately) twice as much as a cup of flour, so equal quantities by volume will yield a hydration level that is somewhere close to 200%.  If you are using volume measurements, that alone would explain the 'hooch' that you are seeing, which, at this point of your starter's development, would be primarily water, not alcohol.  

For comparison's sake, a 50% hydration dough will be extremely stiff, like a bagel dough.  A 60-65% hydration dough will ride the firm/soft divide and be slightly tacky.  A 70% hydration will be somewhat slack and sticky.  A 100% hydration dough will have the consistency of melted mozzarella cheese; less structure than a dough but rather thick by batter standards.  All of these descriptions are for white-flour doughs, not whole-grain doughs.

Yes, you can use the starter, once it is active and able to leaven your breads, in place of commercial yeast in your present breads.  There's no magic number but if you use approximately 15-25% of the flour and water from the recipe in the levain (starter) for the bread, it should work just fine.

Hope this helps.

Paul

neobliss's picture
neobliss

I found a recipe on here that uses 100% hydration to produce a billowy cinnamon roll. I was interested in giving it a try. I researched a little bit on levain and followed a recipe. I started with 150g bread flour and 150g water. After the first 48 hours, I took out half (used it for another cinnamon roll recipe) and replaced it with 75g flour and 75g water. The following 24 hours, my starter had the consistency of a thin pancake batter with about a 1/2 inch of liquid floating on top. It smelled quite foul but after feeding it smelled better. Again, I took out 50% and replaced it. Today, consistency remained the same and fed again but added another 75g of flour to thicken it up to a thick and tacky consistency. Now I am confused about how much I should take out tomorrow and how much to replace. This process is a bit of a conundrum to me. Thank you all for your input. Should I continue with this? I find it quite wasteful to just scrape it now.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Are you using 'starter' as the label for a pre-ferment (such as a sponge or a poolish) made with commercial yeast?  A mix of flour, water, and yeast?

Or are you cultivating a wild yeast / natural yeast / levain / levito naturale / sourdough?

It will be hard to answer your other questions without knowing the context. 

Paul

neobliss's picture
neobliss

I am trying my hand at natural yeast / levain / sourdough. I read that the use of the word "sourdough" is not technically the same as "sourdough bread." Sorry for the confusion.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

In that case, don't try to bake with your starter yet; it simply isn't ready.

Keep following whatever regime you began with for feeding amounts and intervals.  Here's what to look for over the coming days: bubbles.  There won't be many when they first appear but they will grow in numbers and size with successive feedings.  Since your starter is at 100% hydration (equal weights of flour and water), the bubbles will cause it to expand in volume in the hours following a feeding.  When it reaches maximum expansion, which may be more or less than double the original volume, remove half and feed again.  You will be able to recognize the max point in a couple of ways.  The domed surface will begin to wrinkle slightly in the center as it starts to collapse and/or bubbles at the surface will begin to break open.  After you are able to see that the starter inflates and collapses in a reliable fashion across several feeding cycles, you will be able to use it for baking.  

The growth process is easiest to observe if you keep the starter in a transparent container with straight sides so that you can mark it's starting point and it's growth. 

If you are concerned about waste you can cut back the feeding quantities to 50g each of flour and water.

Paul

neobliss's picture
neobliss

Thank you so much! I will keep at it and see what happens...