The Fresh Loaf

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I know you've answered these questions a million times BUT....

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Sonieb's picture
Sonieb

I know you've answered these questions a million times BUT....

Ok, I've studied this forum, books, other webpages, and experimented for about a month now. I FINALLY have two LIVING spelt starters, or chefs or mothers, or whatever they're called (it's like a soft dough form) that are at least three weeks old.

Through all my experimenting I've found I like the firm starter the best. I keep it at room temperature (which in my house right now is around 67-68 degrees) and it smells like yeast when it's actively growing (I was awoke at 3am by my barking dog and when I came into the kitchen I was met with the most lovely YEAST smell!). I'm feeding it once a day (although less than 24 hours in-between, for instance today I did it at 21 hours and it just looked a little bit forlorned, or flat instead of puffy, but still double, I keep missing the "moment" when it reaches double though, so I think it does it sometime in the night? I'm not sure because I usually feed it before noon and then forget about it until the next morning) I could probably feed it twice a day but I don't want to waste that much flour :/. 

Ok, for feedings I've tried numerous things but have had the most success with 5 oz of starter, 1.2 oz of water and 2.5 oz of flour. I am mathematically retarded so all these formulas sound like Greek to me...but I've been most successful using that ratio. 

I've baked with the cast off dough twice now but used the recipes that call for fed or unfed starter that have added leavening; one was 2 tsp. active dry yeast (buttery rolls from the Kind Arthur website) and another was a crumpet recipe with only 1/2 tsp of baking soda. The both turned out very nice (the crumpets were delicious, btw). 

Now for my question: it's living but what IS it and am I doing anything wrong? What do I have? And how can I be sure I'm using it right in recipes? What is the hydration? 50%? 

Should I be using less of the starter to feed? I know I'm using more than most people do....does that mean my starter isn't doing as good as I think it is?

Thank you so much ahead of time. You people here are the nicest people on the planet to put up with all us newbies  and our silly questions :)

 

 

 

 

 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

There are as many ways to use starter/sourdough/natural levain as there are names for it and methods to make it, so hold on to your socks. You will get MANY suggestions.The trick is to find a method that works for you-the mixing/rising/baking schedule fits your lifestyle and gets you the bread you want to eat. One suggestion is to start looking through books on sourdough and see if anything (method-wise and timing wise) strikes your fancy. Don't worry about the flavor of breads just yet. That is one approach.

For myself-I bake every weekend. I don't like making complicated, very time consuming breads but ,hey, maybe you do. I also like to use a pre-ferment to make a great flavor in my loaves and I use instant yeast to control the fermentation time. So my weekend might goo like this:

Thursday PM: Take my half-pint of starter/sourdough/natural levain out of the refrigerator.Take out about half and discard. Add a little water to the remainder in the jar, Add AP flour to make a thick batter consistency,Cover and let sit on kitchen counter.

Friday AM: Repeat. I actually almost never throw the discard away. I might save it for pancakes on Sunday or biscuits with dinner.

Friday PM: Take 1-2 tbsp. of the now very active starter and put into a 1 quart plastic container with lid and add 1 c water and 1 cup flour.This is the pre-ferment that will be used to raise and flavor the bread made Saturday AM. Let sit overnight on counter ( as long as house is between 60-70F).You can treat this removal as a discard and feed the jar again. It,too,sits out overnight.

Saturday AM: Make bread with the preferment. I can add a little commercial yeast (1/2-1 tsp) if I want to decrease the fermentation time. As for the starter in the jar, I can either feed again,let sit out til it rises and then refrigerate or just put it into the refrig until next weekend.

Saturday PM: If I want to bake Sunday I just make another pre-ferment, feed the starter in the jar and put it in the refrig in the AM.

Most of my recipes are adapted to using this 1 c water in the preferment. I make many different breads but it has taken time to develop my recipes for this method. It will probably take you time,also to adapt to the method you ultimately use. This method allows me to keep a small amount of starter so discards are small and usable in pancakes,etc.

 Find what works for you and have delicious fun!

Sonieb's picture
Sonieb

So I am thinning it, feeding it and then waiting for THAT to kind of become another starter....kind of, right? So then I'd have two starters: one thinned and then my thick one still in storage (either one the counter or fridge). Am I getting this right? It will still take a couple days before I can use this thinned form? Or can I use it the same day?

I put half of my starter in the fridge and it really knocked it out. I left it in only a couple of days then I took it out, let it warm up and fed it. The one that I leave on my counter is doing SO MUCH better! The one on the counter I can feed twice a day easily and it only takes about 4 hours to double. The one that I took out of the fridge seems weak and sickly, barely doubling in 12 hours. 

Sonieb's picture
Sonieb

Update: I watched it closer. It's been six hours exactly and it has risen 50%. 

Sonieb's picture
Sonieb

clazar123, thank you so much! I'll have to study that for awhile, lol. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I would say you have found the right feeding schedule.  Once a day.  I figure your feeds are 48% hydration which is a little stiff but the more liquid (with time) starter thins it during the feed.   

When the starter is fed more flour, as when making a loaf, the dough will rise more than the starter does now because  more food is available.  You will have to be patient with those cool temps.

DoubleMerlin's picture
DoubleMerlin

I'm quickly learning that you can do any and every bread sourdough. Hey, they didn't have dry yeast when most of these breads were invented!

My first goal with sourdough was to perfect a very basic lean sourdough recipe. Just flour, water, starter, and salt. I've been practicing that for about 6 months now, and am much more proud of my loaves now than when I first started. 

I've done a brioche with sourdough, that was delicious. I like whole-wheat beer breads done sourdough. I've done many rye breads - those you only ought to do sourdough. I haven't done a "sandwich" bread, mainly because i use my plain lean sourdough for sandwiches.

Basically, now that you have a bubbly starter, make every bread you can with it.

DoubleMerlin's picture
DoubleMerlin

Oh yeah. Sourdough is a community of yeasts and bacteria. The yeasts - usually not your everyday Saccharomyces cerevisiae, but any of the thousands of other species of yeasts - they do most of the visible work, raising the dough just like your commercial yeast. The bacteria, a strange agglomeration of lactic acid bacteria, produce many different acidifying compounds, such as lactic and acetic acids. They work together to keep invaders out (molds, infectious bacteria), because together their system works pretty well.

The more frequently you refresh it or the greater amounts you refresh it by (doubling, tripling, etc.), the more you favor yeasts. As long as you refresh it semi-regularly, it'll stay alive. It might change in character over the next couple months. Apparently it'll stabilize after a year or so, I haven't hit that point yet.

Sonieb's picture
Sonieb

I made the buttermilk waffles from the King Arthur site with unfed starter.....OMG THEY WERE DELICIOUS!! 

I'm still a little confused about how to transform my thick dough starter into the thin stuff the recipes say to "pour" into the bowl. A lot of recipes don't give hydration information either....so I suppose I'll have to guess? :(  

My scale only goes one point to the right of the decimal which is why I say I feed my starter .2 instead of .25...I just try to give it a "heavy" .2...which I hope puts me at 50% hydration. I think if I keep it in even-ish numbers I won't have as much trouble with the math, lol. 

 

 

DoubleMerlin's picture
DoubleMerlin

0.2 What unit? And by 50% do you mean it's 50% flour and 50% water? Because baker's percentage sets flour at 100%, so 100% hydration means 50% water by weight.

You're right that when you double it, you've essentially created two separate starters. If you're keeping one at room temp. and feeding it daily and the other one at fridge temp and feeding it weekly, they'll eventually become different.

Any recipe in any particular book will refer to the starter in different ways, with different specific recipes. You'll have to find out what the recipe writer means when they say starter. I think it's smart to keep one starter in the same condition all of the time, that way you'll get to know that starter well, and how it reacts to feedings, refrigeration, etc. As I said, I keep mine between 100% and 125% hydration, refreshed by about doubling, using 8 oz water, ~5 oz germ-in bread flour, and ~2 oz fresh ground partial malt whole wheat. If I find a recipe that calls for starter, I use what I have, and guesstimate what changes I have to make to make sure the recipe is not horribly affected.

And I'm probably more experimental than a lot of people. I try to be consistent, but I don't really measure much, and most of my recipes I just kind of make up on the fly. The only times I measure are when I'm making recipes I want to perfect, or have to make in bulk.

I do sourdough waffles, and I'm still trying to get the gluten down to have a nice and tender waffle. I made them with buckwheat last week, but they're still way too tough and glutenous. Going to have to try to make a starter with pastry flour....

Sonieb's picture
Sonieb

I thought that might be confusing....sorry. I said in my original post "Ok, for feedings I've tried numerous things but have had the most success with 5 oz of starter, 1.2 oz of water and 2.5 oz of flour. I am mathematically retarded so all these formulas sound like Greek to me...but I've been most successful using that ratio."

Whatever amount I use, I always use a certain amount of starter, then I just wing the amount of flour, maybe I'll use 2 or 3 oz. (if I'm trying to make more for a recipe) or 1 oz if I'm not baking for awhile, then I'll put half of that in water (for 2oz flour I add 1oz. water, etc).

Good luck with your waffles, lol.