The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

starter won't float

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christinepi's picture
christinepi

starter won't float

I created my first starter 12 days ago; I followed Gaaarp's instructions. For the last 6 days it's been sitting on my countertop (ca 67-69 during the day, ca 63 during the night) and I've religiously fed it 2x a day. It always doubles within the first 4-5 hours. It always smells nice and strong after it's doubled, and it's bubbly.

I tried the float test just now and the bit of starter sank like a rock. Do I simply need to give the starter another week or more until it's ready to be used in baking? Anything I'm doing wrong? I wanted to bake tomorrow, but I'm guessing that's off?

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

I don't see in gaaarp's instructions anything about a float test for starter... (am I missing it?).

I'm used to a float test for levain, but that's different.

If your starter is doubling in 4-5 hours it sounds as if it's active enough to be used for baking.

good luck, let us know how it turns out!

Les

christinepi's picture
christinepi

Gaaarp doesn't mention the float test. I read this elsewhere. I read this mostly, but not only, in connection with levain. Not sure what gives. Would you mind explaining why one would do it with levain, but nor starter? At any rate, maybe I'll try baking anyways, then. 

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

I'm afraid I don't really know why. It's a good question. I would speculate that levain traps fermentation gases in a gluten sponge, whereas starter releases the gases as frothy bubbles. By trapping the gases, the levain has lower density and can eventually float.

good luck with your bake... post pics

Les

chris319's picture
chris319

Does it smell yeasty? If yes, then it's ready.

golgi70's picture
golgi70

I'm starting to believe that the float test is more dependable if the levain is @ 100% hydration and mostly white.  I'm certainly not sure that true though.  I have always used the amount the levain has risen, time/temperature, and its makeup, along with the fragrance to determine is readiness.  Maybe someone can inform us all a bit more scientifically as to this method of testing and where its applicable and/or not.  

Josh

DoubleMerlin's picture
DoubleMerlin

If you're at 100% hydration or higher, your starter will mix and dissolve when you put it in water, the gas just diffuses out at that point. If it's closer to 60% or less hydration, and it has been proofing for 4 hours, it'll probably float just because there'll be gas pockets in it.

I think if it's doubling in 4 hours, you're 100% fine. You'd have to have some fairly wacky stuff for it to not be fine.

Darwin's picture
Darwin

I keep my starter real stiff, not sure of the hydration.  After 6 or so hours it is like thick chocolate mousse and it floats like a cork.  It is 50/50 WW & white.  It did not float when it had more water in the mix.

golgi70's picture
golgi70

The opposite of my thoughts.  And my lower hydration starter floated today.  But tartine's recipe which is where the float test became a popular idea has a 100% hydrated starter. Maybe they all float down here

Josh