The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Grain-Specific Sourdough Starter, Plus Community Qs

  • Pin It
DoubleMerlin's picture
DoubleMerlin

Grain-Specific Sourdough Starter, Plus Community Qs

Hey Y'all

I am wondering how different people keep their starters. My first question has to do with grain-specific starters. Many a rye-bread recipe I've seen has called for a starter dedicated to rye flour (at least 75% rye flour). I don't make enough rye bread for this to be reasonable, and my starter works well enough. If you keep different starters, do you notice any differences? Any side-by-side comparisons of rye bread made with rye starter versus rye bread made with wheat starter?

Also, just because I wonder these things: How old are your starters? What hydration do you keep them at? What flour or flour blend do you use? Purified water or tap water? Adjuncts?

I got a bit of starter from an older member of the Saint Paul Bread Club; he'd kept it alive for 13 years. I keep it at around 125% hydration, two-thirds germ-included bread flour, one-third home-ground partial-malt whole-wheat. I try to use purified water, but sometimes i just run tap through my filter and call it good. I don't know how effective that is at removing chlorine, but it seems to work fine.

Thanks, and happy bread baking thanksgiving!

-DoubleMerlin

P.S. Anyone have a good sourdough potato bread?

108 breads's picture
108 breads

I usually ignore any parts of a recipe that start asking for something specific in a starter. That's because I generally add very little starter so that I get a long rise. However, the once in a while when I am inclined to do something like a rye starter, I take out a new jar, put in just a bit (7 to 10 grams) of my regular starter, and feed it with the desired flour, in this case rye, to build it to the desired amount.

If you want more details on starters, this is my advice with a pretty relaxed attitude. My starter is very happy and is awesome at making those doughs rise.

Best of luck!

dosco's picture
dosco

I feed mine 1:1:1 by mass ... I use filtered water, and for flour I mix 1/4 WW, 1/4 Rye, and 1/2 unbleached AP.

(I recently discovered that I was doing things improperly because my ratios were by volume and not mass, as such I found that I was feeding my starter at something like 125% hydration).

When I fed my starter Sunday morning, it took something like 12 hours before it doubled in volume ... being a bit concerned about this, I made a bit of a change this morning. Instead of filtered water I used orange juice (like the pineapple juice method) to keep the pH down and get the wee yeasties more active sooner. I also added a tad bit of extra flour (something like 5 to 10 g) to reduce the hydration by a smidge and thicken up the starter.

With my last loaf I didn't let the final rise go for long enough ... however I employed a very long autolyse (something like 18 hours ... overnight and then all day while at work) and I also added a tablespoon full of Greek yogurt to the starter. The bulk fermentation exceeded all expectations and easily doubled in volume overnight. I am working under the assumption that the extra LAB from the yogurt resulted in more fermentable sugars for the yeast ... but I could be very wrong.

-Dave

 

isand66's picture
isand66

What temperature was your kitchen and what temp water did you use?  This will affect how Long your starter takes to rise and be ready to use.  You should not need to add juice or yogurt while there is certainly nothing wrong with this if you like the flavor it imparts.  I suggest you stick with water and adjust your temperatures or do several refreshments until you get your starter more lively.

dosco's picture
dosco

Water temp is ~76F, fed starter goes into my utility room (where the furnace and water heater are located) which is about 80F.

Yesterday's starters with OJ doubled quickly...not sure how long it took but I fed them at 8:00 am iron so and when I got home from work they were doubled. The day before (without OJ) was much much longer.

i probably won't bake for a few days o this was more of a 'gee whiz' kind of thing.

-Dave

isand66's picture
isand66

I keep my AP starter at 65% hydration.  When I am ready to bake I use my starter to build whatever type I need for the bread I'm making.  I find a rye starter needs to be built up over 2-3 stages to convert from an AP starter.  You can easily also creat the hydration of your starter to whatever % you need.  You want to make sure your newly created starter has the power to rise your dough so if you are in doubt do another build or refresh it before using.

Gadjowheaty's picture
Gadjowheaty

I've been keeping a liquid wheat levain since 2004, through several moves; surprised it's made it, to be honest.

While for the longest time I just eye-balled it (roughly weekly feedings of a tbsp. of mature starter, 1/2 cup flour - occasionally, whole wheat or rye, for nutrients - and 3/4 c water.  I think I got the regime here?!), as I'm following Jeffrey Hamelman's book pretty closely, I do a weekly starter at 125% hydration.  I look for micro. vitality, and usually one 12-hour cycle has been sufficient.  Every once in awhile, when for some reason I've let the starter go longer than a week, I'll likely have to do one or more 12-hour cycles, looking for a vital levain before going back into baking with it. 

I also maintain a stiff levain, at 1:1:1, and a rye starter, according to Hamelman's maintenance schedule.  The stiff levain, more because I'm almost pathological in following tradition (i.e., when making certain French country levains), and because I'm interested in the learning aspects of using levains of difference consistencies (mixing in, and the possible different micro., and hence flavor profile, of different hydrations). 

I don't find once a week for each of these 3 to be much of a hassle, so that's my regime. 

A side note, from my brewery days, I like under-seeding fermentations; not only the long and low and its flavor profile, but (and perhaps this is why, in part, longer/colder ferments taste as they do?) because the comparatively higher number of generations of aerobic micro. culture typically yields, all other things being equal, a host of side-products not seen in higher-seedings. 

I completely admit I've forgotten almost everything I once knew about fermentation science and microbiology; and additionally, admit I'm out of my ken, with baking...a very different beast when dosing "under-seeded" 200 bbl fermenters with pure 02, and a very tight, yeast-only enculturation (hopefully, unless doing Belgians!) in a liquid environment, compared to ... the very anaerobic, semi-solid environment?... of dough.  Perhaps some of the bread scientists can shed some light? (probably another thread, sorry for the hijack).

DoubleMerlin's picture
DoubleMerlin

I love this post, thank you.

I am still eye-balling the amounts. The guy I got my starter from said he never really measured by weight, instead relying on the feel of the dough and aiming for consistency, which is my style.

I'm trying to get into bread science / brew science, I'm currently an undergrad in Food Science. I would surmise that a high-liquid high-solute environment (like a high hydration starter) would be more anaerobic than a loose dough starter at ~70% hydration. I'm simply thinking in terms of opportunity for O2 to dissolve, there'll be more for something that can mix and absorb bubbles than something that flows. Not sure.

I had a one-gallon batch of cider that I used less than a quarter the yeast in. It is incredible. I'm thinking I'll underseed from here on out for brews. For breads, I'm afraid I still enjoy the quick rise and yeasty flavor I'm getting from using 20-30% starter.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

in the fridge after building it.  If I'm making WW if make a WW levain using 10 -15 g of rye starter,  White bread i feed it AP and multi-grain if feed it rye, pelt and ww and maybe some Kamut.  I just make the levain what ever the bread is going to be and only keep one starter - if you ignore the YW I also have on hand.  I figure white bread isn't smart enough to know there is 8 g of rye in it  - but i am probably wrong if it was WW:-)

Happy baking

mwilson's picture
mwilson

I don't go in for the wet starters. I like my firm white starter which is purer and more suited to the kind of breads I make, e.g. panettone, pandoro, croissants. 

Fed with 00 flour. 100:100:48 (leaven:flour:water). Final dough temp 22-24, 26 max. Submerged in water at 20C and put in a cool room at 18C for 24 hours. Final pH ~4.1

Dough is afloat in under 1 hour.

This starter is fairly new, 2 months (lievito v. 3.0) but even after this time it's still undergoing some change (ie. aroma profile is altering, indicating to me a change of micro biota) 

dosco's picture
dosco

Is your starter in a plastic bag, or is the dough actually in contact with the water?

-Dave

mwilson's picture
mwilson

It's in contact with the water. The water acts as an oxidiser allowing the yeast to respire aerobically. This technique greatly reduces the amount of lactic acid produced.

DoubleMerlin's picture
DoubleMerlin

By minimizing lactic-acid, do you think you're preventing the domination of bacteria? It seems like you're trying to assist the yeasties only, which I understand. This seems like a cool style, and I'll have to try it for the more refined breads I make. You'll still get a lot of all-anaerobic inside the dough. If the water has too much dissolved O2, then you might also favor acetic acid production, which I feel is less acceptable than lactic acid.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

There is indeed suppression of the bacteria with this technique by giving the yeast a leg up but I believe the bacteria will always outnumber the yeast. I follow Italian methods and study the numerous writings about it. One thing that is repeated often is that a dough without oxygen sours and my experience shows this to be true. Water oxygenates the dough and when the oxygen is used up it turns sour. Italian bread, sweet and savoury is all about limiting sourness. It's the lactic acid that makes bread taste sour.

Gadjowheaty's picture
Gadjowheaty

mwilson, are you saying lactic contributes comparatively more perceived sourness to bread than acetic acid?  If so, and again, I'm going on memory only and that is increasingly hazy - but lactic acid is considered "softer" of the two, on the palate, is it not?    (I'm thinking also of malolactic fermentations in wine, and the various spoilage effects of acetobacters and lactobacteria, in beer and wine).

mwilson's picture
mwilson

You must remember acetic acid is more volatile than lactic acid and so is baked off along with the alcohol. However if your starter is very strong in bacteria then enough acetic acid could be produced that it less baked-off, but it also depends how long you cook it! 

PS. Yes lactic is softer and it takes more of it to be perceived as sour. Acetic is harshly sour in small quantities.

Gadjowheaty's picture
Gadjowheaty

We're on the same page, then, mwilson, thanks. 

mwilson's picture
mwilson

To answer the question in the title of your post, yes, wild yeast.

Gadjowheaty's picture
Gadjowheaty

Very cool technique.  One thing I've been puzzled about is setting starters in at full ripeness - I always set them in about 4 hours into a 12 hour cycle, once vitality was evident; presuming a slow, but steady respiration and regeneration was ideal.  Do you put the starter in its final maintenance cooler at "full ripeness," or somewhere in between a fresh feeding and full, e.g., 12 hour cycle? (sorry if I missed this).

mwilson's picture
mwilson

I'm not sure I understand what you're asking and I don't know what you mean by "setting starters"..?

Gadjowheaty's picture
Gadjowheaty

Sorry - Hamelman, as I understand him, cautions to never set starters to cool in a refrigerator (this is what I meant by "setting"), as many home bakers will, for the "maintenance" period between ramping up the starter to maturity and prime vitality, and the next bake - a period of several days, in many cases. 

I would have thought you're essentially setting a population at relative equilibrium density, with a good part of the food and O2 exhausted, into a waiting period - very different from my experience in the brewery setting.  The last thing we'd want is to brink up yeast that has already evidenced reaching terminal population density, and the beginning of autolysis, if it exists. 

Sorry for the ambiguity - is that clearer?

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Ok thanks for elaborating. Clearer but I'm still slightly confused about what you're asking me but I can say that this starter of mine has never been in the fridge. And despite it's long maturation time the dough or at least the heart of the dough has not succumb to any degree of perceptible proteolytic breakdown after 24hrs at 18C.

Gadjowheaty's picture
Gadjowheaty

I may be talking about the practice of maintaining starters in refrigerators.  My mind goes here, as it's the same in yeast bank maintenance - in the brewery, we maintained yeast in 20 bbl brink tanks, chilled.  We wouldn't want to leave them there too long once they've exhausted their food, and O2.  Puzzled by Hamelman's direction to only put mature, which I take to mean a portion of starter that has been fully ripened (pitched, in fact, into dough).  My recollection is of putting comparatively "younger" populations, with more O2 and food, and less generations, away for cool storage and maintenance.  Else, one risks autolysis, off-fermentations, and off-characteristics.

Sidenote, after about 20 "harvests," the yeast was re-ramped up by single cell isolation.  After a time, mutations and off-patterns were inevitable.  Wondering how much of that may apply to the lore of the starter maintained "since my grandmother's time." Or in my case, since 2004.  I think I might have read it in Daniel Leader's Local Breads, perhaps, where a French baker started anew with a fresh levain every 6 months or so?

pjkobulnicky's picture
pjkobulnicky

One of the things I decided a while ago was to be a home baker. I think i decided this after having my pro son tell me too many times that what I was doing was not the way it was done in the bakery. This is all by way of saying that in a bakery, the starter is a constantly living, never resting beast of exacting and unvarying properties. In my house, it is a third stringer who usually sits on the end of the bench waiting for the coach to finally send him into the game. 

My starter is about 15 -16 years old. It is 100% hydration and the flour is 50-50 organic WW and some good AP like KA. When i am close to baking I get it out of the fridge and do a few refreshments beginning with a small amount of the old starter and build it into a mass that is enough to bake with and with enough left over to replace the mass in the fridge. If I need to do a starter with another grain, I just take a tad of the newly refreshed starter and feed it with the new grain. Bam ... it is off with the starter's pistol.

My starter is a compliant and lively son of a gun. It does everything I ask and then some. And, when I am not baking, it also serves by standing and waiting in the fridge. We have an understanding. I don't let him ever get too gray in the fridge and he comes to work when I ask him to. And, so far he's never asked to become a bakery starter.

 

Paul

Gadjowheaty's picture
Gadjowheaty

PJ, hahahaha - that was beautiful.  Afraid I need to learn to keep "amateur" in mind, particularly anything related to food or drink.  "Amateur," as in the Latin root, true and sincere love, simply for the thing itself.  With most of my endeavours, afraid I've a difficult time not turning something truly loved into, well, a job. 

Thanks, truly - a very fulfilling and instructive post.