The Fresh Loaf

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sourdough questions

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T4tigger's picture
T4tigger

sourdough questions

Greetings! I'm a sourdough newbie with some questions. I began a rye starter (named Max) several days ago and things seem to be going relatively well. It is pretty bubbly, which I keep reading is a good thing!

My question is about feeding and rising. I'm feeding by volume not by weight. I use 1/2 cup starter, 1/2 c flour and slightly less than 1/2 cup water. I've read that it should take at least 8 hours for the starter to double in size, but Max takes off and doubles in about 3.

Should I reduce the amount of water to make the doubling take longer? Does it really matter how long it takes to double? When I'm ready to bake bread, do I let the bread rise as long as it takes Max to double?

 

Thanks for any and all help!

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Welcome to the wild word of savage yeast!

Should I reduce the amount of water to make the doubling take longer?

Right now, you're keeping your starter at 200% hydration, which means that the water weight is equal to 200% of the flour weight (by volume, water is just lightly less than twice as heavy as flour). Wetter starters ripen faster than stiffer starters. So making your starter stiffer will slow it down somewhat, but the best way to slow it down would be to add more flour and water. Instead of doubling it in size, increase it by 4 or even 8 times.

Does it really matter how long it takes to double?
Not really, except in terms of timing when you want to bake. Some starters may even quadruple in size, so the best way to know when it's ready is to try and catch it when it's very very bubbly and has not yet started to recede.
When I'm ready to bake bread, do I let the bread rise as long as it takes Max to double?
The best way to tell when your bread is ready, IMHO, is to try the poke test. Some breads won't double, while others may increase by a factor of 3 or 4. Wet your finger and poke about 1/2 inch into the dough. If it comes back, give it more time. If the hole stays or fills in very slowly, it's ready. If you feel the dough collapse and air pockets popping, you let it go too long.
T4tigger's picture
T4tigger

Thanks for the help JMonkey! I converted the starter to a 100% hydration and it tripled its size in about 4 hours, but as soon as I stirred it, it deflated to almost nothing. The texture was also very glutinous.....like thick wallpaper paste. Is that typical? Also, what hydration is common for most bread recipes? Most that I've seen call for 1-2 cups of starter, but never specify a hydration.

I have a feeling that I'm going to need to break down and buy a scale instead of trying to make everything work with volume measurements.

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Don't worry, that's normal when you stir it down. It'll collapse and with a white flour starter at 100%, it will be very stringy and pasty.


You can certainly use volumetric measures, but you'll have more consistent results, I think, with a scale. Especially with sourdough, where the volume of the starter can vary a lot. I also think it's faster using a scale, and you can play around with a lot of different variables more easily.

Hydration is a way of expressing the amount of water in the loaf relative to the flour. Flour is always 100%. So if you've got 200 grams of flour and the formula calls for hydration at 65% (typical for French breads), you'd add 130 grams of water.


Usually, one cup of flour is about 4.25 to 4.5 ounces, depending on how heavy a hand you have. Water is 8 ounces per cup. Most white sourdoughs are in the 65-75% range, though once you get above 68% or so, you're dealing with a pretty wet, sticky dough. The results can be marvelous, though.

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Most sourdough recipes assume you're using a starter of 100% hydration. If it's different, they'll usually let you know.

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

T4tigger, I agree with JMonkey, most recipes, if asking for an amount of sourdough starter, assume 100% hydration. But for your basic starter, the one you feed and keep (easiest in the fridge) a lower hydration makes a better keeping starter. For example, 60 grams starter, 60 grams water and 100 grams flour makes a nice, firm starter (a lot less like wallpaper paste) that will keep in the fridge, and will need feeding every two or three weeks if you're not using it.

When you want to make bread, take the amount you need, (say 100 grams) add 100 grams flour and 100 grams water, leave for 12 hours and you've got an active, 100% (as near as makes no difference) hydrated starter ready to use. Feed the remaining starter in the original proportions and leave a few hours before putting back in the fridge.

It is a regime that works well for me and the starter seems to thrive on it!

Andrew