The Fresh Loaf

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Lesson: Squeeze more sour from your sourdough

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JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Lesson: Squeeze more sour from your sourdough

I am far from a sourdough expert. I’ve only been baking sourdough since February, and I still have a lot to learn about shaping, scoring and proofing to perfection.

However, there is one thing I have learned well: how to squeeze more flavor out of my naturally sweet starter. Here's the basic tips.

1) Keep the starter stiff
2) Spike your white starter with whole rye
3) Use starter that is well-fed
4) Keep the dough cool
5) Extend the rise by degassing
6) Proof the shaped loaves overnight in the fridge

Photos and elaboration follow.

It’s a common lament that I see on bread baking forums – Why isn’t my sourdough sour?

Personally, I blame Watertown. My evidence? I gave some of my starter to a friend who lives six miles away in Lexington. Within 6 weeks, she was making sour tasting sourdough. Her local yeastie beasties are clearly more sour than mine.

I don’t know what it is about the microflora that live in the little hollow between the hills that I occupy in Watertown, Mass., but treated traditionally, my white starter and my whole wheat starter pack as much sour taste as a loaf of Wonder Bread. That’s not to say that the loaves don’t taste nice. They do. They’re wheaty with a touch of a buttery aftertaste.

But they don’t taste sour, which is how I think sourdough ought to taste.

Anyway, I’ve finally figured out how to get the tangy loaves I love. If you’re facing the same sweet trouble as me, perhaps some (or all) of these tips will help.

1) Keep your starter stiff:

Traditionally, sourdough starter is kept as a batter. The most common consistency is to have equal weights of water and flour, also known as 100% hydration because the water weight is equal to 100% of the flour weight. That’s roughly 1 scant cup of flour to about ½ cup of water. Jeffrey Hammelman keeps his at 125%, and quite a few folks keep theirs at 200% (1 cup water to 1 cup flour).

I keep my sourdough starter at 50% hydration, meaning that for every 2 units of flour weight, I add 1 unit of water.

Barney Barm, my white starter is on the left; Arthur the whole wheat starter on the right. The bran and germ in whole wheat absorb a lot of water, so that starter is even stiffer than the white.

There are two basic types of bacteria that flourish in a sourdough starter. One produces lactic acid, which gives the bread a smooth taste, sort of like yogurt. It does best in wet, warm environment. The other makes acetic acid, the acid that gives bread its sharp tang. These bacteria prefer a drier, cooler environment.

(Or so I've read, anyway. I ain't no biochemist; I just know what they print in them books.)

A hydration of 50% is pretty stiff, especially for a whole-wheat starter. You really have to knead strongly to convince the starter to incorporate all the flour.

For example, here's my white starter after I've done my best to mix it up in the bucket. Time to knead a bit.

Here's what it looks like after kneading.

And here's what it looks like 5 hours later once it's ripe.

Conversion from 100% to 50% isn't hard to do if you've got a kitchen scale.

Take 2 ounces of your 100% starter. Then add 5 ounces of flour and 2 ounces of water. This should give you 9 ounces of starter. Leave it overnight, and it should be ripened in the morning.

From there on out when you feed it, add 1 unit of water for every 2 units of flour. I'd recommend feeding it 2 or 3 more times before using it, though, so that the yeast and bacteria can acclimate to the new environment.

There are additional advantages to a stiff starter beyond producing a more sour bread.

First, a stiff starter is easier to transport. Just throw a hunk into a bag, and you’re done.

Supposedly, the stiff stuff keeps longer than the batters. You can leave stiff starter in the fridge for months, or so I hear, and it can still be revived. Never tried it myself, though, so don't take my word for it.

Finally, the math for feeding is easy at 50% hydration, much easier than 60% or 65%. Just feed your starter in multiples of threes. For exmaple, if I’ve got 3 ounces of starter and I need to feed it, I'll probably triple it in size. To get six additional ounces for food, I just add 4 ounces flour and 2 ounces water. Piece of cake.

Converting recipes isn’t hard either. First, figure out the total water weight and total flour weight in the original recipe, including what's in the starter. If the recipe calls for a 100% hydration starter, then half of the starter is flour and the other half is water. Divide it accordingly to get the total flour and total water weights in the final dough.

Now, add the total water and total flour together. Take that figure and multiply by 0.30. This will tell you how much stiff starter you’ll need.

Last, subtract the amount of water in the stiff starter from the total water in the final dough, and the amount of flour in the stiff starter from the total flour in the final dough. The results tell you how much flour and water to add to the starter to get the final dough. Everything else remains the same.

2) Spike your white starter with whole rye flour:

It doesn’t take much. Currently, my white starter is about 10-15% whole rye. Basically, for every 3 ounces of white flour that I feed the starter, I replace ½ ounce with whole rye. That small portion of rye makes a big difference in flavor. Rye is to sourdough microflora as spinach is to Popeye. It’s super-food that’s easily digestible and nutrient rich. That’s why so many recipes for getting a starter going from scratch suggest you start with whole rye.

Here I am, about to add rye to "Barney Barm," my white starter. I haven’t added rye to my whole-wheat starter, though. It hasn’t needed it – there’s more than enough nutrients in the whole wheat to keep the starter party going strong.

3) Use starter that is well fed: Early in my search to sour my sourdough, I’d read that, if you leave a starter unfed and on the counter for a few days before baking, it will make your bread more sour.

I’ve found that’s not the case. The starter gets more sour, but the bread doesn’t taste very sour at all.

The better course is to take your starter out of the fridge at least a couple of days before you use it, and then feed it two or three times before you make the final dough. Healthy microflora make a more flavorful bread.

4) Keep the dough cool:

When I first started out, I was following recipes that called for the dough to be at 79 degrees, and I’d often put it in a fairly warm place to rise. Warmth kills sour taste. Nowadays, I add water that’s room temperature, not warmed, and aim for a much cooler rise, no higher than 75 degrees and often as low as 64.

The cellar is your friend.

5) Extend the rise by degassing:

When I make whole wheat sourdough, I usually let the dough rise until it has doubled and then degass it by folding until it rises a second time. Along with cool dough, this means the bulk fermentation usually lasts 5-6 hours.

When I’m making pain au levain or some other white flour sourdough, I usually have the dough very wet, so it needs more than one fold to give it the strength it needs. In this case, I fold once at 90 minutes and then again after another 90 minutes. Usually, the full bulk rise lasts about 5 hours.

Here's a sequence showing how I fold my whole-wheat sourdough.

First, turn the risen dough out on a lightly floured surface (heavily floured if your dough is very wet).

Stretch it to about twice its length.

Gently degass one-third of the dough, fold it over the middle, and degass the middle section to seal.

Do the same for the remaining side. Take the folded dough, turn it one-quarter, and fold once more before returning to the bowl or bucket to rise again.

6) Proof the shaped loaves overnight in the fridge:

This final touch really brings out the flavor. So much so that, if you’ve incorporated all the other suggestions, proofing overnight might make your bread a bit too sour for your taste. My wife and I like it assertively sour, however, so this step is a must.

Normally, I’d suggest proofing your loaves on the top shelf where it’s warmest, so as not to kill off any yeast, but I find that if I put my loaves in the top, they’re ready in about 4-6 hours, at which time I’m usually sound asleep. So I started putting them in the bottom, and had better luck.

I hope this helps those of you who dread pulling another beautiful loaf from the oven, only to find it looks better than it tastes. Best of luck!

rmk129's picture
rmk129

Hi JMonkey,
I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to post the above sourdough lesson! I found it extremely informative with lots of great tips and photos...I have read your suggestions for using a stiff starter many times on this site, but I couldn't really grasp exactly how to go about it until now. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us :)

bobku's picture
bobku

I think I under stand how the math works but how do you come up with 30% of total weight for the firm starter why that number.

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

To add a bit of my own experience:

I've found that even if you keep a fairly wet starter - mine's about a poolish - the overnight ferment will still give you a great sour tang. I feed my starter the night before, let it bubble about 4 hours, then refrigerate it overnight. Once I make the dough, if I want a really sour bread, I'll refrigerate it overnight again.

It does make a noticeable difference.

-Joe

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

I used to keep a wet starter for my white flour -- 200%, so it was really wet. But it didn't make my bread very sour. I wonder if I spiked the 200% with rye what it would do? And I wonder what it might do to my whole wheat starter?

Hmmmmmm. I'm going to have to experiment next week .... Thanks Joe!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I used to believe that any sourdough starter could raise a variety of other grains but I now believe each starter is specific to itself and it's pH. If you want a mixed starter, one for say wheat and rye, then combine two starters first, then feed with mixed flours. I also think the liquid that forms on top of the starter is the "sour" and should be used. I poured it off once and noticed a big reduction in sour taste. Mini Oven

Comments welcome on new forum topic under same subject. Thanks

tony's picture
tony

This is an interesting discussion of ways to maintain a sourdough culture. I tried several methods when I began making sourdough bread. Different books make quite different recommendations -- and different preferments for different specific beads within the same book. All very puzzling to a beginner. So one day I asked the baker whose work I have been observing.

His reply was, "I'm not a good person to ask. I do everything the same way." He maintains his culture at 125% hydration, feeds it twice a day with half wheat and half rye flour, and uses a factor of eight. Sourdough culture is one eighth of the flour in a batch of bread, something like that. His culture is very lively with all that feeding and the warmth of the huge wood-fired oven in the bakery.

Whatever he said, I have had success with all kinds of wholegrain and white bread, including 100% whole rye bread, doing this:

  • My storage culture (what stays in a crock in the refrigerator) is 125% hydration whole rye sourdough -- though there are traces of the original whole wheat from the original wheat-based sourdough I began with.
  • Twenty four to thirty hours before I plan to mix dough I get the crock out of the refrigerator and add enough rye flour and water to make the amount of culture I'll need for the bread, four parts by weight of flour to five parts of cold tap water (we live in the country and have a good well).
  • The crock then stays on the kitchen counter till the next stage 12 hours later.
  • Which is making a leaven for the dough. I use various combinations of freshly milled whole wheat, spelt, and rye flours and germ added/retained wheat and King Arthur artisan wheat flours, all organic. While the culture is fermenting I will have mixed the flour for this particular bread. Each leaven contains one part culture and seven parts flour and water, using the flour I've just mixed. The leaven ferments for 12 to 16 hours in the bowl I'll use for the dough.
  • Using the baker's factor of eight, the leaven contains one eighth of the flour in the dough; the culture used to start the leaven contains one eighth of the flour in the leaven. So to mix the dough I add the requisite flour and water, and after some autolyse however much salt, seeds, nuts, raisins, or what have you.
  • Bread making proceeds from there through bulk fermentation, dividing and shaping, proofing, and baking.

To summarize, I have one kind of sourdough culture and then make a preferment for each bread using the flour for that particular recipe.

mmorse757's picture
mmorse757

In my (very limited) experience with sour dough, every thing I have read indicates that the bacteria (candida milleri, saccharomyces exiguus and lactobacillus sanfranciscensis) are the same, regardless of the flour used.


As for the the fluid on top, I also poured it off once and did not like the results.  I stir it back in and use it.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Thought I'd just mention that since this thread popped up.  My starters don't have hooch anymore.  I haven't seen hooch on my sourdough in years!  Keep it fed and it will feed you!


This is the Topic that got me on to firmer starters and am I glad!  Thank you again JMonkey!


Consider yourself bear hugged!  :)


To add a generalization:


Although we tend to think of making and baking bread as building and creating something "magic,"  it is sometimes helpful to think of making dough as a degenerative process. 


Once water is added to flour, the flour starts to autolyse and decompose, we add ingedients, change temperatures, speed up decomposition by adding more yeast and sourdough and then slow it down trying to bake the dough when the flavor is to our liking but hasn't lost all of its ability to still stretch and rise to bake into the foodstuff we call "Bread." 


Flour starts out very alkaline and slides thru the pH scale until it is very acid.  The closer we get to acid end of the scale the trickier it gets to control and still manage a decent loaf before its stucture breaks down too much.  Fresh flour and water at one end of the scale, used up exhausted dough at the other end.  Even then, we can use this broken down dough to further or speed up the fermenting (decaying) process in another batch of dough going up and down the scale until we're satisfied enough to shape and bake it. 


Mini

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Yeah, very nice article, JMonkey. Would you mind if I featured it in one of the two main blocks on top of the front page?

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Sure! I'd be tickled pink!

Doug Waugh's picture
Doug Waugh

I was delighted when StumbleUpon took me to your sourdough page. I baked with my Alaskan starter for ten years, with lots of fun, both hits and misses. I still use the starter, but only for pancakes and waffles. But after reading your suggestions, I'm inspired to get back into the kitchen and do some more dough play. My loaves, though everybody, including me, loved them, never achieved the sourness that I usually sought. Now perhaps, with your help.... I'll let you know.

Doug

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Great! Glad to hear it inspired you to go back to the bread-stuff. Can't wait to hear if it helps.

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

I realized that I didn't add anything about how to convert your 100% starter to 50%. Again, it's not hard to do if you've got a kitchen scale.

Take 2 ounces of your 100% starter. Then add 5 ounces of flour and 2 ounces of water. This should give you 9 ounces of starter. Leave it overnight, and it should be ripened in the morning.

From there on out when you feed it, add 1 unit of water for every 2 units of flour. I'd recommend feeding it 2 or 3 more times before using it, though, so that the yeast and bacteria can acclimate to the new environment.

(I've also added this to the lesson itself)

wagner's picture
wagner

hi J,

thanks for your blog, very informative indeed.

sorry to ask you a stupid question but once the stiff starter has "matured" and you are ready to bake a loaf, since is stiff, how do you incorporate it into the dough? , do you chop it and mix it in?.

i use a 100% rye starter, can I make a stiff version out of it too?

been baking for a couple of months so just a beginner.

cheers,

w

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Basically, W, I just knead the bejeezus out of it.

Well, that's actually only for whole wheat sourdough, which I make most often. But really all I do is tear it up into about a dozen chunks, mix it up with a spoon and then proceed to kneading. It incorporates well just by kneading alone.

You can certainly make a stiff rye starter, though with rye, you probably won't need to do so. Rye is pretty much the perfect food for sourdough cultures, so your rye starter should be plenty sour. I keep my rye at 100%, myself.

wagner's picture
wagner

got it now J, thank you.

have a nice1.

w

Alice's picture
Alice

Hi everyone, im new to the site and new to bread baking, i made my first sourdough loaf today, roughly following a recipe Floyd posted. Here it is in all its glory!

I used a mix of white bread flour, with 5 grain bread flour and a bit of rye thrown in for good measure. I let it bulk ferment for 3 and a 1/2 hours with 2 folds during that time. a quick knead and then left it to proof for about 45mins. I did slash it, made a bit of a pigs ear of it but it turned out ok.

My starter was quite liquid, so next time im going to follow your suggestions Jmonkey and see if i can change the flavour. Ive never eaten sourdough before, let alone baked it, so im not sure if it tasted as it should! Will try and increase the sour taste and see if im on the right track. It definitely had a nice tang to it. My dad liked it, hes my barometer when it comes to all things edible, so it cant be bad.

 

Im going to buy a bread book as a present to myself, probably going for The Bread Bakers Apprentice as seen some great comments about it on this site.

Alice x

 

 

Teresa_in_nc's picture
Teresa_in_nc

With your encouragement I divided my Carl Griffin's starter and made part of it very much stiffer than usual. I then used that starter to bake a wholegrain loaf this weekend. It turned out great! I couldn't believe that I was raising bread dough with 10 grain cereal, flax seed, and mostly whole wheat flour as light as it rose in both the bowl and the loaf pan - and absolutely no commercial yeast!

I'd like to post a picture, but the little green tree is not cooperating - or it could be me. If you reply here, please tell me how to post a pic.

Thanks for your expertise and helping all of us along on our sourdough adventures.

Teresa

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

I've learned a lot, however, since this posting 8 months ago. A couple of things that I now know make a LOT of difference.

  • Make sure that at least the final rise at about 85 degrees F: It really does make a huge difference in flavor and rise. The loaf I made today was just bursting out of the pan after only 2 hours of proofing at 85 degrees.
  • Lengthen the fermentation time: Whatever the amount of starter you're using, deflating the dough (preferably through stretching and folding) to give the dough more time to ferment will definitely increase flavor.

Of all of these, the 85 degree proof is, I think, by far the most important.
Floydm's picture
Floydm

I'm finding similar things about rising sourdough: I can give my low yeasted breads more time and eventually they'll rise, but my sourdough really does need to be risen at warmer-than-room temperature to do its thing.

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

Why is a higher temerature so important when other  bakers recommend ordinary room temperatures or even refrigeration for the proofing?


zdenka

Brian D's picture
Brian D

Sorry to revive this thread after so long of a period of rest. But I have a question. I looked for an email address but didn't fine one. Oh well...

You indicate that when feeding your sriff starter to add 1 unit of water for every 2 units of flour. But you did not indicate how much starter to use. You state early on to use 2 ounces of 100% starter to 5 ounces flour and 2 ounces water giving you 9 ounces of starter. How much of that start is used for the next feeding? All 9 ounces increasing the whole starter to 12 ounces? Or a portion like 2 ounces and discarding the other 7 ounces?

Like I said, sorry to be a pain and revive this thread. Thanks. 

cajun_1's picture
cajun_1

Sorry to revive this thread after so long of a period of rest. But I have a question. I looked for an email address but didn't fine one. Oh well...

You indicate that when feeding your sriff starter to add 1 unit of water for every 2 units of flour. But you did not indicate how much starter to use. You state early on to use 2 ounces of 100% starter to 5 ounces flour and 2 ounces water giving you 9 ounces of starter. How much of that start is used for the next feeding? All 9 ounces increasing the whole starter to 12 ounces? Or a portion like 2 ounces and discarding the other 7 ounces?

Like I said, sorry to be a pain and revive this thread. Thanks.

 

I could not find the answers to this question.  Can anyone help?  Thanks in advance  ...

somegeek's picture
somegeek

Thanks for taking the time to post this!  Noted.  :)

jackmw@cableone.net's picture
jackmw@cableone.net

At almost 88 I am just getting into bread baking----and a week ago mixed my first starter batch in a quart fruit-jar-----3 days ago the bubbles started and it was like watching a baby chick hatch-----maybe this old WW-2 Marine is getting senile-----you have a very good instructional site

 

Jack Whitesell Prescott Az. 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

You just joined a group of people who are obsessive about their sourdough/starters, some even naming them! Welcome to the mix! Look forward to hearing about your baking adventrures.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Glad to have you on board, Jack. Terrific that you're starting to bake.

And thanks for your service. Keep us posted on your yeasties!

Semper Fi!

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

JMonkey's experiences and findings parallel my own closely.  I use white rye flour as a sour note director when needed.  One interesting point that's beginning to emerge is that low temperature starting aids oven spring.  Clocehing the bread in the beginning retains steam but also lowers the rate at which the dough absorbs heat allowing a longer period of yeast activity and gas expansion.  I had the same experience without cloching when the oven wasn't ready but the bread went in anyway.  The spring was nearly double to what usually occured. Turing the oven up as the bread bakes to obtain the right carmelization of the crust is without question.  It's just the initial conditions that are important.  Come to think of it the old steam injection method injected water which lowered the ambient temperature of the oven.  I believe that this is what we've actually been experiencing.  Below is an example of my standard bake.  The loaf is, by necessity, becoming larger due to the rate at which it disappears!

Wild-Yeast

Standard Loaf rev. 2

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Mini O

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Very nice expansion Wild-Yeast. Is that a sour dough Italian inside? I'd be curious to see the crumb if you have it.

Was the loaf pictured above covered or steamed?

Eric 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Thanks MiniO. 

Eric, It's a sort of mix of types.  We like toasted bread and sandwiches resulting in a smaller crumb with a rich velvety texture somewhat similar to cake.  It's very similar to Italian bread but has similarities to French.  It has a sourdough smell but a distinctly sweet taste (strange I know).  The loaf pictured above was baked on a stone covered with a stainless steel steam tray pan for the first 15 minutes.  I preheat the oven to 450 F. using convection mode; parchmented dough is slid onto the stone and covered with the steam tray pan; the temperature is reset to bake at 400 F.  The cover pan and parchment are removed after 15 minutes and the oven temperature increased to 450 F.  Baking continues for 12 to 17 minutes longer, just enough to brown the crust but not long enough to bake too much moisture out of the crumb.  

Wild-Yeast

Crumb Shot; Std. Bake 

mredwood's picture
mredwood

I keep trying sourdough with not much success. Mostly my sour is not too sour especially since I lost my Ak sourdough. They don't revive well. They're not sour. They will not rise a loaf of bread. When I whip up a no knead recipe which is essentially a preferment with 1/4  tsp of yeast it comes out really nice. Large, flavorful and pretty with holes. I rarely make a fast rising bread anyway. I did once. People liked it. It seems so odd after slow rises. I have a few more things to try. I better get cracking. Oh I just realized something. I use to use Guisto's bakers preference thing. Everything came out great. I am using Pendleton Super Power Bread Flour and Various AP flours. I guess I best be changing back. I love Guisto's. It's so sweet.

noyeast's picture
noyeast

mredwood, not sure why your starter is not producing sourdough bread.  Are you saying the starter does not revive well ?


What exactly have you tried in terms of trying to revive it ?


SD starters ferment naturally all by themselves ( with feeding) so I'm puzzled that yours won't revive ?


This may help in some way:  I am currently using my first and only SD starter which started 6 weeks ago with nothing more than flour and water.  Its been working very well producing great SD loaves which take 10 hrs to double at cool room temps, then I cold retard overnight.  Once at room temp again the next day they take a further 4 hours to complete 2 risings and foldings in warm temp.  Thats quite a long time I think but the thing is, it works and the loaves have great crumb and sour flavour.  I am just beginning a three day regime of feeding my SD starter at 4 hourly intervals during the day, then I will leave it overnight at the end of the 3rd day and then use my starter to make SD on the 4th day.


I believe this is going to optimise my starter and I expect very much quicker rise and proof phases.  We'll see if it works... !   I'm not too concerned about hydration levels right now, only that I end up with a fairly dryish starter at the end of this feeding regime.    I will learn more about hydration as I progress in my baking and reading up here in this forum.


My buddy who is a very experienced pro baker says it will work.  In fact he says the starter when treated like this, performs much closer to instant yeast.   I'm not sure about SD flavour though.


Let us know what those steps were to revive your starter.


Paul.

mredwood's picture
mredwood

Thanks for your input. You are probably going to want more info than I can give. Here's what I do. Out of the fridge I take the crock. Open it air it out. After an hour or so I add flour & purified water to maintain the batter like consistancy I like. Ok I'm going to take it out now. Ok it's out. The culture always bubbles and smells good or not much at all. When it slows down I add more. Bubbles again. Not bad so far. Then when I am ready to bake it will be bully starter that I add per the recipe I am using. This is where things slow down and possibly change smell.  


I guess my rooms are always on the cool side. I will expect that the dough developement will take longer now. But as it continues to rise the smell changes. Sour yes. But not the nice sourdough I like. An odd  sour. Like too sour that you want to add something to mello it out or change it. Not plesant, odd. Not spoiled. 


Usually after a time I give up and add a small amount of instant yeast.


Well another day another loaf. This science is understandabe as I read it but putting it into practice leaves a bit to be desired. I wish there was a simple rule to memorize. Like in planting. Fuzzy but down. Like cold or flu?  Neck up cold. 


Thanks again 


Mariah

Oldcampcook's picture
Oldcampcook

It seems to me that you may not be feeding your starter enough and that is why it is not raising your dough.


 This is the method I have used for several years, both for the starters I developed and for others that people have sent me.


FOR FLOUR BASED:


1. Put one teaspoon of starter in a clean container. Add four teaspoons of flour and 3 teaspoons of filtered (non chlorinated) water. Stir well.


 2. Repeat the above at 12-hour intervals, discarding the excess. I do this at 6 am and 6 pm as that suits my work schedule.


If you flush the excess down the drain, use plenty of COLD water. Also wash your utensils and containers with COLD water. Remember, the paste you made as a kid was just flour and water!


3. When the starter is nice and bubbly, you can start building up to the quantity you need for your recipe.


 4. Use this ratio: one portion of starter, 4 portions of flour and 3 portions of water. Example: ¼ cup of starter, one cup of flour and ¾ cup of water will give you more than a cup of starter, which is what a lot of recipes call for.


 Others use the ratio of 1/2/2 or even 1/6/6. But the 1/4/3 works for me.


5. After you remove what you need for your recipe, feed the starter again and refrigerate.


6. I usually start feeding on Thursday evening for a Saturday bake. That way I know my starter is good and healthy. 


Another thing you can do with the excess starter is store it in a large container in the fridge and use it for sourdough biscuits and pancakes. Waste not, want not!!!!


IF YOU USE A SCALE, USE EQUAL WEIGHTS OF STARTER, FLOUR  AND WATER.


Like I said, this has worked for me very successfully.  You might also check my site at www.allthingsbread.bravehost.com to see if there is anything else helpful to you.


Bob

Walking Dude's picture
Walking Dude

I take it, this is for a 100-200% hydration starter?


If so, how would you do this with a stiff starter? Still the equal weights?(I always try to weigh my ingrediants)


 


thankx


 


sn

mredwood's picture
mredwood

okey dokey I am going to do it. Now, Today. This means it should be good and going in a few days. We shall see. Thanks


Mariah

Grospellier's picture
Grospellier

I had tried sourdough without success until I browsed your site. My sour did not revive well and could not rise a loaf of bread. So I followed your recommendations. I divided my starter much stiffer than usual and I used it to bake a wholegrain loaf. And it worked beautifully.


Thank you so much for helping me with my sordough experimentations,


Grospellierpoker online

pjaj's picture
pjaj

I too have been baking sourdough only since the beginning of this year and with moderate success. The loaves have not been especially sour. But recently I bought a copy of BBA and tried the Poilane-Style recipe. It does take up to 4 days.


Day 1 - create a barm from standard wet seed culture. let it become active and refrigerate over night.


Day 2 - create firm starter from barm - let it double in size and refrigrerate over night


Day 3 - make final dough - let it prove, shape as required, rise, refrigerate over night.


Day 4 - bake


The result was very sour indeed, probably due to the extended fermentation times. I've never tasted any sourdough (mine or commercial, UK or US) as sour as this.


You can cut out some of the over night refrigeration, for example bake on the 3rd day.


 

deblacksmith's picture
deblacksmith


Very interesting thread and history.  I want to go in the other direction -- my starter makes good bread that is excessively sour for my taste.


What I think I have learned from reading this and other threads and comments is that what I need to do is take my starter -- out of the refrigerator and build it / renew it 3 times a day for 3 or 4 days and move to a high hydration starter 125 %.  Then make my bread and do not retard it over night but plan on baking the same day.


We will see how I do.


Dave


 


pjaj's picture
pjaj

Yup, that should do it. My earlier attempts were "everything in a day" and they were decidedly less sour. Even I don't know if I want my bread quite as sour as I described above.

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

As I understand it, cold encourages growth of the sour aspects, warm encourages more of the lactobaccilli. This is clearly not the scientific explanation, but I'm sure you can find that on this site. I keep my starter on the counter and discard daily all but a slight skimming in the bottom. It's 100% hydration, and in this summer weather is ready in 4-5 hours. I can use it or just continue to refresh. I try not to put it in the refrigerator because I don't enjoy the sour as much as the complexity the starter adds.


Patricia

georgejforeman's picture
georgejforeman

God it looks good. Makes me hungry just looking at the final picture right now.

Frank Damore's picture
Frank Damore

One thing to understand about sourdough starters is that it is a community.  As the culture matures in a fementing dough different organizims will take a dominate or passive role based upon the PH on the fermenting body.  The PH changes as the waste of the culture accumilates.  The sour flavor that we hope for is the result of viniger like compounds that build up.


What the culture is after is sugars that it finds in the moist dough.  The less availible these sugars are the harder the culture will work to find them.  This process involves compounds that break complexed elements of the mix into the simple carbs that these critters are after.


Eventually in the later stages of this process as carbs become less availible and protiens are more abundant the yeasts produce a compound called "protiese".  While these compunds have a strong sour flavor and smell.  The otherside of this part of the yeast community is that they use the "protiese" to break down the protiens into more useful componants.  Sugars, water and carbon dioxide the gas that makes our bread expand.  Without well developed protiens our bread has weak body and will often rip from oven spring.  It is even hard to butter with warm butter.


Rye flour starter will give you a headstart on producing a sour flavored sourdough.  But this also compromises the integraty of the crumb.


In 1970 I went down to San Francisco to find out if the Guru's of sourdough would help me make a sour sourdough.  I was told that they used malt viniger to flavor their bread and that the real advantage of sourdoughs is not only the subltle flavors that come from the yeast but also the character of the crumb and crust that comes from the slow development of the bread. 


I have been making sourdoughs for 40+ years and make at least 15 varieties everyday.  I do have some that are more sour that others and the technique used does profoundly impact the result.  But the flour used, the temps maintained, the time fermenting and the dertermine how it will come out in the end.  Strong elastic crumb and great crust usually don't go with powerful sour flavor.  Commercial baskery supply houses offer a number of flavorings for those folks that have devloped their notion of what sourdough is suppoed to taste like from having eaten flavored doughs.


I suggest that we go for the best crumb and crust and the wonderful and subtle sour will be there.

droidman's picture
droidman

I followed several of your tips, including stiffening the starter, spiking with rye, and increasing my refrigerated phase. Been using the Basic Sourdough recipe from BBA and a starter initialized with Beth Hensperger's recipe from the Bread Bible.


My most recent loaf had a secondary fermentation in the fridge for 48 hours, and the loaf is as sour as anything I had in San Francisco.

SourdoughBaker's picture
SourdoughBaker

Been following this conversation for quite a while now - an amazing amount of great information and testament to the enterprise and collaborative spirit of all levels of baker - home, commercial and academic.


I've been writing about sourdough starters in quite distinct categories, as this subject has popped up for me before in the process of collating my own couple of decades worth of bakery knowledge into something that makes sense to others.


It does occur to me that starters fall into three distinct categories. There may be more, but this is where I'm at with it for what it's worth. I don't have an opinion as to which is best or whatever - they are three entirely different starter maintenance philosophies, leading to three quite different textures of starter. And yes, they definitely do have different flavour characteristics too.


The first one is what I believe could be termed 'liquid starter', which covers everything from about 80 percent hydration, up to 200 percent. As a reference point, though, I've worked on 100 percent as the 'median'.


Here's the link:


http://www.sourdoughbaker.com.au/starters/liquid-sourdough-starters.html


This type seems to be the way most sourdoughs begin life - anything from a milky to a thick batter, or even thicker. But generally it's pourable. This type of starter is characterised by the fact that it produces mild flavoured sourdough bread. Liquid starter ripens more quickly if maintained in a more liquid state. Thus, some 'runny' liquid starters need to be fed a couple of times a day. These starters produce very delicately flavoured sourdoughs, and are also commonly maintained as 'preferments' for other styles of artisan breads.


On the other hand, there are those liquid starters which are kept at a very thick batter consistency, barely pourable, which only reguire feeding (in a domestic context, at least) on a weekly basis. These are a little punchier in flavour, and once well established can be easily controlled by storage temperature and feeding cycles. Essentially, thicker liquid starters allow a wider bandwidth to produce controlled 'sourness' in the bread made, up to a point.


The next distinct category of starter I would classify as the 'Old Dough' Sourdough method. This is where a piece of the dough made from a sourdough, either before or after the addition of salt, is reserved and stored as the 'starter' for the next batch of bread. Obviously, the original leaven for this must come from somewhere - and often it originally comes from a liquid sourdough starter which is then 'turned' into a chunk of old dough.


I would say that the hydration percentage of this type of starter would be in the vicinity of 55 percent to 75 percent, but is dictated by the liquid ratio within the actual dough recipe.


Here's the link for more information on this type of starter method:


http://www.sourdoughbaker.com.au/starters/old-dough-technique.html


This technique produces a more cultured flavour of bread, as there is a slower, more consistent micro environment for the sourdough 'community of organisms' to live in.


The old dough technique is used in many commercial bakeries worldwide, as it is simple and consistent. It doesn't allow the same flexibility of use that the liquid method is blessed with, but it can be used domestically very well, particularly if the home baker makes similar breads each week or fortnight.


The third distinct category of sourdough starter would be what I'll call the 'dry dough' method. This is what jmonkey and others are working with in this blog. It also includes, I think,  'desem' starter, and 'cowboy' starter, to name a few I've come across. These all tend to be characterised by the use of less than 50 percent hydration in the recipe. They use a very 'tough' starter, one which has used the actual fermentation process of the sourdough culture to forcibly 'dry' the dough out to a biscuit or cake like consistency.


As starter matures, it consumes the carbohydrate, making it softer and more 'liquid' (though actually the liquid component hasn't changed). The dry dough technique utilises this 'softening' to thicken the starter beyond the point of 'dough'. When it's really thick, a whole different enzyme balance happens in the 'community of organisms', as I like to call them. Please remember, I'm a baker, not a scientist.


Anyway, they become very sour over time. There is a much deeper level of fermentation going on in the dry dough style.


Here's the link:


http://www.sourdoughbaker.com.au/starters/desem-sourdough-starter.html


This type of sourdough method is characterised by the intensely sour flavour in the bread it makes, especially if used at 'typical' levels in a sourdough recipe - say 20 to 30 % against the flour weight. However, dry dough is powerful and balanced, so it can also be used at much lower levels in a recipe. This produces a rather more subtle flavour in the bread, but rather like an old wine, it is simply a little more understated, rather than any less sour. I use my dry dough at 10% against the flour weight in a recipe, and it is very deeply a part of the flavour of the bread, even at this level.


It is also possible to make dry dough, even in a commercial bakery, on a weekly basis, as it usually takes a good few days to return to useability after a feed. Again, while it takes a bit of doing to get one of these going, and there is a whole lot of discussion I know in this forum already on this subject, they are also amazingly low maintenance once established.


I think it's amazing that this forum exists, and I just felt inspired to contribute. Hope it makes sense!


Cheers.


 


 

frenchcreek baker's picture
frenchcreek baker

Thanks everyone for sharing sourdough knowledge!


I have a question, Sourdough Baker, about this statement:


"It is also possible to make dry dough, even in a commercial bakery, on a weekly basis, as it usually takes a good few days to return to useability after a feed."


Can you explain what you mean by "it takes a good few days to return to useability after a feed"?   


Was this another way of saying you need to feed your old dough dry starter several days before it is ready to use for baking?  


I found it very helpful to learn that you are using 10% dry dough. I have created a new dry dough culture, feeding it for the last week. I started the culture using old dough from a potato bread. It is being maintained at room temp of 69 F, fed whole wheat once daily (except twice a week I include 10 percent of rye with the whole wheat feeding flour). According to the info posted here, the resulting bread should be sour. I am not as interested in a strong sour flavor as opposed to the depth of flavor with a touch of sour. I will try your recommended 10 percent of dry dough when baking.


Do you keep individual dry dough starters of white, rye, etc or simply customize the "mother" dry dough with multiple feedings of a particular flour of choice when the need arises?


cheers,


anne

SourdoughBaker's picture
SourdoughBaker

Yes, that's right. Every time you take a ferment through a range of temperatures, it increases in sourness, as the lactic acid builds up in the ferment. This also applies to dough - each time it passes below about 15 degrees celsius, it increases in sourness slightly.


Here's a link with more info:


http://www.sourdoughbaker.com.au/starters/liquid-sourdough-starters/starting-the-sourdough-starter.html


Cheers!

maryserv's picture
maryserv

That very succinct post I will remember the next time I prep a loaf.  What a great thread!


Thanks all!


 

SourdoughBaker's picture
SourdoughBaker

Hi Anne,


Great questions! I see the ambiguity in what I wrote. You can still use dry dough a day after a feed - but in bakeries we tend to work with set volumes, and customers have completely unpredictable demands. Thus, you can find yourself pushing out more bread, and leaving yourself less of the dry dough than you would like to rebuild. For example, if you used 90% of a particular dry dough for orders, and had to rebuild your set volume, you might find it will take 3 days to become active again. 


On the other hand, if you managed to retain, say, 50% of the dry dough, it would be ready in a day or less.


That's why, in a bakery at least, I would keep two desems, and rotate between them each week. Another way would be to simply feed it a small amount (a top up) each day, though this tends to defeat the purpose a bit.


I just keep mine with different flours feeding it - I'll swing it white for a while, then give it a feed of whole rye or spelt every now and again. I find it doesn't effect the look of the bread made from it all that much. If, however, you are a fully commercial bakery, I would definitely keep a number of different grades for different products. The difficulties of doing this, though, can come to the fore when staff mess things up (and they tend to!)..


I also have an almost unripe (freshly fed) frozen liquid starter for a backup, which can be used immediately after thawing just in case everything turns to poo - but it never has (touch wood) in recent years...


(see http://www.sourdoughbaker.com.au/stories/the-day-the-starter-died.html for the story about this)


And yes, 10% is about ideal for this type of starter. 25% and above is, for my taste, just too strong to be palateable. 


This is such an amazing thread! Cheers to all - I'm learning so much, and I'm also learning what detailed scientists us home bakers can be! What a great thing this forum is. Thanks to those who keep it all running!


 

dlappat's picture
dlappat

HI I have been doing this about 2 weeks. I made my first sourdough loaf it was really great so I have just started 2 more . Please keep the info comming as I am learning to do all of this for the first time. I am so thrilled that I have a place to share. I will have to learn how to do pictures next . Thanks  deb

SourdoughBaker's picture
SourdoughBaker

Hi everyone. This forum topic just keeps ticking over. There's a bit of an article I wrote earlier here where I put links to specific articles regarding classifying sourdough starters.


Due to a recent hosting error with my site, a lot of these links will no longer work.


Here are new ones:


Re: Liquid sourdough starter: http://www.sourdoughbaker.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=64&Itemid=76


Re; Old Dough Technique: http://www.sourdoughbaker.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=25&Itemid=31


Re: Desem Starter: http://www.sourdoughbaker.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=65&Itemid=77


Re: 'The day the starter died': http://www.sourdoughbaker.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=32&Itemid=37


Re; Starting the starter':http://www.sourdoughbaker.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=21


 


My apologies for any inconvenience!


Warwick

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

I'm fairly new at baking and glad to see there are several on this site, just like me.  But, I'm even more happy to read the pearls of wisdom from the more experienced bakers out there.  A special thanks to "The Sourdoug Baker", your website is fantastic--a bloody goldmine with huge, priceless nuggets that would take me many years to learn on my own.  My approach to making a sourdough starter has certainly been less scientific than most who've published their baking histories.  Living in Oklahoma, a lot of the pre-San Francisco sourdough started here before it made its way out west.  Being blest with a gregarious and engaging spirit--some, hopefully few, might call it being a pain in the arse---I've been able to talk with the simple, country folk who enjoy baking bread from sourdough starters that have been passed down from one generation to the next for well-over 70 years.  What I've learned is what I like to consider just common sense.  I start with the premise that wild yeast is what these hardy types had to use, not so much because it wasn't made at the time, which it probably was, it's just that most of these people were so poor they couldn't afford to buy it.  I'm thinking here of a historical visit to a place on the western side of the state called "The Sod House" which was typical of the early settlers in Oklahoma and in my review of the possessions on hand, I could find many Mason and Ball jars, but not a single thermometer or digital scale or convection oven or steam injected oven, either.  But, I know from eating at many a home out that way over the last 60 plus years, that these people could make a terriffic tasting loaf of sourdough bread.


        From what I can tell, their starters were almost exclusively made from wild yeast by either leaving their jars exposed to the natural air-borne yeast that is everywhere around us, to adding the peels of fruit to induce the yeast to grow and then removed. Water was typically from well water which was full of taste imparting minerals and usually had to be left on the kitchen counter to warm to room temperature. The grains were wheat, maise, rye, millet, sorghum, buckwheat and the like. Those grains with "tooth" as I call it---meaning a strong taste when eaten raw were used more often than not. Also, since very few of these people had a/c, since it wasn't invented yet, it wasn't always possible to find a place that had exactly this warm place or that cool place to let the yeast do its best to ferment the grain with the aid of the liquid. But, one thing is certain, these simple, not particularly scientific methods worked. Sourdough has been around for a long, long time. So, I'm grateful for all of the wisdom that are contained in these many posts that go back for 3 or 4 years, I think. I like to think that maybe a great loaf of sourdough can be achieved fairly simply as well as with all the modern high tech that modern bakeries can muster.


         With my own sourdough starter, which some how instinctively I knew to grab for the rye flour because the sourdough's I've tasted had been rye---made sense to me. Although I didn't measure proportions, my digital scale hadn't been delivered for many days later, I somehow lucked out and used "about" a 50/50 liquid to flour mix. When I put this together initially, I even added a tsp of commercial yeast because I thought that might kick start the fermentation and added a 1/2 tsp of honey to help the yeast on its way; yet another time I added barley malt. Yes, until I discovered that the yeast works fairly quickly generating its gas by-product, I had my fair share of overflowing experiences. But, I noticed that a nice, pleasant and earthy aroma was eminating from the ceramic yellow beehive container that formerly housed honey on my parent's table when I was growing up. I didn't realize this was supposed to be a tight fitting lid. But, I've kept it in there for the last 2 or 3 weeks and it goes from fridge to kitchen counter to sitting outside with the lid off to catch some of the natural yeast. If the top skims over because of the wind, I just spoon it into the mix.  It works quite well, at least it works for me. Also, I haven't stuck exactly to rye flour, either. I've added whole wheat, white bread flour, spelt, and am now back to rye because that seems to produce the pungency of my recollection of what sourdough is supposed to taste like. Also, I've added buttermilk, beer, distilled water and tap water and they all seem to work quite well. The buttermilk probably provided the best fermentation thus far; but, the Guiness added the best aroma. But, I do not keep records and I grab what seems good to me at the moment. So far its worked.


                My biggest problems were in trying to determine how much of the starter I should use to start making bread. One source very wrongfully said to use 1/3 of a cup; and my dough just seemed to sit there for the longest time before anything rise. I now use a cup of my very sticky and somewhat liquid starter which I always add to a cup and one-half of flour, usually whole wheat. I think all of you refer to this as the "preferment". This works really well for me and I simply add my starter to the 3/4 cup of water that I use to make the preferment-starter; the flour goes next and I stir by hand until its all incorporated into a nice consistency. (Once my starter was quite thick and I found that I could actually divide it into several little cubes and mixed those with my standard 3/4 cup of water--usually warm from the tap, but not hot.) Next, I let this prefirment sit on the counter where I can occasionally watch it to make certain that the fermentation process is working. After a couple of hours, or so, everything goes back in the fridge to slow the fermenting process down which I believe is necessary to build the taste and structure that is the heart of sourdough bread. I might leave it for a day or a couple of days--the longer the better if you want a stronger taste.


               When I think the preferment has developed the taste that I would enjoy, I take it out of the fridge and let it reach room temp. When this happens it's time to add the remainder of my bread flour which today was some red hard winter wheat berries that I milled up in a new Nutrimill and the same wheat I got from the state wide co-op annual meeting yesterday. I mixed that flour with some KA bread flour and some salt (1 tbs) and stirred it in till finally I opted to use the Professional 6 qt. KitchenAid that was sitting on the counter next to me. Watching the dough knead, I decided add some olive oil and honey to the mix which also required some extra flour. I finished kneading while the dough was still tacky, not dry and not sticky. I was guided by the principle that whole grain wheat bread needed more liquid to break down the cellular composition of the wheat berry, especially since this was hard red winter wheat. I then did a little hand kneading, just for the fun of playing with the dough---I'm sure all bakers must do this because it's such a pleasurable experience--when living in Santa Rosa, CA, I think my friends would call it a "Zen thing".


                 Next the dough sat for two hours, proofed or rose beautifully; I cut it in two fairly equal pieces and made a french loaf of one and a large boule of the other. I put the french in a clouche (is that spelled correctly?) which I got at the end of last week; and the boule went into an enormous cast iron dutch oven which was sprayed with olive oil-lightly. The clouche or ceramic baker, I simply put a 1/16 inch layer of cornmeal. After letting the dough rise till it was slight less than double, about an hour, I put both cooking utensils in the oven. 


                    The dough was not dumped into a hot cooking utensil--mainly because I tried it once before but found the cornmeal or oil had burned up by the time the utensil reached 500 deg. Maybe I should have added the corn meal just before adding the bread dough. However, by the time I would have gotten the cornmeal and the dough into the clouche, my oven would have cooled off and I probably would have burned the hell out of my arm or hand. I let the dough proof in their cooking vessels at room temp and preheated the gas oven to 500. I cooked the bread at 500 for 40 minutes. This may seem long, but remember, I started with a cool oven. At about 37 minutes I could first start to smell the bread baking, Ahhhhhh, and then turned the oven down to 350 and took the lids off both utensils and let cook for another 15 minutes. I forgot to score the loaves but that didn't seem to bother them as they both rose quite a bit more in the oven while cooking, but did not split open.


                  One loaf went to my neighbors with a newborn and I kept one. I have pix on my camera, but I haven't downloaded them to my computer and I'm not certain how to upload them to this thread anyway. I just want to add one last thing. I'm not a professional baker, that's obvious. I bake bread for a couple of reasons, to eat and the fun of it--that's it. I like variety in what I eat, so I may make a sourdough whole grain rye one day and a few days later make a cibatta or a levain the next. I always, always, always throw in different grains or whatever just to see how it turns out. It might be a cinnamon raisin, a honey-whole wheat. The point I'm trying to make is that I'm not looking for consistency as I'm sure the commercial bakers are trying to do. I refuse to agonize over a loaf if it isn't perfection--but less than perfection has always tasted good, at least to me. And that is where the second reason I bake comes to play---I do it for the sheer fun of it. I like to cook, baking is part of that process. Perhaps a better way is to say its part of that journey that I'm making. It's neat for me to know that I'm using, at least with my sourdough, processes that my great grandmother used when I was but an infant--and I'm 64 now. So the historical and ancestral thing is kind of a kick for me. Plus, I get some neighborhood kudos which is nice because they always reciprocate with something tasty. Anyway thanks for letting me add my musings. BerniePiel

Oldcampcook's picture
Oldcampcook

Since you referred to the "western" part of the State, I am assuming you live in the Eastern part of Oklahoma.


I live about 20 miles South of Tulsa.


If you are anywhere close, give me a holler and maybe we can swap starters and recipes, etc.


And at 64, you are a mere pup - I turned 74 this week.


Bob


oldcampcook (at)yahoo.com

008cats's picture
008cats

Hi, I am so glad to see these posts, I've learned so much and am so excited! I can't wait to get loaf #5 rising...


Just for fun, I decided to keep a second starter going (to keep Ralph company on the counter) which I am feeding as per usual except with buttermilk instead of water. I wanted to see if I could get it to work, and whether there would be any additional sourness.


Am I about to commit total heresy? If so please say; do not send the sourdough police after me tho, please!


Gabrielle

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

HI GABRIELLE,


I USED BUTTERMILK IN MY STARTER, AS WELL AS, GUINESS AND DISTILLED WATER.  I DID NOT FIND ANY THING HARMFUL ABOUT USIING ANY OF THOSE.  INDEED, IT WAS MY GRANDMOTHER'S RECIPE FROM AT LEAST 70+YEARS THAT WAS USING THE BUTTERMILK.  THE GUINESS WAS MY IDEA AND IT PRODUCED A REALLY WONDERFULLY AROMA ON THE SECOND DAY--NOT SURE WHETHER THE MALT, HOPS OR WHATEVER CAUSED IT.  BUT, IF YOU ARE NEW TO THIS SITE, YOU WILL FIND MOST OF THE PARTICIPANTS ARE EXTREME IN THEIR MEASURING AND RECORD KEEPING AND GADGETS.  I JUST WANT TO MAKE VERY TASTY BREAD AND DON'T MIND MAKIING A MISTAKE IN MY EXPERIMENTS.  HOWEVER, THAT SAID, I DO SEEM TO HAVE READ THAT THERE ARE NUMEROUS SOURCES FOR YOUR LIQUID, INCLUDING VARIOUS ACIDIC FRUIT JUICES, E.G. PINEAPPLE.  SO ENJOY THE BREADMAKING JOURNEY AND EXPERIMENT THEN LET THE REST OF US KNOW WHICH WORKED AND WHICH DIDN'T.  HAPPY FLOUR TRAILS. 


BERNIE PIEL

008cats's picture
008cats

Thanks, Bernie. While I wait for my kitchen scale to arrive (I'm in Canada and had trouble getting the one I want), I have been getting familiar with adjusting volumes by the look/feel and judging the amount of oven time. I'v been unable to work for 5 years, so this is the perfect 'pre-occupation' for me - I can wait for proofs, it's not physically demanding and a hot oven chases away the chill. Oh, and the end result is so exciting!


Thanks for the open arms...


Gabrielle

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

Gabrielle,


I think the following site would be very helpful.  http://www.youtube.com/user/foodwishes#p/search/0/6rvz0WKanGU


He is a food program producer and from what I can tell, just loves to cook, teach, promote food.  In the referenced link he teaches how to measure flour.  Seems simple enough, doesn't it.  But, I learned I had not been measuring properly all these years and this most likely accounted for the numerous times my ingredients were too dry.  From this link, you can go to numerous other links for various instructions including a really good one on No Knead Ciabbata which I did over the weekend--very good results.  Let me know what you think.  Bernie Piel (berniepiel@cox.net).


BTW, after seeing this episode I bought a digital scale and am sorry I didn't do so much earlier, ditto with a thermometer which sure removes the guessing of when to pull a loaf out of the oven and lots of other uses.


Happy Flour trails.


Bernie Piel

dlstanf2's picture
dlstanf2

Thanks JMonkey. As a neophyte and after much research I come across your thread on a stiff starter and a "sour" bread taste. 2 for 1 - what luck!


As one who disdains using scales, I'm a kinda of about here sort, and prefer using volumes and the feel of the dough, which for me is the artistry of bread making. Much can be learned from mistakes of how your flour should feel. I watched my grandmother making biscuits and breads and she used an enamel wash pan large enough to hold her flour and liquids and worked them to the proper consistency. I've watched many Italian ladies using the well method also and thus my fascination.


Plus, my uncle was a professional baker for 60 years and used weights for the commercial apllication. I certainly did eat my share of doughnuts, cakes, biscuits, and breads growing up. As I think about it, much of our butter and milk products were either churned and produced by local farmers. We never used unsaturated oils either as we rendered our own "lard". I guess I was "organic" before it became a word in our lexicon.


I have enjoyed reading the many articles on this forum from knowledgeable and experienced bakers, using the technical and scientific approach, so that I might understand the process. I too, come from a technical background, but have chosen not to use that approach.


You did provide some details for volume information for the hydration percentages. If you don't mind I've worked up some weights by volume for both water and flour. Of course these are approximates.


Water Weight by Volume


1 Cup = 16 Tbsps


1 Cup ≈ 8.35 oz


1 Tbsp ≈ .52 oz @ 70°F


1/4 Cup ≈ 2.1 oz @ 70°F


Flour volume vs. weight chart: (Sifted Weight AP Flour)


Cup  Gram  Ounce   Pound    Kilogram
1/4   31g    1.1 oz   0.06 lb   0.03 Kg


1/3   42g    1.5 oz   0.09 lb   0.04 Kg


1/2   62g    2.2 oz   0.13 lb   0.06 Kg


2/3   78g    2.7 oz   0.70 lb   0.07 Kg


5/8   83g    2.9 oz   0.18 lb   0.08 Kg


3/4   93g    3.3 oz   0.20 lb   0.09 Kg


   1   125g   4.4 oz   0.27 lb   0.125 Kg


1 tablespoon of flour = approx. 8g or 1/3 oz
3 tablespoons of flour = approx. 25g or 1 oz


 


 


 


 


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

is to add one slice of your already made sourdough bread. 


Take the perfect slice (ends with crust even better) run it quickly under potable water and crumble it into your just refreshed starter to ferment with it.  When the starter is ready, use normally.  


This kicks up the acid and flavor index!  Try it :)

dlstanf2's picture
dlstanf2

How does this work? Baking effectively kills the yeast. Am I missing something here? Yeast dies at 125 deg. F.

spacey's picture
spacey

Just a supposition: it may return whatever acid is in the bread back into the starter, saving the bacteria some work.

Ricko's picture
Ricko

Mini,


That is a great suggestion that I'll soon try! I am one who loves a good tangy bread, but am unable to get a finished product to my liking.


I have also experimented with different hydration levels, and high and low temperature proofings without much success. The added slice may just be the secret, thank you for that bit of information.


I'd like to try this with my rye breads also. I know that altus is suggested in the mixing of the final dough, but I don't recall ever seeing anything about adding it to the proofing of the starter.


Thanks again for sharing your bits of wealth with us!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

She brought it up for examination!  :)  


I confirm it is being done and it is just the sour I've been looking for.


Mini

Ricko's picture
Ricko

My apologies to Christina!


Mini, you wrote to run the slice of bread under potable water before crumbling. What do you suppose would be the effect if one were to use milk in place of water? As you know, sour milk is the result of lactic acid. Do you think this would be a big shot in the arm for the starter as far as sour creation? Just a thought.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Try it and see.  I've never put milk in my rye bread.  I have put rye into my milk bread.

008cats's picture
008cats

This is a bit aside, but in the beginning of my experimentation I made a starter using buttermilk instead of water while I waited for my culture to get sour. It was great, I really liked it! I understand you can use lots of other things too, like beer etc.; I haven't done this myself...

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

It's been several weeks since I posted anything because I didn't think I really had anything to add, until yesterday.  I made my first batch of "San Francisco Sourdough" [made using Peter Reinhardt's formula found on page 64 of the text "artisan breads every day".  To me that is a euphemism for any sourdough bread that is made from plain bread flour, salt, water, and a sourdough starter.  This was not Sourdough Rye or whole wheat.  But, here's what I think is important that I'd like to tell you about.  I made a new starter from scratch as I had let my old starter sit on the counter unattended for nearly one week and saw that it had developed some rather ugly and hairy mold.  I pitched all of it.  The starter was somewhat more liquid, than solid.  So faced with a new challenge of creating a new starter, I read several of my bread books to see what the consensus was on how to go about starting from scratch. 


Now I'm not the most patient guy in the world, so after reading that one should start with a quarter cup of flour and so much water and  pineapple juice from one expert and just 1 cup of flour and water from another  expert, etc., etc., ad nauseam,  I decided to see what would happen if I just took equal amounts of KA Bread Flour, in this case, 1 cup, and the remaining cup of liquid comprised of distilled water and, since I had no pineapple juice handy, I opted to use 1/3 cup of blood orange juice and the remainder of 2/3 cup distilled water.  For those not familiar with Blood Oranges, they are somewhat smaller oranges, somewhat larger than a clementine orange, fairly juicy with the most beautiful, deep red/blue color I've ever seen in a fruit of any sort.  The juice is heavily pigmented, as well, meaning that later additions of water and flour did little to change that color  until after the 4th feeding---then it dropped to an ever so slight purple haze.                                              


But, starter color wasn't that important to me.  It took three days of religiously feeding the starter before I noticed it had come alive with little bubblesl that I could see through the glass, but nothing on top of the mixture until about the 6th day.  I remember Eric's video talkiing about how his starter was fairly thick and wouldn't pour---so I continued to lessen the water from the formula of 1 :  1.  Thus my starter is quite stiff, almost reminds of wall paper cleaner--thick and gummy.


Also, after the initial 1/3 cup of Blood Orange juice, I never added any other juice to my starter.  When  I first put the spoon in the starter, I was quite surprised how thick and heavy it had become.  However, I was using Reinhardt's recipe for San Francisco Sourdough and his calls for the creation of a starter sponge using 1/4 cup of starter mixed in water and about 1 3/4 cup of bread flour and 1/2 cup + 2 Tbs of water, mixed then let sit for approximately 6 to 8 hours.  I followed this procedure only it had to sit for about 12 hours. 


The next day I made the dough with the all of the sponge just created, 1 3/4 cup water, 4 1/2 cups of bread flour; 3 1/2 tsp of kosher salt.  I allowed the dough to sit at room temperature for 2 hours then put it in the fridge for about 10 hours.  The next morning I took it out and allowed it to sit for about 5 hours (PR says to shape it after 2 hours, proof for 2 hours then bake); shaped it into two baguettes and a boule. I allowed this to proof for 2 hours and honestly didn't see much, just a little, rise.  So I was immediately suspect that my new found starter was going to be a bust.  Well to make matters worse, I put the loaves in an oven to proof and sadly didn't remember to turn it off until I saw the temp guage reading 136 deg.  Although I quickly pulled it out of the stove, the baguettes still had formed a skin across the top and the dough felt like a small water balloon.  So thinking my baguettes were a lost cause, I pulled them from the oven and  took them off the french loaf pan and put them on a marble slab that I was using.  I took the boule and after seeing it wasn't quite as bad as the baguettes decided to leave it for cooking---and I lamed the boule.  I then decided to just go ahead and put the mostly degassed baguettes on the oven stone--thinking I would feed them to the birds.


I was shocked when I watched the boule rise about 175% and the baguettes raised almost 125%.  The boule was scored and I could see the boule gradually break tear itself open even though all loaves were scored.  Well they weren't the best shaped baguettes, but I would stand these as some of the best sourdough I've created...  I even have the pix.


 


 

Ricko's picture
Ricko

Okay, I've refreshed my starter with the "magic slice" of bread. Now I would like to take the correct amount of this starter and mix it with my flour and salt to arrive at the correct amount of finished dough. Normally, I put this dough in a plastic food container, and wait a couple of hours or so for it to double. At which time I measure, form, and place in the banneton for the final rise.


 I'd like to develop the tang in the bulk final dough. In the past, I've put the plastic container of dough in the fridge over night (8 hours or so), and it usually more than doubles by the next morning. The problem I've encountered with this method is that by more than doubling, it seems to have taken the energy out of the dough so that I fail to get good oven spring. It'll rise (final) in the banneton, but seems to lack strength to hold it's form and tends to spread out to the sides after going into the oven and I end up with a loaf about 6 inches wide and 2 inches high. It seems this is due to the over proofing while in the fridge. Should I remove it a couple times during the night and do a couple fold and stretches? So how do you gain sour and over proof at the same time, and maintain good oven spring at baking? Thank you.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I keep track of the flour and water, then add the slice or crumbs.  The old bread is already salt balanced so you only need to figure salt for the flour in the starter.  (This little bit of salt can slow down the fermentation.)  If you measure while feeding, you know by the weight how much flour is in it.  If you mix it all first and then measure,  hmmm.  Interesting. 


You could try using less starter in the dough before the 8 hr fridge rise so that there is energy left.   Try using the same amount as before and make comparisons.



"So how do you gain sour and over proof at the same time, and maintain good oven spring at baking"



Not quite sure of the question...  You don't want to over proof.  Folds are always good as long as the dough doesn't rip.


Mini

Ricko's picture
Ricko

Mini,


The amount of starter that I was proofing to impart more sour used only 18% of the total overall flour amount in the recipe, and just enough water was added to make a 60% hydration level. So I was thinking that perhaps this was too small of an amount soured starter to sour the final dough before it doubled in a 2-4 hour period.  Therefore, why not build the starter using say, 40% of the total flour amount? That way I'd have more than twice the amount of soured starter which should have a greater influence on the overall taste when mixed with the remaining flour. This way I can let the final dough double in volume in the normal 2-4 hours before shaping and final proof, and thus I don't have to retard the complete final dough amount which seems to exhust the dough of its rising ability. Perhaps the secret is in using a greater percentage of the recipes total flour to create the soured starter which imparts a greater sour taste, and at the same time the remaining flour adds enough energy to give the loaf the needed oven spring! I'm going to try it! Oh, no cup measuring here, only scaled weights:)

Ricko's picture
Ricko

Well my latest attempt at gaining mouth puckering sour failed! Well, maybe not mouth puckering, but a noticable strong sour.Something that doesn't resemble eating a homemade version of Wonder Bread!


I've noticed that when I refresh my starters that I've had stored in the fridge for 10 days or so, they are very sour smelling. One good feeding and back to the fridge they go strong as always.


So for my next attempt I've taken some seed starter, refreshed it a few times to build it up both in strength and needed amount to contain 40% of the total recipe flour. I've placed this in the fridge to "cure" for 5 days or so at which time I'll use with the remaining flour and water to make my bread. So with any luck I should have a good ripe starter to add to the remaining flour to build strength, and provide me with loaves that display a strong sour taste.


This sourdough thing, ya gotta love it or it'll drive ya nuts!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

might leave you with a weak 40%.  Try using it sooner within 2 days.  Give your final dough the retard instead and see if you can't get warmer dough temperatures during your active fermenting phase.  


Save a wad of this dough to ripen and make a starter for the next loaf.  See if that doesn't improve the sour flavor you're looking for. 

Garner's picture
Garner

Thanks for the fantastic step-by-step on making the sourdough more sour.  Just this morning, I baked two, gorgeous looking loaves.  Not only were they nice to look at, but they tasted nice and sour.  However......and this is a big However.....the crumb was so dense, I didn't even want to eat it.  It was just like a brick.  Can anyone please tell me what I'm doing wrong to make the crumb on my bread so dense???  All I want is a nice, bubbly, light crumb!  Please help a brother out!! :-)\


James

isobel gildon's picture
isobel gildon

Maybe someone has asked thisd question and I missed it - after proving overnight in the fridge, do you put the loaves straight into the oven, or let it come to room temperature first?


 


Isobel, Suffolk, England

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If it's a sourdough, bake it before it doubles in volume. 


If it hasn't risen much, let it come up to room temp and rise a little before baking.

jeratt's picture
jeratt

So you name your starters too! Mine are Marsha and Arthur (Arthur was adopted from King Arthur Flour, and Marsha was homemade)

jeratt's picture
jeratt

EDIT: I am a nooobie. I just double-posted. This is my first post on here anyway, so hi!

OmNomNom's picture
OmNomNom

I'm well aware of how old this post is, but I was looking all over for info on baking bread. This just happened to be one of the first posts I found. ;)


Anyway, I'm definitely no expert on baking bread. . . or baking, in general; but it really looks like you pretty much know what you're doing. Your bread baking skills have more than likely gotten much better by now. LOL.

I've been dying to make some sourdough bread myself, but I feel like the only thing I'll know how to do is eat it. Alas, I still want to try and this has served as a pretty neat "how-to." Hope my bread making is successful. If not, I'll just go to restaurant and eat their bread. I wonder if there are restaurants in Buckhead with that type of bread? Hmmm..


Hilde Fleisher

bradster's picture
bradster

Thanks, JMonkey!  I've been loosely following the BBA book without the overnight proofing.  We're really enjoying our sourdough, but it's not nearly as sour as we like it.  This is very helpful.  Will give it a go after we've polished off the last loaf we have.

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

I find it interesting that after the nearly five years that this thread has been trickling along, there are no posts reporting success as a result of following the procedures outlined here.  Is it significant that there are no references to the academic efforts that have successfully characterized the microbiology and process variables that contribute to the end products?

Shabby's picture
Shabby

Is it also significant that many posts report success with the same techniques? 

Here's my success story: I cultured my sourdough from boiled water and plain, grocery store AP flour. Divided and fed it about once ever week or two since Christmas 2009. Typically using the no-knead method (although sometimes I've folded the dough) and trying various techniques to get a more sour flavor but always using white AP or bread flour.

Techniques tried:

Lengthening the ferment in the refridgerator for up to a week, going from 100% hydration to 50%, feeding less frequently, starting with a tiny amount of starter to create a sponge over night, then ramping up the amount of dough. 

None of those attempts produced any difference in the sour levels.

Two feedings ago, took a tablespoon or so of my original starter, mixed with rye flour and water to 50% hydration. Left the container on the counter as usual... came back, noticed the rye flour really soaked up the water and was much tighter than a 50% hydrated white flour. Added more water,  popped it in the fridge. Pulled it out a couple weeks later, again divided and fed with 100% rye, 65% hydration. Used same no-knead techniques I have used over the last year and half, first loaf has significant sourness.

 

 

CoveredInFlour's picture
CoveredInFlour

Thanks so much for this post! My sourdough isn't very sour, and I didn't quite understand what the hydration %'s meant. But this post definitely helped with both, which I very much appreciate. I'm borrowing it for my blog as it's *the best* explanation I've yet seen online, all credit goes to to you. :)

The blog page

Shabby's picture
Shabby

Hi all - I have continued to attempt various sourdough loaves since my last post. I've also recently purchased "Classic Sourdoughs (Revised), A Homebaker's Handbook", by Ed Wood and Jean Wood. These are the folks who started "Sourdoughs International", and their Curriculum Vitae includes a trip to Egypt to bake sourdough for an article in National Geographic.

Long story short - their main tenet vis-a-vis controlling sourness is controlling fermentation temperature; temperatures of 65 - 75F encourage the yeasts in a healthy starter while the lactobactilli remain relatively inactive.. temperatures from 80-90 increase lacto activity, but as the dough becomes more acidic, yeast cells are killed and leavening is limited. A few Google searches provides some scientific research to back this theory up.

Their suggest to control temperatures is a homemade proofing box. If you Google "sourdough proofing box" you will see a couple examples. The one in the book is the lowest tech and probably cheapest- a rheostat (aka dimmer control), 25 watt light bulb, styrofoam cooler, and a thermometer.

I have not yet built my proofing box, but intend to later this fall, after the yard is in order.

I am baking my way through their book with my bastardized rye+AP starter that I keep at around 50% hydration, but now am doing as they recommend doing a culture proof at 'thick pancake batter' consistency for 8-12hrs before mixing dough.

I'll post my results to my blog here as I go.

 

 

 

Chuck's picture
Chuck

The proofing box described here appears to provide a very good balance between simplicity and accuracy, without taking up a lot of space or requiring you to locate obscure components. 

Perhaps the most important element: go to any pet store and get the kind of thermostat you'd put in a reptile terrarium. (Such things are readily available from Amazon too; the only trick is you'd probably never think of searching for "reptile", so you'd never find it without a tip.). It's inexpensive and works perfectly for bread (the temperature range is just right, and the electrical size is adequate). That's much better than the suggested dimmer, as it won't ever get either too hot or too cold. (I've learned the hard way that a dimmer that's set "just right" will if left for many many hours eventually get "way too hot":-)

Shabby's picture
Shabby

That's a nice looking solution, thanks for the link. 

I was just messing around with my oven while waiting for my oatmeal sourdough to double, and discovered if I turn it on to the lowest setting for a maybe a minute or so, it gets to 85 and then carries over to 90+ after turned off. (This is a gas oven, ymmv)

Leaving the light on seemed to carry the temp for at least an hour. Not super consistent, but if I'm home ALL day Saturday to babysit I bet I can make do till a little later this year. 

We'll see.

EvylCyn's picture
EvylCyn

First, I'd like to say TFL maybe the most informative site on Sourdough to date

I am a chef by trade but have little experience with sourdough/bread baking in general.   A few weeks ago, I decided to make a starter from scratch.  Using Calvel's formula from "The Taste of Bread", I embarked on my journey...

After about a week of feeding the starter 2x/day I decided to make my first loaf using the recipe found here http://www.sourdoughhome.com/sfsd1.html

The loaf was tasty but not sourdough- the crumb was excellent for sandwiches, but the flavor wasn't all that far from Wonder Bread.  I should have taken pictures and will do so in the future.

So, a little perturbed I tried a different recipe- a sourdough rye (I know I know, I can't get a white one right why in the world would I try a rye?    I didn't know any better :)   Amazingly the rye turned out beautiful and I made a second batch middle of last week which turned out even better.  Now, during the time between making my first loaf and my second batch of rye, I have discovered this wonderful site and done some reading,  I have ordered an assortment of flours and meals from Bob's Red Mill along with a scale, and I am moments away from attempting another white sourdough using the same recipe in hopes that it will turn out. I am planning on trying some of the techniques described in this thread.  I will post back with my results ( pictures included) and figure out where to go from there.

 

 

Ricko's picture
Ricko

EvylCyn,

Welcome to the forum! I'm glad you're getting into the thick of it and experimenting, as that's how you're going to learn. You are in the midst of some very knowledgeable contributors on this forum, and the great part is they are all a very friendly bunch eager to help.

I have to smile in seeing that you landed on this particular thread, "Squeeze more sour from your sourdough". It has been a personal frustrating topic for me. I've finally concluded that I don't really have sensitive enough taste buds to distinguish between different levels of sour and/or whatever path your personal starter takes is what your sour level will always produce. I just can't seem to produce that mouth puckering loaf as yet.

Going through all the threads makes for very interesting reading and certainly shortens the learning curve. I believe that once you've perfected specific recipes, they'll be your "go to" loaves. I know that I have my favorites that I rotate around every week, and every week I put out 7 loaves which I share with family and friends.

Again, welcome aboard!

Maverick's picture
Maverick

As your starter ages, your results will continue to get better (up to a point). So going back to the "white" sourdough (even though it has whole wheat in it) makes sense to me. Usually I don't get a decent loaf from a starter any younger than 2 weeks. After that, the vigor and the flavor are better. I can't say that a 20 year old, 2 year old, or 2 month old starter are going to be that different except that you might "know" the older starter better and be able to adjust with weather changes, etc.

White flour and rye flour combined help to get a good sourdough loaf. To make it more sour, an increase in rye and an increase in starter used will help. Of course there are limits to this. Also, retarding the loaf in the refrigerator helps a lot with the flavor. Then if you let the loaf sit for a day, the sour will be more pronounced.

I took a look at that recipe and have a couple of issues. First, it states "Cover the loaves and let them rise at room temperature until doubled in size, probably about 12 to 15 hours." I would say this will be quite overproofed in my opinion. Instead I would leave it out for an hour and a half or so, then put it in the refrigerator for the rest of the time. Plus, doubling in size is a poor test for proofing. I use the poke test to see how fast the indentation fills in. Second, I don't like that they use measures instead of weights. This can give very different results from those intended. Sure, if it is your own recipe that is fine because you know what a cup is to you (even then it can vary). But when giving a recipe to someone, it is nice if you give weights or at least an idea of the hydration. There is a big difference between a 60% and 70& hydration dough in terms of handling. Third, 375 seems like a low temperature, but the bread in the picture looks kind of pale anyway, so maybe he doesn't like a darker crust. Finally, a 30 minute bulk ferment is way to short. To me, this reads like a no-knead recipe but the dough is kneaded and I don't know the hydration. Actually I think the dough is over kneaded.

EvylCyn's picture
EvylCyn

I have been learning as I go here, but I will have to say that after reading many threads here on TFL, I completely agree with your issuse concerning the "white" sourdough recipe I used.  I should find another, better/more detailed, formula/recipe.  If you know of any great ones let me know.

FYI  I made this yesterday and it is currently redarding in the fridge after I put a few folds into it.  I didn't proof it for anywhere near the time specified in the recipe.

Maverick's picture
Maverick

One thing that you will find is that you can pretty much use any technique on a given formula/recipe. So the first thing to do is look at several recipes and see what technique is used. Choose one that is to your liking and apply it to a formula you want to try. Even though I haven't converted the amounts to find out the hydration of the "white" sourdough recipe you used, I suspect there is nothing wrong with the formula since it is the main one they give. There aren't any strange ingredients and the hydration obviously makes a loaf of bread. So it might be worth the time to try using their amounts of ingredients with a different technique just to see the results.

As to recipe recommendations, I would personally start with something from a known author or one that is used here a lot. I find the Vermont Sourdough by Hamelman to be an easy to follow recipe and the 65% hydration is easy enough to work with. Susan over at Wild Yeast (and a frequent poster here) has done the math to change his formula for use with 100% hydration starter instead of the 125% originally used. She calls her bread "Norwich Sourdough". I am munching on a toasted piece of that right now. It is not particularly sour, but has a good sourdough bread flavor. There are several other techniques I like, but this one is pretty consistent. I plan to try Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough With Increased Whole Grains next (or perhaps Susan's adaptation of it) since that is supposed to be more sour. After that I plan to use one of these formulas with Dan Lepard's kneading (or lack there of) technique.

I have not settled on a particular technique, but I know that I like the ones with a stretch and fold in there somewhere. To me, kneading to full development before bulk fermentation gives me an over-kneaded dough in the end (at least with wild yeast).

What hydration are you using for your starter and how are you maintaining it?

EvylCyn's picture
EvylCyn

I used Calvel's starter found here http://www.sourdoughhome.com/professorcalvelsstarter.html

I'm still unsure of how to figure out the hydration percentages (actually bakers % in general)

As far as maintaining my starter, I try to feed 2x/day when not in daily use. I have gone as along as 36 hours on a couple of occasions when my schedule wouldn't allow for a feeding or I was out of town. When I bake, I try to feed it every 6 hours and every 5th feeding I use 1/3 of the total flour added as rye. It seems to be VERY healthy. It will double or even triple in volume in a matter of a couple hours.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Bakers percentages tell you how much of each ingredient to put in the bowl, in a way that can be very easily scaled up or down. Imagine you're a commercial baker and the boss comes in and gives you a cryptic recipe written on the back of an envelope and says "make this for 30 people right now", and you need to start measuring out ingredients immediately without doing any fancy calculating or unit conversions - that's what bakers percentages are about.

Bakers percentages also have the very convenient side effect that you can read the "hydration level" directly off the recipe  ...except where sourdough starter is involved. When sourdough starter is involved, there's a little bit of calculation. It's pretty simple (definitely not rocket science), but unless you're awfully good at maths it may be just a little too much to do in your head. So it's typical to get some kind of mechanical device (a spreadsheet? a calculator? programmed to do it, so you just enter the recipe numbers and out pops the hydration level (or vice versa in many cases). Most such spreadsheet programs will also tell you how many grams of each ingredient you need (if your scale doesn't handle bakers percentages directly, which many of the newer ones do).

Maverick's picture
Maverick

Very good summary. I would also add that another "side effect" (as Chuck calls it) is that you can see if the amount of salt, yeast, fat, or preferment used makes sense. There are certain guidelines to these things that you will find common to most recipes (i.e. an acceptable range). For example, 2% salt seems to be pretty much the norm. Plus it helps to be able to better compare recipes.

Like Chuck said above, a preferment such as sourdough starter adds an extra step to the Overall Formula calculation. Without the preferment, you can just take the ingredient and divide it by the total flour used to arrive at the percentage. If you have a preferment, then you have to add the components back into the formula to get a better picture of things like hydration. If all you are doing is scaling the recipe, then it doesn't matter if you are using a preferment or not because you can express the preferment as a percentage of the flour used. But then the formula might look out of whack. A spreadsheet helps.

Once you look at a couple, it really is a simple concept.

Just as an FYI, if you are using 180g of water and 300g of flour in your starter, that is a 60% hydration starter. This should form a dough ball when mixed. Personally, I would never keep that much starter unless I was making something with it all the time. I also don't use salt in my starter.

daveink's picture
daveink

TUVM, JMonkey.  I may finally go to Whole Foods for rye flour.  Need some sour.

lonobird's picture
lonobird

 

 

Hey JMonkey,

 

Your tips are extraordinary. In a few short months, I am making sour sourdough white and whole wheat, using your tips. It would have taken me years...it still took trial and error.

 

The last 3 batches of sourdough came out perfect. Two batches white and one batch whole wheat. It is sour as I love it...usually proof 8-12 hours in fridge, and all your tips are just right on! I hope you are still reading this thread, because you deserve major props.

In Hawaii, folks do not know sourdough (I lived in Calif for 30+ years where sourdough is plenty and perfect). As are your tips.

 

Thank you for saving a year's worth of trial and error and trying new recipes. I am a novice baker, but you'd never know it, my breads are the hit of parties.

 

Mahalo and Aloha,

 

clay

yocelita's picture
yocelita

Great information. A bit overwhelming for me since I just started making sourdough bread. 

I don't think I would have ever got started if it wasn't because my family and I moved from so. CA to central IL and we haven't been able to find sourdough bread. Who knew that sourdough bread was a typical San Francisco thing? Not me!! That's who. I had to move to figure this out. Any how, here I baked two loaves of delicious bread using this recipe http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=Ul7OZeY8UkQ I used my kitchen aid to make sure it was very well kneaded. I though the whole nitime of resting time was a bit much since it almost triple in size and dried up a bit. Mostly because my damp towel had dried up and it created a small little crust. I deflated and shaped my loaves and let them double in size for 2-3 hours. The bread was very good but not sour as I'm used to or wanted (I was hoping for more CA type of sourdough). My crust was a bit hard and thick, although not too bad.

My started has been feed unbleched flour to a ration of 1:1:1 on weight. I started with 25grm starter, 25gm flour, and 25 grams water anit next time (12 hrs later) I would feed it 75gm flour and 75gm water, then next 12 hours 150gm water and 150 grams flour. By then I have the 2 cups of starter I need and a bit left to keep on feeding more.  So, I wanted to make sure I'm clear on what I could try to make it more sour. First try mixing a bit of rye flour, also try to make it more thick? Still not sure of how much of rye flour or how much thick I should make it? Would say doing 25 grams of my starter with 50 grams of flour and 25 grams of water be enough?

Also, once that I get the right kind of starter for a more sour bread I dont know what recipe I should follow? should I mix my starter with flour and water to then leave it in the fridge overnight and use that the next day with the rest of the ingredients to then make my final dough?

thanks for all the help!!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

How many days now have you been working on it?  Sorry it took so long to see your posting and Welcome to the Fresh Loaf.  

You have lots of questions I'm sure you've found the answers to most of them by now.  How's it going with the starter?

Mini 

yocelita's picture
yocelita

Oops the preview comment was a reply :)

yocelita's picture
yocelita

I have two. One is from King Arthur and I've had it for 2 weeks, and the other one was gifted from a friend in town so it should taste pretty close to what I should get by starting my own. That one is over a year old and I've been taking care of it for 3 weeks. I've already made 6 loaves and I've been experimenting with different techniques.

I did pizza yesterday using my discard. I've been really good about saving almost all my discar and using it up in different things :)

Today I'm doing a lot of loaves since I divided my starter to play around with hydration and also different kind of flours (rye, whole wheat, and all purposes unbleached). My goal is to get a nice super tangy sour bread. I miss my sourdough from CA. I've only lived in IL for 3 months. I have been ale to get very good results as far as looks and texture goes but now I want the sour flavor :)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Feed your starter with a high amount of flour say 1:10:10 and let it peak, then use in a recipe that uses starter to flour about 1 to 4.

Example: make a starter with 10g starter 50g water & 50g flour (include 10g rye.)  Let rise in a warm place above 75°F close to 80°F.  The next morning use a sourdough recipe that asks for 100g starter,  230g water and 450g flour (might want to go with wheat with up to 50g rye)  8g salt and let the dough take it's time rising.  When you see signs of rise, flip the dough over and start "stretch & folding the dough and continue with your favorite sourdough handling.

see if that improves the sour.