July 11, 2009 - 7:48am

## starters

HI Out there in sourdough land :-)

I have a question for you that keep up starters I am going on vacation for a two weeks and will not be able to feed and mantain my starter how or what can I do to keep it ? can it be frozen and then thawed later? and thoughts on this would be helpfull.

Thanks

Bob

I've kept mine in the fridge for two weeks without a problem. It just takes 3 or 4 feedings on the counter to get it revived--I threw in a little rye to help it along too.

--Pamela

I'll ditto Pamela's comment - but as you didn't mention the hydration of your starter, will suggest that if it is a liquid one, you work it into a stiff culture - maybe 60%.

Good point, Lindy. I keep my starter at 67% hydration.

--Pamela

I think it's interesting the % hydration that people choose for their starters. I keep mine at 75% hydration.

Part of the rationale behind keeping mine at 67% is because the formula is so easy to remember (1 part starter, 2 parts water, 3 parts flour)--something I can easily compute in grams or ounces. The other reasons are because it makes a fairly stiff 'dough' that is easy to knead and it seems to hold up for 12 hours on my counter between feedings.

I don't know what its acidity is but I've never had a problem with doughs made from it breaking (protease problem), so I assume it isn't below 3.5 pH.

--Pamela

Thank you, Pam!

I made a stiff starter last week for the first time and stuck it in the fridge after using it and feeding (I converted it from my liquid starter). Took it out of the fridge this morning to feed it, and thought I was going to have to go through all these calculations to figure out how much to feed it to keep it at 67% hydration.

Then your post--YAY (and DUH! for me!). Wish the book that suggested using a 67% starter in the first place had made it so simple.

Reminds me again that "it's just bread, not rocket science". (And a good thing that is, too!)

I prefer a stiff (60%) levain because it needs less attention and feeding. Changing the hydration if needed is easy. I don't have much time for baking in the summer because there are too many other things do so.

So I essentially stick to my "North Woods" sourdough. Except for bagels...but that's another developing story.

wet 50/50 is easy to use and easy to keep, so the 2/1 is not preferable for ease to that. 1:1 is so easy to add to recipes, too.

Keeping a week or two in the fridge is great, but in answer to the freezing, yes it freezes. And it is a nice idea to keep a sample of a good established batch to bring it back quickly if death claims your starter.

Ok Thanks

I will feed it be for I leave and if I can get my wife to mix it once in a wile it should be ok from what you all say. right now my starter is like a stiff paste I can maybe get it a bit stiffer be for I leave.

thanks All

Bob

I keep my 3 y/o established refrigerated starter at 100%, 1:2:2. It has been on vacation in my fridge for a month and comes out of hibernation with 3 feedings at 12 hour intervals. The first 2 feedings I leave on the counter and the 3rd feeding I leave it out for an hour or 2 and then throw it back in the fridge. Be sure to give your starter a good feeding before leaving and tuck it into the fridge.

Betty

Have a nice vacation!

Be careful of putting a "young" sourdough in the fridge. I prematurely refrigerated a couple of my early starters, and killed them dead. I've since read that a starter should be at least a month old before you attempt to refrigerate it. My experience proves this to be true. I expect that others have had success refrigerating young starter, but it hasn't worked for me. Thus, as I'm going on vacation later this month, my starter is coming along! (I just hope the hotel staff doesn't get freaked out about a scale and bags of white powder!)

I need some help please.

I had been using a 50/50 (i.e., 100% hydration) starter for quite some time and have been using recipes/formulas for that hydration starter. Then I read in Maggie Glezer's book, "A Blessing of Bread" that if you maintain your starter at 60%, which she recommends, you can be sure that the starter is sufficiently active if, and only if, it qudruples in size in eight hours or less. I was immediatley drawn to that concept and, as a result, I now have a 60% starter.

My problem is that now I don't know how much of it to use compared to the 100% starter I previously used in my dough preparation.

In other words, if my prior formula called for 100 grams of my 100% starter, do I now just use 60 grams of my 60% starter (with appropriate adjustments for the water and flour in the final dough) or is it more complicated than that?

Thank you.

Hi Mitch550,

Let's say you typically use 100 grams of 100% hydration starter. That means you have 50 grams of flour in the starter you use to inoculate your dough. Sixty percent of 50 is 30. So 80 grams of 60% starter contain 50 grams of flour and 30 grams of water.

So 80 grams would be the new starter amount. But of course now you need to correct the total hydration of the dough. You just lost 20 grams of water (from your 100% hydration starter), so that needs to be added to the dough to get the proper hydration for the recipe.

The key factor in this "inoculation" process is the percentage of flour in the starter to the total flour in the recipe. This will affect, along with temperature, how long it takes to ferment your dough. This percentage is quite variable between bakers and across recipes. So it's always worth considering this ratio in figuring out your schedule, especially the first time you use a recipe.

BTW...

This dictum seems more than a little rigid to me, and I think it tends to strike unnecessary fear in beginners (me included when I started). A starter that doubles in 12 hours can raise bread just fine. If your starter is nice and bubbly, and smells good, and doubles or triples in 6-12 hours after feeding, it will get the job done!

Hope this helps,

David

As a former test and measurement engineer I can't disagree with the arithmetic behind advice along these lines, but as a person of below-average dexterity I also observe that in the home kitchen, making 1 or 2 loaves' worth of dough, it really doesn't matter much. Admittedly I tend to make large loaves but even with two 0.75 kg loaves (1.5 kg of dough total) the flour and water in the initial starter is such a small percentage of the final total as to not affect anything one way or the other. A difference of 5 g of water is the equivalent of three squirts of water mist from my mister - and I tend to use more than 3 squirts of mist when I fold and shape.

Or to put it another way, in my first analytical chem lab class my classmates and I were all shocked when after 7 weeks of using analytical balances (no digital scales for undergraduates in those days!) our lab TA hauled out a set of rusty postal scales for the week's experiment. She told us to think a little bit about what level of resolution was needed when conducting an experiment using reagents in bucket-sized amounts.

sPh

Good point sPh. How active the starter appears to be, or should I say, how fast it doubles, triples, or quadruples depends on a number of factors, e.g., room temperature, the proportion of starter to other ingredients, hydration level, etc.

When your starter is really active, you will know it and don't have to be a slave to rigid dictums.

--Pamela

I'm not sure we're thinking on the same scale. I still think these are significant differences.

Let's say we customarily made a single loaf of bread from 100 grams of 100% hydration starter in a 67% hydration dough with a 15% inoculation. This recipe requires 283 grams of additional flour and 172 additional grams of water. Total flour = 333 grams, total water = 222. I'm using the original post's final levain weight in what is a typical dough for me. (I know the numbers are finicky, but to illustrate the point I need to be accurate.)

Now let's say instead we just substituted 80 grams of 60% starter (30 g water and 50 g flour) for the 100 grams of 100% hydration starter, and mixed with our 283 grams of flour and 172 grams of water.

That gives us, again, 333 grams of flour but only 202 grams of water, which results in a 61% hydration dough. The difference between a a 61% hydration dough and a 67% dough is significant to me. That's why I add back in the missing 20 grams of water.

David

It really doesn't matter much. If your recipe calls for 100g of starter, previously that 100g contained 50g of water and 50g of once-was-flour-substance. With your new feeding schedule it contains ((100/160) * 100) = 63 g of flour and ((60/160) * 100) = 37 g of water. The difference in flour is 13 g and in water is 13 grams, which is 1.3% and 1.3% respectively of a 1000g loaf (2 lbs more or less). That difference will not come into play in any reasonable home-baker-sized batch of dough (different story if you were making 100 kg for a bakery).

sPh

Two answers, more or less contradictory! Welcome to TFL!

David

Thank you for all your replies.

1 - In all fairness to Maggie Glezer, and in the hope that I'm not breaking any copyright laws here, let me quote a few sections of the specific paragraph from her book (page 83).

"I like the stiff starter because it is more tolerant of a lax refreshment schedule . . . and, most important, it is very easy to measure for stregth. The golden rule for firm sourdough starters is that they

must quadruple in volume in eight hours or less. If they are not active enough to ferment at this rate, they need more refreshment . . . . batter-type starters . . . don't show any measurable indication of their strength. Even weak liquid starters can look bubbly and Active."As I mentioned earlier, the stiff or firm starter she is talking about is at 60% hydration.

2 - If I may, here is a formula you can find here:

http://www.sourdoughhome.com/100percentwholewheat.html

Water: 180 g

Whole wheat starter (100% hydration): 210 g

Whole wheat flour: 320 g

plus the other ingredients.

As such, the above 100% hydration starter has 105 g water and 105 g flour.

The 60% hydration starter of the same weight would have roughly 78 g water and 130 g flour. Therefore, we would have 27 fewer grams of water and 25 more grams of flour, using the 60% starter versus the 100% starter. It is easy enough to correct the original values of 180 g (water) and 320 g (flour) to account for these differences.

But my underlying question is this (using the above example). Is 210 grams of starter that's at 60% hydration more powerful than 210 grams of starter that's at 100% hydration, so that a lesser amount of 60% would have to be used in order to achieve the same results we previously obtained with the 100% starter? And, if so, is there a way to figure out in advance what that reduction should be or does this become a trial and error situation.