The Fresh Loaf

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Question about my Starter

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Squid's picture
Squid

Question about my Starter

Hello:

I'm very new to breadmaking. I've never been much of a fan of direct method baked breads and the breads that I like, I didn't think were possible to make. Purely by accident, I found Julia Child's PBS series online and I was hooked. I bought a ton of books, read them, then went online in search of more info.  

I decided to start a sourdough starter using SourdoLady's directions. Currently, it's on Day 9 and because it was very liquid, I decided to add more flour to my feeding to see if it would show more activity. I did and the starter rose all the way out of my container. I had to transfer it to a larger container. You can imagine, I was quite happy that my first attempt was a success.

 Anyway, I decided to keep the starter a little more like thick pancake batter, but it doesn't seem to be doing much since I transferred everything to the larger container. Is that typical? It still has bubbles, but no froth.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. I think it's ok, but I'm just not sure due to my inexperience.

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Since you are using more flour and now have a thicker starter you won't really have froth, but more like thicker bubbles on top. That is normal.  As for the activity slowing down, how are you feeding it? It is highly important that you dump out most of the old starter before feeding it. If you don't do this your starter will become very sluggish because all those yeasties are multiplying  and competing with each other for the food. In essence, there soon is not enough food to feed them all if you don't get rid of most of it and they begin to starve. They won't necessarily die, but they won't be very active if they aren't getting enough to eat.

Squid's picture
Squid

Thank you, SourdoLady, for your feedback.

I'm using 1/4c of starter with about 1 c flour & 2/3 c water (maybe a little more, depending). I increased to a 2 time/day feeding schedule. 

Yes, I used the wrong term. As a liquid it was more frothy. Yesterday it was more bubbly and very active. Today's it's a bit bubbly, but not very active.

But now that you mention it, I can't remember dumping out all but 1/4c of starter yesterday. Then again, maybe I did. I just can't remember. If that's what I did wrong, just continue as normal, making sure to dump out all but 1/4 cup and it'll fix itself up? Right?

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Yes, it should be fine after you dump and feed. Be sure that the water you are using is dechlorinated, as that can have a negative effect especially on a young, unstable starter. I also wouldn't use bleached flour. Are you still keeping the starter at room temperature around the clock? If so, you may need to feed morning and evening to keep it happy. Good luck with your starter and keep us posted.

Squid's picture
Squid

Yes, I'm using bottled water instead of tap water and I'm using organic unbleached bread flour.

Currently, I'm feeding morning and night and it's still out on the counter at room temp. It actually looks much better tonight after the 2nd feeding. It's grown a bit so I suspect it'll be good as new soon.

Thanks for your feedback. I will definitely keep you posted. This is exciting.

Squid's picture
Squid

I had bought some sourdough cultures from Sourdoughs International and I activated one of them. I'm not really clear on the process now. The book just says that it's ready to bake bread or refrigerate it.

Do I feed it before making bread? My guess is "no" b/c you're feeding it by adding it to the flour when baking. Do I feed it before putting in the fridge?

BTW, there's nothing to report on my homemade culture. I'm just waiting.  

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Yes, your starter should always be recently fed before mixing up dough. Ideally, it should have been fed and then left until it rises to its highest peak, or has just started to recede. In the case of a firm starter, it should rise to a dome and then start to form a 'dent' in the dome when it is at its peak.

 

You can bake with a starter that isn't at the proper stage of development but your dough will perform much better if the starter is at the right stage and the resulting bread will also be better.

 

Yes, I always feed my culture before storing in the fridge. First dump out most of it because you don't need to save a lot for storage. Then feed it and wait about an hour for things to start fermenting and then put it into the fridge.

 

Are you still continuing with the dump and feed schedule on the homemade starter? By now you should be feeding it at least twice a day if you are keeping it at room temperature. If it is showing active bubbling then you can bake with it, but it will continue to develop flavor over time.

 

Which SDI cultures did you get? I have the Red Sea, Russian, San Francisco, and Bahrain. I think I use the Red Sea the most.

Squid's picture
Squid

You're a godsend, Sourdolady. Thanks for your help.

Yes, I'm continuing with my homemade culture, feeding it twice daily. It's bubbly, but nothing like what happened with the culture I bought. I'm just going to be patient and let it go awhile longer before baking with it. It doesn't have a sour taste to it yet. But it's active.

Ummm.... I also have a starter going a la Nancy Silverton's instructions. I'm feeling very experimental. Probably a bit much to take on for a beginner. Oh well, practice makes perfect. LOL

I bought the San Francisco and Italian starters. Do you find they all taste different after all this time? Ed told me that the local yeasts taking over the culture is a myth. I posted his article in one of the other threads. What's your experience?

gt's picture
gt

Hi SourdoLady,

 

Which of your SDI cultures do find produces the most sour bread?

 

Thanks gt

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

I also agree with Ed about the myth, but many people will argue the fact. I say, beleive what you want. I know that my starters all rise at different time schedules and the tastes are subtlely different. I truly believe that most of the taste differences come with how you feed and ferment your starter and dough, though. If you don't ferment properly your breads will all be quite bland regardless of what starter you have used.

 

The best and most sour bread I have ever made to date was made with my homemade starter that I call Montana Wheat (made with Wheat Montana white wheat flour). It was quite by accident how it evolved. I took the starter out and fed it but didn't find time to use it so I left it on the counter 24 hours and then fed it again. I did this three days in a row before I finally found time to mix up the dough and bake the bread. I also retarded the dough in the fridge overnight before baking. It was a white bread with 1/2 cup of white whole wheat flour and the rest was Wheat Montana's AP white flour (which is actually bread flour). I haven't tried it again to see if I get the same results.

 

I also think that the slower rising starters make a more flavorful bread because it gives the LB more time to develop. The SF is a pretty slow riser for me. I haven't tried the Italian. According to SDI the Bahrain is supposed to produce a sour flavor, but in all honesty I havent baked a whole lot with it. I have too many starters and too little time!

Squid's picture
Squid

That's good to hear that you find it a myth too. I'd love to have some SF sourdough to remind me of when we were living in California.

What's the Red Sea like? If I have success with these cultures, I'll probably get some more.

Squid's picture
Squid

I've tried to contact Ed Wood with this question, but he hasn't responded. Can anyone who has his book help me out? 

I've had my starter in the fridge for the past 6 days and I'm going to take it out to bake. My problem is that I'm confused by the difference between "culture preparation" on page 42 and "maintaining and reactivating stock cultures" on pg. 43. On pg 43 it mentions that if the culture has been in the fridge for more than 3 days, you give it a brief wash. However, culture preparation doesn't mention a time frame, it just says "when it's time to bake". However, the procedures are different.

Can someone explain to me the difference between these two procedures?

Tess's picture
Tess

 Squid,

     "culture preparation"

If you are not baking you take your culture out of the refrigerator, let it come to room temperature,  take 1 cup culture, add 1 cup flour, and ¾ cup water.  Proof it for at least 1 hour at room temperature and return to the refrigerator.

       "maintaining and reactivating stock cultures"

‘When it’s time to bake:’   just take ½ cup liquid stock culture, 1 cup flour, and ½ cup water.  Proof overnight.  Add 1 cup flour and ½ cup water. Proof 8 hours.  Then return ½ cup of culture back to refrigerator to use again later.

       “3 days, you give it a brief wash”

I have keep both the liquid and sponge in my refrigerator for over a week and haven’t seen the need to wash either.  Maybe it would be necessary if the starter wasn’t active enough.  You could try dividing the culture into and wash one and reactivate the other and compare. 

       Over the years, I have switched to weighing the starter that is kept on the counter and feed it twice daily.  Woods has information on weighing on page 200.   I have saved as little as 15 grams starter each time before feeding during busy times on the farm.  I don’t have any waste as I use my starter everyday either in waffles, deserts, or breads.   

       As far as ‘Classic Sourdoughs,’ the book is a little confusing at first and I like using Wood's liquid verse the sponge (firm).  I had been baking with sourdough for many years when I purchased his book and I also found it hard to follow in the begining.  But once you begin to the book,  I think you will like his method.  I tend to get more sour than I like with using 2 cups of the cold liquid culture; but I have adapted the recipes to suit the taste buds of my home.  There are many methods out there, his is just one of them. 

        I think that the World Bread is one of the best and I have tried the majority of the recipes in his book. I don't know how long you have been working with sourdough so I hope that I haven't given you information that wasn't necessary.  Good luck.       

Squid's picture
Squid

Tess, thank you for clarifying. I'm wet behind the ears when it comes to this stuff so you've helped to really explain things. Yes, I find his book hard to follow so I'm glad I'm not the only one.

Now I have another question. You say: If you are not baking you take your culture out of the refrigerator, let it come to room temperature,  take 1 cup culture, add 1 cup flour, and ¾ cup water.  Proof it for at least 1 hour at room temperature and return to the refrigerator.

When do you do that? When your culture has been in the fridge for a period of time?

I have 3 starters right now. One I cultivated using SourdoLady's recipe and the other is using Nancy Silverton's method. Now I have lots of starter, I should be able to bake starting tomorrow and test test the different starters. Wish me luck. LOL

Tess's picture
Tess

  "When do you do that? When your culture has been in the fridge for a period of time? "

This is referring to times when you do not want to bake.  I measure out the amount  I am going to feed and disgard the rest or use it in waffles.  I also let my starters come to room temperature, feed, and proof a couple of hours before returning to the refrigerator.  Woods suggust feeding and proofing one hour. 

   I have several starters that I don't use regularly so I feed my refrigerated liquid starters  every seven days.  My Mother feeds her refrigerated liquid starter every 10 days and it performs well. My sponge starters do well with a feeding every two weeks.  So far, I never have had to do a 'washing of the culture' that Wood suggest as I feed my starters regularly and take care of them.  However, I do keep just a small amount of each starter so I have little or no waste.     

  I do wish you luck and am glad that I could be of assistance.

 

  

Squid's picture
Squid

OK, I think I understand now. I didn't realize that I had to feed every week or so while in the fridge.

Tess's picture
Tess

Your starters are alive and need to be fed and watered in order to survive. The refrigerator slows down the need to feed as often.  I keep my favorite on the counter at room temperature so I have to feed it morning and night in order to keep it thriving.  However, most of the people I know keep their starters in the refrigerator and bake once or twice a week.

This is a good forum to learn different view and techniques.  Would you like some sourdough links to check out?

Again, good luck on your upcoming bake.  Let me know how it goes. 

 

Squid's picture
Squid

Sure, I'd love some links. I thought I'd read that you didn't have to feed your starter for months in the fridge. I'm glad I got that cleared up.

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

Your starter will live for quite a long time in the fridge without feeding..it's just easier to bring up to speed if you feed weekly. The nice thing is you don't have to worry if you are gone for an extended period of time..your starter will come alive with some TLC. Check out Tess's first link up above.

Squid's picture
Squid

Thanks Paddycake, that makes sense.