The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Firm Sourdough Starter - Glezer recipe

  • Pin It
zolablue's picture
zolablue

Firm Sourdough Starter - Glezer recipe

I’m finally getting around to posting Maggie Glezer’s firm sourdough starter recipe.  For those of you having problems with your starters you might wish to give this a try.  Most people here are using batter-style starters so it might be interesting to see if there is any discussion on firm starters.  Plus I need help in learning to convert properly for use in recipes which don’t use a firm starter and there are always questions that come up. I have photographed my starter from mixing the dough ball and pressing it into the pint-sized jar through several hourly increments where you can see how grows and finally it quadruples in 8 hours, or in this case just short of 8 hours, which is the “gold standard” Maggie talks about for a firm starter to be ready to leaven bread.


I realize there are many opinions and methods on sourdough starters and this is only the one I’ve chosen and that works for me.  But as many of you know, I’m a bread newbie and a sourdough newbie and I’m interested in all the information.  Some of you were asking about a firm starter so thought this might help. 

PHOTOS on firm starter: 

http://zolablue.smugmug.com/gallery/2617049#138085923

(NOTE: Edited to correct recipe 9-25-07 so if you copied it prior to this date please recopy and accept my apologies!)

SOURDOUGH STARTER DIARY – © Copyright, Maggie Glezer, Blessing of Bread

(How to make sourdough bread in two weeks or less)  

To begin a starter, you need only whole rye flour, which is rich in sourdough yeasts and bacteria, bread flour, water, time, and persistence (lots of the last two).  Amounts are small because I like to use the minimum of flour practical for building the sourdough, as so much of it will be thrown away.  If you are baking bread in the meantime, you can add any of these discards to a yeasted dough for extra flavor. 

WEEK ONE: 

SUNDAY EVENING:  Mix 1/3 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) whole rye flour with 1/4 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) water to make a thick paste and scrape it into a clean sealed jar.

TUESDAY MORNING:  The starter should have puffed a bit and smell sharp.  Add 1/3 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) bread flour and 1/4 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) water to the jar, stir it well, and scrape the sides with a rubber spatula to clean them.  Reseal the jar. 

WEDNESDAY MORNING:  The starter should have risen quickly.  It is now time to convert it into a stiff starter.  In a small bowl, dissolve a scant 2 tablespoons (30 grams/1.1 ounces) starter (discard the rest) in 2 tablespoons (30 grams/1.1 ounces) water, then add 1/3 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) bread flour and knead this soft dough.  Place it in a clean jar or lidded container, seal it, and let it ferment.

THURSDAY EVENING:  The starter will not have risen at all; it will have only become very gooey.  Repeat the above refreshment, throwing away any extra starter.

WEEK TWO: 

SATURDAY EVENING:  The starter will not have risen at all; it will have only become very gooey.  Repeat the same refreshment.

MONDAY MORNING:  The starter will finally be showing signs of rising, if only slightly!  Repeat the refreshment.

TUESDAY MORNING:  The starter should be clearly on its way and have tripled in twenty-four hours.  Repeat the refreshment.

WEDNESDAY MORNING:  The starter should be getting stronger and more fragrant and have tripled in twenty-four hours.  Repeat the refreshment. 

WEDNESDAY EVENING:  The starter should have tripled in eight hours.  It will be just about ready to use.  Reduce the starter in the refreshment to 1 tablespoon (15 grams/0.5 ounce) starter using the same amounts of water and bead flour as before.

THURSDAY MORNING:  The starter is ready for its final refreshment.  Use 1 1/2 teaspoons (10 grams/0.4 ounce) starter, 2 tablespoons (30 grams/1.1 ounces) water, and 1/3 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) bread flour.THURSDAY EVENING:  The starter is now ready to use in a recipe or to be refreshed once more and then immediately stored in the refrigerator.

     

Refreshment for a complete Sourdough Starter 

MAKES:  About a rounded 1/3 cup (90 grams/3.3 ounces) starter, enough to leaven about 3 1/3 cups (450 grams/16 ounces) flour in the final dough 

This stiff starter needs to be refreshed only every twelve hours.  Use this formula to refresh a refrigerated starter after if has fully fermented and started to deflate.  If the following starter does not quadruple in volume in eight hours or less, refresh it again, with these proportions, until it does.  If your kitchen is very cold, you will need to find a warmer area to ferment your starter.

1 1/2 teaspoons (10 grams/0.4 ounce) fully fermented sourdough starter

2 tablespoons (30 grams/1.1 ounces) water

1/3 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) bread flour 

MIXING THE STARTER:  In a small bowl, dissolve the starter in the water, then stir in the flour.  Knead this stiff dough until smooth.  You may want to adjust the consistency of the starter:  For a milder, faster-fermenting starter, make the starter softer with a little more water; for a sharper, slower-fermenting starter, make the starter extra stiff with a bit more flour.  Place it in a sealed container to ferment for 8 to 12 hours, or until it has fully risen and deflates when touched.

  

Conversion of a Batter-Type Starter into a Stiff Starter 

MAKES:  About a rounded 1/3 cup (90 grams/3.2 ounces) starter, enough to leaven about 3 1/3 cups (450 gram/16 ounces) flour in the final dough

If you already have a batter-type starter – that is, a starter with a pancake-batter consistency – you will need to convert it into a stiff starter for the Glezer recipes, or to check its strength.

1 tablespoon (15 grams/0.5 ounce) very active, bubbly batter-type starter

1 tablespoon (15 grams/0.5 ounce) water

1/3 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) bread flour 

MIXING THE STARTER:  In a small bowl, mix the starter with the water, then stir in the flour.  Mix this little dough until smooth, adjusting its consistency as necessary with small amounts of flour or water to make a stiff but easily kneaded starter.  Let it ferment in a sealed container for 8 to 12 hours, or until it is fully risen and starting to deflate.  If the starter has not quadrupled in volume in 8 hours or less, continue to refresh it with the proportions in “Refreshment for a Completed Sourdough Starter” until it does.

 
wildeny's picture
wildeny

Mmm, interesting.

I used firm starter before, but it's just a biga like the indirect method mentioned in The Artisan site. I did the long biga (12+ hours). 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

wildeny, if I read your link correctly they are describing a biga as a preferment along with a poolish, etc., and not a firm or stiff sourdough culture which the recipe I posted is for.  Most of the recipes I see on the site are for batter type sourdough starters and a couple people were asking a few days ago about how to make a firm starter.  So I don't think we're talking about the same thing.

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

Hi,

I thought about saying something to that effect too but decided to keep out. : -)

I think this is the danger of using foreign words when we don't really understand them. The Italian equivalent of sourdough is biga acida, the consistency of biga or b acida varies per the author.  

 I don't think it matters to the bread how you made your sourdough starter initially but the flavour of the bread will alter slightly if you use a dough type starter or a batter type starter. I prefer batter types as I think it has a more rounded flavour but it is quite subtle.

Sourdough-guy

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

Zolablue, that is the starter which I use too. It keeps very well in the fridge - for weeks and weeks if need be - and comes straight back to activity after two feedings. I've never bothered with waiting for it to quadruple - ~I hate wasting  loads of flour / starter, so when I want to bake, I take 30 grams starter (feeding the original with the proportions to make a stiff starter and putting back in the fridge) and add 40 grams flour 40 grams water, mix and leave 8 hours. Add 100 grams water, 100 grams flour, leave overnight. If it is bubbling well, it will raise the dough. Next morning add the remaining ingredients and that is the dough made - it has had it's two refreshments, but none at all goes to waste.To convert to a "batter" starter for some breads, I take 10 grams of this starter, mix it with 30 grams water, add 30 grams flour - and that is that. Leave it for about 8 hours and it should be a happy, active batter type starter.You've been making some stunning breads for a "newbie" - I think you have to find another way of describing yourself!!  You may not be an "old timer" in terms of months and years, but you've certainly become a most accomplished baker.
Andrew

zolablue's picture
zolablue

keep a firm starter.  It uses way less flour and makes a very manageable amount.  My starter makes about 90 grams total and I just started saving the discarded starter to flavor yeasted breads.

Now, from what you describe you are doing with yours it actually is not a firm starter once you get it ready to use in bread, correct?  And I wonder why yours never did quadruple - but cool that it still works!  I had mine in the fridge, unfed, for 3 weeks recently and once I removed it I only had to feed it twice at 20g starter, 30g water, and 50g flour and it came right back to quadruple.  Since then, because temps here have really warmed I reduced it to 15g/30g/50g.  Actually, just before I reduced it my starter was quintupling.  I was worried about reducing it (with the cold temps outside) but I persevered and figured out I had been feeding it far more often than necessary and just not allowing it the time it needed to build up its strength to quadruple at 15g. 

I was told Glezer has kept this starter in her fridge for 3 years and refreshed it 5 times and it was ready to bake.  Can this be done with a liquid starter?  I think it speaks well of the strength of the firm starter and it sure is easy to convert by adding water for a liquid starter recipe.  Having said that I have had angst over that conversion.

Andrew, thanks for the compliments, but honestly half the time I'm holding my breath hoping things will work. When they do, I'm extremely grateful!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Zolablue, Andrew,

I may be wrong, but it seems like a misconception that you have to use lots of flour or dump lots of flour to have a batter starter. I store only a small amount of starter, like 100g or so. I guess I could go much smaller if I wanted. There really is no reason you couldn't, except I don't see the point, as I can still build whatever size starter I want after that, leaving just the amount I want to store.

As a practical matter, I've not seen a huge issue with length of storage. I just revived my KA starter after 2 months with just a couple of feedings. Sure, if you want to keep it for years, then you could switch to a firm starter.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Are you saying your starter, when stored, is about 100 grams total?  Or do you feed it using 100 grams flour?  Or (hehe) do you use 100 grams starter and refresh that and, if so, how much flour do you use to feed it?  I have to think it is still at least double what I'm using to refresh mine so that does add up.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Zolablue,

Yes, I store about 100g of batter starter, which has 50g of flour in it. However, I hardly ever throw any flour out. I only feed it after I've used up all but 20g, at which point I feed it 40g of flour and 40g of water, or more usually, I build up, refreshing as I go, to the amount I need for a recipe with an extra 100g of starter I can toss back in the refrigerator at some point during the build cycle. There is no requirement to feed it once it is refrigerated. Yes, if I were to store it for months, it would keep better as a firm starter, but other than that, there is little practical difference I can think of.

I do admire Glezer for not compromising on things like "frugal culture management", dough handling, use of multiple preferments, and other more complex aspects. I am a fan of the wonderful breads you've made, and my hat's off to you. However, on this batter vs. firm starter thing..., I think most of the information about batter starters that involves throwing out lots of flour is due to authors trying to make a very simple approach for beginners to follow, e.g the BBA.  If we asked Glezer, she could write us a version of her book that starts with a batter starter that uses more frugal methods, and very little would be different about the resulting breads. The recipes would build from a batter starter instead of from a firm starter is all. I will say, the waste and unnecessary mess in the Silverton recipe is hard to believe, although maybe she has some good reasons (from her point of view) for doing it that way, if we were to ask her. She is a legendary baker, after all, even if her starter doesn't make sense to us.

Summarizing, you can use a batter starter or firm starter in much the same way. All it really amounts to is a different amount of water is in the starter, which has to be made up for elsewhere. Other than that, I don't think there is much practical difference. If you ignored the water, the methods could be thought of as very similar. I don't even think the flavor differences would be that great, as long as you use similar rise times and temperatures, and keep the proportions of flour in the various preferments and dough the same.

Having said all that, now I'll probably get an earful about my mistaken views from some of the heavy duty bakers around here. I'd love to learn from that, and I'll hold on to my helmet.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

...and I certainly hope you don't get an earful. :o)  There are so many opinions and the same number of methods and they all seem to work and we all have our own reasons for choosing.  I do think some of our personalities tend to be a bit anal and we should just try doing these things and not worry so much about them.  I guess I should speak for myself and I am! 

 

But there is so much info available that causes new bakers to overthink because well respected people can disagree.  Still, I just want all the info I can get and then, like you and others, I'll decide what works best for me. 

 

My biggest question is the flavor factor.  I really have to be curious when someone says they can really taste a difference between the starters.  I just didn't realize it could be so varied in the final outcome.  Aren't we all cultivating the same organisms basically?  No matter, it all makes good bread.

 

 As for Silverton, please don't get me wrong.  I have her book, I'm dying to make some of her recipes, and she is an outstanding baker.  I just think the huge vats of starter are unnecessary.  But without question I have learned a lot from reading her book so far.  I’m definitely a fan.
bwraith's picture
bwraith

Zolablue,

Your, "just try it" comment reminds me of the ciabatta on my recent ski trip using instant yeast and a poolish, which I hadn't done in a while. I remember your comments along the lines of, "just deal with that wet dough". It was very uncomfortable, but I stuck with it, and just as you said, it came together. I never would have even thought of trying it, if you hadn't encouraged me to try ciabatta "Glezer style", let alone your comments on handling and good photos.

I think the flavor differences of different starters are certainly there, but I think they are subtle compared to the differences resulting from rise times and temperatures of preferments and proportions of preferments in the dough, and then rise times and temperatures of the dough itself.

One thing you might find interesting is to try making baguettes or some other classic shape with different "recipe starters". For example, if you use 500 grams of flour with 325 grams of water and 10 grams of salt for an overall dough recipe, then you could make three different versions. 1) add a couple of tablespoons of starter in the ingredients, mix and knead, and whatnot, let it rise, form and bake. 2) put a tablespoon of starter in 100 grams of flour and 50 grams of water, knead, and let it rise, retard, etc., then add the "recipe starter" to remainder of ingredients, let it rise, form, and bake. or, 3) put a tablespoon of starter in 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water, let it rise, retard, etc., then add to remainder of dough ingredients, let it rise, form, and bake.

You would have three breads that all have the same hydration and salt. However, each one would have different proportions of intermediate fermentations and hydrations. They all used your same initial starter. How do they compare in taste, texture, given you tried to handle them the same way and the total ingredients are the same?

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

...I will try that.  That'a a great way to control things myself and really get a good feel for how my starter is affecting my dough.

Also, I am trying to figure out how to make the ABAA Acme Baguette recipe using my starter.  Have you made that recipe?  It is so good, I crave it.  So while there is no need to change a great recipe I'd love to experiment with it.  But it uses minute amounts of yeast, as you know Glezer can do, and incorporates both a poolish and scrap dough.  I'm not quite sure if I'd handle them the same way; i.e., leaving one at room temp all night and the other out for 3 hours and then into the fridge.  I think the rising times would be all off too but I'm going to consider it another challenge. 

PS...I love wet dough! (grin)

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Zolablue,

I've had a hard time matching flavors or textures from yeasted breads to sourdough versions of the same recipe. Remember the sourdough ciabatta I did? I was very happy with it, because the sourdough flavor was so good, especially for sandwiches, but the crumb wasn't like yours. I came a lot closer on my ski trip to something like yours, using yeast. However, the flavor of the sourdough ciabatta was not much like the flavor of the ciabatta made w/yeast.

So, I'd just "go for it". With your instinct for dough handling, I have a feeling you would figure out how to get the texture right. The flavor from the sourdough will automatically give you some acidity and some extra flavors, usually for the good, as far as I'm concerned, short of getting some unpleasant excess of sourness.

You could try the following, to just get rolling:

Make a "recipe starter" by mixing 30g of your starter to 185g of flour and 185 g of water. Let it rise by double, then refrigerate overnight. Next day, add "recipe starter" from the refrigerator to 170g water, 365g flour, 11g salt. Handle as you do so well, and bake.

You will find the sourdough acids affect the texture of the dough. You may want to do things like use higher protein or lower protein flour, or adjust hydration higher or lower, or change the salt a little, to get the right texture as you think it should be.

I bet there are some sourdough baguette masters who might see this and tell us how to make great sourdough baguettes.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

You're such a great help to me.  I really appreciate it.  I love your passion for bread baking - we are all a bit obssessed, huh!

I did make a fabulous sourdough baguette from info ehanner posted on Mountaindog's thread about "oven spring and folding" although it was only adding some discarded starter to that recipe so it wasn't a true all sourdough.  But it was an incredible exercise in mixing the dough all by hand on the counter.  Gosh, now THAT was fun!

Thanks again for all your help.  I'll let you know if I get any results worthy of passing on. 

ejm's picture
ejm

This past summer, after my successful yeast capture, I was astounded to see the amounts that Silverton suggested using to create a starter. (For a home baker?!) But I too love pretty much every other aspect of Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery.

 
When I first got the bread baking bug some years ago, I swore that I would never get to the point that I would bother capturing my own yeast. I remember staring in awe at the step by step accounts in Leader's Bread Alone and thinking it seemed awfully daunting. And then after reading Steingarten's hilarious chapter about capturing wild yeast in The Man Who Ate Everything, I was firm in my resolve to stick with active dry yeast. 

It wasn't until this year, when I read Piano Piano Pieno by Susan McKenna Grant that I got up the courage to try capturing wild yeast. Her starter recipe is definitely aimed at the home cook who is likely to be making just a couple of loaves of bread at a time.

-Elizabeth 

(wild yeast starter recipe based on McKenna Grant's recipe) 

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

the starter is kept as a firm starter in the fridge but is turned into a more liquid one to refresh and use. This is why I don't worry about quadrupling - it is fairly liquid at this stage and in a big mixing bowl so the other ingredients can be added to it - so absolutely no flour goes to waste. I reckon that, in the 19th century and earlier, flour was so precious (people used to go out gleaning for grain after the Harvest, it was so important ) so I don't think they could have followed a regime that included dumping loads of flour. But I keep it as a firm starter for exactly the reasons you mention - it keeps so very well. I don't think Glezer could have a left a liquid starter for 3 years!I do have other recipes I use where the starter is used as a stiff starter and whisked into the water before flour is added - I just find the method I tend to use simpler. If a recipe says (these are made up figures for illustrative uses only!) 30 grams stiff starter, 270 grams water, 400 grams flour, then I'd use the starter and add say, 50 grams water and 50 grams of the flour, mix, leave overnight and add the remaining flour and water the next day. It works for me - and that, I think, is what matters! 
Andrew

zolablue's picture
zolablue

...to just keep the starter firm and not even worry about converting it to batter for use in a non-Glezer recipe by using the percentages based on her recipes.  In other words since most of her recipes use between 1 - 2 tablespoons of firm starter could I not just either somewhat wing it and use those amounts or learn the baker's percentages and use it that way. 

While I'm curious about how the liquid starters work and taste I have such a great one going and it is so strong and active why rock the boat.  Plus I agree with you that the amounts of flour being used just to maintain some of these starters, a.k.a. Silverton is outrageous.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Zolablue,

I'll be interested to hear how Andrew does it, but I thought I would toss in my two cents. I maintain a very small amount of batter style starter when it is just stored in the refrigerator. If I need a certain amount of liquid or firm starter as called for in a recipe, call it the "recipe starter", I just build the "recipe starter" by combining some amount of my refrigerated starter with the remaining flour and water that constitute the "recipe starter" and let it rise until it is ready to be used in the recipe. I think you could do the same thing with your firm starter as I do with my batter starter, i.e. build whatever "recipe starter" you need from your refrigerated firm starter.

Another approach is to use an amount of your starter, whatever consistency it may be, such that the same amount of flour is contributed to the recipe by your starter. The difference in water contributed by your particular starter is then made up in the dough or preferment recipes, such that you still have the same overall hydration in the preferments and final dough.

I see little difference between maintaining a firm or batter starter. I seldom throw out flour with my batter starter, as I store only a small amount and just build what I need when I need it. I agree some of the approaches, like Silverton, waste lots of flour, but that's just that author's particular bent, not anything specific to a batter starter. As Sourdough-guy said elsewhere, if you want to store for longer periods, it does make sense to switch to a firm starter, but that makes little practical difference if you are baking even only once every two months, as I have no problem refreshing my batter starter after two months.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

You have some good instructions and we are discussing this on another site so I would love to pass along your info. You have good practice at converting to liquid.  It seems to me most recipes call for liquid starters so perhaps this is why it appears most people gravitate towards that style.  The conversion for liquid starter recipes is key to make them properly although another thing Glezer says is that many older recipes call for way too much starter.

I agree with the waste issue and, again, is another reason the firm works so well.  And I can tell you I know for a fact Glezer did use her starter that was stored for 3 years and then refreshed only 5 times to bake bread.  (wink)

I appreciate all your help.  I may have a few more questions for you on this in the next few days so check back.  I was hoping FINEART would see this as he/she asked about the firm starter before and I had not typed up the recipe.  With all the problems I see posted on the starters lately I'd love to see if this one would work for those who are struggling.  It has sure been a simple and great starter for me so far.

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

you can pass on the info. Use anything that you find useful.  I'm sure Glezer's firm starter recipe would help many people - I didn't have to use pineapple or anything like that, did you? Somehow I don't quite like the idea of using anything other than flour and water!
What I meant in my previous post was not to doubt that Glezer kept her starter for 3 years and then refresh it, only to say that I bet she couldn't have done the same with a liquid starter! I don't think they keep as well unfed.
What is the other site you are visiting? Is it as interesting and informative as this one? I find each visit here fascinating!!

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

Hi Andrew,

 When you make a new starter from scratch using the batter method, I don't think it matter myself which method you use, you don't have to use pineapple either. The only only difference is that when you use a dough method you don't notice the leuconostoc, it's still there in some cases, you can tell by the stink, but you don't see it that's all. Incidentally, when I tried the pineapple method, I used a firm dough starter to test it. I've also made a starter using the firm starter method and added a spot of vodka as soon as I noticed the stink, it worked a treat, though in this case I added a spot too much and the starter took a little longer than it probably should have to activate. But it didn't stink out the kitchen, so I didn't mind.  

Sourdough-guy

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Sourdough-guy,

I've had the same experience, i.e. it all works the same for me, whether I use a firm or batter method. They both stink terribly and rise a huge amount in the first 24 hrs. For example, using the Glezer 1st day recipe recently, it rose by 3x, and smelled just awful. I'm not sure whether it's leuconostoc or something else. The part that seems different for me after that, is that in my case it delays the beginning of "normal" behavior in the culture by from days to weeks. I don't know what makes it so consistent for me, but something about my kitchen, or where I live, or who knows what behaves differently from the recipes. In my case, it works wonders to put ascorbic acid in the water at the start. Then, things work much more according to schedules printed in various books. I've seen enough posts by others who experience something similar, that I believe it's "real" and not just a technique problem.

Bill

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

Sounds a potent starter!!  Vodka bread! I was lucky, then, I guess - my starter (Glezer method) didn't smell bad at all - it just sat for a few days doing little, then began to ferment and basically followed the pattern which she had said it would. And began to smell really appetising  after the first week, having smelled of nothing really - except flour - before that. And it has kept going ever since with no problem   - so I am very grateful for Maggie Glezer's instuctions!
Andrew

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

I think it's more to do with the flour and conditions than to do with who says what amount of flour and water Andrew. : -) 

 Sourdough-guy

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Sourdough-guy,

By the way, about how many grams of Vodka per gram of starter flour would you put in?

Bill

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

OOh, it was such a long time ago now and I really didn't measure it out that well, I was using 2 oz of dough so perhaps it was about a teaspoon of 40% vodka, or even less then diluted a tad.  

 The smell went from smoked Gouda to nice clean starter in just a couple of hours.

 Sourdough-guy

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I had only one day that the starter, after a few days, smelled more sharp but that was as Glezer described it would.  That was also when she said it would look very dead but to persevere.  I did and it developed very nicely and in addition it had a fabulous scent.  It has never smelled anything but really nice. 

There is that saying again..."works a treat!"  I love that.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I followed the recipe exactly although I did start with the one from Artisan Baking which begins with more flour and water.  I hear ya on the difference between liquid and firm.  But it also sounds like certain people are just having a problem no matter which type.  That's a shame - I feel very lucky now that my first starter is the one I'm using today.  Of course, it is only about 3 month's old. 

I frequent the cooking forum on gardenweb.  We, over there, are as passionate about cooking as people are about bread baking here and there are so many nice and helpful people who participate.  Many there are expert bread bakers and have imparted some extremely helpful informatin to me as well.  Don't know what I'd do without these sites.

caryn's picture
caryn

I thought I would add my 2 cents here.   I have been successfully baking sourdoughs sometimes with a firm starter and sometimes with a batter starter.  Just about all of my breads have yielded really nice results.  I have made Maggie Glezer's Thom Leonard country bread with the firm starter that is called for in the recipe, and just this weekend I tried it with my batter style starter.  I think it was the best result yet.  Now because of the number of variables involved, I really can't jump to conclusion that it was better because of the batter starter, but it did encourage me to continue using it.  I think that it is easier to maintain a batter style starter- you don't need to do any kneading, just a bit of stirring and you are done. And I do not waste much flour, usually feeding only 2 ounces of flour each time.

Actually, I may really owe my good results to mountaindog (on this site) who contributed her interpretation of the Thom Leonard boule.  Either her edition of the Artisan Baking book is different than mine, or she just added her take on the instructions.  In my book, there is no autolyse mentioned for that bread, but I followed mountaindog's instructions, and I think it was really worthwhile. She also offered that she used 45 grams (I believe) of a batter starter in place of the 30 grams of firm starter called for in the recipe. I will try to find her instructions on this web and add the link if I can figure out how!!

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

 Hi caryn, you raise a few points there. I dabbled with using a dough type starter for a little while simply because it was so much easier to work out my recipe, I use a formula rather than exact quantities, but I went back mainly because it tastes better in my opinion. If you keep your starter at 100% and you work in weight it is fairly simple to work out your recipe though. Now working in volume is a little different. My brains to small for that, I'd end up using a bit of this and a bit of that I think. ;-)

 

Sourdough-guy

zolablue's picture
zolablue

...and I appreciate the info on how she used her batter starter because I remembered she is doing that.  I was wondering how to know the amount to use just as I'm trying to learn how much of the firm starter to use, and how much water to add, to use in liquid-starter recipes.

I actually have both the hardcover and paperback versions of the Glezer book because I loved it so much.  LOL.  Ok, I'm crazy but its fun.

I have made the Thom Leonard boule/s a couple times and love the bread.  It does have a 90-minute fermentation period right after mixing the dough, including 3 turns, and a 15-minute autolyse after turning the dough out of the bowl before shaping the loaves.

I'm learning that even though baking is generally a more exact science compared to cooking, it seems bread baking lends itself very well to much experimentation and that's another thing I love about it.   I'd be interested to try a new liquid starter to compare to my firm one to see if I can determine a taste difference.  Only for we obsessed bread bakers, huh!  However I absolutely love the way the firm starter works and it is nothing to mix up that little dough ball.

caryn's picture
caryn

I referred to mountaindog's interpretation of the Thom Leonard boule in my last post- to get to it- here is the link:  mountaindog's description of the Thom Leonard recipe

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I've seen that link before but thanks for linking it again.  Great info!

Caryn, what recipe did you use for your liquid starter?  Also, can you describe, if possible, just how you thought the bread tasted better?  I understand what you mean about the variables and there are many.  It is a nice comparison to make though.

Even Glezer will state the liquid starter is easier to maintain.  I can't say because I've only done the one - perhaps another good reason to try liquid so I can speak with personal experience understanding both.  I often find, though, that what many people think is difficult is not at all. 

caryn's picture
caryn

I am just getting back to this.

1.  I created my starter by following the instructions in the BBA book, and then when it did not respond as well as I had thought, I added some water in which I had soaked some raisins!!  That was a tip from someone on this site some time ago.  When it became nice and active, I just did the routine refreshes with bread flour and water.  I created my firm starter by following instructions to convert one from the other. I don't remember if the instructions that I followed were in the BBA book or the Glezer book. Then I maintained each separately. Glezer gives instructions for refreshing the firm starter, and for the batter starter, I usually refresh using the ratio of 1:2:2-starter to flour to water.

2. Actually there was only one time that I did not like the flavor of the Thom Leonard boule- it tasted absolutely flat, having very little taste (as if I had omitted salt, but did not!!). I had used the firm starter, but that might not have been the reason.  It is possible that I over-kneaded it, trying to get the dough to pass the test ( I forget what it is called right now) where you can see a nice web effect when you pull a small piece of dough apart. Then, when the bread came out really well with the batter starter, I decided to primarily  use that.  It was not a very scientific conclusion, I will admit! :) 

danmerk's picture
danmerk

Zolablue,

Thanks for striking up a great dicsussion topic! I have a newbie question regarding the firm starter as I have only made a few loves using my batter type thus far.

1. The firm starter that everyone is discussing seems to resemble just a ball of dough that you grew from a slightly acidified and liquid starter. When this is done, you should have a small ball of dough correct?

2. I understand the conversion of a batter to a firm. (I am doing this currently AND converting to back to whole wheat) My question is that all I did was take the remaining mother batter I had which was about 1/4c (I'll pick up a scale soon as I am ready!) and poured that into a ss bowl and added some wheat flour and made a ball. I put this into a quart mason jar (sanitized because I can) and loosely put the lid on this. Next morning (today) it was 3 times the size and was all bubbly. When I put this into the jar, it was a firm dough, but now its a stringy webby looking dough. I had to pull this out and when I fed it, all I did was add more flour. No water. Is this correct? Should I be tossing some of this out? I usually keep growing as my current recipes call for a few cups of starter in batter form, so I try ti grow up a bit as I bake every few days. 

3. Last question. When using a firm starter, do I just pull a piece off and toss it into a water and flour recipe? I never had to add water to my other recipes because the starter was high in liquid. If so how much starter dough per batch?

 thanks. I am out today looking for Glezer's book!

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Danmerk, I’ll try and answer your questions but I’m also very new to this.  As I’ve stated before, I keep this starter because I wanted to make the recipes in Artisan Baking and they call for a firm starter.  Also, know many on this site have made the recipes successfully using a batter starter. 

 

 

I like this starter because I feel it is very stable and very consistent.  It was actually made not from a liquid starter I already had rather this is my first starter made from Glezer’s instructions.  Do note that her ingredient amounts to begin the starter in the book Artisan Baking have been cut in half for Blessing of Bread but they end up basically using the same amounts for final  refreshments.   It starts as a liquid but becomes firm on the third day.  It is also very strong so a little goes a long way.  In addition, it uses very little flour so I don’t feel as wasteful and I can keep it in a small pint jar instead of a quart jar or bigger.  It also stores for longer periods of time as a firm starter – up to years unrefreshed.

 

 

Yes, it starts as a dough ball and as it grows it becomes very gooey.  You simply take the amount necessary for a recipe and dissolve it in water.  It is simple. 

 


If you wish to use it in place of a liquid starter you simply take the amount of starter you wish to use (see Andrew’s instructions above) and add equal parts flour and water.  Just make sure you are doing that with a good, strong firm starter that can quadruple in 8 hours or less, which is the gold standard for firm starters.  Or use Glezer’s instructions for converting a batter starter to firm for those recipes that call for firm and you can still keep your liquid starter, if you like that best.

 

 

I have been successfully using my starter to replace yeast in other recipes by adding only the starter in the amount I wish -  even discarded, unrefreshed starter that has been stored for 2 – 3 days in my refrigerator – and creating a levain the night before (much as Glezer does in Artisan Baking recipes) and simply adding it to the regular dough recipe.  I then add a bit of salt to compensate for the additional flour in my starter.  I think it was L_M on this site who steered me towards how to do that.  As an example, if I use 75 grams of my firm starter I add 1/8 teaspoon salt.  That’s what Rose Levy Beranbaum posted about doing on her site. 

My starter is kept at 15 grams starter and refreshed with 30 grams water and 50 grams flour.  Once the temps get consistently warmer outdoors I’ll take it down to 10g/30g/50g.   

 

 

I posted the link to my photos above but in case you missed that here is the succession of my starter from mixing to quadrupling in 8 hours.  I’m sorry, I do not know about making a wheat starter although Glezer says you do not have to keep a separate rye starter.  She gives instructions on how to make an overnight conversion to use in any recipe calling for a rye levain.  I would suppose it is the same for whole wheat but not sure.  Others, I hope, will chime in.  

 

Starts out as this little dough ball – takes only a minute to knead: 

Plop in a pint jar and I smoosh it down and mark where the top is: 

At 4 hours a dome has formed and it has more than doubled: 

At 6 hours it has grown about 2 1/2 times by volume:  

By just before the 8 hours it had quadrupled: 

This photo taken out of the above sequence only to show it once it has collapsed: 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

MD, I tend to overthink things (nah, who me?) and I believe I needed to make a liquid starter for myself to see the differences.  I posted elsewhere I started Hamelman's liquid starter recipe on May 8 and I was amazed at how easy and quick that starter took off.  I did change his feeding amounts after a week though to 100% from his 125% using 60g each of starter, water, and flour.  But I had so many questions because Hamelman doesn't really go into much detail as Glezer does and I was unsure of when I needed to catch it to bake with.  I do still want to understand it and thanks to Bill's comprehensive post on the 100% he answered a lot of questions.

And now I think I have solved the mystery of liquid vs firm starter.  Drum roll...the liquid starter has more water!  (lol)  I know this is personal but I didn't find it any easier, in fact, more difficult for me to keep it.  It has to be fed way more often and with my firm starter you know without a doubt exactly how active it is. 

I baked the 100% WW sourdough today using the new starter converted to WW per your instructions (thanks).  I also mixed up a batch of Columbia last night using my new liquid white starter just to compare any differences.  I'll bake those loaves tomorrow.  But I already know that they'll perform and taste the same.

If you're interested I'll be happy to help with what I've learned about the firm starter.  Maggie said one of the easiest ways to kill a starter is to feed too often.  I know I was doing that early on and it would always get just so far and then never quadruple.  Once I went to roughly 24-hour feedings it just took off.  Then as I refrigerate it off and on that seems to help it as well.

I'm so glad I successfully made another starter but I would never trade my firm starter.  I think it is easier to mix and store and uses such small quantities of flour.   I love that sucker!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Zolablue,

Hope you don't mind I jump in here on your comment to mountaindog (Hi Mountaindog).

I love what you said - the mystery is solved - there's a different amount of water in each starter - otherwise not that different. That's pretty much how I feel about it. I know there are some differences in flavor that will develop as a function of consistency, but as far as I can tell, the differences aren't that large.

Other than that, I guess trying out firm starter maintenance is on my long list of stuff to try. I'm not sure I agree that the feeding schedules are all that different once you get your 100% hydration starter going. In other words, refreshing after you take it out of the refrigerator, as I was reading in Glezer for the firm starer, seems quite similar to what would happen with the 100% hydration starter. I also keep a fairly small amount of starter in the refrigerator for storage, and with a little planning can build my 100% starter up for use in recipes with very little starter being thrown out. However, I can see that you work with very small amounts, and the idea of a nice dry and small dough sitting in the refrigerator sounds convenient and neat and clean, too. So, you've got me paying attention and thinking about giving it a try, especially since you switched back and forth without any trouble. Gives me some confidence to mess with the methods here.

I don't doubt Glezer's comments about overfeeding, in fact you've won me over as a Glezer fan, but my experience has been that one of the easiest mistakes you can make with the liquid starters, which may be less common with a firm starter, is to underfeed it, rather than overfeed it. Since doubling times are roughly 2 hours in an unsalted paste at room temperature, you really have to feed often, like 1:2:2 every 4 hours (5x volume increase) to really get far enough ahead of the growth rates of a healthy culture to actually dilute it enough to kill it. On the other hand, if you leave a normal 100% starter at 76F for 24 hours, the fermentation product levels get very high, and some of the organisms may go into a steep decline, changing the balance of the culture for the worse. That's why I'm not a fan of leaving a culture out at room temperature for maintenance, even if that's how it was done for 1000s of years. As an aside, my dad says my great grandmother kept her culture in the kitchen and used it to feed sourdough pancakes to the ranch hands every morning and make fresh bread every afternoon. Even so, I say keep the culture in the refrigerator.

As always, I much enjoy your commentary and your enthusiasm. I'm inspired once again to start playing with starters, especially trying out converting over to Glezer's technique for a while to see how it goes - reverse of your latest experiments.

Bill

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

ZB - thanks, this is exactly what I was looking for. I will give the firm a try again and see if I can keep it strong. I think my earlier problem may have been a too young starter and possible over-feeding. Agree with Bill though on how easy it is to underfeed a wet starter, esp. as the weather gets warmer.

Bill - that's a nice piece of family history about your great-grandmother cooking on the ranch - she was probably feeding her starter frequently anyhow since she was using it twice a day between the pancakes and the bread, so maybe she didn't need the refrigeration after all?

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Mountaindog,

I imagine my great grandmother must have fed her starter at least a couple of times a day if she was making pancakes in the morning and bread in the afternoon. You're right that there was therefore not much risk of underfeeding even in warm weather. My routine is far more erratic. I bake about 2-4 times per month or so, reviving the starter a day or two before, and slice and freeze the bread and refrigerate the starter in between.

Zolablue, thanks again for all the information on the firm starter approach.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

(So to speak.:o)

Mountaindog – honestly, I started mine on January 4 of this year (my sister’s BD so I can always remember) and it was SUPER cold here.  I know that had a lot to do with my somewhat slow start.  Or rather it performed exactly as Glezer stated but once it got to the triple part I could not get it to quadruple.  She says you just need to keep refreshing until it does and I was not confident about that at the time and got really frustrated. 

 

I had a chance to correspond with Glezer – she is FABULOUS!  And super generous and kind.  I was able to ask her a lot of questions and she really helped me.  It was then I was able to really make this thing take off.  That’s when she told me about not overfeeding a firm starter.  Still, you have to persevere to get it to the quadruple point by continuing to refresh.  And once temps warmed up here that made an enormous difference.

 

She wants you to eventually take it to 10g starter:30g water:50g flour but I’ve never been able to make it quadruple yet doing that so I have been happy to keep it at 15g S:30g W:50g F.  I see how it is very different with a wetter starter as it just doesn’t have the amount of flour.  But so far that's all I can see as different.

 

 

She explained the flexibility of this type of starter “if you wait for it to fully rise and fall” and then says, “it can then wait even 12 hours for a feeding, which is the beauty of the firm starter.  It is so packed with flour that the pH falls slowly, and there is plenty of sugar for the flora…” 

 

That is when she told me she had just revived a starter she had stored in her refrigerator unfed for 3 years.   She gave it 5 refreshments and had dough rising at that moment.  That made a big impact on me because while my schedule is more flexible than some others I really wanted that kind of option.

sodbuster's picture
sodbuster

Dang, to get a starter revived after 3 years blows my mind!  I thought I was lucky to get mine revived after 6 months.  

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

mid May is the birthday of my firm (Glezer method) starter. Unfortunately - I can't remember how many years old it is - 2 or 3? I think 3. It steadily improved in performance (speed of rise) and flavour for about a year, but has seemed consistent since then. I feel compelled to keep two lots going in the fridge in case a disaster happens with one lot! I'd say it has survived like this in the fridge underfed, rather than overfed, but doesn't seem to mind at all. It revives when fed very happily.Happy birthday, starter!
Andrew

zolablue's picture
zolablue

 

Bill, I wanted to mention to you that she kind of updated her instructions in her more recent book, Blessings of Bread, and changed some of the amounts and times so that’s the one I think I posted above.  Bascially, I think she cut down on starter amount and rounded the water and flour so it is slightly different and that’s the one I go by.

 

Also, you probably already know this, but it is not in the form of a dough ball except when you first mix it.  As it rises it turns into this sticky, gooey, kind of webbed airy thing.  So when you use it you have a nice sticky substance.  I think people (not you) confuse this with pate fermente or biga instead of a firm sourdough starter.  Same as theirs just has more flour and less water.  But very strong in the French method of doing.

 

I’m going to keep feeding my new Hamelman starter in order to gain more first-hand experience.  I may even try to go back to Hamelman’s 125% feeding schedule.  It is a beautiful starter – again, so easy, I’m wondering why so many people have such a hard time creating one.  Is it that I use KA flour?  Anyway, it took just over a week and it was going great and smelling delicious.  I just took it out of the fridge today where it had been unfed for the past 3 days and has risen by a quarter in 1 ½ hours.  I think that must be pretty good for one started a couple weeks ago.

 

I also love hearing your grandmother’s story.  I think those things keep us connected as families and also allow us to pass on these things to others who can appreciate them.

 

Andrew!!!  Happy birthday to your starter!  I believe it is 3 years as I remember.  You have been one to help me so much with the firm starter when I was getting frustrating early on.  You are the only other person on this site I know of that uses the Glezer starter! 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Zolablue,

I have a sense of what the firm starter would be like in consistency, based on your description. When I know I'm going to be leaving my starter in the refrigerator for a while, I thicken it up and get a consistency partway to what you're describing.

Do you recommend getting "The Blessings of Bread", i.e. does it have new, interesting information/recipes in it above and beyond "Artisan Baking"? I may want to get it. After your many references to Glezer, I got Artisan Baking and think it's excellent.

Thanks again for the firm starter information. I do want to try it out. I'm part of the way to Andrew's approach anyway, and maybe I should just switch over and maintain it as a firm starter regularly. I do see some advantages to it. There's little disadvantage in baking, since it's then a simple matter to build starters of any consistency from there for recipes, so it would all be about the same as far as baking goes.

As far as the stories of my great grandmother doing sourdough pancakes and breads for the ranch hands, you're right that those stories and the connections they make are fun to discover. Originally that part of my family were homesteaders in Montana. My grandmother took me to the original site of the homestead one time when I was about 12 years old. I only heard the story about the sourdough baking my great grandmother did when my dad saw me make some sourdough pancakes for Christmas a couple of years ago, and it sparked a memory from his childhood.

Bill

 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Floyd has written a really nice review of the book and, btw, I said the title wrong. It is A Blessing of Bread: The Many Rich Traditions of Jewish Baking Around the World to be exact. I have to admit I have not taken the time to read the book yet except for the sourdough parts which are much more comprehensive but I'm not sure you need the info. I have read through some of the recipes and plan to try many of them.

So I like the book, LOVE Glezer's methods, but you would have to decide if those are breads you want to bake. Actually, Andrew, turned me onto the book because of the additional sourdough info and I scampered to buy it as I was struggling alone and it is when I first started posting here. Luckily Andrew was right there to help me with the Glezer starter.

Read Floyd's review:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/bookreviews/ablessingofbread

...and see the book on Amazon.

You are right about how to keep a starter and simply change the hydration levels for storing and recipes. Actually, Hamelman has quite a lot of recipes specifying a stiff starter so that's kind of cool. I like how he differentiates and he does say he thinks it is important to the integrity of the author's recipe to use what they call for. I don't know about that personally as I don't think my palate is quite that developed. :o)

I baked Columbia again yesterday using Mountaindog's levain for using the liquid starter and it turned out fabulous!

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

ZB, you might remember me saying that my starter doesn't quadruple but still makes a good loaf. Well - today, for some reason known only to itself, it had quadrupled within four hours of feeding and is going some still - up to about 6x the original volume and  rising!  Same flour, same water - amazing! I'm wondering now what it will do when I make dough with it.....! It is still at the firm stage - 20g starter, 30 g water and 50 g flour. 
Andrew

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Andrew,

I've been consulting w/the Glezer firm starter guru here, and a couple of months ago I switched part of my 100% starter over to a Glezer firm starter. I've been feeding it 10g:30g:50g and it rises by about 3.5x in 8 hours. I've been just feeding it every 12-24 hours depending on what's convenient, hoping it will eventually speed up as described by Zolablue, and now by you, too.

I see that you aren't sure what may have helped, but if there are some things that occur to you that may have affected it for the better, I'd be interested to know. Even if you aren't sure, just knowing what might be some of the factors would be interesting.

Meanwhile, just as you say, the starter makes perfectly fine bread, and the rise times aren't inordinately long. However, ZB and I have compared rise times in a couple of different ways, and it seems clear that her starter is quite a bit faster. If only for convenience, let alone that a more vigorous starter may make it easier to get certain recipes to work (I love SD focaccias, for example), I would find it interesting to get my starter to speed up to be like yours and ZB's.

Long and short of it, any clues would be appreciated, no matter how speculative.

Bill

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

finally, came down to following Maggie Glezer's instruction to feed, leave the starter to crest, fall back and leave a while longer again before feeding again. This happened by mistake when my schedule got altered and I coudn't follow my normal regime so the refreshed starter got left 24 hours before I fed it again - and it promptly more than quadrupled!The Glezer starter I made used to take a long while to raise a loaf when it was new and gradually speeded up over the course of a few months, to a point that the actual dough would go from being mixed / lightly kneaded, to being ready to bake, in about 5 hours. So it was quite fast, despite the fact that the starter had never come near quadrupling (because I was always in a hurry to make it fit with my morning / evening / next morning schedule). This has been making bread that I really like for a few years now. But this last refreshed starter has behaved quiite quite differently and I really think that it is due solely to having been left much longer before the next refreshment - the little yeasties  seem to become so much more active on a near starvation diet!I'll obviously try this again and if it is repeatable, then I'll report back.Andrew

zolablue's picture
zolablue

That is great news, Andrew. I know I had to work a bit at getting mine to do that when I created this starter in such frigid weather. But once it did - watch out! Then I took it down from the 20g:30g:50g (starter:water:flour) to 15g:30g:50g and it was quadrupling and sometimes would quintuple within the necessary time period, so I know what you're saying.  It is exciting!

Recently I've been conferring with Bill (bwraith) about starters and he inspired me to try again to take it down to 10g:30g:50g (as Maggie had also told me to do). I had done that in the past but it had not quadrupled soon enough for me (I guess) and because I had such a very strong and active starter at 15g:30g:50g I would panic (hehe) and go back to using what I was comfortable with.

 

Now using the 10g:30g:50g it is quadrupling often in only 7 hours and I am very happy. Due to some other experiments I believe I did prove that my first starter is indeed quite a lot stronger made this way.  Compared to my liquid starter (I had to try it) there is really no comparison in strength so far but it is still very new.

 

Maybe if you feel brave you'll start taking it down or just make another one, splitting yours, taking the starter amount down and experimenting. Maggie is right that you just keep refreshing until it meets that gold standard for firm starters, of quadrupling in 8 hours or less, and it works! I'm very happy to hear your good fortune with your starter as I know you have had it a long time.

 

Of course, I remember all about this, Andrew, as you were so kind and very helpful to me when I first started posting on this forum not all that long ago. 

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

actually! I found this out as a result of an "experiment" (or it could be error!!). I'd scraped the fed / active starter out of a small bowl into another bigger bowl to make the dough. Then, instead of washing up the scraped - out bowl, I absent mindedly added 30 grams water and 50 grams flour - stirred it - realised what I'd done - and thought well, might as well cover it in plastic and see what happens. Lo and behold - a very active extra starter! So it went into the fridge and is still going (I like to have two or three in case of disaster....)I'm fascinated to read of your contact with Maggie Glezer.  Did you pick up many tips? And how many have you incorporated into your bread making?Andrew

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I love those!  Thanks to you I purchased Blessings of Bread which expands a bit on the sourdough info.  I do what Glezer recommends in that book which is to refresh the starter at 30g:30g:50g and refrigerate it immediately upon mixing.  That is for long-term refrigerator storage.  I have two of those in my fridge.

 

She was extremely generous.  I asked permission to post this informationn and her reply was how could she ever refuse when her books relied on the most generous information and sharing of those wonderful artisan bakers.  Wow!  She is something else, very humble, very kind and generous and passionate.  I do love many other books and other bakers but I have found Glezer's methods, for me, taught me the most and are ones I'm the most comfortable with.  Everyone has a different person or author that speaks to them.

 

One of the most important things she told me was to stop watching the clock for time to refresh but watch the starter.  She said, as I probably said above, that she has killed many starters by over feeding them.  She stressed to let it fully rise and begin to collapse and then wait up to 12 hours AFTER it had collapsed to feed it again.  Once I tried that - and it was scary - my starter really took off.  Before that I was not getting the quadruple - almost but not quite - and it showed me I had just plain fed it too often.

 

For instance. if I refreshed my starter and it quadrupled in 8 hours and then perhaps took 2 - 4 more hours to collapse I would wait another 12 hours (even more at times) which would mean I could refresh it once every 24 hours.  It makes keeping a starter active and at room temperature a very easy proposition.

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

has probably been my downfall - trying to make the starter / refeshed starter / dough fit MY time schedule too much. Yes, I;d read in "Blessing of Bread" that she'd killed starters by feeding too much, and to wait for the refreshed starter to "crest" but I must have a very forgiving starter (thankfully) because I have never waited for it to crest - simply  followed my schedule, i.e. refresh starter in the morning, take 100g refreshed starter in the evening add 100 g water and 100 g flour, mix leave overnight and finsh dough next morning, shape proof and bake by about 5.00 pm that evening. It has worked week out, week in and I've not bothereed about quadrupling, cresting, falling - the bread has come out fine.This sudden increase in volume to quadrupling and more, I realize, is due to having allowed it to crest and wait for 10 hours before continuing. Just because my schedule got altered - and lo and behold ! I find she is right all along! Amazing!But I'm glad to find my starter will make good bread with a more haphazard regime too!
Thanks for your information on this ZB!Andrew

bwraith's picture
bwraith

ZB, Andrew, 

Whew, maybe it's a breakthrough. My converted Glezer firm starter just rose by a full 4x in about 7 hours, and then filled the container at about 5.5x after about 9 hours. I had to stir it down. So, is it working? Mebbe so, mebbe not. Because, I changed containers. The new one is wider. I wonder if it can climb the sides more easily with a wider container? Still, it seems to be going much faster the last couple of feedings. I have been letting it run almost 24 hours each time, as long as it was convenient. The last feeding was actually a higher ratio, too - 10:36:60 (10.6x), but it still rose by 4x in about 7 hours (temp was about 78F, but it never rose by more than 3.5x, let alone in 7 hours, at the same temp before). I guess the proof will be to see how it does in a "race" with my liquid starter, which is still raising a 10:45:90 (10.5x) feeding by double in about 4.75 hours at around 78F.

So, when I get a chance, I'll do equal flour multiple tests and see which starter is faster these days.

Bill

beenjamming's picture
beenjamming

Hey firm starter comrades,

I recently purchased artisan baking and decided to build a starter as per maggies instructtions a few weeks ago. it had been very active and i'd gotten a few really tasty loaves out of it. I had been keeping it at room temp and refreshing it about every 12 hours, whenever it looked ready. This past week it's been ridiculously hot (95 in my kitchen all week) and it over ripened a few times aand its no longer sour but smells vaguely alcoholic and tastes a little sweet. Does anyone know how to rescue a starter in this state? Today i used a smaller portion of starter when i refreshed it, but i'm not sure that'll. any help would be appreciated.

thanks,

benji

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Benji, so sorry I did not see your post eariler.  I’m not an expert on this by any means, in fact, I’ve only had my starter for about 6 1/2 months.  Wish bwraith was around because he could answer this for you definitively.  Hopefully he’ll be back online in a short time and we’ll all have answers to this question.  I would venture to say however that if you get an alcoholic smell in your starter it is due to not being fed often enough.  If you search the site on this subject I'm sure you will find your answer.  I am sure it should be the same for a firm starter as for a batter type starter in that regard.   

beenjamming's picture
beenjamming

Hey Zola, don't sweat it.

61/2 months is planty of expertise to me, haha. I've been baking bread for about a year now and had just ventured into sourdough for round 2 when this whole bit happened. I did some looking around on this site and that world wide web contraption and the general consenus was that I had not refreshed my starter enough, but damned if I could find an answer on how to get it back. For four days I halved the amount of fermented starter and used ice water when i refreshed it and it seemed to be on its way to recovery but then I fell asleep one night without feeding it and by the time I had gotten back to it, it was a soupy mess. I threw a good old-fashioned baker's tantrum and like that it was in the garbage. Luckily, I had gotten lazy one day and just stashed some starter in the fridge instead of cleaning out the container, so this week I'm going to try and revive it. Hopefully, things will go well.

benji 

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Zolablue,

I've just converted a portion of one of my starters (from Dan Lepards book - 80% hydration) to become a firmer starter according to the feeding directions from Maggie Glezer you mentioned here (10:30:50). I didn't find the room temperature mentioned anywhere above, and for the summer we have something like 27C at night and 30C during the day, so for now it is just plain hot (and very humid - about 75%...). I'm afraid that if I leave it for the extra 12 hours after it collapes then it might actually be too long, so what I'd like to know is what does your starter look like when those 12 hours are up? Has it risen again? Is it looser than when you started out? Different smell? Any other signs to know when it really should be feed again? Thanks for any advise.

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

L_M – I am not sure Glezer ever states the optimum temperature for keeping a starter at room temperature.  I will have to look for that.  I know that temperature does have an effect on which bacteria are growing and, again, bwraith is the one that has so much in his head about all this.

 

First, I would say to pay more attention to how your starter looks at a certain time rather than going by what time has elapsed.  I was urged to just watch my starter and make sure that it quadruples in 8 hours or less to be optimum for baking.  Then the main thing about refreshing is to make sure it has collapsed and then it is up to your own discretion as to when you think it works best to feed. 

 

For me, my starter will generally quadruple in about 7 hours.  My kitchen is generally ranging from 72°F – 75°F.  I will check it at the 8-hour mark (unless in the wee hours) and then watch its behavior.  It will respond a couple different ways depending on its recent feeding schedule.  Sometimes it just stays domed or it may continue to grow a bit in volume.  I have a habit of picking up the jar to check it after it has quadrupled and often when I do, that will cause it to begin to deflate.  I have noticed sometimes it does start to expand again and this can happen several times.

 

Other times, it will grow to the necessary volume and stay at that point (especially if I leave my hands off it) and then will begin to collapse anywhere from one hour to several hours later.   It just depends on temp, I think, and how long I had waited to refresh it prior times.

My starter always seems to smell the same except when I have not refreshed it for over 24 hours, which I don’t really like to do often.  It then might have the slightest bit of a more sharp scent but even then it is really very sweet smelling and fragrant.  I’m very comfortable with refreshing every 21 – 22 hours because, like you, I just would rather not have it have to work too hard to keep healthy.

 

As far as texture, it starts as the dough ball and as it expands it become very sticky and light and webbed.  Very puffy and airy and gooey. 

 

Please let me know if this helps you at all or if I have not answered you properly.  Again, I’m still new at this but if I can help at all I’d like to try.

 

bc's picture
bc

Hi Zolablue,

I've been using Maggie Glezer's firm starter regularly for over a year now, mostly for Pan de Horiadaki and various rye breads. I have two comments that may interest you.

First of all, there was a period when I was too 'free' with the measurements. Instead of 10g of starter I might take 20g for a refreshment. After some time neither the starter nor the breads were rising properly, although I never had a true failure with the bread. But when I was refreshing for 4 days without getting a quadrupling in volume at all, I tossed the whole thing and started over. Since then I am meticulous with my measurements.

Second, I never discard anything. I put the bits to be discarded into a separate container and either add them to another bread, or just wait until the container is full, and then I use my 'sourdough detritus' for a NYT-style loaf. The results are spectacular.

Best, bc

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I never discard anything. I put the bits to be discarded into a separate container and either add them to another bread, or just wait until the container is full, and then I use my 'sourdough detritus' for a NYT-style loaf. The results are spectacular.

Now that is a great idea BC. After reading this thread earlier today I decided to use 250 grams of starter I would usually toss as the base for a pair of small boules (900 G total). The starter I used was my white sorta firm at about 95% fed clear. The dough rose to double in about 8 hours and I just baked them. I don't always have time to this so a small container would make sense to collect the excess and use it when I have time. Thanks!

Eric

bc's picture
bc

Eric,

How did your boules turn out?

bc 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

It is so interesting that you mention this bread.  It is a recipe I keep wanting to try having not made a single recipe from that book yet.  How do you like it? 

 

I’m afraid with just the two of us I could never use up all my discarded starter even with giving bread weekly to my neighbors.  I do dump it into other recipes whenever I can though.

Out of curiosity, what is the largest volume of discarded starter you've used in a single recipe?

bc's picture
bc

This is a bread that we love. I almost always make the sourdough version. It does require a lot of oil in the pans, however. On occasions when I skimped with oiling the pans, I had real trouble getting the loaves out.

I should add that I live in Switzerland and make this bread with Halbweiss flour. This would be the equivalent of a French type 72, if one existed. I think that it bears some similarities to what Maggie Glezer describes as "high-extraction" flour.

What's the largest amount of discarded starter I have used? I don't always measure, but often I do. I have made a NYT-style pan di Terni, a Tuscan bread without salt, using 450g flour, 380g water, and 370g discarded starter, with a 12-15 hour fermentation.

 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Wow, that is a large amount of discarded starter. Well, I sure bet you got some great flavor from it.  I was under the impression that the discarded starter was only good to use that way for about a week.  Maybe that's not correct.

Your flour sounds so interesting.  I love hearing about the different things available around the world.  One of the most fun things about learning to bake artisan breads has been experimenting with all these different types of flour and I have a long list of "to order" if I ever get around to it.  But I sure do have that Horiadaki on my list of "to bake" and hope I can get around to it soon.

bc's picture
bc

Hi Zolablue,

The overly startered bread was excellent, providing you like a saltless bread. I wouldn't want it every day, but it came close to the excellent bread served in our favorite restaurant in Rome, Trattoria alla Tullio.

As to the amount, please recall that the discarded starter loses potency while it is sitting in the refrigerator without the benefit of regular refreshment. I don't remember if it is the wild yeasts or the acid-producing bacteria that suffer more, but I do believe that you'll get your best bread with a regularly refreshed starter.

Nevertheless, I hate to throw food away, so I just gather the stuff up. I probably had a month or more of discarded starter that time. It does tend to get very gooey, so you need a sufficient quantity of "normal" flour in the recipe to balance it out. The other problem you could encounter is if you save a small amount of starter for two weeks or more. In this case the top dries out. If you are going to use it (I do), you have to take special care to rehydrate the dried out parts.

My flour may be interesting, but my constant problem is that I do not have access to the flours that American cookbooks call for. So I always have to try to compensate for the differences. And my breads often neither look nor taste like those I am copying. But they are good, and that's all that counts, n'est-ce pas?

L_M's picture
L_M

Zolablue thanks for your explanations about what it looks like during the different stages. Somehow I still feel that the golden rule may different if the room temp is much warmer than yours - maybe it should quadruple faster than in 8 hours... so for a few days I'll continue to refesh a few hours after it collapes and I'll keep my eyes open for signs to learn it's behavior.

About those discards - go wild! I never throw any away - just save them in a container in the fridge and put a glob of it into anything that I bake. I can't say that it makes such a difference in the taste but at least it makes me feel better that I haven't thrown any away! Yeast bread, cakes, cookies, casseroles... anything...hmmm...just thought of meat loaf but haven't tried it yet.

I'll let you know how things go

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

The golden rule for a firm starter is always going to be quadrupling in 8 hours or less but the "or less" part is important.  It can obviously quadruple much quicker and that only means you have a very strong starter ready to raise bread dough.  I’m sure your warmer temps contribute to it quadrupling quicker. 

One thing, I noticed, when I first decreased the amount of starter I was keeping to feed from 15g to 10g, it seemed to collapse much quicker.  As temps got warmer and I have been busy working on landscaping I was concerned that I did not have as much time with it using only the 10g and a couple weeks ago I reverted back into my comfort zone of using 15g.  You might actually want to try that and see if it gives you more time. 

  

Then a couple days ago I did the side-by-side test using 10g & 15g to see how they compared and while the 15g mixture rose quicker, by the time the 8 hours had elapsed they were almost identical in volume but the 10g one collapsed quicker.  Just yesterday I tried another experiment using 12g and it quadrupled in 8 hours (instead of its usual 7 hours) but then it took at least another 5 hours to collapse.  So I really have no idea what all this means!

 

My point to you is, why not experiment and see if using a bit more starter to refresh gives you some help since your temps are so warm in your kitchen.  Also, when I know I am going to be unable to refresh it when I wish to, I stick it into the fridge.  Then when I go to refresh it the next day it often has gotten some kind of boost from that - I have no idea why.  I think a lot of this is just a mystery.  Who knows what all those little boogers are doing in there!  :o)

 
browndog's picture
browndog

like a stray dog you take in 'just for one night' I seem to have adopted a firm starter. After looking over this thread, I'm confused about when ideally it's ready to use. Mine quadruples in 6 1/2-7 hours, I let it ripen til it's nearly or actually collapsed, another couple hours or so, then I make my levain. Do I understand from these notes that it should be sitting another 10-12 hours after quadrupling, before using? Or is that just for refreshing?

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Your starter is ready to use as soon as it is able to quadruple in 8 hours time or less.  You have accomplished that!  The peak time of ripeness is just when it has started to collapse but you can use it any time as long as it has begun to collapse.

For use in a recipe, in Glezer's first book she wants you to have refreshed the starter within the last 8 hours but in her second book she extends that to 12.  I have used my starter hours after it has been refreshed, risen fully and then collapsed and it has always worked extremely well.  So you can see you have quite a lot of flexibility there.

The confusion may be in that you have a longer period of time after the starter has collapsed before you need to feed it again.  Depending on variables you have up to 12 hours (I've gone longer) after your firm starter has collapsed before it needs to be refreshed.  Hope this helps but if not please let me know and I'll check back in tomorrow.  :o)

browndog's picture
browndog

Thanks, Zolablue, that clears it up nicely--I'd call that good news, too. I thought maybe I'd been putting it to work several hours too soon.

Didn't expect to like this firm starter but something about it keeps me hooked. Probably because it is a good performer--I might not be so taken if it needed intensive care. And it's another excuse to play with dough. Now if only my breads would be as obliging!

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I have been watching this thread for a few days and it makes me wonder if you aren't getting some of the benefits of the second stage of the Detmold-3 process. In the DM-3 which has been written about and popularised by Samartha here in the US, the second stage is very firm. He says that the slightly warmer (74-82 F) temp coupled with the 66% hydration encourages the growth of the LB's which helps the flavor or sour. I have also observed that the starter is very vigorous and when used with AP flours gives a great rise. As I understand it the yeast will live happily beside the LB's if encouraged to propagate. Perhaps it is the combination of the two types of bacteria growing that makes a firm starter so effective.

Samartha has a calculator that allows you to build up a certain amount of starter for any given size loaf and percentage of rye/wheat. I've found that it works equally well for wheat based flours while using the rye starter. I'm convinced that it's the hydration and 24 hours time that affects the growth of the LB's and not the temp. It's worth looking at just to understand how it works. http://samartha.net/SD/ 

Eric

L_M's picture
L_M

Zolablue, this is all a mystery to me...I wish someone would invent some sort of special glasses for the home bakers (not a microscope) that when you wear them you can see what is actually going on inside of the starter - yeast would be one colour, and maybe another colour for each of the different bacteria... but in the meantime back to real life!

Alas, I am also guilty of always picking it up to check how it is rising and I was actually very surprised that it was so fragile (much more so than my other starters at 100% and 80% hydration) and it collaped before I thought it had finished rising. And, surprisingly enough it didn't even rise again. I think I'll stick with the 10 gr at feeding time for the next few days simply because I want to keep it constant so I can monitor any changes, but after that if I'm not happy with the results I'll go to the 15 gr like you suggested. So far it hasn't even quadrupled yet, so it looks like I still have some waiting to do.

For it's last feeding I had left it for 12 hours on the counter after it collapsed (when I picked it up) and then I stashed it in the fridge for another 7 hours, so maybe that was a bit too extreme / maybe not ... by feeding time it did smell alot like yeasty beer and the texture was still quite stiff, so I hope it's ok. They are promising a heat wave for the next few days so I'm going to keep an eye on things that I don't overdo the counter time.

As before, my goal is to make a very mild loaf and so far with my other starters no matter what I've tried, the flavour of the bread is always very intense.  Maybe this is a winner! Thanks again.

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

L_M – You mentioned your starter being fragile so I wanted to point out that my starter does not collapse even when I pick it up until after it has already quadrupled.  When it is growing it seems pretty strongly domed until it becomes fully expanded and that is when it can collapse from a light touch but it is already very airy by then.

 

I think what you are doing sounds ok but you just need more time and feeding at your ratios until it quadruples.  I will say, I never did go down to 10g (from 15g) until it was able to quadruple at that ratio (15:30:50).  Then when I took it down to 10:30:50 it did not quadruple right away and that’s why I at first abandoned the 10g and went back to the 15g.  Then when I decided I needed to take it down again to the 10g, it quadrupled in, I think, 2 feedings. At any rate, you should be able to get it strong enough to get to quadruple and once you learn how it best likes to be fed that will happen.  Again, for me, I had to give it more time in between feedings to strengthen it.

 

As far as the flavor, I really cannot seem to make a very sour loaf, which for me is good.  I know that goes against everything you read about the firm starter but I think it is oft simply repeated and not known by personal experience.  I’m very happy with the flavor my starter imparts to bread because I prefer the more mild tasting sourdough.  It has always had the most incredible, sweet fragrance – wish I could describe it better.  Hang in there and please let me know if there is anything else I can help with and I’ll try.

 

Oh, thought I should say I’m really back to the 10g myself.  It seemed to hold its strength longer than the 15g one I made in the side-by-side experiment yesterday.  So that was good.  You just never know!

 

Browndog – glad you are having good luck with the firm starter.  It really gives you so much more flexibility. 

 

Eric – I will check out your link.  If it states though that the firm starter makes more sour bread that is not correct.  I can only speak from my own starter but it produces consistently very mild and flavorful sourdough breads.  I’m not sure what all is going on in there but whatever it is I like it.  :o)  My starter seems to be extremely happy and there must be some wild party going on with whomever the invited guests are as they seem to be a really compatible group.

 

One thing I have found, is that it seems to raise my bread dough must quicker than often stated in recipes.  That is how I discovered, finally, that I was way overproofing my doughs and having so much trouble getting proper slashes.   I still have to work on that because sometimes I just don't want to believe what I'm seeing thinking it is too quick.  But if I pay better attention and notice that it is really raising my doughs so much quicker I get better bread.  Oy! :o)

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Zolablue,

The relationship between time and flavor can't be ignored. If your starter rises your bread quickly in your particular kitchen environment, perhaps you should try using less starter to stretch out the ferment time and further improve the flavor. Or, you could try and lower the temp of the final dough to slow it down. My breads are always better when I start with a smaller inoculation of starter. The same thing you are discussing above when you changed your feeding routine from 10 g to 15 g and got different results, is happening in the final dough. What ever the combination or ratio of yeast/LB's is in your starter, it seems to be a very active culture.

There are sooo many variables that will affect outcome and then your own determination of the "perfect flavor" is really indescribable. The best you can hope for is to be able to reliably predict the outcome of your ferment in a given time by managing the variables under your control.  I'm still amazed that I can raze a formula with 1200 grams of flour, using a scant 15 gram's of starter. This stuff is prolific!

L_M, the thing about your starter being sensitive: That might have more to do with the type of flour being used to feed. I have gone to using first clear flour for feedings in my white semi-firm and it's very strong. Maybe Zolablue mentions what she uses above, I don't recall at the moment. That would be an important distinction.

Eric

L_M's picture
L_M

Zolablue, I will certainly hang in there if mine will also be fast rising and sweet smelling like yours. My starters are all slow and my bread always takes longer than the recipe states it should - just the opposite from yours. I have a feeling that's why the flavour is always so intense. So far today I've managed to keep my hands off, and it has now reached a bit more than triple in 9 hours, and it looks like it is still on the rise, but I'm going to sleep so I won't really know what happens during the night.

 Eric thanks for posting that link and now that you have mentioned this info, I'm very interested to see what flavour mine will produce.

Hopefully only a few more days before it'll be strong enough to bake with.

L_M

L_M's picture
L_M

Things are looking good - starter is rising faster by now, and isn't so fragile anymore.

 Eric you may be right about the differences in flour, but I really don't have too much choice around here. Both AP and bread flour have 11% protein and there is not very much info on the flour bag itself, but I have made sourdough breads before and the dough does hold out well. I think what happened was the first and second feedings were according to the instructions but I forgot to take into account that my starter was looser to begin wiith and therefore it didn't really end up at 60% hydration. When it had risen to just over triple it collapsed when I moved it, so it does sound reasonable to me that a looser starter just wasn't as sturdy.

So far I've had the best luck as far as taste and having the dough rise within with the suggested time in the recipe, using a very small amount of starter - the recipe I've used is the one Sourdough-guy posted here and it sounds like the same idea as you mentioned Eric - very easy as well!

L_M

ehanner's picture
ehanner

That one step sd formula from SDG is a keeper. To be honest I am always in such a rush to get things done that it seems like I never give myself time to use the small amount of starter he calls for. I'll use 200 g instead of 15 so I can bake later that day. It's still pretty good bread but if I just follow the formula and allow 16-20 hours (less in the heat) it is remarkable bread and so easy. It's sort of like a NYT for those who aren't afraid to shape dough really. Everyone should have a good reliable formula that you can knock out every time with no worries. That's it for me.

Eric

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

L_M, my starter ( now a few years old) was very slow to begin with - it didn't quadruple as I got tired of waiting and used it after about 10 hours.The  dough took ages to rise ( up to 18 hours) but the resultant loaves were excellent with a full, almost lemony flavour. Over the course of the first year the starter became more and more vigorous and quick, but the flavour became less noticeably sour, unless I purposely retarded the dough rising by putting it in the fridge. However, I really don't mind the less sour flavours I am now getting - it is bread that suits my taste well! 
Zolablue, my starter is also robust like yours - it doesn't collpapse easily if at all! I've done as you suggest and tried Glezers 10 grams - which works, quadruples in about 5 hours and it crests eventually - but I've gone back to my more haphazard approach with 20 grams starter 30 water and 50 flour,letting that sit for 8 hours then adding 100 grams of water and 100 of flour, letting that sit over night and adding to that for the final dough the next morning for a loaf I can bake that evening. It works really well for me and because it is a routine which fits very well with my working hours, is easier than waiting for the starter to crest etc.
Eric, what is the one step formula from SDG? Do I take it that a small amount of starter is added to the full amount of flour / water / salt for the final dough in one go? If so - sounds interesting! What about kneading / folding etc?
Thanks
Andrew

L_M's picture
L_M

First let me say that I don't know high the starter rose and how long it took during the night, but it had collapsed by this morning. Today at 23 hours after the last feed I checked the ph and it was 3.64 so I hope that is a good sign. Now that it got fed again I'm waiting for it to quadruple (hopefully),  then I'll use some of the starter to make the dough but I won't feed the rest of it until tomorrow morning. That way I'm hoping to get a mild loaf, but not feed the starter too soon. Does it sound like a good/bad idea? All comments welcome!!

Andrew, if I may answer your question - yes that is basically the idea. No kneading necessary, just a fold or 2 along the way after an hour or so, and maybe one more an hour later if you are around. Very, very convenient once you know how much starter to use to have the dough ready to bake when you want it. Try it - you might get hooked.

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Eric - I think if you haven’t kept a firm starter you can’t appreciate how strong they are which is why you only need a very small amount to raise dough. The recipes I’ve used written specifically for firm starters are all in the range of 25g – 35g firm starter. There is definitely a difference in rise times during cold winter months compared to hot summer months but that is simply the nature of sourdough.  I feed my starter with only King Arthur bread flour which has a protein level of 12.7%.

 

L_M – I would think your flour is fine. Hamelman’s book states to feed with white bread flour containing a protein level of 11% to 12%.

 

I’m not sure I would wait quite that many hours after the last feed unless I knew it had easily quadrupled in the proper time frame.  Once it quadruples that simply shows you how strong it has become and it can easily take that extra time before you refresh it.  But I would be tempted to feed it a little more often just until you can see it really gaining strength.  That would be my advice.  But I’m sure you can bake bread with it at this point no matter what.  Just continue feeding and allow it to build its strength.  I think you’ll find no matter what you do it will be a very flavorful starter and never harsh or acidic.

 

Andrew – Yes, my starter is also very robust and fast and I really have no idea why.  But it is a good thing, eh?

L_M's picture
L_M

Well the plan did work, and I must say that even though the dough's rising times were slightly faster than before, the taste of the bread was still very intense - not at all harsh or acidic but I'd still prefer it to be milder. So far the starter only reaches around triple so I'm hopeful that if I just continue feeding it will get stronger and that will speed things up and the flavour will be milder. 

Zolablue I'm a bit confused from your last comment about not waiting too long before it's next feeding, as I understood that waitng the extra time after it collapses is actually good for a starter that is not that strong yet - making sure not to overfeed. BUT, in a strong starter that already works according to the golden rule, waiting the extra time is a convenient option.  Did I misunderstand you, or is that correct?

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Yes, you are right that it is very easy to overfeed a firm starter when you are trying to get it going, at least that is my experience and as I noted above (which you're also probably referring to) is that Glezer herself said she has killed many starters this way.

 

I thought I understood that your starter was only tripling  in 9 hours and because you said it was very fragile I assumed it was collapsing shortly after that or that you could not know since it would have been during the night.  Then if you were feeding it only once every 23 hours you could be waiting up to 14 hours after the collapse before feeding.  That can and does work for me although sometimes when I really push it over several days I can tell my starter needs to beef up a twee bit.  So I was only talking about 1 - 3 hours sooner feeding as a possibility. 

 

Again, you know best by simply watching the behavior and you can tell if it is gaining strength or not.  It just goes to show there is no hard and fast rule about having to watch the clock; rather watch your starter and feed to keep it going the way you want it to.  And I definately notice more of a lag if I feed it too soon rather than later.  Gosh, I hope that helped and isn't just more confusing. 

L_M's picture
L_M

Zolablue I think everything is clear, but now that I see you are concerned about pushing the limit for only 1 -3 hours, I'm really wondering whether I can go by other signs rather than just the clock. This is what I've noticed so far... it now takes about 7 - 8 hours to triple and doesn't seem to rise any higher than that. At that point the top is in a very nice strong dome and not fragile at all.  It will stay like that for another hour or so and then it starts to look a bit torn in a few spots and the surface starts to look rumpled. That is the point I've been calling  "collapse". From then on it starts to lose height very slowly but still keeps the rumply domed surface and this can go on for about 8 - 9 hours. Then it will flatten out and finally start to sink down and there will be high marks on the container. (So far this firm starter has never picked itself up to rise again like the looser ones would after they sank down.) After this final "sink" there would still be about 2 hours left before the 12 hours from the start of the collapse was up.  I wait those 2 hours, then feed. Now I'm wondering...if that wasn't too long. What do you think - do you let yours get to the sinking point? I agree, it sound better to go by signs rather than the clock.  Thanks again for taking the time to explain this to me.

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Sounds like you are right on track if your starter is now tripling by 1 - 2 hours faster.  You are simply buildig up its strength so I think you should keep doing it the way you have been.  I know it really took me several weeks to get my starter to quadruple even after it had easily tripled and I thought at that time it was because my outdoor temps here were simply so frigid.  Once it happens it will just happen and astound you!  It is actually exciting. 

 

If you scroll up this thread to my photos you will see in the last one where it has collapsed.  That photo was taken at the point where it had just collapsed as it will actually flatten out or sink slightly in the center after more time.  I don't think I have ever noticed high marks on my container because it always sticks to the sides and flattens in the area that has domed.  That could just be due to the container I use though.

 

I really never noticed any second or third rise until it had been quadrupling (and quintupling) for some time and then, as I said, only after I would handle it.  And I really don't  think that means anything important anyway.  It was simply an observation.

 

You are doing it right so keep on going but make sure you keep us informed.  It's cool you are giving it a try.

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Zolablue, this is getting exciting! Today it took only 6 -7 hours to triple, so it really looks like it is getting stronger - no signs of it growing any higher yet, but don't worry I have a lot of patience. As long as I'm sure it's going in the right direction I'll keep at it.

I think maybe "high marks" wasn't the right choice of words because it is really more like you have described - sticking to the sides and the part that was domed sinks down (quite a lot), but if that also happens to yours before you feed it, then I'm not worried.

If quintupling is going to happen, that will really be amazing!

Keep you posted...

L_M

L_M's picture
L_M

Each day it got faster but still only made it to triple, but today....it took only about 4 1/2 hours to triple, and now at 7 hours the top of the dome is at quintuple and still looks very smooth. The only change I made today was that I wanted to clean out the other container so I put it in a different one that is much wider, so maybe there is a connection between the shape of the container and the higher rise, and maybe it was just the right time for it to take off... probably I'll experiment in a narrow container sometime again.

Now I feel that I've joined in the world of sourdough. I don't know why it hasn't worked until now, but I've been trying to get a really active starter going for such a long time.

Now for the fun part - which is your favourite recipe, and do you make any adjustments?

I still can't believe that it has passed the golden standard rule!

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Wow, L_M, that is fabulous!  See, it simply takes a bit of patience.  You must have quite an active group of microorganisms built up if it is already quintupling.  That’s awesome.

 

I think Bill mentioned that he noticed an improvement as well when he changed containers.  I can’t answer how that may impact it though.

 

The other thing I was going to mention (which now doesn't sound like you need to know) is how I mix the starter and use a small whisk (which I outlined in detail on bwraith’s blog about starter maintenance) to beat the starter and water mixture into a foam.  It almost gets to the soft peak stage and I think that really helps to keep those little boogers active in the culture.

 

Now, about my favorite recipes.  There are so many but the first four that come to mind are Thom Leonard boule (I’m baking that recipe today), Essential’s Columbia, Vermont Sourdough, and quickly becoming my weekly standard sourdough is bwraith’s Sourdough Pagnotta.  I just love the texture of that bread and the flavor is outstanding.  I play around with the ingredients to sometimes add a bit more WW or rye and I also have taken to forming 3 batards instead of the rounds because I think it is easier to use for toast.

 

Bill’s Sourdough Pagnotta:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2961/sourdough-pagnotta

 

While some recipes call for a very large amount of starter I generally like to use a small amount because it really isn’t necessary to use a lot of this starter. I have used larger amounts though, to humor Bill (hehe), and it really makes no difference to me in the taste of the bread.

 

I do like to make the overnight levains so if a recipe calls for a 100% hydration starter I refresh mine by a formula of 16:44:40 in the amount that will give me the total weight of starter for a particular recipe.   Other times I just use a formula that has worked well such as the levain for the Thom Leonard boules.  I don’t get too technical if I can help it and I’ve pretty much decided that as long as you can judge the consistency of your dough and you know you have enough starter to raise your bread and that you add enough salt to compensate for any extra flour added in a firm starter you are good to go.

 

I've even made a wonderful sourdough ciabatta in one day that was fabulous just by tossing stuff together.  If I remember that correctly I started about 1:00 pm and had ciabatta and a couple hamburger buns from the dough by dinner time.  As I recall I was out of fresh bread and could not stand not having more that day so I did the quick version...hehe.  That firm starter is so active and so flavorful it has made my breads taste delicious.  I hope you have the same luck with yours as I have with mine.

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

I keep telling myself I will get around to making the other breads, truly I do! But we just love that darned bread so much that it has become our weekly bread! I do still make "incidentals" like sourdough English muffins, sourdough pancakes, sourdough pita bread (TDF), and sourdough pizza and just recently thanks to browndog, I made crumpets for the first time evah!

But for bread, I'm stuck in a bread rut and the pagnotta either plain or with different add ins is phenomenally awesome and easy!

 Congrats on your new babies L_M!!!!!! Have fun!!!

zolablue's picture
zolablue

First, BZ, I totally agree with you on the pagnotta.  I keep making versions of it using a bit more rye and WW and it is so fabulous every single time. I don't even mind that it is not an open-crumb bread.  It is simply the most creamy and wonderful crumb with fabulous flavor.  Sounds crazy, I know, but I really love that bread.   And even though I learned on high hydration doughs and love them I do reduce the water a bit.

 

I'm baking Vermont Sourdough again today for a change and baked a wonderful Thom Leonard recipe using Golden Buffalo and it was to die for!  Anyway, I must know what pita recipe you made.  I've been looking at recipes in Glezer's Blessing of Bread book for sourdough pita.  What is yours?  Sounds like you have been doing some wonderful baking!

L_M's picture
L_M

Yes I really am very happy that I've finally got it a starter with happy critters.  The first step I do is to dissolve and fluff up the the starter with the water just the same way as you have mentioned Zolablue, and I do that as well with my 100% hydration starters - I'm always amazed at how fluffy it gets with a whisk.

Thanks for the recipe suggestions, and the conversion ratio for a 100% hydration starter will come in very handy since I'm always playing around with recipes! Yesterday I was very busy so  the only time I got into the kitchen to start the dough was at 12:00 last night. I mixed together a 1/2 batch of Sourdough-guy's one step method dough, and I just had to guess how much of this starter to use, since it is now very active, and taking into account the heat - sometimes with and sometime without AC on... I ended up using 6 grams of starter (for almost 500 grams flour) and luckily it worked out in perfect timing, 15 hours from mix to bake. I haven't tasted it yet but it looks very good. So far I have stayed away from including WW and WR flour because I understand that it can emphasize the sourness in bread (and I was getting so much  of it with only white flour), so now I will be able to experiment freely.

I still find it hard to believe that the starter rises so quickly - now I can finally relax and enjoy it instead of wondering all the time how to get it moving!

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I have to credit Bill with giving me that ratio.  You know I'm not a math head and always whining about it.  :o)  I am happy to experiment and put in the amount I wish and adjust the water based on how I want the dough to feel.  That's not scientific but it works.

 

I'm anxious to hear how your loaf tasted.  I sure hope you can get the flavors you're looking for.  I don't know how much the starter contributes to that but at least you will have a way to compare how one works against the other.

 

Oh, just a note, I have never noticed whole grains adding to the sourness of my bread.  The only time I did notice a terrible sourness (in fact, I tossed it all to the birdies) was my first attempt at 100% WW sourdough but I realize now I let that dough WAY overproof in bulk and then WAY overproof in the shaped loaves.  Uck - bad bread!  I swore I would never make it again.

 

But l mentioned above I just bought the special high extraction WW Golden Buffalo flour from Hearland Mill in Kansas which I believe is the exact flour Thom Leonard now uses for this bread in his bakery and it was fabulous.  I have learned to not let things ferment so long and that is making a heap of difference in the look of my loaves.  It is just scary to try something vastly different but you have to make yourself or you'll never know.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

...for me, a much better and happier starter.  I have to say this even though its probably going to sound like I'm schizo for going back and forth but how can we learn without at least experimenting.  

 

I have gone back to using 15 grams starter for my maintenance and I'm going to stick with this for the duration.  I have made about 3 serious attempts at taking my starter down to using 10 grams for maintenance but that has simply not proved as predictable for me.  Once I did this again a few days ago, it was fine at first but then slowly started decreasing in strength to the point where I was very worried I had really screwed up my starter.  And I love my starter.

 

So I decided it simply is not worth it for me.  It is much better to be smarter for my starter; considering my flour and environment to feed it at 15g starter:30g water:50g flour and it will remain strong and very active and I can predict extremely well its behavior both in the qualities necessary for the starter itself and for the doughs I'm baking. 

 

Just wanted to pass this info along to others who might read this.  Don't worry about competing in any way with regards to what works for your own starter and do what serves it and you and your bread the best.  :o)

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

are gorgeous!! The roses, OMG!

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I appreciate that but it reminds me I have a ton of photos to get on that site.  I have just been dragging my feet because of the time it takes.  Ugh.  (lol)

L_M's picture
L_M

So sorry about that -  don't want you to think I was ignoring you!!!

The flavour of the loaf was excellent - even a few days later (toasted) it wasn't too sour, so now I'm very pleased with the results.

I have to go now, but I'll continue tomorrow...

L_M

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Thanks for the update zolablue.  I'm realizing that I really need to get a better scale. It's pretty hard for me to read anything less than an ounce with much accuracy.

L_M's picture
L_M

Zolablue that is really interesting that your starter is so set in it's ways - got a mind of it's own!

So far I've been very lucky with mine and now since it has passed it's golden test, I keep it in the fridge unless I think I'll use it within a day or so. The last time it was in the fridge for 5 days and then I just refreshed as usual - 10: 30: 50 ( actually I use only half that amount to maintain so it really is  5:15:25) and it performed beautifully - quadruple in 6 hours and quintuple (the very top of the dome) in 7 hours,  then stayed there for another hour or 2 and slowly started to shrink but was still domed. At that time I either use some - but don't feed the rest of it yet - it or put it all in the fridge again, so it seems like it is happy with that sort of pattern. I hope this is ok because none of this as been going on for a really long period of time yet.

As for the wwflour giving a sour taste - this is just what I've read and not from personal experience, so I was steering clear of it until I was sure my starter was in great shape. As a matter of fact the loaf I made was Pain au levain from "Bread" , and I decided to start with that one because of the footnote saying how mild it was, and it does call for some rye flour but the only rye flour available here is whole rye. The bread was the mildest sourdough I've made yet, (and very good) so I'll increase the amount of whole grains  as I go along.

A few days ago my oven went on strike - I think I over did it with the steam... until the repairman comes on Sunday I won't be able to bake anything, and now I realize how much I enjoy and miss it!

 KipperCat, I don't think I'd be able to manage working with such a small amount of starter without a scale that measures per 1 gram.

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

L_M!  That is awesome!  Aren't you happy to now have a great, strong starter that is so darn easy to maintain?  Great to hear and just keep doing what you are doing because it is obviously responding very well. 

 

Interestingly, I notice more of a difference in flour types now that I'm baking more WW breads.  I guess I should say I think that is what I'm noticing, having just purchased some new wheat flours, but it also could just be the recipes and the proofing times.  If WW gets anywhere close to overproofing it definately makes more sour bread.  I have recently made both Hamelman miche recipes and have decided I won't repeat either of them.  As a contrast I just made the Thom Leonard boules (which I make often) but this time with the Heartland Mill Golden Buffalo and, man, they were superb in every way.  After baking yesterday in this terrible heat I decided why bake something else that just simply isn't going to be as good but I am glad I tried them so I know.  It is getting hotter here by the day and I think I'm putting baking on hold for a few as well.  It is going to be hard because I have the new Leader book and I'm dying to make some of his recipes.

 

Kippercat, I agree I could not do without my scales.  I found two wonderful Escali scales; one for my general baking and the other is an Escali pocket scale so I can weigh even the tiniest amounts of yeast and salt.  They are both very inexpensive but very accurate scales.  I have a 50g weight that comes with the pocket scale to test their accuracy which is really nice. 

slaughlin's picture
slaughlin

So I was able to convert my batter type starter to a firm starter and did get down to the 10-30-50 ratio.  It did great and I made some great bread with it but how often do I need to refresh it?(my batter starter takes a massive amount of neglect)  I also assume that normal storage in the old fridge is appropriate.  Any info is appreciated.

steve

browndog's picture
browndog

Hi, Steve. Zolablue is ceo of firm starter inc, but here's my two bits til she gets here. My firm starter sits neglected in the fridge right along side my batter type, until it's time for some bread. Then I feed it every twelve hours til it's quadrupling under eight again. Earlier in this l-o-n-g thread was a discussion about the ideal feeding schedule, twenty-four hour stretches being perhaps a better option, but I have luck with the twelve. Usually it's awake in a couple days.

slaughlin's picture
slaughlin

also seems to come to life with 12 hour feedings.  Im not sure why but was just a bit confused on the 24 hour schedule.  If I wait that long I usually have a mess. Thanks for the input  p.s sorry about the double post and the bold font, not sure what I did

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

frozen firm starter.  We shall see what happens...  Mini O

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I think it sounds like you're doing the right thing which is watch your own starter and go by how it reacts to how you are feeding it.  That's how I have been able to learn what works with mine.

 

Browndog is right, if you can slog your way through this thread you'll find all the information has been posted about what some of us do.  Browndog is sweet but I'm not really expert on this starter at all.  It is just the method I chose.  After searching this site and spending hours reading sourdough threads I could not find a single post about a firm starter.  I did find a lot of conflicting information about batter starters and only became more confused.  I was such a novice then (still am) I just had to make a decision and I loved the info in the Glezer book and decided the firm starter made a lot of sense for the breads I wished to begin with.  Little did I know this would turn out to be an incredible solution so I'm glad I trusted Glezer and made this recipe. 

Good luck!  It is so much fun to bake sourdough.

L_M's picture
L_M

Good luck getting that firm starter going again Mini Oven - if it works then for sure I'm going to freeze some of mine as emergency back up. I still have no idea why this is the only starter I could get into a healthy state - all the other liquid ones never had enough strength or speed. Both the flour and water are the same so it I'm now totally convinced that even though I tried everything I could think of, in the end I was still either over or under feeding them, and therefore I couldn't get the right balance of critters. Anyhow I'm sticking with this firm one!

Zolablue since you love the Thom Leonard recipe so much, I'm going to give it a try. Mind you it may be quite different than yours since I'll be using local flour. If I remember correctly, somewhere someone mentioned that the original recipe calls for 30 grams of stiff starter and not 45 grams liquid as posted in mountaindog's personal notes - hope that's right. Just out of curiousity, did you mix with a mixer or by hand? I'll try to pay special attention not to overproof.

I think the only thing that may drive me crazy with this firm starter is figuring out how much of it to use in place of a liquid starter, since it seems to be more potent. I like to start a recipe at night and in the morning make the dough, but with this heat I think it's best to build up with the firm one (because it can last longer), even if the recipe calls for a liquid one. Hopefully after a few tries I'll get into the rythum.

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

L_M - Do you have the recipe as written in ABAA?  It calls for 25g firm starter mixed with 140g water and 140g flour the night before.  If you don't have the recipe I can give you the info - not sure if it is posted exactly on the site.

 

I love my stand mixer and would not be without it.  I have done some breads by hand and I love to feel the dough but many recipes, and this is one, that is a bear to do by hand.  I did it once - omg!  It is a lot of dough. 

 

I don't think it is critical converting a recipe using this starter.  That's another reason I like it so much.  I just pretend it is like commercial yeast because it is so predictable you can really learn to time risings.  I pay more attention to the look of the dough when I'm deciding how much water to put in.  I guess that is not the proper way - not to figure accurate percentages - but that has always worked well for me.  Once you have an established firm starter and start baking with it you'll see what I'm talking about. 

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Zolablue, the only recipe I have is from this site so thanks for letting me know and I've now made a note about the different amounts as you have mentioned above - is there anything else?

I made it once (using only 1/4 of the recipe for my first try) and the flavour was very nice but I still have some things to work on with the texture...at least now I'm not afraid that I have to get everything done quickly before it gets too sour - it doesn't - the flavour is mild (even with the ww and w rye flour) and I'm so happy about that because it was my main concern all along. I'm not sure whether I slightly overproofed on the final rise - in some places it looked like it was starting to rip - or it was because the flour is weak, but it sort of sighed when I slashed even though it felt like it was at the same stage as it usually does. Next time I'm going to add a bit of gluten because the stongest flour here has 11% protein, and although it works and gives a nice rise and delicate crumb for yeasted dough and also for sourdough with all white flour, I think the addition of the whole grain flours may have been just a bit too much for it to support.  

I see what you mean about using it like yeast, but I still have trouble believing it's actually going to work so I'm still a bit too uptight about it all - trying to work out the timing for all of the recipes, and then of course the math... I would love to just calm down and I'm sure that after a few good loaves I'll take a deep breath and start to enjoy the magic.

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I have also made some modifications just as Mountaindog did so successfully.  I think that's another reason I like that recipe so much - no matter how you make it the bread is wonderful.  I absolutely loved the bread making it with the proper high-extraction flour - so wonderful and big puffy boules.  I did not photo those but will next time I make them. 

I did type up the entire recipe as written from the book yesterday and maybe I should post that in a blog so we can keep this on the starter.  (I take it you don't have the book?)

I'm so happy for you that you have made some mild tasting bread.  Wow, that's really super.  I will say that if your dough looked like it was starting to rip, in my short experience, that is overproofing.  I found out much the same way (finally) quite by accident and it was due to my starter being stronger so I was waiting too long.  I also had the same thing happen when slashing and my loaves would spread out and take a big sigh. :o)  I thought my slashing was the problem but then realized it was more about overproofing.  I find the poke test tells me more and once I started putting loaves in the oven sooner I had better looking bread.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

 

that my thawed out firm starter just lies there. It's been a few days, it is now a liquid but neither smells like anything or trying to pop my ziplock. The mixture was 25g starter, 50 g water and 125g flour, frozen (-18°c) after 3 days in the refrigerator. It does have bubbles but not active ones. No signs of separation, contamination or mold. Time to thaw out another one and find my notes on it. 

Dug them all out of the freezer.  Found some frozen grapes too, munch on 'em while thinking...

Let's see, the stuff was ripe... maybe, so therefore no growth.  The "no smell" is beginning to get to me...  one would think it would really be ripe and stinky by now...  just dissolved a teaspoon of the starter (and it has the same consistancy of a ripe starter) in 100g water and add 100g flour.  Update late tonight ... or whenever.... does freezing kill the stink beasties?  (I can see spock raising an eyebrow.)  --Mini

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

It could have fooled me! All frothy now and just to test it's strength, put in a little rye. Pop! Got action. Guess that Chinese AP white wheat just loves to surprise me. It never did rise much without an egg white. Still doesn't smell like anything other than wet flour. Now to bake something with it...hope I didn't take the sour out. Let's see that's almost a kilo of thick ripe starter without any sour smell. No, I won't taste it or waste it. Eric? Pizza dough? ... and lots of it?  Gosh, maybe I should dry some and hang on to this new developement.  Wierd.   --Mini O

ehanner's picture
ehanner

So now that you have this commune of yeasties growing and ranting, raise some of Bills Ciabatta or some other holey concoction. What's the deal with the egg white?

Eric

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Perfect!  And I just opened some black olives too!  Mini Oven

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Did you freeze the starter without dryinng it?  It sounds like it has bounced back whatever you did but do you also know you can keep a firm starter refrigerated and unattended for a very long time?  I posted earlier in this thread about Glezer having had one of hers in the fridge unfed for 3 years and after only 5 refreshments she was baking bread with it.  So no need to freeze it but your experiment is very interesting!  Tell me what you did exactly.

L_M's picture
L_M

Glad to hear that something is happening.  So was this latest concoction just from one feeding? Does it look like it still needs a bit of refreshing before actually making bread? These firm starters seem to made out of strong stuff! Good luck with using up what you've got so far - if you put it in the fridge you can just take your time and add some of it to everything you bake.

Frozen grapes...sounds lie a nice snack!

L_M

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

OK. I froze my firm starter because I was leaving my husband alone with the fridge for 2 months and thought it might get thrown out. I had to find my notes on this stuff and glad everything got written down under the forum topic: Firm starter 5° back in April. Now I know why there's no smell. Eric, you and I are growing too much calcium in the brain... Now how do I make a link?

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2714/firm-starter-5

or Here 

L_M's picture
L_M

if you could post the recipe and your modifications since I don't have that book.

I made the Pain au levain again and this time cut down on the time of the final proof and the result was better. I always use the poke test and that's why I was surprised that the dough looked ripped the last time - the poke was still ok, but obviously it was too long for that dough, and I imagine it probably would have been better not to slash at all.

I'm repeatedly getting good flavour from this starter now, but I'm still not happy with the texture of the bread. It isn't dense, but my yeasted breads of the same type are  lighter.  I found the posts Mariana made about this subject (in the thread about SAF yeast) very interesting and I'm wondering if waiting so long before feeding the starter after it collapses, (and also I have let the starter for the bread collapse and wait a bit before starting to make the dough with it) isn't contributing to weakness of the dough at oven time...it sounds very logical to me I'd like to give her method a try so I can compare. 

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

L_M, I have used my starter at all various times and never has it posed a problem.  I think sourdough bread is just a different texture.  The lightest, creamiest crumb I've made with sourdough so far is the pagnotta.  I have made a few adjustments that I prefer which includes using 75g WW and 90g rye with the bread and AP flours.  Then I have cut the water down as well and the result is wonderful.

I'm not familiar with the recipe you're using but that would be more the culprit of the texture of your bread and not the starter, as far as I know.   Again, sourdough requires a bit more patience and observation than yeast breads, at least for me so far.

I have been so busy this weekend I didn't get the recipe posted.  I'll get it done today. 

L_M's picture
L_M

Zolablue, I was delighted to read that you use AP, WW and rye flour in your sourdough pagnotta - that gives me hope... I reread Bwraith's blog to get some background on the recipe and I do have Sourdough-guy's original recipe printed out, so it looks like I'm all ready - but - how much of your firm starter do you start out with to keep approx. within the times suggested in the recipe? You also mentioned that you decreased the water - just a few grams or quite a bit? I might add a bit of oil because my crowd likes a softish crust.

 The Pain au levain recipe is from Jeffrey Hamelman's "Bread" pg.158, and I'm sure the 'culprit' is me and not the recipe. I still am not yet familiar enough with sourdough to know in which stages it's ok (or not) that the dough feels different from a yeasted dough, and that's why it's hard for me to tell if I'm doing something wrong. It seems like nothing can replace experience...

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

I've been following along and wanted to toss out this basic recipe. It's very much along the lines of ZB's thoughts about less water, firm starter, etc., which is not an accident, as I've been trying her firm starter for some time now and getting good results. This recipe is somewhat like VT sourdough w/rye and WW. Or, it's like that pagnotta recipe, but with a firm starter, a levain, and less water, and some rye/WW.

I have recently used SDI starters, by the way, just trying them out. The "SF Sourdough" and the "French" have both resulted in very nice breads using the recipe below. I maintain them in a firm consistency, Glezer style, at the moment.

Recipe:

Levain - 50g firm starter, 120g flour, 120g water - let rise by double, then rise for one hour more, then refrigerate for use the next day in the dough.

Dough - Levain from above, 600g water, 10g malt syrup (optional), 60g rye flour, 90g whole wheat flour, 700g AP flour, 19g salt. Mix thoroughly in bowl or mixer. Let sit 1/2 hour. Knead briefly (this is where I'd use that "french fold" technique), then let rise and fold approximately every 60 minutes thereafter. Fold less often if it becomes resistant and stiff. From when you mix the dough until bulk fermentation is complete takes about 4.5 hours at 75F with my starter.

Form loaves being sure to put some tension in the surface. With my starter final proof is about 1.5-2 hours. Slash. Bake at 450F at first, reduce to 425F, about 25-30 minutes total bake time.

I don't find the crust to be very thick or hard, which may have something to do with the higher hydration and the fact I don't bake it longer, but I like the way the crumb comes out doing it as described. I wouldn't use oil until you're sure this recipe works for you without it.

If you could mix 20g of starter w/50g water, 50g flour and measure the temperature and the time it takes for that mixture to double in volume, I can give you estimates of the bulk fermentation and final proof times for this recipe for your starter. Or, measure the time and temperature for the levain to rise by double above. I can tell you the bulk fermentation and final proof that ought to work, given that information.

Bill

 

 

 

browndog's picture
browndog

Bill, good to see you haven't fallen into a black hole. Must be the weather's turned.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Browndog,

Yes, it's just been a busy summer. Nice to hear from you too. The weather is OK here but a little cloudy today. I've been doing some baking this summer, here in Nantucket and also out in MT with those great "Wheat Montana" flours, testing out these SDI starters. They seem to give very good results with the recipe below, which I've been using fairly regularly, varying flours and hydration slightly along the way. I believe my home grown starter is very similar to the SDI "SF Sourdough" starter. The "French" SDI starter seems slightly more mild, but the bread tastes very good with it, too. Both have been maintained with the Glezer method, as I test out ZB's Glezer approach, so hopefully maybe technically this is not a hijacking of the thread. (Hi ZB...)

Bill

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Nice to see your post. It looks like we have both been baking the same bread. You probably had some with some great seafood from the Atlantic. Hope you have had a chance to set some sails this summer.

Eric

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Eric,

Good to hear from you. I've enjoyed some nice sails, and some good seafood, including some I've caught or gathered here myself, which means very, very fresh. Add fresh sourdough and fresh corn, and you have heaven in New England, at least that's what it feels like when things go right.

I know you like this same basic style of bread. I've enjoyed your posts on the subject of one step, eye-opening techniques, higher hydration, and so on. Your posts are very encouraging that I'm on the right track enjoying similar ideas.

Bill

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Bill,

I used to spend summers in Martha's Vineyard and around the Cape in General. I really miss the East Coast and life in the raw if you know what I mean. Back then I was buying and not baking my bread but fortunately there was a good baker in Edgartown. Have the swordfish been good this year?

I've been playing around with Samartha's Detmold-3 starter and 100% rye loaves. When you get it right they are really great. Today I slacked off and made a couple ww/rye with a little clear thrown in for handling. The family loves the combination of grains as do the neighbors. 

Eric

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Eric,

I'm not all that excited about swordfish, but striped bass and quahogs have been highlights lately.

Have you posted details on one of your rye recipes? One of these days I have to get started trying some rye loaves, which I've never done yet. If you had a step by step of a favorite (hopefully simple) rye loaf that works and you are happy with like the one mentioned above (maybe not the 100% rye if that's more difficult), maybe I'll see if I can at least get started that way.

Bill

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Bill,

The deal with the Detmold process has more to do with developing the LB's by creating the second stage as a very dry or low hydration dough mass and holding it at a 86 F temp for 6 hours. The other steps are for a rapid jump start of the activity just like we have been doing. http://samartha.net/SD/  You should take a look at the spread sheet he has developed that allows you to change the percent of rye and total dough size. It works very well and starts with a small inoculation of rye "baby" starter as he calls it.

If you have never tasted a 100% rye bread without caraway in it, I know you will be blown away by the taste and nutty flavor. It's really unique and delicious. I will post the 45/45/10 formula that I have been using and is reliable for me in the next day or so.

Eric

zolablue's picture
zolablue

L_M, I have made that Hamelman recipe but I like his Vermont sourdough better and Bill's sourdough pagnotta even better.  I did make SDG's sourdough pagnotta but will not repeat it as he uses only white flour and I find there is such a depth of flavor even adding small amounts of WW and rye.

 

I think you're going to find, as I did after much begging and prodding from Bill (winks, Bill) to just believe, that using more of my starter, while very strong, was not going to make my loaves blow up.  :o)  I've actually made it using 192g firm starter just to experiment and as low as 25g to make an overnight levain and frankly I never noticed a difference in flavor.  Perhaps Bill can explain why this is true.  :o)

 

Last time I made this I just loved the result.  If I want to make it all on the same day I often use 75g firm starter and dissolve in the water and just add the rest of the flours, whatever I'm using that day.  I often use the overnight levain for the Thom Leonard Country French (I just posted that recipe, btw, in a blog) so it was:

 

Levain (night before):

25g firm starter, 140g water, 140g bread flour

 

Dough:

75g WW (HM WW graham flour)

90g rye flour

300g bread flour

400g KA artisan select AP flour

25g WW spelt flour

660g water

19g salt

 

I will always make this bread as one of my favorite staples along with Thom Leonard, Columbia and Vermont sourdough and the list is growing.

 

(Hiya, Bill, so great to see you back.  I've really missed your input and your sunny disposition...:o)

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi ZB,

I think we've found a very similar favorite formula. I usually like to make my levain the previous day in the afternoon and refrigerate it when it's doubled plus an hour or so, though it is fine to let it ripen more than that. It's really just a way to break up my fermentation timing to fit my schedule.

I'm still wondering if L_M's flour is slightly different from ours and is either less tolerant of sourdough acids or needs significantly less water, and therefore would work better with a smaller (possibly less ripe) levain or a "one step" method starting from a small firm starter, and maybe also better with lower hydrations (for same reason firm starter would work better). I'm so happy to hear she got a starter going that is working better for her now. Looks like the firm starter did the trick.

I think the reason the flavor is about the same regardless of how you break up the amounts of starter and levain, is that basically you aren't really changing the amount of fermentation byproducts (that affect the flavor) very much unless you do something fairly drastic with temperature or with very ripe levains or starters that constitute large percentages of the total flour in the dough. Short of unusual temperatures or very ripe intermediate starers, there is not much difference between putting 25g of starter in a levain w/total flour weight of 100g and letting it double, then add that levain to dough with 1000g of total flour weight and let that double vs. just putting 25g in 1000g of total flour weight and letting that double. The overall amount of flavor contributed either way is about the same. In either case, you are starting with the same number of organisms in the 25g of starter, and you have to end up with roughly the same population of organisms in the end to raise the dough. In the mean time those organisms will have made about the same amount of acids while they ferment if they are growing exponentially at about the same temperature most of that time. The total time won't really be much different either.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Good info on the starter amounts.  I think it bodes well for how mild the firm starter is but you will always keep reading how the firm starter is the way to make more sour bread.  That's not true.  If I sound a little frustrated I am only because I think it is so important to give accurate information based on personal experience and not just repeat something someone else has read or said.  That was why my fear was using so much of such a strong starter would make my bread unreal tasting but it didn't so thanks for the prodding because I learned something doing the experiments.

 

About the flour differences, well, I just did some experiments with the same starter but using two separate bags of KA bread flour.  They performed differently in minute ways but still noticable to the discerning eye.  I was suspect because of what happened to my starter when I was trying to go back down to 10g.  My point is that even with the same brand of flour you can experience differences based on all the variables going into growing the wheat and making the flour but that is probably only noticed by the crazy people like us.  :o)

 

I am going to try your method of making the levain early in the day and refrigerating because I always find myself at midnight or 1:00 am thinking I have to get a levain mixed up and that isn't always fun at that time of day.  I guess a concern I've had is if it isn't allowed to fully ripen (only double or a bit more) it would perform like it does when you try to feed a firm starter too soon and that, as we know, can be a bad thing, thus the great flexibility of the low hydration starter.

L_M's picture
L_M

Nice to see you back Bill, and thanks for jumping in to save the day when it comes to figuring out all the  'how much, how long' etc. I find it very interesting that different starters actually make different tasting bread. With all of my other ones I don't really know for sure that they give a sour taste or whether it's just that they aren't balanced correctly, but I'm sooooo happy with this one that I'm sticking with it!

I'll start making the levain and see how long that takes to double, but in the meantime (to give you an idea), when I feed 10 starter: 30 water :50 flour it takes about 3 - 3 /12 hr to double, 6 - 6 1/2 hr to quadruple, 7 -8 hr to quintuple and then starts to wrinkle and slowly shrink. All these times are at room temp which usually range between 26C - 30C,  depending on AC or not, day, night etc.

I'll be making 1/2 the recipe to try it out, and no oil this time as you suggested. I'll let you know later on how long it took to double.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

I could use the 10g:30g:50g result too. Is the doubling time you mention for the crown to double or for the volume to double? My starter will double in volume from a 10:30:50 feeding at 26C in around 4 hours.

Bill

 

L_M's picture
L_M

Bill I'm not sure I understand what you're asking me. I'm talking about the top of the crown. When you say volume do you mean the markings in a liquid measuring cup where the dough is stuck to the sides? or something else?

L_M

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

;) no t/j here! :D

L_M's picture
L_M

 Zolablue, now I've really got my hands full - so many recipes to try out! I can get spelt flour here (I haven't ever tried it yet), but I'm afraid that I've never seen graham flour around anywhere - I'll keep an eye out for it though.

Exploding loaves??? Well we'll see tomorrow when I make the dough as Bill has written out above. As a matter of fact it seems that when I loosen the starter up by making the levain, it slows down. 

 For the timing Bill, the levain took 3 1/2 hours to double and since it is quite warm I only left it for another 45 min before putting it in the fridge, rather than the hour you suggested, and it was still rising. I'll continue with the dough tomorrow and hopefully all will go well.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

If the levain rose in 3.5 hours, and assuming about the same temperatures when you make the bread, then I would suggest about 4 hours for the total fermentation from when you first mix the dough until you shape it. I would then let it proof after shaping for about 1.75 hours. Remember that the dough will continue to ferment during shaping, so you may want to start shaping a touch earlier than 4 hours, depending on how long you spend shaping. The dough probably won't double in 4 hours because of the folding, but it should be fermented enough and ready for shaping by 4 hours at temperatures similar to what you used for the levain. Similarly, the 1.75 hours should be from the end of shaping until you put it in the oven, so I'm suggest to get the loaf ready and slash it before 1.75 hours. In other words, the total time from when you first mix the dough until it goes in the oven should be a little less than 6 hours.

Good luck with it.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I always allow my levains to be at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours because that is how I first learned to do it and its always worked for me.  Glezer, and I think Hamelman, calls for allowing them to completely rise and just start to sink in the center.  

My levains always way more than double and it has never caused a problem.  It is something that confused me in the new Leader book because he calls for the levain to be at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours, until it is risen to double but mine doubled at about 3 hours, I believe.  So I just let it keep going as normal.

L_M's picture
L_M

What I thought was going to be a very calm day to try out the recipe turned out to be quite hectic and I wasn't around to do the folding at the right times, but none the less everything went very well. I haven't tasted it yet but the boules are light in weight and the crust is thin and has slightly softened, so I'm really hoping the crumb and taste will be good as well.

The total time from mix to bake was 4 hr 45 min. I used half the recipe, and split the dough into 2 small boules. They baked for 50 min. together in a large oblong roaster with a domed glass cover (great for checking progress) at 215C  starting out in a cold oven. There was no room in the pot for me to slash so I snipped with scissors instead, and the oven spring was quite impressive! I removed the cover after about 35 min when they just started to show colour. For the last 5 -10 min they baked directly on the oven rack and I think I could have let them stay in a few more minutes to deepen the colour a bit.  Internal temp was 211F.

Zolablue like you say, this starter is working so well that I think it's best to stick to the original instructions, but I must say that when I made the levain for this recipe, which is much looser than the original atarter, the method Bill suggested was very convenient and worked out very well, so now I'm finally experiencing all the lenient schedules that eveyone was talking about but never worked with my slow poke starters before.

My next bread will be Thom Leonard's, and I'm very interested to see how the long kneading time will effect the crumb -  I'll post the results in your blog.

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

L_M - I'm so glad Bill's recipe worked for you.  I'm sure the bread will taste awesome.  He knows a great deal more about this than I do so please take his advice.  As you bake more sourdough you'll definately relax and be able to experiment to see how things react.  That is part of the fun albeit scary part because nobody wants to waste a big lump of dough.  I'm just happy for you that you have tried this formula and have it working for you.  Again, not a better starter, just a different one although odd at least to me that seems to be in the minority. 

L_M's picture
L_M

I'm very happy to report that the taste was the best I've had so far and the crumb was good too, so I'm very pleased. I better get some starter fed so it'll be ready for my next round of baking...

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I'm so glad to hear the recipe worked well for you. You can time it many different ways, with the same basic flavor and texture resulting, as ZB has mentioned. I've made intermediate levains and refrigerated, overnight levains to use in the morning, and "one-step" (put relatively small amount of storage starter right into the dough and do a long fermentation), which I know Eric does a lot. For me, which one I do is more a matter of how I want to time the various stages for convenience, more than any particular concern about flavor.

I hope you continue to enjoy your new vibrant starter. The fact it went so fast is nice and such a refreshing change from all the struggles with slow starters from the past. I wonder if this is more evidence of a difference in how your flour handles water or the sourdough acids. It seems like it took a long time to raise the wetter levain compared to the fast rise of the somewhat less hydrated dough. I don't find the rise time difference to be as great between the 90% hydration levain vs. the 73% hydration dough with my starter and flours, as you noticed from my estimates of the rise times.

Bill

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Hi Zolablue,

you asked me in another thread about how often I feed my starter. Well, there is no such thing as My Stater, or The Starter to begin with. I am much more relaxed about this subject now, after I discovered how easy and cheap it is to create a fabulous starter in a couple of days and in that same period of time to develop a variety of designer starters as I wish. In a sense, if I am more than 3 days away from home, it is better to create a new starter, than to keep the existing one in the fridge during my travels. The last book by Daniel Leader really made me think that there is nothing sacred about any particular starter. Every one of them is a fluffy smelly ball of magik, joy and happiness. He says on p. 44

 

" the myth that an old sourdough is beter than a new one was debunked for me by master baker Jean LeFleur in Paris almost 20 years ago. He told me that he liked to create a new levain from scratch several times a year, to ensure that his was never too sour."

 

Anyways, the rule is to feed when it's ready, right? : )  In Maggie Glezer's terms that means, 'after it has fully fermented and started to deflate', 'feed it once it reaches its maximum height and the first wrinkle appeared on the surface'. It also means 'feed when acidity is right (no off flavors in terms of strange acidic flavors)', 'feed when its aroma is at its peak and it tastes sweet, milky, and mildly tart', as Leader puts it.

 

So that is all I do. Once a starter, any of them, reaches its maximum height and feels right, I feed it. A tablespoon of starter gets to drink 2 Tbsp of water and eat about 1/3 cup of flour. : )  I always keep them in firm, stiff form, at a temperature typical of the temperature range of fermentation of the dough they will be inhabit in the near future. The choice of flour is also identical to the one in a future bread: white, WW, multigrain, rye, semolina... This ensures the continuity of microflora right to the end. I rely on salting to slow down fermentation more than on low temperatures, keeping starters salted at 0.1% to 2% as they would be in the final dough. Since protease is so salt-sensitive, salt keeps it in check and thus protects protein from liquefying.

 

So they live outside the fridge now, each in a pretty glass jar, and depending on the temperature, they reach their maximum height anytime by the 2nd to 4th day of storage.  And that is when I use them in breadmaking, saving a tablespoon for feeding it and taking it with me to the next breadmaking adventure.

 

This way, "my starter" is a creature that lives at room temperature and occasionally gets cooled down to 55-65F when I set my AC to really low temp. Most people who bake sourdough bread at home use starters that live in the fridge, i.e. most homemade starters evolve to do ok in a refrigerator's environment, below 40F. These starters only occasionally get warmed up to room temperature to be fed, and soon after go back to their cold home inside the fridge.

 

Where do you want me to post for you the recipe for sourdough Acme baguette, Zolablue?  The main trick was to figure out how to replace yeast with starter, i.e. to caclulate the right amount of starter to introduce into the scrap dough, poolish, and final dough. Because Maggie Glezer is such a genius breadbook writer, it was easy to calculate. All the necessary data was there. I'll share with you my results, OK?

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mariana,

I look forward to seeing the Acme Baguette recipe and also the procedure for creating a starter you have referred to. It would be extremely helpful if when you post recipes or procedures that you also post them in your blog where you can use "Key Words" or Tags as they are sometimes called. That way they are search-able as these threads become mind boggling long. Your methods add a dimension to my thinking that I can't identify yet. I'm thinking more about what I'm doing and why even though I can't say my breads are better yet. For those of us who don't have access to a large library, we appreciate the references to master bakers.

Your point about most people using starters that have lived in the fridge strikes home here. I suspect we have fallen prey to our fears of loosing the starter culture. Most home bakers do not bake more than a few times a week and some less frequently than that. The cooler has become a way to solve the dilemma of how to keep the culture alive when not being used regularly. There is so little about the starters and various living organisms that exist in them that is settled science or even agreed upon by our community, it is understandable that we might lose sight of the fact that flavor has been sacrificed for convenience. Similar I suspect to how early man must have felt when rain extinguished the fire that was so hard to capture.

Eric
(Baker Philosopher)

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Eric, I think we posted at the same time, as I wrote about this below but feel the need to reiterate that I keep my starter almost always at room temp.  That is much easier to do with a firm starter than liquid.  I do keep discarded starter in the fridge but not for more than 2 - 3 days as I don't care if I toss it and I don't really wish to use really older stuff in my recipes.  Flour and water are cheap. 

 

I only place mine in refrigeration if I am going out of town or will be gone at feeding time and then only for a day.  I've kept it only one time in the fridge for a week's time which was last spring when we went on vacation.  Having said that when I do refrigerate overnight and once taken out and refreshed it sometimes has a surge in power.  I have no idea why that is but it happens.

 

And if Glezer can refrigerate a starter for three years, remove it, refresh it 5 times and bake delicious bread I have a problem agreeing that it matters to the flavor or performance either. 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi ZB,

I suppose being the doltish homebaker with undeveloped palate that I am, all this time my baking has suffered from lack of flavor due to storing it periodically in the refrigerator. Oh well, onward into the fog.

By the way, I once made a firm starter that was so dry and firm, with salt in it (stiffens the dry dough even more and slows the fermentation), and it didn't rise much for something like 10 hours at about 70F. This may be akin to what that author was mentioning about a very slow rising firm starter.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Not what Leader was referring to.  His recipe for making a stiff starter says to mix and allow it to ferment at room temp for 8 - 12 hours until it at least doubles.  He also mentions the bubbles and honeycomb of gluten strands which Glezer says is meaningless, at least she told that to me quite emphatically.  Leader also states to keep your starter in the fridge for a week untiil it is time to refresh it again. 

 

Why I love Glezer.  I think she's right, at least for me so far.

 

Bill, you are so far from a doltish homebaker I don't even know what to say to you.  (SLAP!) :o)

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Mariana, if you are adding salt to your sourdough starter aren't you essentially makinng a pate fermentee, which is a preferment rather than a "mother" sourdough starter?  That is a different thing entirely and was developed by Prof. Calvel as stated in Glezer's book on page 103.  I would never put salt in my "mother" starter.  I've read in Hamelman only to put salt into levains in the event you know you cannot get to it within a certain time frame so the salt will slow down the fermentation until you can mix the final dough.  Otherwise I would never consider adding salt to my levains either, in fact, I've never done.

 

As for feeding times, I know what Glezer states in her books but way up early in this long thread I wrote that I have had personal correspondence with her and she told me herself that she not only has killed many starters by feeding them too soon but said they are so packed with flour that the pH lowers so slowly that you can easily wait up to twelve hours AFTER the starter has risen fully and collapsed before feeding.  I'm not sure why she has not written this in her books as it was the only way I finally was able to get my starter to quadruple and quintuple within what she told me was the industry gold standard of quadrupling in 8 hours or less for a firm starter.

 

In contrast, Leader, in his new book, Local Breads, writes some things about the firm starter I completely agree with and was happy someone with more authority than I finally stated it.  That is, as he states on page 43, that the stiff starter, as he calls it, has a mild and earthy flavor.  He also states that this is the older way of creating a starter, the batterlike culture being a relatively new kind of sourdough (I think he mentions gaining popularity in the early 1990's on another page).  (That makes sense because I can't imagine the pioneer women having to feed every 8 or 12 hours daily to keep a starter going.)  While I agree the firm starter lends a mild flavor to sourdough breads, he states that the stiff starter should take many hours to only double and this cannot be correct.  So, again, it is confusing how these authors can be so far apart on things that should be easier to come together on.  Hamelman doesn't state it at all that I've found but he has a penchant for omitting pertinent information for the home baker. 

 

I know which person I believe because, as I said, until I was able to talk to Glezer and actually get the info that I perhaps was feeding too soon my starter never performed as well.  Now it is super robust.   I don't know if it is normal to always keep a starter unfed for long periods in the refrigerator as that is not my practice.  I much prefer keeping it at room temp almost all the time but, again, that is another reason I adopted the firm starter because you have the ability to do so and keep it healthy.

 

Also, I love my starter.  :o)  I am quite attached to it and I would not like to lose it.  I did easily make another starter from scratch as I wanted to test the liquid starter so I tried the Hamelman recipe.  I didn't like it at all but I had a strong starter to use in a week however I waited about 10 days before I used it to bake bread.  It was not even close to the flavor and ease of use of my firm starter but I had to see for myself.  I let it die a dignified death.  :o)

 

And one other note, I have read that even though new starters can be very robust in the first 24 - 36 hours that they then go through a period whereby they develop some very nasty critters that would not be safe to eat.  That also confuses me about your being able to make and use a starter so soon.  I think Bill has spoken about that as well as others - I think that has come from Ganzle scientific papers, no?

 

Please feel free to post the Acme sourdough here.  I absolutely love that bread and cannot wait to try your sourdough version.

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Mariana, Zolablue, Bill and everyone else,

I must say that I am thoroughly enjoying all the discussions and posts about the world of sourdough. Since I've just recently got my firm starter going well and I'm not yet very sure of myself, but when I follow Zolablue's instructions to wait, wait, wait before feeding it goes against all of my instincts but it does work well. Mariana now that you have suggested building up the starter 3 times before using it in the dough and catching it at it's peak as you have mentioned above, I decided that before going on to another recipe I would try Bill's basic SD (from above) again using this technique along with a few other new approaches. Well, aside from the math boggling my mind as how to break down the feeds and end up with the right amount of levain, I found that if I feed at the first sign of a sag or wrinkle, then it slows down and doesn't rise quite as much after the next feed. Crazy - yes, but that's what seems to happen.

This time I kneaded the dough quite like the directions for the Thom Leonard boules so the dough was well kneaded - very thin windowpane, and after that divided the dough and used Mariana's 'kaiser petal' method . It took quite a few, with a few minute rests in between before the dough started to feel like it could hold itself together. Now that the dough has fermented somewhat I'm going to shape them and start proofing even though I'm not sure it really is the correct time. I'll see how it goes from here, and post the results.

Mariana, I have about a million questions about your methods - hope you don't mind

L_M

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Hello Eric! I will post illustrated bread techniques and their results in a blog if you teach me how to have one. OK?

 

Re: long-lived starters vs quick’n’fresh starters. It seems to me that in American and French literature, in literature targeting professional bakers vs literature targeting amateurs, there is a difference in the set of arguments and evidence supporting one particular way of ‘developing’ a starter.

 

In the US published books for home bakers, the party line is that functional starters take weeks if not a full month to develop. It is stated that starters can live forever, and not only that – that it takes anywhere from months to years of focused refreshments to fully develop its flavor and create a really stable community of organisms, a population that just doesn’t budge, doesn’t mutate. At the same time it is recognized that the longer one starter is propagated, the fewer kinds of organisms it will contain, i.e. some species will out compete the rest of them and we may end up with only two or three inhabitants that can tolerate each other – Candida Milleri and Lactobacillus sanfrancisco + Lactobacillus brevis with minor amounts of Streptococcus. 

 

Younger starters with diverse micro flora (over 14 known species of wild yeast and over 70 knows species of lactic bacteria) have more complex aroma. They contain two groups of lactic bacteria

 

(1)   rod shaped bacilli like Lb.plantarum, Lb brevis, Lb sanfrancisco

(2)   spherical shaped bacilli like Leuconostoc, Pediococcus, Streptococcus

 

In the French literature for professional bakers, I see less poetic and more practical approach, focused on starter and bread production. It is not as sentimental or emotional, much more energetic and crafty.   From the point of view of a French baker, if s/he wants to bake sourdough only once a week or more seldom than that, s/he will develop a starter ‘a la carte’, as needed. Why preserve starter at all, risking both alteration of micro flora and development of off-flavors from intruders, if a starter can be created from scratch two days prior to baking!  Clean, sharp, tangy smells typical of old starters are not as favored by everyone as bouquet of gentle aromas typical of less weathered pre-ferments and leavens.

 

Hello Zolablue, the surge in power of the starter that you observed after refrigeration is most likely due to the difference in yeast and bacteria tolerance to cold. Yeasts are more hardy than bacteria when cultures are refrigerated, so their numbers continue to rise quite fast in refrigerator, whereas lactic bacteria don’t take cold as lightly and reduce in numbers somewhat. When inside the fridge, yeast gets an edge or a leg up, so to speak. Also, as Susan mentioned, retarded (chilled) doughs get a chance to develop higher sugar content (amylase works on starch longer). Once warmed up, higher numbers of yeast cells and higher amounts of sugar in the starter will become obvious as a ‘surge in power’ of the starter.

 

When Maggie Glezer refrigerated a starter for three years and then refreshed it five times, I suspect that she might have created a new deliciously healthy starter from microflora in the fresh flour. In the creation of a new starter, you get 3.5 - 4.2-fold increase in volume in 8 hours or less by the third refreshment, if you keep it stiff as you refresh it, never switching to the highly hydrated version.

 

The nasty critters present in the flour used to initiate the starter, such as

 

(1)   Coliform bacteria 100 cells/gram of flour

(2)   Mold 1000 spores/gram of flour,

 

are no longer present in microflora of an active wheat or rye starter. There are zero cells of coliform bacteria and zero spores of mold detected per each gram of flour in a ready starter, according to the reports of French and German microbiologists. Such is power of acetic acid, otherwise known as vinegar (used as a disinfectant in household by many of us).  Nasty critters might appear in liquid starters (where acetic acid is poorly produced and what is produced gets diluted) created or maintained by using inappropriate flours and regimens of fermentation of starter.

 

Properly initiated starter has so many yeast and lactic bacteria cells and so much food for them that acid production begins right away and gets rid of ‘nasty critters’.  For example, if a baker initiates starter from white flour, s/he begins with 1000 yeast cells and 300 lactic bacteria cells in each gram of flour in a starter-to-be mixture. If a baker initiates a starter from whole grain mix, s/he begins with 30,000 yeast cells and 6000 lactic bacteria cells in each g of flour. Makes a difference, doesn’t it?

 

I can’t get enough of your careful attention to Glezer’s writings, Zolablue. You are a perfect student of bread making and a wonderful baker, my friend. What you see on p 103 of Artisan Baking Across America  is a brief summary of classification of yeasted pre-ferments presented by Didier Rosada in his excellent paper on preferments, published online here:

 http://www.cafemeetingplace.com/archives/food3_apr2004.htmhttp://www.cafemeetingplace.com/archives/food4_dec2004.htm Enjoy! 

Of course, one can classify sourdough starters as wild yeast preferments, with analogies in the World of Yeasted Preferments. So stiff salted sourdoughs, like those used  in Germany and France, will be similar to pre-fermented yeasted doughs. Firm unsalted starters, like Maggie Glezer’s quadruplers, will have their counterparts in yeasted bigas and sponges.  And liquid starters are known as poolishes when they are inoculated with baker’s yeast instead of wild yeast.  Whatever it takes to develop flavor and leavening power, bakers will do it : )

 

The beauty of stiff pre-ferments, both sourdough and yeasted, is that there is a wide window of time that separates under ripe leaven from overripe one. That is why when you wait for several hours after your starter reached its maximum height before feeding it, it’s ok. Its gluten might be weakened, but there is still plenty of food inside and yeasties and lactic bacteria keep multiplying. Feeding it too soon will create a poor starter, indeed, just as adding a yeasted preferment to the final dough too soon will not get you what you want – maximum flavor and leavening power. I use Canadian flours, as I mentioned, with very strong gluten which Canadian millers make even stronger by added ascorbic acid. Add a little salt to keep protease away from liquefying gluten, and you see that my starters have a long, long, looong  “staying tall“ time. So when my starter wrinkles, it really is over : )  It is safe to feed then.  

 

Hi L_M, how are you today? How does that raw dough smell? Nice, eh?  I am so proud of you and your firm starter! Good for you!

 

We can safely follow Zolablue’s instructions indeed. She never twists procedures and does things that work. You can count on both her knowledge and expertise.

 

Let me ask you a couple of questions, if you don't mind. Do your refreshed portions (intermediate sponges) rise at least 3.5 times in volume before they wrinkle? Mine rise about fivefold before getting refreshed. Do you whip each portion in water to a stiff, S T I F F, foam before adding flour?  I do, and this encourages tremendous explosion of gas production by yeasties resulting in high rise.  Try these techniques, they might work. OK? Also, keep me posted about your gorgeous boules once they are baked and eaten : )

 

 I would love to chat with you about bread making that takes place in your kitchen and mine. Of course!  I obviously don’t have a million answers, hardly any, in fact, but together we will figure out things. I am sure. Doing things and writing about them helps build skill and understand processes better than simply reading books and forums. 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mariana,

Starting a blog or adding to it is very simple. First look directly below your logon name at the near top of the far left column and click on "Create Content". Then again click on "Blog Content". Now you will see the page that asks for Title and Key words and body. It's important to Make a descriptive Title and use Key words that will make it easy to find later.

I see you use Canadian flours Mariana. Am I correct that you live in Toronto? (U/T) Toronto is a wonderful city which I used to visit often. Very European feel.

You have expressed some very interesting methods during the past few days and I'm wondering what is the source of your knowledge and experience? You obviously know your way around the kitchen and I'm certain that many of us would like to understand from where you speak. I intend the question as a total complement to you and commend you on your fine writing skills as well. This forum has been a treasure chest of valuable information for me and many others who came here with desire and not much else. We all appreciate the time and attention that goes into a thoughtful post.

Cheers,

Eric

mariana's picture
mariana

Eric, thank you very much! I followed your instructions and was able to create a blog on this website. Very nice. I am more used to the livejournal blogging features though, so I posted the story of my experiences with firm starter (how I created it by following Calvel's formula) in a lj blog that I set up specifically for Bread content. Check it out there, if you don't mind. OK?

http://mariana-aga.livejournal.com/

 

I hope to see you in Toronto again. Please come to visit and we'll bake a loaf or two toghether. That would be so cool!

 

mariana

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I'm not sure I can agree all your information here is accurate, Mariana.  I know there have been scientific experiments that have tracked e.coli and salmonella being present in the first two days in certain starters.

 

I have to respectfully disagree with you on your assessment of some of these philosophies - French vs. American.  Makes it sound like we American bakers are lucky just to be able to slog through our bread baking endeavors.  I don't think the European bakers are superior in this regard.  I also have never read the information that you record above as being true of U.S. published books. 

 

I also don’t think I agree with your assertion that a stored starter can no longer exist and is being replaced by a new, "fresh" starter.  I just don't know if this is the place to get into such excruciating minutia and I'm certainly not the one capable of doing so (although I can sure copy the info as well as the next guy) but I've read enough myself and talked to people I know to be extremely knowledgeable on the subject to know there are solid challenges to some of your statements.

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Zolablue, please accept my apologies for presenting incomplete information in your thread. Even if it was unintentional and expressed as a personal opinion based on personal experience with literature in my personal library and dough in my personal kitchen, there is no excuse for it. I am sorry. It will not happen again. Mariana.

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi all,

It's taken a while but the results are in, and in the meantime I've baked another batch. So we have 3 batches all baked in the covered roaster as I described above. The volume of the baked boules of all 3 batches were almost identical, maybe #3 was 1/2 cm higher.

The first one (as I mentioned above) was made as closely as possible to the recipe, had great flavour and good, but not great crumb. The total time from mix to bake was about 4 hrs 45 min.

The second had a new brand of ww flour because I ran out of my usual one, and was kneaded until I got a thin windowpane. The levain was built up in 3 stages similar to Mariana's suggestion, starting from a piece of fed starter stored straight away in the fridge, then let it really puff up and feeding each time when it started to wrinkle. The first 2 feeds were the same ratios as I feed my firm starter  (5gm starter :15gm water :25gm AP flour). I did it that way because I didn't want to get mixed up and use the wrong total hydration in the dough. The final levain was according to the recipe. It seemed to me that the dough was a bit too loose, but I left it as it was. After mixing I divided the dough right away and did the 'kaiser petals' until it could hold it's shape better. Along the way it absorbed quite a bit of flour from the counter. I waited for them to get very puffy, snipped then baked. Total time from mix to bake was 8 hrs. Flavour was not great - not very but somewhat too sour. Crumb wasn't as good as  batch #1.

The third had the same ww flour as #2. I used Bill's original instructions without the intermediate build ups, and the firm starter was taken from the fridge left over from the building up of the last batch. This time I cut down a bit on the water in the final dough, gave it a good kneading, divided, kaiser petals, proof, bake. Total time from mix to bake was 7 hrs. The flavour was still a bit too sour, but this time the crumb was excellent.

So what does this all mean?  From my experience so far, if the whole mix to bake process gets done quickly, meaning my starter is in great condition, then we like the flavour - mild, mild, mild. I haven't yet tried retarding the dough using a vigorous starter though. 

My flour doesn't seem to think "wetter is better", and there may also be a slight difference in the two ww flours. I like the crumb better with a lower hydration and the thorough kneading- it seems fine rather than course, and the texture seemed also more even, with no gigantic holes.

I'm hoping to combine #1's flavour with #2's crumb.

 Hi Mariana, in answer to your questions: first the raw dough smelled like it was going to taste too sour - unfortunately I've had that too many times already, and yes Zolablue's instructions have undoubtedly been the best for me!

The intermediate sponges did rise up to about 3 1/2 in volume but  they were at 60% hyrdration, so I wasn't too impressed. I used a hand whisk to whip them up with the water but all I get is a very soft foam. Today I tried with a battery device for frothing milk and it did get even foamier but not very stiff at all. Maybe that is because you use more starter in relation to the water? Or maybe again it is my weak flour. Bill has always stressed a concern about my flour not being able to perform the same as would be expected, but stong flour is just not available here. I have gluten, ascorbic acid and diastatic malt, so I could use any/all of these if you think it would make a difference. For some reason I thought that when the wrinkles start, that means the food is finished and the gluten is starting to degrade, but from your explaination above I understand that the two don't necessarily go hand in hand. Now that makes more sense to me and I see how I was being fooled by my weak flour, collapsing before the starter was really hungry! I've probably overfed all of my starters until now. My recently fed starter has just quadrupled in 7 hours and is still rising, so it is fine but still a bit of a slowdown from all of these experiments.

I also read in Hamelman's book about salting the levain to slow it down, but I've always been too afraid to try... like what could happen??? and you seem to do it with your starter with good results. Since it's still very hot here I'd like to try splitting the starter and salting some so I'm interested to know how you measure such a small amount of salt?

Today I gave my family a rest from sourdough and baked a multigrain with yeast ..yummm

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I don't know if any of these ideas will help, and you're probably already mulling over these alternatives. However, I would suggest using a few percent less water in both the levain and the dough. I probably make things wetter than you want them in my recipes, if it's true that your flour needs less water generally. Also, if your flour is less tolerant, you probably will do better with firmer consistency in the levain. Don't let the levain get too ripe, as that may also deliver more acid than you want too early in the game. Finally, I wonder if it would help to use a little bit more rye and/or WW in the dough to increase the ash content a little more.

Bill

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi L_M, I am like you. I prefer milder tasting bread and no gigantic holes and channels which I find aesthetically uappealing, a flaw.

I have 4 starters going right now, all mild. They are mild but with detectable range of character, ranging in flavor from fine wine (rye) to baguette bread dough (pure white flour starter) flavor. WW starter smells like fresh yogurt, multigrain starter smells like apples.

So when I want a really mild tasting and light, nutty smelling loaf, I use white flour starter . Prolonged fermentation always develops some acid in the final dough. So you might help it with the tiniest amount of baker's yeast added to the final dough during mixing. It will shorten proof time considerably and will not affect the shelf life or the sourdough character and aroma of your loaves.

I don't like adding gluten to my flours (I have experimented with it), but a pinch of ascorbic acid does help strengthen existing gluten if folding alone doesn't work.  Malt should be used if it is mentioned in the recipe or else you might end with hyperdiastatic dough.

Zolablue recommended Escali model PR50 for high precision measurements. The best!

For stiff foam use a small amount of starter and total amount of water and whip in a standing KA mixer for several minutes, until it's a stiff foam, soft peak, for sure. Then I fold in flour into that foam and knead the dough/sponge as per recipe.

 So, what's the next step for you? What is your next baking project or experiment, L_M?

L_M's picture
L_M

I'm constantly experimenting how much water my flour can absorb and still give the type of crumb that I like, and sometimes even though the dough feels really sticky when I'm kneading, it still comes out nice so I don't think I can actually pinpoint the cause. Mind you that is with commmercial yeast, and I still find sourdough to be quite different. but I will cut down on the water slightly until I am pleased with the results. The heat seems to make the dough sticky as well, so if it's going to get a good knead in the mixer I need to have all the ingredients cold from the fridge to start out. Then sometimes it's still necessary to give it a few rests in the FREEZER for a few minutes in order to keep the final temperature of the dough within limits. That tip I learned from Emily Buehler. Sometimes it is frustrating because it's very hard for me to estimate how long it'll take to finish kneading with all the rests etc.

Bill can you tell me the reason you think more ash might help? The ash content is not listed on the flour but I can tell you that I have never been able to make bread that has a white crumb - it's always beige or creamy yellowish. The colour of supermarket bread is white. Does that give any clues?  

Mariana I took your advice and really whipped, whipped, whipped up the starter and water. I used a hand mixer and got very nice soft peaks that anyone could mistake for eggwhites! Today the starter quadrupled - top of the dome - in about 6 hrs but I don't think it'll get to quintuple.

Computer man is coming to fix something so I'll continue later...

L_M

L_M's picture
L_M

So I was right - it didn't really make it to much higher than quadruple but today it also collapsed faster than yesterday. Is that significant ? Now here comes the dilema...too soon to feed, but leaving it overnight will be too long...solution...put it in the fridge, That's how the cycle goes because feeding only once every 24 hours is not enough. It's still so hot here and probably for a few hours during the day it's actually too hot for the yeast. I'm going to try salting the starter but since I keep very small amounts starter and don't have that wonderful scale I'm either going to count the grains of salt (not!) or mix up a larger salt/flour batch ahead of time and use a bit of it each time. Maybe a touch of ascorbic acid too? Or should I leave that for the dough? Mariana, if this slows everything down then how am I going to know when it is the right time to feed the starter again, since the visual signs will probably be different from before? See what I mean about the million questions???

If all goes well tomorrow I'll be ready to start the levain for another batch. I hope the starter is vigorous enough to raise the dough quickly. When the starter has fully risen it smells very nice, sort of like a fruity bouquet.

I have nothing against adding a bit of bakers yeast in the dough, but for now I'd like to learn how to make a good loaf without it. To tell you the truth, there are 2 reasons why I started on this project - first - the challenge. The second is that I read sourdough has a long shelf life, and we only like to eat fresh bread/rolls, whether I make them or buy them. The supermarket is very close by and good bread and is not hard to find. I had never even tasted sourdough before. So far the only bread that we find lasts for an extra day fresh enough is multigrain, made with a soaker and preferment. Maybe I'm still doing something wrong with the sourdough but so far it doesn't stay fresh tasting any longer than bread with yeast.

I've only had time to take a quick glance so far, but your blog looks very nice with lots of info!

L_M

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Hi, L_M, your experiments sound great. I think each baker faces unique challenges: for some it's circumstances, like flours available, techniques that they can actually implement, etc. For others it's more about how much time and effort they want to put into development of their skills. 

I admire your desire to experiment to make the kind of bread that you want from the flours you are able to get, it's so awesome. I am not like that. I will mostly persist until the recipe comes out just right, because I believe the authors, and will assume that I don't understand something or lack some skill or need to hunt for the flours that they use to see what they mean, what kind of bread they are talking about. So for you it's a challenge to creatively express yourself in bread. For me it's a challenge to understand other bakers, what they mean when they write about their breads : )

 

In your circumstances, I wouldn't feed the starter at all. I would use what I need to use in a dough and discard the rest. Once a sponge is ready to be incorporated into dough, I would take a small piece of it, for keeping, and that's all. Some recipes require one intermediate sponge, others up to three sponges: just flour, water and prevous culture/sponge.

 

Whichever sponge is the last one, prior to mixing final dough, just take a piece out of it, knead more flour into it and you are done. That would be your storage sponge.  To keep it cool, if you don't have a cool place in a house, just put the jar with the storage starter into a bowl of cold water, maybe with a few ice cubes in it, to keep it at 50F.

 

Do not add ascorbic acid to your starter. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is only added to the final dough to get taller, more round loaves in the end.  In Canada. millers add Vit C to flours automatically, because in Canada breadmaking is a national pastime, LOL.

 

Good luck with never stale sourdoughs : ) The more I bake them, i.e. the better I become as a baker, the longer they keep.  And I don't like to freeze breads. And I feel uncomfortable when I see a week old loaf that is just as good as new. Strange, huh? Although that is how they are supposed to be and in rural areas housewives still bake breads once a week, for a week, for a large family or for a family and workers on the farm.  As a city dweller, I am used to bread going old in a day and then use it for crumbs and bread puddings.

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Mariana, I like your idea of saving some of the final sponge - sounds like it might work out for me, getting into some sort of rythum that I can feel relaxed with. This sounds like the way Hamelman says to keep it going in "Bread". Getting used to not  forgetting to save some might take some time, but I always have a few small containers with storage or discards in the fridge for back - up. This 'scrap sponge' (like scrap/old dough) method is pretty well what you described earlier on in another thread, but there I think you suggested keeping it in the fridge and taking out a small bit, let it rise, and then start building from there... have I got it right? That is how I started out in loaf #2 . Even though I put it in the fridge right away after feeding, it had already risen in the fridge to about double in just a day or 2, I let it puff up for about 8 hrs waiting for it to quadruple, then proceeded on, but in the end that wasn't a good loaf.

The cold water in a bowl is such an easy solution! I've been taking the temp of every single spot in the house looking for somewhere even slightly cool, but no luck. Thank you for suggesting it!!! For dough I think this will be the best way, but as a permenent home for a starter I'm afraid it might not work, since the temp won't be constant and then let's say I'm not around for quite a few hours...it starts to warm up...starter starts to rise...then it starts to wrinkle.... I'm not planning to bake for another day or 2...uh-oh... then what do I do? feed it I guess.  Well maybe it's not so bad, and in the winter I'll probably be able to keep it on the counter and feed it once in 24 hr, or get the salt routine worked out. Even if I try to follow Zoloblue's instructions very carefully, sometimes the starter slows down and again I don't know whether I've fed too early or to late, Sorry if I sound so jumbled, but as you can see, that's what's going on in my mind.

I'll try adding A tiny pinch of ascorbic acid in the dough and see if I notice any difference. 

L_M

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi L_M,

 

we have already discussed retardation/refrigeration in another thread. I know that many people refrigerate their starters and even freeze them and they are OK. I did it before, when I was a complete newbie and was buying starters from Sourdough International. Then I changed my mind. Ed Wood from SI told me that he doesn't know what's in his starters, no analysis was ever done, not to the original starters, nor to his own line of products that he propagates. So there is absolutely no quality control. Next, I read in The Taste of Bread that sourdoughs shouldn't be subjected to the temperatures below 50F, because lactic bacteria are sensitive to cold and will turn their toes up, so to speak.

 

Then I read article on preferments by Didier Rosada and he also indicates that preferments are not refrigerated. Liquid or firm or very stiff, none of them are refrigerated, because it will defeat the purpose - to grow lactic bacteria.

 

 Only scraps of old bread dough can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours to be used as a 'sponge' in the next batch of bread dough. Next, from that new bread dough a piece will be taken and used as a scrap dough for the tomorrow's bread, etc. This chain can last only for 8 days. After that, old dough method will stop working they say. You will have to create a completely new pre-ferment from fresh yeast to use as a sponge in breadmaking.

 

If your existing starter is so moody, you might as well practice creating starters from scratch. Both solid and liquid starters take about 2- 3 days to become fully functional and create fantastic naturally leavened bread.  It really is that simple for as long as you use rye berries or dark rye flour mixed with bread flour. Set yourself free from those issues of starter maintenance and handling. The more you know, the luckier you get, they say. : )  At least, control quality where you can control it. Bread is a simple project. It only becomes complicated when we use difficult to handle materials and mediocre recipes/procedures.

 

You should also know that a starter can be kept at high temperatures without feeding for up to 5 days and be used in breadmaking. It will not be leavening bread, but it will condition the dough and flavor it very well. For leavening, use baker's yeast.  Such aged starters are called 'type 2' sourdough (altoghether, there are 3 types of sourdough cultures ).

L_M's picture
L_M

Well I hope I've learned my lesson for good now - not to make bread solely with my starter if I'm not absolutely sure it's in perfect condition. So in short, nothing new to report on this last batch I've made.

Mariana the more I think about what you have said, the more convinced I am that my starter is moody because of me! After all I am the sole caretaker...I decide how, when and what to feed it, and where it lives.  If I constantly subject it to extreme temperatures - often the exact opposite from the last, for unequal periods of time, not ever allowing it to fully recover from the last bout, I really should be amazed that it can do what it does. Possibly those that keep the starter in the fridge for storage and do several refreshment to get it going again at room temp, which for most is probably optimal starter temp as well, then they are giving it the time neccesary to  build back the correct balance - or it actually starts up a new starter - but for whatever reason, this method works well for them. Not me - the second it comes out of the fridge, I give it a smack in the face with the heat...poor thing...but no more :-)

Zolablue I'm wondering if you'd be willing to do a little experiment for me. Next time you feed you starter, take part of it and feed it with AP flour that is unbleached, no additives, and about 11% protein (if you have any). What I'd really like to find out is how it looks by the time it's ready to be fed again, compared to your starter using the flour you usually do - does it rise as high, collapse faster, and does it sink deeper in the middle. The reason I ask is because I'm going to get a thermos to keep the starter living on the counter at a more moderate and constant temperature than it is now, and going by the visual signs I'm still not really sure when is the best time to feed. Sometimes it looks very vigorous and sometimes not, but I can't really put my finger on 'the best time' yet . If it the experiment isn't convenient for you then don't worry. I'm sure that now it's in a more constant temp I'll be able to figure it out in a few days. In the meantime it's on the counter in a bowl of cool water.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

When you say temperature extremes, what are the temperatures that are prevailing these days, more or less, when you take it out of the refrigerator? I assume the refrigerator is around 4C? I remember seeing what would happen with that KA Italian flour if used to feed a starter. It showed signs of maturing much earlier than when using KA bread flour to feed, making it seem unhealthy. Yet, it worked fine when I took that apparently unhealthy starter and fed it with bread flour again. However, I don't know if it would have worked to feed it indefinitely with the KA Italian flour.

Have you tried feeding your culture with a blend of your whole wheat flour and your AP? I seem to remember you had a whole wheat flour to work with. Do you have any rye to work with too? I can't remember. Maybe just feeding it habitually with a blend of AP and whole wheat, rye, or both would work better. Just more ideas, as you hunt for the right solution to your moody starter mystery.

The question of temperature extremes you mention is very interesting. You're right that my starters probably never get much above 78F or much below about 73F in the summer, since I have AC. In winter, they probably never get much above 73F or much below 66F with the heat on. I do think the starters I take out of the refrigerator are "out of balance", as it is very likely the various critters in there die off at different rates over time in the lower temperatures, so the relative proportions might be far different from what they are when fed repeatedly over time at room temperature. I doubt very much that I'm actually starting a whole new starter altogether, but it's possible, I suppose. The behavior and aromas seem the same as ever after only a couple or three feedings, even after a few weeks in the refrigerator, so I had always assumed that more or less the same organisms were returning to healthy balance. If what I'm really doing is starting a whole new starter, so be it. Maybe your very warm conditions are somehow making refrigeration less workable due to the greater extremes in temperature. In any event, I think it's a great idea to try to moderate the temperatures of your starter, as you are describing, with a thermos or bowl of cool water. Even if the extremes of refrigeration aren't causing a problem, the very warm conditions alone could certainly be an issue.

By the way, with the firm starter, I've found that you have to do it the exact same way every time to really compare it's health from one feeding to the next, or you will notice differences. For example, the shape of the container, the blend of flour, the exact hydration, the exact feeding ratio, the exact temperature, and how much and in what way you knead it all will have an effect on how fast and how far it rises. If you add salt, it will not only slow down the fermentation rate a bit, but it will also affect the texture of the gluten, which will also affect the speed and overall height it gets to.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Bill,

I certainly do remember those experiments - we both had quite a few little jars of starters racing each other. If I remember corrctly from what I've read, using AP flour to feed a starter isn't a problem at all since it has more starch than bread flour which is just what the yeast need. But, I can easily add some ww or w rye, and strangely enough the largest selection of flours here is ww but unfortunatly my favourite brand is no longer available :-(  You mentioned before that possibly flours with more ash may help in some way. I was just wondering what you had in mind.

My fridge keeps around 4C. I"ll pay attention to as many details as possible for now until I feel the starter is completely back on track, but for the most part I'm quite consistant in my methods and feeding ratios etc.

About the temp...during the summer we usually have very reliable weather. I live near the coast so we have quite high humidity - 70 - 75 %. From mid May to around the end of Sept during the day it will be around 30C - 31C and at night 25C - 27C. Soon we'll be due for some dry heat waves....maybe 35C and no rain until around Nov (well maybe a day or 2 in Oct. ) Often we put on the AC when we're home but not always. Winter is a different story... sometimes it can be very warm outside but it doesn't really warm up the house. I'm always cold so at about 18C - 19C I put on the heater and it might warm up to 20C -22C . During the night the heater is never on so it can get down to around 10C.  So that is our weather report, year in, year out. I remember searching the house for the 'perfect spot' for the sourdough in the winter and never finding it. Funny, that's what I've been doing all summer too, and again no luck.

Tomorrow I'll be hunting for a good thermos.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

Of course, you may not have the same organisms in your culture, but at least some studies that were done on a "typical" culture of C. milleri and L. sanfranciscensis indicate that above about 28C the ratio of activity begins to be heavily in favor of the Lactobacillus. So, maybe it would help to try to keep the starter temperature around or below 28C when you have high temperatures. The idea of a thermos or a cool water bath might be very helpful with that. The study shows that at lower temperatures the Lactobacillus and yeast are much more equal in activity, but the activity is just much slower for both. For example, the activity level might be half at 20C what it is at 26C, which would mean that you should think in terms of double the rise time for the same feeding routine. So, in winter you might want to use a lower feeding ratio and in summer a higher feeding ratio to compensate for the difference in activity if you want to have the same feeding schedule.

I agree with you that AP should be good for the starter. I've used various AP or bread  flours, not that the terms are even that meaningful here, and not noticed too much difference. Of course each flour will rise differently since the starch, gluten quality, and ash content probably are different. Still, I've used a wide variety of "white" flours at various time when maintaining my cultures without problems.

Since there are so many factors involved, it's very hard to know, but one variable that affects how long a dough can rise is the ash content. Since the firm starter seemed to help, maybe adding some rye or whole wheat would help too.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

L_M – I have experienced exactly what you have in your starter collapsing earlier than normally only when I took it down to 10g starter using the same feeding ratio as for 15g.   There are other times that my starter has collapsed earlier seemingly based on its strength in relationship to feeding schedule. 

 

For instance, I have recently tried feeding my starter much sooner after it has collapsed, perhaps as little as 2 hours up to about 4 – 6 hours and it just never seems to fail that it then doesn’t quadruple.  When I wait for it to rise and collapse and then give it 10 – 12 hours time before feeding it rises beautifually and often gets these huge bubbles popping up on the top of the dome while its growing. 

 

If you are struggling with temperature control and your starter why not take the simpler road and merely employ that very accessible device – the refrigerator.

 

Do I know the microbiology contained within my starter?  No, nor does anybody else.  Do I care?  No.

 

L-M, I have refrigerated my starter overnight (this is generally an 8-10 hour period)  and I need only refresh one time (as if it had been sitting on my counter – no different) to have it perform exactly as it did the day before.  The beautiful scent is the same, the flavor it imparts to my sourdough breads is the same and even using a “discarded” bit of starter from a 2 – 3 day refrigeration (unrefreshed and added to bread dough without a levain build or added commercial yeast) raises the dough and tastes exactly the same.  That is what my experience has been. 

 

In Blessings of Bread, Glezer has quite a lot to say on the subject of refrigeration and her assertion that a sourdough starter becomes dormant and thus is revived upon being refreshed again.  She does not talk about death and recreation.

 

As you requested, I refreshed my starter this morning using my normal KA bread flour (12.7% protein) but have another one I’ve fed with KA artisan flour (11.3% protein).  The artisan is 15 minutes behind the bread flour but so far they are almost neck in neck.  It will be interesting to watch it throughout the day but perhaps it would need serial refreshing to make a good comparison.  Still, Hamelman states in his starter recipes you need only use flour with a protein level of between 11 and 12 percent.  If there are other factors involved such as what Bill is discussing with you he is definitely the one that can give you cogent advice on those things and it think his advice to add some rye or wheat may be a very good idea for you.

L_M's picture
L_M

Today as I was looking for a conveniently shaped thermos, I just remembered that I have a Donvier ice cream maker which actually has the perfect shape, so I'll be trying that out. It's not exactly a thermos but hopefully after a bit of experimenting I can get it to keep the temperature close to the 24C - 26C range for quite a few hours.

I was reading back to the beginning of this thread just to refresh my memory on how my starter behaved and it seems that I was keeping it at room temp until it really took off. No doubt - it was just as hot then as it is now. From the beginning I fed it the same ratio and the same flour. When I was sure it passed the golden test with flying colours, I started storing it in the fridge, and took it out to feed every few days, let it stay on the counter until it had just started to collapse (maybe even a bit longer) and back it went into the fridge. It worked for a short while but now that it's been on the counter for a few days (lately in the bowl with cool water) and I'm trying very hard to keep the water within the optimal temp range, it seems to be slowing down. It still reaches quintuple but it is quite a bit slower, and today it didn't even quadruple in 8 hours. Are there different stains of yeast in sourdough? Could I have some that actually thrive in warmer temperatures? I've been feeding about 10 - 11 hours after the first wrinkle and that is anywhere between 20 -22 hours after the last feed. When it has fully risen it smells quite fruity/fragrant, and when it's time to feed, and I mix it up it smells like yeasty beer. Is that good or have I waited too long already? Or maybe I should wait even longer?

Zolablue the reason I asked you to try using the lower protein flour is because I'd like to know what state yours is in by feed time so I can compare it to mine. After I've fed it doesn't stick to my hands or the counter at all - but just barely.  When it is ready to be fed it is still quite thick but stickyish, and it has sunk down quite a bit in the center but stuck to the sides from where it had risen to earlier on. 

I'm sooo looking forward to an easy routine that works for me...and I'm sure you can imagine that all I really want is a reliable starter that makes flavourful but mild tasting bread with a great texture. That's it. And just like you Zolablue I really don't care what's going on inside as long as it works - but if it stops working, I think the only way I can fix it is if I know what's wrong. I might wait another day or 2 to see how it's doing before I use some w rye, so I can evaluate the effect of the temp first.

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Both starters were rising neck and neck and at one point around the 5 hour mark the artisan flour was actually very slightly higher than the one with bread flour.  By about 7 hours the bread flour was basically quadrupled and the artisan was at 3.5.  While the bread flour starter continued to rise slightly hold its dome, the artisan flour starter collapsed at 3.5x just before the 8-hour mark. 

 

I just checked them again, it is now close to the 10-hour mark and it appears the bread flour starter is still slightly rising but the artisan starter has collapsed but still holding at 3.5x meaning it has not sunken further.

 

Note, these were both fed today at 23 hours from the last feeding.

 

As I mentioned, I have never kept my starter refrigerated for any length of time – a week at the very longest and then only once while gone on vacation.  Could that be part of your problem in keeping it there for too long without feeding?  I know Bill talked about this on another thread somewhere and that the lack of feeding often enough, if you have been keeping it days without new food, can change its makeup.  Bill, please correct me if I have that wrong.

 

Now what?  Can I do anything else to help? 

 

Oh, I did have a question about volume only because I read in Hamelman that you need a certain mass in order to attract the flora and allow it to build strength but I’m not sure if he means only when first creating a starter.  Just wondering if, like me, you try to go back to 15:30:50 you would see a difference.  You might try a side-by-side of that yourself just for fun.  Having said that about mass of starter, I know some recipes for making and maintaining a starter use ridiculously large amounts.

 

L_M – I wish there was a way I could send you a bag of flour! Is there no company that will ship to you?

L_M's picture
L_M

Good idea Zolablue, I've got them going - one is in a bowl with cool water and the other is in my 'ice cream thermos', so they are in similar conditions. It's been 6 hours since the last feed and so far I haven't been able to see a difference between them at all. Now are both at triple height. They start out flat but I'm always refering to the top of the dome when I talk about how much it rises.

You mentioned that sometimes you make bread with some discarded starter straight from the fridge that has been there 2 -3 days. So I'm wondering why you think that if I leave it for 3 -4 days in the fridge and take it out to feed it would change it's balance so much more drastically than yours. When you do put the starter in the fridge for 8 - 10 hours overnight, is that just to avoid feeding it in the middle of the night? If so, how far do you let it rise before you put it in the fridge - does it continue to rise there, or is it actually sort of a halt in time and you just continue wherever you left off, paying no attention to the time it spent in the fridge. Maybe I did something wrong in that area and actually overfed even though it was a few days in the fridge. I don't really remember exactly what state it was in before storing it.

Again just for comparison, what is your room temp range these days? Also if you can let me know what the texture and smell is like at feed time it will give me some more clues to work with.

Zolablue please don't worry about the flour...it works fine with instant yeast and I'm sure it'll be ok with sourdough as well - I just have to understand how it differs from everyone elses and how to treat it to get the best results. I figure that since I live here I might as well use what is readily available, just like all the other things in life that are different here. On my next trip abroad, whenever and wherever that will be, I'm planning to bring back a kg of flour just to compare.

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Yes, L_M, that is right to judge the volume by the top of the dome.  I’m sure Bill can describe why the mass, if you are feeding the same ratios to starter, would probably not be a factor in rise times.  I just get to thinking out loud.

 

Above you mentioned you were storing in the fridge and I just wondered if you were possibly not feeding it often enough.  But it sounds like that’s not the case.

 

I definitely have made bread, many times, and always successfully, with discarded starter that has been put into my fridge for 2 – 3 days.  I’ve used it alone to leaven dough and added it to yeast breads for extra flavor.  (L_M, were you not the one who pointed me towards RLB’s formula for doing this? :o)  

 

I have two starters that I prepared several months ago especially for storage as backups and to use as a test to see how they can be revived.  Glezer’s recommendation for long-term storage is to feed 30:30:50 and refrigerate immediately upon mixing.  When I have had to pop my current starter into the fridge it can be at any point and usually after it has quadrupled and maybe even collapsed.  It is when I realize the timing to feed will fall at a time I will not be awake to do so or I have to leave town unexpectedly.  It really takes the stress off.

 

My starter always smells the same, which when you think about is interesting based on the fact that even though you may be using the same brand and type of flour, there are no doubt minute differences in how the wheat was grown due to weather, etc, that affects protein levels ever so slightly but if you can detect those differences in your starter and breads more power to ya.  (wink)  I’ve smelled a definate sharpness a couple times when I’d waited longer than normal to feed it. 

 

My room temps now range between 72 – 74 degrees in the kitchen.  When it is ready to feed it is very sticky and webbed (expanded) – sometimes gooey if I’ve waited longer between feedings and smells like the most incredibly fragrant French bread dough with a slightly floral bouquet.  Very fresh.

 

Btw, I was up at 1:30 am and the starter I made with the artisan flour was holding at the point of triple but collapsed and bread flour was holding at quadruple and ever so slightly collapsed.  That is a really long time for my starter not to have completely collapsed since the 8-hour mark was at 5:00 pm.  I’m baking bread today so I took some of it to make a levain and left the rest to sit at room temp.  I fed it this morning at almost 26 hours from its last feeding and it is going strong.  For me, the key is to wait to feed it.  But note, by using more flour you are giving it more food thus it can last a lot longer between feedings, as Bill was saying. 

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Zolablue,

Right now I'm 23 hours since the last feed and throughout the whole time there was very little difference between the two of them. They both almost made it to quadruple at 8 hours, at the same time, and rose no more. The 15:30:50 started to wrinkle very slightly at about 9 hours, and the 10:30:50 at 10 hours. After that they both kept the dome very nicely for many hours and sometime during the night they started to level off. This is the first time there was no major sinking in the middle (yet) - they are both still quite level with only a bit of sinking. By feed time did your Artisan flour one sink in the middle or stay level?  

A few weeks ago I made up a portion of storage starter like you have mentioned above - 30:30:50, so that is safely tucked away in the fridge. It does puff up somewhat, so from time to time I deflate it. You know I've been working on getting a healthy starter for such a long time now, so it is lucky I came upon RLB's idea about using the discards. For a time I was feeding my starter just so I'd have enough discards for my yeast breads. I guess at that point I was so fed up from feeding and feeding and feeding with no luck - at least I got good flavour :-)

One more thing I'd like to know - let's say it's 4 or 5 pm and the starter starts to wrinkle, and lets say you go to sleep at midnight, and you put the starter in the fridge for the night. In the morning do you right away feed/use it or do you let it sit for another few hours on the counter before continuing?

Zolablue thanks again for holding my hand me through this.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

ZB may have some more or different ideas on this, but I would suggest one of two strategies for your scenario above. You could just let it sit at room temperature until morning. Doing something to moderate the temperature if you think it will be above 28C overnight might be best, but basically you could leave it out until the next morning.

Another way to handle it might be to feed 30:30:50 and put it in the refrigerator at that point. Then, when you take it out in the morning, let it rise and go through it's regular cycle. It may not rise quite as much, but as long as you let it peak and ripen, then you could feed it again that evening or possibly the next morning.

L_M, one thing is not too worry way too much if you miss the cycle and it doesn't rise quite as much. Although it would be ideal to feed it at the exact moment it has it's highest cell counts every single time, which may be a few hours after it has peaked since that seems to work well as a feeding time, but if you miss the timing, all it means is that the cell counts may not be quite as high and the acids may be higher or lower. It will therefore not rise quite as well as it would if you feed it at whatever time you discover is optimal for the starter.

What I wouldn't do is refrigerate it without feeding it when it has already peaked, as then it is more likely you will harm the yeast. According to some authors, yeast die more quickly when exposed to a combination of refrigeration and high acid levels. That's why, if you are going to refrigerate your starter, you should feed it and put it in the refrigerator, or at least refrigerate before the culture has doubled in volume. 

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Bill,

If I understood you correctly, you are basically saying for me to stop worrying about exactly how high and fast it is rising if I didn't catch it at the perfect time on the last feed -  it will correct itself and make up for it the next time round. In addition to that, if the perfect feeding time will be very inconvenient then just to give it a bit of extra food to keep it going, or keep it cool enough and just let it go for another few hours. Does that sound right?

Your last advice about not putting it in the fridge after it has peaked or started to collapse, seems different from the experience that Zolablue mentions above - and her starter also seems to be robust enough that even the discards are strong enough to withstand the fridge and easily rise dough with no extra help from yeast.  

This morning at feed time (25 hours after the last one) I made a double batch, split it equally, and put them in two identical containers. One went into the ice cream thermos and the other is just sitting on the counter enjoying the room temp. It still takes quite a bit of fiddling around with ice cubes throughout the day to keep the temp in the thermos between 23C-27C . The one on the counter was the winner in all respects that I could see - it rose the fastest, highest, and wrinkled last. I'm not sure I can conclude anything from this, but if it does just as well on the counter then I'd certainly prefer to just let it be. Tomorrow I'll feed a couple of hours earlier and do another round like today to see if the results are the same.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

Yes, I do think you can get a little crazy trying to time everything perfectly. If you feed it too early or too late occasionally, it may not rise to it's full extent, but it should correct itself as long as you don't do it all the time. Overall, the Glezer firm starter will tolerate 24 hours without much trouble from what I can tell, and probably would tolerate quite a bit more than 24 hours at room temperature. If you feed it right after it has peaked, you should be able to do that for fairly long periods, too, without really hurting. If you feed it way too early or way too late many times in a row, then you can probably damage it.

I think if ZB puts ripe starter in the refrigerator, it is more so she can use them in her breads for flavoring at some later point. I don't think she is recommending refrigerating old starter as a way to store the "mother starter", at least it isn't what Glezer advises for storing the starter in the refrigerator. If you want to store the starter for longer periods in the refrigerator, I would do what is recommended, i.e. feed it 30:30:50 and put it in the refrigerator immediately. The concern mentioned in Glezer and Bread Builders is that a combination of high acid and cold is not good for the survival of the yeast. So, by feeding it as suggested and refrigerating it immediately, you create a lower acid environment for the starter that will last a while in the refrigerator. Sure the starter is robust, and it probably would be OK to put the ripe starter in the refrigerator overnight, but I would probably feed it first, since there isn't much downside to doing that, unless I'm misunderstanding your scenario above.

I guess it all depends on just how high the temperature is, as far as whether you should try to moderate the temperature. You should be safer in the range from 23C to 27C, in that studies of activity levels of C. milleri and L. sf show that the yeast and bacteria have similar and close to optimal growth rates in that range. At 28C, the yeast and lactobacillus are still both close to their optimal activity levels, but just above 28C, the Lactobacillus activity increases, but the yeast activity drops a lot. So, although the starter may show lots of activity above 28C, it may be that repeated feedings maintained at temperatures above 28C would begin to heavily favor the lactobacillus over the yeast in the culture. So, if these studies are right and applicable to your culture, it might be more reasonable to try to maintain the starter in a range from about 23C-27C, even though it might rise well at 28C or 29C. You can definitely go lower than 23C without having a huge difference in yeast vs. lactobacillus activity, but the overall level of activity for both organisms starts to drop off a lot. At the lower temperatures, if you realize things will go a lot slower, maybe you can just be patient. To me it's the really high temperatures where things happen that seem like they could damage the starter.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I think we're confusing long-term storage (for backup) vs. short-term (overnight or afternoon) refrigeration to protect the mother from death or other demise.  :o)

 

Just to be clear (and I feel like an idiot repeating all this again but...), I have 2 long-term batches of starter stored; one from first of March 2007, the other stored from first of June 2007.  Both were refreshed at 30:30:50 and put immediately into the fridge.  Backup only.

 

L_M is asking (correct me if I'm wrong) what I do with my mother starter in the event I will be unable to feed the mother at its optimum (for me) next feeding time because I am; a) going to be in snoozeland; b) must go unexpectedly out; c) too darn tired to feed in the wee hours if I'm still awake or, d) whatever reason I know I will be unable to feed at the optimum time.  This means, that my starter has been going along happily, has perhaps fully risen and sure as heck may have collapsed but what do I do?  Into the refrigerator. 

 

The next day at the first available time I refresh it.  That little sucker takes right off and we're at it again.  I do not consider this "storage" in any sense.  It is "insurance." 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi ZB,

It's good to know that you can just refrigerate it that way. I've been a little leary of dropping my very ripe starter in the refrigerator without first feeding it, but if you haven't had any trouble with it, that's a few minutes more sleep if you find yourself thinking about this at 1AM or have to run out immediately. I'm not that surprised. I've found my starter is generally very forgiving of underfeeding and refrigeration, especially when I've kept it in a firm consistency.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Yes Zolablue, you have it right...that is exactly what I meant. Just to be able to have control over the schedule, or get a good night's sleep, without having the starter rule my life. Back ups in the fridge are for that purpose only - back ups.

Bill I'm sorry if I didn't word my question clearly enough and sort of lead you on a wild goose chase for an answer, but in any case I always enjoy and learn from your posts.

Now that it lives on the counter, hopefully in a few days I'll be able to recognize when is the best time to feed. So far I haven't been able to get it back to the level of activity it was at a few weeks ago before I started storing it in the fridge, but I remember that one day it just all of a sudden went wild, so I'm feeding and waiting.

Maybe, maybe, maybe I've found the perfect spot that will keep it within a good temp range. Today while I pressed the lever to get some ice cubes from the door of the freezer, it occurred to me that if I sit the starter in that little niche, it might be just right. Currently I've got a glass of room temp water there as well and I'll take the water's temp in the morning to see if it stays within the range. So far it looks promising.

I'll post any news.

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

L_M – First let me say Bill gives you good advice on not fretting too much about your starter if it doesn’t quite perform exactly the same each time.  My starter that I’d waited almost 26 hours to feed yesterday morning (longer than I prefer to wait) did quadruple but it took about 9 hours and just didn’t rise quite as high as normal nor did it stay puffed up for as long.  It is so subjective and really hard for someone else to tell you exactly what to do.  You really have to just try different things and see what will work.  Frustrating, I know!

 

Your question about feeding:  “…let's say it's 4 or 5 pm and the starter starts to wrinkle, and lets say you go to sleep at midnight, and you put the starter in the fridge for the night. In the morning do you right away feed/use it or do you let it sit for another few hours on the counter before continuing?...”

 

In that case I would probably feed it before going to bed.  If it is a bit too soon and the starter either doesn’t quadruple in 8 hours and perhaps takes 9 or if it doesn’t rise near to that height, then I just realize I have fed it too early and feed again after it has collapsed.  Or that might be the perfect time to pop it into the refrigerator.   It is just going to relieve some stress and then in the morning or even later the next say you can take it out and feed it again.  I am quite sure many people do this with their liquid starters that need to be fed much more often and on a more regular basis and they would tell you their starters are thriving. (I believe RLB also recommends this.)

 

Also, sorry for repeating again (:o) but I do indeed refrigerate my starter even when it has fully risen and been collapsed for hours and it has always been fine the next day when I refresh it.  This just happens when you can't predict your schedule for various reasons and is unplanned.  I know it will not be in the refrigerator for a long period of time.  So I’m not sure why that supposedly is not a good thing to do.  I am going to keep doing this because it has worked for me.  There are simply times when you find yourself exhausted at 1:00 am and though you know you should take time to refresh all you can think about is falling into bed.  So into the fridge - no big deal.

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Zolablue,

It's good to know that this starter can live through alot. I'll keep at it, keep trying different things until it works. It has to work.

Thanks again :-)

L_M

L_M's picture
L_M

Yes, it seems to be working just fine. The Kiosk on the outside of my freezer door seems to keep the surrounding area cool enough that the starter which spent the whole night and part of the morning there was just over 24C at feeding time. It's just the right size for a small amount of levain/starter. That is a major relief.

Bill as I was in the middle of all of these 'ideal temp' thoughts , I recalled my experiments using the 1Tbsp - 24 hour method at 72F - 77F, and the 1 cup - 12 hour method at 85F. These methods were both supposed to transform a barely alive starter into a healthy one, but now that I think about it, if the very warm 85F is not advised for the yeast, I can't figure out why this method would be used. That is also quite the opposite information shown on the chart that you posted a while ago listing  the different levels of activitiy at different temperatures. Unless of course I misunderstood something along the way, and that certainly is possible.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

Roughly speaking, the chart you mentioned shows that the highest growth for L. sf is at temperatures of around 33C, but the highest growth rate for C. milleri is around 27C. At 24C L. sf and C. milleri both grow at about 37% per hour according to the charts. However, at 30C, L. sf grows at  about 62% per hour while C. milleri has dropped slightly to 35% per hour. At 32C, L. sf grows at about 68% per hour while C. milleri drops to only 20% per hour.

Using those numbers, the populations of L. sf and C. milleri would both multiply by a factor of 9.2 in 6 hours. However, at 30C, the L. sf would multiply by a factor of 41, while the C. milleri would multiply by a factor of about 8. So, you can see the population growth of the L. sf is a lot greater than that of the C. milleri at 30C, and I don't know what the effect would be if you repeatedly feed and keep the culture at the higher temperature.

I don't know exactly what the authors had in mind with the two methods. It seems like the 1 tbsp method would emphasize balanced growth at temperatures like 72-77F and would relieve the acid with the high feeding ratio. The other method would give the Lactobacillus a big boost, keep the acid levels fairly high (which might help rid the culture of any unwanted invaders), and maybe not favor the yeast so much.

I can see reasons why either one of those methods might help bring an out of balance culture back to life, and it would be interesting to know exactly what the author was thinking in designing those methods.

Good luck getting the starter to behave for you. It's great you found an easy place to keep the starter at a moderate temperature.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Bill,

I guess I did overlook that fact that unwanted invaders may cause problems sometimes, so from the way you explained it, (and I hope I've got it right) the two methods are actually just different ways of trying to bring the starter to a good balance, and without really knowing the cause, it is reasonable to approach it from two angles - one of them is bound to work. The extra 12 hours in the fridge in between rounds was also a mystery - it certainly would be interesting to know why they felt it was important.  

Yes this easy place certainly takes a load off my mind. I've got a few new ideas I'll be trying out in the winter to keep it warm enough, but for now at least I can concentrate on pinpointing the best time to feed. So far it almost quadruples in 8 hours, so it's almost but not quite there yet. 

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

L_M – First, I’m so glad you found a good spot for your starter.  I have recently done an experiment to test my starter's performance after being submitted to cold temperatures.  Here’s what I did:

 

I refrigerated some discarded starter that had fully crested, then fallen, and been allowed to sit at room temperature for several more hours before refrigerating (at about 40F). A week later I took that same discarded, fallen starter and fed it side-by-side with my current room temperature, fresh starter.  I did this religiously over a 4-5 day period.  Not only did the week-old-discarded (already fallen) starter more than quadruple within 8 hours after the first feeding; both starters performed essentially the same.  There were only a few times I would see one leap-frogging the other by perhaps a quarter inch in height but other than that they rose and fell at almost exactly the same rate.

 

L_M - Also, I'm curious how you measure the volume of your starter.   I have just discovered that I’ve been chronically underestimating the volume of mine.  I have usually gone by conservatively measuring the height on the jar by a certain increment.  But I realized I needed to try weighing the water based on the height of the starter after I first smoosh it into the jar.  When I did this, even allowing for some possible overestimating based on the fact the top is not completely flat at its height, I am quite sure I’m quadrupling much quicker and quintupling or more each day.  I was pretty excited.  Not sure why it took me so long to try that method of measuring as I know that’s what Bill had done.

 

I am also watching for some very subtle differences in my starter’s performance based on feeding times.  I’m starting to take some notes on every feeding time including its texture, bubbles during mixing, rise and fall among other things.  That way I’m hoping to find the best times of day to feed without getting into that window of time where it is impossible to be available to feed it for optimum health. 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Zolablue, your experiment must be a relief for you and confirms my own less scientific testing. One thing further that would be interesting to know is what if any differences exist in the biology. While the ability to produce an odorless, tasteless gas may not be affected, the assertion that cold temps may harm the acid production that will improve the flavor component. Sooo, how do they smell? I make a point to never taste a starter but a whiff off the top is telling.

Eric

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I was never worried in the first place. I was only trying to show that while one author-baker is against refrigeration below, bascially 53F, there are many other well respected author-bakers who are in favor of it and, in fact, practice it themselves. 

 

While it is true we can't really know for sure what is happening to the inner makeup of our starters without hiring a microbiologist we can look for certain other factors such as activity level, texture, scent, and flavor in baked goods.  You asked about mine and I swear to you, Eric, my starter, with the exception of less than a handful of times when I allowed it to get more ripened - has smelled always the same.  And I have a pretty keen sense of smell.

 

I think an interesting experiment would be to make another starter (ugh) using the same recipe I did for this one and never refrigerate it until I can test them against each other.  Having said that, we need to ask what is the real problem here with refrigeration in as much as, Eric, you well know that many very intelligent forum users have done this successfully over a long period of time - much longer than I've been baking.  I think with all our wonderful book authors it is still healthy to ask why and not just succumd to "because so-and-so said it" and struggle to always find new information.  After all, that is the pioneering spirit that propels us ever forward in our quest to bake better breads and not be content to take certain offered information as gospel when you know it isn't necessarily the case. 

 

Dare I ask, even if it is the case that specific microorganisms do in fact die at certain temps how does it translate to our making bad bread?  Is this a "fact" consistent with all our starters because, as you also know all too well by the mountains of info on this site alone, we all have very different starters and experiences in maintaining them.

 

Besides that, I would have to know an awfully lot more information about this subject and it simply hasn't been offered here.  Don't you agree?  I mean, there used to be a large number of people who believed the earth is flat.  I don't want to live in a world where someone can't think outside the box. 

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Zolablue,

Now that I've found this spot it has been very easy for me to monitor results. I feed the same ratio, with the same flour, in the same container, all the time, so it's now only about how long I wait. I've been faithfully feeding it anywhere between 22- 24 hours after the last feed, with slight changes so I can see if anything makes a difference. I found that trying to feed it 12 hours after it starts to wrinkle isn't so easy because sometimes it continues to rise after that, so I don't really know when to start the countdown. It usually just makes it to quadruple in the 8 hours and that's it - no more rising. ( A while ago I did weigh the water because I wasn't sure the markings on my measuring cup were accurate.)

So actually it does pass the golden test, but I do remember that before it went in the fridge a while ago, it was faster and would also quintuple, so I'm not really satisfied. Yesterday I decided to let it go even longer (25 hours) and it did speed up a bit, so today I fed at 25 1/2 hrs and it was even slightly faster, so tomorrow I'll try 26 hr. Today it quadrupled in 7 hr, and it is still at that height now at 8 1/2 hr.

It is so hard for me to wait that long - I feel guilty - it goes against everything I've ever read or heard before, but obviously it's the right thing to do because it is the only way that I could get my starter rising faster, and from my experience so far, if the starter rises quickly, the bread rises quickly, and that is the only way I get mild tasting bread. 

Zolablue I'm so relieved to hear that your experiment is working well...that means we can also have a life! I'm also trying to feed at a convenient time but since it seems that the optimal feeding time isn't an even 24 hours, it looks like it'll be going round the clock.  Have you baked with the "discarded" one? That way you could probably notice if there was a difference in taste, in regards to the point Eric brought up.

I'd be very interested to hear if you notice any other signs or changes from different feeding times. 

L_M 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

The answer is no.  (I think we were posting at about the same time so you can read more that I've said on this above.) I seem to have created a most consistent starter.  I have baked with both discarded starter and fresh and can never seem to tell any differences in flavor.  Why?  I have no idea.  But that is the truth for me.  Hey, and I'm always trying so hard to notice any slight nuances in each recipe and take careful notice of flavor on bread recipes I repeat often.  I would say that the only times I've ever made a sour flavor is when I've made WW breads and allowed them to ferment too long.  That'a all part of the learning process though.

 

I also have to keep repeating that a firm starter does not make more sour bread. That is just repeated so many times and I'm not sure why.  Daniel Leader seems to be the first book author who has got that part right.  :o) 

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

zolablue - I don't understand at all what you mean by this -

"I have just discovered that I’ve been chronically underestimating the volume of mine.  I have usually gone by conservatively measuring the height on the jar by a certain increment.  But I realized I needed to try weighing the water based on the height of the starter after I first smoosh it into the jar. "

Is there any way you can explain this in a different way – or point me to where someone already has?

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I was trying to say that my method of trying to gauge the full rise of my starter forced me to be more conservative (which is fine, btw) but I wanted to be a bit more accurate.  My practice has been to place the just-mixed starter in the jar and press it down and smooth the top.  Then I mark the top of that point just as you do when you place your bread dough into a bucket.  Then I measured 4x that initial increment to mark the top of where the starter would grow to when it reached quadruple.  (Did that make sense?)  I know this was not scientific but, again, I felt I’d rather underestimate a little bit than overestimate.

 

After Bill had mentioned his method of using water to mimic volume I decided to try that.  All you do is pour water into the same exact container equal in height to the top of the smoothed out volume of firm starter when you first place it into the jar.  You then multiply that weight by 4x to get the total weight which would represent the starter when quadrupled and simply pour that amount of water into the jar.  Mark where the top of that line is and that is the quadruple spot.   

 

The only caveat with a firm starter is that you might have to slightly underestimate that final measurement to compensate for the slight curve at the bottom of the jar and the slightly domed top of the starter at its peak. 

 

Did that make sense at all?

 
KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

I see this correcting for 2 factors - our inability to eyeball exactly how much the starter has increased, and the fact that almost no containers are perfectly straight sided or flat bottomed.

Btw, my starter seems to have recovered - it seemed to quadruple overnight, so I gave it a generous feeding this morning, let it double, then parked it in the fridge.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And a relief to know the fridge can still be used.
Mini O

ehanner's picture
ehanner

ZB, Mini, L_M, I for one am appreciative of ZB's diligence in the testing she is/has conducted. It could be that over time the assertion that temps below 50 F are detrimental to flavor are true. I know that Prof. R. Calvel was convinced that was the case. I suspect that the reduced activity at lower temps would over time affect the population of the community. Some would be harder to wake in the spring so to speak.

So, Thank you ZB for your efforts. Not being able to discern a difference is a result after all.

Eric

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I'm not sure exactly to whom I'm referring (hehe) but I decided to bite the bullet and create another new starter from scratch beginning tonight.  I've been curious about doing this in warmer weather compared to when I made my first starter last year in very frigid January temps.  So for that reason alone it may be interesting.

 

I guess this will show me a first-hand comparison and I promsie to keep an open mind and report my findings.  I'm still not sure what this will prove but what the heck!

 

(My question still is, unless I have missed it being said before, how do you judge the death rate caused from below 53.6F?  Don't you first have to know the exact count of the stuff that's in there to begin with?  Some starters are simply stronger.  So it can't be applied across the board as a blanket statement, right? I fully accept a death rate - that's established from scientific study and is quite apparent even at room temps when you see a starter losing power you know the little boogers are dying.  But in what way does it translate into poor bread flavor?  Or inability to leaven bread?  I'm sure there are so many millions of the things alive it seems to make sense that one must differentiate between death rate and total depletion. 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi ZB,

There is a difference between what I believe and what I can prove. What I believe is that refrigeration may result in a death rate that is high enough to knock out some strains in the culture. I also believe that refrigeration must not knock out the most important strains very quickly, or the culture would behave more like one does when starting a starter. The argument that the culture is somehow "on crutches" after refrigeration and has lost entire key strains of the culture that must now be restored and yet  it raises dough perfectly normally, as well as having indistinguishable aroma and flavor  just seems hard to believe. However, I can prove none of that. All I know for sure is I've revived my culture hundreds of times to the point I can't tell any difference whatsoever in it's aroma, rise times, or any other characteristics after refrigeration in one or two feedings. If it's missing something, I can't tell, so it really doesn't matter much to me. Your experience seems to be similar.

The idea that there is a wonderful subtlety of flavor that develops from extensive feedings at room temperature, or from starting a culture from scratch, vs. periodic repeated room temperature refreshments interspersed with refrigerated storage could be true, but I doubt it. I don't see any practical way to really prove that, either. So, I'll continue merrily along refrigerating when convenient and not worrying too much about it, since I can't tell the difference here at my house.

Bill

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I'm running with my blog starter experiment and put some of them on hold in the fridge. They no longer give off much aroma, because they're cold. As soon as they warm up, it's back.
I've picked up some starter from my baker. It's the same one as he always keeps it at room temp and it's pure rye. Part of it is taken for the day's bake and part starts the next days batch, It's been going on like this for 2 centuries. Although there is all kinds of volume and it smells wonderful, he still adds yeast to the loaves.

I seem to notice a direct correlation with flour to yeast growth, or am I imagining it. If 20g starter + 20g flour = double 20g starter + 40g flour = more than double. 20g starter + 100g flour = boom! So if one only feeds a starter double it can't really more than double without adding more flour. True?

Mini O

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

I've also been wondering about the correlation of flour to starter growth lately, though I have been getting more than a tripling with a 20:50:50 feed.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And that is why a firm starter is stronger: more flour, more food, more gas. A 20/50/50 would have to more than triple.

Mini O

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I hope Bill will answer those questions for you. He better than I.  Kippercat, are you keeping a firm starter?

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

No, it's a 100% hydration at the moment.  Although I'm thinking of converting to a firm one as I think it would have more staying power.

L_M's picture
L_M

Zolablue I'm waiting patiently to hear how your new starter is doing. It will be very interesting to know if you can taste or notice any difference between the new and the old one. I'm sure you will be very open minded, and even so, like you said, everyone's starter is different, so your findings will actually only apply to your starters, but none the less it will be a guideline for me.

So far today's 26 hour feed is moving along pretty well at the same speed as the 25 1/2 hr did yesterday. I don't think I'll push it any farther for the time being, after all I'm getting a quadruple in just over 7 hours, and to tell you the truth the closer it is to 24 hours, the easier it will be for me to keep a regular schedule. I honestly cannot see any signs that I can go by other than the clock. From about 22 -26 hours it looks and smells the same, but obviously there is difference.

I'm testing it out for bread making again. This evening I mixed a batch of Sourdough-guy's one step method, since I know that I won't have time to tend to the dough until later on in the day. I'll post the results.

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I should be taken to a field and flogged!  I just discovered in making a new starter from scratch using this recipe that I inadvertantly made some mistakes when I initially typed it up.  I am so very sorry to those of you who may have tried it.  The corrected version now appears at the beginning of this thread so please make a note and recopy the entire recipe so you will have the corrected version.  Thank goodness I decided to experiment again or I'd never have caught it. 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Not sure this is pertinent any longer but since I did the work I wanted to report my results.  I made the new starter and was interested to see how quickly it became strong.  It happened much quicker than when I made the first one during the very cold winter months.  It tripled by the 4th day and quadrupled by the 5th day.

 

It never touched refrigeration.  It didn't make any difference.  Compared to my current starter (from last January) they were both the same beautiful scent, the same consistency, the same texture and rose the same way within the same time period.  They even stayed expanded for the same amount of time afterward and collapsed together in the same fashion. 

 

When I used the new "never refrigerated" starter to bake bread it tasted exactly the same as my old starter that sometimes gets to be in the fridge for a few hours.  My experiment proved to me that refrigerating your starter is of no detriment to it as most on this site will tell you and almost all of the bread book authors will tell you. If there is any death rate it is so minute as to be indistinguishable for our bread-baking purposes. It then becomes personal choice who you believe is right. 

 

I will tell you however that I did some further experiments and found that I have consistenly had problems whenever I take my starter down to 10g for a feeding and did that experiment with both starters as well.  It will often be fine at first but then starts to become slower and slower.  I can't explain why that is nor can I explain why it speeds up at a 20g feeding.  It just is. 

 

L_M, I know this is probably a mute point for you now but I think that was more your problem than the temperature concern, FWIW.

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Zolablue, how do you maintain your starter - feeding ratio, timing, refrigeration, etc.  I've been feeding mine at 20:30:50, but it's more likely parked in the fridge than out on the counter.  When you do refrigerate, do you let it rise entirely or just get a good start?

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Zolablue,

I think it's wonderful that you've done all of that experimenting. It seems from your post that you are completely in control of your starter. That is fantastic! You've found what makes a difference, and what doesn't. I'm still far from that stage, but I do agree that the 10 gr feeding wasn't the best for my starter either. After a while I started using 15 gr and I found that over time it was better, but still not consistantly great and I was in the dark as far as signs for when to feed. 

Since I started up the new ones I found that it isn't so scary after all, and I've been carefully watching them at all stages. The mini fridge puts everything into slow motion, whereas the regular fridge seemed to halt activity. This of course is only an observation from a visual point of view, as I have no idea what's going on with the critters inside. I'm still learning when it is the best time to feed. It seems that in the mini, I can stretch out feeding times for longer but now I'm finding that they really do get very acidic that way, and in the end I still have to refresh a few times and catch it very early in the cycle before baking, so it's kind of 6 of one or half a dozen of the other... so as you see I'm still working through it all to find what works best for me.

When I finally figure it all out, and baking with sourdough becomes routine for me, I'll take out the storage starter that I stashed away in the back of the fridge, and by then hopefully I'll have learned enough that I'll be able to reliably compare the new and old ones.

In the meantime my mind is still cluttered with lots of ideas and information, but it sounds like you've been able to sift through and keep what works well for you, and of course that is what it's all about!

L_M

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Kippercat, sorry I didn’t see this before.  I keep my starter at 15:30:50 but I do pump it up to 20:30:50 only if it is very cold in my kitchen or for some unknown reason I feel it has become a bit slower than normal.   Then I take it back down to 15:30:50.

 

I have done tests on my starter and for some other unknown reason it rises much more quickly as I increase the starter amount.  I found this out when I tried to take it down to the maintenance level Glezer specifies of 10:30:50.  It would be just fine at first but then slowly start dropping off in strength.

 

Once I decided it was ok to just keep mine at 15:30:50 it has been much better off.  And it is amazing how you can pump it up in strength with only a one or two feedings at 20:30:50 but that is what works for my starter in my surroundings using my flour.  I have seen that there are too many variables for anyone to ever say “my way or the highway” on a starter.  So you have to be the witness and do what works for your own personal starter.

 

I keep mine at room temp almost all the time.  I seldom refrigerate it but only because it is so strong and it doesn’t need more than a once a day feeding which makes it very easy to care for.  The only time I pop it into the fridge is if I know I will be out of town or sleeping at the time I know it should be fed.  It is really a relief to know that works to no ill effect and if you read my post above after having done some further experiments regarding behavior, flavor, and bread rising ability it just didn't phase it to refrigerate overnight. 

 

Hope I answered you, finally (ugh), so please let me know if you have any other questions.

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Zolablue, no problem. Thanks for all the info!

Once a day doesn't sound too bad. I might try your ratio. Now I usually keep it in the fridge, where it goes at least a few days between feedings. I've found it will last quite a bit longer if necessary. Either way, I have to feed it once or twice to get it healthy again. I like to start my baking with a starter that smells fresh & yeasty, with no whiff of alcohol or off odors.

I played around a bit with the math. Starting with 15 grams instead of 20 means that you're feeding the fermented flour 5.5 times its weight, instead of only 3.85 times its weight, an increase of about 45%. I can see why it might last a whole day! And it would be very nice to have fresh starter around whenever I get a yen to bake.

I think that I tried feeding only 15 grams at one point, but my starter wasn't real healthy then. I'll get it back in good shape before I try it again. Scrolling down to your message today, I looked at your original photos again. I remember seeing them when you posted, and thinking that seemed more complicated than a liquid starter. To my surprise, it's quite the other way around!

Have you ever tried Floyd's cinnamon oatmeal raisin bread as a sourdough? It's so good as is I almost hate to mess with it. But I'm curious - eventually I might try it. I did sub in 214 grams of starter when I made it, but just counted it as flour and water - didn't use it for leavening.

bshuval's picture
bshuval

Hi all,

I am now in the process of making a Glezer-style sourdough following the diary in her book, A Blessing of Bread (what a great book!).

This morning (Monday morning), my starter finally showed some signs of expansion; it had actually doubled or so in height since feeding it on Saturday evening. I fed it and went to work. Tomorrow morning (in about 6 hours...) I am supposed to feed it, but it doesn't look anywhere near tripling (it actually rose less than yesterday). It doesn't look like it's risen to its maximum either, although over the past few hours it did not seem to rise at all.   

 So... Should I feed it tomorrow morning, or wait until tomorrow evening (or more) before the next feeding? (Hopefully I would get an answer before feeding time...)

Thanks,

Boaz 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Boaz,

I hope ZB doesn't mind if I jump in and comment. I'm sure she will probably add to this. We've worked together on these starter issues, and I switched to this style for a while when ZB posted this article.

I have Blessing of Bread and also like it. Glezer's Artisan Baking is also excellent, by the way.

As far as your starter, I would just follow her schedule, as stated. Generally, with her style of starter, once it is going it can be fed 10g:30g:50g (starter:water:flour) with white flour so that a firm dough is created. If you feed the starter every 12 to 24 hours it will do well at about 76F. I realize you are just before that stage, but by now it sounds like the starter has started up. It will probably stabilize over the next day or two and be fine.

If your temperatures are lower, like in the 60s, then a 24 hours feeding cycle will probably work better. Many of the posters below and Zolablue, the author of this post, have had very good results letting the starter rise longer, i.e. more like 24 hours between feedings, even at room temperature. The idea is to let the starter peak and be at least at the point of collapse before you feed. However, you can let it collapse and sit for many hours. That is a nice thing about thick starters, they are very forgiving of sitting for a long time on the kitchen counter and keep very well in the refrigerator, too.

As far as checking the starter's performance, I have a healthy starter that makes good bread, and it gets to a 3.5x peak volume increase when I feed 10:30:50. I know Glezer talks mostly of the peak volume increase, but I normally measure and focus on volume doubling when measuring the starter, rather than the peak volume it reaches. So, I'll mention as an example, from a 10:30:50 feeding, my starter would take about 5.25 hours to rise by double in volume (volume doubling, not where the peak of the dough's dome reaches) at 76F,  7.5 hours at 70F, and 11 hours at 65F. Yours may be somewhat different, but I hope it helps to have an example.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I agree with Bill to just keep on Glezer’s schedule of feeding at this stage.  But at some point you might experiment with waiting a little longer between feedings which is what ultimately got my starter going strong.  Even today if I feed too early and that means I can never feed at 12-hour intervals it will just not respond the same and seems to slow down significantly.

 

I did an interesting experiment this summer where I created this starter again from scratch because I wanted to compare it to my first and original starter that I’m still using, btw.  My original starter began last January and we were having terribly frigid temps.  I just could not get it to respond the way Glezer stated it should within the time frame given.  It would get close and triple but just never quadruple.  I think now it was due to how cold our temps were then.

 

When I created the same starter here this summer when temps were quite high it took off like a race horse and, in fact, it was way ahead of the time frame given.  That told me a lot about how temperature really does have an affect on how the starter responds at room temperature.

 

In addition, some of the experiments I did with Bill revealed that I might have a bit of an odd bird starter because as I go from feeding 15:30:50 to 10:30:50 it loses steam.  When I fed at 20:30:50 the thing just expanded more rapidly in a shorter time frame.  I can’t answer why that is the case but it may just be unique to my own starter.

 

As our temps started dropping here in the Midwest a few weeks ago I noticed that again my normal 15:30:50 feedings began to slow down.  It would still quadruple but it would take more time to do so, while still within the 8 hours however, but definitely taking more time than was normal and then it would collapse much sooner. 

 

My kitchen is typically around 67 – 68 degrees most of the time these days and could be cooler at times since it is on the north side of our house.  I thought, heck, based on my experiments with Bill, I’ll just try the 20:30:50 feeding to see if that doesn’t respond better during cold temps because I know it is somehow stronger at those ratios.  Sure enough it is going great guns, it quadruples in about 3 – 4 hours (depending on how long between feedings) and keeps on going to easily quintuple or beyond and then stays all puffed up for hours.  It then can sit collapsed for hours and once fed we start all over again and it performs like clockwork.  I feed only once a day and actually it doesn’t seem to matter when except if I feed it too soon.

 

I generally feed it anywhere between 21 and up to 26 hours after the last feeding and it just doesn’t skip a beat.  In fact, I notice when I stir in the water it just bubbles like a bandit so I feel, at least for me and with my flour and my conditions this works the best and gives me great piece of mind.  Easy and painless and I know I have a great starter to raise bread well and it is extremely flavorful – very mild and not at all acidic. 

 

The key is to watch your starter carefully and feed it according to the temperatures it will be exposed to.  As you develop your starter you will notice the same kinds of things that work especially well for you.  Just make sure you are doing what it takes to keep it strong rather than worrying that you are doing the same thing that someone else is telling you works for them.  You’ll get there – don’t worry.  But again remember there is no “my way or the highway” method – only guidelines.  Once I accepted that myself I have had a much happier and healthy starter and I could relax.

 
bshuval's picture
bshuval

Thanks for your suggestions. I will stick to Glezer's original schedule for the time being. If the starter doesn't "pick up" I will wait more between feedings. (So far it still isn't tripling, but perhaps this is due to the cold)

 

Boaz 

bshuval's picture
bshuval

Well, I hung on to Glezer's schedule, but things don't look too well, yet. Today is Wednesday, and it rose only so very slightly (not even doubled!) in 12 hours. Still, according to Glezer's schedule, today I am supposed to feed it only 12 hours or so after the last feeding, and use only 15 grams of the sourdough. So that is what I did. I do hope it picks up soon!

Could the problem be that I am using AP flour instead of bread flour? (I use King Arthur brand).

Do you have any suggestions on what I should do? Should I feed it every 12 hours or every 24 hours? Should I get it to liquid state again for a few days? Should I feed it some rye flour or WW? Should I increase the amount of sourdough to be 30 grams (or more) per refreshment? 

 

alicia_gross's picture
alicia_gross

My one and only question!!!  I have been reading all around me "DO NOT TIGHTLY COVER YOUR JAR"  and "DO NOT USE ANYTHING METAL".  It seems to me that the "stiff starter" is covered tightly with a metal lid.  I tried a batch of simple starter and followed the recipe to a T I put the lid on tightly and when I woke up the next morning I could not get it off and I took it immediately to my garbage bin outside and it had fallen no more than halfway down before the jar "EXPLODED".  Am I just out of my mind and messed it all up or is there really that much difference in the gases in a stiff starter verses a batter starter??

Jolly's picture
Jolly

Firm Starter

I've been using a firm starter for about 1 year, and love it.

I was introduced to a firm starter when I came upon Rose Levy Beranbaum's book "The Bread Bible" on the net. I quickly ordered the book and whipped up a firm starter. In The Bread Bible Rose refers to the starter as a (stiff starter), which I'll refer to as well.

Upon using a stiff starter I finally felt like I was in control of my sourdough baking, it makes baking with sourdough more predictable. I haven't had any flops since making the switch. And baking with a stiff starter I feel like I have an insurance policy on my breads for I never get a flop. I don't even use yeast as a back up.

Here is the adapted recipe for a stiff starter. That I whip together the day before my actual baking day.

50 grams stiff starter, about 1.75 ounces, volume a scant 1/4 cup
100 grams flour (Harvest King Bread Flour) about 3.5 ounces, volume 2/3 cup
50 grams water, about 1.75 ounces, volume 50 grams

1) Cut the stiff starter into small equal pieces, place in a 1 quart mixing bowl, add the flour, and water. Stir, the mixture until you have flaky particles of dough. Pour the mixture into a bread machine, close the lid, and knead the dough until all the flour is absorbed in about 3 minutes. The starter should be stiff and not sticky to the touch. Makes 200 grams of stiff starter.

2) Ferment the stiff starter in a lightly oiled 2-cup container with a lid. Lightly oil the surface of the stiff dough ball. Allow the the stiff starter to ferment at room temperature (75º to 80ºF). Choose from the timetable below

TIMETABLE

• If planning to feed and store the starter for 1 day before using, let the starter increase in volume by about 1 1/2 times, about 2 hours or so, then refrigerate.

• If planning to feed for 3 day before using, let the starter increase in volume by about 1 1/4 times, about 1 hour or so, then refrigerate.

• If planning to store for 1 week before using, let it increase in volume just slightly, about 30 minutes, then refrigerate.

MAKING A STIFF SOURDOUGH STARTER FROM SCRATCH
Rose Levy Beranbaum "The Bread Bible"
NOTE: You will certainly need to buy her book for the instructions are very extensive.

Stiff Starter) I use anywhere from 75 grams up 100 gram per loaf of bread. My Basic Soft Sandwich Bread contain 3 cups of flours, and 1 1/3 cups water, plus additional ingredients.

Now I'm combining my stiff sourdough starter with a liquid sourdough starter and getting a higher rise. The liquid starters adds more flavor and holes, and the stiff starter gives the dough more elasticity to stretch with a good oven spring.

By combining the two starters together the crumb is much lighter, and it's beautifully laced with small and medium size holes. The texture is very soft and velvety. The bread stays fresh for about 5 days.

My stiff starter will triple in 3 to 4 hours it all depends on the weather.

I've also adapted the Amish Herman Sweet sourdough starter to a true sourdough and now I'm combining it with a stiff starter. Wow! Is this a fantastic combination, especially for sweet breads. The other day I used it for making a Basic Sandwich Bread and it turned out like a dessert bread it very, very light. I'm still experimenting with Herman. The Herman liquid starter is wonderful for whole wheat & rye breads.

Jolly





zolablue's picture
zolablue

My original starter was created a year ago January 4, 2006, and is still going strong.  As a backup I stored a portion last March 2006, and another portion last June 2006.  I have been waiting to try and revive both of them just as an experiment to see how they perform and finally took the plunge.

 

I only had to feed them 3 times, 24 hours apart, before they both quadrupled in 6 hours! 

 

Both starters were mixed for storage as Glezer recommends at 30g starter:30g water:50g flour.  Both were placed in small Glad or Ziplock type plastic containers sealed with their lids – one a snap on and one the screw on type.  The one stored last March had about 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of clear hooch which I poured off.  The starter itself was very slightly pale grey on the very top layer and normal colored under that.  The one from March had no hooch and was also colored they same way.  They both had the same scent which was very grapey or winey; both smelling very good. 

 

I refreshed both starters at 20g:30g:50g and placed in a glass jar the same as usual.  They did nothing for 24 hours – just sat there.  The next morning I almost tossed them but thought I’d better put a little more effort into discovering if it would work. 

 

I fed them the second time which was 24 hours later at the same ratio.  At first I thought nothing would happen but later in the day I saw they were growing.  YAY!  I was pretty excited.  I checked them at the quadruple point and they had quadrupled in 12 hours.  I left them alone to sit overnight with my current starter and because it was late I have no idea how much they kept growing or not.

 

The next morning I fed them along with my current starter at roughly the 24 hour mark which was their third refreshment.  I could see after about an hour that they were growing very well.  Off and on I would notice they were behind my current starter but expanding nicely.  I was very busy baking bread and cooking soup but when I finally checked them again they had indeed quadrupled well within the 6 hour mark.  Since I have no idea if they had quadrupled before that I’m calling it the 6 hours which I think is fabulous!  I easily could have baked with both of them at that point.

 

I watched all three starters the rest of the evening and they just kept growing; had caught up and were right in lock step with my current starter (which quadruples in about 4 – 5 hours).  They all had expanded to the highest point, just below the bottom rim of the lid, by the time I went to bed they all were still well domed and not a hint of collapsing.  I think that is really good news!

 

I’m going to feed them one more time today but then I’ll have to let them go.  I’ll be sure to mix another storage starter now with confidence that if I should need it will be there for me waiting to go.  Hope this will impart a little information that might help someone else along the way.  We tend to obsess about our starters.  (hehe)

 
bwraith's picture
bwraith

ZB,

Hi there. I stored some of my starter in the fridge in a similar way to above at my parents cabin in MT, and after 6 months I was able to bake bread within 36 hours of when I started to revive it. It's surprising how long it can last. It had hooch on top, but other than that, nothing seemed unusual at all other than a longer first rise from the first feeding.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

That's great!  I think this proves the point that we are indeed reviving an existing starter rather than an argument put forward about making a new, fresh one. (wink)

I could tell there was activity, or at least I thought something was going on when I first mixed up the starters with water and the water was bubbly.  I'm just so happy to know I can keep a backup as a viable starter just in case!

zolablue's picture
zolablue

bshuvl - I'm so sorry I missed your post last month.  I hope you still have your starter.  I wasn't sure from your post if you were starting a new one or converting your liquid starter to firm.   The King Arthur AP flour should be ok to feed your starter as I think many here do.  I use King Arthur bread flour for my starter so I can't comment on how the AP may differ if at all.  I hope you are still around and please let me know if you are still struggling and I'll try and help.  If I don't know the answer there are many people here to help that know a lot about starters.

bshuval's picture
bshuval

Hi ZolaBlue,

Well, I think I managed to kill my Glezer-style starter. It wasn't acting up to standard, so I started letting it ferment in a steamy microwave (turned off). Rather than increasing in volume, my starter was becoming very soupy really quickly, and gave an awful scent of nail polish. At that point I decided it was time to start again, from scratch. 

So, I decided to go with the Debbie Wink sourdough method, which worked. I feed my sourdough with whole wheat flour, and I keep it stiff: 10:35:50. Within 8-12 hours it almost triples, which is the maximum height it reaches. I can't get it to quadruple. (If anyone knows how I would get it to quadruple, I'd love to know!)

I feed my starter every 24 hours.  

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I hope Bill can weigh in here.  He's much better at this than I.  I imagine you were not feeding it enough as I think that is what happens to the scent.  Did you happen to use a thermometer to take the temp in the microwave?  I wonder if it was a lot hotter than it should have been which also wouldn't have helped it.

 

I can't answer about a whole wheat starter as I don't know how that is supposed to perform.  I can only answer about the firm starter using white bread flour and my experience is that I need to increase the amount of starter I feed depending on the season because the cold really slows it down.  Also, I'll reiterate that when I first made my starter from scratch, in the very cold of winter, I had trouble getting it to quadruple in the amount of time Glezer stated.  I had to experiment with feeding times and found that if I allowed it to go a little longer between feedings it quickly began to quadruple.  Twelve hours between feedings just is too short a time and I can't answer why that is true in my case.  

 

It almost sounds like you are not feeding your starter enough though.   For me, again everyone's experience may vary, when I take my starter down to 10g or even 15g in the winter it slows down.  I would try feeding at a ratio whereby you use 20g of starter and see if that makes a difference.  You definately need to get it to at least triple within 8 hours before you ever take it down that far.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

alicia_gross – Again, I’m sorry I didn’t see the posts last month on this thread.  I don’t know why you aren’t supposed to tightly cover your jar but that may be if you are using a liquid starter.  Someone else could answer that question because I’m only familiar with the firm starter. 

 

It is completely ok to cover the firm starter tightly, at least in the amount I’m using, in fact that is how the instructions read.  I’ve been doing it this way for over a year so I am wondering what you did that made your jar explode. 

 

Metal is sometimes said to cause a problem in that it reacts with sourdough meaning don’t store your starter in a metal container.  A metal lid sure is not a problem and I mix my starter every day with a metal whisk which obviously is also not a problem. 

berrygirl's picture
berrygirl

I have read through all the great information on the Glezer starter and I think I killed mine. It started off fine, with bubbles, then on the day when I turned it to a firm starter, it just sat. I have continued to feed it according to Glezer's instructions every 24 hours. It goes from a firm ball to a glue-like paste but never rises. It has now been a week of feedings and I wonder if if has died.

 The experts says to watch it and feed it after it has risen and collapsed, but can you wait more than 24 hours? My kitchen is quite cool, 68 degrees during the day and cooler at night. Should I leave it longer than 24 hours or just pitch it start again? This is about my 5th try at firm starters with no success! I had the Silverton for a long time but it is quite wasteful.

 Any help appreciated.

Maverick's picture
Maverick

I would try putting the starter on top of the refrigerator or in the oven (turn the light on if you have an electric) to get it warmer at night.


What does it smell like? If it were 'dead', then it should smell off. Keep refreshing it otherwise. Things don't always go as fast as stated.


If you want, you could try waiting longer than the 24 hour period to see if there is a rise. A firm starter should have enough food that it won't hurt anything.


I decided to try this procedure out for my new sourdough culture. I started it on Monday evening (it is Saturday morning now). My past sourdoughs all took a while to get strong enough to use reliably.

koolmom's picture
koolmom

 I have been using the recipe at the top of this thread.  I have done this step


The starter should have risen quickly.  It is now time to convert it into a stiff starter.  In a small bowl, dissolve a scant 2 tablespoons (30 grams/1.1 ounces) starter (discard the rest) in 2 tablespoons (30 grams/1.1 ounces) water, then add 1/3 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) bread flour and knead this soft dough.  Place it in a clean jar or lidded container, seal it, and let it ferment.


three times already.  My starter does not seem to want to double, let alone triple.   The temp in my kitchen is in the mid 70s (F) so cold does not seem to be the trouble.


Any suggestions??


koolmom



bowow0708's picture
bowow0708

hey im a bit bias but i have a preferance to whole wheat starters there is nothing wrong with rye, actually i would prefer a rye starter but so expensive in my area around 5-6$ a kilogram (well 225 pesos in my currency) will this starter work like that? i have made a whole wheat batter starter before but got the orange and mold. My second one was bad! it was somehow turned into a vinegar mother flour culture.and my third one a stiff starter somehow got moldy and just threw it out today(better safe than sorry) it was never refrigerated it was left on the counter because i bake every 3 days with a tiny loaf for my tiny toaster oven a (300 gram flour loaf, 200g water, starter, salt) i am wondering can i use this to make a new starter i need a strong starter because my last starter came to life ne next day when i made it.

Bluebellgirl's picture
Bluebellgirl

I'm completely new to bread making but I only like eating French Boule, so I thought I would try this one first.  I've been looking at Mountaindog's boule recipe and he says he uses a rye starter...at this point I am not sure how far to follow the recipe for a starter without making a sourdough bread...am I talking nonsense...can someone advise me please?

deva's picture
deva

Hi forum,  

my 4x refreshed starter looks like the size of the third photo from Zolablue. It's doubleI, but not tripled. Do I just wait longer, refresh again, or start over? 

Thanks

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

Hello Deva

You'll find the answer to your query in another contribution  Zolablue made to this very thread, reporting back on her direct contact with Maggie Glezer:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2390/firm-starter-glezer-recipe#comment-15951

While you wait patiently for your starter to get established, perhaps you can enjoy reading right through this long thread. The archives here on TFL hold such a wealth of useful information. When it comes to starters there are certainly lots of different opinions, it can be a bit confusing when you are new to this, but you'll soon learn what works best for both you and and your starter.

 

 

deva's picture
deva

Robyn,

Thanks for the link.  I've been waiting for collapse and it seems to me its happening, but maybe I'll wait a little longer.  My currnent starter is tripled in 36hours.  I've never seen a quadruple before feeding it.  I'll try waiting....again.  Patience is a learned virtue for me.