The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

sourdough starter

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rainbowbrown's picture
rainbowbrown

So I decided that after maintaining my starter for almost a year now and being pretty satisfied with it, that I was confused about what I was doing. I've read so many different refreshment ratios for starters that it made me doubt my own, so I split it up to try a new one. Usually I do a 2:1:1 (starter:flour:water) to double it. By the way my starter takes on slightly different forms from time to time. For no particular reason other than I haven't developed a favorite I'll either feed it wheat flour, clear flour or bread flour. Recently I came across directions for a 1:3:2 refreshment and then a 1:2:2 and shouldn't there be a 1:1:1 in there somewhere? I don't know. I figure since all these ratios called for less starter than I use, perhaps I was starving mine a little. So I experimented by using Daniel Leader's recipe for Quintessential French Sourdough. I split up my starter into two batches and put one on a 1:3:2 diet and kept the other on 2:1:1. They both did just fine until I made the final dough when the 1:3:2 became very slow. A lot slower than its brother. It ended up not rising as much as the 2:1:1 (which took about six hours) during bulk fermentation but after about ten hours I had had enough and shaped it anyway. So this is what I got:

Baguettues

The 1:3:2 is on the left. The 2:1:1 is on the right.

 

And the crumb (same positioning):

crumb

 

My old 2:1:1 definately won out. It tasted milder and a little better in my opinion. I don't know...I'm still a little weary. I still have to try the 1:2:2 which sounds a little more promising. I know that its been working ok the whole time I've had it so I should just leave well enough alone right? But I really think it can do better with a different approach somehow. Its always a little in the warm area, never bad never outstanding, just pretty good, when it comes to preformance and taste.

 

A really fun side thing that amounted from all of this was that I had so much trash starter from the experiment that I decided to do a second experiment and see what would happen if I put all my throw-away starter and scraps in a bowl a then in the oven. I used it as shaping practice for the most part. That was pretty fun and here's what arose out of that:

 

A connected braid and an epi.A connected braid and an epi.

And the crumb:

brumb.crumb.

 

I thought that these came out really great, much better than I expected...until I tasted them. Oh man, where they ever bad. For one I didn't put any salt in them and for two...well two should be obvious...it was meant to be trash. It was fun though. I dig the shaping practice thing.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

As I conducted my home ash content tests during the latest home milling and sifting session, a sourdough starter was accidentally started. The home ash content test involves mixing 5 grams of flour with 100 grams of distilled water, stirring it periodically, and measuring the conductivity of the water until it stabilizes, about 24 hours later. All of that time was spent at about 69F, the temperature of my kitchen in the winter. I noticed a familiar smell, something like yogurt, that was reminiscent of the early stages of some of the starter staring experiments I have conducted in the past. The pH was measured and, sure enough it was around 3.4 for all the jars I was testing, even though the jars had various flours including Heartland Mill AP, Golden Buffalo, and whole wheat, as well as various flours from my milling and sifting experiment.

Since the jars appeared to have fermentation activity in them, I decided to give a try at starting one up. After stirring up the slurry in the Golden Buffalo jar, 20 grams of it was mixed with 30 grams of flour to form a fairly firm dough, which was then placed on a shelf above my coffee machine with a temperature of about 79F. It was left there for 24 hours at the end of which it had risen slightly in volume and still had a bit of a sour milk or yogurt smell.

The culture at the end of 24 hours (48 hours from when the first 5 grams was mixed with water) was fed again by taking 5 grams of the culture and mixing it with 22g or Poland Springs water and 28g of KA AP flour. It was placed at 79F above the coffee machine for another 24 hours, and the result was that it had doubled in volume and was beginning to smell more tangy and vinegary like a typical mature sourdough starter. The consistency was a little runny with small bubbles, but it clearly seemed a little closer to a ripe, healthy sourdough starter than it was the day before.

The culture was again fed the same way and returned for another 24 hours to the 79F shelf above the coffee machine. It had risen by about 4x, smelled like a normal sourdough starter, and had the usual consistency of a somewhat ripe firm sourdough starter.

I'm sure it is ready to be used to make some bread. After starting so many of these starters in the last few years in various experiments, I know what a healthy one is like. It went so smoothly, it seemed worth mentioning, as it is a little different from the usual recipes.

To summarize this accidental process:

Day 1:

Mix 5 grams of very fresh whole wheat flour (or maybe white flour, as the Heartland Mill AP smelled much the same, though less intense) with 100 grams of distilled water (saves any trouble with chlorine, alkalinity or other problems with water), stir, and let sit, covered, at room temperature (I imagine at 79F would work, too) for 24 hours, stirring or swirling periodically.

Day 2:

Stir up the water and flour mixture and take 20 grams of it and place in a clean jar. Add 30 grams of white flour, stir into a thick paste or a firm dough, and let sit at around 79F (probably room temperature would also work, though it might take several more days, depending on how cold it is) for 24 hours.

Day 3 and beyond:

Feed the culture by taking 5 grams of the culture, mix with 20 grams of water and 28 grams of white flour. Let sit for 24 hours at 79F.

Probably you don't need distilled water anymore, in fact it may not be needed at all at the beginning either. It may be good to avoid chlorinated water. I use bottled water without any problems, but my well water is surprisingly alkaline and it seems to have been the cause of some problems with starting starters I've experienced in the past.

The culture should be ready when it no longer turns runny after rising by more than about 3x and has large bubbles in it if you cut into it with a spoon. With the feeding above, it should rise by more than 2x in about 4.5 hours at 79F, about 5.5 hours at 74F, or about 7.5 hours at 69F.

It might take several days longer, but this worked for me faster than any method I've tried in the past.

I suppose it's just a lucky but rare event, but it seemed like every single jar in all these home ash content measurements I've been doing have a very similar smell after 24 hours. I wouldn't be surprised if any of them would have started up by just feeding them.

It's also possible that some sort of cross contamination with my active starter occured, except I did these by mixing distilled water poured from a container that I believe couldn't possibly have had any contamination from my active starters. Also, I only stirred by swirling the jars and didn't use any stirrer or whisk. I did use a fork on subsequent days, but that fork had been through the dishwasher and never used to stir my active sourdough starter. I suppose the jar I used may have somehow had some residue of an active starter in it, but I had recently thoroughly cleaned the jars used in these experiments with soap and hot water.

Anyway, I'd be curious if anyone else gives this a try and it works for them, if you're curious to try it. The things that's a little different about this method from what I've read about or tried in the past is the very high initial hydration (2000%) at room temperature followed by immediate conversion to a firm white starter at a fairly warm 79F. I wonder if there is some unexpected advantage to this method.

Bill

bwraith's picture

Accidental Sourdough Starter

January 30, 2008 - 2:28pm -- bwraith

As I conducted my home ash content tests during the latest home milling and sifting session, a sourdough starter was accidentally started. The home ash content test involves mixing 5 grams of flour with 100 grams of distilled water, stirring it periodically, and measuring the conductivity of the water until it stabilizes, about 24 hours later. All of that time was spent at about 69F, the temperature of my kitchen in the winter.

megamont's picture
megamont

I am posting a new method of creating a sourdough loaf that may help "newbies" to over-come those initial flops we all seemed to have had at one time or another.

Assuming you have a healthy starter, if you haven't there is plenty of information available here on "The Fresh Loaf Website".

Temperature is the most important item when it comes to dough making and this includes "starters".

I find the term "at room tempt." a little misleading as it can vary up to 15°.

This being the case it is impossible to create a consistently textured  loaf.

I found 79° to "my" optimum temp.

By that I mean after all the ingredients have been mixed together the final dough or starter should be left to proof at 79°.

By using a fixed temp. you will be able to define a fixed time scale that your yeast or starter takes to expend it's self thus creating a consistent loaf. 

This recipe works for me every time.

Ingredients;

250 grams of starter.

2 cups of high protein unbleached flour (13%). (+ extra 1 cup if needed)

1 cup of unbleached wholemeal strong flour. (13.6%).

2-1/2 teaspoons salt. (+ extra 1/2 tsp. if needed).

2 teaspoons of "beef dripping" (not lard).

1 cup of spring or tank water. (without chlorine).

Method;

  • Combine the 250gms of starter with 1 cup of white flour and 1cup of spring or tank water. (adjust water temp. to obtain 79° overall).

Mix for 2 minutes.

Very "wet" (yes)

"Cover" and allow to stand for 4hrs at 79°.

Next;

Add 1 cup of white flour, 1cup of wholemeal flour, 2-1/2 tsp. salt, and 2 tsp. of beef dripping. (grated dripping is fine)

Combine for 1 minute.

Take tempt. (adjust with extra flour or water). (salt?).

Special note; Mixing creates heat.

Mixing;

(Kenwood chef).

You have two choices.

  1. Mix for 1 further minute and remove to a floured board. (cut in half if necessary).

Let dough rest for 5 minutes.         

Flatten out on board and triple fold then double fold in a 90° direction to the

triple fold direction. (should finish up a round ball roughly).

 Take the ball of dough in two hands and pare the top off and tuck it under the outer edgers of the dough till the top becomes smooth. (no ragged or torn edges).(about 2 to 5 minutes).

Shape dough.

Place in a flour coated baking medium and "cover".

At 4hrs turn oven on set to 500°.

At 4-1/2 hrs you are ready to bake.

An extra 1/2 hr was added to the proofing time for the wholemeal flour.

There is no need to score the top of this dough as the starter has enough "Oomph" to make it rise.

 

      2. Mix for 8 minutes. (result a much tighter dough).

Next operations are the same as for "choice 1", but scoring of the top is necessary as the dough is much tighter.

I found scoring in the shape of a square gives the best result for myself.



Baking;

Coat top of dough with beaten egg. (color).

 In the photo above both S/S-bowels have been greased with beef dripping, the one containing the dough has been dusted with flour, the larger one ("lid") has been dusted with salt.

Before placing the lid over the dough bowl a misting spray of water is applied to the salt. (moisture-steam).

Bake at 500° for 30 minutes. (check at 25 minutes).

Remove lid and turn oven down to 230° for 10 minutes and then off.

Allow the loaf to bake down for 5 minutes.

Remove from oven, check if cooked, if so turn out onto rack and cover.

I hope this helps.

PS. I am trialing a variation of a starter based on "dried sultanas" I hope to keep you informed of the results.

 

 

MissyErin's picture
MissyErin

Hello all...

New to this fabulous site, and instead of just sitting on the sidelines watching (while drooling) at everyone's gorgeous creations, I decided I would post all of my breads up too. I'll start by saying that I have been baking bread for a year now... focusing almost exclusively on whole grains (the full gamut) and my oh my were those first 20 serious house building bricks. Home depot actually contacted me... just kidding... Its been a fantastic learning process. It is so frustrating, though, to work for hours on something that turns out to be a total flop! But I'm thinking positive, right? So... I try to learn from these flops and keep refining and refining..

I have started to really get into sourdoughs, though, and created a starter from PR's crust and crumb (with the organic raisins) and its been great. Its just been mighty chilly in our house in Atlanta, and there has been lots of bubbles after feeding, but not more than a 40-50% rise, which is low for Betty the Barm, and I'd prefer not to think of her as developmentally delayed. Just more of a nuzzler, and she likes it warm! I have to say that the first set of loaves I made were beginners luck. They were perfection. My hubby thought he had woken up to a new wife, one with bakin' skillz. The next set I made were "eh.." and then I made a set of SD rolls to bring to a new years lunch. again... "eh..."

So I was on this site last night until 2am (where did the time go???) and I was so inspired... I started another batch early this morning and they came out of the oven about an hour ago. About a 6 hour cold ferment... after the two room temps at 2.5 hours. Today's SD was based on Susan's posting on her blog wildyeastblog.com and I have to say that they came out super tasty! They don't look nearly as pretty as hers (these are not pretty at all, in fact)... but I would love some criticism (constructive, please!) I used a steam pan and sprayed water every minute for the first 3 min, then at min 10 and 15.

bread 1bread 1

bread 2bread 2

 

bread 3bread 3

 

bread 4bread 4

 

My basic notes are -

1. I slashed all of the loaves, and I tried to make them deep, but they didn't come out with that "easy grip" ledge that I LOVE. Why? Did I need to go a lot deeper with the slash? I used a serrated wusthof knife.

2. Do I need to bake them a little longer to get that warm dark crust that I feel is lacking? I think that the bread would've been much tougher if I had kept the loaves in much longer.

3. I'm going to try to describe this.. the crumb texture seems "squeaky" or plasticy. I don't mean hard plastic, but I mean not like sandwich bread, not a silky smooth crumb. Does that make sense? Its even shiny... why is that. All the SD's I've had in the past have been softer and less "squeaky" or "shiny". This almost seemed more like ciabatta...

4. I need a canvas or couche of some sort.. because the loaves were definitely wider than I wanted and not as tall.

I'd love ANY tips you have!!

Thank you very much :)

 


Melissa

BDGoats's picture

Is my starter OK?

January 13, 2008 - 10:39am -- BDGoats

I activated my starter from Northwest Sourdough last week.  It was bubbly at first (I feed it for 3 days starter - 1 cup flour, 3/4 cup distilled water).  Now it is doing nothing - looks like pancake batter - no bubbles.  I keep getting houch (the thin layer of liquid on top) - so I stir that back in.  But, I haven't seen any bubbles for the last day or two.  Did I do something wrong?  Is it OK?  What do I need to do?

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