The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

starter

  • Pin It
Redrummy's picture

California bio culture via Californian honey?

December 1, 2011 - 12:17am -- Redrummy

Hello,

I've been experimenting with different starters and still havn't had any luck getting a good sour bread. I have ordered a few San Francisco starters but I've been told that they wont last long before the local yeast and bacteria take over. One thing I wondered is if you were to source honey from California, shouldn't that contain the local yeast and hopefully lactobacillus? If this idea were to work, anyone could create and maintain a SF sourdough starter. Any thoughts?

bigtoy's picture

Tangy starter

November 29, 2011 - 1:34am -- bigtoy

Hello;

This is my first posting - I hope someone can set me straight about starter.

I have a rye starter which is about 4 or 5 months old. I've made quite a few loaves with it, and happy with the results.

However, the starter is becoming progressively more tangy - it's very noticeable, and it's starting to transfer to the bread itself. 

This is not my preference, so how can I bring the starter back to an earthier, rye-like smell that won't detract from the bread please?

Regards.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is what I made for myself of all the things that I have learned so far.  I'm finding that there's a huge amount of information from various sources, all with spoon-fed amounts of usefulness.  So, here's my attempt to help others out there, whomever might actually find this.  Please note that my use of the word "yeast" means the brewer's instant yeast, and starter means the friendly creatures (or "the fish", as it is called in our home) that are cultivated from flour and water.  The numbered parts are all of the steps to actual bread making that I've found out.  I'm just now gleaning information about the preferment/poolish step (just learned a few weeks ago about the existence of such a step, and was relieved to find that "sponge" "poolish" "pate fermente" are all the same thing phew).  Here is basically what I've learned in the past four years:

 

EQUIPMENT    scale, oven peel/large spatula, unglazed quarry tiles or baking stone, measuring spoons/cups, bowls, wooden spoons, towels for bread, thin long stemmed thermometer to HIGH temperature

 

ABOUT STARTER

Not rigid method. Repeatedly successful recipes can fail.

Use variables to gain some control and predictability.

Variables include-- time, temperature, humidity, water quality, dough density/hydration

Use scientific method---only change one variable at a time

Starter bread characteristics:  large irregular holes, crumb, structure;  spreads, advantages (can make starter yourself, doesn't need extra food in the recipe, more room for creativity, ability to do more with texture and flavor, English Muffins, French bread), disadvantages (rise time less predictable, needs help to keep shape, needs to be tended and fed)

Starter eats flour, doesn’t eat sugar.  Any sugar in recipe you will end up eating yourself

Yeast bread characteristics—small crumb, regular small holes, less notable structure), tends to rise not spread, advantages (more predictable rise time, not need fed), disadvantages (cannot make yeast yourself, needs food added to recipe, flavor is entirely in the recipe--little creativity, has to be degassed)

 

MAKING STARTER

½ c whole grain flour with ¼ c water (equal weight).  Keep in glass or stainless steel with lid

Watch for life signs (bubbles) after 12 hours, if no signs for a few days, start over (check water quality)

Check the PH of your water---should be neutral or slightly acidic….basic is no good for starter. Add fruit juice or citric acid if needed

Feed when life signs, every 12 hours:  throw out ½ amount in there.  Put in exact same amount flour in there as in there already, plus ½ that in water (or equal weight of both)

*change container often*

Recommended stainless steel, glass, or glazed ceramic containers with lids (to keep bugs and children out, and moisture in)  starter reacts to most metals

After 3 days of consistent rising and falling, switch to white flour (to avoid bad critters)

Will smell like fish, should change to wheaty smell

After 1 week of consistent doubling, ok to use

Only use small amount of old starter to new starter (Tablespoon at most), keep discarding/baking—do not keep….ends up being a sponge not a starter

Note peak and fall times   starter:flour:water

Recommended 1:2:1 once a week feed fridge always, keeping Tablespoon amount or so

 

 

 

Once get good, can keep different teaspoon sized starters for each type of bread (CHEF)

More flavor=more time between feedings

 

1 PREPARE STARTER

Called preferment, sponge, poolish, bigas, levaine, pate fermentee (all the same)

Develops flavor, texture, lighter bigger air

More sour, more acid, longer shelf life

Note peak and fall times

Recommended 8-12 hours before dough mixing/kneading, 25% of total dough (so subtract from recipe flour and water used)

Add to bread at peak time

More starter % in bread, less proof time---acidity breaks down gluten

 

2 AUTOLYSE AND MIXING

Mix flour, water and poolish together, let rest five minutes or so (keeps from adding too much flour, and helps in kneading)

Most variable amounts are water and flour (coarse/fine ground flour, humidity, etc)

Set aside CHEF

Starter eats flour, doesn’t eat sugar.  Any sugar in recipe you will end up eating

oil--lending or not lending its flavor depends on recipe

Do NOT add salt directly to starter—mix in flour as a buffer first to keep starter alive

Do NOT use iodized salt—iodine becomes a gas in the oven—messes up your bread

 

3 KNEADING

-helps prevent too much flour being added--easier to add flour than water

-Palm push quarter turn only good for FLAT breads like pie crust, crackers

*Stretch&Fold:  adds air and builds structure—gluten sheath.  Also called French Kneading, or Slap Happy, etc.  Take the dough; slap the furthest side away from you down on the counter and away, while drawing the nearer side towards you.  Taking the nearer side in your palms (do not break, draw evenly like drafting wool) draw up and over further side, stretching sideways under and around, making a heart shape almost.  Make sure while you are drawing the dough over the further side to incorporate a nice big air bubble.  Turn the dough over and a quarter turn around (flip and turn like clockwise/counterclockwise).  Repeat.  Should change in feel and look—it will begin to pull dough off the counter and fingers.  Only dust the counter with flour if large pieces of dough are sticking—you want it to be tacky.  Shoot for 20 minutes of kneading. 

-Windowpane test—dough stretches between fingers fine enough to let light through without breaking

 

 

 

 

4 BULK FERMENTATION

Do not let ferment on pan---acidity tarnishes pans

Use oil to keep from sticking (using flour at this stage creates flour dumplings inside your bread)

Use heat during winter to help, especially in the North—direct heat ok at this step  70-90 degrees F optimal

Stretch and fold at least every thirty minutes to keep gluten structure from relaxing, and to distribute temperature evenly (fermentation heats up dough) S&F twice minimum during this stage

For smaller crumb, deflate while S&F

Bigger holes, keep as much air as possible

 

5 SHAPING AND PROOFING

This is the stage to choose your shape:  boule, baguette, loaf, braid, rolls, etc.  A shape doesn’t define a recipe, a recipe enhances the shape.  (good recipe, good rolls, etc)

Do not let proof on pan---acidity tarnishes pans

Starter spreads---need to use something to help.  Linen towels with flour method, proofing trays/counters, baskets heavily floured, etc.

use flour to keep from sticking--lightly

Do NOT use direct heat source (like oven light) to keep warm --creates a second crust that will not fill

Harder crust---use towel and let dry out to create a rind

Softer crust—let proof in moist environment (covered with bowl, etc)

More starter % in bread, less proof time---acidity breaks down gluten

Overproofing---when bread collapses---gluten stretched too far and cannot recover (make toast!)

Ready for oven:  when you poke it, it fills back your fingerprint but not all of the way

 

6 BAKING

Use flour on baking pan to keep bread from sticking (oil fries the bread and usually sticks)

Oven spring—put in already hot oven.  Oven high temp for 5 minutes, then lower temperature for optimal oven spring (example 450 degrees F, lower to 425 or 415)

Baking stone acts as heat sink to increase oven spring, can use unglazed quarry tiles---ALWAYS put into cold oven and let heat up and cool down with the oven (or break)

Slashing loaves a way to make the oven spring more predictable.  If bulges out near tray---temperature different in pan and air, etc.

Harder crust—spray dough with water right before putting in oven.  Do NOT steam oven directly if electronic---it will destroy oven entirely

Internal temperature 204 degrees F and above best indicator of doneness.  Cutting open stops the cool pressure cooker effect of the inside.  Thump test does NOT work.

If bread fell or didn’t bake well, make toast immediately

 

7 STORING

Sourdough:  Store in paper bag and bread cabinet if have one.  Fridge hastens going stale, Plastic keeps too much moisture

If bread contains milk products (milk, lots of butter or sourcream), or has a lot of moisture and sugar (cornbread or banana bread prime example of both), keep in fridge.  They only last about 2 days before going bad : (

Sourdough: make toast if going stale or out too long.  Bread should last for about 4 days, unless quick pour sugary breads like banana bread.

engineer41's picture

Recipe posted on 'thefreshload.com' question

November 14, 2011 - 9:43am -- engineer41
Forums: 

Hi everyone!

I have been a member for a while and browsing most of the time since I was always traveling on the road :) I am now finally home and came across this basic recipe:

 

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/handbook/whole-wheat-sourdough-sandwich-bread

 

I started working on my starter, however I am a bit puzzled by the quanity of my starter I must use?? I guess the starter can be used on day 4?

Your help is appreciated, thank you!

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

This was going to be a blow-by-blow account of reviving a starter that had been dried for travel.  Yeah, my eyes are starting to glaze already, too.  So this will get more of a Readers Digest treatment.  And I'll try to stay awake until the end.  What you do is up to you.

Here's the back story: Man lives in Pretoria, South Africa.  Man has sourdough starter.  Man will repatriate to his home in Kansas City.  Man does not wish to lose his starter or begin a new one after his return.

Still with me?  Good.

Having read two different methods right here on TFL for preparing a starter for travel, I chose to do (drumroll, please) both!  And knowing that some or all of my luggage would be subjected to the tender mercies of either the TSA or U.S. Customs, I wanted to make sure that I had enough with me that at least one packet got through.  Or so I hoped.

Technique #1 involves adding enough flour (if your starter is runny) or enough water (if your starter is more like a dough) to some of said starter to achieve a thick batter consistency that is still smearable.  I don't know if smearable is a word but it is the key.  The traveler (your faithful reporter in this instance) needs to smear a thin layer of the suitably hydrated starter on a sheet of parchment paper and wait a day or two for the smear to dry to until it is roughly as crisp as potato chips.  Or potato crisps, for those of you who are still in South Africa.  The dried smears / chips / crisps can be broken into smaller pieces and placed in plastic bags for eventual placement in your baggage or on your person.  Note that thinner smears = shorter drying times.

Technique #2 involves adding flour to your starter until it is so dry that it is reduced to crumbs.  Some mechanical intervention will be necessary; perhaps the edge of a spoon or maybe a pastry blender or even a food processor.  I can say that a mezzalune is effective.  The more flour you try to force into the dough, the less cooperative it becomes; hence the need for mechanical assistance to cut it into ever smaller bits while force-feeding it yet more flour.  As with the flakes, the crumbs can be bagged for travel.

I strongly recommend that you clearly label each bag so that there is no leeway for interpretation by the various uniformed officials who may have their hands in your luggage at some point.  We all know what happens when we assume, right?

Thus prepared, your faithful reporter placed a baggie of dried starter in every piece of luggage.  And, for reasons yet unclear, every bag and every baggie made it all the way to the proper destination.  On the same day.  

Being somewhat surprised to find myself the proud possessor of a surfeit of dried starter, I did what any American male worth his salt would do: I set up a competition.  Keeping one baggie in reserve as insurance, I combined 10g of flaked starter and 25g of water in one container and 10g of crumbed starter and 25g of water in another container.  Here's how they looked at the start of the competition, flakes to the left and granules to the right:

Pretty exciting, huh?  Other than some fogging of the inside of each jar, they looked about the same 24 hours later so I added 15g of flour of each.  At the end of the second 24-hour period, they were still pretty flat.  There was a whiff of...something...from the granules jar but the flakes jar smelled mostly of wet flour.  By the end of Day 3, there was evidence of bubbles in the granules jar and a hint of expansion.  The flakes jar was still pretty quiet; just a stray bubble or two.

Yep, that's right, the excitement continues to build!

At the end of Day 3, I discarded half of each sample and added water and flour in a 1:2:3 ratio.  I also moved them to some smaller plastic containers.  Here's how they looked after dinner and settling into their new digs:

Just to keep you on your toes, I've switched the granules container to the left and the flakes container to the right.

Some 12 hours later, there was some genuine growth going on:

And from a different perspective:

The crumbs sample has expanded noticeably and is riddled with bubbles.  The flakes sample has expanded just slightly and has fewer bubbles.

And that's pretty much how it went for the next few days.  The crumbs sample consistently out-performed the flakes sample.  Even on a 12-hour feeding schedule, the crumbs sample smelled consistently of acetone which suggests that it was burning through its food between feedings.  The flakes sample never developed a notable yeasty / fruity / sour odor in the week's time that I ran the comparison, although it did get past the wet flour odor.

If your eyes are still open at this point, you can hang on for the wrap-up.

For short-term storage, such as for travel, I would choose the granules approach to drying starter over the flaked approach.  I've done the flakes technique twice now and it required a full week to get back to a sluggish level of activity in both cases.  For longer storage, I'd use the flakes.  Why?  Because it seems to be a more stable form that is less susceptible environmental upsets.

I have some notions about the difference in behavior of the two.  First, the granules weren't as dry as the flakes.  That seems to have allowed the yeasts and bacteria of the starter to get back to work faster, possibly because they were less stressed and did not shut down entirely.  Second, although the organisms were tightly bound in a relatively dry environment, they were also surrounded by food even if they could not exploit it easily.  The down side for the granules is that their higher moisture content would make them more susceptible to attack by molds and other organisms, which militates against using them as a long-term storage option.

The good news is that there are options for the traveler, as well as for disaster recovery.  The easiest way to travel with a starter, of course, is to tuck a small blob in a plastic bag or other container.  That's probably the easiest way to lose it to a zealous inspector, too.

And the reward for any of you who have stayed awake through this entire dissertation?  Pictures of the pain au levain baked with the reconstituted starter, which now smells the way a healthy and happy starter should.  Note that the bread was made at about Day 7 or Day 8; not because of the starter's readiness but because of the baker's schedule.  The starter could probably have been used on Day 4 or Day 5.  First, the loaf:

And then the crumb:

Happy travels!

Paul

SourdoughRules's picture
SourdoughRules

What to do with your starter excess?  I always feel bad just pouring it down the drain.  However sometimes I have to pour out the full cup of each starter to make room for the cup of new feeding that has to get added in.  Even when I do use the pour off for sourdough pancakes, there is often a good 0.5-1 cup of excess re-fed starter in the proofing bowls.  In either case, I hate to pour good starter down the drain.  If I follow the recipes in books like Tartine they really are only using a very small fraction of the total starter, albeit for great recipes.  I wanted to see if I could use the starter as the basis for a bread by having it substitute for comparable quantities of water and flour.    My first try at this was two weeks ago.  I didn't use any olive oil or leavening.  I had chance to have long rise times.  This time around I had some new garlic infused oil I wanted to try using but didn't have enough time to allow the sourdough to definitely rise in time so added 0.25 tsp of yeast.  I'll try to post pictures later, but the results were great!

 

Ingredients
    •    However much 100% (by volume) starter you have left over.
    •    Additional water to get to 1 cup total water
    •    0.5 cup wheat flour
    •    Additional white flour to get to 3 cups of flour
    •    1.5 tsp kosher salt
    •    1.5 tsp sugar
    •    2 TB olive oil
    •    up to 0.25 tsp instant yeast

Directions
    1.    Night before, your excess starter from feeding cycle into measuring cup to determine total amount of existing water and flour.  Based on 100% hydration, if you have 1 cup of starter you'd have half a cup of water and half a cup of flour.  Preferably have 1 cup of starter or more for this step.
    2.    Add the half cup of whole wheat flour and let soak over night.
    3.    In the morning before making bread, mix in olive oil, sugar, yeast (if used) and additional water.  Mix thoroughly by gently  stirring/folding.
    4.    Put additional white flour into a bowl leaving about 1 cup or so on the side for kneading.
    5.    Pour starter mixture over the flour and incorporate completely
    6.    Leave rest in the bowl, covered, for 30 minutes
    7.    Work additional flour in and knead in bowl until ready to be turned out onto floured surface
    8.    Knead dough incorporating enough flour to achieve nice smooth consistency.  Knead for 10-15 minutes.
    9.    Spray metal bowl with PAM and place dough in bowl covered.
    10.    Let rise until doubled in size.  Will be about 2-3 hours with yeast and longer than that without.
    11.    When double in size turn out onto floured surface and cut into number of loaves you want (probably 1-3).  
    12.    Work dough into balls and let rest for 30 minutes.
    13.    Form dough into final loaf shape and place on parchment paper. Cover, either with a bowl or other covering or a damp towel.
    14.    When doubled in size preheat oven to 500 degrees with stone and tray for steaming.
    15.    At this time uncover the loaves, coat with flour and slash.  If oven will be longer than 15 minutes to come to temperature re-cover the loaves.
    16.    When oven is up to temperature boil 2 cups of water in the microwave.  
    17.    Place loaves on stone by working the parchment paper.
    18.    Put 1 cup of the boiling water into the pan
    19.    Close oven and set thermostat for 450 degrees
    20.    Bake for 30 minutes (or longer to get more crust).
    21.    Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

gizzy's picture

something odd about my sourdough Firm starter. Please advice

September 10, 2011 - 9:37am -- gizzy

Hi TFL,

So I'm making my first sourdough and I'm using the seed culture and barm recipe from the Bread Bakers Apprentice. The barm turned out amazing. I just refreshed it today using 150gs and using 50% dark rye flour (I was out of bread flour) and 50% water. It doubled in size after 2-3 hours and just looks and smells really good.

Ghobz's picture

P. Reinhart ABED Pain au Levain - I think I failed again

September 6, 2011 - 8:01am -- Ghobz

Hi,

I'm at my second attempt making pain au levain following the recipe and instructions from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Bread Every Day. I went easily through building the seed starter and then the mother dough. Every thing went very well, although the activity in the seed starter happened faster than what PR indicated in his bood, sometimes rose and bubled in as little as 4 hours.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - starter