The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

When is my starter ready?

jackie9999's picture
jackie9999

When is my starter ready?

I've been reading here for awhile and had a question about the starter I'm trying to get going. When I began reading up on starters the resources were overwhelming and I began with one that looked easy, the sourdom method.  I've been at it for going on 2 weeks now, each day I discard almost all, except a tablespoon, and I feed 100g water, 70g flour, 30g rye flour. Every day it seems to increase by 50%, it never doubles. I'm beginning to wonder if it ever will, since I'm discarding most of it daily. Those of you that have been doing this for awhile, do you recommend I keep at it and wait for it to double? Is two weeks nothing in the world of starters..am I being too anxious?


Thanks for any and all suggestions..the recipes here are half the problem..I can't wait to make something :)


Jackie.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Jackie, how much does your tablespoon of starter weigh? Does it weigh 100 grams too? It sounds like you aren't using enough starter when you feed. Try using equal weights of starter, flour, and water.


--Pamela

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi Jackie,


Two weeks is usually a long enough time to get a starter you can use to raise good bread. At this point you need to make sure the yeast in your culture are active, as without them you can't raise your bread. Most folks around here think, and I agree with them in general, that twice daily feedings are necessary to get your yeast happy.


So my first suggestion would be to refresh your starter twice a day. Since you have a scale, you may want to weigh the amount of starter you keep to refresh, as Pamela suggests, and experiment with different ratios of flour to starter in your refreshments. Some people favor 1:2:2, i.e. for 10 grams of starter you would add 20 grams of water and 20 grams of flour, (assuming 100% hydration). Others prefer a higher ratio of flour to starter, for example 1:3:3, The higher the ratio of flour to starter, the longer it takes the yeast to consume the food in the flour. (This can become a useful tool in scheduling, though most people seem to find a ratio that works well in their daily lives and stick with it.)


The books which tell you your starter should triple or quadruple before you can use it to bake are going too far, in my book. The activity of your yeast will be evident from lovely bubbles infused in the culture that are easy to see. Of course the gas that causes the bubbles makes the culture rise, but a starter that doubles in size is likely to raise bread just fine. If you refresh your starter twice a day and your yeast are active, you'll see plenty of telltale bubbles which will tell you that it's time to bake bread!


It generally takes longer for your starter to develop all the bacteria that will eventually provide the many wonderful flavors that sourdough bakers prize. There is an art to maintaining a starter so as to encourage both yeast and bacterial growth and activity. The important variables are time, temperature, hydration level, and the flour you use in refreshing your starter. As you become confident that you can raise your loaves, you will probably want to experiment with these factors to develop the flavors you like best in your bread.


Hope this helps.


David

jackie9999's picture
jackie9999

Thank you... that's done the trick !


The twice daily feeding, using the 1:2:2 mix and it doubled the next day. It's spongy and smells good. I've popped it in the fridge now since the weekend is over and I have work the next few days. I'll be reading up on refreshing it before using, and looking for an idiot proof beginners recipe :)


Jackie

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Hi Jackie, when you are ready to make your first sourdough check out Susan's Sourdough in the search area. It's the one baked under a stainless steel bowl and is idiot proof - I should know! Hope you will try it and be sure to let us know how it goes, A.

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi Jackie,


Glad to hear your starter's active and happy. Since your starter's a new one, and you don't have a working routine yet, here's another suggestion.


First, figure out when you will need your starter to either build a "final levain" or directly to build your dough (I'll say a little more on this further down). Then, allow 3 prior feedings, just to make sure your yeast are active and ready to raise your bread. This will tell you when to take your starter out of the fridge, which will be a couple of hours before the time at which you'll make your first refreshment.


Here's an example, and I'll try to keep it relatively simple. This is based on Jeffrey Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough, which you will find a recipe for lower down.


Let's say you will mix your dough Saturday morning, to bake bread Saturday afternoon. That would mean your first refreshment would be Thursday morning.


1) Take your starter out of the fridge Thursday morning, wait a couple of hours, and refresh;


2) Refresh again Thursday evening, approximately 12 hours after first refreshment;


3) Refresh again Friday morning;


4) Build your final levain Friday evening;


5) Mix dough Saturday morning, for baking later that afternoon.


So what's a "final levain"? This method takes a small amount of starter and builds a large enough amount to inoculate your dough. Here's Hamelman's recipe. You'll see he uses only 2 TBSP of starter to inoculate 4.8 ounces of flour, using a 125% hydration (liquid) starter. You can use 100% hydration starter just as well for this recipe. Lots of people have. That would mean using 150 grams of flour and 150 grams of water. When you mix your dough, remember to save 2 TBSP of starter first! (Refresh this after you've mixed your dough, and put in fridge. Hamelman suggests not putting the refreshed starter immediately into the fridge, but lots of excellent bakers do.)


 Final Levain:



Starter

Ounces

Grams

Flour

4.8 oz

136 g

Water

6 oz

170 g

Starter

2T

2T

Dough:

Dough

Ounces

Grams

Flour

1 lb 8 oz

680.4 g

Rye

3.2 oz

90.7 g

Water

14.8 oz

419.6 g

Salt

.6 oz

17 g

Starter

10.8 oz

306.2 g

This is just one example. You may want to try another recipe, of course. The point is to get used to a routine of refreshing your starter so it's ready to use when you're ready to bake.

Hope this helps,

David

jackie9999's picture
jackie9999

I wanted to thank everyone for the help and report back that my starter is alive and well!


I've made the JH vermont sourdough, the Five-grain seeded bread and Susan's sourdough bagels. Sourdough baking takes alot longer than commercial yeast I've discovered, but the flavour is worth it. Seems you have to allot a minimum 2 days to anything you make - so planning is key.


Another thing I've discovered is bagels are WAY too easy to make :)


 


 


 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

as I was reminded this weekend.  I've baked mostly sourdough in recent months, but baked a simple, white, yeasted, straight-dough bread this weekend to take to a friend.  I started at 7:15 Saturday morning and had the finished bread sitting on the cooling rack at 10:15.  My sourdough wouldn't have competed its first rise in 3 hours!


Paul