The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

"Seed Culture" vs. "Starter"

SulaBlue's picture
SulaBlue

"Seed Culture" vs. "Starter"

I am using Reinhart's method (based on Debra Wink's 'Pineapple Juice Solution') from the Whole Grain Breads book. I've completed the phases of the seed culture, but now I am looking at the Mother Starter section on pg 67. Again, I'm going to be faced with a HUGE amount of starter!


What, exactly differentiates the final stage of the 'seed culture' from a 'mother starter' that prevents me from using it as a starter, other than the hydration levels? I would, preferably, like to keep to a smaller volume of starter. I suppose, of course, that I could also simply half the ingredients listed and keep the same ratios. I would like, in the end, to end up with no more than about 2 cups of starter. While my starter is bubbly, it smells only lightly of beer atm - fairly young and weak, I think, after its last phase feeding. And yet it looks like he is taking it and easily quadrupling the starter? Can't I simply double it instead of quadrupling it without bad results? I have no idea why Reinhart has this idea that one needs to keep 6 cups of starter on hand.

gavinc's picture
gavinc

My starter is doing very well.  I feed it once a day and keep the hydration at 125%.  Each feeding is 15 g culture, 93 g water, 75 g bread flour.  I do two feedings the day before I build the final levain for my doughs.  I find this to be quite economcal.  It seems from what I read on TFL that the manner in which you maintain the starter is significant to the end results and flavour.  Experimentation is the key I think.  My breads are quite mild in sour but full flavoured.  I am still determining whether it's the way I treat the starter or my method in developing the dough.  I believe both conribute.

LindyD's picture
LindyD


What, exactly differentiates the final stage of the 'seed culture' from a 'mother starter' that prevents me from using it as a starter...



Nothing.  A sourdough starter (or culture) is nothing more than that.  


You certainly don't need to keep two or six cups around unless you plan to use 95 percent of it in a recipe (saving the remainder to build on).


Using part of your starter, you can create a liquid levain or a firm levain.  You could even build a rye starter using a portion of your wheat starter if you didn't want to do a pure rye starter from scratch.   That's why your original culture is termed a "mother" or "seed" starter/culture.


I maintain two: a rye and wheat. The rye is about 10 ounces; the wheat starter is about 12 ounces.  I'll confess I don't measure when refreshing, only when I'm building a levain.


I don't have Reinhart's whole grain book and have no idea why it calls for maintaining such a copious amount.

SulaBlue's picture
SulaBlue

End up making a huge, copious amount. The BBA book starts with 1cup flour right off the bat and all refreshments are done with a full cup until the end where several cups are used.


But he is actually calling the original, where you first set up to 'catch' the wild yeast as the "seed culture" and then you build it up into a "mother" starter (of copious amounts).


I see no real difference in the end product other than hydration level and the fact that there's 6 bloody cups of it, which I certainly don't need! The last addition calls for 10.5 ounces of flour, 8 ounces of water, and 3.5 ounces of your original seed culture. Good GRIEF. Who the heck needs 1.25 POUNDS of starter?


Maybe that should be the suggestion for his next book: More realistic starter measurements for the casual home baker!

LindyD's picture
LindyD


I have the BBA but never followed his instructions.  I think I got the book around the time Mike Avery, a TFL member and owner of Sourdough Home, was very outspoken about the use of the term "barm" in the book (which PR has since ceased).


I just wound up mixing a combination of wheat and rye flour with water, refreshing it daily for the first couple of weeks, and it grew into a very nice starter which is now approaching its second year.  That was before using pineapple juice became so popular.


My pure rye starter took a bit longer, but I'm happy with the results.


 

SulaBlue's picture
SulaBlue

I think I'd like to keep about 2 cups on hand. That's plenty, really, if I'm only baking once or twice a week, no? Most recipes seem to call for about 1 cup, give or take, of your starter mixed into a pre-dough.


I see a great many variations on feeding schedules - every thing from twice a day to every 3 days. Ideally I'd like to bake every three days or so and send the results into my husband's workplace (Certainly can't have that much bread around the house!).


So, I should be able to just keep 8 oz of each of my two starters and refresh with 4 oz of flour and 4 oz of water - but how regularly? I don't necessarily wish to put it in the fridge if I'm going to bake so frequently. Obviously if I'm going to go baking-crazy one day I can simply triple my starter by feeding it 8oz of flour and 8oz of water in the same day (possibly broken up into 2 feedings without discarding anything?)

GinkgoGal's picture
GinkgoGal

My baking schedule is pretty different from yours (once a week or 10 days) but here's what I do:


I keep a small ball of stiff starter in the fridge (about 3 Tbl).  Over two or three refreshments I build it up to the amount I need plus enough to store.  I discard maybe 1/4 cup of starter max.


I would think you could (and maybe should) keep less than 8oz on hand since from what I've read you want to add flour to the tune of double the weight of the starter to give the yeast enough food.  Say you need 12oz of starter for your recipe.  Keep 3oz of mother starter on hand and the night before baking add 6oz water and 6oz flour to make 15oz of starter.  Hold out 3oz of starter the next day.  I (in my beginner baker's opinion) wouldn't think you would need to feed the culture more than every three days when you bake.


Maybe one of the sourdough experts will pipe up if I'm totally off?

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Unrefrigerated starter will need to be fed twice a day, at a minimum, to keep it healthy at a ratio of 1:2:2. When kept at room temperature, your starter will consume all the nutrients in the flour very quickly. Once it runs out of food it will become very acidic, to the point where the yeast cells start to die off. This doesn't happen all at once, but gradually over time the starter will become more and more sluggish. Your breads will suffer in flavor and texture. They will not have a good rise or oven spring. You don't want to do this to your starter!

SulaBlue's picture
SulaBlue

And when refrigerated?

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

If your starter is freshly fed upon going into the fridge, you can use it in a recipe for up to 3 days afterwards without feeding again. If it is being stored in the fridge, it should ideally be fed once a week to keep it at its optimum. That  being said, many of us go much longer between feedings but it may take a couple of feedings to get the starter back up to its best vigor before using it in a recipe.

bassopotamus's picture
bassopotamus

From all I've read. I think you can cut feedings back to like once a week or so.

bread_inspired's picture
bread_inspired

I, too, made my starter by Reinhart.  What can we do with all that starter?  What would happen with a loaf made with 25%, 50%, or more starter?


 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I'll admit to not always building the levain Hamelman calls for in his sourdough recipie, and just using 10.8 ounces of my starter.  Great taste, crust, and crumb.


Just make sure your starter is primed to go.