The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter as a percentage of final dough

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Starter as a percentage of final dough

So far, I've been relying on reading and recipies (more or less) to slog my way through the sourdough learning curve. But, here's a question I don't remember seeing addressed.


When building a bread recipe, is there a rule of thumb for how much of the flour is from the starter vs. added later? For example, if my hydration calculations show I want 18 oz. of flour, should I make a starter with 6 oz. of flour and add 12 oz. (1/3 - 2/3) in the final dough? Is this affected by the hydration of the starter? (For example, if you use a wetter starter, use a higher percentage of starter to dough?) What effects should I expect by varying that ratio towards more starter or less starter?


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

flournwater's picture
flournwater

I am glad somebody asked this question.  I've wondered the same thing myself.  Like you, I've "slogged" my way through the learning curve.  My current, most successful sourdough recipe uses about 20% starter.  The bakers percentage for the flour it contains, it's pretty wet, is about 9%.  Looking forward to some expert responses here.

Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

I use a 100% hydration starter. As long as I know the weight of the starter I can easily tell how much flour and how much water went in without any difficult calculations. There are times, though, when I don't tend to bother...such as when I'm using such a small amount of starter that it wouldn't really matter (as in Susan's Ultimate sourdough). When using a larger amount or trying to convert a yeasted recipe to sourdough I always do the calculations.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

I use 100% as well, also because it's easier to do the math and I haven't found any reason to change.


That said, if I want to make a loaf of bread that contains 18 oz. of flour, I can use 2 oz of starter and 17 oz of flour (and enough water to reach my desired hydration), or I can use 10 oz of starter, and 13 oz flour, or I can use 30 oz of starter and 3 oz of flour, or any of an infinite combination of flour/starter, so long as it adds up to the same flour weight.


My question is, why would I choose to use 10 oz of starter and 13 oz. of flour, vs. 4 oz of starter and 16 oz. of flour, since I end up with the same amount of dough at the same hydration level (assuming I make similar adjustments for water). Is there any difference in the final product caused by using a higher or lower percentage of starter to end up with the same hydration dough?


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

There will be a taste difference as well as a difference in the time it takes to ferment and proof the loaf.


I'd try to explain better, but it's best left to the experts. I'm not really good with technical explanations.

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

If you folks are willing to post your questions here at a different thread, I'll be happy to answer them:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/11891/q-amp-daniel-t-dimuzio 


The questions are good ones, and I'd just prefer to share the answers there with everyone.

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Forgive me, Climbhi, I didn't intend to steal your thread.  But with the offer from dghdctr to answer the question in the alternative thread and my not being certain whether you might accept his invitation I paraphrastically posted it over on that thread.


Addendum:


Dan responded to the question. 


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/11891/q-amp-daniel-t-dimuzio#comment-67127

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

But I think you misunderstood the question. I re-posted it at Dan's blog.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Just to keep the info here in case anyone ever looks at this thread searching for the answer to the Q, here's what Dan DiMuzio responded on his blog page:


"Yes, I'd encourage you to experiment.  As far as math goes, stay especially focused upon the ratio of pre-fermented flour to the TOTAL amount of flour in the formula.   And keep working with the same, simple dough formula until you get the behavioral aspects of your starter and the effects on your dough completely figured out.


For a poolish, anywhere from 15-20% in pre-fermented flour is safe.  While going higher may work fine, it carries with it the possibility of an over-active enzyme content.  For liquid levain, maybe 10% (for low acidity) to 18% (for more), but it, like poolish, provides more enzymes as you increase its percentage, so be careful.


For Firm sponge, biga, or old dough, anywhere from 25 to 40% pre-fermented flour is normal.  High levels yield more flavor, but they will also give a lot of strength to the dough.  That may or may not be what you want.


With firm levain, anything from around 25 to 35% is normal, though, with a starter that has lower acidity (warmer, more frequently fed) you might get away with 40% with no ill effects.  My general way of thinking is that if the final dough is excessively sticky after its bulk fermentation, I need to use a lower percentage of levain next time or reduce the acidity of the levain."


Cool beans!