The Fresh Loaf

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Does it matter how often you feed your starter?

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aryaya's picture
aryaya

Does it matter how often you feed your starter?

I am wondering why do people choose to feed it once to twice daily instead of doubling or tripling it and feeding it say, once a day or every other day, or just sticking it in the fridge with a big feeding? I'd assume that it keeps them more vibrant I guess...????


But it'd sure be nice to maintain something a little less often, unless it does cut down on the quality... I read somewhere that a mild bread is made from old starter and a quick rise, and a sour bread from an actively fed starter and long rise, so I suppose thats what it is... ??

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

but it seems to me that the frequency of feeding depends on how you store your starter.  If you store your starter on the counter where it's fairly warm, the yeast will consume all of the available food in a certain period of time.  When it runs out of food for long enough, my guess is that the yeastie beasties start to die off.  The ph can change, thereby inviting "the wrong crowd" of bacteria to invade.  Then the quality of your starter suffers.


But if you put that same starter in cold storage (refrigerator), the metabolic rate goes down and it will take much longer (up to a week or more) for the yeastie beasties to consume the same amount of food.  Therefore the feedings can be far less frequent. 


What you're proposing, I think, is altering the ratio of feeding-- say feeding 1:5:5, perhaps (or more)  instead of 1:1:1 or 1:2:2 will probably give you more time between feedings because there is more food for the yeastie beasties to consume.  I think the issue there is predictability--how do you determine how long that food is going to last at a particular ambient temperature (which may change over the course of a day or week in a house)?  If you "know your starter" well and know the signs of when it's exhausting its food supply then you probably could gauge when to feed it and extend those feedings out for a predictable length of time. 


You can find a good treatise on that here:  http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/09/29/maintain-starter/  That's precisely what Susan does--she knows her starter and just how long it can go, she also keeps in mind the temperature and makes adjustments accordingly. 


I would have a hard time doing that in my kitchen.  We don't have air conditioning, and we only heat our house for a short time during each day when the weather is cold.  So there are wide fluctuations in temperature from the low 50's at night to the 90's or so that can occur during a single day depending on the weather.  For me, personally, the most predictable temperature for starter storage that will allow me to space out feedings  is going to be the refrigerator. 

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

Which brings to mind a question--


Is it possible to overfeed your starter?  If you feed your starter too much more than your starter can consume before you feed it again, could it result in diluting the starter?  I'm thinking you might end up with more flour and water paste and less yeastie beasties per volume than you need if you overwhelm the starter with food it cannot consume.  But this is just conjecture. 


Anyone?

gaaarp's picture
gaaarp

You could "overfeed" and thus dilute your starter.  But the yeasties will still be there doing their tirelees, thankless work, and they will eventually catch up.  I suppose if you overfeed it on an ongoing basis, the yeast could get so diluted that the starter would become dormant.  But if you then stopped feeding, the yeast would catch up eventually.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

It seems that the term overfeeding is being confused with diluting. While one -can- lead to the other, it doesn't have to.


As I pointed out in my response to your other thread, it is good to get to know your starter's particular cycle and the visual cues that are given. Knowing that, changes in temperature won't cause you to start guessing.


There is a 'curve', so to speak, at which activity peaks, and although there is still food left for the yeast, activity is starting to decline. Your particular 'pet' starter is very predictable in visual cues, even if actual hours or minutes varys according to temperature. Again, this is absolutely no different then bulk fermenting an entire batch of dough or proofing individual loaves. Times are given as estimates, but as we all have come to learn, dough doesn't tell time very well... ; ) A baker has to read the dough, not the clock.


Starter is nothing but dough constantly fermenting, so likewise, read your starter and not a clock. My old 1:1:1 starter consistently peaked between 4-5 hrs depending on room temp on the counter. Per that formula, I was inoculating equal weight old starter and new flour. I recently changed to a 1:3:4 hydration per Susan in San Diego's Ultimate Sourdough recipe. A 3:4 ratio is then a 75% hydration starter instead of 100%, and now I am inoculating 25% old starter, which is significantly less than before. After feeding it regularly for about 3 days, I see that it peaks (and is just as easy to tell as the 1:1:1 was) around 6-7 hours depending on room temp (faster during day feedings, slower at night). This is to be expected.


You do not necessarily have to re-feed at exactly the peak. If you did so, you'd be feeding 3-4 times a day depending on the inoculum to flour ratio. If you feed at this break point, or within 6-8 hours or so after it breaks, you will not dilute your overall starter and it should remain vibrant.


So your question, or rather thoughts are, there must be a particular formula that affords the least amount of attention to maintenance. Well, in the old days (and in modern bakeries), bread is baked every day, so maintaining a starter is just part of the procedure. For us home bakers, we have to mentally keep track of our starters so that they remain vibrant. We also have to plan ahead for when we are going to bake, to ensure our starter is there with us at the starting line.


I'm really liking this 1:3:4 ratio. That would make me biased and recommend it. All I can tell you is that it is easy to work with, and easier to maintain than my 1:1:1 (I'm using a smaller amount of it). It is easily converted back up to a 100% hydration (of whatever amount might be needed) for a particular recipe. Susan says she feeds hers once a week under refrigeration, but I suspect it could go much longer than that without much ill effects.


Each new way you approach your starter is a learning experience. How it looks as it goes through cycles, the average time it takes to transition through cycles and how it is used in your recipes are all different and educational. Only time will answer all of your questions, but the bottom line is, if you give it more flour to initial old starter being used, yes, it will take longer to break. Whether or not this is desired depends on your recipe and the amount of flavor you want from your starter. There are too many variables for one answer to catch it all. Hope that helps : )


- Keith

aryaya's picture
aryaya

ahh ok makes sense, thanks so much for all the quick help again. This forum is amazing! I'm concerned about keeping my little 'yeasty beasties' alive and well and since I don't know anyone personally that does sourdough, or ever have, I'm kinda sniffing and observing my little starter without any prior 'feel' for it haha.


I do actually do a 1:3:4 right now, and really like it, it seems to be working well. I seem to be able to get away with feeding it either in the morning or at lunch, and then once again before bed - so every 6-8 hours give or take. It does sometimes almost completely deflate before I get a chance to feed it, so I worry about it getting a bad ph and getting contaminated. But I don't let it go longer than a day without a new feed, so I'm hoping it'll be fine. I think I will give it a good feed and stick in the fridge after I feel its 'mature/strong enough' and feed once a week unless I'm baking.


Thanks again :)

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Strength and maturity (defined here as an acceptable flavor to you) are two different things.


Feeding a 1:3:4 every 6-8 hrs might be a bit excessive, and from what I've absorbed information-wise, you are promoting the yeast in that case. That, in theory, should reduce the sour or tang (all other things being equal, which is rare... heh). Whatever your feeding schedule is, it is fairly important (especially the first time culturalist!) to feed it at that time, every time, as much as possible. It is said that feeding within fairly wide timeframes affects the flavor profile, so if you feed it 'whenever', you might not get consistent results.


Ok, so a young starter definitely reaches strength before maturity, that much is not debated, but I've seen quite a few people mistakenly start refrigerating their starter as soon as it is doubling (appears to show good strength). So when is it mature? Well, that depends on you, and the only way to know for sure is to bake with it. Once you can honestly bite into one of your loaves and say, "ah, yes! This -is- very good!", then your starter is right at the profile you want it to be. It's at that point that it's ready for the refrigerator. There's so many different profiles you can achieve, that there's quite a few people who keep several different starters in their fridge. Some are in different hydrations, some fed with different flours, etc.


So make sure you bake with it, and be sure it's behaving and tasting in the way you desire.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

Thanks, Loafin.  My question was exactly that--when do you gauge when to start refrigerating your starter?


My starter was strong--it leavened very well, but the taste is still mild, barely sour.  I put it in the fridge Monday night, not knowing what I know now, thanks to your post. 


I'm a bit on the fence about just how sour I'd want it anyway.  I have something called "geographic tongue"--my tongue looks like a surface map, and it's sensitive to sour tastes and high acid content.  I can enjoy sour flavors and acidic foods up to a point, and then my tongue begins to HURT.  A lot of sourdough breads bother my tongue, so for me, milder is better.


I still think my starter could be just a bit more sour, but I was ready to be done with the twice daily feedings for now. 


If I decide that I want to increase the sour, will it work just to leave it on the counter and resume twice daily feedings for a while?  My guess is that will work.  I think I'll wait for warmer weather (predicted very soon) so I don't have to heat water in the microwave to keep my starter warm.  That will make the counter feeding process a little less tedious and wasteful. 

aryaya's picture
aryaya

Really it is excessive? I've just been following the instructions as per a lot of books etc, to feed when it has 'peaked'. Mine doubles and starts to deflate again within those 6-8 hours. Should I be letting it go longer? I did notice that I put one of my starters in the fridge too soon I think - it still smelled like 'old bananas' which is maybe a bit too soon. I kept another out longer and the cheese smell and banana smell wore off and now it just smells like paint-ish (or maybe a little like burnt popcorn).

noyeast's picture
noyeast

I don't pay too much attention to keeping my starter optimal, as long as still alive and doing what I want.  My thinking is that you should feed your starter according to how you want to bake.


I'm still developing my own regime for SD bread and it looks as though it will be somethink in the order of a 36 hour turnaround for a loaf.   That  simply means mixing dough then 36-48 hours later it gets baked.


 


This will mean a small starter to ingredient ratio for best flavour, I'm not convinced I need to have optimal starter viability with this approach to baking SD.


 


So I'm becomming less concerned about how long the fermentation and rising takes now, and feeding my starter accordingly without worrying about whether its nagging me for more food or not.

fsu1mikeg's picture
fsu1mikeg

I don't think there's a blanket answer for how often you need to refresh your starter.  I am not fanatical about my bread-baking, although I do appreciate the science behind it.  I refresh my rye and stiff starters weekly, give or take.  The rye gets refreshed a little more often because I use it more often and it's higher hydration.  I've maintained my starters for about a year now using this rather loose system and they continue to raise my bread with no trouble.  Could they be more sour or less sour?  I have no doubt.  But that's all a matter of personal taste.

maswindell's picture
maswindell

I am using teh Bahrain Starter for Sourdough international. After receiving I followed the instructions and fed with 1 cup of Ap and 1 cup of water. After about 36 hours the starter took off nicely and morethan doubled in volume. I kept about 1/4 cup in separate jar and threw out more then 1/2 of the remaining starter. We're down to about 1/2 cup now I fed again with 1 cup of AP and 1 cup of distilled water. After 48 hours the starter has yet to double or expand at all, there are lots of bubble s with hooch on top but no rise. Even though I live in southern California, LA area it is only about 65 degrees during the day - it's called June gloom here in LALA land.


Should I add some Rye flour to the starter to see if it perks up, the only other warm is on top of the water outside in a shed. Should I try the feeding the backup starter and see what happens.


This is a wonderful forum with tons of info and as a newbie i appreciate all the contributors for their advise and help.


Cheers,


Mike

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Water is heavier than flour, so if you use 1 c water and 1 c flour, your starter is over 100% hydration. Each time you do a feeding, you are increasing the hydration even more, since you are starting with over 100% before you feed. A starter that is that heavy with water will have a hard time doubling.


You really should get a digital scale (from around $30 US and up depending on features), and weigh your food. Using equal amounts of water and flour by weight versus volume, you will achieve a nice balance of 100% hydration. It shouldn't have any problems doubling or tripling in volume within about 6-8 hours on the counter (I live in So Cal too).


Until you get a scale, you can approximate a little better. If you use approx. 1 c flour, it is roughly 125 grams (All purpose, enriched, unbleached, scoop and sweep method). 125 grams of water is roughly a tad over 1/2 c. Consistency should be a very thick pancake type batter. When you whisk it, it should pull slightly from the sides and bottom, and take a second or two to fill back in those gaps.


The amount of old starter you retain to be fed can be as much as a 1/2 c to start, then when it is doubling or tripling in volume, cut it back to around 2 tbsp and see if it still at leasts doubles nicely (it might take around 8-10 hours when using less old starter).


The typical process is usually: Measure out 1/2 c old starter. Rince and dry container. Measure 1/2 c water into rinsed container, and put back the 1/2 c old starter. Whisk old starter into the fresh water briskly, with a small wire whisk or fork, until it's frothy/foamy (this is interjecting oxygen into the water). Add 1 c AP flour. Whisk until combined or smooth. A little lumpiness is acceptable.


This should ensure your starter isn't overweighted in water and making it hard to recognize the increase in volume.


- Keith

maswindell's picture
maswindell

I received a reply from Ed Woodthat I should feed 1 cup of flour and 1/2cup  water, basically within a few hour it tripled in volume, I had to put it in another container as the quart jar was overflowing.


Now that I have a good starter I'll keep it in line for a week or so beforeI make my first no knead bread. Thanks for all your help


Mike

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

uh oh... I just noticed you are using distilled water... that's a no-no for starter feeding, as all of the mineral content has been distilled out. Those minerals are necessary and beneficial. Mike, I just use tap water, and my wild starters are all thriving and bake wonderfully. If you're worried about your tap water, you can buy bottled spring water and use that. Stay away from distilled though!


- Keith

crunchy's picture
crunchy

I was using deionized water when first establishing my starter and had no problems with it. There should be plenty of minerals in the flour.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Just passing along information that seems to be common thought there. Many things of this nature end up wive's tales, but in any event, I believe the real problem for him is how over hydrated his starter has become.


The reason for mentioning the distilled water issue is that quite few very respected sources have cited the same reasoning, and when establishing a starter (whether wild or bought), it is important to remove any other possibilities for failure. That logic stands on the heels of that it is absolute fact that distilled water isn't necessary or required at all. I've not read anywhere of any reports that using distilled water changes the health or taste of the starter for the better, only that it should be avoided.


Honestly, I am anti-laboratory for my kitchen, as there's enough hassle involved with SD at its minimum. Therefore, I forced the issue with my starter using plain ol' tap water. I lucked out I guess. What I ended up with I wouldn't trade for the world, and there's no complications in the maintenance of it.


- Keith

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

is not an absolute must for beginning or maintaining a starter.  Some bakers find that their city water supplies are so strongly chlorinated that tap water will actually suppress the growth of the desired bacteria and yeast in the would-be starter.  While some forms of chlorination can be removed by simply boiling the water, other forms are persistent.  Hence, the recommendation to use distilled or deionized water when one is attempting to get a starter up and running. 


 There was an interesting discussion or three a couple of years back about water chemistry; particularly as regards dissolved minerals and pH.  Some posters were having difficulty initiating starters and found that things got better when they switched water supplies.  Other posters got along swimmingly.  If all other attempts fail, one might want to make one more try using distilled or deionized water with their starter, instead of using their well or city water.


Paul

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Certainly an interesting variety of ideas concerning the type of water to use. Clearly, if you get acceptable results as well as taste from your local supply, that's the least hassle necessary.


You cited a situation where that supply is not adequate, but you only listed distilled or deionized water as the only option 'B' (and while those two are very similar end products, they are in fact actually different). The option you didn't mention was filtered water, whether by your own filtering system or store bought spring-type water. I would think this to be the actual preferred option 'B' for the simple reason that plenty of people have in-home filtering, and if not, it is much easier to find spring type bottled water versus distilled or deionized. So on the scale of 'hassle', it seems prudent to go with what's easiest and/or most available. To each their own, but I would think that most would agree that if your own supply works (whether or not it's filtered at or after the tap), then that's one less thing you have to spend money on, worry about running out of, and needing to find a supply of. Would someone find it necessary, when all is said and done, to go out and buy spring or distilled, even if their tap source was perfectly fine? Certainly.


One other thing about chlorination, it seems generally accepted that boiling isn't necessary. Simply leaving some water out in the open will naturally dissipate any chlorine present within about an hour or so. Water is necessary to boil when it is contaminated with bacteria or other live organisms.


I'm not a scientist, and while using distilled water might not completely kill off a starter culture, can it impede it? That would be a good question for someone suited to answer such a question. Are the minerals that are removed during distillation really beneficial, or are those minerals replaced by the flour provided? I don't have the answer there. Clearly people have had success using distilled. When I embarked on my own starter journey last year, I relied on Mike Avery (http://www.sourdoughhome.com) and Susan's (http://www.wildyeastblog.com) wisdom, and was rewarded with a spectacular end product. To quote both of their respective (at the time of their writings) opinions:



From http://www.sourdoughhome.com/startingastarter.html


I suggest that you try bottled water if you are experiencing what you think might be water related problems with your sourdough. Use spring water or drinking water, NOT distilled water. Distilled water has no minerals in it, and the minerals in spring water and drinking water really help the starter.




From http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/07/13/raising-a-starter/


Water. I use bottled (not distilled) water because I don't want the chlorine in tap water, and I do want the minerals that are removed by my water softener.



 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Think about it, the more food you feed your beasties, the more besties are bred to feed. Yes, the first time you triple the feed you'll get away with a longer rest until the next feed, but at that time there'll be roughly three times as many hungry creatures. Throw away half, and you still need another big feed.  I'm not a microbiologist, and I'm certain the actual growth rates of yeast cells, and bacteria are different, and influenced by temperature, pH, hydration, and enzyme concentration. Nonetheless: more food, ultimately, more mouths to feed. What if we keep the beasties really small in number?


I've been working with two starters for about a month, at least baking SD once a week. My formula of choice is Daniel DiMuzio's Pain au Levain (firm starter version) which calls for 480 gm of ripe levain at 60% hydration; that accouts for 30% of the total flour. The final dough's hydration is 68%.


I maintain my starter, in the refrigerator, feeding it approximately weekly, at 100% hydration. 24 to 36 hours before I mix the final dough I begin a three-build regimin that creates 480 gm of ripe levain (aka SD starter) at 60% hydration. At room temperature (74°-76°F) I feed a prescribed amount of starter (i call it seed starter, to differentiate it from the final starter (aka ripe levain)). The seed starter is simply that amount I put in along with the prescribed amounts of flour and water to finish Build 1 with triple the amount of seed starter I started with (by weight). I also adjust the weights of the added flour and water to reduce the seed starter's original hydration by one third the difference between the seed starter's hydration and the final starter's hydration.


An example:


Seed starter's hydration 100%


ripe levain hydration 60%


difference -40%; 1/3 the difference: approximately -13%


End of Build 1: ripening starter's hydration 87%


I'll discuss the starter's weight change in a moment, because that's the main point of this posting. Suffice it to say at the end of Build 1 the ripening starter's weight is 3 times greater than the seed starter's weight.


Between 8 and 12 hours after making Build 1, I repeat the process in build 2.


Continuing the example, at the end of Buid 2, the ripening starter's hydration is 73% (rounded), and its weight has tripled again to 9 times the original seed starter's weight.


8 to 12 hours later, I do it one last time (Build 3), and 8 to 12 hours later I have a ripe levain (starter) at 60% hydration, whose weight is 27 times the seed starter's weight. So, for example let's say I needed 480 gm of ripe levain; 480 divided by 27 equals 18 gm (rounded) of seed starter. That's slightly more than three level teaspoons!


The point is, most amateur baker's don't bake every day; therfore we don't need to keep our stater's at room temperature  If we don't want to be chained to feed the Beast (aka SD starter) every 8 or 12, or even 24 hours,(and buy five pounds of flour each week just to feed it.) we keep the Beast in the refrigerator, where all the little beasties get drowsy, and need to be fed much less often. Hey, we need time to do other things like make a living, and go on long weekends, or couch little league, or drive the kids, or shop at baking equipment...Enough! You get the idea. As long as we keep a few of the beasties viable (a mere couple of million of each) we can, in 24 to 36 hours create formula ready levain equal to any professional bakery.


A final couple of points:


Each Build takes my Beast about 8 hours to 12 hours to peak, and I like to execute the next build at or near the peak, that's why I don't specify a ridgid time between builds. Like everything else in baking we strive to learn to "feel" and "read". That's especially applies to taming the Beast. The same starter I use now that fits this profile, when only a little younger was dominated by yeast, and lacking in bacteria. It would peak in four hours, and had too little flavor. D. DiMuzio's advice to build a firm levain and feed it for a couple of days was right on; its flavor contribution increased.. It gave me two great boules, and the seed for one of my 100% starters.


If we build ripe levain specific to each formula, we don't have to keep huge amounts of starter. Because we like sourdough pancakes and waffles, I keep about 12 oz. of refrigerated starter. I can take a cupful (8.5 oz), and feed it with a cup of flour, and 1/2 cup of water (~8.5 oz.) give it a couple of hours at room temperature, and put it back in the refrigerator. If we didn't like pancakes and waffles, I could keep even less.


My goals, for my starters:


Be balanced; that is, have sufficent bacteria and yeast that my 3-Build approach yields ripe levain that aids the dough's flavor, and proofs the dough in nominal time.


Be viable; that is, maintain enough of the necessary beasties that my 3-Build approach yields ripe levain between 24 and 36 hours.


At the moment, both of my starters (from two different source) meet my goals, but they didn't always, and probably are plotting surprises--good or bad, the beasties are 100% amoral.


David G.


P.S. I've built a spreadsheet that calculates the seed starter and flour and water for my 3-Build system. If anyone's interested it is available at.


http://glitzandglitterboutique.com/davidg618/spreadsheets.html


There also are two others (one in gms, one in ounces) that help me formulate my own doughs, or convert straight dough recipes to SD.


 


 


 

Pablo's picture
Pablo

I do a 3 build process as well.  I keep my starter at 60% hydration in the 'fridge and refresh it when it gets nearly used up.  I bake exclusively SD and about 3 times per week.  I usually refresh my seed culture to about 200 - 300 grams.  I use 20 grams of seed culture in build 1 so my seed culture lasts about a month to a month and a half.  I refresh it with primarily white flour, but I throw in a little rye as well.  I wait until I see some definite movement, an hour or two, and then put it in the 'fridge.  Very low maintenance starter schedule.  It works well for me.  I can't say that I've ever gotten a really sour loaf, but there's always a nice sour undercurrent.  We're happy with it as our "house bread".  I continue to play with time, temperature and technique.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

lends strong support to the arguement I proposed. Although we maintain our starters differently, the build process, and its results are essentially the same. Thanks for posting your practice.


David G.

Pablo's picture
Pablo

Yeah, I thought that it sounded very similar.  I've ordered Dan DiMuzio's book as he sounds like he's in the same ballpark as well.  At one point I had 12 starters going, feeding them 2xs a day.  All different flour ratios and hydrations.  After awhile I ended up consolodating everything down to one starter and keeping it as described.  I figure it will just adapt to my treatment regime. 


I move my builds around, into the 'fridge, out of the 'fridge, sometimes out on the deck overnight.  I especially like that as it is cool/cold at night (depending on the season) and warms slowly to be ready to move to the next build or shape and proof in the morning.  Also I like the idea of sort of connecting to the temperature rhythms of the day.


I am searching for words that I'm comfortable with for the various stages of the flour and water mixtures.  So far I'm thinking seed culture (as you used), build 1, etc. and then, finally, dough.  I think from your description that I use one less build stage than you do.


This whole process is so interesting and engaging and rewarding.  I find that I get stuck on a particular phase, say mixing or preshaping, and read and experiment and become comfortable with that, then something else pops up, or I get a new idea about something that I was doing already.  Currently I'm a bit spooked by proofing.  I can't seem to get a feel for what's going on.  I just use a timer now.  i can recognize gross overproofing but that's about as close as i can get at the moment.


Anyway, you sounded so much like a kindred spirit that I wanted to comment further.


:-Paul

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Paul,


At the moment I'm obsessing with shaping, I've got the basics down, but I think I'm a bit heavy handed. The crumb of my last two sourdough boules (DiMuzio's pain au levain again) was closed more than I would have liked, but not dense. I know this formula is capable of producing great crumb, I've done it before. This batch had a random scattering of very large bubbles after bulk fermenting, that I didn't deal with well enough in the preshaping. I was trying to be extra gentle with the dough. I think I got too aggressive in final shaping.


My thoughts on proofing. I don't go entirely by time. I recently bought a clear plastic, lidded box with vertical sides. I got it at a restaurant supply house to ensure it is food grade plastic. For bulk fermentation I pat the dough down gently after its final stretch and fold, so that it covers the bottom of the box. I note the height of the dough--there are pint marking on the side of the box. I set the timer--for my usual dough doubling takes two hours--but I check the dough every twenty minutes or so. I turn it out when it has doubled (or a little before). Sometimes its slightly more than two hours, sometimes less.


For final proofing, I've no eye for gauging a boule or a batard doubling in size, so I use the poke test. When the poked hole doesn't spring back all the way, its slash and bake time. I also set the timer, but I'm learning to rely more on the dough's spring.


Regards,


David G.

Pablo's picture
Pablo

Obcessing is just the word.  I pretty much exclusively bake baguettes.  My goal was to get one recipe/shape down pat when I started here in August.  Actually I didn't even know what that meant when I started here "crumb?  what's that?".  I've doggedly stuck to the baguette theme though and I'm pretty comfortable with that, after a fair amount of obcessing.  I have ventured in boule territory a time or two but not with very good results.  The baguette is a pretty good shape for us but something in me wants to master the boule as well.  I think the next obcession, though, is proofing.  Words again!  I refer to all the risings that happen before the final loaf-shaped stage as "fermenting" and the actual final rise in the loaf shape as "proofing".  I'm happy with all the fermenting stages, it's just the proofing that's got me stymied.  I just don't seem to "get" the different feels or timings for the poke test.  I suppose I should take a piece of dough and poke it every 15 minutes for 3 hours or so to try to note the differences between under and over proofed, but to waste good dough!  Sacrilege!  By the way, your ciabatta crumb is gorgeous!


:-Paul

proth5's picture
proth5

or proofing.


I won't put myself forth as an expert on this, but here is what "my teacher" tells me about the "poke test" - "Poke it! What did the bread do to you???!!!"


What "my teacher" advocates is actually feeling the dough - put your hand around it and feel the tension and the structure of the dough. 


This takes a lot of practice, but it happens.  When I was doing my hand milled baguettes, I felt a loaf and thought "that one's underproofed." But since I was going by the numbers to do a compartison of the flour - I baked it anyway.  And it was underproofed.


You will need to make a few mistakes, but the dough is never wasted.


Just a different way...

Pablo's picture
Pablo

I think you said that your teacher said that the most important thing is everything.  I love that.


I will fondle my loaves shamelessly and see what moves me.  I've got some about 30 minutes away from starting their final ferment right now.


:-Paul

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Please remember to only fondle loaves when it is consensual!


Couldn't resist ] ; D


Because I have a hard time judging final proofs for boules within a banneton, I have been using a 'jiggle' test that seems to be working well. When underproofed, only the exposed top portion will jiggle, while the middle simply moves back and forth sluggishly. When ready, you can actually see the jiggle going very deep. Until I had tried this a few times, my SD boules were consistently underproofed. Hope that might help anyone who might be using a banneton and cannot get their hands on the entire loaf.


My wife came in the kitchen just as I was jiggling the last banneton a few nights ago. I said "Hmm..." and looked up at her. She said "Don't you EVEN say what you are thinking right now!" We have trained each other perfectly. ; )


- Keith

Pablo's picture
Pablo

consensual jiggling :-P

kimsmith's picture
kimsmith

One of the major tips I got concerning sourdough starter said the amount of protein in all purpose flour can be less than sufficient and recommended adding two tablespoons of gluten flour (available from Bob's Red Mill section of my grocery) per cup of AP flour used to feed the start and to make the bread.  King Alfred's bread flour has higher protein than AP, too, and is great for feeding, but it's expensive.  I recently learned about durham flour, also known as atta, readily available from my Indian grocer (used in chapatis--easy!), which is a fine milled flour from a wheat grown in the mideast and eastern Asia, higher in protein than the soft or hard winter wheat we mostly use in the Americas. I have used two tablespoons of durham instead of gluten to increase protein and find it works very well.  Durham, or atta, also makes a better pizza crust (use half durham, half AP), but you probably already know this!


Since I have begun boosting the protein content of my flour, I have been much more successful in my sourdough baking, getting far better rising in far less time, better crumb, better shape, better taste.  I went from requiring 24 to 28 hours of rising time to 6 to 8 hours depending on the day's atmosphere and weather conditions.


A note on sourness:  any recipe for sourdough that calls for baking soda will drastically reduce the sour flavor.


Thanks for all your discussion on feeding and hydration.  I have learned some important things.


Kim in Salt Lake City


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

rygarrett's picture
rygarrett

Hi - 


I'm new to sourdough starters myself, but after three days activating my starter it has proven to be quite active and strong. I'm on day 5 now and after the last three 1:1:1 feedings it has risen to more than double its size in less than 2 hours. The only thing is it seems to deflate pretty quickly too. I'm feeding it nearly every 8 hours. So I guess I'm asking is this normal? Or is it a sign that I should probably change my feeding ratio? also I'm in LA and its pretty warm in my kitchen probably over 80 degrees. I have the starter on top of my fridge. Anyway I'm planning on baking a couple loafs for tomorrow to see how it works out. 


 


thanks,


 


Ry