The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter Terminology

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Starter Terminology

I know this seems a little late but I think we could all benefit if we define these terms in order to remove any confusion surrounding them.


What is a:



  • new starter

  • young starter

  • active starter

  • fresh starter

  • old starter

  • mature starter

  • ripe starter


 


Thanks for participating. 


Oct 31, 2009  Changed title of thread so it is more easily located using the site search machine.  I may turn this into a FAQ or anyone wanting to make a FAQ should feel free to use the information.

ericb's picture
ericb


Just off the top of my head, here's how I interpret these terms.


  • new starter: not really a starter yet, but water and flour mixed together with the intention of becoming a starter.

  • young starter: several days more advanced than "new" starter, this is more stable concoction and can withstand 1:1:1 feedings twice a day, but may not be capable of being the sole levain in a recipe.

  • active starter: capable of doubling in volume within 4 hours of feeding.

  • fresh starter: active starter that has recently been refreshed.

  • old starter: a previously active starter that has been neglected or held in an inactive state in the refrigerator.

  • mature starter: a well-developed active starter that has been fed regularly for several months.

  • ripe starter: active starter that needs to be refreshed before using it in a recipe



 

flournwater's picture
flournwater

That's good enuf fer me ...  except for one thing.


I think they're in the wrong order.  Old starter should come after mature starter:



  • new starter

  • young starter

  • active starter

  • fresh starter

  • mature starter

  • old starter

  • ripe starter


 


 


 


 

avatrx1's picture
avatrx1

OK Folks!  I'm confused enough, now you went and added another term: Levain.  Is that another name for starter?  Maybe we should incorporte into this article the many names applied to the same thing?  You know - kind of like driving in an unfamiliar town and they call the same road by 2 different names but it's the same road.  (I think it amuses the locals when we get lost).

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin


  • new starter - A starter that has some obvious yeast activity. At a minimum, should have a good supply of tight CO2 bubbles and expand at least a bit. 

  • young starter - A starter that has both yeast activity and is developing a fairly stable sweet/sour smell, but not really mature. At a minimum, should double.

  • active starter - A starter that at least triples between feedings

  • fresh starter - No clue here. Would default to 'ripe' for me.

  • old starter - What is used to inoculate a fresh maintenance/feeding.

  • mature starter - An active and stable starter that works and flavors the same. Reliable in all areas. Predictable outcome.

  • ripe starter - The peak of activity. Right before the expansion begins to collapse.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

If this is a serious attempt to define a majority of the 'states' of a starter, I think a few new ones need added, and probably some categories would help. I'll have a stab at it (assuming this is a serious discussion...?)


Creating a starter:



  • New Starter - The state of initial combined ingredients that will launch a starter up to the point of where there is obvious yeast activity and some visual expansion. In this state, the starter probably doesn't smell too great, or might even smell fairly repulsive. This term would therefore cover a fairly wide range.


argument: Many people who are new to sourdoughs and starters almost without fail post about their 'new starter'. This is a pretty obvious term to them, and makes perfect sense to me. What else would a new starter be if it wasn't a new starter? If new starter meant something else, what would you call a new starter?


 



  • Young Starter - A starter that is 'bake ready', but not matured. This starter has acceptable smell and enough yeast activity to raise a loaf, but offers little, if any, sour or flavor profile. I've seen many people post that a starter that hasn't matured yet (hence, 'young') is good for making pancakes, waffles, English muffins, etc.


argument: I've never heard this term used before, but since the term 'mature' is in widespread use, this term would be the obvious counter.


 



  • Mature Starter - A starter that has proven itself reliable and resilient. A solid workhorse.


argument: Is any argument necessary? This is by far the most commonly acknowledged starter term around the internet. That doesn't make it inarguable, nor is it necessarily recognized by professionals. It's just simply that to argue it is to go against an awfully robust tide, and that's kind of pointless. I acknowledge the existence of pointless retentive people who also populate the internet...


 


State Of Health:



  • Active Starter - This starter shows very robust yeast activity. There is no doubt here that it will raise dough.


argument: Almost every time someone posts a brick or unintentional pancake, they are asked if they are sure their starter is 'active'. Regardless of taste, this term seems to refer solely to the health of the yeast, and is usually branded to a starter that is well-maintained. This would also seem to refer to a starter that went inactive, whether by being refrigerated or somehow actually damaged/neglected, and then brought back to acceptable activity - which brings us to...


 



  • Sluggish Starter - A starter that has not been well-maintained, or otherwise damaged. If the starter was mature, there is a strong chance to return to normal activity and balance.

  • Retarding Starter - A refreshed starter being refrigerated.

  • Suspended Starter - Frozen or dried out starter.

  • Polluted Starter - Starter which contains ingredients added by you or by nature, which are not normal to your starter. Examples include baking powder, salt, oils, eggs, or any other baking ingredients. Also, molds and other dark-colored microorganisms not normal to the natural symbiotic relationship that your starter normally maintains.


 


Maintenance



  • Refreshed Starter - A starter that is in the beginning stage of a maintenance/feeding.

  • Ripe Starter - A starter that has peaked in activity, or slightly before. This being the point where most recipes recommend using it.

  • Exhausted Starter - This is the 'discard' stage; a starter that has begun to, and continues to collapse. A portion of the starter in this stage is commonly used to inoculate a fresh supply of food. In this stage, there are quite a few recipes that can use this as a flavor enhancer, but usually then rely on the addition of commercial yeast for the actual leavening agent.

  • Depleted Starter - A starter that has completely collapsed; goop. May or may not have a layer of alcohol (hooch). A recently depleted starter can be used to start fresh food, but depending on the amount of depletion, is probably worthless in any recipe.

  • Old Starter - Can be used to describe an exhausted or depleted starter. Vague and useless term, really.


welp.. there's my dollar fifty's worth of contribution to the cause!


- Keith


 

Nomadcruiser53's picture
Nomadcruiser53

I think I've been every one of those at some point in my life. Dave

althetrainer's picture
althetrainer

I don't think I am experienced enough in this area to define any of these terms.  But I am interested to see what other definitions that may come up.  Thanks for starting the thread. 



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The whole point is...everyone has a slightly different idea as to what these terms mean. 

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

In my experience, after surfing tons of sites and posts, I find a majority of these have extremely similar definitions. Some are just flat-out the logical thing to call a starter 'state' even if you didn't know what to call it...


- Keith

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven


  • new starter:  one that has just been refreshed  

  • young starter:  recently concocted, is more than a two days old and needs to develop flavor

  • active starter: has been refreshed and is rising or actively growing

  • fresh starter: ready to add to a sponge or dough to raise it

  • old starter: Heirloom or handed down starter, one with long history and developed flavor

  • mature starter: a starter that has reached it's peek and can be refreshed

  • ripe starter:  ready to use in a sponge or recipe

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Sorry, I have not related any of those terms to any of those definitions...


was this in jest?


- Keith

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Yeah, I could mostly go for that. But isn't it a bit ambiguous to use "fresh starter" and "ripe starter" for the same entity? To me, "fresh starter" doesn't make much sense, really. And "new starter" is a bit confusing too... why not call it "just refreshed/fed starter" instead?

Susan's picture
Susan


  • new starter--unnecessary



  • young starter--sounds fine for a newish starter



  • old starter--over-the-hill starter

  • mature starter--over-the-hill starter



  • ripe starter--ready-to-use starter

  • active starter--ready-to-use starter

  • fresh starter--ready-to-use starter


Susan from San Diego

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish

I've used both 'mature' and 'ripe' in recipes to describe a starter which has reached it's peak in the current cycle and is ready to use.


Regardless of what term I use, it still attracts questions and puzzlement every time. 


I'm thinking perhaps in the future I'll just call it 'starter' and assume people know when to use their starter in a recipe.


FP


 

Dragonbones's picture
Dragonbones

ericb's "ripe starter: active starter that needs to be refreshed before using it in a recipe" would confuse me. Ripe fruit is fruit ready to eat. Something needing to be refreshed before use would be stale or overripe, no?

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Starter that's beyond its peak doesn't seem to be defined in here... If needing to describe it, I'd probably called it an 'exhausted' starter.


- Keith

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mini--You're a troubelmaker!


It depends on the meaning of "new", "active" etc. Those of us in the US wouldn't be able to agree on the nuance implied. Globally, the use of these terms is even less standard. I like the French.


It is either a starter or it isn't.


Eric

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish

It's either a starter or...a non-starter?  I think I've had my fair share of those!


FP


 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

FP, I'm in that club as well. This discussion is similar to trying to define dirt in layman's terms. Good, bad, dead, active, aromatic and on and on.


Eric

xaipete's picture
xaipete

It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is.


--Pamela

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Eric, I think your right!  Now see what you have started! ; ), Mini!

avatrx1's picture
avatrx1

I found this site while searching for info.  It would be a good thing to have a printout of for anyone wanting to bake:  here is the website: http://www.baking911.com/bread/101_terms.htm


 


As I've stated in my various posts - I'm really new to this and can't tell a poolish from a starter from a biga from dough, but I am persistant and I'm learning.  At my age only a little sticks at a time.


Here is what it lists about starters:


Starter A mixture of flour and water, as in a sourdough, or also incorporating a culture of wild yeast and lactobacilli, called a sponge, used as leavening in the final dough. The term generally refers to either batter-like or dough-like consistency mixes which are retained from one activation or bake to the next. Some starters also contain potatoes, milk, yogurt, fruit, and many other things. I personally haven't tried to use those.



 New Starter: Any starter started from any dry source (commercial or homemade), or the air, that has not yet qualified as "fresh starter." This is not the same as "old" or "dead" starter, because these two conditions do not generally follow the same sequence of recovery stages.


 Fresh Starter: Starter which has been recently demonstrated to be vibrant and active. Starter in this category can raise plain white (french or white bread) dough to a "more than doubled" volume in less than 2 1/2 hours after a single proofing (feeding) period, i.e. remove the starter from the refrigerator and proof once, then try using it. Starter which has been refrigerated for less than 5 days or so that was "fresh" before refrigerating is also fresh starter.


 Old or Dead Starter: Starter which has been previously demonstrated to be "fresh" but which is no longer fresh since it cannot be demonstrated that it can raise dough after a single proof as described above. Risings which take longer than 2 1/2 hours indicate a starter that is either "new" or "old" depending on the prior life history of the starter. Note that in very nearly all cases of "old" or "dead" starters, that they can be revived back into "fresh" starters using the techniques described below. I have heard tell of starters which haven't been fed for six months being successfully revived using the given technique.


 Non-Standard Starter: Starter which contains ingredients other than white flour and plain water. Some starters do use blends or alternative flours, and that's ok. Some starters use other ingredients such as a spoon of sugar (ok, but not suggested). Some starters also use alternative liquids such as potato water or milk. These would all be labeled 'Non-Standard Starters' in this document.


 Polluted Starter: Starter which contains ingredients added by you or by nature, which are not normal to your starter. Examples include baking powder, salt, oils, eggs, or any other baking ingredients. Also, molds and other dark-colored microorganisms not normal to the natural symbiotic relationship that your starter normally maintains. These other microorganisms usually affect appearance, smell, and (especially) flavor. Normal ingredients are flour(s), water, potato water or potatoes, and possibly milk or milk products. Ingredients other than plain white flour and plain water change the habitat you are maintaining for your sourdough microorganisms and may or may not be wanted according to the characteristics you want your starter to exhibit.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Thanks! Added 'Polluted Starter' to my list... good term.


And by the way, it appears we got trolled with this post, but the irony is, having these sorts of terms greatly aids in communication.


- Keith



avatrx1 wrote:


Polluted Starter: Starter which contains ingredients added by you or by nature, which are not normal to your starter. Examples include baking powder, salt, oils, eggs, or any other baking ingredients. Also, molds and other dark-colored microorganisms not normal to the natural symbiotic relationship that your starter normally maintains.


ejm's picture
ejm

Susan (Wild Yeast) helped me a tremendous amount when I was struggling to produce my first starter. And one of the terms she used was really useful: culture. This is what the sludge is (I'm trying to get away from using "starter") when it's not yet viable for baking bread.


Rather than "new starter", I'd change this to "new culture". Same with "young starter" being changed to "young culture". I had a devil of a time when I was first starting out. I thought the initial bubbling activity was enough to raise dough and ended up with the most horrible door stops.


And Keith's additions to this discussion are also very good. I've blatantly stolen his reply and made revisions (Keith's original text is in italics). Please excuse the repetition:


Creating a starter:



  • New Culture - as Eric said "water and flour mixed together with the intension of becoming a starter" the combined ingredients that will in time have obvious yeast activity and some visual expansion. In this state, the culture may smell like yoghurt, funky, or fairly repulsive. Even though there may be activity and bubbles, it will NOT be viable for making bread.  

  • Young Starter - I'd change this one too to "Young Culture", once again echoing Eric's description of "more stable concoction and can withstand 1:1:1 feedings twice a day but may not be capable of being the sole levain in a recipe". I'd add that there may be lots of bubbles posing as yeast bubbles but that there may be the aroma reminiscent of yoghurt. This mixture is almost 'bake ready', but not matured. This starter has acceptable smell and almost enough yeast activity to raise a loaf, but offers little, if any, sour or flavor profile. 

  • Active starter: what Eric said "capable of doubling in volume within 4 hours of feeding" with a clean smell of yeast, no separation of liquid and solid.

  • Mature Starter - A starter that has proven itself reliable and resilient. A solid workhorse... what Eric said "a well-developed active starter that has been fed regularly for several months".


State Of Health:



  • Active Starter - This starter shows very robust yeast activity. There is no doubt here that it will raise dough.

  • Sluggish Starter - A starter that has not been well-maintained, kept in too cold and environment or otherwise damaged. If the starter was mature, there is a strong chance to return to normal activity and balance.

  • Retarding Starter - A refreshed starter being refrigerated.

  • Suspended Starter - Frozen or dried out starter.

  • Polluted Starter: Starter which contains ingredients added by you or by nature, which are not normal to your starter. Examples include baking powder, salt, oils, eggs, or any other baking ingredients. Also, molds and other dark-colored microorganisms not normal to the natural symbiotic relationship that your starter normally maintains.


Maintenance



  • Refreshed Starter - A starter that is in the beginning stage of a maintenance/feeding. There is no separation of liquid and solid, a clean smell of yeast, recently fed and/or built up for being added to actual bread dough; similar to the "active starter"

  • Ripe Starter - A starter that has peaked in activity, or slightly before. This being the point where most recipes recommend using it. It is built up and ready to be added to actual bread dough; also similar to the "active starter"

  • Exhausted Starter - This is the 'discard' stage; a starter that has begun to, and continues to collapse. A portion of the starter in this stage is commonly used to inoculate a fresh supply of food. In this stage, there are quite a few recipes that can use this as a flavor enhancer. There may be signs of alcohol forming and a sour smell; it may need major refreshing to rejuvenate it.

  • Depleted Starter - A starter that has completely collapsed; goop. May or may not have a layer of alcohol (hooch). A recently depleted starter can be used to start fresh food, but depending on the amount of depletion, is probably worthless in any recipe.

  • Old Starter - similar to "exhausted starter"


-Elizabeth, starter murderer

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Hi there, you ; )



ejm wrote:


Susan (Wild Yeast) helped me a tremendous amount when I was struggling to produce my first starter.



Aye, very much agreed that Susan's whole article on developing a starter from scratch is worth its weight in gold. Between hers and Mike Avery's starter page, a lot of lightbulbs came on for me. The same info can be found here on TFL, but you have to plow through a ton of posts for little embedded bits here and there.


 



ejm wrote:


Rather than "new starter", I'd change this to "new culture".



While I'm completely inclined to agree that 'culture' is more scientifically correct, the intended audience for these terms might not recognize it. To the layperson or novice baker, if they mix together some flour and water, they have launched a 'new starter'. It is language they understand. Ease of communication would, I hope, be the point.


 



ejm wrote:



  • Young Starter - I'd change this one too to "Young Culture", once again echoing Eric's description of "more stable concoction and can withstand 1:1:1 feedings twice a day but may not be capable of being the sole levain in a recipe". I'd add that there may be lots of bubbles posing as yeast bubbles but that there may be the aroma reminiscent of yoghurt. This mixture is almost 'bake ready', but not matured. This starter has acceptable smell and almost enough yeast activity to raise a loaf, but offers little, if any, sour or flavor profile.



I have a small problem with this definition... in most discussions I've read through, it seems common knowledge that the yeast develop first, and then begin creating the environment for the other desired critters that will eventually make up a defined 'mature' starter. In the absence of this 'mature' balance, the yeast activity quite often are sufficient to be the sole levain in a recipe. Starters in this stage are quite often baked with while maintenance is continued and the starter continues to develop more maturity.


Thanks for 'playing', Elizabeth ; D I always enjoy your take on these types of discussions!


- Keith


 

ejm's picture
ejm

I know there is the danger that this might turn into a semantics argument...



Keith (Just Loafin) wrote:


While I'm completely inclined to agree that 'culture' is more scientifically correct, the intended audience for these terms might not recognize it. To the layperson or novice baker, if they mix together some flour and water, they have launched a 'new starter'. It is language they understand. Ease of communication would, I hope, be the point.



I am decidedly a layperson, even though it might seem like I pretend otherwise. When I got the crazy idea to capture my own yeast and saw so many bubbles after a few days, I thought I was there and ready to bake bread.  But it really wasn't even close to being ready. I think (not knowing for certain) that these first bubbles were from the bacteria (lactobacilli) that will NOT make bread rise - Susan refers to that bacteria as leuconostoc.



In the initial stages of a culture, a type of bacteria called leuconostoc may predominate; it produces a lot of gas and causes the rapid rise. This bacteria is not desirable, but not harmful either, and it will eventually die out as the beneficial critters settle in and the culture becomes more acidic.


-excerpt from www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/07/13/raising-a-starter/



It was this distinction between "culture" and "starter" that really helped me to understand what was going on.


-Elizabeth


 


Another useful page: http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/sourdough2.htm

marieJ's picture
marieJ

What a page of valuable information, insight and experience! 


With reference to the original question, my understanding and interpretation of the 7 terms listed at the top of the page is identical to Ericb. Ejm's terms of state and reference are highly descriptive and very reflective of what we see in our living and breathing starters.


The term that causes me some confusion is 'exhausted starter'.  I have never yet had a culture that has reached such a point that it is impossible to revive in the sense that it has run out of steam. 


Is an exhausted starter, or culture, reflective of the organisms having died out? Is it in reference to the imbalance of micro-organisms, or the detrimental state of the medium that is supporting (or no longer supporting) the microbial life?


I have only discarded one starter and this was because it had been stored in the refrigerator for 3 months without use or feeding. When the top layer was removed and discarded, the alcohol poured off, and the remaining 2 cupfuls fed with fresh flour and water, the culture burst into life! I didn't expect this.  It was very active!


My decision to throw it away was based on the fact that no matter how often I fed and watered it, I could not regain the balance of organisms that created the beautiful apple cider aroma I was so used to every time I lifted the plastic cling film on the bowl.  Even though it was doubling and bubbling.


This told me that the balance of organisms that had made my starter so beautiful had changed.  It also told me that it was possible a new organism may have taken hold in the culture.  Not having a microscope and a biology degree, I decided to not risk it.


Hence I farewelled my culinary companion and brought life to a brand new one.


May I please make a further comment about Mini's initial question on this page. 


While flour, water and a third and fourth helping of love, interest and intrigue nurtures our starters,  uncertainty and partial knowledge nurtures our confusion and decision making toward our living starters and how we expect them to perform.  Mini's efforts here are working toward sorting and clarifying a cohesive and directional approach to this issue. Well done. I've learned alot from reading many reference books on sourdough, but inexperience, some uncertainty and  missing scientific/biological information and detail have led me to do things such as discard what might have again been a brilliant starter.  So thank you Mini for bringing people and information together in such a directional way.  There is some excellent experience and information here on this page from some wonderful and equally intrigued individuals.  Thanks to everyone. This is a very helful page.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

No, that term isn't a health issue, it's a maintenance term. After refreshing, a starter culture will begin the process of eating, multiplying, doing its thing. This activity intensifies and climaxes. At that point, it begins to become exhausted. The term is being used more as in 'tired' than dead, and although the term 'tired' isn't scientifically what's actually happening (the yeast aren't physically tired), the process itself has become tired because it is running out of resources. An exhausted starter isn't dead, or anywhere near dead. It is ready and due for a refreshing. Maintenance terms tend to be more towards the processes and phases a starter moves through, and less about the actual health of the starter.


The starter in your fridge had reached a maintenance state of 'depleted', which is in reference to available food. It is known that yeast are rather robust organisms, and can survive rather harsh or sparse conditions. The yeast was not depleted (although likely close to it), but the food supply was. Being weak and non-productive, the environment then changed biologically, which allowed for unwanted other organisms. That's my guess... therefore, your maintenance issue of a 'depleted' starter turned it into a 'polluted' health issue:


Polluted Starter - [...] and other [...] micro-organisms not normal to the natural symbiotic relationship that your starter normally maintains.



Is an exhausted starter, or culture, reflective of the organisms having died out? Is it in reference to the imbalance of micro-organisms, or the detrimental state of the medium that is supporting (or no longer supporting) the microbial life?


marieJ's picture
marieJ

 Greetings Just Loafin,
 
Thank you for your advice.   It's such heaven to have access to articulate and knowledeable individuals generous enough to impart such information.  Interest in sourdough activation, culture and baking provides a broad, lateral avenue for interest and research into wider areas, on top of the pleasure of baking and providing for others. Consequently -& pleasantly so- I now feel the need to research microbiology, yeast and bacteria in it's full life cycle, chemistry, alcohol ,etc, etc... - to follow the journey scientifically, as opposed to a singularly culinary approach. 
Thanks again!
Cheers!

marieJ's picture
marieJ

Having just re read the initial list of terms, I think I'd replace the term 'ripe starter' with a term such as 'deteriorated'. The term ripe illustrates a sense that something is good and ready to go, ready to eat, ready to enjoy......etc.


 

marieJ's picture
marieJ

But then, I have in the past described my jack russell as 'ripe' after having rolled in something quite unspeakable.... but then maybe this isn't the forum for that!!  ;-)  (Not a topic for the kitchen!!)  ....... let's get back to semantics...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Fresh ripe starter  or  fresh and active starter -- old dead starter -- mature ripe starter --and others.        I think many terms overlap but I am serious yet don't want to quelch any creativity.    (What about yucky starters and stinky starters? Hungry or starved starters?)


I started this thread to see where it would go.  It went in interesting places and touched on interesting points. 


We use a lot of terms with our starters and this can be very confusing to someone trying to create a starter or is new to the concept or has never maintained a starter.  Heck, we sometimes get confused just communicating to each other!  I also think we throw around the word starter and imply the term Culture.  The terms we use all refer to  sourdough culture, and sourdough culture starter, and sourdough cultured bread or bread raised with sourdough culture.   We tend to shorten these terms, sometimes just sourdough and lovingly to just "sd" or a first name.   Calling a starter a culture is also not a bad idea because well, because it is one.  It's sourdough culture.


Many of us know that there are recipes out there using the term starter  for the words sponge and sourdoughs that do not contain sourdough cultures but aged flour and water concoctions.  (Wait long enough and some of these just might become sourdough cultures.)  So keeping the word culture is not a bad idea although it does make for wordy sentences.  (Some of us even think of starters as the beginning of a meal.)


Keith, I like the idea of separating the terms into categories: Creation, Health & Maintainance and I like the way you organized this mess.  Thanks. 


I do have a problem calling the beginning concoction that cannot raise dough a starter.  Even calling it a new or young starter.  Either it is one or it is not.  Some feel that way about a starter culture they are using, if it cannot raise dough, it is no longer a starter and something has to be done about it by creating a new one or bringing the health of the starter culture back into a fresh and active state. 


Thanks Y'all,  Mini



  • Now, how do we get this into a FAQ?

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Top-notch discussion!


As for the culture bit, I'll repeat... I doubt anyone would argue that the term 'culture' more closely resembles its scientific definition, but again, the people who we deal with the most (in regards to a new culture) seem to relate to 'new starter', and we will never succeed in getting them to stop doing so. They also quite often do not consult a FAQ before putting up that first post, and more often than not will need to be directed there after their original post.


- Keith

marieJ's picture
marieJ

I agree!  Marvellous info and stirling advice!  Just brilliant!


Cheers!


Marie

davidg618's picture
davidg618

...with interest since its inception, and my understanding is still muddied.


Being a simple man, I have a simple way to think about my starters.


1. maintained starter: that's the one in the refrigerator, the one I have to do something to before it is...


2. Formula-ready starter: that's the fraction of the maintained starter I've done something to, and now it's at its peak, and at the right weight and hydration % specified in the formula for which I did something .


3. Seed starter: that's the fractional amount I have to take out of the maintained starter's container, and put it in its own container to do something to to make it become a formula-reaady starter.


These three seem to be all I need.


I had considered "useless starter" but, that describes a dual state starter: one that can be revived and once again become a maintained starter, or one that is truely useless, and is thrown out and quickly forgotten. So I really don't need a fourth category.


I also thought about new, fresh, young, mature, old, exhausted, etc. I can estimate my dog's age in comparison to his chronological age for comparing with human age  by the 7x rule of thumb. If we can agree on a similar rule of thumb for starter age, I would probably use it occasionally, but for now I don't feel I need to concern myself about my starter age.


Admittedly, maybe every decade or so I will have to nurture a culture for a few days until it becomes a maintained starter.


David G.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

I understand that the many states of a starter are no longer interesting to you, nor me for that matter, but they do still exist. The purpose for these types of definitions is making it easier for NEW sourdough bakers to communicate with us, and us to them. There's really not much more to it, really...


- Keith

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I am forever interested in all the dynamic and stable states starters experience. Moreover, I think Debra Wink's blog entries "The Pineapple Juice Solution, Part 1" and "The Pineapple Solution, Part 2" should be required reading for all NEW and, perhaps more importantly, all EXPERIENCED, sourdough bakers, yet I hardly ever see new bakers directed to them.


 I am a NEW sourdough baker--I've been at it for only a little more than 2 months--but I'm not new to yeast and bacteria fermentation. I've been brewing beer for 17 years, making wine for 7 years, and making vinegar for 3 years. All these processes involve either yeast driven fermentation, bacteria driven fermentation, and in some cases both; e.g., Belgian lambic beers, and malolactic conversion used in the production of most red wines, and often in Chardonnays. In all those years, and every discipline I've never lost my interest in the hows and whys and whens of yeast and bacterial fermentations. Of late my interest has turned to fermentation in bread dough in general, and sourdoughs especially. As ever in the past, I've turned to bread books, text books, scientific papers, and in-depth internet searches to learn as much as I was able to of fermentation in bread dough. It was during one of those many searches (that continue; I've not stopped looking) when I discovered The Fresh Loaf website.


The Fresh Loaf is a delightful source of information, recipes, formulae, techniques, and a wonderfully community-like source of camraderie. It also has a manager, Floyd, that has created a web site that should be held up as a goal other how-to websites aspire to.


But, like any other community, real or virtual, neighbors don't always agree. I read Mini Oven's postings regularly, and have profited from doing so. However, I disagree with most of what has been posted on this thread she began. Words like young, mature, ripe, old, active, sluggish, suspended, etc. are vague mostly because they have many common, but differing, meanings in our day-to-day use of them. In my opinion, a NEW or EXPERIENCED sourdough baker will be more confused then informed by these vague, and undefined terms.


In my gently sarcastic post I tried to make a few points:


Use word modifiers that inform. e.g., seed, formula-ready, maintained


Define your terms--In every posting if necessary; don't assume a universal understanding of vague terms; e.g., seed, formula-ready, maintained


Do your homework, corraborate your references.


Keep it simple.


Apparently, I offended you; if so, this posting is not meant as an apology, nor is it meant to foment an arguement. It states my opinions, and attempts to clarify my previous post.


David G.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

All very good points!  I especially like the "keep it simple" statement.  Good thing to remember when one describes a starter.


Mini

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Good Lord man... how on Earth did you come to the conclusion that you somehow offended me?


With an epic post about how you found TFL, what TFL is, who manages it, what a great resource it is, what you think is required reading for all, that you brew beer (and for exactly how many years), and about 20 other things I either already knew, or didn't need to know for this particular discussion, it appears that, in fact, I somehow offended you.


Your credentials aren't necessary to list, if just to correct something I may have said that you disagree with. I mean, if it makes YOU feel better or more important, then feel free and all... but it's wasted typing on my behalf, simply because I have spent enough time researching a multitude of sources about starter issues, and I'm quite comfortable with offering new bakers help in that area. I'm also comfortable using many of the terms listed, and maintain an open mind to other terms if they would prove helpful.


If a situation arises during a future discussion whereby I believe one of the terms would be helpful to interject, I intend to do just that. I won't be thinking "Oh my, David G. would highly disapprove". While I thoroughly appreciate the offer of 'father figure', I actually left home over 30 years ago, haven't been back except for holidays, and am perfectly capable of using my computer to communicate with others.


I'm wondering what some of the other contributors to this thread might think when you say:



I disagree with most of what has been posted on this thread she began.



By itself, a rather benign acknowledgement of disagreement, but when it follows such an unnecessary pufferfish-like résumé, it comes across as if you have elected yourself the 'smart one', and therefore your policy should be dogma going forward.


I really don't think so... lol...


Shall we move on and bake some bread? : D


- Keith

ejm's picture
ejm

Keith (Just Loafin') wrote



[T]he people who we deal with the most (in regards to a new culture) seem to relate to 'new starter', and we will never succeed in getting them to stop doing so. They also quite often do not consult a FAQ before putting up that first post, and more often than not will need to be directed there after their original post.



I'm not sure that these are good enough reasons for giving up on the notion of putting together a FAQ page. It is always nice to be able to go to one central location rather than wander aimlessly through various threads. It's also nice to be  directed to that central location. Especially when in a panic-stricken state. I am thinking back to my ordeal when I was trying to capture yeast for the first time. I was not all that keen to dredge through forums where I found mostly questions rather than answers - often the same questions I was asking with responses along the lines of "Me too. Does anyone know?". It was Susan's FAQ-like post about putting together a wild starter that saved me a world of grief (and opened up a whole new world of grief ;-)). Her clear explanation as well as the photos of the bubbles really helped....


And I would be wary of using the argument that people won't stop using their pet words for the sludge (see??) that is mixed together to make bread. Yes, it's true that I have been rather outspoken in the past about my refusal to embrace the use of the word "formula" rather than "recipe" as advocated by at least one prominent cookbook author. However, if a FAQ were to be put together about sourdough starters, I would definitely include at least a small explanation that the culture is the initial stage before the sludge becomes a starter. Indeed, it would be my first paragraph.


My reason? Because everything is about me me me. Before I knew the word "culture", the initial tantalizing bubbles in the sludge I was babying tricked me into baking the most frightening doorstops. Even the birds refused to eat the results! If I hadn't managed to jam the notion of the difference between culture and starter into what's left of my mind, I never would have gotten my culture to become a starter and go on to make several loaves of bread before accidentally-on-purpose throwing the whole thing down the drain during one of the feedings.


Mini, perhaps you could put together a FAQ on your part of the blog - taking the pieces of this thread that you consider most useful. At the end of the page, you could link to this thread as well. And/or you could contact Floyd and ask him if he could link to the page from the FAQ section on this site.


-Elizabeth, wild-starter assassin


(my adventure with capturing and releasing wild yeast: cleaning and tidying the fridge)

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Then, like trying to define when life begins, do we have to try and define when a new starter becomes a culture? Is it a culture as soon as the water hits the flour, or an hour later? 12 hours later?


Seems as if used as a verb, the act of adding water to the flour would do - to culture (interchangeable with cultivate) a new starter. Once microorganism activity is present, it can be used as a noun (a culture ends up a fruit of such cultivation). Just wondering out loud there...


Well, in the end, a 'new starter' may not actually be able to start anything technically, and yes, it is definitely a culture. Quite often, we might refer to things as if they exist, when they really don't yet. Say you had a house being designed and you called the architect... "Hi! I was just wondering how the work on our new house is coming along?" - "Ma'am, you may not have read the FAQ we sent over, but this isn't a 'house' yet, it's a blueprint. Acceptable terms we also recognize are 'technical drawing' or 'architectual design'..." - "uhh... yes.. well, how's the work on the house coming anyways?"


I have no aversion to culture, and I understand it's the most accurate description of it. I still have the opinion that a majority of people who post for help, didn't consult the FAQ first. Along with the ever popular "hey I have the same problem, did you find an answer?" post, the second most popular responses are always "did you read the FAQ yet?" and "please use the SEARCH function. This has been answered many times."


Most people seeking help just want the help. They are willing to absorb the finer points of education after their problem has been resolved.


- Keith

ejm's picture
ejm


Keith (Just Loafin) wrote:


Then, like trying to define when life begins, do we have to try and define when a new starter becomes a culture? Is it a culture as soon as the water hits the flour, or an hour later? 12 hours later?



To me it seems relatively clear. It's a culture as soon as there is an intention of creating a starter and the flour and water are mixed together. (Maybe it's even a culture when there isn't this intention but a  bowl of flour and water has been mixed together and inadvertantly left on the counter.) It's still a culture when it won't double and cannot yet function to make bread. It becomes a starter when it will double and cause bread dough to rise.


To go with the house analogy though, the sludge that is not yet ready to make bread  (and naturally, I do NOT expect people to use the word "sludge") could be referred to as an "unfinished starter". Just as the house being built is an "unfinished house".


By the same token, dough isn't bread yet.



Keith (Just Loafin) wrote:


Most people seeking help just want the help. They are willing to absorb the finer points of education after their problem has been resolved.



Certainly, there's no reason to stop helping people if they ask. There's also no reason not to create a centrally located FAQ either. In fact, I can't stand it when someone comes in to answer in a forum and says "this question has already been answered; use the search". However, if the person writes a brief answer that might even be a quote from the FAQ, with a link to the more in-depth reference(s), that is perfectly acceptable.


Personally, I would have been out of my mind with joy if the very first thing I read about capturing wild yeast had mentioned that the beginning stages of the mixture were just that: "beginning stages", "culture", "preliminary starter"  to emphasise that there are two kinds of bubbles created and that the first signs of life in the mixture-to-become-a-wild-starter (for want of a better term and to add yet another one into the mix) are just that: first signs of life but NOT yeast. 


I don't think there's any harm in stating this right from the outset. And it's not really too much information. Someone seeking help wants help. There's nothing more frustrating than finding out such a simple thing after a lot of struggling. I do know that my first thought when reading Susan's post about capturing yeast was "Hey!! Why didn't they say this about culture/starter in the first place?!"  But maybe that's just me.


Which is my long-winded way of saying to Mini, yes please, do go ahead with creating your capturing and maintaining wild yeast FAQ.


-Elizabeth

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Hi Elizabeth = )


I'm sorry if somewhere in my posts I have left you the impression that I am anti-Starter FAQ, but for the record, I am 100% in favor of such an endeavor, and have been since this post began.


It was David G. who came to this thread 8 days after its inception and decided the previous 8 days we all spent developing and organizing some common terms was time spent foolishly. He sees only 3 terms that can describe any starter, possibly a 4th (still on the fence there, and I guess we have to wait for him to figure out how his dog fits into the equation), and is quite adamant that any additional terms will confuse new -and- experienced bakers alike. He does not clearly state whether he is pro or con a Starter FAQ. Should we assume he is pro, then the current discussion has stalled out on what to include in that FAQ. Do we use all the terms? A few? Or do we abandon all previous ideas to adopt David G's maintained - formula ready - seed proposal. He seems extremely confident that all confusion will evaporate at that point, so you know me... I'm leaning that direction...


or not. It might just end up Mini's call.


Might I add quickly how much I've enjoyed our back and forths... you are very articulate, and your ideas well supported by argument that lacks sarcasm or lecturing. I raise a toast in your direction. : )


- Keith

ejm's picture
ejm

Ooops. My mistake.  This is what comes of forgetting to proofread properly.



Keith (Just Loafin) wrote:


I raise a toast in your direction. : )



Thank you. You are too kind. (I'm assuming that's wild-yeast toast. heeheeheehee I raise multigrain toast in yours - I'm afraid it was made with commercial yeast though.)


-Elizabeth, wild-starter liquidator

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I really did offend you! Sorry


David G

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin


I really did offend you! Sorry



No, you really didn't! Unless you think everyone who responds to your posts is offended! I've been around, David. I have very thick internet skin.


Understand, sir, I respect your age, your wisdom. your intelligence, your passion for your art(s). When you bring FACTS to my attention, I will listen. Whether or not they are preceeded with your experience in that area is probably moot; I trust you with facts. This discussion, however, has been particularly opinion in nature by all parties. Preceeding your opinion with such trivia as you make beer is, well... it's going to come off as a bit pretentious is all. I am not offended by people who believe or act like they are superior humans to the rest of us, especially since the internet provides such a fertile ground for keyboard warriors who say things they would -never- say to your face.


If we were out with some people having drinks and a good discussion.. say, about starters, and I said "you know, we should try to devise some standard terms to relate to the state of a starter.", would you respond in front of everyone with



"I am a NEW sourdough baker--I've been at it for only a little more than 2 months--but I'm not new to yeast and bacteria fermentation. I've been brewing beer for 17 years, making wine for 7 years, and making vinegar for 3 years. All these processes involve either yeast driven fermentation, bacteria driven fermentation, and in some cases both; e.g., Belgian lambic beers, and malolactic conversion used in the production of most red wines, and often in Chardonnays. In all those years, and every discipline I've never lost my interest in the hows and whys and whens of yeast and bacterial fermentations. Of late my interest has turned to fermentation in bread dough in general, and sourdoughs especially. As ever in the past, I've turned to bread books, text books, scientific papers, and in-depth internet searches to learn as much as I was able to of fermentation in bread dough. It was during one of those many searches (that continue; I've not stopped looking) when I discovered The Fresh Loaf website.


The Fresh Loaf is a delightful source of information, recipes, formulae, techniques, and a wonderfully community-like source of camraderie. It also has a manager, Floyd, that has created a web site that should be held up as a goal other how-to websites aspire to."



In terms of speech, this would consume 10 minutes, and you haven't even made your point yet... I know you're a writer, but sometimes TMI is simply TMI, and the paragraph is 100% about YOU and not the subject at hand. I mean, really? Belgian lambic beers, and malolactic conversion? Chardonnays? Just to get to the point that, in your opinion, there's too many vague terms in the list and you think it should be whittled down to 3 or 4?


Anyways... you stated in your other post that it was not written to be interpreted as any type of an apology, I'm not sure why this one is. Well, than I shall offer my apology back. If that helps.


- Keith

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Elizabeth,  I have been slow in presenting my results from my 7 month "Sleeping Beauty" starter.   The results contradict your statement "there are two kinds of bubbles created" when starting a sourdough starter.  I found this not to be the case.  It is not the first time.


When ever I do an experiment, I try to set up a control.  My control became a sd starter without the intermediate bacterial foaming.  So, telling a beginner that there must be two bubble stages is not always true although helpful if it should happen.  But if it doesn't happen then it's confusing also.   Maybe someone might say that I didn't notice a first bubbling stage.  (A beginner wouldn't notice either.)  It wasn't dramatic.  However; Debra Wink's explaination of the process still applies.   


I think Fresh Loaf is entering a new info phase.  It seems to me there is more one-on-one types of contacts.  Where an experienced home baker pairs up with a beginner to guide them through the finer points that seem to make the difference.  On or off the site. 


I know that I too often loose patience when I see the same Q's coming up as soon as they slip behind the front page.   That's life.   But sometimes the search box is more help.  When the site was younger, the questions sometimes took days to get an answer and the questioner had time to look around and explore and maybe solve their own question.  Now every question seems to demand an answer within a few hours and they leave the front page sooner.  Down side? It does lead to the same kind of Question coming up more often and more threads to sift through looking for answers.


There is value in the old threads, and something new in new threads.   I'm sure an editing nightmare.  The search machine is the way to go but does take time to search for stuff, like good bread and wine, it comes with time.  This site also has its own baking journey.  Should the invitation to use the search machine be more polite?  Floyd would you consider adding the word "Please" after the word "Search" to read "Search Please" in the box?


Back to starters:   How about that word "ripe???"



  • under-ripe

  • ripe

  • over-ripe


Big Big point up for discussion:  A ripe starter does have different definitions depending on the type of flour fed.  Have you noticed?


Mini

ejm's picture
ejm

What's this?!!! Not two stages of bubbles every time, Mini? Well, there you go! 


In my vast (cough) experience with capturing wild yeast, I definitely got two kinds of bubbles. The first kind of bubbles were quite large and rather sparse. The second kind (from yeast) were very small and many. This happened on both of my attempts. I wonder if the relatively low temperature of our kitchen was the cause. Or if it has to do with the ingredients themselves. I had the wrong kind of bubbles (with the distinct smell of yoghurt) for several days. Not being a scientist, nor having a scientific atmosphere makes the answer impossible for me to even attempt to answer.


But learning that you, Mini, didn't even see these first kind of bubbles certainly puts a new light on it all. And I think I should step aside (as gracefully as I can) and allow the people who are actively working with sourdough do the talking here.


I just can't bring myself to create another wild-yeast starter. At least not until we get a real freezer and/or someone willing to eat all the overly sour results as I try desperately to make non-sour tasting bread.


-Elizabeth



I find working with a sourdough starter can be very time consuming. Especially if you follow what most sourdough books say and feed them everyday. That’s too much work for me as I already have a cat. You even need a sourdough sitter when leaving town.


- excerpt from whatscookingamerica.net/Bread/SourdoughStarter.htm



 

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

I don't believe the "need to feed it every day" concept, or the concept for needing a starter sitter when you leave town.  Just cover it and pop it in the fridge when you leave.  It'll start where it left off when you get back.  Well, unless you're gone for a number of weeks or longer.  Once past the first 48 hours, you can refrigerate for up to a week while starting a starter.  That'll greatly slow down how often you need to feed it as well.  Some books may keep you on the fast track, but that's just so it'll be ready sooner.  Personally, I find that refrigeration cycles help although I'm not sure why.  Maybe some microbiologist type can help me out on that topic.


BTW, try fermenting your starter at a warmer temperature to encourage lactic acid formation rather than acetic acid formation (hope I got that right) and see if your starter's level of sourness comes down.  Also experiment with feeding with plain white flour, unbleached all-purpose and unbleached bread versions.  Don't use durum (semolina) or non-wheat or non-white flours.  These all increase sourness.  The same applies to liquids other than water.  Just use plain nonchlorinated water.


Brian


 

ejm's picture
ejm

Thank you for your input, Brian. Keeping the temperature high enough is the biggest problem here (kitchen at around 15C for several months of the year).


Even in the fridge, my starter (fed with unbleached all-purpose) was creating hooch after 2 days without feeding.



Brian wrote:


I really believe that although you can often make bread with a starter after only a week or two, that a starter isn't truly rock-solid stable and mature for about a year.



Aughghgg!!! Judging from the fact that it took me over two weeks to get the starter going, I'm surmising that my starter wasn't even close to being mature when I threw it down the drain a year and a half later.


-Elizabeth 


Of course, this thread is bookmarked and if I attempt to capture wild yeast again, (and that's a big if) I will keep these points in mind.)


 

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

I purposefully ferment my starter at room temperature and cooler seems better for what flavors mine produces.  And I feed with 1-1/2 cups flour to each cup of water and cup of starter.  I tend to thicken it up a bit if it's too thin.  Seems to work best that way.  BTW, I never see two stages of bubbles, but usually after whipping it up with a fork, I do see air working it's way  back out.  The yeast-caused CO2 bubbles show up hours later.  And BTW again, my starter starts forming hooch in the fridge within a day, although I know it's in great shape and not over-fermented before putting it away.  I think different starters, e.g. genetically different wild yeasts and lactobacilli, tend to vary somewhat in these things ...rise time, flavor profiles, hooch formation, etcetera.  As long as it works and tastes good, then why worry?  Because I read somewhere on TFL that durum (semolina) provides the best nutrition for lactobacillus, I do use about a 1/4 cup of durum flour in every third feeding or so, but otherwise just use plain AP flour and water to feed the starter.  I've never had one fail, nor have I ever seen a starter fail, but I have heard from some that they wish their starter was more sour, and less often, someone who says their starter is too sour.  That's nature for you.  Me included on the "not sour enough" complaint, although fermenting at lower temperatures, making it slightly thicker, and adding the durum now and then seems to have developed a pleasant, without being too intrusive, sour in my starter.  I'm quite happy with it now.


Brian


 

ejm's picture
ejm


Brian (tananaBrian) wrote:


I have heard from some that they wish their starter was more sour, and less often, someone who says their starter is too sour.  That's nature for you. Me included on the "not sour enough" complaint



It's a shame that I murdered my starter; I could have sent you some. It produced insanely sour bread. And the longer the bread was kept (even 24 hours) the sourer it got.



Brian (tananaBrian) wrote:


As long as it works and tastes good, then why worry? 



This is exactly why I quit. The starter wasn't really working the way we wanted and we didn't really like the flavour of the resulting bread. The ONLY good thing about it was the aroma of the bread baking. But that's just not enough reason to go through the hassle of constant feeding and constant dreaming up ways of using the toss-off.


-Elizabeth

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

I really think there's only a couple of "phases" and "types" to keep in mind, but people cross terms on them a lot.  A sourdough starter, or levain, or barm, or desum, is made from flour, water, and naturally occurring (not sold in a package) yeast.  There are also pre-ferments in various forms that use commercially produced yeast as the leavener and they run from liquidy (poolish) to thicker (biga), and dough-like versions that are used for leavening a dough recipe/formula.  that covers the types.


For "phases", there is only one (sorta) for those started with a commercial yeast ...the only difference is time and concentration of yeast in the mixture.  More time == more yeast.  I'm simplifying, but you know what I mean.


For sourdoughs/levains/barms/desums, the process is more complex because it includes other critters besides some mixture of wild yeasts in it, and how mature/viable/active it is is open for interpretation.  If it's bubbly and raises dough sufficiently to produce a first ferment (not the preferment) in less than 2 hours, then some would call it "mature" or "active" etcetera.  Others would require that the lactobacillus cultures should be in balance and actively growing as well, or that both the yeast and lactobacillus cultures were growing in a consistent and reliable balance to each other to be called "mature".  In other words, it's mature if you produce consistently performing rises and flavor from your starter.  Personally, I think that last definition is best, but I'd add a bit more and say that if your starter is abuse resistent, that it is then mature.  Younger starters tend to vary with how well you treat them, e.g. feeding schedules, temperatures, etc, while more mature starters tend to be more resilient and produce more consistent results in spite of moderate abuse.  An example is that just last week, I produced a sourdough loaf that performed its first rise (to doubling) in only 90 minutes, and the final rise in about an hour ...pretty typical for most starters and very typical for mine.  But ...I hadn't fed my starter in 3 weeks.  It had been refrigerated the whole time.  A younger starter, one that is not mature, would not have succeeded after that ill treatment.


Back on the topic of younger starters, note that they may go through several phases while they are developing, e.g. gelatinous, hooch forming quickly and the flour breaking down to dust (no apparent gluten structure), to batter-like but flavorless, etecetera.  Some starters take many weeks or even months to stabilize.  I really believe that although you can often make bread with a starter after only a week or two, that a starter isn't truly rock-solid stable and mature for about a year.  The starter that I started here in Fairbanks last year has evolved over time, even though it could raise bread all along, and it's flavor and capabilities for raising dough is at an optimum now ...and it's stable that way in spite of variations in treatment. 


Brian


 

photojess's picture
photojess

which I hadn't come back to in days.  so much happened while I was gone!


I have to say, that I guess I got lucky with starting my first culture, which appears to be a healthy starter, and one I want to bake with this weekend.


If it wasn't for Susan's blog, and reading Debra Wink's part II thread, I wouldn't have know what I was getting into...I fully understood that I wouldn't have a good yeast culture for many days, and frankly, I believe day 7 was the turn around time, with the appearance and the scent.  Those first days were goo, but then it turned into a nice thick glutenous mass......


can't wait to try the baking!

copyu's picture
copyu

I'd be happy to see a(n) FAQ page devoted to wild yeast baking/sourdough/barm etc. 


I know that when I was starting out, I had a lot of confusion. I only got into sourdough because I wanted to produce certain German rye breads and every candidate recipe/formula insisted one would need a wild yeast starter, which meant a week or two of waiting before baking.


Then, I also came across new terms and I distinctly remember typing the question: "Is there actually such a thing as a 'rye starter'?" I know I didn't get an answer. [Maybe I chickened-out and didn't actually post my question...? I was a 'newby!] I read that the yeasty beasties LOVE to feed on wheat bran and rye flour and I've been feeding my starter (mostly) on a diet of white AP flour and fine rye flour...


I thought that WAS a rye starter. Brother Reinhart would probably disagree, though...['Crust & Crumb' (Ch.6) p.108, paperback.] There, he uses a "Rye Sponge Starter" based on his English 'barm' formula...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Often refered to as a "rye sour" and I am very happy with it.  It is only rye, fed rye and produces wonderful bread.  The other day it accidently got some wheat in it, along with spices and salt, but no big deal, at least I didn't loose it.  It is back to 100% rye again.  Your version is also a rye starter.  Good in any rye recipe.  You might prefer to refresh it with only rye before using, up to you.


Mini

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Well, there is actually such a thing as a sourdough FAQ! Click here for that :)


There's lots of info there on how to make a starter, how to maintain it, how to make it ready for baking, how to get a dying starter back in top shape etc.

copyu's picture
copyu

Mini and hansjoakim,


That's helpful.


I actually DID use my own "rye sour" when I made my first 'all-naturally-leavened' rye from Peter Reinhart's formula and it turned out just great.


One of the loaves was a gift for a German friend. Now he wants to buy the bread from me. I just don't have a work schedule that permits many '3-day builds'!


I'm off to check out the FAQ.


Thank you very much.