The Fresh Loaf

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Whole Wheat Starter: Pros and Cons?

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soleilnyc's picture
soleilnyc

Whole Wheat Starter: Pros and Cons?

Hi again! 


It's me, the newbie that experienced existential angst over Carl's starter a couple of months ago :)


The starter, fed with AP, was doing pretty well and made a great loaf of JMonkey's 100% WW bread.  Then I realized that I had cut out most refined (read:white) products out of my life and had been trying to eat only whole grains, so I decided to convert my starter into WW. (30g starter:30g WW:30g water)


I haven't made bread with it since the conversion (it's been about a month and I'm trying to get him stronger as he takes about 12 hours to double) but I'm now browsing the forums and people are saying how much more difficult it is to maintain, how it's much more sour, and how WW may contaminate a starter, etc.  What are your thoughts on this?  I know I will be making breads with a percentage of bread flour or AP flour anyway such as brioche, so does it make more sense to maintain a white starter?  Is it possible to convert a WW starter to white?


Let the debates begin!


 

Edthebread's picture
Edthebread

I just maintain one starter, and feed it with white flour if I want to make a predominantly white loaf, or WW flour for WW loaves.  Generally my starter grows well when fed either flour, but this would presumably depend on your particular starter.  I do notice that with longer fermentation times the WW starter produces more sour bread.  I even contemplated adjusting the percentage of WW flour I feed it to get the optimum degree of sourness in the bread, but I never experimented with this.

soleilnyc's picture
soleilnyc

Hi Ed!


Do you maintain one white starter and build a WW one separately when you need one or do you swing the starter back and forth depending on what you need?


It's true that my WW is very sour, but not that much more than when it was white. It's surprising to me as well because I'd read that Carl's starter didn't get very sour.

Edthebread's picture
Edthebread

I just swing the same starter between WW and white flour.  If the starter does not seem to grow so well after changing over, it may need a couple of feeds, but my experience is that it readily converts to the new flour.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Whole wheat starters will not rise as high as ap flour in a glass.   Once you mix it with more flour it may surprise you.  Go for it!   Before your starter gets bored with you.


Mini

soleilnyc's picture
soleilnyc

I'll take your advice, Mini! I think it's possible that Grover's patience is running thin, so I'll put him in a 1.2.3 levain today and maybe some brioche tomorrow! :)


Good to know about WW starters...I'd been waiting for him to perform the way he always had on AP!

ryeaskrye's picture
ryeaskrye

While I'm certain your present white flour starter is sufficient to make WW bread, from personal experience a "true" WW starter makes a significantly positive difference in my WW loaves.


I have two WW starters, a South African one purchased from Ed Woods and a Desem created per Laurel's Bread Book (not by me), born and raised strictly on organic WW flour.


I have to say the Desem, which I keep at 80% hydration, rises faster and higher than my SanFran starter could ever hope to. The South African one also rises high and fast, and at lower temps as well.


While debate rages over whether starters evolve differently based on environment, hydration, feeding schedule, flour/grain beasties, etc...I can say without any question, and can demonstrate repeatedly, that for whatever reason, my WW starters behave and taste substantially different than my white flour starters, especially in baking 100% whole wheat breads.


Interestingly enough, I've tried the Desem in a white flour recipe and it didn't do so well. The South African, contrary to Ed's claims, did quite well with both white and whole wheat. The Desem seems to avoid becoming overly sour and even retains a bit of a sweet flavor.


Perhaps it's just a marketing ploy on to sell more/unique starters, but I'm glad I have "true" whole wheat starters. Having such, I never tried to convert a white starter over over to the "dark" side. Perhaps after numerous feedings the yeast could evolve to deal with the different flour...another experiment to try one day.


 

soleilnyc's picture
soleilnyc

Interesting, Rye! What do you do when you want to make something that needs a softer/white flour, like a brioche or other sweet doughs? How many starters do you keep?


Your Desem sounds like it has the kind of flavor I like in my breads! At the moment, my breads are predominantly sour...I like sour, but some people don't appreciate it as much as I.

ryeaskrye's picture
ryeaskrye

Is that referencing sunny New York or SUNY?


Anyway, I actually keep 5 different starters, 2 purchased (Whole Wheat), 2 gifted (SF and another white flour) and 1 created on my own (Rye).


I have not yet ventured into the pastry branch of baking with sourdough, so I don't have an answer for you there.


The Desem I purchased from Teresa at Northwest Sourdough ( http://northwestsourdough.com/ ) and it is a definitely different animal than the other starters I have. It took me a little while to fully appreciate its capabilities. Teresa has a wonderful recipe that mixes a white "motherdough" and the desem starter that is one of my favorites.

soleilnyc's picture
soleilnyc

I never even thought about the SUNY reference..that would have been really witty if it were the case. Can I save it for credit later if I ever go to SUNY? :)


I wish I had the patience for more starters. I actually have 2 going: my WW descended from Carl's White, and a Teff starter that I made myself for Injera.  It doesn't take much time to maintain, I know, but the amount of discard I accumulate, not to mention the starters themselves calling from the fridge, creates an inordinate amount of pressure for me to make (and CONSUME) breads galore!

ryeaskrye's picture
ryeaskrye

I'm curious about your teff starter. Did you create it from scratch or convert a white flour starter?


I really enjoy Injera. We have an restaurant nearby run by a Ethiopian woman and her 2 daughters that serves dishes that make my mouth water just thinking about them.


Is it possible you have an Injera recipe to share?


BTW, if you're curious about the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book method of creating the whole wheat starter, take a look at this from SourDoughHome:  http://www.sourdoughhome.com/desemstarter.html


 

soleilnyc's picture
soleilnyc

As a matter of fact, I do have an injera recipe to share.  I don't know that it's authentic, but I cobbled it together from different sources on the internet.  I tried a few times before, but they always came out gooey or bland.


What I did was convert a white starter (the same starter I used to go WW).  I started with 30g and fed twice a day for 2 days at 2:1:1.


Simultaneously, I built about half the amount in white starter.


On the evening of the second day, I added enough teff to make a crumbly ball to the now-teff starter, and "kneaded" it for about 10 minutes until it came together. Apparently, according to a site I found, this encourages the creation of bubbles/eyes or ain.  Not sure how...maybe somebody here can explain it.  I added enough water to the ball to make a very thin batter, like whole milk or half and half and left it on the counter overnight.


The 3rd day, I made injera: I combined the teff starter and the white starter (2:1) and ran it through an immersion blender, also recommended somewhere on the web. I haven't tried not running it through the blender, so I can't speak to the difference it makes in the finished injera.


The first time I made it, I added 1t of baking powder to the batter. Now, however, I don't need to do it.  I keep about 2 cups of the original teff/white starter in the fridge and just add teff flour to it at the feeding to get a pudding like consistency.  When I am to make injera, I just add water to get the consistency I want, and make the injera immediately, straight out of the fridge.


I heated up a teflon crepe pan over medium-high heat and poured the batter in, swirling like a crepe.  I know that in Ethiopia, they spiral the crepe batter from the outside in, but I don't have the agility for it.  Cover the pan immediately and count to 20. Check for the edges lifting off the pan and your injera is cooked.


Don't make the mistake of putting hot injera on a plate: it will stick! Instead try a plastic place mat or chopping board or a tea towel. In Ethiopia the have a special flat woven round specifically for removing the injera from the pan and cooling it.


 


 

Edthebread's picture
Edthebread

I must say I'm rather offended by the "The South African, contrary to Ed's claims, did quite well with both white and whole wheat". 


in the first place this seems to agree with my experience, as the same starter can do well with both types of flour.  I don't have a South African starter and I made no claims about it.  I was only citing from my own experience, which may differ from yours, but there is no need to belittle my experience by refering to it as 'claims'. 


No doubt starters maintained with WW or white flour will taste different, but, again, in my experience with my starter, both will make good bread.

soleilnyc's picture
soleilnyc

I think Rye was referring to Ed Woods' claims:



This is the only sourdough culture we are aware of that leavens whole-wheat better than it does white flour and is therefore ideal for those who grind their own flour.


Edthebread's picture
Edthebread

Sorry - my bad, I mistook this reference for my namesake.  Don't I feel the fool!