The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter behavior correlates to starter hyrdation?

janij's picture
janij

Starter behavior correlates to starter hyrdation?

So this question is based on what I am seeing with my starter. 

I am currently trying to find a daily bread/ basic bread formula that is my own so to speak.  I want the to make just one loaf at a time, by hand.  I want a sourdough.  I want a small percent of whole grain with the option of being 1/2.  I want a little sweet.  I want to be able to add a soaker if I want.  So over the last yr or so I have been trying out recipes and working with my starter to create exactly what I want.  I really like Hamelman's Whole Wheat Multigrain and the Vermont Sourdough with increased whole grains. What I came up with is a hybrid of these formula.

So the problem or question arises with the starter.  Hamelman suggests a 125% hydration 1st build.  I maintain my starter at 100% hydration.  When I tested recipes I had better results using a 100% hydration starter for the 1st build.  When the starter hydration was higher I ended up with a gummy mess for the dough.  The dough would not rise and was stretchy like taffy.  I think this is from the dough becoming to acidic and starting to break down.  Has anyone else seen this with their starter?  I remember reading in DiMuzio's book about how the hydration of the starter or preferment changes how they behave.  I guess I need to look that up again.  But I am wondering if this is my starter that acts like this.  I am going to retry the formula tomorrow and use 100% hydration instead of 125% and see if it turns acidic.  The other probelm could be I didn't refresh the starter enough before making the final build.  Any ideas?

Oh, the formula will look something like this:

1 lb flour

11 oz water

.3 oz salt

.5 oz honey

optional 3 oz mixed grains soaked in 3.5 oz water.  Overall water would increase to 13 oz .

1st build

3 oz flour

3 oz water

1.5 oz starter

Final build

13 oz flour

8 oz water

.5 oz honey

.3 oz salt

I was going to use autolayse method, with some stretch and folds.

The formula is basically 68% water, 2% salt and 3% honey  with the option of 20% whole grains soaked and added.  Nothing too original.

janij's picture
janij

Thank you for the info.  I have read Chapters 3&10 and I made a sheet to work out the formula for this.  It is 68% water, 2% salt and 3% honey.  I am prefermenting about 20 of the flour.  So I work from 1 lb of flour as 100%.  This isn't really my problem.  I understand the math part, and I am okay with going at things in a more scientific way.  I do make regualr sandwich bread the way of throw in and knead.  But enriched dough is more forgiving.

I think my real probelm is my starter.  I doubles in about 4-6 hrs depending on the temp.  I do think temp could be part of the problem as you suggested since I live in Houston and it is about 30 deg colder than normal this week.  But once I take the first build and make the second, or final build things, go south.  The dough gets stretchy, it doesn't rise well.  It is just weird.  I am thinking I should maybe try using regular yeast on the formula first.  I guess I am just frustrated with my starter and don't understand why it behaves weird.  I am remaking the bread today and it is going better.  I used 100% hydration for the 1st build.  But that doesn't rule out that maybe the starter yesterday was not active enough, it only got one small refreshment before used in the first build, or the temp.

Does using more starter help?  Say I made the first build 50% of the final dough flour at 100% hydration instead of 20%, would that make it rise faster?  Like if you added more yeast to a dough.  I just wonder if the gluten is breaking down. 

Thank you for taking the time to help me on this.

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Your stated concern is that,

"The dough would not rise and was stretchy like taffy"

I am not in your kitchen and consequently am guessing here but I wonder if the problem has more to do with dough handling than with the sourdough.  I have made sourdoughs that would fit your description were it not for a series of stretch and folds followed by careful handling and shaping.  In the past I had sourdoughs that fit your description that baked flat due to my lack of dough shaping experience or just plain carelessness on my part....Now I am more careful.

Just a thought and it could easily be way off track,

Jeff

janij's picture
janij

It is flat.  I am not sure if that is shaping like you said Jeff, probably.  The feel or sourdough is different and I guess I am not as comfortable with it.  I am going to try this formula again, but with maybe a 65% hydration and use instant yeast to spike the dough in the final build.

That and temp.  I am going to go around with the thermometer and try and find someplace where the temp stays the same over night. Or even in a cooler.   Then I can adjust from there.  I am trying to find a formula and mixing style that will fit into my daily routine.  Bed by 10, back from the gym and able to mix by 10am, and in and out a little during the mid day or not, and bake early afternoon.  But I want it where I know for sure.  With just some feel adjustments to the dough.

I also used spelt flour for the 3 oz in the 1st build.  That could make this wetter since splet does not absorb as well.  Maybe that could contribute to the slackness and lack in height.  I did get decent oven spring though.

the 2 loaves- as you can see they are very flat

This is the multigrain crumb

This is the regular crumb

 

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

I continue to think that it is largely a matter of dough handling and shaping.  Also your pictured scoring would also lead to a flat loaf.  Diagonal scoring would help the loaf hold together and rise a bit higher.

Sourdough is indeed a bit tricky compared to yeasted dough and is largely a matter of experience and feel.  Your crumb looks good so I suspect that you have a pretty darn good command of the actual sourdough.  Look into improving your whole approach to stretch & folding and the subsequent shaping and finally the scoring.  Remember that every little thing you do affects the final product, from the moment you begin mixing flour and water until the loaf is cool.  You are real close to wonderful success and just need to fine tune some of the details.

Jeff

janij's picture
janij

So more stretch and folds during th feremntation?  I only did 2.  I mixed my hand after a 30 min autolayse.  I normally do the 3 diagonal slashes but I wanted to try and get a smile ( see TFL blogs recent.  They have some cool smile faces on their bread.)  I knew when I slashed them that it was not helping my situation.  And I slit really deep.

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

I would think that three folds about 30 minutes apart towards the end of the fermentation should do it.  Designate a "top" to the dough ball and maintain that top throughout folding and subsequent shaping so that you are always giving the most stretch to the same portion of the dough.  That "top" portion of the dough will ultimately become the top of the loaf and handle gently so as to not de-gas excessively.

Jeff