The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The sticky starter

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GabrielLeung1's picture

The sticky starter

I have made a discovery. This discovery has changed the way that I maintain my sourdough mother, and since that change in maintenance has occured it has been quite a bit less of a hassle to maintain her every day. 

Bear in mind I keep a 50% hydration starter, I've kept her at that hydration for the past year or so. Prior to the change, she always started her fermentation extremely dry, then the next day, she would be completely and absolutely goopy, sticky, and nearly impossible to work with. 

I just couldn't understand why, I knew it was a sign of ill health, but even after merely 24 hours of fermentation this unfortunate corruption would happen. One day I started following recipes that called for the conversion of mother to a 100% hydration sponge, to ferment overnight, before being incorporated into the dough it was to ferment.

This procedure I hated. It required me to take extra effort and incorporate great amounts of water into a very firm dough. In addition, I found that the result was a very mild sour flavor (all the acetobacillus was no doubt outcompeted by the lactobacillus in this very wet and watery environment).

While I hated the procedure, the idea of breaking up the mother seemed like a good one. It would be easier to incorporate into the dough, and as long as I didn't let the bacteria reproduce before I got them back into a very firm dough, there would be no turnover of bacterial strains. So I tried it: I broke up my mother into water, and mixed that with flour, in the ratio for a 50% hydration dough. The next day, my starter was risen, fluffy, and best of all, there was absolutely no stickiness. It was not unlike a dough that had been made with commercial yeast rather then wild yeast and their companion bacterial cultures. A sticky, stringy starter will never plague me due to this new discovery (although it is still quite a bit of work dissolving the mother in water). 

Janknitz's picture

I'm still a SD newbie, so I don't know if I really understand the process.  How did you do it before this discovery?  Did you just try to mix/knead the new flour and water into the existing mother?

How did you change after this discovery? How did you "break up your mother into water"?  Just tear little pieces off and put them in the water?  Cover the mother with water and stir to break it up? 

What did you do before?  Knead the water and flour into the mother?

Am I correct that to get a 50% hydration starter you feed 3 parts starter,  1 part water to 2 parts flour by weight?  Isn't that an extremely stiff starter?  I do a 67% hydration starter and it is hard to mix!

GabrielLeung1's picture

So I keep my 50% hydration mother fed in a 2:1:1 (Flour:Water:Starter) ratio. The starter itself is already at 50% hydration, and there are two parts flour to one part water.

Originally I would just scale the different ingredients and knead them together. 

What I ended up doing was scaling the mother, scaling the water on top of that, then tearing up the now wet mother into little pieces. I then whisked the pieces as good as i could, before mixing it with the flour. 

50% hydration is definitely stiff, but thats what it takes to get a sharp sour flavor, so I figure its worth it. 

Although, 67% hydration shouldn't be hard to mix, that's decently wet. How are you calculating that?

rony_sha's picture

If I am not wrong 67% is just a ratio of 2:3.

I use this ratio for both the starter and the spelt bread, making it very easy to calculate.