The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Question regarding maintaining a 50% hydration starter..

osx-addict's picture

Question regarding maintaining a 50% hydration starter..

Hi all.. Sorry for being a pest here.. Still wearing my learning cap.. 

So.. I'm trying to get my dough to be a bit more sour and was reading some of the old archived message threads including this one : 

Lesson: Squeeze more sour from your sourdough

In there is a couple of steps to convert your 100% starter to 50%.. I did that but am not sure how to exactly feed it from there.. How much should I toss out and then what do I add?  If I keep 50g of starter, is the (complete) ratio 1:2:1 (starter->flour->water)? or something else?  If that is correct, I keep 50g of starter, put in 100g of flour and 50g of water.. Just want to double-check before I convert it into something else.. 


LindyD's picture

For a while I scaled, then got tired of cleaning up more containers and obsessing over grams, so I chucked that concept and switched over to the eyeball-feel method.

My levain has been in the fridge all week, so about an hour ago I pulled it out, discarded about 75 percent, added a bit of water, then at least twice as much flour and kneaded it - adding tiny amounts of water until I was satisfied with its consistency.  The feel is similar to well kneaded bagel dough, but a bit more firm.  It might be 50 percent hydration some days, or 60 percent on others.  I'm not concerned with precise measurements for the culture, only that it is firm and well fed.

I just looked at it and it's rising nicely and smells good.  It will probably double before I go to bed (I heat with wood and its pretty warm in the kitchen), so I'll refresh it again tonight but move it to a cooler room to slow it down.

This method has worked well for me over the past year (this is a two-year old levain) and having originally started with a liquid levain, I really prefer a firm (around 50-55%) culture since it's really easy to maintain and I love its tart taste.

I don't know how much starter you have on hand, but if it's mature and has successully risen your bread, you could set aside a small amount and given the eyeball method a try.  Then compare the results with the metric measurement method.

Have some fun with it and BTW, don't ever consider yourself a pest at TFL.  Everyone here started on the bottom rung of the bread ladder.

osx-addict's picture

Thanks for the comments.. I just ditched about 3/4 of the dryish stuff I had and added ~50g of flour and a bit over 25g of water since it was a bit too dry after mixing..  I kneaded it a little on a cutting board I had handy and it got a little sticky and wanted to stick to my skin a little so I added just a little more flour.. It was able to collect up all of the little pieces of dough that had fallen off and I plopped it back in its container to sit overnight..

Later I chopped off 25g of the doughy blob and mixed up a ~100% hydration going so I might have some SD pancakes in the morning.. 

rottenfood's picture

A couple wks ago I converted a WW starter to 50%, refreshing w/ about 15% rye, the rest WW. This wkend was the first test run with the new dry starter. I used the same amount as before (by volume), but broke it up and disolved in the water before adding the water to the flour.  It's part of an ongoing battle to get the sour tang pumped up.

The first two loaves were the no-knead recipe from (thank you, Erik), where all the whole wheat was ground very course by hand, Following a hunch from another recipe, I toasted the WW in the fry pan for about 10 min on med heat. The smell is great, though it's not as strong after baking.

The other loaf was a whole spelt loaf, also from Erik.

 While it takes a moment for the tang to arrive, it IS stronger than before, and rather pleasant. If you have issues w/ too much tang, it might overwhelm any other, more subtle flavors. I'm still chasing the elusive tang (at 1200' in the coastal range NW from Portland, OR). 

The dry starter seems alot easier to work with. I just add the water first, mix well, let it sit until disolved w/ regular stirings,  then the rye & WW. It ends w/ kneading by hand, which is easy, less mess. To use in a recipe, I just grab about the right amount (typically about 1/4 c per 3c flour, and break it into small pcs in the recipe water.


There's a double batch of Peter Reinhart's potato-rosemary (converted to sourdough only) fermenting now. 'Looking forward to tasting that.


pattyfermenty's picture

simply take a couple of tablespoons of your culture and add it to 100/50 by weight flour to water, plus a tablespoon more of flour. wait until ripe. save your other culture just in case it doesn't take.