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what kind of starter to have if only to have one kind?

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Kroha's picture
Kroha

what kind of starter to have if only to have one kind?

Hello TFLers,


As I look through the books I have and mark the breads I would like to make, I notice a variety of starters in the formulas -- firm, liquid, various hydration levels...  I do not want to maintain more than one starter.   I know that I will use organic rye flour and fresh pineapple juice to start one, but beyond that, what would be the most useful and versatile starter that can potentially be converted to other types?  Any advice, as well as references to resources would be great appreciated.


Best wishes,


Kroha

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Rye, but any grain will do. second choice... wheat.  Depends on your available flour and what you like to bake.  I also slip my rye starter a little mixed flour once in a while to keep the beasties guessing.  Stays more well rounded and perky that way.


 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Your question is loaded with potential to start a discussion about preferences in starter culture and acid levels and flavor and on and on.


First you have to start somewhere and decide later if you want to change hydration or feeding schedule. I decided that I like a slightly firm starter. I feed 50g of old starter with 100g water and 120g Bread Flour. If I have been baking daily and the starter has been fed as above for a few days every 12 hours or so, it is healthy and active. If I don't want to feed it every day for the next week, I feed it and immediately refrigerate it for the next week or two. Any time I want to bake a loaf, I simply remove a 1 Tablespoon blob of the "Mother" starter and feed it up to the needed amount. This is called "elaboration" of the starter. In 1 or 2 feedings you will have all the active healthy starter you need.


Some people use different hydration levels for different reasons. I used to use a 100% hydration level because it was easy to know how much flour was in my starter for the total dough  calculation. Half of the weight of the starter is flour, half is water. Also, at 100% it's easy to mix and incorporate. Because it is a wetter mix, it is a more active culture, for a shorter time than a firmer mix.If you neglect a feeding schedule or forget to feed just one time at 100%, your starter will be worn out on the counter and flat. It isn't dead, just panting waiting for a meal. If you miss another feeding, you are on your way to hooch or an acetone smelling thin and sticky starter that needs to be brought back healthy condition with regular feeding. Not to worry, after just a few regular feedings every 12 hours it will again be happy and the smell will be coming back to healthy.


Another reason people use a specific hydration is for the flavor that the culture imparts to the the dough. With out getting too technical, there are 3 basic types of living things we care about in a starter. 1) Yeasts, 2) Bacteria that produce lactic acid and 3) Bacteria that produce acetic acids. The feeding schedule you use and the amount of food you supply (firmness) coupled with the environment or temperature that the living bacteria become used to over a period of time, influence the ratio of lactic and acetic producing bacteria and hence the flavor of the breads. Other things can also effect flavor such as timing and retarding the dough but the underlying culture population has to be there to create the desired flavor.


If you are just getting started using a natural yeast (sourdough), I suggest you follow Debra Winks advice on the starting of a starter and continue to feed it at room temp. for a couple weeks at 100% hydration.  Where you live has an impact on your room temperature and how quickly the culture will consume the new food. If you are near my house where it's -3 F degrees this morning room temp is 65F and a 12 hour feeding schedule is fine. If you live in the Land of OZ down under, where it's mid summer, a 12 hour schedule at 100% wouldn't be enough food and you would be underfeeding the culture. In this case a firm mix works better, for example 60% hydration. More food for the same water.


I tried to give your question a serious response. It is easy enough to change the hydration of a starter elaboration as you build it. It's also easy to elaborate a starter from a white flour culture to a rye or whole wheat flour culture. After just 1 or 2 feedings the new flour is essentially all the flour if that matters to you. Personally I don't think it matters at all if 10% of the rye starter is white flour. It does matter that it's active and healthy.


Hope this helps. If you have further questions ask away. There are many experienced SD bakers here who I'm sure will be happy to help.


Eric

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

Hi Eric,


this was an excellent explanation. Thank you very much for that!


I am just on day 5 of my first sourdough starter (according Dan Lepard´s Handmade Loaf). So far it seems to develop successfully.


I only hesitate what would be the best ratio to feed the starter to avoid too much wasting but enough food for yeast and bacteries... 70g starter, 100g water, 120g flour seems to me a little too much as I usually bake bread only 1-2x a week.


Do you have any suggestion what the ratio and / or quantities of starter/ flour/ water should be?


Thanks for help!


zdenka

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Glad you found that helpful. For me, the least trouble with the best results comes from feeding at room temp every 12 hours at 50g:100g:120g ratio which is a semi firm feeding. After I see it is reliably doubling or better (which won't be any trouble if you use white bread flour) I do a fresh feeding and immediately put it in the fridge. Then for the next week when I want to bake, I remove a Tablespoon and build up to the amount I need. The Mother culture in the fridge will remain vital and potent for at least a week, probably two weeks. Using your starter this way is efficient and doesn't expose your culture to abuse from forgetting to feed or unexpected absence.


Using the above feeding amounts will give you enough Mother culture to inoculate a batch for 4 days with 50 grams, and still have 70g left to feed at the end of the week. Of course you can feed early at any time.


You might see where some people like to feed and wait an hour or so and then refrigerate but I have found refrigerating right after feeding works best for vitality of the starter.


Eric

bartwin's picture
bartwin

wow, just what i was looking for!  i have a 5 year old la brea bakery  white starter and Eric, you have given me the easy way to transform it into rye or wheat. Many thanks!

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

I maintain a single rye starter at 100% hydration made from home milled organic ryre berries.   This starter is used for everything and is versatile by virtue of varying the amount of starter in any given recipe.  More starter equals more rye character.


Jeff

MommaT's picture
MommaT

Without a doubt, I find a simple 100% starter to be most flexible.


It's easy to re-calculate to other hydrations or to refresh with rye or whole wheat.  


Also, my family is (unfortunately) averse to very sour breads and I find this starter remains relatively neutral.


Enjoy!


MommaT

Kroha's picture
Kroha

for all the thoughtful advice, and particularly thank you, Eric, for your informative introduction into the mysterious (to me) and exciting world of sourdough starters.  I have settled on 100% hydration rye starter, and from what everyone said it seems versatile enough to morph into other types of starters as needed.  I am so excited to expand my baking repertoire soon!


Best wishes,


Kroha


 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Kroha,


I'm glad you found my ramblings helpful.  As I had hoped lots of other folks chimed in and confirmed what I had hoped. That is that you should do what you think works. The culture is pretty resilient and forgiving to mild abuse. I haven't ever maintained a rye culture for a long time so I would be interested in hearing how you do with it over a few months. If you ever think you are getting behind it and performance starts to slow, just get on a regular room temp feeding schedule every 12 hours and it will bounce back. The other thing I have noticed is that rye doesn't seem to get that acetone smell nearly as quickly, indicating being underfed. I have left a rye sour on the counter fermenting for 4 days untouched and made a great loaf of rye sour.


Yea I don't think it matters much what your starter base is when you build the sour elaboration. There is so little of it that you can barely see it even in an all white pain au levain.


Please do keep us posted on your progress.


Eric

Pain Partout's picture
Pain Partout

I was never happy with the flavor of my home-made starter, even though it rose reasonably well.   Sooo a few months ago I ordered the Italian Ischia Sourdough Starter from Cultures For Health (www.culturesforhealth.com). There is more than one site to order specific strains/cultures, but I just took a chance on this one. 


This has been a wonderful starter for me,...far superior to any "wild yeast cultures" that I have ever grown.  The Ischia is very active,  strong/fast...but not as sour in the finished bake that the company implies.  Sourness in a finished loaf is also determined by more than the strain of yeast & bacteria though.


I start my culture out at 100% hydration every day.  I maintain a small Mother  by using 1/4 C EACH of starter, unbleached KA All Purpose Flour, and Dasani water. I always leave the starter at room temp, so it MUST be fed.   


Sometime in the late evening, when ever I remember, or am working in the kitchen...I add about another 1/4 Cup of flour.  This stiffens the starter considerably, even though the proofed culture is a little wetter than my "morning re-make".  I just got lazy about being fanatical. I don't worry about when to do these things...I don't worry if I don't get the formulation/ratio exactly right. 


  A couple days before I want to bake, I build the starter up to a bigger volume...still going by the same procedure.  100% hydration initially,..then only more flour at the end of the day.


If I want to make a different Mother Starter from my original culture.  I remove a portion, and re-build the newbie with whole wheat, or rye flour,...letting the new version stand on a counter, far away from re-freshed Mom.  This new culture will develop better if refered overnight.   I keep my original culture "pure", by being consistent with the type of flour, and bottled water.  Keep the various cultures covered, separated from each other and never-but-never share utensils while mixing from one culture to another.


If you have good strains of yeast & bacteria... you needn't be a total slave to the process of making good bread. You DO need to understand that these tiny little critters that we can not see, can be contaminated by other strains of "bugs" though.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

What a thought! I might have room in the refrigerator-or on the counter, if I had only  1! I have several sourdough cultures at various stages of use and history as well as yogurt and several jars for kefir.Hardly room for the milk and eggs.

Kroha's picture
Kroha

I have considered buying a starter, but I have a child with a severe allergy and there is no way I can be sure that the ingredients of a purchased starter are not contaminated with the allergen.  So I am in the process of making my own starter. And Eric, I will do my best to post my progress.   I have a pretty busy household, which at times interferes with my virtual life :) I just started the culture yesterday, so it will be some time before I get to bake with it.


Best wishes,


Kroha