The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Whats the difference

Ho Dough's picture
Ho Dough

Whats the difference

First an observation.


When feeding my starter, if I do a starter heavy feeding....say 30 grams starter, 20 grams water, 20 grams flour (1.5:1:1), I notice a fast rise and it will more than triple within 3 to 4 hours. It will peak and fall back within 6 to 8 hours, and should be fed again at 12 hours. The ripe starter that produces is "spongy" before I stir it down and has a tart to sour taste to it. If you just stir it down and leave it, you get a little more action, but not much.


If I change that to a low percent starter......say 1:2:2 or 1:2:3, the growth rate is much slower....rarely gets to the same level of rise and won't be as sour in taste. I can stir that down and it will go active and rise to maybe double in a few hours.


Assuming the growth rate of the livestock swimming in the mix is empiricle, the 1.5:1:1 starts out with a higher density of beasties, so naturally will expand and consume most of the available nutrients faster. By comparision, the lower 1:2:2 requires more time for growth and expansion of the population and the second stir down seems to mimic the action of the first, mixing larger quantities of beasts into the remaining nutrients to finish it  off.


Now to transfer this to baking bread. Some recipes I've seen use a ratio of only 10% starter, the rest being water and flour. The complete recipe is mixed together and allowed to pre-ferment from 8 to as long as 24 hours, some at room temps....some in the fridge. Eventually, they are kneaded or folded, shaped, another rise and then baked. Call this option A


An alternative that I've found in some old bread books is to make a "sponge", that begins with about the same amount of starter, but the initial amounts of flour and water added is not much more than multiplying the starter by 5, then adding some additional flour after about 12 hours or so, triggering a sudden growth spurt, letting that rise a second time, then shape, rise and bake. Option B


Yet another variation of this Option C, which is to preferment a wet mix of all but maybe 5% to 10% of the flour, add the remaining flour by folding or kneading....shape and when it rises for an hour or so, bake. Call this Option C


Options B and C seem to get you to the same ending point as Option A, with a higher "sour" factor that closer mimics fast growth and desireable "sour" taste found in 1.5:1:1 starter feedings. With these, you add just anough additional flour to trigger another rise and lock that in place by baking.


Yet most folks seem to be going with some variation of the Option A methods. Is there something else going on that is not as obvious a novice like me? In other words, whats the difference?