The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Increasing my starter for a possible large bake

neoncoyote's picture

Increasing my starter for a possible large bake

I have finally produced what I think is a very well-flavored white-flour sourdough baguette after feeding my starter (stiff, refrigerated) for about three weeks. I'm excited to see what flavors it will produce as I continue to feed it.

I live in a small Alaska island town that holds a Farmer's Market throughout the spring and summer. This isn't nearly as exciting as it might sound, since very limited types of produce grow here. It does bring out people interested in offering and buying wholesome food. A friend sells her Kombucha there with great success, and I thought it would be complimentary to offer another fermented product -- which got me to thinking about selling my bread. On the one hand, I know I'm a little nuts to contemplate putting myself through that stress, but on the other hand, the reward is great when others truly enjoy something I made, that they cannot buy anywhere else. I would certainly not be taking on this project because I would expect to be well-compensated for my time...I know I will not be.

I was guardedly excited about it until I contemplated increasing my starter to an amount sufficient to make about 50 loaves. Every 3 loaves I currently make takes a cup of starter, so I'd need much, much more than I currently have. That led to other questions:

1. Is the flavor of my current bread *more* the result of using a 3-week-fed starter, or perhaps using two stretch-and-folds during the last batch's rise?

2. Would it produce a better-flavored starter to create, say, 15 new containers of starter using a small amount of my current starter in each; or to slowly increase one starter in a very large container?

I also considered how much easier it would be to also produce non-sourdough bread, including batches made with the recipes in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day; those doughs could be made far ahead of time with no starter and actually improve in taste as they're refrigerated...but those wouldn't be fermented breads...not that they have to be.

Any thoughts on the sourdough questions is much appreciated, as well as lessons learned from any similar Farmer's Market-type enterprises.

Thank you!!

Davo's picture

You don;t need to "slowly increase" your starter in one big batch. DOubling it every 12 hours will get you to any volume in quick time.


Based on your notes, you want 15 cups of starter. OK let's say you have one cup worth as it comes out of the fridge. You could double/treble it's weight  and have that fully active in say 12 hours at room temp - let's say you double it to be conservative. Now you have 2 cups. 12 hours later after doubling that weight you have 4 cups (after one day). one day later you have 16 cups fully active. (so 2 days expanding it slowly, you get to 16 cups from one cup. If you kept it slightly warmer (say 25-27 celcius rather than 20 celcius), I reckon you coudl treble it each 12 hours - in which case you would have 81 cups in 48 hours (from 1 cup at start).

On flavour - once you starter is mature, I doubt size has any effect of flavour. Temp might in terms of sourness, but even then that's more what you do with the levain and bread dough, not the starter, which is really just a supply of the right proportions of acitve bugs...