The Fresh Loaf

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starter: from fridge to mixing bowl

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djd's picture
djd

starter: from fridge to mixing bowl

Hi--I'm having a ridiculous amount of trouble figuring out one key step in sourdough. I made a starter from scratch (thanks, gaarp!), got it to the happy stage, and stuck it in the fridge a week ago. So that's set. And since I've been baking bread fairly regularly for the last year, I feel like I'll be okay from the point where I put the sourdough substance into my mixer with an extra pound of flour and then mix-autolyse-knead-rise-wait-fold-wait-wait-wait-proof-wait-bake. What I can't figure out is how I get the sourdough from the fridge stage to the mixer stage. It seems like step one is taking the starter out of the fridge, feeding it, and waiting until it ripens... but even then I don't know how much to feed it. I need a lesson called "So you've made your starter. Now what?"


Doesn't help that my one and only decent bread book (Hamelman) is on loan to a friend... but I didn't understand his explanation anyway because it focused on the process for building up your starter to make a zillion loaves at once.


Please advise.

neoncoyote's picture
neoncoyote

at this link:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/17439/not-feeding-starter-prior-bread-baking


I have continued to use my starter straight out of the fridge, but now microwave the water in the formula (of the bread recipe, not in the subsequent starter feeding) until it's just warmer than lukewarm to compensate for the beginning temperature of the starter. I haven't yet identified any problems this has caused with my bread, so I'll continue.

djd's picture
djd

Hi--I saw that thread, and that piece of info is good to have... I'm just still not sure what to do at that point, after taking the cold, unfed starter out of the jar.


So many steps!


 


Edit: Oh wait. See below.


 


 

Ho Dough's picture
Ho Dough

A good video is worth 1000 pictures.


 


Try the Breadtopia site


He has several nice videos on different topics. Turns out there are many ways of taking care of a starter that work as long as you adjust your recipe to account for the hyrdation level you are working with. Remarkable in fact, how many things work.


If you can't get enough of that, try Northwest Sourdough site. She too has a lot of instructional material and videos.


It did not escape my notice that both of these sites, which also sell starters and equipment, advocate fairly wet starters.....100% hydration and up. That differs a lot from what you hear folks on TFL forum suggest. Again, no right or wrong....just different. As long as you adjust the recipe to what you have, no worries.

djd's picture
djd

Okay, wait, it might be dawning on me now... can I just weigh out the starter and put it directly in the mixing bowl with the flour and go straight to mixing, autolyse, mixing, bulk fermentation? Hamelman has some multi-step process that involves creating a sponge that has to rise and develop once or twice on its own before you can mix the rest of the flour in. I've been baking his pre-ferment breads, so I've gotten very used to starting up a good half of the batter 16 hours early.

Ho Dough's picture
Ho Dough

how active is your starter? Is it fresh and active or dormant? Folks on here quickly convinced me to keep a very small amount of well fed starter (no more than 1/2 cup), which when I'm ready to bake, I pull out of the refrigerator, warm up for a few hours and feed it to get it going good. 12 hours later I should have an active starter to bake with and surplus to feed and put back to bed. For many starters, 12 hours is about the time level when the yeast and bacteria have multiplied as far as they are going to go and are looking for something else to eat.


I'm keeping my starters at a 1:1:1 (ripe starter: water : flour) ratio by weight. 50 grams of each to maintain the starter is plenty.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

...to what I do.


 Building a Formula-ready levain (starter)

I've been building formula-ready starter this way for nearly a year, and the process never fails me. I won't waste your time and mine repeating why and how I do it here. The link is sufficiently detailed why and how I do it this way.


There are at leasta couple of hand-fulls of ways to get your seed starter to be ready to serve your formula. Choose mine, or a shorter or easier one, it doesn't matter as long as it works. The only advice I'd give you is stick to the one you like.


Happy baking,


David G


 

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

I find the hydration of the starter in the fridge is not that important for the recipe because when I build my starter I can build it to whatever hydration I want. This becomes obvious when you use a book like Hamelman's Bread.


Take a tablespoon or two of the starter from the fridge (I keep mine at about 60%) and add however much flour the build calls for. (let's say 150 grams for one loaf). Add the amount water called for, perhaps 150 grams which gives you a 100% starter to use for your bread that you are going to start working with in about 8-12 hours. Set starter someplace warm and let it double or "peak" until ready. (oh, don't forget to add about 25-50 grams of water and flour if the recipe doesn't so that you have some for the fridge)


Depending on your starter and preference, conditions in your house, etc. you may want to do a couple of builds before baking but most of the time if you use the starter weekly one build is plenty.


So, if the recipe called for 150 grams of "mature" 100% starter you have just built yourself a 100% mature starter, despite whatever hydration percent your starter is kept in the fridge. (give or take a few percent points)


If baking all weekend or several days in a row you might want to just keep feeding the starter every 12 hours or at least every 24 for the weekend, despite creating a bit of discard. Then, when workweek comes around, take your little bit for the fridge and put it back to sleep.

djd's picture
djd

I ended up with not exactly flat loaves, but... remember those weird frisbee-like devices that had flat middles and bulbous sides? Dilemma posted here.

Ho Dough's picture
Ho Dough

I've been making SD for several months now. Yeast breads before that. I seldom have the wonderful crumb results that others post here, but no flat frisbees either. This isn't rocket surgery. This can be fixed. If you have a good starter and good ingredients, you can make an edible loaf very easily.


Starter: what is the source and history of your starter? Did you make it or get it from another source, and prior to baking with it, how did you handle it and how do you feed it? Amounts of what and how often.


What is the recipe you used and exact process for putting it together (including condition of starter, temperatures you proofed the dough and formed loaves and how long from start to bake?)


SD is a process of fermentation. Depending on what you do, it's a timing issue as to how it's going to come out. It sounds very much like you let it go too long (fell flat), had too much water in relation to flour (can have some leavening, but is generally droopy), or never had any rise to begin with, which would be a starter problem. Pulling a dormant starter out of the fridge and counting on it to do much could be a stretch, again, depending on the starter and how active it was when you started.


So what did you do?


 


 

djd's picture
djd

General sourdough hydration question: Baking with commercial yeast, I get the best results when the dough is quite wet. Does sourdough fare better with lower hydration? That seems to be the case, judging by some of the hydration %s I've seen on the boards.

Ho Dough's picture
Ho Dough

to confuse the hydration of the starter vs. hydration of the dough you bake. What you hear a lot of around these parts is low hydration starter. That is done for a lot of reasons, including the theory that a low hyrdration starter ups the amount of food in the mix leading to a healthy, well fed starter, along with the notion that low hydration starters favor one side of the mix (bacteria) over yeasts. Meaning more acid buildup, meaning more "sour".


Those often change to wetter doughs that have to be propped up to proof. Wetter doughs raise better and turn out those lovely, open crumbs. The optimum water/flour ratio is very similar in both sourdough and yeast breads. The math to get them right is a bit harder as you have to know and take into account the flour/water ratio of the starter too.

djd's picture
djd

Aha. Thanks for the clarification.

LindyD's picture
LindyD


I followed the directions, took the starter out after a week and it bubbled but didn't rise... fed twice, baked anyway, and yup, the dreaded flat loaves. ...



Hi, DJD. The above is what you posted in another thread.


You took the starter out of where?


If you are refrigerating an immature starter and leaving it in the cooler for a week, then expecting it to raise bread after only a couple of feedings, that's part of the problem.


How old is your sourdough culture?

djd's picture
djd

So it's all in one place. Photos are at top. It does taste great. Link. But yes, it's a brand-new starter.