The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Another question on starters...

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JessicaT's picture
JessicaT

Another question on starters...

Does the type of flour affect how your starter behaves? IE: bread flour vs all purpose flour? And does going from brand to brand affect how things go as well? I recently switched my whole wheat starter from one brand of bread flour to another, and noticed that it basically hasn't ripened at all. Is this a cause for concern. I've used a 1:2.5:5 ratio for refrigeration since I do not bake often. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

so it will just take a little bit longer.  Let is stand out a little bit longer before refrigerating.

Ho Dough's picture
Ho Dough

In my observaton, yes. If your flour comes in a paper bag, look at the ingredients label. Some, such as Hodgson Mills, says simply "Wheat Flour". Others, such as KA bread flour tell you it is hard spring wheat flour, malted barley (a natural yeast food), and the other vitamins and minerals added. Then there are the whole grains (including rye) vs white flours and multiple variations on the wheat in general.....soft winter, hard winter, hard spirng. They all behave a little different. Bread flours, with their higher protein content....gluten.....also appears to behave different as they stick together more, trapping more bubbles, and this giving the appearance of more rise and activity.


They behave different in the jar and in the oven. And switching from one to the other does seem to cause a shock to the system as they adapt to the new food source. Beyond that, the bacteria side seems to do well on whole wheat and rye flours, so if those are in the mix, you may get more bacteria growth, meaning more acids produced and more sour.


To test this, line them up. Put about 10 grams of starter in multiple plastic cups and to each one, add 20 grams of water and 20 grams of your various flours. Watch them all through 3 or 4 feedings. Don't be surprised to see them behave differently.....the only difference being the flour used in that cup.


If they do behave different, but recover, the lesson learned might be to feed it what you want to bake with it?

flournwater's picture
flournwater

While I agree that the type of flour, given it's absorbency quotient is equal, will perform somewhat differently in a given starter formula, simply using a 100% hydration constant when testing dissimilar flour types (wheat, rye, whole wheat, etc.) will not provide you with a valid assessment of their relative performance values in building a starter.  Try to avoid comparing apples and oranges when testing your starter formula building ingredients and you'll be less frustrated with the results.

Ho Dough's picture
Ho Dough

I'm relatively new at this, so your reference to "apples and oranges" set off my curiosity meter as to how a starter behaves in response to what it is being fed. In what way is this method of observation that far off? Hydration levels or something else?


I ask as if my observations are not correct, this has all kinds of ramifications in building recipes to bake. Stuff way beyond hydration levels. Please elaborate.

flournwater's picture
flournwater

I will try - bear with me please.


If you build a series of starters based on the same hydration levels with several all purpose white flours, even if they have sllightly different levels of protein etc., you will be comparing apples with apples.  If you build another series of starters, e.g. one with whole wheat flour, another with rye flour, another with AP flour, and another with "bread" flour, the absorbancy of each will vary quite dramatically.  If they were all at 100% hydration you would find that the white flour formula will be much easier to pour than the rye flour version; eventhough they're both at 100% hydration.  The density of the formula has an effect on how hard the CO2 has to work so, to some degree, comparing the results of formulas in this group is like comparing apples and oranges.  Apples and oranges are both fruit, both contain juice,, but they are not comparable.  Dense starters and slack starters are both "starters", but even when they're hydration percentages are equal, they are not the same.

JessicaT's picture
JessicaT

This makes sense. These questions were brought on because I had recently switched my starter from one brand of whole wheat bread flour to another and I noticed that it had basically stopped maturing. It has a sour smell, but has basically had no activity.