The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why a starter in the first place?

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Newfieguy's picture
Newfieguy

Why a starter in the first place?

Hello everyone, excuse the basic Bread 101 question here but why is it some recipes call for a starter and some do not?


I do not want to look a complete idiot but many of you in here are very forgiving to newbies! 


I did not see a definition of starter in the glossary so just thought I would ask!


It seems some folks work on starters for days.  Is it really necessary and when would you use it?


Thanks everyone!


New Newfie guy!

flournwater's picture
flournwater

For my purposes, it's all about flavor.


"I do not want to look a complete idiot but many of you in here are very forgiving to newbies!"


I think you'll find that questions receive a warm welcome.  Some of the answers can result in public execution.   ;>).


 

wassisname's picture
wassisname

Definitely another vote for flavor!  Also gives you the option of getting into recipes with no commercial yeast at all - more flavor again, less cost, and bonus health boost from what I've been reading.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

When people speak of "starters," newfieguy, they are referring to a sourdough culture.   Do a TFL search using starter and you'll find quite a few links to read and learn from.


Quoting from the glossary:



Sourdough: a preferment that is a culture of wild yeast and bacteria that is perpetuated by the periodic addition of flour and water, or a bread leavened in whole or part by this culture.



Bakers who prefer the taste of sourdough think it's very necessary in both wheat and rye breads.  It's all about flavor.


Why not find a good bakery in your area, buy a loaf of sourdough bread, and discover what it's all about. 


BTW, welcome to TFL.

scottsourdough's picture
scottsourdough

Sourdough starters do lend the bread a very distinctive, complex flavor that you just can't get from using instant yeast. However, learning how to cultivate and care for a starter is annother challenge. Instant yeast is so simple to use, and you don't have to care for it in any way like you do for starters.


To me, I like the challenge of sourdough, but also the thought that I don't have to rely on store-bought yeast. Everything I need is in my starter. I like that sourdough is also a more old-fashioned, natural process of making bread.

hutchndi's picture
hutchndi

I figured from the start that if I was going to go through the trouble of making my own bread, I was going to strive to bake great bread, and sourdough sounded like the best route to do so.


Is instant yeast really easier to use? Or is it just faster? I am not joking, I really have hardly ever used anything but sourdough starter in my bread baking history, and because it is what I am used to and am comfortable with it, I am always apprehensive when I look at a bread recipe calling for yeast instead. 

scottsourdough's picture
scottsourdough

You have to know the hydration of your starter (or firm starter if you make one), and you have to make sure it's at the right point in its rise, etc. Yeast you just throw in and you're done. There's no guesswork.


Still, I think it's easily worth it to use sourdough.

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

That's why I make and eat sourdough bread, and mine is anything but sour.  There have been studies lately showing that diabetics can eat sourdough bread, even white, without suffering massive spikes in their blood sugar, the way we would with ordinary bread.  Sourdough is also supposed to be more easily digested than regular bread.  I still do make lots of bread with commercial dry yeast, but I can eat more of the sourdough.

flournwater's picture
flournwater

"There have been studies lately"


Who's studies?

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

I Googled "Sourdough and Health Benefits" or something like that and came up with an article done by a Canadian university. It mentioned the glycemic reaction when eating sourdough bread. They didn't cover the health benefits of what one might put on the bread and consequently negate any benefit.

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

And you certainly didn't look very far.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

First, sourdough is ancient, sometimes mythical. The first sourdough leavened bread was baked a handful of millenium ago, and recorded in hieroglyphs. It's likely been used far earlier.  For me, that is almost enough. I like doing crafts that, at least superficially, connect me to my ancient roots.


Yeast wasn't discovered, nor scientifically understood until 1866, and its development, at least for bread baking, has been along a singular path: fast fermentation.  Developing bread flavor has had no role in cultured bread yeast's evolution, except perhaps to selectively breed out unwanted flavors.


Sourdough starter is not only yeast, it is a living community of both yeast and bacteria, it is the latter that contribute mostly to the bread's flavor. Moreover, sourdough breads grow staler slower than yeast-only-leavened breads. Staling is a natural process wherein the bread flour's starch, gelatinized in the baking process, recrystallizes slowly. The acids in the sourdough slow the process.


But, like all the other posts, for me it's first three thing: flavor, flavor and flavor.


David G


 

Newfieguy's picture
Newfieguy

I am no stranger to making bread but what I have learned since joining this forum is that I am a master of making MY BREAD!  hehe  I have made the exact same loaves for years, WW bread with the kitchen sink thrown in it, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, 10 grain cereal, oats, just about anything I can chuck in there.


I put the yeast in warm water with honey and then just add about 3 cups of warm water, a cup of honey and then start pouring WW flour in there and the yeast mix and then pile it up with grains.  Let the kitchenaid beath the heck out of it with the dough hook, let it rise for 50 minutes, punch it down, put it back in the pans, let it rise again for 50 minutes, take it out, turn the oven on 400 for 10 minutes and then reduce it to 350 for 20 mins and it is done!


It turns out amazing and I love the fresh ground wheat taste.  On my street I am considered the bread EXPERT!  hehe  Hilarious!  Little do they know I do not know what a starter is!  hehe  I give loaves away all the time as I just love making it.



I sign up here take one look at that ciabatta post and realize I know nothing!  hehe  I am dying to try that one out this weekend.  I was at Walmart a few months ago and they had yeast packs the 3 pack ones on for .25 cents.  They were getting rid of a brand so I cleared out the shelves!  I have enough for the rest of my life I would say but I will have to try this starter thing out and see how it goes.


Can someone just run through step by step what is in it?  I can not imagine what goes in it if yeast is not in there?  What the heck do you use to make it rise?  Can someone post a step by step starter procedure?


Great forum everyone and thanks for the responses!


New Newfie guy!

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Yeast has a life span, even in the package.  That wind fall of package yeast you bought may disappoint you at some point in the future so check the package and proof it before you rely on it to perform.

Newfieguy's picture
Newfieguy

Also I keep hearing folks talking about hydration!  How the heck do you measure Hyrdation?  Do you need some kind of tool for that?


 


Thanks!

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi


For starters, have a good look through the relevant section in the "Lessons" tab above.


For hydration; make the big move, forget about measuring, buy some fine-tuned digital scale and adopt weight as opposed to volume.   It couldn't be easier, once you've converted:


eg. 100% hydration means 100g Flour to 100g Water, or, 1lb Flour to 1lb Water; yes, weighing your water is best practice too 


Best wishes


Andy

Marni's picture
Marni

Here are two posts to check out:


Pineapple starter 1


Pineapple starter 2


They both tell you all you could need to know about the concoction that is a starter.  I found it facinating - it may be more than you want at the moment - but you decide.


Part two has instructions on how to get a starter going. 


As was said above, it's all about taste!


Welcome!


Marni

Newfieguy's picture
Newfieguy

Seriously!?!  Do these folks not work for a living?  hehe


4 days to make a loaf of bread vs just cutting open a packet of yeast, that had better be one SERIOUSLY BLISSFUL tasting loaf of bread!  hehe


As fun as it sounds, I think I might just stick to my rapid rise yeast and go from there!  hehe  Maybe when I retire I will have a bash at 4 day Starter Bread!  hehe


Who can plan their meals that far out!  hehe


Over the weekend decide, "Hey next Thursday we should have a few friends over!"  I'll get the bread on!  hehe


New Newfie!

flournwater's picture
flournwater

I don't believe you're looking for a serious response and the discussion is getting to be childish IMO, it's developed into a nonsensical argument at this point.

punainenkettu's picture
punainenkettu

:) You say that now Newfieguy but give it a couple months and your adventurous spirit will win out and you will want to try it!  I finally caved last night and bought a scale so I can try to tackle a formula...after saying "NEVER!". I already tried one starter and it really isn't too bad, besides once you get it established it shouldn't be hard to keep it going I don't think... I have to start it over because I sort of forgot about it...but it was easyish and very nifty to watch!


 


 

AOJ's picture
AOJ

It takes four days to get a starter going, not to make the loaf of bread. Once you have a starter established, you can feed along a little bit of it.  Pull out some starter to feed up, then mix your bread. It takes a little planning, but not much. And it's not like you have to sit and watch your bread rise.... 

Newfieguy's picture
Newfieguy

So you are saying you can keep starter rolling along in waiting so to speak like flour in a big jug and when ever you want to make a loaf or two just dip in and pull a bit out.


"Feed up" is starting a loaf of bread with it I am assuming is that right.  I am a wine maker as well so I have all the scales for measuring out grams of potassium metabisulfite and the like so I can ceratinly use that!


I never realized there was such a science to it!


Can not wait to try that ciabatta loaf everyone was talking about!  I am going to try it regular and with whole wheat.


I am a little confused with Bread Flour as well.  I have a hard time buying it in stores at times.  Can you make it yourself with regular flour and adding starters etc?  If I go to a big box store I can often get it but what is the big difference between it and regular flour with yeast or a starter?



Cheers!

AOJ's picture
AOJ

Yes, you can keep starter "rolling along" by adding flour and water. (See details under numerous other posts). And yes, you can just dip in to the starter, add some flour and water, and whatever else your recipe calls for. By "feeding up" I am referring to adding flour and water to a small amount of starter, 'til you get to the amount required for your recipe. (see details under numerous other posts; or search this site for "starting a starter", "keeping a starter", etc.).

Newfieguy's picture
Newfieguy

Hilarious!  I bought out 2-3 full BOXES of the stuff thinking I would never need to buy yeast as long as I live and it turns out I probably bought 100 3 packs of a bunch of yeast that expired a month ago!  hehe


Oh well, you live and learn!  That is what it is all about! 


:)

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

The yeast will probably still work, just not as fast as a fresh packet. Most packets have more than you need to raise a loaf. The companies put the quantity in to enable a baker to quickly produce a loaf of bread, perhaps in as little as 3 hours. The convienence is attractive to some people. By freezing the yeast, you will put it in a sort of suspended animation and it won't deteriorate. You'll be able to take it out and use it when needed.


On the other hand, a slowly risen loaf will always have more flavor. That's the rationale behind using preferments, starters, and retarded fermentation. You don't need to know all the science behind those ideas before you bake but you should know that there is real science backing up the craft of baking good bread.


If you have a good knowledge of winemaking, you'll understand a lot of the ins and outs of baking. Stick around, read the archived threads when you feel that you need more information. There are serious, intelligent people here on TFL that have an extraordinary amount of fun baking. There's a lot to be learned.


 

Newfieguy's picture
Newfieguy

Just went on Pleasant Hill Grain's site and ordered my mill, 5 dough enhancers, a bunch of Vital Wheat Gluten, some parchment paper and a few other tid bits of cooking delights to test out with a few loaves!


:)