The Fresh Loaf

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Is leftover a starter or a sponge?

emily_mb's picture
emily_mb

Is leftover a starter or a sponge?

I am a newbie trying to follow Eckhardt and Butts' recipe for pain au levain.  In step 1 you create a sourdough starter.  In step 2 the starter is used to create a sponge.  In step 3 the sponge is used to create a dough.  The recipe suggests that you set aside a cup of the dough for future breads.  However, I am not clear whether, for the new bread, this leftover cup is the starter for the sponge (step 1) or the sponge for the dough (step 2).  Also, do you use it all or do you use the amount that is indicated for the starter (or for the sponge).

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I think the cup of dough set aside in step 3 or shortly there after, is your starter.  Now the process repeats and this is step 1.  It will be made into a sponge as in step 2.  Then dough in step 3 where you remove a cup and it becomes step one, the starter.    Then repeat.


I don't understand the last question.  Does not the original starter that you make in step 1 equal one cup? 


What you want going on is that you build up the starter, add it to the dough, then remove part of the dough and bake the rest.  As long as you remove a cup of dough, you can keep the starter going.  As soon as you stop and bake all the dough, then you have to start over making a starter completely from scratch (or from wherever it came.)


Mini


p.s.  The way you wrote...  "In step 1 you create a sourdough starter." ...the brevity just cracks me up!  :)

emily_mb's picture
emily_mb

Here is my abbreviation, hoping to explain myself.


Step 1:  Create a sourdough starter


Step 2:  Create a sponge ... 1.25 c flour, 1/2 c water, 3/4 c of sourdough starter.  Process on dough setting (which, by the way is a toss up for me because my machine has 2, one mixes and allows rising time and the other one just mixes).


Step 3:  Create a dough by adding 3 c. flour, 1 c water, etc. to sponge.  Process on dough setting (again, not sure which one) and reserve 1 cup for another day.


OK!  I did all that, guessing at the cycle, and even ate the bread (YUM!)


I'm now ready to bake another batch.  Is the cup that I have in the refrigerator  my sourdough starter so that I go back to Step 2 to make a sponge.  I use 3/4 cup of it along with 1.25 c of the flour, 1/2 c water and so on from step 2 above?


 Or, do I skip to Step 3?  Do I use all of it and add the 3 c. flour, 1 c water and so on to make the dough?


Thank you!

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

rather than to your education but let's see where this goes.


The sourdough starter in Step 1: is this a from-scratch starter that you've been nourishing from flour and water (or juice) for a week or two?  Or something made with commercial yeast that a lot of recipe writers call a starter?  Either way, is the consistency closer to a batter or closer to a dough?


What is the consistency of the sponge in Step 2?  Batter-like?  Or dough-like?  (Sorry, I don't know bread machines and their cycles to be able to answer your question about which to use.) 


I think that you would begin the cycle anew at Step 2.  Your already have your starter on hand (the reserved cup of dough from the previous bake), so there's no point in repeating Step 1.  I'm a bit baffled why the directions instruct you to reserve a cup from the previous bake, but only use 3/4 cup in the next bake.  Weird.  Anyway, having built the sponge in Step 2 with the reserved starter from the previous bake, you would then proceed to Step 3 and make the final dough (remembering to reserve a cup before baking for the next batch).


And repeat.


The French term for the reserved dough is "pate fermentee", while English speakers usually call it "old dough".  Italians might refer to it as a biga.  The sponge, as it is labeled in the recipe, would probably more accurately be referred to as a "build" or perhaps a "preferment", since the proportions of flour and water (plus the starter or reserved dough) suggest a soft dough consistency.  The term "sponge" is more often applied to a flour and liquid mixture that is more of a batter than a dough.  Even though most of those terms have meanings that are generally accepted, there is still enough flexibility in usage that definitive meanings are hard to come by.


I hope that's of some use to you.


Paul

MmeZeeZee's picture
MmeZeeZee

I don't know about the OP but you finally clarified it for me.  I'm familiar with all those things, but only in English!  I always wondered what people were talking about.  :D  Thanks.  So I guess what my mother-in-law uses is a biga!  I have finally figured it out.


Sigh.  The pain of a wife in search of her MIL's bread technique.  ONly she has a stone oven and an entirely different flour system.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

after step 3, then you have the right amount of starter  and don't have any waste.  (Yes, it is the starter, although with this process, Paul has given many proper names.)  How does that sound?  Don't skip any steps, please.


Then you use 3/4 cup and later remove 3/4 cup.  Easier to remember too!


Mini

emily_mb's picture
emily_mb

From re-reading MiniOven and PMcCool, instead of going directly to Step 3,  I used my reserved dough as the base, i.e., I added the other ingredients listed in Step 2 and took it from there.  Unfortunately, I got impatient and used WW and gluten and ended up with a good tasting but dense tight bread. Well, at least I can cut very thin slices :)  Since I have some more of the stuff, I'm going to go to Step 3 and WW with gluten and see what happens. 


You are right, Paul.  The "sponge" is actually a pate fermentee and the "sourdough starter" is actually a pre-ferment because I stated with commercial yeast, left it on the counter for about 4 hours and then in the refrigerator overnight.  So it's not really sour -- which is what I wanted. I wanted to improve on the taste/texture by decreasing the yeast but with minimal sourness.  


The lack of consistency in terms makes learning very difficult for a novice.  Is hydration percent less wrought with confusion?


Any suggestions for a high fiber (and if possible also high protein) recipe that is improved by a preferment/sponge, but is not strongly sour?  For instance, I LOVE the Struan.  I also think that the multigrain that Costco sells from La Brea is incredible.  Thanks.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Baker's percentages (and hydration is expressed this way) is always based on the weight of the ingredients.  So, grams / kilograms / ounces / pounds, yes; cups / pints / liters / milliliters, no.


The total weight of the flour, however much or little, is always assigned a value of 100%.  Doesn't matter if you have 700 grams, or 1 pound, or 3 tons of flour, it is always 100%.  The weight of every other ingredient is divided by the weight of the flour and the result is expressed as a percentage.  


Let's pretend that the bread you just made contained 1000 grams of flour, which would be the combined weight of the whole wheat and white flours that you used. And lets pretend further that you stirred in 650 grams of water.  Your dough's hydration would have been 650 / 1000 = 0.65 = 65%.  (By the way, isn't working with metric measures so much easier than having to fiddle with ounces and fractions thereof?)


From my perspective, talking about hydration in bakers percentages is a lot less confusing than other methods for describing a dough's basic characteristics.  When I first started transitioning from a cups and spoons basis to a weight basis, it did cause some headaches.  Now I wouldn't go back, except for some old favorites.


Just about any bread using whole-grain flours can be made with a sponge step.  Just mix the whole-grain flour with the liquid and the leavening (starter, yeast, whatever) and let it sit until it is bubbly.  Then mix in the remaining ingredients and continue as you usually would.  Anadama, honey whole wheat, war bread, and limpa are just a few of the breads that could be made this way.


Paul

Scott M's picture
Scott M

>>>(By the way, isn't working with metric measures so much easier than having to fiddle with ounces and fractions thereof?)


 


Oh my.... what a concept....


 


...compared with pounds, pecks, furlongs, yards, fathoms, inches, farenheit, bushels, rods, feet, gallons....

emily_mb's picture
emily_mb

It can be a rock.  It can be glorious.


A bit of "old" sponge from the refrigerator, a bit of old struan dough, and half a whole wheat bread recipe and MAGIC!  It was incredible.


To fezz up, I'm trying to use a small Zo bread machine so that I can bake a small loaf, not use the whole huge oven, and to wake up to fresh bread.  So, I'm trying to figure out how to use a sponge or a bit of old dough (set the night before) to wake to baking bread.  


To avoid a rock -- if my water/flour ratio isn't right-- I've tried mixing it up in the dough setting, putting pan and all in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to chill, and then setting it back in the machine with a delay start when I go to bed.


Any tips?

emily_mb's picture
emily_mb

Thank you, Paul.


And, does anyone know what will be the difference between a bread made with some old dough and a bread from the same recipe made with a bit of sponge?

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Assuming you make the two versions of the same bread side by side to eliminate other variables, I suspect that you might notice a subtle difference in flavor.  The other thing that you might notice if mixing and kneading by hand, is a slight difference in texture or handling characteristics.  Those differences, if they are sensible, would be due to the different fermentation characteristics of the old dough versus the sponge.  The longer hydration period offered by the sponge might also affect the dough.


Paul