The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A universal starter?

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kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

A universal starter?

Hi,


I would like to ask about your experience with converting a sourdough starter. At the beginning my second starter was 60% hydration (75% white, 25% whole rye) but as it produced a very liquid dough I followed the advice of some TFL members and converted it to 2 pure starters - medium rye 80% hydration and white 60% hydration. The problems has been solved but I do not like feeding 2 different starters.


Therefore I would like to ask for advice what would be the best universal starter that I can always convert according a recipe?


I mostly bake at least 50% whole wheat with some rye (10-30%). But I also often prepare a rye sponge and in future aim to try 75-100% rye. On the other hand, from time to time (even if not very often) I make something sweet (eg Sourdough Challah). As the temperatures now are quite high (86F / 30C), I do put the starter into the fridge.


The yeast and bacteria certainly are influenced by the regular feeding so I wonder whether a 100% white mother starter converted into rye in 2 feedings would produce a good rye. Or, on the contrary, whether a rye mother starter would not give a strange tang to sweet sourdough recipes.


Thank for help!


zdenka

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

it doesn't need refreshments (I refresh it only when it's about to finish) and it seems to last eternally. Moreover it smells good!


Only downside: you need some salt in your bigas (1% with respect to flour is enough, but 2% isn't too much).


 


I use it to make bread and cakes of every kind. It never betrays ;-)

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

Thank you Nico,


and when you want a whole wheat or white sponge do you just take a teaspoon or so of your rye mother starter and convert it in one step. Or more?


Do you keep it in the fridge (I find that the rye starter rise much faster than the white one. And also the dough made with rye starter rises faster than a dough with white or whole wheat starter, even if the overall formula is completely the same!)


Since my last attempt with salt (5% - do you remember?) I have not used the salt in my bigas (rye or other) and it does not seem to harm.


zdenka


 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

I use one teaspoon of rye starter in the poolish that I prepare overnight, that works as leaven for the dough.


That 5% was evidently a bit poisonous:-)


My starter is in the fridge and even there it keeps up most of the time.


 

Nickisafoodie's picture
Nickisafoodie

I use 100% rye starter at 100% hydration.  A few feedings with the right ratio will readily convert your starter over couple of feeding cycles - no need to start over.


I use this in all of my recipes regardless of the type of bread I am making: from 5% for all white pizza dough (make that 95% white and 5% rye), to 30% buildup for my soaker when baking whole wheat or rye breads.  It also works great for making sourdough pancake or waffle batter the night before and leaving in the refrigerator overnight.


I found that the touch of rye from the starter in white flour recipes is barely noticibale except in a positive and very nuanced way.  Given most of my bakes are whole grain style breads, rye suits this very well too.  And although many recipes specify anywhere from 60% to 125% hydration levels for the starter, I have found that using 100% and adjusting the recipe for the difference in flour and water had a minor if any effect on the final loaf.  The trade off if any in my opinion is that the simplicity of a 100% hyration ratio (equal parts flour and water) starter that can be used in every recipe far outweighs the need to manage multiple starters.  And you will soon get to a point where you come to know the consistency of a 100% ratio, and can quickly refresh periodically without the need to get out the scale (but I always use a scale on the recipes).   And If I really wanted to start with something other than 100% for a given recipe, it could readily be adapted.  I never use salt in my starter, but may in the mid stages of a recipe buildup if a long 12+ hour fermentation is being used.


Rye flour has superior fermentation qualities, although whole wheat flour would work too.  Both ferment better than white flour although this too could certainly be used.  Good luck, hope this is helpful!

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

I think I will follow yours and Nico´s example and keep just rye starter (fed with medium rye / T950).


But I may prefer to keep it at 80% hydration as it seems to me that a firmer starter keeps better. Am I wrong?


And as for the preparation of the starter for baking - Is it better to keep it at the same hydration as the mother starter and adapt the amount of water / flour in the final dough or you change the hydration of the starter (if demanded in the recipe) immediately for the final refreshment?


Thanks


zdenka

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Any hydratation will do: sometimes I do a 200% leaven, sometimes a 100%, most of the times it's at 125% and it always works.


Really, rye flour in certain respects is like yeast :-)

Nickisafoodie's picture
Nickisafoodie

There is no issue using 80% vs 100%, neither affects the ability to store.  In ready various books by Dan Leader (Local Breads) and others, the thinner the starter, the more sour the flavor- some German bakeries using an almost liquid like approach.  The reason for 100% is the simplicity of keeping the starter fresh: one part flour and one part water by weight.  If 80% is what you prefer, it is not a big deal.  both will keep the same.  I leave mine out at room temp, add the ingredients to refresh, let sit for two hours at room temp, then refigerate.  When baking, I refresh 5 hours prior to my build and leaving on the counter.  In cooler weather it goes in the oven with the light on: the bulb puts it in the 75 degree range which is ideal.


Re your second question: it is easier to adjust in the recipe portion.  You may find it useful to search for the 1.2.3 build method posted widely on this site - giving ratios for the three phases of the build (build starter to 15%, second stage bill is gouble at about 30%, or 45% total, with the final build double the second.  So if making 1600 gram of bread, first build of starter over 5 hours is 266 grams, second adds 2X that or 532 grams for a total of 798 and last adds doubles the the second add (or the remainder) to total 100%.  This works out to approx a 69% hydration ratio.