The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter quantities in recipes.

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GregS's picture
GregS

Starter quantities in recipes.

Why is there such a wide range in the quantity of starter for a various flour/water/starter recipes? I have seen recipes that call for a tablespoon of starter and other recipes which call for a cup or even two cups of starter. These are recipes for virtually the same amount of dough; a boule or a few baguettes. Generally 100% hydration starters, not the "firm" type starter.


I would appreciate any comments from experienced sourdoughistas. Thanks.

odinraider's picture
odinraider

The amount of starter will influence a great many things, such as overall hydration, enzymatic action, crust production, and, as mentioned in the response title, taste and rise time.


The sour taste of your bread comes from the bacteria in your starter, so starting with more (relative to the specific bacteria you have cultured and promoted) will create a more acidic, astringent, or tart taste. Using less will result in a milder, more mellow, sometimes creamy taste.


As for time, the more sourdough starter you use (relative to a constant of salt and temperature) will lessen the fermentation time (thereby also influencing taste, as fermentation develops flavor, to a point), and also can affect the proofing time. In addition, it can change characteristics such as extensibility, resulting in a different crumb (again, a disclaimer: relative to a constant of hydration and flour type).


Anyone else?


-Matt

GregS's picture
GregS

A very clear answer Matt. Thank you.


To see if I understand: If I wanted a very sour result, I would increase the amount of starter and adjust the amount of flour and water downward to offset additional flour and water in the amount of starter and reach proper hydration....right? The amount of salt stays constant relative to the total weight of flour plus flour in the starter?


Perhaps a way for me to understand why I see such a range of starter in recipes is see them as an expression of the relative "sourness" that the recipe writer wants to achieve?


I'll grasp this, one way or another!!

odinraider's picture
odinraider

You have the basics of it. Remember also that the starter itself will also determine the overall sourness of the loaf. If you want a nice punch of sour flavor, you'll have to cultivate that in the starter itself. You can use 50%, or even 80%, of a low acidity starter and not get the flavor of a smaller percentage of high acidity starter. But you will have an increase of flavors regardless of the cultivation if you use more starter.


Also remember that fermentation is a process of propagating the starter yeasts and bacteria throughout the dough, so if you change the amount of starter you should also adjust the fermentation period (via time or temperature) in order to maximize your results.


Yes, I think you will find that some French breads use little starter, and use it primarily for lift, so the end result has little or no sour flavor, just a deeper, richer overall taste.


You can experiment with the recipes (that's what I do) to find a percentage that best suits your preference.


Happy baking!


-M