The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Phase 4 of starter too dry

GrandPappyMike's picture
GrandPappyMike

Phase 4 of starter too dry

Hello,


I'm using Perter Reinhart's recipe for a starter from his book "Artisan Bread Every Day". When I get to phase 4, day 6, and add the 3oz of whole wheat flour and 1 oz of water and 4 oz of phase 3 culture there is just not enough liquid to hydrate the flour. There is loose flour sitting in the bowl and the starter looks very dry. The first 3 phases go as expected. If I'm using whole wheat flour through the whole process should I be adding more liquid than the instructions say? The instructions don't seem to differentiate between the type of flour used and the amount of liquid unless I have overlooked it, which is possible. I added another half oz of water just to see what happens. If someone could point me in the right direction, that would be most appreciated.

IrishMick's picture
IrishMick

I too experienced the "playdough" consistancy.   I let it alone for 24+ hours and it did rise a little, but I think I could hear it squeal like a size 32 person trying to get into size 22 speedos.  I would have added more water if I had it do over again.


I did take that seed and I am bypassing the mother step and it seems to be working so far.  I am using the pg 64 instructions from the same book but halving every thing.  I just checked the "wild yeast starter" and it looks and smells great.  I just used the phase four seed. I did add a little more water to the wild yeast starter than the book calls for. 

GrandPappyMike's picture
GrandPappyMike

Thank you for your reply. Mine too seems to be growing, but as you said very slowly. I have no idea how I am going to aerate it though. My wife will kill me if I stick a spoon in there and it eats it.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Your gut instinct is probably right. Sounds like the starter is too firm at that stage. 


Without consulting the whole recipe, it appears Reinhart is building a pretty firm starter by this point...or it's a typo.


in any case, you're not going to hurt anything by adding a little more water to hydrate all the flour. 


EDIT: and when I say "a little", I mean just enough to hydrate and incorporate the rest of the dry flour. 

GrandPappyMike's picture
GrandPappyMike

Thanks for your reply. I did add a little bit more water and it appears to have some life in it, but not much. If this does not work out well I will probably just go with the unbleached white flour. I doubt it will impact the final product that much since I really have no idea what I'm doing anyway.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

my firm starter often looks like it has less life. In fact I think to some degree it does. Don't know the science behind it, but I'm guessing something about the more liquid environment helps the yeast replicate, moving through and eating the flour at greater speed. 


If you're concerned, take a generous 1 tablespoon piece of your starter, dissolve it in 100g water, then add 50g whole wheat flour and 50g white flour. If your starter is alive, you will visually see A LOT more activity more quickly (whether it's actually that much faster or not). 


give yourself some credit: you care enough to read & learn from Reinhart, who is pretty good at what he does. 


sourdough can be tricky, but stick with it, once it's established you'll have a happy little pet for life. 

GrandPappyMike's picture
GrandPappyMike

I use my starter with the ingredients you suggested and it is more active. Now can I use what you told me to make in a recipe and if so how much would I use to substitute for 2.5 teaspoons of instant yeast?

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Substituting starter for yeast can be tricky. Starter does not behave as consistently, nor as quickly as commercial yeast. Your rise times will likely be completely different, so you'll have to watch your dough more closely to see how long it takes to double, etc, according to your recipe.  


My suggestion: If you're going to remove yeast altogether from an existing recipe, a good place to start is to use 20% or more of the flour weight in your recipe with starter. For example, if your recipe calls for 500g of flour, use 100g of starter (20%) or more in place of the instant yeast.


Note that if you're using a very liquid starter (100%or more hydration), you'll need to increase the overall flour (or decrease any additional water) in your recipe to get the right consistency for your dough. If you're using a firm starter (50-60% hydration), you shouldn't need to add very much more flour, if at all, and you shouldn't have to decrease your water at all.


These are rough guidelines, YMMV. Take some pictures and let us know how it goes! 


 


 


 


 

GrandPappyMike's picture
GrandPappyMike

Thanks for the information. I'll take it and see what happens.

IrishMick's picture
IrishMick

Just tasted my sour dough bread with my abreviated pg 64 recipe.  Great flavor, great crumb, great crust and I cheated.


No mother starter. I used the (playdough consistancy)phase 4 seed mixed in page 64 proportions plus a little extra water to counter the dry seed. Crossed my fingers.  Let rise 2 hours.  It became bubbly with a 1.5 rise.  Then added the the remaining ingredients.  Mixed and machine nead then a bowl and scraper nead. Let rise in 80 degree humid oven in a Glad Wrap covered oiled bowl for 2 hours.  Then A little hand nead then shape, score, spray olive oil and sesame seeds. Rise 2 hours in 80 degree oven then bake.  I eliminated a lot of time and no refrigerator.  This makes me think that maybe too much ritual may be at play with some techniques.  I mean I just bought a 99 cent french bread (not sour dough) from Wal-mart, still warm that was great, and I am picky.  An employee said they proof uncovered, steam for 20 minutes then bake at 380 for 15 minutes.  Their dough comes to the store ready to proof, they don't mix it at the store. 

G-man's picture
G-man

Additional time means more flavor. The flavors you get with a six hour rise are not the same flavors you'll get with a 24 hour rise. The loaf may be just as flavorful, just in a much different way.


 


Ritual does have something to do with it, absolutely, especially when you're taking instructions from one area/flour brand/starter culture and using those same instructions to work in a different area/flour brand/starter culture. Much of the process is the baker doing what has worked in the past. I've made a loaf over a period of 48 hours that tasted much the same as a loaf made over a period of 16 hours, at different temperatures. Using 70% Bread Flour (14% protein, approx.) yields a similar, but not identical, result as using 70% AP Flour (10% protein, approx). The Bread Flour dough will be more springy to the touch, will require a little less kneading to reach the point I want than the AP Flour dough, and I'll get it in the oven about 3 hours sooner. On the other hand, the finished loaf using 70% AP Flour will be a bit more tender.


 


Rituals in baking have a purpose. They make the baker familiar with the indicators the baker will then use to know a loaf will turn out a certain way. You, as a baker, use those indicators to know where you are in the process. Little observations such as the strength of the gluten and the hydration of the dough. If you measure to exact weights, you notice things like climate changes because of the varying amounts of ingredients you have to use to get the same results. Beyond all of this, there is the simple habit of setting to work on some dough. It is a task that is complicated enough that you devote your attention to it, but simple enough that you can do it the same way without another thought. It is meditation, in many ways. For those with a scientific bent, it is very much chemistry. But that's neither here nor there. 


 


So yeah...a lot of baking is ritual. But these rituals are essential to the process.

G-man's picture
G-man

Starter is really a lot more forgiving than this. All the flour should be incorporated. Really, it should be between a soup-like consistency and a dough-like consistency. As long as everything is incorporated you're fine when it's just getting established.


 


A really wet starter tends to provide conditions that the acid-producing bacteria like. A really dry starter tends to provide conditions that the yeast like. It is about balance. But until you have an established starter that you can bake with, none of that really matters that much. For the time being it is about getting a starter that can raise a loaf of bread that you can put in the oven and eat when it comes out. When your starter does that, THEN you modify other things.


 


For right now, Reinhart (I am certain) intends for all of the flour you add to be incorporated into the starter. Any that is hanging around dry is useless to the starter culture.