The Fresh Loaf

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How Do You 'Read' A Rye Starter?

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Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

How Do You 'Read' A Rye Starter?

Evening,


I am new to sourdough growing and am wondering if someone can help me out with ways in which to determine when a sourdough starter has reached it's peak and is ready to be fed again or used in a recipe....


I have a kamut starter that is easy to read.  It gets a dome on top.  My rye starter doesn't do that.  It stays flat.  So far I have been smelling it but would like to know if there are other clues on which to make my judgment as to it's readiness.


Thanks

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

You could try dusting the top of the starter with some flour. As the starter expands, cracks will appear on the top of the starter.

Franko's picture
Franko

Rye starters, like any other starter, tell you their active primarily by how they look. If they have bubbles and air pockets, it's a clear indication of yeast activity. Storing it in a transparent container of some kind makes it easier to read any active fermentation when it happens,...and it will, as well as being a good window on the process of fermentation itself. The easiest way to determine if your starter is ready to use is do a 'float test' which is simply taking a small piece of starter and putting into some warm (not hot) water. If it floats after a short time your good to go ahead with using it in a leaven of some kind.


Franko

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Thank you for the comments.


I will attempt the float test tomorrow.  :-)

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Dusting the rye sour with rye flour keeps it from drying out, and it also gives you a gauge of its ripeness. This is a very traditional method. Hamelman describes it in "Bread." I first learned about it from George Greenstein's "Secrets of a Jewish Baker." The following link includes one method of building a rye sour and includes photos of a rye sour as it ripens.


Greenstein's Sourdough Rye (Rye Sour) care and feeding, illustrated


I hope this helps.


David

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Thanks for the photos and explanation and direction to Hamelman's instructions in Bread.  I had read that prior to embarking on keeping a rye starter but hadn't gone back to it.  Actually I had forgotten about it!  It is now marked and the link you directed me to has been printed and is in my 'study' pile.  


I feel much better equipped now to read my starter.


 


jc

pipo1000's picture
pipo1000

I have written a piece about rye starters on my website;


http://www.weekendbakery.com/posts/rye-sourdough-starter-in-easy-steps/


I am a big fan of rye starters and use it in almost all my breads!


 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

I just read your article on your starter. A couple of questions for you...




  • You say you bake on the weekend only but leave your starter out on your workbench ie. at room temp.Are you feeding it at regular intervals during the week despite not using it during the week?





  • Why not refrigerate it and then take it out as the weekend approaches?


Thanks
jc
pipo1000's picture
pipo1000

Hi,


One of the fun things I have found out about my rye starter in comparison to regular flour starters it does not need very complex rituals. I keep it indeed just on my bench during the week (it is about 17C-18C) at the moment in my micro bakery. During the very hot days it needs sometimes an extra refresh during the week. I do not find any problems with this feeding regime. It does not turn into a strange soup during this week.


Regards,


Ed


 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Ed,


Thanks for this. What is the hydration level of your starter? (Currently I have mine at 80%.  I try to keep it at the same hydration level that I use it in my recipes.. a more stable environment...)


How do you know when yours needs to be fed during the week?


I tried the float test and nothing happened.  I tried the flour on top and nothing happened.  I could see it dome a bit within a 24 hour period but no cracks. I sniffed it and felt it's consistency...mostly I ended up looking at the air pockets and sniffing it to determine it's ripeness.


jc


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/6826/oh-please-oh-oh-oh-please-grow-me


Audrey is about 56% hydration


Mine about 71% hydration


An 80% would be a bit softer.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Mini-


Thanks for the link and all of the photos. Makes this sooo much easier to be able to 'see' what people are describing.  'One picture is worth a thousand words.'


Mine is definitely softer and would not hold that ball shape at my current hydration level.


A lot to learn and experiment with.  


:-)


jc

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Take the 80% starter after feeding and then roll the glob of starter into the rye flour to coat the outside.  Gently pat it into a ball and watch it.  Might want to put it back into its cage so it doesn't make a mess.  I think you will get the cracking we all are talking about.  Sort of mushy crack.  In the cool kitchen it may take longer.  


Use the flattening out ball shape also as an indicator of ripeness!  You can also see that a 80% hydration 100% rye loaf will need some help in the loaf process to maintain its shape.  (little if any)  Explaining why a form is used so often in baking high % rye loaves.  


If you take this same principle and mix small amounts of starter with a little wheat flour, and play with hydration, you will see that it can hold it's shape better as a self supported loaf.  These are just little experiments you can do on your own to get familiar with the rye flour.  They can still be put into a loaf as the starter when you're done watching them.  No waste.


I'm all for sniffing starters (just ask my starter friends!)  One tip: a cold starter with not give off as much aroma as a warmer one.  Sometimes tasting just a little is a better indicator if you're comparing cold fridge starters to those on the counter top (you can always spit it out.) That will tell you the sourness.  Yeast must be judged by bubble formation or production of CO2 gas. 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Made a little ball of sour rye last night. ( I am trying the Detmolder build today for Scrumpy buns I will bake tomorrow.)


I took some of my 80% starter that is stored in the frige out so it could warm up and finish it's feed cycle.  It got rolled into a ball and coated with flour.  It did crack just like in the photos and it was nice to know it is doing just what it is supposed to be doing and to have the photos to support that!


I am slowly getting this now as I play around with it and, like you have pointed out to me, noting how the texture changes with my rye sour.  I had noticed the differences but didn't have an explanation for what I was witnessing.  It is nice to know more.  Helps me figure out what I am doing wrong - or right..


Thanks for your notes.


jc


 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Question for you Mini


My little ball - which is the size of a ping-pong ball so I shall refer to it as 'Ping' -has been out at room temp. for about 24 hours now.  Hydration -60%.  Ping has cracks though I would not call them wide and he is still very firm.


Reading what was written about Audrey you said that a sign of readiness is when the ball collapses....Do I just wait for Ping to collapse?  (This is an experiment so I can wait indefinitely...)  


I have read numerous times that a starter should be feed every 12 hours when it has been left out...I haven't given him anything to eat since yesterday morning... 


So...I am not quite sure how to proceed from this point and wondering if you can comment.


Thanks


jc

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And it's in the fridge.  


Collapsing is relative.  If the hydration is too low, it will just crack a little and stand there as the outside shell dries out.  Slowly flatten on the bottom and eventually slump if it can.  The inside may get soft and then again it may resemble a yeast cube in texture.  The inside will be lighter than the outside that may turn grey.  


The ping in my refrigerator is 30g starter and 55g rye flour.  It's been there for months now in a little plastic bag.  The lack of moisture and heat slows the beasties down to extreme slow growth.   Great for month long storage.


I often prepare to travel with pings.  I don't have to worry too much about them growing all over my suitcase and get demanding about feeding.  When I get to my destination I pop them into a refrigerator until I'm ready to feed and grow them again.  The longest I've had one at room temp was about 4 days, and I had to judge its ripeness before adding water and flour.  If it appeared very ripe, I simply fed a portion of it keeping the rest for back up.  My husband once asked me what a glob of ping was doing in the fridge about 6 weeks after my arrival.  It was still clean looking and could be used to start up a starter.  


I tend to use this technique for long time storage or traveling and not for my weekly or bi-weekly used starter.  The yeast population may decrease somewhat or go into dormancy if the acid levels get too high (low pH.)  Then you would need one 24 hour feeding and twice daily feeds for a few days to get the starter back into action.  


Watch the starter and cut it open to see what's going on inside.  You can simply stick the two halves back together if nothing appears to be happening.  You can tell a lot by the aroma.  You will not see much rising going on as the gas escapes.


In a cool kitchen he just might go a few days longer.  take notes.   :)

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Ping Notes Continued:


Well, at about 11PM last night I just couldn't bear the suspense any longer so I sliced into Ping.


Texture on outside was drying out as you pointed out.  The internal consistency was soft but not to the point where it was messy. He had a pleasant yeasty aroma.


Since he was an experiment I deposited him in the trash...didn't know I could have put him back together again...


Was fun to do and now that I know what to expect I may make one for longer storage.