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help with basic principles of starter usage....

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appendix's picture
appendix

help with basic principles of starter usage....

I have a new starter going that is just getting ready to be used for the first time, but I am unclear on some general principles.  I hope you all can clear them up for me please...

a.  when a recipe calls for starter, how soon after "refreshing/feeding" are they expecting it to be used for a loaf of bread?  Once it has doubled after it has been fed?, 10 minutes after feeding? what?

b. in recipes where it is appropriate to use the "discarded" starter, (ie pancakes) people talk about saving the starter to use later.  In stuff like that, how long can you "save" & accumulate "discarded" starter for this sort of use?

c. what makes a recipe appropriate for "discarded" starter vs "refreshed" starter?

d. how often can you feed to build up a starter if I need a really large batch all at once?  If I were to need say 5 or 6 cups of starter for some unearthly reason? How fast could I get it?

thomaschacon75's picture
thomaschacon75

a. In general you want to use it when "it's hungry", not when "it's full". It's hungry after not being fed for a while. That's when you want to use it. Adding it to other ingredients when it's hungry will feed it, a lot, and make it very happy. Hungry yeast burp and fart (produce gas) when you feed them and, thereby, leaven bread. (That's a bit of a simplification). You actually could add it just about any time during the process, but then it (tends to) take a lot longer to do what you want it to do: leaven bread.

b. The short answer is not too long. It's flour, water, yeast. If you hold it too long, the yeasts die, leaving you with flour and water and whatever yeast catabolism leaves behind (alcohol, etc.). If you hold it too long, nasty stuff starts to happen, like mold, etc., so while you can keep it for a long time, you probably wouldn't want to use it for pancakes.

b2. I think the question you're asking here is "Am I always going to have this much leftover starter? It seems like such a waste." It is! All you need to make is whatever amount of starter your recipe calls for and a little left over to regenerate some more. If you don't plan to bake with starter, make a small amount (starter, flour, water) and then put it to sleep in the refrigerator. When you want to bake again, wake it up with a few feedings.

c. You shouldn't have to discard starter, unless you're building a starter from scratch: That takes a lot of feedings and, if you don't discard it, you'll quickly end up with a bathtub full. If you find yourself discarding too much, you're making too much. Make less and, when you're not baking with your starter, put it to sleep in the refrigerator. To answer your question, though, they're both the same thing: starter. You won't find recipes saying, "Use 9oz of discarded starter."

d. Fast. Easily overnight. 

appendix's picture
appendix

I guess I'm still a little unclear- so when I do the weekly feeding for  the sleepy starter in the fridge, the discard that I would use for pancakes would be the same that I would use for bread were I going to bake a loaf?  Other than the fact that I'm not keeping enough starter on hand to make a loaf, I could just use it straight out of the fridge after warming up in other words, the feeding is just to make enough to use, what I really am doing is bulking it up, then I need to let it get a little hungry again before I make a loaf?  So how is what I do for pancakes any different really?

  And when I want to build up to do a larger amount of baking, if I do a 1:1:1 feeding, do I wait for doubling to do the next feeding whenever that might be? Not that long? Longer?  Or do I do a 1:6:6 feeding & just wait longer (probably more than I would ever need, but as an exaggerated example).   What is the minimum amount of starter you can start with, dump flour & water on & still end up w/ working starter when you're done?  What's so magic about doubling anyway?

sphealey's picture
sphealey

=== I guess I'm still a little unclear- so when I do the weekly feeding for  the sleepy starter in the fridge, the discard that I would use for pancakes would be the same that I would use for bread were I going to bake a loaf?  Other than the fact that I'm not keeping enough starter on hand to make a loaf, I could just use it straight out of the fridge after warming up in other words, ===

The truth is that home bakers will end up wasting a little starter - in my case 150 grams every week (90 grams of flour).  I wouldn't recommend saving or using your starter right out of the fridge without a discard-and-refresh cycle; unless your fridge is at the cleanliness level of a food research laboratory the starter will pick up some off odors during its week of hibernation that need to be refreshed away. 

Professional bakers don't have this problem as they don't keep a separate "starter" at all; they just remove the starting amount of levain from the final sourdough build and save it for the next day.  But since we don't bake every day, and we do refrigerate when not baking, we end up needing to do an extra refresh cycle to get things going on Saturday/Sunday.

sPh

placebo's picture
placebo

I generally wait about 8 to 12 hours after I feed the starter before using it. When you feed the starter, you're reducing the yeast and bacteria concentration, and it takes a few hours for them to recover. The basic idea is to add the starter to the dough when the yeast is active, which is indicated by the starter being nice and bubbly.

For a recipe like pancakes, you're using the starter to add flavor, not for leavening, so using the discard is fine. For bread, however, you're relying on the wild yeast to cause the dough to rise, so you want the yeast to be active. In this case, you would use recently fed starter.

As far as building up starter goes, you could probably do it in one feeding if necessary. I find, however, that after I take the starter out of the refrigerator, it seems more active on the second feeding, so I like to go through two feedings to build up the amount I need. For example, if I need 340 g of starter, I'll start with 40 g from the fridge and feed it with a 1:1:1 ratio to get to 120 g. The second feeding, which I do about 12 hours later, with the same ratio then gets me up to 360 g of starter. I make the extra 20 g to provide a little safety margin.

When I feed my starter, it usually peaks at about 2.5 times its original volume, which is fairly typical, I think. That's why people suggest waiting until the starter doubles in volume because then you know the yeast is nice and active.

Most of these rules you hear aren't set in stone. They're really rules of thumb that people generally found work for them. That's why you'll hear some contradictory info. For instance, some people will tell you you need to feed a refrigerated starter every few days. Others will say once a week, and some others will say you don't need to feed it at all until the next time you bake. You just need to find what works for you. 

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Quote:
For a recipe like pancakes, you're using the starter to add flavor, not for leavening, so using the discard is fine. For bread, however, you're relying on the wild yeast to cause the dough to rise, so you want the yeast to be active. In this case, you would use recently fed starter.

With respect, I disagree. Pancakes can be leavened or unleavened, and I much prefer the former. In fact, I make pancakes a lot and I never ever do unleavened recipes. There aren't that many yeast-based recipes, certainly not as many as the ones that use baking powder or bicarbonate of soda, but both these types are of course leavened and it's the gas bubbles in them that produce tiny holes and the characteristic uneaven dark patterns on them like in this photo.

However leavened pancakes don't need anywhere near the same amount of lift as bread, so if using your sourdough starter in pancakes it'll be ready fairly soon. I personally take the starter out of the fridge, plonk it into milk, add enough flour to make a batter, then leave till I have some bubbles (there's no need to wait till it's super bubbly like an active starter) - that may take an hour or two. I then add the eggs, sugar, oil and salt and bake.

My most faviourite pancake recipe is my mum's and that calls for a roughly 50/50 mix of milk and kefir and is leavened with baking soda. The soda reacts with the lactic acid in kefir and sometimes produces so many bubbles that the pancakes look like a sieve. They are very thin so the bubbles burst making those holes. In fact the bubbles are a good indication that I'm doing things right - no bubbles mean that the pan isn't hot enough, or that the batter isn't sour enough.

placebo's picture
placebo

I just generalized from all of the pancake recipes I've run across so far, and they all used baking soda and baking powder to provide leavening.  In the sourdough recipes, I do believe the starter is used simply for adding flavor.

lumos's picture
lumos

I think it depends on how you define the word 'pancake.'  To many people outside UK (except for Scotland, perhaps) , 'pancake' is generally has some thickness, like 'hot cake' (US and Japan)  or 'waffles' (= basically pancakes with ridges) or blinis in Russia, etc, etc, which needs some sort of leavening, whether it's yeast or baking powder/soda or the combination of both.  When I first came to UK ** years ago, I found really weird  the 'pancakes' here are flat thingg which very much resembles crepe in France (or crespelle in Italy). As weird as 'Asians' means 'Indians' (or Pakistan or Bangladesh, ex-Indian countries).   I wrote 'except for Scotland' earlier because what is known as 'Scottish pancakes' in England are leavened 'pancake'  with thickness, just like smaller version of 'hot cakes.' 

Personally, I almost always add a tiny amount of baking powder to my sourdough-based pancake batter, because I make them when I want to discard some of my sourdough stock.  Many of the recipes for sourdough pancakes I've encountered on internet were the way to use discarded sourdough, so that's maybe why many of them do add chemical leavining agent.

my tuppence....;)

lumos

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Sorry,

I speak from the experience of making very very thin pancakes (Russian blini need to be very thin, in ye olde days women would compete over whose pancakes are the thinnest!). In Russia, thick pancakes are made in a different way from blini and they even have a name of their own - oladyi (oLA-d-ye). They are usually sourer (often made with kefir as the liquid part) and fairly small, roughly a palm size but there's no hard and fast rule. They are fried in oil (hence the name - oleum, Latin for oil), whereas blini are typically fried on a dry pan (but some oil is added to the batter). Oladyi are always leavened, most often with soda.

My take on the subject of leavening thin pancakes (only a guess though) is that gas bubbles are needed... to make them flatter and more even. As those bubbles burst and make holes in the pancake, they also allow steam to escape from underneath the pancake. That prevents large air/steam bubbles accumulating underneath, and the surface being fried adheres to the pan better and fries more evenly.

So far as I'm aware, adding soda or baking powder to sourdough batter would, to an extent, eliminate the leavening effect of the yeast (yeasts create an acidic environment, while bicarbonate of soda is alcaline), so unless un-leavening the batter is what you are trying to achieve, I'd leave those out. However, if your starter is fairly sour, AND you start frying right after mixing your ingredients,  the soda will react with the acids in sourdough to a leavening effect. This may allow you to avoid waiting till your batter is leavened by sourdough alone.

lumos's picture
lumos

Didn't know you're supposed to cook blinis on a dry pan without oil. Seen too many unauthentic blini recipes which tells you to add a little oil to cook it. Thank you for correcting that, Faith. :)

Very interesting theory about the need for leavening and the thinness. But thin pancakes I've known of, like French crepe/Italian crespelle/English pancake, don't use any leavening agent. Also, my understanding is that bicarbonate of soda actually need acid  for necessary chemical reaction to work as leavening agent. There're lots of cake recipes that include acidic ingredients (like citrus juice) but it wouldn't  affect the leavening power of either baking powder or bicarbonate 0f soda, would they?

But, yes, when I add chemical leavening agent, like BP,  to my sourdough pancake batter, I only add it at the last minute, or at least within 1 hour of cooking.....though when you make madeleine, the batter (all the ingredients mixed already)  needs to be rested for 1-2  hour or so before baking, but never had any problem with the way it's leavened.

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

well so far as I'm aware blinis are meant to be cooked on a very hot, dry pan BUT you do need to oil it very lightly before you fry your first one. I have met Russians who cook in oil, but their pancakes tend not to come out very thin and flat, they're either thickish, or uneven, or both.

My take on it is, if you're using so much oil as is needed to properly coat the pan, the water in the batter will want to separate from the oil by curling into a sphere-like shape, and this means the pancake will be thicker. To make a really thin pancake, you only need a little oil in the batter (well dispersed) to prevent it sticking to the pan.

Your explanation of leavening with soda is exactly how I understand it. It does need acid to react with so it can produce gas. Thinking about it, when I make kefir-based pancakes with soda, I let the batter rest for 10 minutes or so, to make sure the soda has began to react with the acids in kefir by the time I start frying. I suppose what I was trying to say is that you don't NEED soda in sourdough batter because the sourdough will do the leavening, but you would need to wait say an hour or two or even three for that to happen. I just think if you add soda to sourdough and then rest the batter for more than say 10-20 min, the soda will have reacted with sourdough too much before you need it to and you'll have neither soda nor sourdough left to leaven.

I have virtually no experience in making thin u nleavened pancakes, are french-style ones fried in oil?

lumos's picture
lumos

Yes, French, Italian and English-style flat 'pancakes' need some oil in a pan.     But really really tiny amount of oil or butter. You're not frying 'in' the oil, per se, so that the batter won't stick to the pan. You add a little more oil/butter every so often when batter starts sticking to the pan. Usually butter is used (unless you have high cholesterol, like me) because it adds the flavour and aroma.  (Some melted butter is in the batter, too.) 

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

yeah, so I thought. I do spread a little butter on my pancakes AFTER frying them, both for flavour and to prevent them sticking to each other as I stack them. I do find that frying with oil makes them way too fatty, as you keep adding more oil to the pan.

I suppose one can use melted butter in blini batter instead of oil. Thinking about it, in ye olde days people would use much more animal fat than vegetable oils in cooking, so blini would probably be made with melted butter, cream or melted lard perhaps.

There are unleavened blini recipes as I already mentioned, but I personally find them too bland - I like my pancakes sour!

placebo's picture
placebo

Using chemical leavening agents allows you to not wait hours for the yeast to produce gas. In these recipes, the starter is simply there for flavoring since you're not relying on it for leavening. It's for the "we want our pancakes now!" crowd. :)

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

well yes, although if you're prepared to wait for sometimes days on end for your bread, why not wait for an hour for your pancakes... IMVHO... i  still insist the sourdough contributes to leavening, whether it be by supplying the acid for sodium bicarbonate to react with, or by actually releasing gas where it hasn't reacted with soda. Because depending on the amount of starter you throw in your batter, you're likely to have more sourdough than your soda needs.

One other note though - people who watch their salt intake should consider that by adding NaHCO3 or baking powder which contains it they could be doubling the Sodium content of their pancakes (depending how much you use of course). Since Sodium, not so much Cloride, is the bastard in salt, that could be an important consideration. An average adult's guideline daily salt intake is only 6 gram (a level teaspoon), so if you put half a teaspoon to a teaspoon salt and a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda in your pancakes and then eat say a third of the batch, that's your daily salt intake used up! And for kids, these guideline amounts are much lower (whereas a hungry kid may get through like half of your batch!). Given the chance, I'd rather wait an hour for sourdough to work than put extra Sodium in, but that's me.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Please don't confuse us US residents. I dare say most recipes for sourdough pancakes here call for baking  soda, baking powder, or both. There are probably dozens of recipes on this site alone. Most every recipe here(or link to one) includes a chemical leavener.

Again, most are not counting on the sourdough for the rise, and in general, pancakes here generally a leavened item.

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

i still think sourdough would leaven pancakes, even if that wasn't the intention. If you use bicarbonate of soda that still need acids to react with, so sourdough will provide those. Baking powder, on the other hand, usually contains an acidic component like cream of tartar so doesn't need an added acid, but I guess if ised with sourdough, sourdough would still add to the leavening effect.

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

that said, if you allow sourdough batter to rest for a long enough time, it will both develop a deeper flavour, and you won't need to add an alcaline leavener.

thomaschacon75's picture
thomaschacon75

For new bakers, sourdough starter instructions can seem like your running a military operation. Do this this many times for this long, then wait, then do this, this, and that, then wait.

Once you "know" your starter, however, it becomes very simple operation. You'll stop measuring altogether. You won't freak about because you missed a feeding or two. You throw in some flour and water and mix until it looks right. You'll let it ripen until it's "seems" ready. You'll put it in the refrigerator and not feed it for months (and it'll still wake up when you do, albeit sluggishly), etc. Starters are very resilient. They're the rock in your baking arsenal. You'd probably have to take chlorine bleach (or worse) to it to end it's life (and even then some would probably survive).

appendix's picture
appendix

Thanks, I think I get the general concepts mostly.  I'll just see how this goes as I start trying to bake & hope I don't kill the thing after all this trouble getting it going. 

 

Last thing, what is the minimum amount of starter you can start with & build up to a functional amount to use?  Is there such a thing?

thomaschacon75's picture
thomaschacon75

I once accidentally washed my starter jar.

I rebuilt the entire starter from the little I had left on a spoon.

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

I've got some more newbie starter questions though, if I may.

First, what's the smallest amount of starter that would survive in the fridge with one or two feedings a week? The instructions I followed while starting my starter said take a jar of 500ml - 1 L capacity and half-fill it with starter. This way I ended up with 400g starter and that's too much for my needs! I ended up using 200-250 g every time, so I'd usually only feed it once before making dough, or if I fed twice, I'd end up with a very high starter-to-everything-else ratio and my dough would often overferment.

Hence my other question, what's the maximum percentage of starter to flour one can use? I tend to use so much that a third to a half of total flour comes from the starter. I suspect this is way too much.

And the last question is, if my recipe calls for a sponge, can I treat the 2nd starter freeding as the sponge stage? I.e. I'd feed it once, then after about 12 hours I'd feed it again, then soon after it doubles and gets bubbly I'd mix the dough. Is that ok to do, or shoud I wait another 12 hours (-ish) after the 2nd feeding and then do the sponge?

Many thanks.

thomaschacon75's picture
thomaschacon75

You don't have to feed a refrigerated starter a couple times a week. That's like waking up your spouse at night and asking them if they want a cupcake. If it's in the refrigerator, let it sleep. You can feed it before putting it to sleep, however. How much? Not much. I usually go with 1/2 to 1 cup of starter.

Flour is just food for the starter, so you can use as much as you want. It is, however, possible to overfeed a starter such that it loses its strength. I don't know why this happens, but my intuition says it's something like post-Thanksgiving dinner. Eat so much, can't move, don't want to do anything, as that relates to yeasts.

I don't have an adequate answer for the last question. A starter is not a sponge (in my mind), even though it essentially is. A starter is a universal, I guess, unrelated to any particular bread. A sponge, however, is related to a particular bread. The final bread dictates the composition of my sponge.

lumos's picture
lumos

Just to clarify.....

I only feed starter only I need to use it.  I don't wake it up from the deep sleep to ask if it wants to eat cupcakes.  (unless the exceptional occasion as I wrote below)

And if I don't feed my starter at least once a week, it gets really sour. (though I have a small suspision that the reason for this is because I only keep such a small amount of starter. Too exposure to oxygen....)  With the present feeding/storing regime that I've been doing at least 3 yrs, I've never had a problem. 

But I do agree overfeeding can cause the starter to get fatigue. So I always add much smaller amount for the first feed and feed with larger amount of flour/water at second/third feeding.

 

thomaschacon75's picture
thomaschacon75

The temperature is too cold in a refrigerator for yeast activity, but not cold enough for bacteria that produce starter acidity. If you feed your starter while it's in the refrigerator, you're essentially saying, "Here bacteria, make sour!"

Am I wrong on this?

placebo's picture
placebo

When you feed the starter, you're decreasing the amount of yeast present, and it takes a while for the yeast to repopulate the culture. When you overfeed, you're not giving the yeast a chance to recover, so you end up weakening the starter. That's my take.

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

yeah.. well I often find that my starter doubles within a day of being put in the fridge, so if it sits there for another 5-6 days after that, it's beginning to fall and look a bit sad so I want to feed it a bit. I'm not sure that's the right thing to do, it just sort of looks hungry, so...

lumos's picture
lumos

LOL yeah, it does, doesn't it....;)  It might just that we have too strong mother's instinct, wanting to push food into any creature uder our care. :p

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

lol at the same time, my kefir (which also lives in the fridge) often turns into cottage cheese because I forget to strain it and start a new batch... I'm much more confident with kefir than sourdough though, I know it can take an x amount of abuse so I'm not worried. I got my grains just before my little tike was born, so couldn't give them much TLC at the time (and also I wasn't quite sure what I was doing, being new to the thing) so a couple of times it actually turned so sour i couldn't wash the conjealed curds off the grains and they smelt horrible. I though they'd die. But lo and behold, a few batches later they were as good as new.

I actually started my sourdough starter with kefir grains. Plonked a teaspoon into some flour and water. I figured, this way I'll introduce lactobacilli more quickly, plus the grains have some species of yeast in them already so I thought why not give it a go. It never smelt bad or too sour, in fact it had a sweet-yeasty smell from the start, and I first baked with them on day 3. I've got two starters, rye and wheat, both a little over a month old now, rye's been doing great (and I never discarded any of it, even at the beginning) but I had to give the wheat one a few discard-and-feed cycles at room temperature because I thought it wasn't doing quite so well. I don't know for sure whether it was or wasn't, it just seemed to be a bit less active than the rye one. It's doing well now. Neither of my starters are particularly sour, so I'm assuming the fact I kick-started them with a large amount of sour dairy bacteria hasn't tipped the balance in favour of bacteria, or at least not too much.

lumos's picture
lumos

Sorry, I forgot to say more important thing in the previous post and now I've got to go out, so I quickly post it now and reply to your post (Haven't even read it yet, Sorry!)  after I come back IF I can contribute anything more....

Anyhoo.....

It's a bit confusing with all these tips and infos and opinions, isn't it? When I first sarted with sourdough/starter, I read as many books, articles and blogs on internet, etc. etc. as I could get my hands on, and I got totally confused because there're so many of them, sometimes conflicting each other.  And sometimes what works in commercial environment not necessarily practical for homebakers like us, especially with small fridge and small family.

So in the end, I jumped in from what looked like the easiest option for me, and have been working on it with some tweaks here and there to find out the method which works for me best in my environment. Which is what I wrote above.  Been doing that for more than 3 years, as I said, no problem.....except for I've found recently I need to clean the container occasionally to prevent the starter going to acid, maybe because of tiny bits of residual sourdough sticking to the side of container (inside). 

So, what I'd advice you is just DO IT!  After a several months, I'm sure you'll find your own method which works best for you. 

best wishes and good luck!

lumos

lumos's picture
lumos

OK. I'm back. ;)

I think you're doing alright as the way you're doing.  Just one thing I forgot to say it the water you use when feeding.  Don't know if you use bottled water or not, but if you can, that's better, because wild yeast does not like chlorine.  I used to us bottled water before, but since I had the water filter fitted to my tap to be a  litte more environmentally-friendly, I started using filtered water to feed it, thinking it'd be alright.  But after a few months, my starter got gradually weaker and weaker.  The only thing I'd changed before it got weaker was the water, so I started leaving the filtered water for several hours before I used it (without a cover), and everything got back to normal.   So if the water in your area contains high chlorine, that's something you have to be careful about. No need to buy bottled water, just let chlorine 'evaporate' naturally would do the job. 

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Yeah I know about chlorine thanks. My skin is awfully sensitive, I've always had a problem with chlorinated water so much so my body itches all over every time I have a 5-minute shower :-((( so after my little one developed eczema (which has thankfully almost cleared now, but he still gets dry patches a lot) I thought that's it, I'm splashing out and getting a filter. We got a whole house job installed this spring. Wouldn't be my 1st choice (what's the point of filtering the water in the radiators and toilets) but here in the UK the only options seem to be whole house or drinking water only.

I must admit, it hasn't made that much difference to my skin although his seems a bit better, but at least the water doesn't stink of chlorine like it used to so the filter must be doing something. Our water is also super-hard, I stopped using laundry conditioners because my son was in cloth nappies and conditioners reduce the amount of moisture they can absorb - in fact, conditioners are a con but that's a different subject altogether. Anyway, because I wasn't "softening" the water his muslins would come out so hard you could stand them up to dry! I know hard water isn't usually a problem, but ours must be a complete disaster and most filters can't do anything about it.

Before I got the filter my choice would be to use boiled water (as that would have neither chlorine nor any stray micro-organisms in it). Of course chlorinated water is bad for sourdough, chlorine kills micro-life, that's why it's added to water in the first place.

Mike on www.sourdoughhome.com thinks chlorinated water isn't a problem for sourdough though, but as a former chemistry student I do think he's wrong (sorry Mike!)

jcking's picture
jcking

Chlorinated water and hardness are considerations for the baker. "Old Fashion Advice - About Bread Making:" Soft, pure water is best suited for bread making purposes. Hard water generally neutralizes to a certain extent the fermentation produced by the yeast". While overnight aerating of tap water will permit dissolved chlorine gas to come out of solution and dissipate in the air, it will have no affect upon dissolved mineral salts in the hard water.

Water can affect baking in many ways due to the presence of specific ions in the water. High Calcium and Magnesium (water hardness) can slow down fermentation, resulting in longer proofing times. Copper ions also inhibit fermentation. Waters randomly tested around the USA, can vary significantly in the following areas:

*Amount of nitrates
*Amount of dissolved solids
*Conductivity

Surprisingly enough, they do not vary much in pH. Almost all waters tested had an actual pH of around 8.0. By keeping water slightly alkaline, it helps preserve the life of plumbing.

Water temperature is also a consideration. Unless the formula calls for warmer or cooler water, bringing the water, as well as all other ingredients, to room temp will help to reach consistent results. Water temperature can also be adjusted to achieve a desired dough temperature between 73 to 78°F.

Jim

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Thanks Jim,

I didn't think about the impact of various ions on fermentation. Of course you're right. I should try boiled water as most dissolved salts will precipitate during boiling. many people don't like using boiled water because any dissolved oxygen would evaporate from it, but i always keep a bottle full of boiled water on the counter for drinking (I never drink tap water, even now mine is all filtered) and I don't put a lid on it, so presumably it'll have caught some oxygen from the air after a while.

might just try and see how filtered tap water performs vs boiled water.

lumos's picture
lumos

I can tell you the answer to that, right now. ;)  Boiled and cooled water works better than filtered water, for me anyway.  You're a chemist, so probably you know better than me, but my thery (a.k.a. wild guess) is that by boiling it, chloride evaporates (Correct me if I'm wrong), while a filter doesn't necessarily filters out all the chlorine (I'm quite confident about this part).

As I said, I usually use filtered water after leaving it without a lid for several hours, but, thanks to my extraordinary ability to forget everything, I sometimes forget to do that and....panic.  If that happenes, I just boil the water and leave it until it cools down and use it to feed the starter. Seems to work alright.

Re: Hard/soft water.....The extreme hardness of water is always a problem in SE of England. It's really bad in my area, too. (Are you on Thames Water, too?)

It's interesting what Jim said about the suitability of soft/hard water for breadmaking. In Japan, where I originally come from, the bakers (both pros and amateurs) often  use imported, bottled water from France because water in Japan is very soft (hard water is almost unheard of), they find the dough gets too soft, becomes impossible to shape baguettes using some of T55 (depends on the kind) with Japanese soft water.  But by using imported water, they can overcome this problem.  Their favourite choice of water is a blend of Contrex and local Japanese water.   As far as I know, a large part of France share the same hardness of water as ours in UK, and I think their breadmaking method/technique must've been the results of using their hard water and soft wheat.  So I'm not sure if hard water in that bad for breadmaking. Maybe not too good for yeast, but possibly benefitial for gluten development? (Correct me if I'm wrong here, too. ;) )

 

Re: Mike (Sourdoughhome)'s theory about chlorine and sourdough....... I think he either lives in an area where the water authority hasn't discovered chlorine or they are so skimp they only put tiny, weeny amount of chlorine to the system. :p

 

Sorry to hear your little treasure suffers from eczema.  My daughter's friend used to have really bad eczema when she was small (really, seriously bad...), but she's somehow grown out of it gradually over the years and now (she's 18) she doesn't have any problem.  Hope your son will one day grow out of it completely.  Have you contacted UK's  Eczama Society?  Her mum did, and got a lot of useful info and supports (both physically and psychologically) from them, which she thinks were indispensable for her and her daughter. If you haven't yet, it may worth considering about it.

best wishes,

lumos

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Sorry about taking so much time to get back to you.

I'm on Veolia Water who I think have bought out Thames Water. Although I think water hardness depends on the local source of water rather than the provider. If you and I are on the same river or reservoir that would certainly explain it!

My little tink isn't that bad at all now, as I said he only has a bit of dry skin on his tummy and sides, and it doesn't seem to bother him. I don't think we're in dire enough straights to bother the Eczema Society! But thanks for the tip anyway (although I do hope I'll never have to use it!). My mum's a paediatrician, and although she's in another country I think she's armed me with more knowledge on the subject than some GPs...

If I may, it would seem bread-making in Japan has a massive environmental footprint! It would probably be much cheaper and more planet-friendly to just add mined or lab-manufactured salts into the water... I mean, there's a lot of calcium in sea water.. although I've no idea how easy it is to separate it from other ions... my chemistry days are a long way in the past now...

 

sphealey's picture
sphealey

I keep approximately 300 grams (probably a little more) in a mason jar in the fridge and do full refreshes by discarding 150 grams and adding the fresh flour & water.  Many people keep less, but I always run into the problem of material unaccounted for - the scrapings on the side of the jar, spoons, etc that doesn't ever make it back into the starter.  Much smaller than 300g and this lost material really starts to add up.

sPh

placebo's picture
placebo

I keep around 80 g in a little canning jar in the fridge. Any more starter risks overflowing the jar when it grows. When I feed it, about once a week, I keep about 25 g and feed it equal weights of water and flour to bring it back up to around 80 g.

When I want to bake, I'll take some of the discard and use it to build up what I need. If I'm not baking, sometimes I'll save the discard for use later, but usually I've been throwing it away since it's such a small amount.

lumos's picture
lumos

Right-O! ;)

I only keep about 3-4 tablespoons at most, and I only feed 2-3 times a week.  I know this is strictly speaking not really the idealway, but when I need to bake a bread,  I add necessary amount of flour and water to make up the sourdough to whatever  the stock I have.  I feed twice in 8-12 hr period before I need to use it, usually dividing flour+water to 1:3 ratio, using 1 part for the first feed and the rest for the second. So basically you're left with what you started with after using the necessary amount of sourdough.  Been doing this for several years, but it's been working fine with me. 

As I said, because  I use different kinds of flours occasionally to feed the starter (depending upon what sort of starter I need),  the character of starter may change everytime I use a different flour, but for me, life is too short AND my fridge is too small to keep 2 or 3 kinds of different starter with different flour, I'm taking the easiest method that works for me.  I have once kept 'mother starter' and made up starter from a small chuck I took from 'the mother,' feeding the mother once a month, but after a week or so, the mother starter lost the vitality, I had to feed 3-4 times to get active enough sourdough.  So that method was chucked away quite quickly.

If it's a sponge (or pate fermente, biga, poolish  = yeast based preferments) , not sourdough starter, I've never 'feeded' it after the initial mix to make up the sponge (or whatever).  Suppose you can do it, but I have no experience in that, I'm afraid.

 

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

sorry I don't quite understand, do you keep 3-4 tablespoons in the fridge, then build it up to say 300 g or whatever and save 3-4 tablespoons of that to put back in the fridge? If so, how soon after feeding do you save it? I thought you need to feed shortly before putting it in the fridge, is that what you do?

lumos's picture
lumos

Yup, that's what I do.  I always keep 3-4 tbls (or more or less) in the container which sits quietly in my fridge until needed. Several hours (or overnight in cold seasons....like today....)  before I use it, I take it out, feed it twice with necessary amount of water and flour as I need to make up the starter. After I use the starter, I put the container (with the remainder of the starter) back into the fridge straightaway, and keep it there until I need next time. 

I used to feed it just before putting back in the fridge, and it certainly helps to make it more active, but I've found that if I feed the starter 2-3 times BEFORE I actually use it,  the starter regain its strength without any problem.  So I eliminated that feeding process before putting it back.  I know some people still prefer to feed it before putting it back, but I also know many people don't do that.

But if I don't plan to bake for more than 1 week, I make sure I feed it at least once a week, just to sustain its quality.  

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Yep, that helps many thanks

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

I'm still wondering about the sponge stage. Because sourdough is a pre-ferment in the same way as a sponge, when converting a commercial yeast-based recipe with sponge, would I need roughly the same amount of starter as the amount of sponge in the recipe? Or a little more, since sourdough doesn't act as fast as commercial yeast?

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I'll have to point out that if you feed your mother starter to a firm hydration, say 80% the Mother starter will remain viable for a full week and perhaps 2 weeks in the refrigerator. You won't need to take it out and feed a couple times to build it up. Just scoop a teaspoon of the Mother Starter out and mix it into the amount of water needed for your levain (starter). I usually use warm water st the resultant slurry is in the range of 76F. Add the flour for the levain mix and wait the required 12 hours or so for it to be active.

I use a 3 cup plastic Glad food container. At feeding time (after dinner time), I discard all but a Tablespoon of the old starter and find that weighs about 90 grams including the crud around the edges and sides and the container itself. The container weighs about 30 grams empty so the actual viable starter I figure at 50 grams. To this I add 80 grams of tap water and mix to create a slurry. Next I add 100 grams of AP flour and mix well. If I'm planning on baking the next day I'll leave it out at room temperature and feed it again after removing the amount I need for the Levain. In any case, if I'm not going to be needing the mother starter soon, I refrigerate it immediately after feeding. At any time in the next two weeks I can remove a 25 gram teaspoon and use it directly. Return the Mother to the fridge for the next use. Regardless of the paint thinner smell it sometimes develops, it will work just fine with in two weeks.

BTW my total starter is around 240 grams and occupies about 1/4 of the 3 Cup container. If I leave it on the counter overnight, the following day it will be pushing the top off. I cut a slit in the cover to allow the gas pressure to escape.

Eric

lumos's picture
lumos

My reasoning for not keeping a mother starter, but feeding whatever I have in a container (always small amount) and put it back in a fridge after using it is that, though I bake 2-3 times a week, it's not always sourdough-based bread. Some week I only bake sourdough bread once and the rest yeasted breads.  Since it's ideal to feed Mother Starter once a week to maintain, it could actually be the same feeding frequency as I use starter.  So  I thought, why not stop keeping the Mother and just keep a small amount and feed it as I need it and just put the excess back to the fridge?   It may not be the correct way of doing things, but I know some people on this forum do this way and it's been working for me.