The Fresh Loaf

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First loaf was great, some questions

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danmerk's picture
danmerk

First loaf was great, some questions

SO I joined a few weeks ago and I love this site. So much info here and very helpful people. Thanks for everything. I made my first starter over a week ago and last night I went out to replenish my flour supply because I had an itching to make something. I saw that the starter was doing well and had a sour smell by now and looked right. I began making a sponge by scooping out 1/4 c of the starter and into a sanitized mason jar for future growth. (I use StarSan a food grade sanitizer used in Brewing) I followed a sponge recipe to make about 2c of sponge for a few loaves. The bread turned out awesome, but I think I did not let it rise enough on the final rise. The loaves were not as tall as my commercial yeast ones, but I got the best crumb and best crust ever. And those holes!!! Love it.

My question. I want to keep this starter going so I added 1/4c water and 1/4c bread flour to the new mason jar. If I keep this up, like I did before I will easily burn through another bag of flour. Are there any solutions for keeping a starter fed but not wasting so much flour? I hate mixing up the starter and then tossing 1/2 of it away daily. Just curious.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

danmerk,

You can refrigerate a starter for long periods of time. It will last a couple of months if you just thicken it up to 1:1 by weight if you are using normal white AP flour. If other flour, thicken it to at least a paste. You can make it into a dough-like consistency, and it will keep longer.

You only need to store a very small amount. I use 100 grams, but that's more than you really need.

The way I do it, when I am building up an amount of starter for a recipe, I build it so there is 100g left over, and after the starter has risen by about double or is reasonably ripe but not too ripe (this is a 1:1 flour:water starter, so it takes about 4-5 hours to double at room temperature), I  refrigerate 100g of starter. If you have a more soupy consistency starter, which it sounds like you do if you are feeding 1:1 by volume rather than by weight, you would probably want to thicken it up to at least a thick paste consistency, then refrigerate.

You can then remove your starter from the refrigerator even weeks later, feed it a couple of times at room temperature, and it should bounce back to life. If you plan out the pre-bake build up of your starter right, you can end up throwing out little or only tiny amounts of old starter.

It's good not to let it get way too ripe before you refrigerate it, so it can continue to use nutrients and be active in the refrigerator, although it will do so at a very, very slow rate. Also, it's probably better to avoid putting it in a frozen part of the refrigerator, although it may still do fine even with a little freezing.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I'm only curious because, as you know, I use a firm starter.  But let's say someone is using a liquid starter and it is kept bascially full time in the refrigerator.  When you wish to use some for a recipe you take that amount and then feed the starter with what you've removed and keep refrigerated.  Does that have an effect on the strength of said starter?

And, going by the notes you gave on another thread, if the levain was built from the portion taken from the refrigerated starter and allowed to sit overnight at room temp, roughly 7 - 8 hours, and in that time it more than doubles - perhaps triples, is that having a more adverse effect on the strength of that levain to raise bread mainly because it is liquid?

Did any of those questions make sense? :o)

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Zolablue,

I don't really "replace the part that's left", which I think is what you're describing above.

Here is a typical routine for me. Let's assume I have 100g of 100% hydration starter that has been in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. It may have a tiny amount of hooch and it has risen and fallen in the refrigerator over the last two weeks.

For my recipes, lets say I need 1150g of starter, and I'm going to bake tomorrow.

I would take 50g of starter from my container in the refrigerator, and I would leave the remaining 50g in the refrigerator as a backup.

I would add 100g of flour and 100g of water to the 50g of starter and let it sit at room temperature. Typically after 2 weeks it will not rise by double as quickly as very fresh starter would. It might take more like 7 hours plus or minus to double.

I would then take the 250g of resulting doubled starter, stir it down and add 500g of water and 500g of flour to it. This time, it has already been fed once and doubled. It will be much more active and fresh now, so it will probably double in about 4-5 hours.

I now have 1250g of starter that has been feed twice at room temperature and is good and fresh. I would wash out my container, throwing out the 50g of backup starter and take 100g of my fresh starter back in the container and refrigerate it for future use.

What remains is 1150g of fresh starter. This I would put in one of those glass canisters you saw in one of my photos and refrigerate also, to be used the next day in whatever doughs I planned to make that required 1150g.

That's a close approximation of what I did to make the SD ciabatta and SD focaccia in my recent blog entry and photos. Hopefully, I didn't totally mess up the ratios and amounts. The idea general idea is that I built up a bunch of "recipe starter" by feeding a small initial amount of old refrigerated culture a couple of times at room temperature to revive it, then put a small portion of the recipe starter back in the refrigerator.

When I build other "firm recipe starters", or starters that may use different flours, then I might have to build 100g of white flour starter that will be stored in the refrigerator for next time from 4 grams of old starter in a couple of feedings. While that is going on, I would probably take a small amount of starter and use it to build recipe starters with different types of flour or consistency. In each case, I would still save some very small amount of "old starter" until I am ready to put the fresh 100g back in the refrigerator. At that point, I generally just toss the old starter.

Once every couple of weeks when I bake, I toss some small amount of left over backup starter - maybe 50g. Other than that, the starters are used as built and little is lost other than some small amounts left on the sides of the containers.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

...if a starter was maintained in this manner, never returning it to room temp, rather feeding it only replacement amounts, would that type of maintenance have an effect on the vigor of their starter? Say they did this once per week, thus it becomes refreshed once per week, but never returns to room temp except in the form of a "recipe starter" or levain.  

Would the mother be viable as kept refrigerated and refreshed refrigerated? 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Zolablue,

My guess is that if you just add flour and water to a starter in the refrigerator, it would eventually have a problem, although it might lengthen its life in the refrigerator. I think you have to take it out once in a while, even if infrequently and refresh it at room temperature or thereabouts, and do that a couple of times preferrably. If you want to store it for long periods, a very thick starter supposed to be the best choice. I've never tried it, but I think you said that Glezer had mentioned keeping a firm starter for years in the refrigerator? The longest I've kept my starter in the refrigerator is two months at a consistency of 1:1 by weight. It had lots of hooch and looked a little beat, but it revived to full strength with three 1:2:2 feedings at room temperature.

Bill

 

 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I would agree that maintenance method would not be optimum but wanted to ask you since you have such a scientific mind and seem to possess huge gobs of knowledge about starters. :o)  I'm new but would also think a starter as we're discussing would begin to go downhill and display its impending weakness in longer times necessary to raise dough.

 

Yes, Glezer did store her firm starter for 3 years in the fridge, unrefreshed, and fed it only 5 times and baked with it.  I think that is incredible.

 

But also it doesn't mean that is the best way - only that it is one method and it happens to work super for me.  There are obviously many ways to achieve a great sourdough starter. 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Zolablue,

A firm starter is still on my list of things to try out. I think Andrew_I said he keeps his starter firm in the refrigerator and converts it to 100% hydration when baking, which I think would be an easy way for me, since many of my favorite recipes use the 100% hydration starter as a mainstay.

Anyway, it sounds like you are getting tremendously good results with that firm starter, so I wouldn't worry too much. You can always build a 100% hydration or liquid starter by doing what you did for the SD ciabatta.

Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Zolablue,

Just to respond to the suggestion about impending weakness as the starter ages in the refrigerator, I find that the starter is basically little changed after 1 or 2 days in the refrigerator, i.e. a 1:2:2 feeding at room temperature will rise by double in about 4 hours. On the third day, it's not quite so fast anymore. Mine would bounce back to 4 hours after 1 feeding of 1:2:2 after 1 week, and it would bounce back to 4 hours after 2 feedings of 1:2:2 after 2 weeks.

I have not done this, since I'm always using the refrigerator method, but I'm thinking that it might well be true that if you let a liquid starter rise by double and begin to fall slightly in the middle, it might not rise quite as fast as one that has risen to double and is still rising. There is some point where the organisms fall off in activity because of the ripening of the culture.

Not to suggest yet another experiment to try, but this could be a good one. I may do this myself at some point. I might do a bunch of different versions recently fed 1:2:2 and allowed to rise and refrigerated, then feed 1:2:2 again and compare how long they take to rise by double.

1) 1 day old culture that had risen by double in 4 hours before refrigerated

2) 2 day old culture same as above otherwise.

3) 3 day old culture same as above otherwise.

4) culture that has risen by 2.5x at room temperature.

5) culture that has peaked and is beginning to dip.

6) culture that has peaked, dipped and fallen - maybe 12 hours old.

I think that would be very interesting.

danmerk's picture
danmerk

I am confused as to what a firm starter is? I mean, I realize its like a dough ball, but how can you build that into a recipe? Do you just add more water and flour to make the reight consistency? My sponge recipes have been to take a few cups of sponge which is wet and batter -like and add flour to it and it makes dough. But the dough ball is confusing me.

 Off topic, I saw a show on the Food network which showed this California bakery get started and they were using a steam injected oven. All the breads had this awesome dark brown crust. 
Assuming that was because of the steam, but more importantly, how are they making boules that have lines in them that resemble clw scratches? Is there a special cutter that does that? 

leemid's picture
leemid

I use a firm starter for all non-quick bread now. I tightened it up using Rose Levy Berenbaum's book, Bread Bible to try her sourdough recipe. The results were great.

When I make the bread I mix flour and water, autolyse, add starter and salt and knead it all together. Then I proceed with the normal process, unless I have to refrigerate because of my schedule.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

danmark, the reason I even chose this particular sourdough starter in the first place is because of my passion for Maggie Glezer's book, Artisan Baking Across America.  In that book she has recipes that call for a firm starter.  Those recipes are made just like any using a liquid starter only instead of using a cup or two or starter they call for a tablespoon or two.  It is a very strong starter, a French-style starter, and it is Glezer's opinion that it is easier for the home baker to know when it is fully active.  You can see the progression of my starter which begins with the dough ball and when fully risen (must quadruple in 8 hours or less) makes about 90 grams of starter by volume so you also are using much less flour.

http://zolablue.smugmug.com/gallery/2617049#138085923

Having said all that, many here on this site, noteably Mountaindog, has successfully made Glezer recipes using a liquid starter because that is what she prefers and if you've seen her results they are fantastic.  Plus I've learned so much from her as well.

Hamelman, in his book, Bread, does make a caveat about his personal belief that if a recipe calls for a firm or stiff starter one should be true to that only to experience the way that author meant for the recipe to be made.  And he does convert his liquid starter, which he prefers, to a firm starter for those recipes.

And, having said all that, while I'm not so anxious to keep two starters, I would like to try a liquid one if only to compare the flavor differences to my firm one.  Its an interesting subject and is up to ease of maintenance and personal taste.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

I usually build the firm starter if it is specified in a recipe, following the Hamelman style. I find it just easier for one thing to first build the starter as specified, rather than having to convert the recipe. Also, it seems like you would come closer the recipe author's intentions if you match the starter. However, I've changed the consistency of starter around without any trouble also, kind of like switching from the "biga version" to the "poolish version" of ciabatta in the BBA, but with sourdough starters.

ZB, I would just add that Glezer has simple instructions for switching a liquid starter to firm, for anyone who has a liquid starter and wants to try using a firm starter.