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Sourdough starter feeding times and how it affects proofing time

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sournewb71's picture
sournewb71

Sourdough starter feeding times and how it affects proofing time

Hello,

I'm relatively new to sourdough and had some questions.  So far I've been going off of Ed Wood's Sourdough book as well as some posts I've read from here.  Now to the questions:

 

1.  Sourdough feeding time.  Lately I've been feeding my sourdough starter before work ~1pm at 100% hydration at cool room temperature ~65F.  I'd come home around 11pm and make bread and feed again.  What I've noticed when I'm home is that my sourdough starter doubles usually within 4 hours or so.  So I'm letting it go an extra 6 hours before feeding or using.  How does this effect my loaf, especially proofing times in the end?  Would it be more beneficial to catch my starter just as it has doubled and then use it?

Last night around 11pm I made a loaf using 1 cup of starter, 300g water, 435g 50:50 whole wheat/all purpose flour and 1 1/2tsp salt at 65F.  It was a sticky dough (little wetter than Wood's basic recipe) so I let it rest and french folded it 3 times total with rests inbetween.  This morning at 8:30AM it looked like it may have tripled, with a few big bubbles on the outter skin.  I carefully removed it from the bowl onto the final cooking pan, and french folded it a couple times to shape it.  I put it in the oven with the oven light on for about an hour and came back.  The dough started to flatten slightly and inrease in size.  I finger poked it and the indentation stayed, so I baked it.  Overall I enjoyed the resultant bread, was hoping to get bigger holes like a cibatta style but maybe the whole wheat prevented that.  From this I have the following question:

 

2.  Ed Wood's recipe says to final proof for 2-4 hours, usually 1 hour room temperature to benefit the yeasts and then followed by warmer temps around 85F to increase sourness (which I like).  However I didn't get past one hour final proofing without it seeming to be done/over proofed.  Is my bread proofing fast because of how long the starter went without being used or fed?  I'd really like to get some more sourness out of my bread.

 

3.  How do I keep sourdough in the fridge?  I've been maintaining this starter for almost a month now and have not refrigerated it until last night.  I fed it, then let it sit out at room temperature for an hour and put in the fridge.  This morning when I looked at it, it has doubled in size!  Now can I use this starter straight from the fridge into a bread recipe or does it need to be fed again before so?  I plan on baking bread every other day so what would be the best method for maintaining this starter in the fridge?

 

I know I've asked a lot of questions so thanks to those who can take the time to answer them!

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

1. Throw away the book.  It will mislead you and it will take a long time for you to discover the errors in your "learning".

2. Keep less starter (1g is impractically small; 100g is unnecessarily large) and elaborate a smaller amount up to the quantity you need in one or two stages just before you use it (10g fed at 1:5:5 will produce 110g overnight, another 1:5:5 feeding will make over 1Kg in the next 12 hrs).

3. You are doing the right thing in waiting before refrigerating a freshly fed starter. However, unless you are going to feed it every two days you need to feed it more than you probably have been.  Try 1:10:10, wait an hour and refrigerate for up to a week, but then elaborate it at room temperature with two feedings at 1:5:5.  Then you can take a small sample, feed it at 1:10:10 wait an hour and refrigerate for another week.  This cycle is designed for those who bake once a week.  If you bake more often, the feeding before refrigeration can be slightly smaller (remember that the population density is growing exponentially).  Also make sure your refrigerator is below 36°F or the food in a 1:10:10 feeding won't last a full week.

hutchndi's picture
hutchndi

 A couple things, if your baking every day, then why bother refridgerating your starter at all?  Secondly, if you are adding whole wheat or any whole grain or anything that give the culture more nutrients to feed and grow on, they will multiply faster than with a simple white flour recipe.

sournewb71's picture
sournewb71

I don't want to bake everyday, I'd prefer to bake every other day if possible.

Thanks for the tip on whole grain, I didn't know the starter would grow faster with that over white flour.  I've been feeding my starter KA 100% whole wheat flour.

sournewb71's picture
sournewb71

I kind of bought the book on a wince, browsing through Amazon.  I had a feeling it wasn't any good since I don't see much mention of Ed Wood around these parts.  Which book do you recommend I get my hands on?

Your definitely right about the starter, I've had TONS!  I've been looking to scale down but I've been following the recipes in this book and they all call for 1-4 cups of starter.  Question on the feeding ratio.  I've been using a 1:2:2 ratio lately but I have tried others.  I actually think I might like to venture over to a more liquid starter as it is easier to measure, feed and it won't come climbing out of the mason jar :).  You recommended 1:5:5.  Is there a max ratio of starter:flour that you need to stay within, so that the starter doesn't get contaminated or overpowered?  Or is it just a matter of time?

Thanks for elaborating on storing sourdough in the fridge, but if the starter has been in the fridge less than a week, say a day or two, does it need to be fed before used to make bread?  Or can I use it right away (though doubling time maybe longer because it is cold)?

Lastly I think you touched on this with the 1:5:5 recommendation, but does it matter if the starter triples or quadruples before you use it?  Is there a benefit to using the starter right away when it doubles?

Thanks again!

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

You can bake with starter right out of the refrigerator, but you may find that you have better results if you refresh it at least once before baking with it.  It turns out that irrespective of the refresh ratio (1:1:1 or 1:20:20) the starter will expand to somewhere between double and triple the starting volume before it begins to fall back (assumptions: room temperature, and flour with a reasonable protein content).  This has to do with how much CO2 the yeast can produce with the sugars that are available from the flour and the strength of the bubble walls.

You can refresh at ratios up to about 1:50:50 and still get lag times of around one doubling time.  Above that, Ganzle found that you need to add one additional doubling time to the lag time before the start of exponential growth.  I have personally never had a problem with contamination at high refresh ratios, but I don't find that I need to go above 1:20:20 very often (perhaps if I have forgotten to start the elaboration when I said I would and need to catch up in one step instead of two).

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes

Hamelman is the best all-round bread book I have found for accuracy and insights.

It may not be the perfect book for a beginner, but you will want it in your collection.

The guidance from the real gurus here on TFL is quite good but you do have to sort through a lot of BS to make sure you are getting the good stuff; and it is extremely difficult to tell one from the other when you are new to sourdough and/or bread baking (and there is some a little higher up in this thread that may not be exactly correct either so be careful and demand data or a reference to a journal article before you take it as truth - even books can propagate erroneous assumptions and unsubstantiated claims).

Debora Wink (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10856/) is a trustworthy source and an excellent writer. And Floyd has put together a worthy collection of wisdom as well in the handbook (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/handbook).

hutchndi's picture
hutchndi

Why do people keep scaring newbies away from Hamelman for being"not for the beginner”? Is it really better for them to learn from the best only after being confused and misguided by some of the other authors out there? "New" is not a synonym for stupid, and nobody should assume that new bakers will be daunted simply by how much actual text there is in this book, it is all well presented, recipes are finely detailed and explained, and techniques are well described. I only wish I had picked up this book first.

Debra Wink is certainly also a very knowledgable source  as you mention, but I see in no way that anything in Hamelman's book is any harder to understand than the stuff she contributes here.

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

I wish I had been steered to Hamelman as my first book on sourdough. It would have avoided many years of misunderstanding.  But it didn't come into print until I had been at it for over ten years. It is a great book but as I said "It may not be the perfect book for a beginner". Perhaps the first half of Bread Builders - Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens (Wing and Scott) might be a good place to start. It has nothing that is incorrect to my knowledge (which may not mean a lot).  After that I think you could go directly to Hamelman.  But read Bread from cover to cover before you try to use any of the formulas.  There is lots of important stuff near the middle and later that you should know before you begin and there is probably no "best" order to present it. If you want to understand sourdough from a more technical perspective, get a copy of Michael Gänzle's paper

http://aem.asm.org/content/64/7/2616.full

This is a reference that has been invaluable for me in understanding what is really going on and is the basis for my suggestion that colder temperatures for storage and larger refreshment ratios are appropriate for occasional (every few days to weekly) bakers. I have probably read it end to end 10 times and referred to it another 50 times to try to understand what I was seeing in the kitchen. But remember that his results were obtained using defined media and optical density instrumentation, and only dealt with log phase growth characterization (though I have found his models to be incredibly accurate and use them daily in the form of an Excel spreadsheet for adjusting refresh ratios to accomodate time and temperature in the real world).

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Then I would not bother to refrigerate if I baked every other day with it.  I would just reduce the size and try a 1:5:5 ratio first and see if it takes 24 hours to peak.  It may take longer because it is cold (that might be a good thing to have a starter that takes 1.5 days to peak.  All you need to speed up a dough rise is to warm up the dough temp.)   Take a teaspoon and add two tablespoons of water and about 4 level tablespoons of flour, stir well and cover.  Because it contains less runny starter, it will be slightly thicker than what you have experienced before when feeding.  Important is to let it peak before feeding (between bakes) or you may be over-feeding it.  So you will have to experiment to see what ratio suits your needs best for your 65°F.    

If you use a starter past the doubling rise as it continues to peak, more often than not, you are making a milder tasting starter.  No harm in that and it can be quite useful.  It is sometimes difficult to separate one starter into two functions.  You want to maintain your base starter and you want to use part of it to elaborate for recipes.  Experiment more wildly with the elaborations to get more or less sour.   That way your base/mother/main starter culture stays pretty stable. 

Now, while you're sitting on some extra ready-to-go starter, pour the extra out (spread thin) onto a parchment covered baking tray and dry it thoroughly into flakes.  Pack into a glass jar, label and place in a cool dark place as a starter back up or to use as an additive.  

I've seen direct relationships between the amount of food and the amount of gas being produced.  More food ratio to starter ratio (be it dough, elaboration or a feeding) will keep the gas production going longer before it colapses.  Of course one has limits and must consider the breaking down of the dough over time and the type of flour being used and hydration (wetter ferments faster.)  Temperature plays such a big roll in fermentation.  

ehanner's picture
ehanner

You have touched on 3 points that will define how your breads turn out. People usually start by using the starter they have created and fed by using it directly from the pot of culture they feed. A recipe that calls for a Cup or more falls into that category. In my experience, you are better off considering your "Mother Starter" or Storage Starter" as the source to go to for a small amount of culture from which to "Elaborate" your Leavan. Typically a single Tablespoon of starter will weigh around 50g. This small amount of starter will inoculate the leavan and create a fruity aroma that is teaming with active microbiology.  The idea is to make a pre ferment that is made of up to 30% of the total flour. The pre ferment or leavan will mature in around 12 or so hours depending on temperature.  At that time the pre ferment will be soft and active, ready to make the final dough. No other starter or yeast is needed. The outcome will be determined on the temperature of the pre ferment and that of the bulk ferment and proofing (which is also a ferment). Your natural yeasts in the starter, like all yeasts in bread making are extremely sensitive to temperature as are the bacteria that produce the flavor acids. The ideal temperature range is 74F-80F. At 65F things are going to be slow. The yeast will not produce as much gas as they would at 74F. The bacteria however will continue to produce lactic and acetic acids in cool temperatures. This is how we control the sour flavor in the bread, by controlling temperature.

Professor Raymond Calvel, the person credited for saving the baking industry in France and being the top authority on French bread has said 1.) Controlling temperature is the single most important thing a baker must do. and 2.) When storing dough or a leavan culture in the refrigerator, do not allow the temperature to drop below 50F. The damage done to the flora of the culture will diminish the flavor even though the yeasts will recover. This is problematic for home bakers because the normal temperature of home refrigerator is around 40F to prevent food spoilage. Professional bakers make use of "retarders and proofers" that allow for precise control of the environment suitable for a fermenting, proofing and retarding if necessary.

So where does that leave the home baker? You have to find a place in your home that stays above 70F but below 80F all of the time to use for fermenting and proofing. We have all tried the oven, microwave oven, cabinet above the freezer and various coolers with a heat source. Those things all work to some degree in some weather seasons. If you really want to solve the problem of controlling your fermenting temperature, buy a home counter top proofer. The few bucks you spend now will pay you back in beautifully risen breads for a long time.

And I completely agree on getting Bread from Hamelman and using it as your primary reference. The man is brilliant.

Hope this helps,

Eric

sournewb71's picture
sournewb71

Thanks everyone for the wealth of information!

I started feeding my starter at the 1:5:5 ratio and now it takes it roughly 12 hours to double.  Last night I fed it at 1:4:4 and it took roughly 8 hours to double.  I now understand there is a madness to these ratios and can minipulate them to get the doubling times that work around my schedule!

I'm testing out the 1:2:3 sourdough loaf recipe, using 150g starter : 300g water : 450g 50:50 ww/ap flour.  I mixed the ingredients, didn't knead and let it proof in my box @ 75F for 8 hours.  I then french folded it a couple times to shape it and let it proof in the oven with the light on for 2 hours.  Going to add some hot water now to increase temperature and test for doneness.  Can't wait to see how it turns out!