The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

ordering a sourdough starter

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PhilipG's picture
PhilipG

ordering a sourdough starter

I was not very pleased with the starter I made using the one Bread Alone as my guide. I am thinking about buying one, form King Arthur or some, but my questions is, how much bread do they provide starter for. I currently use the Poolish concept, always bake at least four loaves each batch. Will the commercial starters allow for a four loaf batch? buy two? Inquiring minds want to know. Thanks, Philip

placebo's picture
placebo

Whenever you use your starter, you keep a little extra from which you can grow some more. You buy the starter once and then make as many loaves as you want as long as you don't accidentally kill the starter.

PhilipG's picture
PhilipG

I think I am not being clear. What is needed to expand the amount of starter to accommodate baking four loaves at once? Most starters seem to provide enough "product" to make two loaves and it would take more than is present to have enough to double. Then again , perhaps I am misunderstanding about the starter? the formula I was following required creating a CHEF, then making up the Levain from that. but the recipe isjust  for 2 loaves. If I use the same amount of starter and double the flour amounts, water, etc. is that enough starter to do the job? sorry to be so vague with my terms.

placebo's picture
placebo

You have the right idea. You just mix up enough flour and water and inoculate it with some of the starter to create enough starter for the four loaves. If you want to, you can build up the amount in several cycles, or just do it all in one shot.

dlt123's picture
dlt123

I haven't been too successful with the starter I've made and haven't enjoyed the flavor or mine.  I recently got a King Authur's catalog and noticed that they sell a starter that has been around for some time.

Has anyone tried their starter and if so, how pleased were you with the sour dough bread made with their starter?

Thanks,
Dennis
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Belief has no affect on reality.
My Website: http://www.roadtobetterliving.com
Coronal Winds Radio is on the Air - Listen Now: http://www.coronalwinds.com

proth5's picture
proth5

the folks at the King Arthur Baking Catalogue - I do, and I'm not being sarcastic.  They are savy marketers with their "250 year old" starter.  I bet they sell a lot of crocks that way and good for them, I say. 

But what the bakers at the King Arthur bakery might tell you is that after three weeks or so it takes a starter to really mature, it doesn't get any "better".  It is your care that determines the quality of the starter.

So, if you weren't happy with your old one, you will eventually become unhappy with theirs.

The King Arthur Baking Catalogue starter is the same one that is used at their bakery.  They are very concerned about the quality of their bakery products and so in their hands, with their maintnence, it performs very well.

Your mileage may vary.

dlt123's picture
dlt123

I believe I took care of my starter... I feed it with whole wheat flour and used pineapple juice for my liquid since its acidicity would help to keep undesireables out.  From what I understand, your starter will take on the yeasts that is in the air of your dwelling and that is what gives the major flavor your culture.

I just didn't like the character of my sour starter.  I was careful to make sure I used clean spoons and containers when making mine. I really think I just didn't like the wild yeast that floated around my dwelling.

Now I am very happy with my yeast breads and feel I have this one down pat.  I make sprouted wheat bread and love it.

Maybe I'll give the KA starter a chance to see if it does make a difference, but again, I suspect the wild yeasties, beasties in my house are the culprit.  Am I right in my thinking?

Dennis
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
Belief has no affect on reality.
My Website: http://www.roadtobetterliving.com
Coronal Winds Radio is on the Air - Listen Now: http://www.coronalwinds.com

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

I do not wish to be harsh, but it is clear you have not done any basic research into what a starter culture is or how to create or maintain one. The yeasts and LAB (lactobacilli) do not come from your house.  They are in the flour you use.  But once you have a stable culture, so long as you don't mistreat it, it will remain stable. A new starter can take a few months to develop a stable population of yeast and LAB. If you are feeding a starter you do NOT use pineapple juice. You only use pineapple juice for the first mixing and growth stage of a new starter to acidify the mix and suppress opportunistic bacteria such as leuconostoc which can grow in less acid conditions.

 

loydb's picture
loydb

I've been using the KA New England starter for about 6 months now. I completely ditched my local-grown starter culture, the KA has (in my opinion) better flavor, and is *much* more sour. I also have the Russian whole wheat culture from sourdo.com. It is the best-rising I've found for 100% whole wheat recipes.

 

proth5's picture
proth5

What is the nature of the unhappiness with your starter?  Because (and see other thread on this topic) it is how you care for the culture on an ongoing basis that will determine the nature of your starter.  You can obtain a small amount of starter from King Arthur, but your care and feeding of it will determine its quality on an ongoing basis.

You mention "the Poolish concept" and I don't mean to be a prig about this, but when folks who try hard to use standard terms talk about a "poolish" they are talking about something made one time with commercial yeast.  All of it is incorporated in the bread to be baked, and a new one is made up for the next batch of dough. 

So I'm thinking that you want to bake four loaves of bread and you have a formula for two, and that you want to use sourdough (or levain) as your pre ferment (and aren't using a poolish).

At it's simplest, you would make a levain that uses twice as much flour, twice as much water, and potentially twice as much seed from your chef. 

You're wondering, I guess, that if you bought a starter (or chef) from King Arthur - would there be enough to make four loaves.

One  possible answer is that it takes only a very small amout of chef to leaven a lot of levain.  For example, I brought a mere 2 ounces of my starter with me on some recent travels and within 12 hours had more than enough levain to raise way more than 4 loaves.  That's why I said "potentially" twice as much seed from your chef - it is a matter of time. 0.5 oz of seed  can cause 5 oz or more of flour to double quite nicely - it just needs time and warmth.  So yes, you could buy the starter use it to bake four loaves and then buy it again.  I'm sure the quantity sent you would be sufficient.

However, those "commercial" starters that King Arthur sells are meant to be used as a seed to kick start your chef.  No waiting a couple of weeks to let it mature - just feed it and you will have a mature chef in 12-24 hours.  They are not meant to be used to bake a batch of bread and then to be purchased again.

Which brings us back around to the nature of your unhappiness with your current (or late) starter - because it is the care you give it that will determine its quality.

Hope this helps.

PhilipG's picture
PhilipG

This is such a neat place for great ideas. My concern was basically how much starter to use to get things going. I may try the one from KA. The one I started from scratch here just didn't have any soul to it. I have been baking with the poolish formula in Bread Alone for about 17 years in the following manner:

1. mix up poolish in the desired quantity( x  times basic amount for more loaves)

2. let the poolish ripen four about six hours at room temp

3.mix up dough and let proof for maybe an hour then into the fridge over night, usually 12 hours or more

4. let it warm a bit  in the AM and then into baskets and a final rise to nearly double and bake. Has produced a very workman like loaf for past 17 years. I have experimented with many other types of bread, keeping the basic routine three times a week for family and friends.

SO, I think I need a stater from somewhere to inject a bit of difference into my bread. I may just be looking for something more challenging than my usual. Thanks to everyone for the comments. PG

 

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

There is an inconsistency in what you describe that leads me to believe that you have a basic misunderstanding about sourdough, but I don't know what it is. Need to understand what you are doing so that I can figure out how to fix it.

How do you make your poolish?

If you were given 100g of starter could you feed it with flour and water to grow it into 1000g? Would you do it in one stage? Two stages? Three stages? More?

How much starter to you plan to use to make a batch of dough?

How much starter do you want to reserve and feed to make the next batch?

How long will it be between batches for you?  A day?  Two days? A week?  A month?

 

PhilipG's picture
PhilipG

Poolish is : 1 cup water, 11/2 cup KA bread flour, 1 tsp of Red Star Instant Active Dry Yeast/ mix and let set up for approx six hours, full and bubbly. This makes enough to add all of it to: 33/4lb. of flour, four cups of water, 1 tsp of yeast, 2 table spoons of fine sea salt. That mix is what I let set for an hour and then in to the fridge for 12 hours.

I am not sure enough of the terms to know about the correct way to identify what I want. maybe not a "sourdough" as much as pain du levain. But the starter I grew here was active  and viable, just not particularly interesting.

 

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Your poolish is OK, but probably has too much yeast and doesn't sit long enough to develop a decent flavor (IMHO).

What was your method of refreshing your starter (the one you didn't like)? How much flour and how much water and how much starter, and how often?

How long had you been feeding your starter before you decided that you didn't like it?

 

Ambimom's picture
Ambimom

I tried to make my own starter too and it just didn't get going so I purchased one from King Arthur. They provide all the instructions on how to get it going and how to expand it. That was my first successful attempt at sourdough bread.

It will take a couple or three days but after that you can make as much starter as you need for 4 loaves. I typically make 2 loaves every 10 days. I keep the starter in the refrigerator until I am ready to bake. Because it is kept in the refrigerator, I feed it once every 10 days. I also use it to make waffles, pancakes and sometimes muffins.

I only use all-purpose flour and water in my starter.

PhilipG's picture
PhilipG

Thank you Ambimom. Yours was the answer I was looking for. Kind of like asking what time it was and everyone stated telling me how to build a clock! Seriously I appreciate the level of expertise here, but it can be a bit overwhelming! I am going to order the starter and see what happens. Thanks again.

noonesperfect's picture
noonesperfect

Take a look at the instructions posted on the KA site for maintaining the starter - they are complete with photos for every stage of the process, so at least you will know what you are getting into.

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/tips/sourdough-starter.html

One thing to keep in mind about the amount of starter it takes for a recipe - no matter how little you use, you will eventually get enough yeast activity to leaven the dough - it just takes longer since you are starting with fewer yeast cells.  Think of your final dough as just one more refreshment of the starter.  The more starter you use, the faster the initial rise, but if you use large amounts of starter you also get other changes to the dough and the bread that you might not want.  A little goes a long way.

 

brad

placebo's picture
placebo

To be fair, your original question revealed a flawed understanding of what a starter is and how to use it, and that's what people here recognized needed to be addressed before you could truly understand answers to your questions.