The Fresh Loaf

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how can I tell...

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MoonshineSG's picture
MoonshineSG

how can I tell...

For the past few weeks I keep my starter (goldrush) at 16C (60.8F) and feed it once a day in the evenings around 10pm. I bake with it when it doubles or slightly more (12-14 hours). I collect the discarded parts and those will develop a layer of liquid on top in another day or two... This week I skiped one feed and the starter continued to raise. I gave a stir once in a while when I'd notice it reached too close to the upper limit of the jar. It kept growing... Overnight it overflow then started to deflate. 

My question is: How can I know if my starter is ready to be used ? Or more speciffically, how do I know when is the best way to use it ? 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

it needed the time to peak.  It sounds like a once a day feed at 16°C is too often.  Time the starter to when it peaks.  As it peaks the dome will get flatter and it may look at if it's got a dimple in the middle, then if not stirred, it will soon fall on itself (we are talking wheat starter, right?)   There is a lot of discussion when to use it.  Just before it peaks, as it peaks, or just after it peaks.  I would say, use it just before or as it peaks.  Double or not is not an indication of when to use.  Strong starters can quadruple before peaking.  A lot depends on the feed ratio.  If your starter routinely peaks at say 30 hours.  Then you have to start preparing for use 30 hours beforehand for maximum lift.  

If you want to stay on a 24 hour feeding schedule, then try feeding it less flour so it peaks sooner.

wally's picture
wally

In addition to Mini's on target comments, I'd add the following:

1- Starters are very individualistic, and (shock!) their personalities may reflect that of their owners.  Short story: starters will adapt to your feeding schedule (as long as you don't starve them and keep it consistent).

2- My two starters (one rye, one wheat) live in the fridge and get fed twice a week if I'm not using them.  After 4 years they seem to have adapted (see above) and in my case, they'll typically come to full ripeness after only about 6-8 hrs.  Which leads to #3:

3-Look for them to have doubled, and if in doubt (which is easy with rye where you want to see a dome), wing it.  You can always add a very, very small portion of yeast to supplement the starter in the final mix as a security measure.  It's NOT cheating!

4-What #1,2 and 3 really amount to, is that you and your starter are in a RELATIONSHIP.  Stick with it and in time you'll discover the exact moment it's ready to be used.  Between now and then, become good friends.

Larry

MoonshineSG's picture
MoonshineSG

I decided to do a test. I time laps recorded the growing of my starter.  This time I allowed it to grow at room temperature, which in my context is 27-30C. The experiment started at 8.30pm and ended around 2.30pm next day (a total of 18 hours).  Notice that around 1 hour mark the temperature and humidity jump up. Thats when I switched off the airconditioning. The clock does not indicate the time of the day, but the duration of the experiment.

From what I can tell the pick of my starter is from 5 1/2 hours to 6 1/2 hours. After that is starts to deflate and remains at a constant level for a long while.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HyIn1XjN40

 

 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

between 5 and 6 hours after feeding it.   Air conditioning at 16°C?  Why not try timing a rise at 23°C?  

I have no explanation why your one feeding rose over the edge of the jar unless it had a dry surface skin keeping gas from escaping until it reached the edge expanding sideways over the edge.  You could use less starter to inoculate the new flour & water giving you a longer rise especially in summer they can go thru food fast.  Clear liquid on top means two things, either there is little activity and the flour and water have separated or (big or)  the yeast has used up the food in fermentation and alcohol is floating on top, a sign that it is starving for food.

So when to use it?  Depends on the temperature but usually as it peaks or for more flavor just before it deflates.  I tend to stir my starter down and go by the aroma that comes off the starter as to when I use it.   Play around some more using the same recipe and make your own comparisons.