The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Too much starter

Mydove's picture

Too much starter

Hi I am just starting to make a culture Nancy Silverton style.  I am at the point where I feed it three times a day.

What the heck do you do with all the rest of the culture and starter.  We are starting a bakery in a few weeks and I'm not sure how much starter to use to make say ten loaves to start.  However, I think I'll have every pan and bowl I own filled with started by then.



Edthebread's picture

This is a subject that has come up several times on TFL, so if you do a search you will find lots of information.  To summarize it for you, here are some popular options:

Start with a very small amount when you begin feeding, so you end up using almost all in your dough, leaving a little to store in the refrigerator for the next batch.  This is my favored approach, and most economical.

Use the excess to make pancake or waffle batter.

Make English Muffins with the starter - again there are some excellent recipes on this site.  I particularly like JMonkey's whole wheat sourdough English muffins.

Throw away the excess, or, better yet, put in the compost.  Not my preferred option, but if you have loads of the stuff if may be necessary.

cranbo's picture

Sharon, maintain only the starter you need. 

For example, if you need starter for 10 loaves, and your formula calls for 200g of starter per loaf, then you'll need 2kg of starter. You will need to figure out how much starter is called for in your recipe per loaf. This typically ranges anywhere from 20-80% of the flour weight, although it can be even higher. With higher percentages you run the risk that if your starter is overripe then your resulting bread won't turn out as well. 

If you're baking 10 loaves every day, then you'll need at least 2kg starter every day (you'll need extra because you need to save some to refresh the starter). 

If you're not baking 10 loaves every day, then just "build" your starter 1-2 days before you plan to bake. In this way, you can keep anywhere from 100-200g of starter and then just build it to what you need. 

FlourChild's picture

Silverton's starter uses large quantities because fermentation progresses more favorably in larger batches.  So for creating a starter, large batches can be helpful.  It's important to throw away all the excess starter dough during the "creating a starter" phase because it may contain bad microbes.  Once the starter is up and running and there's a stable culture of favorable microbes, then you can reduce the quantity to fit your production schedule, as described above.  Any excess starter can be used, as described above, or tossed.

placebo's picture

Nancy Silverton's approach uses a tremendous amount of flour and generates a lot of excess. A lot of us here, in contrast, made starters using a few tablespoons of flour at the start. In her book, Silverton suggest if you don't want to maintain so much starter, you can cut the quantities in half. In any case, if you're not using the excess in other recipes, you need to discard it, either by dumping it in the trash or onto the compost heap.

Since you're planning to start a bakery in a few weeks, I wouldn't bother with refrigerating the starter. Just keep it at room temperature and feed it according to schedule. It can take a while for the culture to stabilize, and throwing it into the fridge is going to impede this process. Moreover, you ideally want to keep a starter at room temperature if you can. Putting it in the fridge causes a starter to decline. The reason home bakers refrigerate their starters is simply because they don't bake often enough so feeding the starter multiple times a day is very wasteful. It's a tradeoff between saving resources and the health of the culture. Since you're starting a bakery, you shouldn't have that problem.

Mydove's picture

Thank you so much for responding to my question.  I did everything you all said and did great.

I composted some, I got over my fear of throwing it out.  I made some English muffins and chiabatta bread.  I also made two boules.  They were de-lish.  and, I'm not a big fan sourdough bread.

Thank you everyone, your advise really helped.