The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Am I doing it right?

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yamum360's picture
yamum360

Am I doing it right?

So I've recently started a sourdough starter, and it's just over a month old now, but I have a few questions for those of you with more experience. I started it with plain wholemeal flour, it was the middle of winter (not ideal for starting a starter, I know) but since I live in a tropical climate, it wasn't really winter, my kitchen sits at around 20C. 100g each of flour and water, left in an open jar on the kitchen counter until it started bubbling, I then added another 100g each of flour and water, leaving it until it was nice and bubbly again. At this point I discarded half and added 50g each of flour and water, which has been my standard for every feeding since, it was a bit slow to take off (I won't bore you with the details) but now it's doing fine, I continued feeding it with wholemeal for about 2 weeks (twice a day, as always) discarding half at each feeding. After the two weeks I simultaneously started, slowly making the transition to white unbleached bakers flour, and keeping half in another jar in the fridge. At this point it did slow a little, but is still quite alive, it never seems to quite double in size after a feeding though.

Now as far as I know, I've done everything right up to this point (please let me know if I haven't) I've never missed more than one feeding at a time, and it's always bounced back very well.

Now for my questions :)

I've begun slowly transitioning my feed to a mix of wholemeal, rye, and white flour, as my breads are often a mix of any of these 3, is this ok?

the one time I've actually used the starter I've been keeping in the fridge, I used it straight from the fridge, which I now know is wrong, as the process of making the dough, letting it rise, knocking back and letting it rise again took almost 24 hours, if not longer! (delicious results, but a much denser bread than I was expecting). How exactly should I be using the starter from the fridge?

It's been suggested by a chef I work with (who has limited knowledge of bread baking, in fact I seem to know more than him about some things) that I mush a few red grapes up and drop them into my starter, because the white stuff on the skin is the kind of yeast I want for a sourdough starter (alternatively, potato skins) and that these are the kinds of yeast that feed well on sugar (I've heard that a pinch of sugar will get your starter working faster). How much of this is true?

phaz's picture
phaz

 from the fridge,warm to room temp, and give a feeding.  you'll want to use it when it reaches its peak, the time of the highest rise.  you always want to use it at its peak for best results.  oh,  no real need to knock down a sourdough bread.  as you noticed, natural yeast take a lot longer to act compared to commercial yeast,  so once you start getting bubbly dough,  you don't want to waste those bubbles.  with temps in the low 80s, 8 hr rising time is about right for my starter. a little cooler and the time goes up, all normal. mixing flours shouldn't be a problem. but I would expect things to slow till the starter gets used to a new flour. consistent food type will give more consistent results, but you should have no trouble with a mix, just keep the ratios of flour kind of consistent. you'll have some breathing room. good luck, and happy baking!

grandmamac's picture
grandmamac

I'm sure you'll get advice from other with more experience than me. I know some people keep two starters in their fridge, depending on which flour they are going to bake with - so you could have a white one and a wholegrain one. I'm only baking white loaves just now.

Are you keeping starter from every feed in the fridge to build up enough for a levain to bake? I keep a small amount of starter in the fridge, take it out and build it over two or three feeds until I have enough to bake with but I only bake one loaf a week. There's enough left over from the levain to go back in the fridge for next week.

My starter become very active when it's warmed up and fed. I'm sure it's better to use it when it's very active unless you are going to prove over a very long time. Lots of people recommend using an active levain. There are lots of different ways to make sourdough and I've settled for one I'm happy with.

Dan Lepard uses raisins to kick-start his starter in 'The Handmade Loaf' and I've tried that (organic raisins) but not grapes. 

Ford's picture
Ford

There is no need, in fact it is undesirable, to add a different yeast (e.g. grape skins, raisins) than you obtained from the flour itself.  There, also, is no need to feed with sugar, though that will probably not hurt.

Keep going.  You are doing just fine.  It takes a while for the starter to mature.  Patience is the key.

Ford