The Fresh Loaf

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Question about starter in La Brea book

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varda's picture
varda

Question about starter in La Brea book

Hi,   I just got Nancy Silverton's La Brea book.   I'm a bit confused about the white starter.   She builds it at 133% hydration, but I can't quite understand whether she is saying to  maintain it at 133%.   Anyone know?   Thanks.  -Varda

suave's picture
suave

145%

varda's picture
varda

Page number?  I can't find 145% anywhere.   I'm looking at pages 36-37.   On page 36 she has feedings of 2 lb water, 1b 6oz flour which is 133%.   Then on page 37 the section on maintaining the starter is strangely silent on the question of how much.  She does say "match the starter with flour and water" which could mean a lot of things.  

suave's picture
suave

 which is 133%

It really isn't

varda's picture
varda

indeed.   oops.   thanks.

FueledByCoffee's picture
FueledByCoffee

At that level of hydration it doesn't matter a whole lot whether it is at 130 or 140.  If you're worried about the hydration in your final dough just hydrate till it feels right to you.  Water is always a variable...I don't know a whole lot about this book or if what I'm about to say is true when the book was published but LaBrea runs on a series of fermentation tanks that hold and pump a liquid sour down their lines (and probably directly into their mixers).  Obviously LaBrea has enjoyed a lot of growth over the past 15 years so I'm not sure if that is the case when the book was published...but a highly hydrated sour like that is easier for fermentation tanks generally speaking.

varda's picture
varda

Yes, I am worried about the total hydration.  And also different hydration starters create different effects, rather than just making up the difference in the final dough.   The problem with "hydrate till it feels right to you" is that I want to try their approach instead of just reverting to what I do as a matter of course, which might end up with a completely different bread.  But your point about possible motivation for using such a high hydration starter is well taken.   And interesting.   I didn't know there was such a thing as a series of fermentation tanks with pumps.   Cool.  Thanks.  -Varda 

suave's picture
suave

You are talking about a different La Brea.  The original one was in LA, a purely artisanal bakery founded and run by Nancy Silverton.  She sold the bakery (for $6mln, later to be stolen by Bernie Madoff) and the new owners put together the current plant in New Jersey which makes parbaked bread now sold in supermarkets all over the nation.

FueledByCoffee's picture
FueledByCoffee

Yeah, different levels of hydration in starter will create different affects, but if you put a bread created with a 120% hydration next to a 130% (all else things being equal, water adjusted for final dough) my educated guess is that you couldn't tell the difference at all.  There are factors other than hydration, such as refreshment rate, the temperature that it is held at and for how long, the type of flour used to feed etc. that will create differences as well.  The problem with just following the recipe is that your flour is no doubt different as well as the environment.  I traveled to Las Vegas not too long ago to compete in a bread competition and had to add a fairly large amount of water to a recipe I had run over and over again because the environment and air was so different...and flour is a big one, damaged starch absorbs a whole lot more water and your flour almost undoubtedly is different from what LaBrea uses...That being said, it just takes time to figure out where your hydration should be for different breads...

oh, and here is an example of a sourdough tank system: http://www.hbtechnikusa.com/prod13_sourdough.html 

it basically looks like beer brewing tanks.  There are of course many different set ups for these type of systems that are custom built to fit the needs of the bakeries they are being put in to :)

varda's picture
varda

I might as well start with the actual hydration the author is recommending - arithmetic notwithstanding.    Thanks for the link.   Just curious if good bread comes out at the other end.   -Varda

FueledByCoffee's picture
FueledByCoffee

Sure, good bread certainly can come out the other end.  The cultures mixed in these tanks are often better than what you have at home because their schedule goes uninterrupted...automated feedings, adjustable temperature etc.   I know of artisan hands on bakeries that use fermentation tanks for their sourdough...it's not only big industrial plants using these types of systems...just a matter of scale...

Of course, whether or not you can produce good "artisan" bread industrially is a whole different issue and a debate I really don't want to get in to.