The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

To discard or not?

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Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

To discard or not?

A question that came up the other day. I try not to discard any starter. I keep just small amounts in the fridge. I bake a couple of times a week. I build the small amount I keep into enough for my recipe plus a small amount to go back in the fridge.

Another friend who bakes was showing a friend who works as a chef in a Michelin starred restaurant her starter, he sniffed it and asked her if she ever discarded any, telling her she should discard some regularly.

If I am feeding my starter the same ratio of fresh ingredients to starter, what difference does it make whether I discard some or not?  Should I be discarding some each time I feed it?

adri's picture
adri

If you always feed the same ratio, usually there is no need to discard anything.

If you do not bake for a while or irregularly and do not discard any and always just feed the same amount of flour and water, the starter will starve and start to smell like acetone. It also might loose its activity.
I always feed at least twice as much flour and twice as much water as the starter weights.
Without discarding this would be a perfect excample exponential growth.
10g of starter would get 50g after one feeding, 250g after the second, 1.25kg after the third... and 3906.25kg after just 8 feedings (less than 2 month on weekly feedings).
But: Taking away some part to create a sponge or directly bake with it is a kind of discarding starter.

Viele Grüße
Adrian

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

I've been doing the same method that you do. I keep 1.2 oz(34 grams) of starter. I bake once or twice a week. Sometimes even more(when I get my uncontrollable urges for pizza), and sometimes much less(if I finally get to my source for I.D.Y.).

Basically, if you think about it, we do discard. We just feed and bake with the discard, which is identical in every way to the starter.

I've been doing this for going on 4 years. I suspect a starter that is always fed and refrigerated is just going to be different in character than a restaurant starter that is probably maintained year round at room temperature, fed with their customary flours, in their customary environment...

All that said, I am always so pleased with the way it raises, but I don't think I could distinguish the taste from commercial yeast(which I have not had on hand, or used, for almost 2 years). I maintain an all white flour starter.

 

adri's picture
adri

White flour starters tend to be very mild in taste. But I still believe you could taste a difference.
I now just maintain a 100% rye starter and if needed I seed a new wheat starter with the rye one.

A view weeks ago to determine which baguettes to bake for the new years eve party (official reason; it was much more couriosity), I made a batch of sourdough baguettes and one with yeast (0.35% yeast, long cool fermentation). On blind testing my friends were not able to distinguish which was yeast an which sourdough but all liked the sourdough better.
It was not double-blind and I am absolutely biased towards sourdough ;)

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

I seem to have ended up with four starters on the go at the minute, partly because if I mix a new one I like to keep it in case  I want it again. I think it would be better to cut down to two, the white and the rye. I agree the white one seems to be much milder, I also like it as although it takes longer to peak than rye, it seems to stay at its peak for a long, long time. However, the rye is great when I want a starter to get going quickly. Or as quickly as things can in the world of sourdough!

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Of course! You are both absolutely right, I had not thought of it that way. We do indeed bake with the discard. I suspect my friend both bakes and feeds less often and so her starter is more prone to getting hooch and smelling more of acetone. I never get hooch and I can often see that I could bake with my starter right from the fridge as it is all lovely and spongey. I would hate to discard any of it when it is lovely and lively. Thank you.

hanseata's picture
hanseata

I bake a lot, and feed as much as I will use within a reasonable time. I hate the idea of trashing perfectly good starter, and I wonder why some bakers keep large starters, only to discard most of it.

Karin

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Karin, I have been working my way through your beautiful blog. You have so many things on there that I would like to try and some lovely baking.

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Now I'm all smiles, Bakingmadtoo. And, please, let me know if you try something out.

Happy Baking,

Karin

 

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

I shall be sure to let you know and send a picture too. If I can finally pick my home grown rhubarb this spring (I was so good and didn't pick a single stalk last year as it was its first year and you shouldn't!), I shall be trying some of your rhubarb recipes which look gorgeous and there is a very pretty apple cake I would like to try, plus some of the breads. I have just ordered The Weekend Baker too after reading some of your blog posts!  Feeling quite desperate for a day in the kitchen now!

hanseata's picture
hanseata

ran out of juice during the holidays, and I couldn't bake, I suffered from severe withdrawal symptoms, too.

The "Weekend Baker" is really worth the money, I liked almost everything I made from it.

Take care!

Karin

 

Xenophon's picture
Xenophon

usually bake once or twice/week, just take out a part, replenish the rest with fresh rye flour and water, leave it out to rise, then back into the fridge it goes.  Having said that, I'm not at home now and it'll have been siting in my fridge at 4 centigrade for that period, hopefully it'll spring back.  Should work as I once kept a small quantity in a jar in my fridge for 9 weeks as an experiment, then took it out and fed it.  It took 7 hours but came back and after that all was well again.  Pretty resilient.

Heath's picture
Heath

My routine is really easy and I have no discard any more.

I keep a small amount of starter in the fridge (no more than 50 g).  When I bake, I use all of it to make a levain, and when the levain is ready I take out about a tablespoon of it, feed it and put in the fridge as the starter for the next bake.  I keep the starter in the fridge very stiff, like a dough, and I don't even bother to refresh it before baking.

I've been maintaining my starter this way for months now and it's working fine so far.  In fact, it's performing better than when I kept a 100% hydration starter that I'd feed and discard regularly.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

I found that discarding was a basic waste of time, flour and water. I use a modified "travail sur trois levains" [three-leavens work] where the original "dough from yesterday" is swapped for starter that's been kept under refrigeration for less than a week. The levain is built in a succession of three, doubling the dough each time.

Now for the disclaimer part - I do discard if the refrigerated starter has gone too long and is too acidic. This is what I term a "starter rescue" and follows the norm of 50 grams starter to 100 grams of flour and water each.

As usual it requires a bit of applied common sense...,

Wild-Yeast 

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

It is good to hear that those who know far more than me do not feel the need to keep discarding. I think I shall make it my rule that if it smells sweet I will just build and bake. If for some reason I should let it go a long time and it smells of acetone I will discard a bit.

( wild-yeast I am still getting my best results by far with your Norwich Sourdough recipe, that is so good. It is the only recipe that doesn't spread when I bake. )

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

For some reason, I had come to a conclusion that is not the same "Wild Yeast"(of the Norwich fame).

Now you have me wondering again.

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Well, Mr Frost you could well be right and I could be wrong. I thought the avatar was the same as the wild yeast one. But I am easily confused!

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Just to set your minds at ease I am not the other Wild-Yeast [Susan is her name I believe]..., 

Wild-Yeast

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Ah! Mystery solved. Thank you another wild yeast!

chris319's picture
chris319

I'm in the no-discard camp and it works perfectly well for me.

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

There seem to be more in favour of not discarding. It seems we are a frugal bunch.

placebo's picture
placebo

The only purpose for discarding is to keep the amount of starter manageable. If the way you maintain and use your starter results in nothing extra left over, there's no reason to discard any just for the sake of discarding.

I'd guess your friend's starter smelled off due to the way she maintained it. Feeding a starter not only supplies food for the microorganisms, it also restores balance to the starter. A starter that's not maintained properly can become overly acidic, and the resulting bread will have a nasty, overly sour taste to it. Perhaps when the chef smelled your friend's starter, he sensed it was too acidic and therefore suggested she discard some when feeding to try get it back to normal.

chris319's picture
chris319

I agree ...

The only purpose for discarding is to keep the amount of starter manageable. If the way you maintain and use your starter results in nothing extra left over, there's no reason to discard any just for the sake of discarding.

I only discard starter that overflows its container, and it does happen from time to time.

I don't "feed" my starter in the traditional sense, I just replenish it when I use some. I don't have a problem with my bread being too sour; if anything I wouldn't mind it being a little more sour.

Antilope's picture
Antilope

When I make French bread, I use extra sourdough starter as Old dough (pâte fermentée) to add flavor. It doesn't add a sour taste due to the short rise (developing sour requires long rise in the fridge). This works out great, because I don't want the French bread to be sour.
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I use about 200gm of starter with 500gm of flour.