The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

unfed sourdough starter question

  • Pin It
christinepi's picture
christinepi

unfed sourdough starter question

When a recipe asks for unfed starter, do I keep the starter that I set aside to be used 12 hours later in the fridge or can it sit out on the counter? And if it should go in the fridge, should I take it out a while before using so it can come to room temp?

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

I'm a little uncertain as to how to interpret the first half of your question. What it sounds like you're saying is, "I am going to take some already unfed starter, leave it for 12 hours, and then do things with it. Where should I keep it during the 12 hour period?"

Does this sound like what you meant, or have I misinterpreted?

If that is what you meant, then there's no reason to make a hungry starter sit around for another 12 hours. As soon as you have some starter that needs feeding, you can use it for your recipe, and there's no need to store it anywhere.

If instead, your question is, "I have some unfed starter that I need to do a thing to and then it will need 12 hours to do its thing, where should I keep it during that time?" then the counter is probably fine, unless your starter is particularly vigorous.

christinepi's picture
christinepi

Thanks for catching that... I need some unfed starter in the evening, so I'll just feed part of the starter as per usual and use some of the unfed portion right away in the preferment.

No idea what I was thinking.

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

Since I get the impression you're working from a recipe on a website and not from the original book, Hamelman's recipe calls for the liquid levain (125% hydration) to sit  in a 70F room for about 8 hours. Since it sounds like your kitchen runs a bit cool, you can either put it in your warming box, or keep in on the counter if you anticipate needing more than 8 hours yourself.

BurntMyFingers's picture
BurntMyFingers

... and why/how you would use it. Is the recipe describing ripe starter, vs starter that has just been fed and needs to sit around and process the fresh flour before you can use it? If so, strange choice of words. Like describing someone who just got up from a banquet as "unhungry". What website is the source of this recipe... surely not KAF?

christinepi's picture
christinepi

the Vermont sourdough recipe. You use unfed starter to create the "overnight starter", with which you then create the actual dough in the morning. It's essentially starter that was fed last in the morning, but instead of feeding it again in the evening, you just use it as is.

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

Can you post a link to the version of the recipe you're looking at? I want to double check it against the version in the book.

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

It's only very slightly different from the original. They use 89% white and 11 % rye, instead of 90% and 10%. No biggie.

Hamelman uses a mature liquid levain (125% hydro) culture for the preferment, but adapting it to use up discard starter that 100% hydration is probably better for you. He also gives a slightly longer window for how long the preferement can sit; 12 - 16 hours (at 70F) instead of 12 - 14 hours.

He also gives a slightly larger window of time for the autolyse; 20 - 60 minutes instead of 30.

Perhaps the largest difference is this: the formula you found only gives you one option for the final proof: a few hours at room temp. Hamelman states that you can do 2 - 2 1/2 hours at 76F, but seems to express some preference for doing a retarded proof instead. This could be either 8 hours at 50F (I don't know of any space I have that is this temperature consistently), or 18 hours at 42F - which is fridge temp. 

I made a similar loaf recently and opted for the low and slow final rise. Because my fridge is perhaps a little cooler than it should be, I found my loaf to still be a little underproofed and wished I had given it more time at room temp before going in the oven.

BurntMyFingers's picture
BurntMyFingers

The recipes look very different to me... Hamelman starts with 60% starter vs 100%, the overall dough has different hydration, etc etc. Also he refers to his "unfed" starter as "mature" starter which makes (more) sense to me.

The most important difference is that Hamelman's recipe is very straightforward and follows the format he uses throughout the book. I would definitely recommend you buy this book and make your next Vermont Sourdough with this recipe. Also, having read some of your other posts on trouble with your starter, maybe you want to try making a new one from scratch that's just flour and water and wild yeast. (Just a thought. If your current starter has recovered that is good news but it still has a lot of additives like beer and vinegar, yes?)

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

Are we looking at the same thing? I'm looking at Vermont Sourdough on p.153. It has:

  • 65% overall hydration
  • 1 ounce mature culture (liquid, 125% hydration) to start the build, which is 20% of the flour weight of the build
  • amount of build added is 67.5% of total flour weight

For comparison, the recipe on the website has:

  • 65.5% overall hydration
  • a build that uses a 100% hydration culture, but still yields 122.3% hydration starter
  • amount of build added is 34.05% of total flour weight

I'll admit, I completely forgot to compare the amount of build when doing a quick analysis earlier; that part is very different, but the other differences do not strike me as great enough to be concerned.

This discussion is helping me piece together some other thoughts, though, so thanks for bringing it up.

Still curious about the formula you're looking at. Do we have different editions? I seem to have the first (2004) one.

BurntMyFingers's picture
BurntMyFingers

but I have the old one too. Just checked and the recipes in the two editions are identical and you're right, both begin with a 100% starter. I have his starter at 60% which I picked up in one of his classes (we were making miche as I recall) but I see that the majority of his recipes in the levain chapter have the starter at 100%. So, I've just learned something. And will give this recipe a try!

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

It's a little more liquidy that the usual 100%. Look around p.358, 359. It's the same as the liquid levain he coaches you through later in the book; I have one in my fridge.

I'm curious about how the editions compare. Care to share your thoughts/impressions? If they seem significant I may need to get a copy of the newer one.

BurntMyFingers's picture
BurntMyFingers

http://www.amazon.com/review/R3H1A17GO82MPU/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1118132718&nodeID=283155&store=books It's been awhile since I wrote this but I did a thorough comparison at the time. There are 30 new recipes which are worth the price of the book on their own, in my opinion, and he has made subtle changes in some of the recipes that used higher-gluten flours. Read the review since I don't trust my own memory... thanks!

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

That was far more thorough than I expected, thanks. :)

I...I think I need to put this on my list now...

BurntMyFingers's picture
BurntMyFingers

Here's the result. I added about 60 g extra water but it's still a bit low hydration for baguettes, hence the slightly tight crumb. Taste was good but not super sour. Best of all, now I've got some Hamelman 100% liquid starter I can use for future experiments.

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

Looks like your scores opened nicely and you got some good color.

Based on my numbers, 60 g more water should've boosted the hydration up to about 71%, which sounds fine for baguettes to me. What hydration do you usually use for them?

BurntMyFingers's picture
BurntMyFingers

I typically go 72% with an APF baguette, but would kick it up for this recipe because rye is so thirsty. It definitely could have absorbed more water and still have been manageable, probably up to 75%.

Anyway, I was happy with this bake and so were my neighbors!

mixinator's picture
mixinator

This is similar to the way I manage my starter and it works well. The unfed starter is the inoculum for the new starter. You leave the new starter at room temperature for those 12 hours. If you have more starter than you need for the bake and wind up with some left over, you can use it as the inoculum next time you bake, either adding it back to the old unfed starter or discarding the old starter. It doesn't much matter and depends on the quantity you have left over.