The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Stiff Starters

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shoshanna673's picture
shoshanna673

Stiff Starters

I am looking forward to trying Petra's beautiful Rustic Loaf which is featured on the home page.  All my starters are kept at 100% hydration and in the frig.  I am in the process of converting a small portion of my WW starter to 50% hydration (only on 1st build at this stage).  It is so different to what I am used to.  It is like a small piece of dough which I sort of kneaded into a ball.  Is this what I should be doing?  It has expanded overnight  (but seems to be a very solid ball) and is now ready for build 2.  How to incorporate the flour and water for the next build and also into the final dough?

I would like to understand the difference (other than the obvious hydration one) in the performance of stiff starters?  I have read many posters extolling the virtues of stiff starters but do not understand the benefits.  Also, are they easier to maintain and care for?   

Hope someone can jump in and enlighten me.

Sondra

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

or days to convert to a stiff starter so don't rush the starter.  If it is still quite stiff, let it ferment longer.  When ripe it will be rather soft so my suggestion is to wait until it is soft and smells fermented before using or feeding it.  

Making a starter with a lower hydration will slow it down that one needs to feed less often but the yeast numbers go up in comparison.   Once used to it, It is easier to maintain a firm starter in warmer weather and yes, it is like  a stiff dough and then later softens as it ferments.  

You may want to edit and change the spelling to "fridge" in the original post.  

shoshanna673's picture
shoshanna673

Hi MiniOven, and thanks for your response. I am taking the conversion slowly, have just done a 2nd build. The previous build had expanded and was looking very gassy, so I guess I am on my way.  Just added more water and flour (to 50% hydration).  It is winter here and night time temps are only about 5degC and daytime about 13degC.  Nothing moves fast. Will probably do another build tomorrow to make sure it is strong enough.  Will then try Petra's Rustic Loaf and see what happens.  Bread baking is an intriguing mystery.  By the way, I'm in Australia, and our abbreviation is either frig or fridge.  I will use your suggestion in future posts so as not to confuse anybody. Ah, the vagaries of language in different nations!  It's all good fun.

Again, thanks for your help and considerable knowledge.

Sondra

PetraR's picture
PetraR

When you say 2nd build, what do you mean with those builds, do  you mean feedings or do you start to reduce the hydration slowy?

I just went straight ahead and gone to feed 200g Starter with 200g Flour and 100g Water.

 

PetraR's picture
PetraR

Oh please let me know how you liked the rustic loaf:)

 

Yes, a stiff Starter is much easier to maintain and less messy during feeding.

I do keep mine now in the fridge as it can be used straight from the fridge without feeding up to 3 times before use.

I just pull it out, let it finish to rise and once the Dome collapses on itself I can use it , just like that.

it will have a thin skin on top , I do remove it.

I noticed that my loafs have a better oven spring and the crumb will open a bit better * from what I could observe *

Also, when I turn my dough out of the banneton for slashing, my dough does not start to spread, it will hold it's shape.

I used part of my 100% hydration Starter to convert to a 50% hydration Starter and I fed it about 3 times to have it as it should be.

The Starter will be like a bread dough which softens while it ripens.

I keep mine in a tall and narrow plastic container  that can hold 1500g / 1.5 l and I put plastic wrap on top of it which I secure with a rubber band before I put it in the fridge.

If I would keep my Starter on the kitchen counter I make a few little holes in the plastic wrap.

 

shoshanna673's picture
shoshanna673

Hi Petra

Firstly, congrats on your recent beautiful bakes!  You have certainly powered ahead from your first posts.  Re my starter, I used a little of my discard to build up for the 50% starter.   I will make sure it is up and running and strong before I attempt to bake with it.  I am trying to figure how to time the making of this loaf.  I am not a good sleeper, BUT a 3am start is not an option, particularly mid winter!!  No central heating here downunder.  Will try to figure if I can cold retard at some stage.  

Will post results (if they are successful).  Thank you for the extra info you have posted.  It all helps.

Good luck with your move and enjoy your new range cooker.  No such things here, but I lived in London for a couple of years many many years go so know how good they are.

Sondra

 

PetraR's picture
PetraR

Thank you for  your kind words:)

Now I understand, you started with a little and build up until you have the right amount:)

I had a dumb moment * I have a few of them lol *

I only started the bread at 3 am as I could not at all Sleep.

I usually start at 8pm or 9pm so that I can carry on the next morning at 8am or 9am to start the shaping the proofing and have a nice loaf by 1pm:)

I have one now that goes in the Oven in 40 minutes * drooling * , we eat that with a bowl of Goulash Soup.

My Mother in law lived in Greenwich for years so we where down there a lot and went in to London quite frequently, not so much since she lives on the Isle of Wight as we do.

My fav. place was Covent Garden. 

Where about do you live now?

Petra

shoshanna673's picture
shoshanna673

Hi Petra.  I am still grappling with the 50% starter!  I have named it 'the beast'. Had it going but then I came down with a seasonal virus and not in the mood for baking!  So discarded and fed and popped into the fridge.  Now he's sulking (must be male),  When we are both back up to speed I will attempt your Rustic Loaf. I will cold retard when shaped and then bake the following day.  Don't think I am currently in love with stiff starters though (thick, messy and temperamental) but won't pass final comment until I've tried baking with it!  It's all good fun, right??  

I live in Adelaide, South Australia by the way.  I have been to Cowes on the Isle of Wight, having sailed there with a friend from Chichester many moons ago (1970's - Haven't been to the UK since the late 70s). Didn't see much of the island, but did see the inside of a few pubs!!!

Sondra

PetraR's picture
PetraR

I find stiff Starters so much easier to maintain, feeding is just kneading it really after adding flour and water, pop it back in the jar, wait 1 hour , pop it in the fridge and all is good.

You should feed it once a week when it is stored in the fridge and you do not use it.

We just finished Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight, it is a big thing and we love to watch the Sailing.

We have some great Pups on the Island:)