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300% hydration starter

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AndersS's picture
AndersS

300% hydration starter

Hi there :)

 

I'm new to the site, which I only discovered yesterday, and I spent pretty much the entire day today reading all kinds of interesting stuff, but now I just have loads of questions :) I'm an avid baker and I been using sourdough for the last couple of years, though I've restarted quite a few times because I've accidentally killed my starter. Even though I've used sourdough for some time my knowledge on the subject is quite limited, and that's the point of my thread.

The starter recipe I use, which is the only one I knew of until today, is a 300% hydration starter and after reading a lot of info to day, I'm starting to wonder what the pro's and con's of using such a high hydration is? The starter doesn't rise a all, the flour just separates from the water an sits on the bottom half of the jar. It works fine for rye bread, which I primarily bake, but I have to also use a bit of yeast to get a wheat dough to rise. From all the things I've read today, which my head is still processing, I think the high hydration means a better environment for lactic acid bacterias than yeast, which would explain the poor rising capabilities in my bread. Have I understood that correctly? Should it still be possible to rise a bread properly with this kind of starter, or is a more normal hydration level necessary?

Another thing I've learned today is the importance of consistency, whereas my feeding plan before was very sporadic and random, I'll definitely be more consistent from now on. Is it still two times a day for such a high hydration level, or does the water influence that somehow?

If I want to use a more normal hydration % should I just convert the one I have, which isn't doing to well at the moment, or would it be better to start from scratch?

And does it make sense to have too different starters, one from rye for rye bread and one from wheat for wheat bread?

 

Anyways, I hope my questions make sense, since my head is a bit bashed from everything I've read today :) And thanks to everyone here for an absolutely awesome site!

 

Cheers, Anders

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Such a liquid starter will likely be very fast and difficult to gauge when it's ready to use, not sure why you'd want such a fast starter. I recommend a stiffer starter, around 100% hydration (e.g., 30g flour + 30g water). Or if you want to feed it even less often, make it even stiffer, such as 60% hydration (e.g., 30g flour + 18g water).

If your starter is strong and active, you shouldn't need any additional yeast for a good rise. 

Yes, just convert your existing starter, no need to start again: 20g of your previous starter, and start feeding 30g flour + 30g water at every feed. After 2 feeds a day for 2 or 3 days at room temp it should be fine. 

Yes, having a rye starter for ryes and a wheat starter for wheat breads is recommended. 

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

300%! Wow! And I thought my 125% starter was liquidy.

You can totally convert your starter to a different hydration. I don't know how you measure things, or what hydration you'd like to aim for, but the (very basic) idea is that you can figure out the amount of flour and water you need, then subtract the amount of flour and water in the starter that you're adding in.

Since you're changing the environment that your starter is used to, feeding it two times a day might be too much at first. For the first few days after converting, just check on it regularly to see how it's progressing. Look at it and smell it. When it's ready to eat again, it will have fallen a little bit and will smell beery. It might only need one feeding a day for a little bit, but will probably be ready to eat twice a day again soon.

Plenty of people keep multiple starters, though I've heard recommendations for not keeping more than two or three, just because it gets to be a lot of work (and flour). It's pretty easy to adjust hydration levels for different recipes, so it usually makes more sense to keep starters fed with different flours, like with your wheat and rye idea.

mixinator's picture
mixinator

The starter I use, and I get a lot of LAB action from it, is 1/3 C flour + 1/4 C water. This works out to 47 g flour and 62.5 g water or 133% hydration. In the final dough I use 46.6 BP of starter, 2 BP salt, 44.5 BP water. This is with white wheat flour.

In your immediate predicament, you could make a slurry following the above formula, then add flour to your existing starter to approximate the consistency of the slurry. "Milkshake thick" is one way to describe the consistency. 300% is way too wet.

Here, I describe how to use starter without pouring endless quantities of flour and water down the drain:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/comment/302818#comment-302818

AndersS's picture
AndersS

Thanks a lot :)

I'll be converting my starter right away then. Yes it's very hard to gauge, but until yesterday I've never heard of the fact that starter is ready at a certain time. Because it doesn't rise and fall I've never been aware that it has a cycle. Now though, I have a way better understanding of whats going on.

I'll be going for a 100 % hydration I think, just to start somewhere. What's the actual benefit from using a 100% compared to a 60%? Or is it more of a personal preference. Wanting both a rye and wheat starter, should I start both now, or could I start one and then later convert some to the other?  I've also read that until the starter is more stable it's a good idea to use refined wheat flour so to not introduce more competing organism, should i also do that when I'm converting now? The one I have now is half wheat half rye.

Thanks for the help :)

Anders

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

There's various opinions on what the best hydration for keeping a starter is. I like the simplicity of a 100% starter, since I like being able to just stir it together, and think that that might be a good place for you to begin with converting your wet one.

Once it stabilizes, you may want to maintain it at a different hydration. If you search the site, people have written about their starter hydration a lot. There seems to be a lot of preference for 50% hydration, at least right now, so that would be an easy thing to look up.

As for whether to start one starter and turn it into two, or to just start two, I think that depends on how much time and energy you have to put towards it. I think the main advantage of working on two at the same time right now is that you can compare their progress easily. And that you'll have both to work with that much sooner, of course.

As for what to feed them, you should be able to feed them at least half whole grain flours without issue. I feed mine mostly white flour because it's cheaper and easier to find than some of my other stuff, but rye and whole wheat both contain a lot more nutrients, so the yeasts will probably be happy to see those things.

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

dilutes food, excessively. Yeasts will suffer. Yeasts and LABs feed on flour, not on water.

I prepare rye bread starting with a 300% hydratation preferment, but preparing rye breads requires totally different techniques and ends than preparing wheat breads (especially rich breads).

AndersS's picture
AndersS

Yeah that makes sense.. I can't believe I didn't know any of this until now, I'm quite fond of reading about the science behind food.. But I guess there's a limit to how much you can learn at once, and since my breads where decent, I've spent more time on cooking and chocolatiering. But I'm glad I've finally gotten around to learn more about breads and SD :)

Sounds interesting. Is it preferable to use a preferment for rye bread rather than a starter, if so why? I bake rye bread a few times a week, so a starter is more convenient for me, I think. Do you know any good literature on rye breads? The one I bake know is 1:2:3:1:3 (starter:seeds*:water:wheat flour:rye flour) by volume. It's decent, definitely better than store bought, but it's not anything spectacular.. Any tips ?

*seeds is sunflower and whole rye "corn", what is that called in English?

Cheers, Anders

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Rye breads rely on pentosans swelling for rising. Since pentosans are more stable (or better yet, less fragile) in an acidic environment and since the activity of amylase (generally too high in rye) can be slowed down only by acids it's preferrable to  let rye doughs ferment and acidify as much as possible.

Currently I'm satisfied by this method, good for a 2litres form.

"some" sourdough starter, 500 gr water, 200 gr rye flour. Whisk with an electrix mixer (just like whipping eggs) until the dough becomes very thick and let stand for 12 hours.

Add 200 gr rye flour+2 teaspoons of seeds (linseed and sunflower are my favorite) and repeat as above (12 more hours).

Add 200 gr rye flour + 18 gr salt, mix well and fill the form. Let stand until it almost doubles (generally 1 hour), then close the form with oven paper (and with a lid if you have it), then bake at 200°C in fan assisted or convection mode for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and let cool completely.

Whole rye tastes much better than all other rye variants (medium and light), but the crumb tends to crumble when sliced.

Maybe what you indicated as rye "corn" is nothing else than rye chops? Hard to find.

Unfortunately there's not much literature on rye bread making. A lot of books, but nothing scientific as far as I know, except few papers.

AndersS's picture
AndersS

Okay, let me see if I understood this properly. You use a "normal" sourdough starter, which isn't particularly acidic, and then you make a preferment, and use that to bring out the acidity? I guess what I'm asking is this; do you keep the sourdough starter in conditions that favor the acid producing bacteria, or just under normal* conditions?

* By normal I mean as the sourdough guide here on TLF

I'll definitely be experimenting with your approach once my starter is up an running again, sounds great :) Before I'd only let it ferment for about 12 hours, and then a couple of hours of rising and proofing.

Okay, so I just learned that what I was describing as rye "corn" is called rye grain. And what I use is called, directly translated from danish, chopped rye grains, so sounds like it very well could be rye chops, though the pictures I've found of rye chops looked different. But here in Denmark rye bread is properly more common than wheat bread, so finding rye flour and grains are no trouble at all. Would using a lot more grains and seeds be a problem for the kind of rye bread you are describing? I'm thinking 40-50 BP of seeds and grains.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by whole rye. Is it like whole wheat flour? Because then I think It's all whole rye here in Denmark. I've never heard of medium or light versions, are they like refined wheat flour?

Is there any books in particular your can recommend then ?

Thank you for all your help !

mixinator's picture
mixinator

I find a liquid starter is easier to deal with than a firm one. I've had trouble with firm starters drying out, possibly because I don't bake that frequently.

AndersS's picture
AndersS

thanks for the advice. At what hydration level would you classify a starter as being liquid ?

cranbo's picture
cranbo

I would say a liquid starter is anything over 100% hydration. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

When you use your high hydration starter, are you using it for all the liquid in the bread dough or are you adding water to the dough as well?  Do you stir the starter first before measuring?

Mini

PetraR's picture
PetraR

I never had a Starter over 100% hydration, I would think , or rather guess * that if it is that thin that it would almost count as the Water or part of the Water in your bread formula. 

As Mini Oven said, do you stir your Starter before meassuring?

I was always told to stir it down before using.

I work now with a 50% hydration dough and boy it is so much easier to work with, maintain ...

 

AndersS's picture
AndersS

It definitely counts for some of the water in the recipe but not it all. Pretty much every sourdough bread I've baked until now has been from the same book that has the recipe for the starter I've been using. So that's not something I've really had to deal with. But all the recipes use some starter and also water. But they also all of them use a bit of yeast to make them rise. Which of course says something about the quality of the starter.

I just read the chapter again today and the author claims that the very liquid starter takes longer to get sour than a stiffer starter. But from what I've read here on TLF the past days I have a very hard time believing that. And something else I read was that he says it's technically a biga. But I thought a biga was quite low in hydration and not supposed to be kept as a starter. Apparently though that's the type of starter they use in his bakery, and they make delicious breads. So now I don't know whether to believe him or not..

Yes I'd stir it before measuring. Mostly because you wouldn't be able to use it otherwise. It very quickly separates after being stirred. Within an hour or too. And you a also supposed to stir it once a day to keep the bottom flour from rotting.

I converted it to 100% hydration yesterday, and now I keep checking on it every few hours to see if something has happened, but nothing yet so far :)  Can't wait to have a proper starter, though I guess I need to change my recipes..

PetraR: What is it you find easier about the 50% ?

Anders

PetraR's picture
PetraR

Hi Anders,

First of all I find it is much easier to feed as you just knead it as if you would knead bread dough, you do not have the messy work as you would have with , for example , a 100% hydration Starter.

A 50 % hydration Starter , when kept on the kitchen counter, go longer without feeding and still does its job compared to the higher hydration Starters.

A 50 % hydration Starter, you can for example feed, let it sit to rise for a couple of hours, put it in the fridge and use it  6 days later straight out of the fridge , just let it sit a few hours at room Temperature.

With a higher hydration Starter, when fed and put it in the fridge, you need to give it 3 good feedings before it is ready for baking, so more planing.

I also found that my bread holds it shape much better when tipped out of the proofing basket , even if I used 70-75 % Water in the bread formula.

It has a better Oven spring and , in my opinion, a nicer crumb.

I worked with a 100% hydration Starter for 14 month, with the lower hydration Starter for 2 month and yes, it is a big difference in performance * in my humble opinion from what I seen using both versions of  Starters at higher hydration % and lower hydration %*

AndersS's picture
AndersS

I think I'll try both then :) 

Thank you for the thorough explanation !

Anders

PetraR's picture
PetraR

You are most welcome.

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

would make up all the liquid in a dough recipe.  When you think about it... Everytime dough is made, the high hydration starter is being converted to a firm starter of 65% or so just by adding flour.  

Separating is normal but the gas forming on the sides of the container, taste and aroma should tell you about the yeast activity of the starter.  Most often with a very liquid starter, half of it remains in the large container when it gets fed, esp with cool temps under 70°F    A 200g flour feed (for example) can only feed so many yeasties so the yeast are spread out more than in a firm starter.  I would expect more starter being used in the recipe just to get the yeast count up.  

If you convert the starter to a lower one, just add flour, no water needed for that first feeding.

AndersS's picture
AndersS

I'm not sure I entirely understand what you are saying..  Do you mean that making a dough from a 300% hydration starter what be all starter plus flour, salt and so on ??  Or do you that that would be best with that type of starter if it where to rise on it's own ?  In my baking book they use fresh yeast alongside the starter to get it to rise properly. I just flipped through the book and they use in between 8 - 25 BP of starter.  But in all of them, they add additional water and always use fresh yeast together with the starter..

On a side note.. How much percent of starter is typically used in a slow rise bread ? Does it change whether it's a 50% or 100% starter?  If that even makes sense to ask about :)  I guess I really need a proper baking book soon :)

Cheers

cranbo's picture
cranbo

How much percent of starter is typically used in a slow rise bread ? Does it change whether it's a 50% or 100% starter?

Yes, like in your book, anywhere from around 8% - 25% of flour weight in starter is good for a slow rise bread. If your bread rises too fast, you can further regulate rise speed by regulating dough temp (during kneading using cold water and/or refrigeration after kneading).

The % of starter (relative to % of flour weight) shouldn't change too much; what it depends on more is the overall vigor of your starter. However, the overall amount of water in your recipe will change (you may need to reduce additional water if you use a 100% hydration starter, or increase the water if you use a 50% hydration starter, etc).   

AndersS's picture
AndersS

Great, thank you :)

That makes sense. I guess my thought was that the hydration % would somehow affect how much yeast there could be in a certain amount of space.. But that properly doesn't make any sense :)

Cheers

Anders

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"But that properly doesn't make sense."  

But it does.  They do have a limit to how much space they can occupy when given a limit on food.  

Simplified: Flour is food, water is suspension.  

Up the food and the yeast increase in number per BP... because they can.  When removing starter from the maintained starter, it is important that there be enough active yeast cells per gram to keep yeast production in a continuum.  This varies from the time the maintained starter is fed until it exhausts the available food.  

Typical starter reaction after being fed is a lag phase (we can't see them with the naked eye but know they are busy)  followed by a steep curve up (lots of fermenting byproducts-gas)  a level off and a slow decline in yeast numbers (and gas) until more food is available.  

Yeast are not all the same and so this growth pattern can vary depending on flour type, temp, hydration and the beasties within the starter.  It can take less or more time depending on the amount of food to complete a "cycle" as you have recently discovered.

Indicators of growth are CO2 bubbles, some flour mixtures trap gas, others don't.   As you pointed out a 300% hydration starter will not flow out of it's jar (a thicker glutinous one will.)  But it will give off gas.   Aromas are formed and so are alcohols.  Bacteria will also produce some gas and aromas.  Fermentation will change the starter slightly in colour, the liquid becoming darker slightly and the flour too.  Taste will be the big game changer with a liquid starter, the most obvious sign of fermentation and it's progress.  It will develop a yeasty taste and be more cloudy when ready to use.  There is a progression from wet flour taste to a Sour taste that increases and yeast follows.  Gas bubbles (effervescence) should be seen rising up the sides of the jar and clouding up a settled starter.  A wheat or rye starter with 100% hydration will not separate at all while it is active and healthy.

 

 

AndersS's picture
AndersS

Thank you for this, it really helped my understanding..

I wonder if it's possible, when the starter is strong and mature, to alter/predict the next feeding by the amount of flour you feed? I Remember reading a thread where Debra Wink explains the cycle of the yeast growth, but I didn't quite get the part about generations. I should properly reread it now that I have better understanding of it all..

I guess the real problem with a 300% hydration starter, other than the lower percentage of food, is the lack of visual feedback making it less than ideal for the novice baker. If you have a lot of experience with sourdough starter, like the bakery where I got the recipe from, keeping it strong is easier. Though I have trouble seeing any reason to keep a 300% starter when it lowers the amount of available food. The only practically usage I can see is that it maybe takes less storage space when it doesn't trap the CO2, that could maybe count for something in a small bakery that has to keep big amounts of starter.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I wonder if it's possible, when the starter is strong and mature, to alter/predict the next feeding by the amount of flour you feed?

Yes, you can predict it.  Yes, you can altar it.  

I suggest you get into the habit of predicting and checking on your starter as it rises and ferments.  Flour and water temperatures will also effect the fermentation rate.  So when you take your notes on a bread bake, don't forget those little details.  It is fine and good to take note of the clock but watch the starter/dough and respond to it.  Poke it, prod it, taste it, smell it, take it's temperature and get to know it in all it's many phases.  :)

 

AndersS's picture
AndersS

That's what I gathered from rereading Diana Wink's post's. I understood way much this time around so that was nice.

Thank's for the advice on taking notes. I've never thought of doing that at all :)

Cheers,

Anders

meab's picture
meab

This is a very interesting discussion but I am not sure what "BP"means. Is it backer's percentage? I follow the Robertson recipe and it sometimes comes out pretty darn good.

 

 

mixinator's picture
mixinator

B.P. is baker's percentage, well worth knowing about.

mixinator's picture
mixinator

With a higher hydration Starter, when fed and put it in the fridge, you need to give it 3 good feedings before it is ready for baking, so more planing.

Absolutely not true! All it takes is one replenishment. Here I describe how to replenish a liquid starter with no discard and no waste.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/comment/302818#comment-302818

As an infrequent baker I prefer a liquid starter because it doesn't dry out as readily as a firm starter. I get perfectly good rise, oven spring, flavor, etc, and the liquid starter is easier to maintain. You do have to be meticulous in determining your portions but this is a one-time thing.

PetraR's picture
PetraR

I read and watched youtube Videos and had my own experience with my 100% hydration Starter and after a week in the fridge I had to feed mine 3 times over a period of 36 hours to get it to double within 4 hours and to leaven a bread.

This is my experience with my 100% hydration Starter made with strong bread flour.

My firm 50% hydration Starter does not dry out at all, not on the kitchen counter nor in the fridge, the only thing is a thin skin on top of the dome which is so easy to remove.

I can only speak from my experience with my Starters and I stay by what I said , it needs 3 feedings and more planing to be active enough after the fridge.

There are also plenty Videos at youtube that state the same thing.

Maybe your Starter is extra active and that is why you only need to feed it once.

I do not have to meticulous determine my portions, I weigh the firm starter , weigh flour and water just as I would with a liquid Starter, I NEVER eyeball any Starter , no matter what hydration.

mixinator's picture
mixinator

I read and watched youtube Videos and had my own experience with my 100% hydration Starter and after a week in the fridge I had to feed mine 3 times over a period of 36 hours to get it to double within 4 hours and to leaven a bread.

My experience with liquid starter is much different. It can spend weeks in the fridge, then one replenishment for 8 hours (sometimes less but I allow 8 hours) and it's bubbly and frothy and raises a loaf very nicely.

I qualified my experience with stiff starter by saying I don't bake very frequently, so maybe that's why I had trouble with it drying out. I also said that getting the portions right with a liquid starter is a one-time thing. Working with a liquid starter is different from a stiff one. Once you get the portions right for the hydration level you're after you don't have to worry about it again.