The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How Many of You With Sourdough Starters Use

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

How Many of You With Sourdough Starters Use

Liquid Starters versus how many use Firm Starters?

:D

 

I have liquid here but am wondering...do I need to convert some of Sir Stinky to firm?

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Hi Bluezebra, my starter is liquid, I think. I say that because sometimes it is really stretchy and hard to stir. For some reason the idea of a firm starter scares me so I plod along with what I am used to. A

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

though I haven't ventured into using the firm starter yet...maybe I'll give it a whirl sometime over this upcoming long week-end.

Trish

ehanner's picture
ehanner

BZ,
I have been maintaining a starter with equal parts flour and water for a long time. There has been so much written here about firm starters that I'm tempted to make a change. After experimenting with the Detmold-3 stage rye starter which has a firm component to it, I know there are advantages to the lower hydration (firm)starters. I wouldn't call my mix "liquid" at 100% though. I'm feeding my white starter first clear flour btw.

Eric

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

I guess the better terminology would be 100% hydration starter? I'm sorta uncertain? I too have a 100% hydration starter. I feed it 1:4:4. It's still considered 100% cuz of the water/flour ratio right?

100% doesn't mean 1:1:1 does it?

My starter is only liquid if I let it go about 10 hours after peaking (and yep I've done that more times than I would like to admit :D but shhhhh, don't tell anyone, k? It will be our little secret! ;)  )

So what is the better term than liquid starter please? Anyone, anyone? Bueller?

browndog's picture
browndog

I've heard the term 'batter-type' starter, and that seems pretty accurate.

I'm currently keeping both, though two is at least one more than I really care to mess with. But my liquid/batter stores in 10-20g amounts so I can't begrudge it refrigerator space, and since I often choose to do Glezer recipes, I keep the firm as well. It's easier for me than converting, as I lately have publicly exposed my math ineptitude. (Richard the Third, Leo the Twelfth, whatever.) But I may at some point eliminate the firm and learn the conversion just to simplify and reduce discard. Or not.

It's all moot for me right now because my oven is in a coma. :(

 

Who the heck is Bueller? 

 

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

Ferris Beuller's Day Off, you must rush out to Netflix and order it, immediately!!!! It is maybe an all time favorite of mine second only to What About Bob and a close racer with Christmas Vacation. :D

It's one of those movies I must watch each year or the year isn't the same! :D

And btw (t/j here) LOL, t/j my own thread! Good times! I won't spoil it for you but you will L-O-V-E the new season of Who! :D  Torchwood is starting here Sept 9 I think and we are waiting impatiently!

Ok now back to the starters...I know it seems really silly to begrudge 4 oz of flour and some water isn't it? But I feed with 1oz starter, 4oz flour and 4oz water. And I really hate having to throw that bit out when I refresh it for the first time each week! So part of me really is resistant to having 2 starters! But so much of the conversation seems to be about Glezer's recipes and I would seriously love to try the Columbian...so hmm. Dilimmas!

I too am a math challenged person. You could almost call me a math rtard and it would fit! *blush* I have my hands full here cuz my scale is an old postal scale dh bought from Ebay. Dirt cheap and measure digitally but it only measures in pounds. So I first had to come up with the ounce conversion which was easy cuz I use the same scale for converting ruler measurements for 16ths of an inch! Hahaha the laugh is from all my math teachers telling me, see? I will need to learn rulers and measurements for everyday life and for me vocally disagreeing with them! Then I have to convert the grams to ounces and that's about as much math as my tiny mind can handle, thank you very much!!! :D

Good luck tonite!!!

tempe's picture
tempe

SAVE FERRIS!

wholegrainOH's picture
wholegrainOH

have had the KA 'new england' in regular use for a decade now.  But going to try some new ones in a few weeks, and will experiment to see what works best in my central Ohio kitchen
Alan

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

I use both in my baking, though I store it stiff because it'll keep longer in the fridge that way. Here's the three starters I keep and how I keep them.

  • Whole wheat: 60% hydration
  • Whole spelt: 60%
  • Whole rye: 100% hydration (but heck, whole rye is so thirsty, it's pretty thick at 100%)
If I'm making sourdough sandwich bread, I'll usually go with whatever I have on hand, wet or stiff. If I'm making a lean whole-wheat hearth bread, however, I prefer the flavor that comes from a stiff starter that's been allowed to ripen at a cool temperature.
breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

I mostly use a wet starter--I got started in SD baking with the 100% method, though the first recipe I started with, from Bread Alone, kept a 100% "mother" and used a stiffer levain before making the final dough.  I tend to like the milder flavored sourdough breads, so the wetter version works for me.

I have been known to convert it back and forth when trying new recipes, though I usually don't have a problem substituting a wet starter in recipes that call for a stiffer one. I hate keeping more than one starter... I also will make a stiffer version if I know I'm going to be storing it in the fridge for a while.

I know intellectually that maintaining consistency with feeding your starter will make for better bread--you will not be stressing your culture by feeding irregularly, and you will encourage the same types of bacteria by keeping the same moisture levels. But realistically mine performs really well no matter what I do, and I don't mind the variations in loaves at home, it makes it fun.

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

Mike Avery mentioned to me when I was first starting Stinky. I hope you guys will chime in here.

Much discussion recently about the performance of so called "slow starters" and also about the Glezer gold standard of quadrupling in 8hours with a firm starter. Well how do you all measure the activity of your starter? Do you measure it by feeding it and seeing the level of activity? Or do you measure it in breads? And the level and quickness of the rise?

The reason I bring this up, Mike Avery told me that starters are such individual little things. That some have very little looking activity on their own after feeding (meaning negligable rises or slow rises) but when you combine them in breads, they are highly active. So I'm wondering if any of you also experience a "slow starter" that works great in bread?

 Stinky is kinda like that. That's why I'm contemplating using a portion of him to go firm, thinking that might make him act differently. He only rises to double or triple in about 5 or 6 hours maybe? I've quit timing him exactly...But he is a power house in bread doughs and has really excellent flavor!? So go figure.

Maybe it's the liquidity or the 100% hydration that makes us just "think" our starters are underachieving? Thoughts on this? Anyone, anyone, Bueller?

 

 

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Bluezebra:  I usually keep a liquid white starter at 100% hydration (but increase the hydration up to 130% for Hamelman recipes and for recipes in Leader's new book where he also uses a very liquidy starter).  When I need a firm starter, I just convert the liquid to a firmer starter (Glezer has instructions on how to do this in Artisan Baking and Leader also has good instructions in his new book, Local Breads).  Since I, too, am somewhat math challenged, I find it easier to convert the initial starter than to convert the entire recipe.  

I also keep a rye starter going at 100% hydration, which as JMonkey points out, is a quite a firm starter as well.  I really like the taste that the rye starter imparts to the bread and sometimes replace white firm starter with it.  I think Mountaindog has suggested doing this for the Thom Leonard Country French loaves and it gives a great taste to the finished loaves.

I find the liquid starter easier to work with and maintain, but the firm starter has a better taste.  I'm not sure I've noticed a difference in leavening capabilities in the different starters.  Let me know if you would like some samples of how to convert from liquid to firm starters and I will note them down for you later.

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

offer to document how to convert from wet starters to firm! I will take you up on your offer! :D

The two breads I would like to try most are the Columbian (Glezer?) and the Country French Loaf (Thom Leonard). I've been itchin to try them to see if which of these I prefer: Vermont Sourdough, Columbian, CF Loaf!

 TIA!!!

crumb bum's picture
crumb bum

Hey All

Just thought I would throw my 2cents in.  I used to keep multiple starters and found that I was spending too much time and effort to maintain them all.  I currently keep 1 liquid starter.  My feedings consist of pouring out all but what sticks to the side of my container.  I then add 1/4 cup of flour and water each.  I think this comes out to approx. 177%.  If I want to go firm with it I can convert using calculater, slide rule, abacus, and occasionally fingers and toes. I have found that an even easier way to handle the conversion is just add some of the liquid culture to the amount of preferment you wish to build  and don't even bother to convert.  I generally add no more than 35g usually 20g or so and this small amount is not worth accounting for nor does it adversly affect the dough.  An example would be if you were making a dough that contained 1000g of flour and 700g of water and you wanted to do a build using 20%  of the flour of this dough at lets say 50% hydration.  Pour 20 or 30g of starter in a bowl and disolve in  100g of water, then knead in 200g of flour and let it do it's thing.  add remaining ingredients and continue.  No muss no fuss and no math to speak of except a little division and subtraction.  I also use my same starter to make whole wheat and rye starters as needed for different breads.  I do wonder at times if I am missing out on different flavors by not keeping different starters?  I also have heard allot of people say that if they are storing their culture for long periods of time they go firm.  I am not sure if this is realy necissary.  I have revived my liquid starter to full strength after it sat idle in my fridge for a month in 3 feedings.

Da Crumb Bum 

   

browndog's picture
browndog

Crumb Bum, don't be harsh.

(Slide rules, huh. Who even knows what a slide rule is anymore?) The trouble with me is that when I see a page with numbers on it, the numbers become blank spots (no, not literally, but it seems like it.) and I have to go over and over the sentences while struggling to understand what my mind insists is not even there. Or somethng.

This is how you would go about making, Columbia, say, with your liquid starter as a base, right? But you are using math to get your initial proportions. Believe me when I tell you that I don't know how to do percentages with fingers, toes, calculators, or anything in between.

I'll read your post over again and see if I can puzzle out what you're saying.

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

(or double-fontained, which is ever so much more ladylike) coffee through my nose when I read your math calculation techniques! Really an abacus?! ;) Bwahahahaha. Very clever!  I have to admit I would use my toes more often if they were easier to reach, but the "rheumatiz", the "rheumatiz"! haha!

You make a very good point with the conversion/non-conversion thing. Your method makes a lot of sense!

A question for you? Have you ever made the Columbian or Thom Leonards Country French Loaf and if so, do you mind sharing your technique for the conversions?

 

TIA!!

crumb bum's picture
crumb bum

Hey Bluez and Browndog

I guess my point in all that gibberish I layed down last night was this.  It does not matter if your starter is firm or liquid if it is used in small amounts 20 to 35g.  I don't think you will see a whole lot of difference in your levain consistancy either given the small amount.  I am looking at the Columbia recipie right now.  It calls for 30 grams of firm starter, the Leonard 25g firm.  If you make this with liquid instead I don't think you will notice any difference and certainly not enough difference to keep and maintain multiple starters. 

Another way to look at this that gets around using the dreaded bakers % is this.  Simply add up all the flour, and water in the entire recipe, any recipe, including any levains or preferments.  Decide how much flour you want to preferment and at what hydration.  To this add 20 to 30g of starter of any consistancy and knead it in and let it ripen.  Subtract the amount of flour and water you used from the total of all the flour and water.  Don't worry about subtracting the starter.  What is left is what you add along with salt and everything else for your final dough.  Using this simple method you can tweek recipies all over the place to try to change the flavor, extend ferment times or account for unusally warm or cold days. 

I like the liquid starter because I find it is easier to incorporate into levains or preferments of different consistancys.  It is also super fast to feed as I don't have to knead it.

Another thought and thats it I promise.  I feel as though when making a levain like the columbias that is 63% aren't you are in essence just making a big firm starter anyway?

Da Crumb Bum

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

So in other words, the use of a liquid v. firm starter doesn't really have much to do with the volume of yeast organisms in 20g or in other words the same measure by weight of starter...is that right?

 TIA!

crumb bum's picture
crumb bum

Hey again BlueZ

First off "Double Fontained" Being a bit of a wordsmith and a bigger bit geek I cannot wait to haul this one out in public.  At first I thought it was some sort of french technique I did not know of.  Nice one and well played.  Your question about the levaining power or yeast count in a firm vs liquid starter is a great one.  I have made bread using both and when I see a recipe calling for lets say 30g of firm I put in 30g of liquid instead since I don't keep a firm starter.  Maybe someone could chime in on this subject that knows more about it.  I do know that a liquid starter eats through it's feedings much quicker than a firm one.  How this translates to a build or levain I do not know?  Sorry

Da Crumb Bum

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

you have double fontained either oreos and milk, peanut m&m's, pickles or beer! :D LOL, and something tells me it's more of a 3-stooges or lucille ball technique than a French one! :D ;)

 Please use it often and well! :D

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi BlueZebra and Crumb Bum,

 

The leavening power of both forms of starter is the same in your translate it into flour content of each, since cell counts of bacteria and yeasts in starters are counted in cells per gram of flour in starter.

 

I.e. A fully functional starter will have 1 billion lactic bacteria cells per g of flour in your starter and about 10 million yeast cells per g of flour in your starter. If you know the amount of flour in your starter, you know how many cells you have, plus or minus a billion, he-he.

 

There is only a minor difference between performance of these two: not the leavening power, but the length of fermentation. Both will make your bread sponge and bread dough quadruple as required per recipe, however provided you use 2 starters in the same recipe interchangeably, liquid starter inoculates sponge with fewer number of bacterial and yeast cells and therefore quadrupling of volume of the sponge will happen a few minutes to an hour later.

 

The rule is that if you halve the amount of starter (i.e. the size of inoculation), expect to add another hour to fermentation at room temperature. Daniel Wing writes about it in Bread Builders book. Using 30g of firm starter (50% hydration) vs 30 g of liquid starter (130% hydration) will influence time of fermentation of the first intermediate sponge (refresher culture), but by the time you ferment your final dough, there will be no difference between doughs seeded with firm and liquid cultures.

 

mariana

 

crumb bum's picture
crumb bum

Hey M

Thanks for the info.  To paraphrase, the firm contains more yeast and bacteria because it has more flour in it for any given weight vs a liquid starter?  Thanks

Da Crumb Bum

PS BlueZ, I single fontained a honey roasted peanut once.  I know, it's a rookie move compaired to the double.  In my defense I am not ambidexterous nostrally pretty sure i'm a righty.

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

:D

browndog's picture
browndog

Crumb Bum, this makes sense. Thanks. (I mean the starter conversion approach. Not shooting, excuse me, fontaining peanuts out one's nose. Ahem.)

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Here is Glezer's method to convert a liquid starter to a firm starter:

Liquid sourdough starter - 15 g (1 tblsp)

Water, lukewarm - 15 g (1 tblsp)

Unbleached bread flour - 50 g (1/3 c)

Dissolve the liquid sourdough starter in the water, add flour, and knead together this very firm dough.  Cover with plastic and let ferment 8 to 12 hrs.  Will make 1/3 c (80 g).  It should rise to 1-1/3 cups in 8 hrs or less.

I usually refresh a few times before using as I think several refreshments help develop more flavor, but am not sure that is necessary.  I personally think that Thom Leonard's Country French Bread is a wonderful bread.   Mountaindog provided excellent instructions a while back.  Have fun!

Liz

bwraith's picture
bwraith

BZ,

I've ended up in between. After much discussion with ZB, I converted my starter to firm for a few months to try it. Although the starter had good flavor and performance maintained that way - on the counter and fed about once every 24 hours 1:3:5 or so - I was finding it a little time consuming and cumbersome to liquefy the firm starter with new water and to knead the resulting firm starter. I've since started using a not-so-firm starter which I feed something like 1:4:5. This way, I can easily liquefy and foam up the starter with new water, and I stir the flour in similar to feeding a liquid starter, rather than kneading it. Although it may not be quite like a firm starter, it's very convenient to maintain this way. I find it keeps much better in the refrigerator than a true 100% hydration starter, even though it might not keep quite as well as a 60% hydration version. It seems to have about the same flavors it did when maintained as a firm starter.

Bill

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

OK, I'm ready to try it then. Do you still have your 100% going as a back up just in case or will I not have to worry about this?

With a 1:4:5 that's 1part starter:4parts water:5parts flour, right??? How often do I need to feed him or does that just depend on his growth...and isn't this what you have been trying to get me to do for centuries now? <<<Ms. Short Term Memory *blush*

bwraith's picture
bwraith

BZ,

I've been slightly unstable lately when it comes to starters. I just kind of let things go out of control. First I kept the liquid and firm starters, so I could compare them. Then, it seemed like the firm starter was easy to maintain on the counter for a little bit longer periods, and I was getting tired of messing with starters, so I summarily dumped the liquid and just kept the firm one going. Then, I got some SDI starters and got them going, which was very easy, by the way, for anyone thinking about doing that. They started up in a few days of feedings and tasted very good, too. I got the SF Sourdough and the French cultures from SDI. I maintained them as firm starters for a while alongside my old homebrew one, and all went well, making bread alternately with one then the other. Then, I got really sick and tired of messing with starters and one night, I was feeling a little crazy, and I rashly mixed them all together. That's the one I have going at the moment. I'm feeding it approximately 1:4:5 every 12 hours or so. If I feel like living way out on the edge of doom, I refrigerate my starters, whichever ones are currently active, go on a trip, and then revive them whenever I make it back home, assuming the starter is alive and I'm sufficiently lucid to remember how.

Bill

browndog's picture
browndog

Bill. I thought you were sedate.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Probably already senile. Don't get me startered.

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

After all these months of science and math and experiments galore (which I never could follow) I'm so glad to hear that Bill threw caution to the wind and took back his time to do more fun things. At least that's what it sounds like, maybe I'm wrong.


Long ago I gave up all the fuss and just made bread. I keep one starter going. It's about 4 TBL. and when I want to make bread I stir it up and dump in flour that looks like twice the amount of starter and enough spring water to make a firm mix. It's three times (or more) the size it was in about 4 hours. Easy and painless. Bread's almost always delicious. Almost..:)   
    
I've been busy with the garden and our two teenage grandaughters who were visiting from Florida for a month. I keep checking in to see what's happening and seeing all the beautiful bread photos and hope to be back in the Fresh Loaf groove soon. I did get Reinharts new WW bread book today and it looks great. And I did make Jmonkeys latest WW bread recipe and Bill's latest recipe and both were the BEST. Whole wheat never tasted so good. I'm also using a lot of spelt which I might like even better.


I'll be gone for about a week but....I'll be back.


Oh, browndog, that book you suggested made be laugh out loud the whole time I read it...Ciao!, ha ha ha                                                                                          weavershouse

browndog's picture
browndog

Weavershouse, how good to hear from you! Must be the flocks are returning. 

 Can you believe our Bill? Gone to the Dark Side, oh my.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

I've gone totally to the dark side, now. I pulled bread out of my freezer that was over 3 months old and defrosted it. It was pretty darn good out of the freezer, almost as if it had just been baked. Dude, is that even possible?

browndog's picture
browndog

Well, at least you bothered to defrost it.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Well, browndog, I should probably come clean on this. I had stuffed so much bread into the drawer of this freezer, that it was stuck closed when I got home after two months. So, I was forced to defrost all of it just to get the #!$%^? freezer door open. Some was eaten by me and certain notoriously ravenous teenage boys who lurk around here. The rest has been given away to other humans and to some birds my ten-year-old is convinced need to be fed, the poor things, with some lovingly hand crafted bread, even if 3 month old frozen and defrosted. He did that before once without asking, but he was overjoyed to get another fully legitimate opportunity to commune with those rats with wings he's so in taken with.

I'm still amazed by how well bread is preserved in the freezer. I never would have thought you could get away with it, but darn if it isn't indistinguishable from freshly baked to my barely functioning, poorly trained senses.

Bill

browndog's picture
browndog

Your son feeds hand-crafted bread to the birds, er, rats-with-wings, and you shatter (nice) wine glasses in the name of science. Well. Can't be a dull moment at your house. Honestly, I know which I think is the lesser evil.

I freeze bread pretty regularly as I imagine most of us do to excess here. I find no real reduction in quality except sometimes the crust suffers on the lean loaves. But I have the palette of a goat.

 

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

you slay me!!! Just when I think the world is on its axis and all is right with the world you tell me you have tossed everything together and let the chips fall where they may!

Well crap Bill cuz now I'm gonna have to go out and buy life insurance and huddle in my under the stairs closet cuz the world is spinnning out of control!!! Hmmmphhhffff!

So did it feel good tossing caution to the wind?! :D (Bravo btw!)

Are you now listening to the song Take A Walk on The Wild Side?

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Mine is more or less 100% now. I say more or less because I know my old scale wasn't very accurate and I sometimes added a bit more flour or water just because it seemed like it needed it. And it certainly hasn't had nice regular feedings.

Since I want to start making the breads in PR's WGB book I think I'm going to convert to the 75% that he uses there.  If my old starter sits too much longer in the fridge unfed, I may even start one from scratch and toss the old one.  I'll mostly use just instant yeast for awhile to simplify things.  I've cut my baking down to a once or twice a week. I do want to try a sourdough rye fairly soon though, for Bread Baking Day #3.  

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

TIA sweetie! :D

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Here's the LINK.  The theme is bread with sourdough, preferably with rye.