The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

converting firm starter to batter type?

Jeff Mack's picture
Jeff Mack

converting firm starter to batter type?

Hi everyone,

 I'm fairly new to bread baking, and am prepairing to take the leap into sourdough.  I made a firm starter as described By Maggie Glazer in Artisan Baking.  Some of the recipies I have use batter starters.  Is there a way to convert some of my firm starter to a batter starter?

 Thanks!

dolfs's picture
dolfs

While I am no authority on the subject, it seems to me that the main difference between these type starters is the hydration level, so if you want to convert you must adjust the hydration level.

Maggie Glezer describes how to go the other way (liquid to firm) and does the adjustment in a single feeding, but does say it may take several feedings to build the necessary activity.

It would stand to reason, then, that you can do the reverse too. If you are worried about one step making too much of a change (possibly affecting your beasties), do it in multiple steps.

Example: Glezer's firm is 60g starter + 45 g water + 90 flour for a total of 195 g and hydration level of 33%. No this is not 45/195, which is 23%. The water in a fed starter is the newly added water, plus the water present in the old starter! 

The hydration level of a starter always settles on the ratio of water to flour in each feeding, but when you are adjusting it may take several feedings until you are there.

Example starting with Glezer's firm, as above, start feeding 50g starter with 81g water and 64g flour and after 1 feeding your hydration will be 50%, then 54%, then 55% and then it settles at 56%. You are still producing overal 195g of starter, so this is a 4 step conversion example.

If you want to do the conversion faster, you up the water a bit in the first few steps, but you will still have to settle on 81g water and 64g flour to get to 56% hydration for 195g starter. Again a spreadsheet will help with the precise details.

--dolf

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Jeff,

Here's one way to think about it.

First, build up an amount of firm starter that is 80% of the amount of the 100% hydration batter starter you need. This will make the amount of flour in your built up firm starter the same as what would be in the desired amount of 100% batter starter. Then add 25% more water to it to make it 100% hydration. You can add the water to the starter when you build it, or just add it to the dough afterward.

For example, suppose you want to make 200g of 100% batter starter from 40 grams of firm starter. So, 80% of 200g is 160g. Therefore, you need build up your firm starter to 160g and also add 40g of water to it in order to bring the hydration up to 100%. Notice that 160g of firm starter will have 100g of flour and 60g of water in it, while a 100% hydration batter starter will have 100g of flour also and 100g of water (40g more water than the firm starter).

To continue the example, you can quadruple your firm starter by feeding the 40g of firm starter with 75g of flour and 45g of water (60% hydration, as in Glezer). If you want, you can feed the extra 40g of water when you feed it. That will create a 100% hydration batter starter, newly fed, that needs to rise and ripen for use in your recipe.

Or, don't add the 40g of extra water to the feeding. Instead, let the total of 160g of newly fed firm starter rise and ripen. Then add it along with 40g of water to the final dough recipe.

Bill

Jeff Mack's picture
Jeff Mack

Thanks everyone!

Jeff

zolablue's picture
zolablue

As an example, Glezer said the following:  "... About liquid sourdoughs, I just add water to my firm starter to convert.  To convert, just add water to equal the flour weight.  It's that simple..."

 

dolfs's picture
dolfs

I don't think that achieves the intended result. While it does from a hydration perspective, it is my understanding the firm starts are generally less acidic (one reason why French bakers seem to prefer them). If I am right about that, you would need to not only convert hydration, but do one or two feedings to let enough acidity develop in the now much wetter starter. No? 
 --dolf

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Dolf,

I think you are right that to be true to a recipe, it is better to have every aspect of the recipe as close as possible. I guess that's why I suggested adding the water to the build of the levain, if there is one in the recipe, as a possible strategy. You would then have at least one feeding at the same hydration as suggested in the recipe. You could build up over several feedings to be even closer.

However, I haven't noticed a really great difference in flavor in my breads when using a firm or liquid levain. In fact, the flavor seems more mild, with some of my miche recipes, when I use firm starters for some reason, not sure why. So, if you aren't into doing all the feedings, you will still get a fairly comparable bread by simply converting the hydration at whatever stage is convenient. For a very well trained palate, the difference may be more obvious, but to me it seemed OK if I "cheated" a little and converted the hydration without the additional feedings.

The other thing that makes me say in practical terms it may not be that big of an issue, is other things can make it far more complicated even than doing a few feedings, because depending on how you maintain your starter - hydration, temperature, ripeness before feeding, feeding ratio, and so on - completely different organisms may eventually dominate the culture. So, for example, I think my liquid starter maintained at a high feeding ratio and somewhat thick and at room temperature may be much closer in flavor a Glezer style firm starter than to a liquid starter maintained with a low feeding ratio and possibly at different temperatures or much wetter.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Bill, I've said this before but I love how your brain works.  I knew you would provide the perfect and exact answer here.  It is really good info and I'm only envious my brain doesn't compute quite the same or as easily as yours does.