The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Starter Designations

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Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

Sourdough Starter Designations

Well, I almost thought I knew what they were talking about when they said "liquid levain" or whichever.  Some books differentiate when they specify a levain type.  But now I'm confused again.  Maybe there are standard definitions?

Ed Wood's book, "Classic Sourdoughs," has recipes calling for liquid culture or sponge culture.  It turns out (way at the back of the book) that his liquid culture is about 108% hydration, and the sponge about 54%.  RLB's liquid and firm are 100% and 50%.  Leader's liquid levain is 130%, stiff dough levain 50%.  Reinhart's generic starter seems to be somewhere between 50% and 100% but depends on the specific recipe.

I don't understand why some recipes in a particular book call for one type and others for another.  Does it really make a difference?  Why can't I just use whatever I have and use my senses to adjust water or flour?  I hope for the latter because it can be real tricky to remember or figure out just what that author means by that designation.

Am I making this too complicated?

Rosalie

harrygermany's picture
harrygermany

Hello Rosalie,

there are very different definitions of the same thing: sourdough.

You can grow a sourdough by adding much water to the rye flour, or you can grow a sourdough by adding little water to the rye flour.
Both are sourdoughs, no matter whether you call it levain, liquid levain, sponge or whatsoever. One is a bit more liquid and the other one is a bit more stiff.

There is a little difference in those two.
The liquid one has some more lactic acid bacteria which make a milder taste,
the stiff one has some more acetic acid bacteria which make a more sour taste.

But when you grow a sourdough by using one or the other starter, the sourdough comes out the way you treat it while growing.
It doesn't matter what rye sourdough you use for starter.
The kind of sourdough you get is up to the amount of water which is added to the rye flour, also to the ambient temperature and the time.

More liquid rye flour-water mixture combined with high temperature (80-90°F) while growing make mild tasting sourdoughs with much natural yeast.
Stiffer rye flour-water mixtures combined with lower temperature (70°F) and growing a long time (24 hours and longer) make more sour tasting sourdoughs.

Harry


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Everyone is a stranger somewhere -
so don´t give narrowmindedness or
intolerance no chance nowhere.

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

It's been a month and you're the first to respond.  Thanks.

I appreciate your reply, but I have one question.  You talk about rye sourdoughs.  My one starter is whole wheat.  Can I assume that your comments still apply?

Rosalie

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

The same is generally true of wheat starters.  The main thing is to have the same amount of - fermented flour - as called for.  For example 100 grams of 100% hydration starter will have 50 grams of flour; the same as 80 grams of 60% hydration starter. 

But even if you don't do this, I would think the bread would just rise a bit slower or faster, as long as you were fairly close.

harrygermany's picture
harrygermany

Hello Rosalie,

sorry that I didn't think that the States is wheat area. My big fault.

Sure, as KipperCat already wrote, it is almost the same with whole wheat.
Wheat sourdoughs in general are milder than rye sourdoughs.

I usually bake wheat breads with a long and cool grown poolish.
For some wheat breads I also need wheat sourdough.
For that I just transform my rye sourdough into a wheat sourdough by feeding it with wheat flour.

Harry


---------------------------------------
Everyone is a stranger somewhere -
so don´t give narrowmindedness or
intolerance no chance nowhere.