The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A slight miscalculation, using a new starter

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

A slight miscalculation, using a new starter

It was, uh, a little more active than I had anticipated.

 It was, uh, a little more active than I had anticipated.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Better that and have to clean up the mess than to find a dead one in the bowl, if you look at the bright side...

I've found it's generally safe to use a container about 4x the initial volume for a 100% hydration starter and maybe even 5x for a firm starter, depending on the flour. It looks like yours may have grown even beyond that.

Bill

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

OK, now hop, hop, let's see the bread!  Reminds me of Saturn.... You're dough's got rings! 

Mini O

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Congrats on the vigorous starter. LOL!

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

 

I was particularly pleased with this, because this is the first starter I'd ever made.  Followed soudolady's instructions, with slight modifications indicated by some other on-line oracles, and voila!  Gotta say, I was pretty doubtful around day 4/5.  Patience is a virtue of which I ain't got much.

So, if anyone is reading this who hasn't had the heart to go down the path toward making your own starter, don't be intimidated by all the hocus pocus and talk of enzymes and acid and tales of woe.  It's eeeeeeeasy.  And it's just fun to see the thing start to live.  Frankenstein in the kitchen.

Sorry, MiniO: Unfortunately, the first loaf with this starter was a flop, almost literally.  I was attempting to make CrumbBum's miche, and I ended up with an over-hydrated mix.  You've never seen such a big pancake.

But that wasn't the poor starter's fault!  My next attempt at the miche -- with 10% less hydration -- is fermenting now.

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

That miche is a great recipe, but it can be tricky because of the very low inoculation and the uncertain timing that results. I do a similar type of bread called "Pagnotta" you could find in my blog. I have done "one step" versions with low inoculations and "two-step" versions where you build an intermediate levain. You might want to try a version with a levain, so you can break up the fermentation and get a feeling for the speed of rise of your starter.

Lower hydration will make it easier to handle the miche recipe. However, the timing is still a big issue. The inoculation is only 1%, and so it has to grow for a long somewhat uncertain amount of time at room temperature to reach readiness. A few hours before it's ready to bake, maybe an hour or two before the dough has doubled, i.e. when it is puffy and has increased in volume by a factor of 1.5 or so, it probably would help to fold the dough repeated every 30-40 minutes for about 2-4 times to stiffen the dough if it has become loose and gloppy. Also, the time it takes to be ready could range from 8 hours to 20 hours depending on the strength of your starter and the temperature. Even if you use a lower hydration, you still have to make sure not to way under or overshoot the fermentation time. Roughly speaking, very roughly, it should be ready to bake maybe two or three hours after it has increased in volume by a factor of about 1.5, when you might do some folds.

Bill

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

 

I appreciate all the input.  I learn best by screwing things up, then changing one variable at a time, so we'll see.  This time, I've changed hydration, because I've been having some consistent problems with over-wetness.  Current theory: humid, damp UK environment is having an effect on the ambient water retention of my flours.

If I still crash and burn, I'll look more closely at the timing issues you mention, and probably seek more advice.  That said, I try to work in ways that don't require me to babysit my dough, even on new formulas.  Perfection in loaves is a goal, but not at the cost of a relaxed attitude toward baking, which I do to get away from the precision required in much of the rest of my life. 

Really appreciate your input. 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

I understand the desire not to babysit the dough. One thing to consider is that having an intermediate levain can actually simplify things. You can let the levain rise by double, refrigerate, and then incorporate it at a convenient time, maybe as much as a day or two later, into a final dough. It also allows you to knead or mix the final dough when the acids in the levain will condition the dough at mixing time, which will lead to less need for later folding that can be a hassle and force you to be around for a couple of hours, possibly when it's not convenient.

A slightly drier dough should need less folding also. Since that recipe has a hydration level more or less on the cusp between dry and wet, small differences can send it quite a ways in the direction of too wet or too dry. You may have a flour that just absorbs less water. I've found that flours from certain mills absorb far more water than others, which may be regional or seasonal wheat variations or maybe the milling or storage techniques. In any event, I've observed differences of as much as 10% in hydration between one flour and another for the same consistency of dough.

If you reduce the hydration to the point where the dough becomes stiffer, the crumb is different. The recipe Crumb Bum derived this from is meant to be a fairly soft dough, and the crumb you get is different if you go drier and stiffer with the dough.