The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Confused About Starters & other Breadmaking Questions

innerlight's picture

Confused About Starters & other Breadmaking Questions

I have 3 Starters - Chef, Whole and Rye. My aim is to bake a whole wheat SD loaf and rye SD loaf.  I stay in Asia and has room temperature of 29-31celsius.  Right now , it's hot - approaching 33celsius. As such , my starters are stored in the fridge after feeding. Each time, the starters probably increased by 1-1.5 inches (at the peak) and subsided after 18 -24 hours from each feeding. I use chilled bottled drinking water , bought from the store. 

I adopted  Chef Starter (which was 5months mature with Chef), it's been 2weeks with me and I fed it (#1 - 30-50gbreadflour, 30-50g water). I removed portion to create Whole on 29 Nov and fed with 50g  breadflour, 50g water). Chef is looking inactive. I gave it a stir today without feeding since I already fed this week. 

Last night (2am), I decided to create wholegrain starter and discard some( as basis for Rye 40gm starter ). Whole was fed 40gm (50%whole wheat;50%breadflour) & 40 gm water. 

Rye was fed 40gm (50%whole wheat;50%light rye flour) & 20 gm water. 

This morning , I also did a sink test with Chef and whole - they are sinkers!  Smell-wise - Chef & Whole smell sourish. 

Here's how they look now. 





Chef Starter

Are they looking ok? Should I just continue to feed equal amounts of flour and water , until I reach level I need? 


Question :

Q1 . Should I remove Whole from the fridge completely or for Xhrs after each feeding? I want to bake the wholegrain SD load first. 

Q2. How to gauge how much to discard per feeding? how much to add per feeding? In order to create 200-300gm of starter to bake.  At first I thought since I'm going to bake soon , so I don't need to throw but just keep feeding to reach the weight of starter I need. 

Q3. Most recipes only list instant yeast. what's the guideline to covert say, 2gm of instant yeast to ?gm of starter? 

Q4. Do all seeds or add-ons have to be soaked before use? I hope to use sunflower, pumpkin, flax seeds, sesame seed either integrated in to the loaf or on the top. If yes, any guidelines on how long to soak them for and normal room temperature water? 

Q5. I have non-stick loaf tin, pyrex loaf dish, non-stick pizza tray, non-stick roasting deep pan with rack, round silicone cake mould, corning ware casserole dish with glass lid. With these, can I still create the good crusty loaves? Or I need to splurge on DO? I remembered in the baking class, we just used normal flat baking trays with shaped loaves in professional ovens, water injection sprays. Can't I make do and bake on the non-stick pizza tray? And cover with the non-stick loaf tin to create enclosure? 

Q6. I'm also confused about items left in the oven to pre-heat. Except for the corning ware, I think above bakeware can be left in the oven to preheat right? 

Sorry I'm so long-winded. 


Confused bread maker wannabe.



Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

And haven't even baked a sourdough yet. I think things are moving too fast and in many different directions. 

Do you have a recipe in mind? 

innerlight's picture

I was envisioning baking these receipes from James Morton's 'Brilliant Bread',

#1 -100% Wholemeal Bread 

500g wholemeal flour, 1x7g fast action yeast, 10g salt, 40g tepid water

This recipe , I wanted to replace yeast with sourdough and throw in some seeds . 


#2 - Seeded Sour 

350g white flour, 50g dark rye flour, 10g salt,200g SD starter, 250g cold water, 100g sunflower seeds, 50g sesame seeds, 25g poppy seeds, semolina for dusting.

Will replace with light rye flour cos' that's what I have. 





Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

There is no need for 3 starters. Especially at the beginning where it can be confusing. Most people keep one starter as a seed and build a levain (an off-shoot starter) specifically designed for each recipe. This allows you to manage just one starter and you don't have to keep a lot. 

3 starters for a beginner is overboard. If you wish you can keep one rye starter and one wheat starter which will have advantages but that should be ample. 

When it comes to baking you do a Pre-Ferment. Take a little of the seed (starter) and Pre-Ferment some of the flour from the recipe (Levain). Very easy to manage this way and less confusing. 

Why jump into the deepend and start converting yeast recipes? 

I have found a nice wholegrain seeded sourdough which fills both criteria and which involves building a Levain. Take a look and see what you think. Ask any questions if it seems confusing.

Southbay's picture

take a big tablespoon of each and put it in a 2-cup measuring cup. Don‘t put it in the fridge. Feed it two or even three times a day for a couple of days, discarding a tablespoon here and there, until it rises surprisingly fast and you’ve got maybe a cup or two of high-test fresh ‘n happy starter. Then it’s ready for baking. The only time my starter goes in the fridge is when I leave the house for more than two days. Discarding a lot keeps it fresh n fast.

innerlight's picture

Pls share the general rule on feeding the starter/levian to get it ready for use.

If there is a tbs of starter in the cup, am I supposed to use 1(starter) :1 (flour):1(water) formula? And keep to this ratio throughout until I reach say 200gm -300gm (or whatever the recipe calls for SD starter amount) 

Or can I not discard and keep adding, keeping to the 1:1:1 ratio balance , until I hit 200-300 g amount as the recipe calls for?

BreadBabies's picture

Definitely a good idea to simplify.  Focus on one starter. I find that it can be quite difficult to judge the activity of your starter when it is under constant chill in the fridge, it also slows down the process of getting up and running a whole heck of a lot.  33 degrees is a bit hot for a starter, but you still might have better luck judging how its doing and getting the ball rolling rather than throwing it into the fridge all the time.  Maybe try putting into a lightly iced cooler or just trying things at room temperature.

innerlight's picture

Thanks Lechem. I suppose I wanted to make Whole and Rye a levain actually and Chef Starter was a seed. But it didn't increase or bubble enough in the fridge although it looks ok to me.

Today I took some small portion out from each and tried fermenting them in room temperature. I was quite worried that in this humid hot weather creating a levian in room temperature will spoil. These 2 levian-wannabes are certainly more reactive. I will continue to experiment fermenting out of the fridge and see whether I can create a proper levian good enough to create a sourdough loaf.

Just to get a feel of making bread, I baked a wholemeal bread mix . Quite disastrous , hard as a brick and I couldn't shape it and although it rose and expanded well (I knead and fold lightly about 2-3 rounds) before baking, there was very little oven spring . 

Thanks for the recipe, Lechem. I will check it out.