The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter novice with a few questions

Lisalovestobake's picture
Lisalovestobake

Starter novice with a few questions

Hi all, I recently got a good grape starter going, and have baked several loaves succesfully with it.  My question involves the care and feeding of it.

At this time, I currently have about 7 to 8 cups of starter in my refrigerator, and I'd like to bring it down to a more manageable amount.  I know you are supposed to discard some, and add flour and water to the remainder.  However, I'm not sure of the amounts.  If I discard two or three cups of it (well, I'll make pancakes, waflles, onion rings, biscuits etc with the 'discard' lol), replenishing with equal amounts obviously leaves me with 7 to 8 cups again.  Could someone guide me to the proper way of doing this, while keeping my starter at about 4 or 5 cups?

Also, once you take a break from baking, and just want to store the starter in the fridge, I know you should be feeding it about once a week or once every two weeks.  To feed it, must it come to room temp first?  If not, once you feed it, must you let it proof for several hours until it bubbles and doubles, and then store it back in the fridge for another week?  Yesterday, I took it out of the fridge, fed it with 1 cup of bottled water, and 1 cup of flour, gave it a good stir, then put it right back in the fridge.  I take it this is the wrong way?  The last thing I want to do is lose such a great start to a great starter!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated :)

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

You are going to have to bite the bullet and get rid of most of that starter! I know it is hard to do, but you really have to. If you continue to feed 1 cup of flour to 8 cups of starter, you are on your way to starving it to death. Feedings should always be, at the very minimum, twice as much flour as original starter. I generally only keep 1/4 cup of old starter and discard the rest.

Once the starter consumes the nutrients in the flour, the yeast cells multiply and you then have even more hungry mouths to feed but they will lie dormant waiting for more food. They are literally swimming in their own waste, so dump most of it out! Your starter will be much more robust and reward you with better bread!

As for your feeding questions, yes it is best to bring it to room temp before feeding. If you are in a hurry you can float your container in a bowl of warm water to hurry the process. Once fed, leave it out for about an hour and then you can put it back in the fridge if you aren't planning to use it then. If you are feeding in preparation to make dough, then you should wait several hours or overnight to let the starter proof before mixing your dough.

Lisalovestobake's picture
Lisalovestobake

Thank you so much for your help, Sourdolady :)  Now, is it ok if I keep one cup, then feed it one cup each of flour and water?  I forgot to mention, my starter is only about a little over 3 weeks old.

You're right about the dump being hard, since I've been nurturing it like crazy..LOL

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

You would be better off to only keep 1/2 cup if you are planning to feed 1 cup of flour. You really don't need to keep much (like I said, 1/4 cup is plenty) because it just means that you will have to dump out more when it comes time to feed. When you are ready to make dough, then give it a larger feeding to build up a quantity large enough for what your recipe calls for.

Lisalovestobake's picture
Lisalovestobake

Thanks for the replies, once again. :)

OK..it's 1 cup flour and 1 cup water, stirred into room temp 1/2 cup of starter, left out to chow down for 6-8 hours, then back into the fridge, as a manageable pet!  Just a few more questions though.  If I don't bake for a while, and decide to literally let it chill for a while, when I feed it once a week, do I always discard some before I feed?  I'm 'guessing' the answer is yes, so it doesn't build up again.

Also, I've been using all KA Bread flour for this starter.  I've heard that once you've got it going, you can switch to AP flour for feeding and replenishing.  Is this true?

Finally, is the feeding/replenishing rule of thumb always double the flour and water to starter?  I always thought it was equal ratios, probably because Nancy Silverton's directions said to keep feeding it 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour, each day..for 3 days before you want to use it.  Personally, I prefer the separate sponge method..removing some of the starter, and feeding and fermenting it for one particular recipe.  I heard you get more flavor that way (???)

PS - Anyone know some good recipes outside of waffles, biscuits, onion rings and pancakes, so I can use at least some of the 6 to 7 someodd cups of starter instead of dumping it? LOL

~Lisa~

jeffesonm's picture
jeffesonm

Hello all... 1st post. I've been baking bread for a month or so, mostly basic yeast-leavened breads like french and ciabatta, with a few failed attempts at rye. I've been browsing this forum for a week or two and ordered and received BBA, which has been great, and I'd like to branch out into sourdough.

I've been following Reinhart's recipe for the sourdough starter and today was day 4 of the seed, so I'm supposed to wait 4 to 24 hours until it doubles, then turn it into a barm. I read through zolablue's thread, above, and have a few questions:

-What type of starter am I making? Wet or firm? When everyone talks about starter, does that correspond to the seed or the barm in BBA terms?

-As I understand it, the starter effectively replace commercial yeast in the breads I make, correct? I found KA flour at a nearby distributor for ~$16/50lb sack, so yeast is the biggest expense with my loaves right now... it would be great if I could cut that out.

-I've been roughly measuring based on volume, but it sounds like it's worth investing in a scale if I continue to bake often. Thoughts?

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Elagins@sbcglobal.net

Yeasts are amazingly hardy microplants: they can take an enormous amount of abuse once they're established. My starter's about 3 years old and I generally refresh it right out of the fridge, discarding all but a tablespoon, and diluting it with 4oz or so of warm water, to which I add enough flour to form a thick paste and then leave it on the kitchen counter until it triples in size -- which can take anywhere from 4-12 hours, depending on temp, etc.

To give you an idea of how hardy starters are, I once totally screwed up by using all my starter for bagels and forgot to take out my mother batch. Rather than start from scratch, I ended up putting about 4 oz of warm water into the plastic container I keep the starter in, and scavenged the few yeasts that were left in the starter residue that stuck to the sides. It took about 24 hours, but voila!!! she came back, as effervescent and sour as ever.

So no worries about how much or how little you have ... just give your yeasts an occasional good meal and enough time to recolonize all that yummy fresh flour you've given them.

Lisalovestobake's picture
Lisalovestobake

I could not agree more.  Even though my starter is only a month or so old, it's so healthy and active, it doesn't take much to keep it that way.  I always keep 1 cup of mother starter in my fridge, then, depending on whether I'm baking several times a week, just once, or not at all, I take it out, discard 1/2 cup or feed it with equal amounts of flour and water to produce the amount I need for a recipe, and let it sit out for several hours until it's a risen, bubbling cauldron of lovliness, while replacing the mother starter with what I took out, letting her sit and chow down until she's well proofed..then giving her a stir then putting her back in the fridge until it's feeding/baking time again.  It really is quite easy to keep and hard to kill, once you have a nice, strong 'pet' going.

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

And you don't have to walk it! A.

Lisalovestobake's picture
Lisalovestobake

LOL!!!  Very true!  Not to mention, it may not give you any kind of affection, but the end result continually nourishes and delights your taste buds. :)