The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A couple of questions from a beginner

delta25's picture
delta25

A couple of questions from a beginner

Hi everyone, in a matter of days I've gone from thinking from sourdough is too complicated for me to ever attempt, to planning day by day how i'm going to create my starter and eventually bake my first loaf!

However, I hope you don't mind, but I have a couple of questions.

1. If the starter has been fed with AP (as stated post day 7 in the starter starter guide), and I want to do 3:1 white:whole-wheat, will that be ok, or will the food I've been feeding the starter have a negative effect? The levain would be fed with the 3:1 ratio, as stated in this recipe in fact.
2. How do you know how much levain to use when you’re about to bake? Am I correct in thinking that this relates mostly to when you’re going to be using it? Since using all of the discard form the starter feeding would mean the levain is ready then and there.
3. I work 8-5 Mon-Fri, and would like to bake my loaf on a Saturday morning. If I start my levain (keeping the same amount that I usually do for my starter) on friday morning and feed it the same as I usually feed my starter (with the hope that it would peak and pass the float test around the time I got home and finished the autolyse), do you think it would be feasible to get through all the phases and start the rest and proof in the fridge before bed (for instance midnight)?

Thanks so much for taking the time to read all that and (hopefully) replying.

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Make your starter. Asking too many questions too early on might make it more confusing. My advice would be not too worry too far ahead and concentrate on making your starter first.

But because you've asked i'll try my best to answer without making it any more daunting...

1: Absolutely fine. You can feed your starter any flour.

2: You can use a starter two ways. Feed the starter, wait for it to bubble up then take some off to use. Or you keep your starter as a seed only and build a levain. A levain is basically an off-shoot starter built to requirements for the recipe when your own starter might not be. There are pros and cons to both ways and it's very flexible.

3: There are many ways to fit it into your schedule. One way would be to build the levain before work so it's ready for when you come home. Build enough so you can complete the bulk ferment before bed. So if you're home by 6pm and you're prepared to work on the dough till 12 am then you have more then enough time to do so if you have around 20-30% levain (depending on how warm it and how your starter performs). Shape and refrigerate then bake it in the morning.

Hope this helps.

delta25's picture
delta25

Thanks so much, that was extremely helpful. Super excited :D

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Just to warn you that when making a starter the initial burst of activity is quite quick and impressive however this doesn't mean it's ready nor is it coming from the bacteria and yeasts found in a viable starter and more likely will be leuconostoc activity (bad bacteria). The smells at this stage can be a bit whiffy but do not worry your starter has not "gone bad". The second stage very often is a quiet one. Again, this is very normal and your starter has not died. This happens around about days 4-5. If this does happen then simply slow down your feeds and just give it a stir every now and again. When it picks up then carry on again. Most importantly is to have patience and keep it warm at around 78°F.

Should you run into problems do not panic. One cannot predict exactly what a starter will do on what day whatever a recipe says. Creating a starter is more about reading the starter more than following a recipe but how is one supposed to do that if you haven't created a starter before? So any questions just post them on this site and don't do anything rash.

delta25's picture
delta25

Thanks again. Great advice. I'll make sure to ask as I go along. Unfortunately i don't know anyone else who's into baking bread, so i don't have anyone to turn to for advice (apart from the internet of course!). One last thing, do you have a go to recipe which I should attempt for my first loaf?

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Of the popular Vermont Sourdough by Jeffrey Hamelman. The author has made some changes to the original recipe, one of which is using a 100% hydration starter instead of a 125% hydration starter. It's a good clear write up that's easy to follow.

http://www.wildyeastblog.com/my-new-favorite-sourdough/

delta25's picture
delta25

What can I say! Thanks again. You've been of fantastic help :)

Filomatic's picture
Filomatic

This is a fail-safe starter recipe that also explains things perfectly: http://yumarama.com/968/starter-from-scratch-intro/

I highly recommend Hamelman's Bread.  It's comprehensive, easy to follow, and has countless great recipes.  It's designed for home bakers and pros alike.  https://www.amazon.com/Bread-Bakers-Book-Techniques-Recipes/dp/1118132718/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Once you have some experience and are familiar with how long things take (which much depend on temperature), you will find ways to make your schedule work for SD baking.  Tartine I discusses this.  (The Tartine method itself is advanced technique, and not easy to master.  Hamelman is much easier and still gives great results.)  Examples of creating flexibility include:  making levain and then cold retarding it until you're ready to use it; cold bulk fermenting; cold final rising; varying percentage of levain (more = faster bulk, less = slower bulk); and adding some commercial yeast alone or with a commercial yeast preferment (poolish, biga, pate fermentee).

delta25's picture
delta25

Thanks! With regards to retarding the levain in the fridge, if you throw it in there when it has peaked (and passes the float test) how long would you say it would last in that state?

Filomatic's picture
Filomatic

I can't say for sure.  You might try not letting it get to the maximum readiness before retarding it.  I have heard you can retard it for a few days, though.

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Allow it to peak and refrigerate for 2 weeks. If I was using it straight into a dough I'd say about a week but have done more. More then that it either gets a feed or it's used to build a levain.

A 100% hydration wheat starter I don't think would last as long.

So it depends but I'd say a few days and still good to use in a dough or for storage a week or two depending.