The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Greetings and questions from London!

Novice's picture
Novice

Greetings and questions from London!

Bread making has been something I have wanted to do for years. I decided to try sourdough, as I like the idea of looking after the starter in the fridge and I actually prefer the taste of sourdough.... So I get a starter going which I was told needed feeding/topping up after use with a certain [I'll come to that] ratio of flour and water.

At this point I need to tell you that I have dyscalculia and this means that I find all the talk of percentages, hydration ratios and the relative calculations that go with the fine tuning of sourdough utterly bewildering :( and I'm now getting quite frustrated and confused about how understand some of the issues I am having, as I try and decipher the experiences and suggestions given on this forum.

Can you good people please tell me what % my starter is, if I add 150g flour and 100g water every time I top it up. Is this as good way to proceed?

I am not going to be making lots of loaves just a medium size for 2 people twice a week in general.

A recipe I have uses 400g flour and 200g water + 9g salt. To this I add approx 200g from the above ongoing starter. Is there too much water, given that I use a high percentage of white flour. That is mostly white with a dash of malted or wholemeal, as I feel. maybe my attitude is to Gung-Ho! for good results!

Secondly - I have been and like the overnight method. I make and prepare in the early evening and then either put it in the fridge, at which point it doesn't seem to 'do' much. In the morning I then need to proof it in the oven [approx 2hrs] before baking. If I leave it out on the worktop overnight (approx 20C) it goes mad and then I need to let it re rise again anyway in the morning... Sometimes it is quite floppy and the loaves a bit flat (see pic) - but the texture is lovely, soft and bouncy, crusty crust but the slices are thin.... How do I get big round cracked boules, like I see on the forum here ??

I think that is enough from me! I will retreat, read more posts and look at the lovely round loaves, and hope that one day I hit the jack pot!

Best regards and thanks

Novice

 

 

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Welcome, Novice! You have definitely come to right place for help. One of our starter “gurus” is Abe, and I think he shares the same city with you. His help will get you headed on the right path.

If you stick with us and continue to read post and ask questions you will have to find another handle. A novice now, but knowledgeable in the future.

Baker’s percentages bewilder all of us at the beginning, but once you catch on it makes perfect sense and is invaluable.

Looking forward to watching your progress!

Dan

Oh. Retarding shaped loaves overnight is an excellent way to bake trouble free bread efficiently. I’ll leave the initial starter help to others that are able to better guide you in that area. Getting your starter strong and active is your first goal. Baking good bread is only possible after the starter is sorted out.

When we describe starter feedings, we use ratios. The ratio goes like this; parts of starter + parts of water + parts of flour. Example 1:1:1. That means 1 part starter + 1 part water + 1 part flour. Grams are the unit of choice. Let’s say we want 60 grams of starter. You would mix 20g starter + 20g water + 20g flour. Starter ratios vary. If the ratio was 1:3:5 the mix might be 5g starter + 15g water + 25g flour. So, 5x1=5, 5x3=15, and 5x5=25. 

Don’t hesitate to ask questions, if you are unclear about anything. There is an abudance of help available on this forum.

Novice's picture
Novice

Thank you for your advice Dan. Can I just confirm that I have understood you correctly?...

I would like to make the San Fransisco SD from the Fresh loaf recipes section.

He calls for 300g of starter - at least that is the one I think I am using. So by your calculations to get that I take 100g of my starter and add 100g each of water and flour. Is that correct?

Then follow up with White flour: 350g, Salt: 10g, Water: 210g

Until now I have just used my starter straight out of the pot, rather than taking some out and preparing/feeding a small part for a bake.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

When you increase the size of your starter to bake a bread we call that “building” your starter. And the portion of starter that you use to mix your dough is called a levain. You can build your starter 1, 2, 3, or even more times in order to get the weight you want.

Let’s say you need 70g for your bread. But you only have a small amount of starter. You could do 2 builds. First build might be 10:10:10. Once that matures you could take all 30g of the first build and add 20g water and 20g flour. Once that matures it is ready to mix.

Dabrownman has a build calculation that I often use. It’s called “Lucy’s Rule of 7”. Take your total weight of levain needed and divide by 7. In the example above we wanted 70g. So, 70/7=10. Since the first build was 10:10:10, the second build need 2 times the water of the first and also 2 times the flour of the first.

Another example for a 70g levain would be a single build of 10g starter + 30g water + 30g flour.

You wrote, “He calls for 300g of starter - at least that is the one I think I am using. So by your calculations to get that I take 100g of my starter and add 100g each of water and flour. Is that correct?

Then follow up with White flour: 350g, Salt: 10g, Water: 210g”.

You are mis-understanding a 123 formula. It consist of 1 part starter + 2 parts water + 3 parts flour. Salt is basically 2% of the weight of the TOTAL flour. If you started withh 300g (100% hydration) starter, you would need to add 600g water and 900g flour. For the salt you would multiply the total flour, which is 600g + the 150g in the starter. 750 x .02 = 15g salt.

It may seem complicated at first, but once you understand, it makes complete sense and is very simple to calculate.

Don’t hesitate to shout back for clarification.

Dan

Novice's picture
Novice

Hi Dan, thank you for your reply but I'm sorry I really don't get it :( 

So if I made 300g and that is too much, I can just use less of that to go with 350g of flour, since I don't want a loaf bigger than that?

My starter jar contains at least 250g of bubbling mix so I have quantity enough to use for my average bake. If it is bubbling nicely is it necessary to make a levain as well? What is the difference?

Please could you look at the recipe (San Fancisco SD) I linked to in my original post and explain the starter in context of that? I am sorry to seem dense but actually when it comes to numbers, I am!

Thank you for your patience.

[Innumerate] Novice

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I deal with a lot of post. I don't know were I got the idea you were baking a 123 sourdough. You are correct to stick with JMonkey's formula. And yes, 100:100:100 will absolutely work.

You can speed up or slow down the levain's maturity with temperature. Warmer (up to 84F) and cooler (down to maybe 76F) will greatly affect the time it takes to mature. Once you get used to your starter/levain things will become intuitive. You can also increase or decrease the ratio of water and flour to starter to affect the timing. So, 60:120:120 would get you 300g, but the ratio of flour to starter would increase to 2 to 1. Since there is more food to digest the fermentation will take longer. Sometimes that is a good thing, depending on your schedule.

Sorry for the confusion :-(

Danny

Novice's picture
Novice

Thank you Danny for the correction, much appreciate your time and it is nice to know I am doing something right!

Novice

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"...please tell me what % my starter is, if I add 150g flour and 100g water every time I top it up. Is this as good way to proceed?"

the math:  formula---->  water divided by flour x 100 gives the % hydration of the goop

so....    let's see....   100 / 150 is 0.666 and times 100 = 66.6%  (can round up to 67% and drop the silly decimal point.)

so the hydration of the starter is 67%.  

Which is just fine and probably feels like a soft dough getting softer and more liquid as it ferments.

The recipe of 400g flour with 200g water is 50% hydration and about the lowest hydration for plain flour.  That combined with the starter at 67% will raise the amount of water in the dough as long as you don't work in too much flour while kneading.  If you find the dough feels too wet, just let the dough stand covered tightly for half an hour, even ten minutes will make a difference in the feel of the dough.  Then knead to develope the gluten using as little flour as possible. The more whole flour in the recipe, the more water you may have to add.  

Not too long ago I learned to knead with water, a whole new concept and it took a little getting used to but it is one way to raise the amount of water in the dough when too much flour has been worked into it or the dough seems too stiff after making the initial dough.  (Then next time add a touch more water or milk to the dough before kneading.)

Welcome, Mini

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to raise the dough, just until it starts getting puffy, almost one third added volume, then pop into the fridge overnight. Shape gently (popping and big bubbles) in the morning for the final proof.  See if that helps the shape.  The dough can also rest in a small floured basket or floured napkin bowl while it rises, this helps form a "memory" in the crust for rounder loaves.  Can flip out upside down or rightside up. Score if you want to.  I will often just line a bowl with baking parchment and set the shaped loaf rightside up to final proof.  Then lift the parchment to my hot baking sheet, score and shove into the hot oven to bake.  Works pretty good and easy.  The parchment can be pulled out from under the loaf after the loaf's "oven spring" when it starts browning and used again. I tend to turn the loaf first and while the oven door is open, yank out the paper. :)

Novice's picture
Novice

Thank you Mini!

My kneading consists of 3 lots of 'pull and turn' kneading with 1 hour breaks, during the evening (in between watching TV :) ). Then I put it in the fridge, but often it doesn't rise much overnight, perhaps my fridge is too cold (+/-5C). If I leave it out it goes a bit mad and then collapses i the morning.

Since I have a cast iron casserole I thought I would have a go at the Dutch Oven baking, but the jury seems to be out on whether putting it in a cold or pre heated pot is best...

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Your dough is not expected to rise much or at all in the refrigerator, depending on how cool it is. But things are happening. That is normal.

Dan