The Fresh Loaf

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How to 'use' starter after it's been slowed-down ? (Nobody?)

rb's picture
rb

How to 'use' starter after it's been slowed-down ? (Nobody?)

I've created my 1st starter.

100% whole rye fed, initially with pineapple juice.

After 5 days, I had a  very active starter.  At 80degs, 1:1:1 feedings, doubling in 2-3 hours, finally on a 4x/day feed.

Smells good, looks good.  So I think I've got a decent, stable & healthy starter.

But, for my domestic, non-commercial, just-getting-started needs, that's way too fast.

So I'm learning to slow it down, targeting a 1x/day countertop/room-temp feeding, with an eventual in-the-fridge goal.

Switching to a 1:2:2 @ 70degs feed helped quite a bit, nicely domed and tripled at ~ 14 hours --- but at 24 hours, starting to collapse. I've now switched to 1:4:4, and 68degs; we'll see how this goes.

My question is:  when it comes time to use the starter -- e.g., to form a poolish -- especially once it'll be in the fridge, do I need to first rejuvenate the starter, warming it up and feeding it with a higher-pressure 1:1:1 feed once or twice?  And then use it in the poolish?

Or, is it sufficient to grab some of the slow/cold starter, and use it immediately in the poolish, and let it effectively rejuvenate, in situ, there?  In this latter case, I'm pretty sure it'd be a slower rise -- not sure yet if the starter would take at all ...

Thanks!

rb

Riley's picture
Riley

These are so exactly my questions with regard to my starter.   I want to slow down a little also.  Hope you get some answers.  

rb's picture
rb

On the tangent topic --

The feeding change from 1:2:2 -> 1:4:4 didn't seem to slow it down at all.  Same apparent rate & amount of rise, and same time & amount of collapse at 24 hours.

Which has me scratching my head a bit as to how to effectively slow this down.  Cold water to start maybe?  Less hydration?  Although, I'd prefer to keep a 100% hydration starter ... it's pretty thick/stiff now as it is.

EDIT: I've come across some anecdotal info that suggests I may be fretting too much over this "early collapse".  I.e., it's less a worry, and more just an indicator that my starter needs a feed.

I haven't managed to find anything quantitative about this.  I can easily also find posts that suggest you 'should' feed at peaking, or immediately after -- not wait 'too long' until it starts to collapse.

rb's picture
rb

Trying again ... anyone have some guidance here?

Heikjo's picture
Heikjo

I can't say if this is the ideal way to do it, but here's what I do and what's been working for me a long time.

I use my starter 2-3 times a week and the time between it is kept in the fridge. I always keep the starter in room temp after feeding, which can be 20C in winter and 30C in summer. I usually need the starter either in the morning or evening. When I need it in the evening, I take it out sometimes 4-8 hours before and feed it. I usually keep a pretty small amount, so it's not a problem that the seed from the old starter is cold from the fridge, but if I had larger amounts I might heat the water a little to get a higher starter temp after feeding. When I need it in the morning I will take it out in the evening and feed it in a manner that makes it ready 8-12 hours later. This is usually where I need to use different inoculations to get it ready next morning.

I don't control room temp to fit my starter schedule, so I use inoculation to determine when the starter is supposed to peak. These days I might feed it 1:2:2 to get it ready 8 hours later, while last summer I usually fed it 1:10:10, sometimes 1:20:20 to avoid it peaking too early in the middle of the night.

When I initially started baking with sourdough, I would feed the starter, put it in the fridge around the time it peaked and take it out to put directly into a dough later. That may not be ideal, but I made bread with it pretty fine.

A starter can be used both before and after it peaks. It can affect some properties of the dough, but doesn't make it unusable. If you can find a way to feed the starter to make it peak around the time you plan to use it, that's a good thing, but an hour to and fro works too.

A week in the fridge is no problem. No need to feed it more than once before using.

rb's picture
rb

> here's what I do and what's been working for me a long time

always good to read real experience -- thanks!

> use my starter 2-3 times a week

much higher than my starter's pace ... with luck, will get there

> heat the water a little to get a higher starter temp after feeding

other than increasing speed, does that 'do' anything?

> I don't control room temp to fit my starter schedule,

I _can_, and _did_, to temp-control with seedling-mats when creating my starter, fermenting a poolish, and rising my dough.

> so I use inoculation to determine when the starter is supposed to peak.

understanding what works in what timeframe, I guess, simply comes with experience ...

after a 1:4:4 re-feed right out of the fridge, ix 3X'd and peaked ~ 19hrs.

while building the starter, 1:4:4 feeds -- at uncontrolled "room temp" (currently, ~ 67F) were peaking ~ 12-15 hrs.

> would feed the starter, put it in the fridge around the time it peaked and take it out to put directly into a dough later

that's interesting.  hadn't come across that method yet.  I assume then that it *is* "active enough" when cold to be useful in a dough?

> A week in the fridge is no problem.

yep, my 1st attempts seem happy enuf at ~1wk in the fridge b4 feeding

> No need to feed it more than once before using.

On that I've been told that one "must" do 'several' (that seems to be a bit of a fuzzy measure ...) feeds before using after being in the fridge.  unclear to me as to why?

My gut -- piecing all the various tibbits of info i'm finding together -- is that even right out of the fridge, as long as & once I get to a healthy 2-3X rise, even if just the "first feed" out of the fridge, it's usable @ peak +/- a bit ...

Thanks for the comments.  For new bakers, I do understand that the answer to any question is usally some combination of "it depends" & "probably ..."

Heikjo's picture
Heikjo

 >> heat the water a little to get a higher starter temp after feeding

>other than increasing speed, does that 'do' anything?

No, it's only to get it a bit warmer. I normally just use tap water, but if I were to use 50g or something from the starter in the fridge and add tap water, the starter will be a bit cold after mixing it. I don't know how much longer it would take to peak.

>> would feed the starter, put it in the fridge around the time it peaked and take it out to put directly into a dough later
>that's interesting.  hadn't come across that method yet.  I assume then that it *is* "active enough" when cold to be useful in a dough?

The way I see it, if I put it in the fridge around peak, it will go into a kind of hibernation and retain much of the activity when I take it out and warm it back up. I don't know the details about how this would affect the starter or dough, but I have used it successfully and seen others do it to. Can't hurt to give it a try if it's a way to fit your schedule.

>> No need to feed it more than once before using.
>On that I've been told that one "must" do 'several' (that seems to be a bit of a fuzzy measure ...) feeds before using after being in the fridge.  unclear to me as to why?

>My gut -- piecing all the various tibbits of info i'm finding together -- is that even right out of the fridge, as long as & once I get to a healthy 2-3X rise, even if just the "first feed" out of the fridge, it's usable @ peak +/- a bit ...

I try to avoid words like "must" and "have to" when talking about baking, especially with sourdough. I strongly disagree that it is a must to feed it several times. Was that after a week in the fridge or longer? I can't say if one feed out of the fridge has a meaningful negative impact on the dough compared to feeding it 2-3 times after taking it out. I might take it out and feed it one more time during the week instead, and just put it back in the fridge.

If you plan to use it once a week, I would probably not feed it and put it into the fridge as it peaks to use a week later. I would rather take it out some time before you need it, feed it, wait for it to peak, use it, put it back in the fridge.

There are many ways to use a starter and probably many ways to optimize it to reach a slightly better result, but you can also make it very simple and still make great bread. The largest part of a successful dough comes from an active starter, time and temperature. If you can get those three working, you already got a great loaf.

Here's a pretty easy recipe that I used in the beginning: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/44111/easy-sourdough-part-1 There's very little action done on the dough and he uses the starter straight out of the fridge.

rb's picture
rb

thanks again for the comments -- really helpful, both specifically & generally :-)

> I try to avoid words like "must" and "have to" when talking about baking, especially with sourdough

That message is quickly taking root!

I'm about to start my bake with my 1st out-of-the-fridge, "re-animated" starter.  From all the reading/comments, I'm betting I'm in good shape.  We'll see how it goes ...

Thanks!