The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Goopy White Flour Starter Question

Mr. Waffles's picture
Mr. Waffles

Goopy White Flour Starter Question

I usually maintain my starter with fresh-milled (literally - from my Grainmaker No. 99) hard white wheat. It’s very happy and poofs-up to about 250% of its original volume after each feeding.

But when I’ve tried to feed it with white flour — whether BRM Artisanal Bread Flour or Caputo 00 — it just winds up being a bubbly goop that maybe increases in volume about 25%. I’ve tried transitioning it slowly, over the course of maybe 10 feedings. Same end result. I’ve tried being patient and tending to it for weeks, hoping it needed some time to get used to the new flour. No improvement.

So is that just how white flour starters are? Goo? And if so, how do I know when they’re ready to use? With my whole wheat starter, I can tell volumetrically, but that will not work here.

phaz's picture

It still be thinner if using same ratios. Reduce water/increase flour to thicken it up. 

BakersRoom's picture

Are you ready for the magic secret?

Stir the white flour about 1/2 way through development.  Stir it good enough to whip some air in.  You'll only have to do this once, the first time you convert from wheat/white.  

Why is this?  I don't know.  But if you don't, you will have to wait a lot longer for the white flour to ferment (and when it does, it doesn't increase in volume, like you said). You're probably feeding the underfermented white starter to more white flour, thereby decreasing leavening power with each feeding that you hope will rehab the starter. 

So yeah, just give it a good vigorous stir about 4-6 hours after feeding (if you're on a 8-12 hour schedule) and watch that starter blow up just like you're expecting. 

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

A starter made with unbleached white flour will be quite different from a starter made with whole wheat flour, regardless of brand of flour. I maintain a mostly white flour, 100% hydration starter and when it's ready, it's fluffy, bubbly and light and it floats. It will have lots of gluten strings which you won't have in a whole wheat starter. It will dissolve in water with some stringy gluten bits floating about. If it is in a clear, straight-sided container it will usually at least double and will be full of bubbles (larger ones on the top, smaller ones throughout).

I think the yeast and bacteria mostly eat starch so don't really care what kind of flour you use. What might make a difference is that the freshly-milled whole grain flour will have more yeast cultures living on the outside of the grains so you may be giving your starter a boost from new beasties!

BreadLee's picture

I usually toss some organic rye to my white starter just to let it get its jollies off a bit.  

I'm not saying that's correct.  But it remains white and happy.