The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A tale of two starters! (Newbie questions)

wmclean's picture
wmclean

A tale of two starters! (Newbie questions)

We all have to start somewhere and, like others starting out, the Sourdough saga in our house has had its ups and downs!

I am over the first hump (or is that lump?(smile)) and had a spectacular first result with my White/Spelt loaf.  The result for my Rye/Spelt loaf was only so /so as it did not rise much very much and was dense. The autolyse, bulk fermentation, shaping etc was pretty much the same for both. (Yes I know … I need a baking journal!)

I am currently in the process of doing both the loaves again (with modifications, of course). … however find that I still have questions regarding my Sourdough starters (SDS).

Facts
    • I am maintaining 2 independent SDS. One for the White/Spelt (50/50) and one for the multigrain (Rye/Spelt (50/50)). Both SDS are maintained with 100% Hydration. I feed them with 33g of SDS and 75g of the flours and 75g water.
    • Both SDS (finally) are consistently rising more than double at the 5 hour mark. Lots of bubbles and smell perfectly fruity.
    • When it is time to feed the SDSs at the 12 hour mark,..
        ○ The White SDS consistently falls to close to the original height and is thin, runny and "gluteny".
        ○ The Multigrain SDS will fall back a bit, but still retains close to double the size at the 12 hour mark. It is full of air and light and cannot be poured at all; it needs to be spooned out.

Questions
    1. Why would the White SDS be consistently flat and runny at the end of the 12 hours and, conversely, why is the Multigrain SDS consistently holdings its expanded size and needs to be spooned out?
    2. When I did the float test on the respective SDS in water before making the loaves with it, the White SDS floated, however the Multigrain SDS did not … and does not. Why? Yet the Multigrain SDS seems to be a powerhouse!
        a. Would this be the reason why my Multigrain Rye/Spelt loaf did not rise?

And a further supplemental Question, just thrown in for "fun" …
   3. Both my doughs, (the White and the Multigrain) after I have added the remaining water, salt and SDS, are still very stiff. To do the first fold in the BF, I need to use one hand to hold the dough down and the other stretch. Is this normal? Or is it possible sign of not enough water?

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

You mentioned 2 starters, white/spelt and rye/spelt. Is the spelt and/or rye 100% whole grain? I would imagine the rye/spelt is more viscous.

What is the ambient temperature of the location your starters are kept in? This is as important than anything else.

In respect to question 3 we will need to know the formula or recipe for the dough. Sounds like you may need more water.

wmclean's picture
wmclean

Thanks DanAyo

Yes .. all my no wheat flours are organic whole grain flours. Indeed you are right. They rye/spelt is much more viscous.

When not in the refrigerator for a week, my starters are kept in an oven with the 40watt light on (Tried 60watt and it was too hot .... almost cooked the starters!) Temp is approx 80F.

Thanks ... I suspect water is the problem as well.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

80F is too warm for an active starter feed 33:75:75 to go 12 hours between feedings. When your starters fall back as you described the LAB (good bacteria) are over running the yeast.

Maybe you could try putting your starters on top of the refrigerator. Check that temp. The difference in your starter’s activity between 76 and 80F is huge. A hypothetical example; your rye/spelt starter @ 80F might double in 3-4 hr. The identical starter @ 76 might take 8 hr or more to double.

Also whole grains are much more active than white flour. They will mature more rapidly.

You might try increasing the feed ratio. Maybe (1:3:3) 33:99:99. Watch it to see how long it takes to reach maximum rise and then just begin to recede. This is an opportune time to refresh.

wmclean's picture
wmclean

Hi DanAyo for your recommendations. I followed your recommendations and dropped to a 1:3:3 feeding mix and tried to maintain the temperature as near to 76F as possible (Hard in the summer at times). I will try to post the foto of the result at 8 hours after feeding.

At 5 hours after the feeding the SDS had only risen approx 60% of its normal (doubled) height. Is this normal / correct?

wmclean's picture
wmclean

I should note that the white flour I am using is a standard AP unbleached flour.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

AP is fine. It is also important to know that wet starters, like yours will mature quicker than a starter that is more dry.

Images of your mature starter should help us to troubleshoot.

wmclean's picture
wmclean

Thanks. I will see what the temp is with the oven light off. As well, it will be tomorrow before I can upload fotos of the mature starter.

When you say "Also whole grains are much more active than white flour. They will mature more rapidly." ... would this be the reason why my multigrain SDS doesnt float when the white one does? That the multigrain SDS is mature? If it is mature ... then why is it still full of bubbles and retains its expanded (doubled) form?

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I don’t think the float test is reliable for wet starters. With that said, I never use the float test so my experience is limited.

Whole grain doesn’t develop gluten like white flour. The gluten network is necessary to hold all of the gas produced during fermentation. If your starters are at least doubling and have a network of bubbles, they should be ready to raise your dough.

If both of your 100% starters (feed 33:75:75)are active they will probably be over matured after 12 hr at 76-78F. At 33:75:75 your are feeding 1:2.3:2.3. If your starters mature too fast you can increase the feed even more. Try 1:5:5 (Starter:Water:Flour). For example; 5 starter + 25 water + 25 flour. The higher the ratio, the longer it will take to mature.

Pictures could be a great help.

wmclean's picture
wmclean

19 Jul 07 Two starters

Foto taken at 8 hours after feeding. Used DanAyo recommendation of a 1;3;3 feeding. Hibernated at 76F approx.

Multigrain on the left, White with Spelt and Barley on the left

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

At the time the photo above was taken were the starters still rising or had they started to recede?

wmclean's picture
wmclean

I would say they were close to their highest point and started to recede after that. At this point ... 11 hours after, they still have about 50% of their highest point.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

If possible, try to feed them 3 times a day, about every 8 hours. This should be temporary in order to get the starters more active. You don’t want to let your starter recede too much before refeeding. If you do the bacteria (LAB) will increase but the yeast will decrease. At this stage you want to focus on the yeast.

wmclean's picture
wmclean

I will give that a try.


Cheers

W.

wmclean's picture
wmclean

So I asked

And a further supplemental Question, just thrown in for "fun" …
   3. Both my doughs, (the White and the Multigrain) after I have added the remaining water, salt and SDS, are still very stiff. To do the first fold in the BF, I need to use one hand to hold the dough down and the other stretch. Is this normal? Or is it possible sign of not enough water?

Answer was:  In respect to question 3 we will need to know the formula or recipe for the dough. Sounds like you may need more water.

So ... as I was in the middle, I finished the breads and they are below. I suspect that I need more water. however any other observations that could possible produce the results shown below would be welcome.

two loaves

loaves opened

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Reply with the formula for these breads. How much ch flour, water, salt, and starter.

Both starters have raised the breads and had some bloom in the oven.

wmclean's picture
wmclean

 

 White Spelt Barley
Flour Wheat28048,3%
Spelt15025,9%
Barley15025,9%
 580100,0%
SDS10017,2%
Water35063,8%
Honey20 
Salt101,7%
 1060 
wmclean's picture
wmclean

In vvoth my calcs, the honey or molasses is included in the water / liquid percentage

 

 Multigrain
Rye15031,9%
Spelt15031,9%
Wheat (Germ)17036,2%
SubT470100,0%
SDS8017,0%
SubT550 
Water29072,3%
Molasses50 
Salt102,1%
 900 
DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

In both cases, the hydration may be too low (not enough water). Whole grains absorb a lot more water than refined flour. Are you milling your own grain? Is the whole grain 100% extraction (nothing sifted out)?

Are you using a know good formula?

If you are willing, you could try a test bake for a basic sourdough bread. If so, this formula and method is an extreme popular choice. Once you succeed with this one you can move on to your desired bread with more confidence. http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/56678/123-sourdough-no-knead-do-nothing-bread

Whichever bread to decide to bake, take pictures next time and document your process. That will enable us to help you better.

Dan

Update - 50% or more whole grain is challenging for experienced bakers. Here is an excellent formula, but you may progress faster if you start with the all purpose or bread flour bread above, then move on to whole grains. http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/56742/community-bake-maurizios-fiftyfifty-whole-wheat-sourdough-everyone-welcome

wmclean's picture
wmclean

Hi Dan

Good help ... Thanks.

I compared the 123 basic sourdough recipe with my first loaf and, although that first loaf turned out pretty good,  I realized that it too needed more water.

The 50/50 basic loaf recipe is also very helpful and better yet is going back to the basics

Some of the big learnings from the above to me, so far, is that "details do matter".

  • Temperature matters.
  • Ratios matter.
  • Grams (measurements) matter
  • Timing matters.
  • How you treat the dough matters
  • ... And experience matters.

Working on all the above (smile), all at once!

I knew that my first bread was too good to be true / beginners luck. However now I think I know why I was fortunate that first time and why the others did not work as well.

So ... Back to the dough again!

Warren

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Warren, it sounds like you have a good grasp on things. Start off with a sourdough bread that provides to greatest opportunity for success. Nothing builds confidence more than success! If you climb the ladder one step at a time, you’ll get to the top faster. And you’ll fall less in the process.

Sourdough baking entails more than commercial yeast. Same with whole grains. Neither are out of the reach of any baker, but both makes things a little more challenging. The good news is, both avenues are well worth the effort!

Document your bakes and post pictures. We are here to help and get you off to a great start. 

Danny