The Fresh Loaf

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How does the type/activity of your starter affect taste,crumb and crust?

wvdthree's picture
wvdthree

How does the type/activity of your starter affect taste,crumb and crust?

Hello all,

             I have been baking sourdough for 4-5 months and am using a variety of recipes and having some decent success. In looking at elements I can change to effect the final outcome of my bread I have started to look toward my starter. It is a stiff starter, (65% hydration using 100% bread flour) I got when attending a sourdough class at my local SD bakery. It seems active and leavens the bread which, it seems to me, is it's main function. As mentioned,I am fairly happy with my bread but would like to be able to develop a bit more open crumb. Not over the top open, just more open. Full disclosure: I am pretty laid back about maintaining my starter. It stays on the counter (73 degrees.ish) as I bake every other day or so. I dump half and add bread flour and water, mixing by eye and feel how I know this stiff starter should feel/look. I feed it once daily. When I make the levain for the bread I am currently working on I take 30 grams of starter, add 65 grams of water at 75 degrees and add 100 grams bread flour. I start my levain at 10 pm on day one and start the final dough at 8 am the next day. The levain has risen by 2.5 at that point. This levain is added to 400 grams of a mix of flours, salt and various percentages of water. I have used total hydration amounts ranging from 70-80 percent. Based on what I read in this forum I probably need to be more exacting and attentive with my starter :<)

     I have three questions regarding how your starter affects your final baked loaf. Please correct any misunderstandings!

 

1) How does it affect taste? From what I gather starters made from whiter flours will produce a more lactic taste. A starter made with rye/WW will produce a more acetic taste. Starters kept at room temp will produce more of a lactic taste whereas starter kept in the frig will become more acetic. These are only generalizations I have developed over time.

 

2) How does it affect crumb structure? Does a rye/WW starter produce a more or less open crumb? Does a all bread flour like mine produce or more or less open crumb? What about starter stiffness? Does a stiff or a more liquid starter produce or more or less open crumb?

 

3) How does a starter affect crust development? Same question here. Does starter hydration or flour composition affect crust development? Thinner,thicker? Crisper, softer?

 

Thanks in advance for any comments on any of the above.

Best,

        wvdthree

suminandi's picture
suminandi

the type of starter has only second order impact on any of those things, as long as it’s a good active starter. They all three mostly depend on the main dough ingredients, the bulk fermentation conditions and the amount of gluten development by the end of bulk fermentation. 

wvdthree's picture
wvdthree

Thanks suminandi,

                                I appreciate the response! What in fact should good gluten development look like at the end of BF?

 

Best,

        wvdthree

suminandi's picture
suminandi

you should be able to stretch a pinch of dough into a thin translucent membrane without it tearing ( that’s what people mean when they say “windowpane” ). If you have a nice big bubble on the dough surface that is thin and translucent, that shows you. In addition, the dough must be gassy enough that when it is folded and shaped, the shape doesn’t immediately sag ( if it does, just wait 20 min and fold again - pretty soon you will get a feel for the right amount of fermentation). 

Usually, to get proper gluten dev, you must do a combo of some waiting around, some kneading ( or vigorous mixing) at the start of bulk fermentation and some stretches during bulk. You must quit stretching as the dough becomes gassy, as it starts to become delicate- you will degas the dough if you stretch too much at the end. Several variants will work, you will converge on your own best method. 

This is where “active enough starter” is important- if you have to wait too long before the dough is gassy, it will start to break down and loose its structure and elasticity. Then you will get flat and sour bread. 

wvdthree's picture
wvdthree

Thanks suminandi,

                              Most of what you describe is currently how I am handling my dough. I have not been doing a windowpane test so will start doing so. My dough typically doubles in 4 hours (+-) or so during the BF at 73 degrees yet does not normally exhibit large,thin bubbles on the surface. Maybe this should tell me I have not achieved good gluten development yet? I will try the windowpane test on my loaf tomorrow.

Best,

         wvdthree

suminandi's picture
suminandi

perhaps just a couple minutes of slap and folding near the start of bulk ferment will get you nice surface bubbles. 

The rub is that if the dough has doubled but doesn’t windowpane, there’s not much to do- it’s too delicate to knead at this point. Possibly you can refrigerate it for a while to allow for more development without too much more fermentation. But mainly, bake and eat it, and next time, knead more at the outset. 🙂

sumi