The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How do they do it?

Miller's picture
Miller

How do they do it?

I have seen many stop motion video clips showing how an active, fed starter rises over time. I always wonder how do they have such active starters?

Mine is a 100% rye starter which I keep in the refrigerator between feedings (usually fed once per week). When I feed part of it to create a levain, it’s with bread flour at a 1:1:1 ratio. The levain takes 9-11 hours to double in height overnight.

Is there anything that I could do to strengthen my starter in advance of creating the levain?

wheatbeat's picture
wheatbeat

Why do you maintain it with 100% rye if you are not baking 100% rye levain? The bacteria and yeast optimize themselves to the grain you are maintaining and might be less efficient with wheat. I would suggest you try, as an experiment, to maintain your culture with the approximate ratio of your final bread and you will see a big difference.

Another issue you might have is with cold storing your culture in the fridge. Studies show that below 50F, a lot of the bacteria and yeast become irreversibly damaged. You need to re-populate your culture over a few days at **room temperature** to get things going again. If you go directly from the fridge and to your final dough, that is a big reason for your disappointment. 

Zuri

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Zuri, you wrote, “Studies show that below 50F, a lot of the bacteria and yeast become irreversibly damaged.” I wasn’t aware of that. Can you provide a link that speaks more on the subject? I am interested to learn.

Danny

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

I think I read that in Vanessa Kimbell's Sourdough School.  most of the LAB and yeast just go dormant, but some actually die off, too.

Or, maybe it was in Ed Wood's book, Classic Sourdoughs, revised.

wheatbeat's picture
wheatbeat

Sorry Danny, it will take me a while to go back into my notes on this. I did a class at SFBI on sourdough and we talked about some studies they did on cultures and temperature. I know 50F was the point where things started deteriorating irreversibly, which is why retarders are typically set to that temperature. As someone here mentioned, there are some books that cite that temperature as well. 

Zuri

Miller's picture
Miller

My practice so far has been to have a 100% rye starter and use a part of it every time with bread flour in order to make a levain. I have a rye starter because i read somewhere that it's easier to maintain than a wheat flour starter. Maybe in January I;ll create a wheat starter in order to see if there is a difference.

mutantspace's picture
mutantspace

just to clarify do you mix part of your rye starter with a blend of wheat and rye flour in your levain?....you might be better off doing a series of builds after taking it out of the fridge (thats what i do)....the first build out of the fridge takes a little longer (its cold and dormant and you need to warm it up to activate yeast and bacteria) but remember sourdough starter, levain and final dough is the same thing so you have temperature and environment to take into account...your 2nd build will be faster.

What i would do is slowly cut down ratio of rye flour in your builds until you get to levain stage....everything will get faster and grow quicker....temperature is key....i would also do a 1:2:2 (starter: flour: water) ratio....you need to get greedy yeast and LAB into a food heavenly environment which means: moist and warm. Basically tropical. And yes rye is easier to maintain but i think people make too much of ease etc....if you make wheat breads make yourself a wheat starter by converting your rye one into a wheat one....just keep a bit of your levain and go from there....   

Miller's picture
Miller

Thanks for the reply and the suggestions.

I use a part of my rye starter with bread flour in order to build a levain and I don't add any more rye at this stage. Based on my experience I agree with you that I should do a series of builds. So far using only one feeding hasn't always yielded a good result.

I'm going to try the 1:2:2 ratio that you mention. I'm struggling a bit with a relatively low kitchen temperature and I'll have to do something about it.

mutantspace's picture
mutantspace

this will help @ https://www.wildyeastblog.com/water/ and at https://www.weekendbakery.com/posts/a-few-tips-on-dough-temperature/ basically you need to get your starter/levain/dough to 23/24C minimum to get good activity. You may not be able to control temperature of room or flour but you can with water. The only thing to lok out for is killing yeast with hot water. So if youre working in cold temperatures add flour and water first (thatll bring temperature down) and then add starter. .   

BreadLee's picture
BreadLee

I've tried doing it exactly like what you describe.. you'll see benefit in doing it like zuri says.  To get things really rev'd up you need to spend a few days building up to bake day.  Huge difference when i did that.  

Miller's picture
Miller

I hope to do something effective about the low temperature problem in a few weeks’ time.

Miller's picture
Miller

I hope to do something effective about the low temperature problem in a few weeks’ time.

Miller's picture
Miller

I hope to do something effective about the low temperature problem in a few weeks’ time.