The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I'm an intellectual learner, need help with practical learning...

VonildaBakesBread's picture
VonildaBakesBread

I'm an intellectual learner, need help with practical learning...

This starter (coming from my neighbor's bakery to me) is doubling in 3-4 hours. Whaaaaa? No wonder it had sunk when I fed in the evening and checked it in the morning. I sincerely was told to feed the starter every 24 hours on the counter. I was taught here to feed every 12 hours, avoid sinkage. Here and in my book and the sourdough blogs I've read, it is suggested (especially since I don't have a bakery, but hubby and me) to put it in the fridge once strong and feed once-twice weekly when ready to bake. Wish someone here would live with me and hubby as a sourdough nanny, telling me what to do when, lolol.

So, surely I don't feed again 4 hours later. Bake with half of it and get it into the fridge? What's the logic, so I can think it through for myself, lol. Begin to get to the art of the bread baking. Like Grandma. (Wish I'd cared more when I was a teen.)

Feeding: I was told to feed 100g-100g-100g. Or 100-50-50. Or 25-50-50. Saw one with a 6.75 oz water or something. This seriously does well at 100-100-100.

Maybe I've studied/read too much? I definitely am an intellectual learner, and struggle with learning practical things, but I have experience with yeasted bread and so desperately want to learn whole wheat sourdough. 

Help? 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Vonilda, the time it takes for a starter to mature differs from starter to starter. It seems you may have a very active one.

Doubling in 3-4 hours is good, but the one thing you left out was the temperature. Especially with sourdough, the temperature is as important as anything else. What would you estimate the temperature of the room your starter is kept in?

It is important to re-feed your starter once it matures. That is generally just after the starter reaches it's highest height and just starts to recede. There are many things that you can do to prolong the time it takes for your starter to mature. Cooler temperatures, a higher ration of flour to starter, use all purpose or bread flour (white flour), and a few other things that are not as common. 

How long does it take for your starter to fall?
And at what temperature?

Danny

VonildaBakesBread's picture
VonildaBakesBread

It is somewhere between 70-75 throughout the day. Mostly low 70s. Not sure how long the fall, because I've been feeding it at night. Fed it in the morning today for this reason. It doubled by 1:30, and now, three hours later is starting to fall. A very, very small amount of hooch in a few of the holes. It seems like I should bake some bread (my first sourdough), then start keeping it in the fridge until ready to bake each week. But no book will give me the answer, lololol.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

What ratio are you presently feeding?
starter + water + flour

VonildaBakesBread's picture
VonildaBakesBread

My ratio is 1:1:1 (100 g each.) 100-50-50 made for a bad couple of days a couple days ago.

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

At the 100:50:50 ratio unless you feed it several times a day. Even 100:100:100 can be an issue with really lively starters. See my response below. 

VonildaBakesBread's picture
VonildaBakesBread

Would it solve my problem to put a regular mason jar lid on it, instead of cheesecloth? Loosely. (How do I put a mason jar lid on loosely?)

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

Dan is on to something. I am guessing that he thinks you need larger feeds to hold your starter over. I agree. Try feeding one part starter to 3 or more parts each of water and flour by weight and see what happens. 

VonildaBakesBread's picture
VonildaBakesBread

That is hilarious! Makes me think of feeding a toddler seconds so they don't ask for snacks all afternoon! :)  Makes sense. 1:3:3 will be a good try. Oooh. Thinking of all the flour that will take, but I could start with 25 or 59 g starter and go from there. See? Starting to think instead of study. Thanks!

So, try baking with the sourdough today? I think I am 52 and looking for permission, lololol

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

They get hungry and if you don’t feed them well, they go all cranky and full of acid that really screws up your dough (goes all liquidy and super hard to shape).  Just use very small amounts of starter and build up to what you need. And yes, go for it, bake away with what you have and just save a bit to feed. The bread you get will be better than anything in the store anyhow. 

And to make your life way easier, once you are happy with your starter and it produces bread you are happy with, then thicken it up with more flour than water and store it in the fridge. Let it rise about 25% before refrigerating. When you want to bake, take a small bit from the fridge and build up using a 1:2:2 or even a 1:3:3 ratio to what you need for your recipe. That way no flour hits the trash. 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

There is no reason to keep a large starter unless you need a large amount for your bread. But what we do in that case is build a levain to increse the sourdough culture.

You could split off a second starter to experiment. Try feeding it 5g starter + 20g water + 20g white flour. That would be a feed ratio of 1:4:4. If you do give that a try let us know how long it takes to reach it’s maximum height.

It only seems complicated until to grasp the fundamentals.

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Hi VBB

You say that you obtained the starter from  a bakery, unfortunately some bakeries  don't always  stick to complete sour dough and can have amounts of commercial yeast in their so called s/d cultures to push them along to suit their production schedules. I know that a good  active starter can require 3 feeds in a day (8 hours) and that a 2 x feed at breakfast and a feed in the evening suits most folk. The benefit of maintaining a  very small amount of culture in the fridge and then growing it up over several feeds at room temperature to the amount required for an upcoming bake eliminates some of the waste and produces a more active, viable and dependable product.

I have seen people claiming that they have starters that they have got going from commercial yeast  and go through the same regime of feeding etc but what they are really doing is on growing  the commercial yeasts.

Kind regards Derek

Martin Crossley's picture
Martin Crossley

”Don’t Panic” (LoL)

OK I followed a very similar path to you, from yeasted bread to SD, and got similarly confused and befuddled by all the different information out there - of variable quality.

First thing I’ll say is that the journey is VERY much worth it: making SD bread is immensely satisfying, and the results are delicious in every way. Second is that despite all the mythology, the basic concepts are actually pretty straightforward; and every step is repeatable and tractable to rational experiment. Third, however, is that there are very many different valid ways of putting the various stages together, that all work and produce great bread. There is NO absolutely ‘right’ way (although there are several wrong ones!).

Anyway you’re definitely starting at the right place: which is to get properly familiar with a starter, what input parameters you can adjust, and how it responds. Although you’ve clearly got yourself a viable one from your baker contact, The process of getting your own going from scratch is instructive, reliable and straightforward - it does take a few weeks though; and it really does help to have a well-informed source of information as to how to do it. On this score, I can not recommend highly enough the posts written on this site by microbiologist Debra Wink.

I suggest you start here: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10856/pineapple-juice-solution-part-1 it’s an article on how to make your own starter, but it and its sequel are a great and well informed source of information to understand what’s actually going on. If you’re feeling bold after that, search out Debras more advanced articles for example http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10375/lactic-acid-fermentation-sourdough.

Enjoy the journey, read everything, apply some scepticism, derive your own techniques, test, experiment and keep good notes... and don’t be afraid to take recipes apart to discover their components.

I’ll keep this brief, but some of the key input parameters that get thrown around frequently, but are less frequently actually defined, are hydration (weight of water vs. weight of flour) and inoculation (weight of already fermented flour vs. Total weight of flour).

in due course you might find a sourdough system calculator I put together useful:  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1CO5D-5_3LzySKhsNfwHtNhWqqCCoVIdL6Eff1Idcvdg

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and right now you may have a bunch of it. Check into the 1,2,3 sourdough if you don't have a recipe.  It's a fall back recipe many of us use, and easy to remember, just hold back a little of the water as this can vary.  

Basically you weigh the starter, multiply by two to get the water amount and then multiply starter by three to get the flour amount.  Add up the recipe flour and the amount in the starter (usually half the weight) and find 2% to figure the salt content. Can adjust up or down depending on your tastes.  There are a lot of variations of this basic formula. You are looking at  a bulk rise between 4- 8 hours, with some folding of the dough while it rises to retain shape.  

I start folding when the volume has increased about a third (starting size about two thirds, increase one third) flip out the dough top side down and stretch the dough from each of four corners over the blob of dough.  Repeat if I feel like it. Return to right side up, fold under the corners to look round and perky put back into the bulking bowl or container.  Cover and allow more gas to collect within the dough.

The wetter the dough the more folding is required, this is basically the difference between yeasted and sourdoughs.  The stretching and folding to counteract the dough relaxing so much from the bacteria working within the sourdough culture. The warmer the dough the faster the fermentation.  With a few folds you can feel the dough inflating toward your final proof.  Sourdough does ferment much slower than the yeasted dough you may be used to but the feel of the dough you already know, you just get to play with it more during the process.  It's like being in a slow motion film. 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Mini’s 123SD is a good suggestion. It is simple and basic. We published a post that boils down the 123 to it’s simplest version.You can view it HERE.