The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

When you don't refresh a starter just before a mix

alfanso's picture
alfanso

When you don't refresh a starter just before a mix

Another blog entry aimed at our wave of new levain/SD bakers on TFL.

What happens when I don't refresh my starter, but then decide to make a bread?  I last refreshed my 100% hydration AP starter either on April 24th or May 1st.  My refresh history chart is a little unsure of itself.  But I had plenty of starter/levain ready to use.  Now, I know the drill because I've been there before, but many of you may not.

As you can see, my 3 or 4 week old levain, which sits in the back of my refrigerator is generally as potent as had I refreshed it the prior day.  There are a lot of new folks here who seem get somewhat bent out of shape if their itching to bake but their starter isn't refreshed just that day.  

Do not worry.  While it is true that my levain has been around for a few years, just make sure that your levain is robust enough.  And then skip a day, or two, or seven days after your last refresh.  And then scale it out and add it to your mix.  You may just be surprised at how strong your starter/levain is!  

Hamelman Vermont SD.  90% AP flour, 10% rye, 65% hydration.  310g x 4 baguettes.

Again, for those who think that you can't get open crumb without high hydration.  This is 65% hydration...

Comments

naturaleigh's picture
naturaleigh

I'm really happy you posted this, because I have been curious about this exact thing for a while.  During one of my many trips down the rabbit hole of online sourdough info (aka 'research') I read a post by someone that basically said there is really no difference between a 'feed' to wake up refrigerated starter and throwing it into a levain or dough...you are providing flour and water (plus some salt at some point for bread making), which wakes it up and provides food for growth either way.  I might have to try this experiment--it would be nice to save all that flour and discard.  My starter is a couple of years old now and seems quite happy and active whenever I use it, and it has been easily refreshed/awakened after several weeks in the fridge during our vacation last year.  Do you plan on repeating this type of baking process any time soon?  If so, I hope you will continue to post results.

AndyPandy's picture
AndyPandy

I am also happy to hear this. I threw away some potent levain as it had not been fed for a bit and read the same thing you did. That it didn't matter, and to throw it out. I just started over and kind of wish I had tried it. Your French Loaves are fantastic!

alfanso's picture
alfanso

Hold onto that old potent levain and give it the justice it deserves ;-) .  If it is on its last legs, it may need a few feeds to bring it back to life.  And thanks for the kind words.  alan

naturaleigh's picture
naturaleigh

Hey AP!  I think there is a bit of misunderstanding in your reply to my comment above.  I was not saying throw the starter out.  I was just noting that what I had read was that there is apparently a 'philosophy' out there that taking your starter out of the fridge and going through a series of feeds to prepare for using in a dough was not necessary because when you take it straight from the fridge and use it directly in a bake (without taking time to 'refresh' it or feed it) was the same thing--adding flour and water to 'wake up' the starter.  This appears to be what Alfonso's post was about--using unrefreshed starter directly from the fridge and using it in a bake.  Sorry for any confusion on that!

alfanso's picture
alfanso

this was just where my levain was at that moment in time last night when I decided to do a mix.  As I mentioned, I've done this before, but not as an experiment, rather because I know my levain and how long it can remain dormant and still active in the refrigerator.  

Contrary to what a host of the NMNF starter crowd does on TFL - meaning maintaining mere grams of starter and then performing two or three builds in prep for a mix, I generally refresh a batch of starter and wind up with something 500-600g at a time, and then skim off that for the next mix.

I post blog entries here somewhat regularly, and when they are levain breads, which the almost always (save for the prior two posts) are, it is a coin toss as to whether I'll perform a refresh for that next mix.  If I have enough levain, I generally don't refresh.

But it is pretty rare that I'll go this long between refreshes.  Just for the record, I counted it up and I've refreshed this 100% hydration AP levain 31 times in the past 88 weeks.

rockaday's picture
rockaday

Thanks for the post! My starter is good and strong, but I've mostly been keeping it out of the fridge. Nice to know I won't always need a ton of lead time when retrieving from the fridge.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

starter/levain/SD directly from the refrigerator without even letting it come to room temp.  Cold levain, warm water to mix it into, and a relatively happy medium is obtained.  Water cools down, levain warms up...

JK's picture
JK

I was under impression it was better to feed at least once or twice if we're after 'sweet' sourdough. True?

alfanso's picture
alfanso

an older unfed levain would be more sour.  However, My interest in levain baking is to use them as leavening, flavoring and anti-staling agents.  It seems that no matter how long it stays unfed without a refresh, it never does develop sourness.  In fact, without consulting the book I don't even know how to develop a more sour version.  I enjoy only a mild sourness at best, so I've never had interest in taking it elsewhere.

This just happened to be the longest I'd gone without a refresh before using it, and unusual in that sense.

Over the past few years I've maintained a 60% hydration rye, 75% mixed flour, this 100% AP, and both 125% AP and 125% Rye.  And for about a year, all of them concurrently.  And none produced any true sour note.  Right now I still have the 60% & 75% sitting in the back of the refrigerator, mostly lonely and unused, and hold onto them as much for the historical as well as the rare occasional use. 

JK's picture
JK

.