The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Stiff starter or old dough?

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PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

Stiff starter or old dough?

What's the difference?  I have some recipes that call for so many oz. of fermented dough saved from the last batch of bread, and only a few recipes that call for a stiff starter.  Could I use the latter for the former?  I took some of my liquidy starter and converted it to a stiff starter and would like to make a 3-day recipe, by Tom Jaine, that calls for a nugget, walnut-sized, of pre-fermented dough.  Could the stiff starter not stand in for the prefermented dough?

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Old dough is a yeasted technique used to add flavor to yeasted breads.  A bit of dough held for a few days will ripen, it will develop deeper flavors, but it isn't sourdough.

 

When people talk about a stiff starter, they usually mean sourdough.

 

The big difference is the lactobacillus bacteria.  They aren't wanted or needed in the old dough recipes.  Old dough, like biga, tends to confer a nutty taste.  Sourdough does not.

 

Mike

 

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

In the book Baking with Julia, there are a couple of artisan bread recipes calling for a levain, and they take you through the steps of making a levain which generally take a few days.  Would the starter, liquid or stiff, be the same as a levain?

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

It's sometimes annoying how baking has become a tower of babel.  So, I'll generalize.

 

In general, a levain is a sourdough.  If Julia has you start a levain with yeast, as muich as I hate to argue with Julia, it's not a good recioe.   If you need to start a starter, I have several recipes on sourdoughhome.com at http://www.sourdoughhome.com/startingastarter.html

 

Mike

 

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

And I have enough very healthy starters to keep the world in bread for quite awhile, if not forever, stiff, liquidy, with yeast, without yeast.  My most active starters are just flour and water, no fruit juice, no grapes, no dried yeast, just flour and water, but since my kitchen is teeming with wild yeasts, I have no problems rising bread without the commercial stuff.  Mind you, there's all sorts of beautiful bread to be made with commercial yeast and I'm the last one on the planet to cast aspersions on Fleischmann's or any other producer.