The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter

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Chavi's picture
Chavi

Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter

Hey everyone! Great to finally be a member of this site.

I just started building my whole wheat sourdough starter. I was wondering if the starter can be used in any recipe that calls for a starter or ones that specifically calls for it. Any tips and leads would be appreciated. Thanks!!

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

When people say "sourdough" other people tend to hear "San Francisco Sourdough Bread," ignoring the idea that any bread made before 1880 or so was, almost certainly, a sourdough bread.  You can use sourdough to make almost any bread you can think of.

 

In general, a cup of active sourdough starter has about the same rising power as a packet of yeast.  So, eliminate the yeast, and adjust the recipe for the amount of water and flour in the starter.  That won't work every time, but it will give you a starting point.

 

Also, I find that whole wheat starters tend to be more trouble than white starters.  Whole grain starters tend to get into more trouble than a white starter.  So, I keep a white starter and when I need a rye or whole wheat starter, I just take a small amount of my white starter and feed it up on whole wheat or rye.  Also, white flour is cheaper to use to feed a starter than whole grain flour.

 

Hope this helps,

Mike

 

Chavi's picture
Chavi

Thanks Mike for responding so quickly and for the heads up. Ill keep maintaining the whole wheat starter and keep in mind that I can just convert that one to a white starter should I need to.... That will work wont it?

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

The problem with whole grain starters is that they buffer the acidity created by the microorganisms very well.  Buffering doesn't negate the acidity, it allows it to build to greater potency.  There are two reasons to feed a starter.  One is to reduce the acidity through dilution, the other is to provide food for the critters.

 

Low food levels and high acidity are both stressors for the critters. So, if a whole grain starter is left unattended, it will become more acidic than a refined flour starter, and it will be harder to revive.  That's the theory, and it corresponds to my experience.

 

As long as you use the starter very regularly, no problem.  If you start storing it, the chances of problems go up.

 

As a result, I suggest to people at sourdoughhome to keep a white flour starter and convert it to whole grain as needed.  When you decide it's time to start keeping your whole grain starter as a white starter the starter may not be easily recoverable.

 

Mike

 

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

So what about spiking?  I tend to feed my starter using 75% white, 25% whole wheat, partly because it matches the ratios of the bread I tend to build from it, and partly because I'm under the impression that WW flour (like rye flour) helps to keep a starter lively and active, presumably due to a higher critter count.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

For a while, I pre-mixed white and wheat flour, ala Dan Leader's 20% bran flour.  And one day I was making one of his recipes that called for a certain amount of his 20% flour, more whole wheat flour and then some graham whole wheat flour.

I decided at that moment that pre-mixing the flour was a waste of time.  It just meant I had one more can of flour lying around and one more thing to do.  I scribbled in the margins of the book the adjusted amounts of flour.  Now it's white flour plus wheat plus graham.  I really don't think graham versus whole wheat makes a real difference.

 

So.... personally, I'd just feed the starter white flour and add more whole wheat when I made the bread.  But that's just me and doesn't really answer your question.

 

Adding the whole wheat would increase the buffering in the starter, which could help the acidity increase a good bit.  Enough to be a problem?  I don't know.  You'll find out when you don't feed your starter for a week at room temperature or for a year in the fridge.  I hope you'll get back to this thread and tell us how it worked out.

 

I'm not a chemist, so I'm not going to try to explain buffering.  It's been too many years since high school chemistry.  Maybe a chemist could offer a few words on the subject.

 

Mike

 

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

Hmm... interesting.  If what you say is true about WW helping to increase the acidity of the starter, then that might explain why my own starter tends to produce quite a sour dough if I use it right after a regular 1:2:2 feeding (well, sour to my taste, anyway. I want to taste the grain in the bread, and I found the sour overwhelmed the other flavours... and this without building a firm intermediate starter). 

As such, in order to get the starter volume I need for a batch of bread, I do a 1:4:4 feeding the night before (rather than a 1:2:2 build twice in a row), and the result is just perfect for my tastes... still tangy, but not overwhelmingly so... as such, given the behaviour of my starter,  it seems to make some sense to use a bit of WW, not just to keep the starter happy, but also to increase the acidity.

'course, I'd also never leave my starter unfed for a month in the fridge (or a week on the counter... heck, I worry when I miss a 12-hour room temp feeding), so I'm not too terribly worried about that case. :)

Chavi's picture
Chavi

Thats a really interesting idea. I guess sourdough starters are more flexible than I initally thought. What is your favorite sourdough bread? Looking for good whole grain breads to make with my brand new starter...

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

Well, I regularly make the basic sourdough in Reinhart's BBA (in fact, I just finished up a batch this morning)... but, given I haven't really attempted any other sourdough recipes, I don't really have the perspective needed to decide if it's the "best" or not. :)

rideold's picture
rideold

I maintain a 100% WW starter and use it for all my breads.  Almost all of the bread I bake is whole grain so I don't find having a white starter helpful since I'd be using it infrequently.  I just "convert" my starter when I want to make a white loaf.  I use my starter every 4-7 days and keep it at a low hydration (refresh at 1:1:2) loosely follwing Leader's stiff dough levain from his Local Breads book.  I've used my starter for breads from Reinhart's, Leader's and Hammelman's books with no problems.  Best of luck.

Geoloaf's picture
Geoloaf

...it sounds like the typical 1:2:2 feeding still applies.  I read on Sourdoughhome that "If you want to make WW SD, you need a WW starter."  While I'm sure that that's not an absolute necessity, as Mike pointed out, I still wanted to give it a try.  I started out with 1/2 cup white starter, 1 cup water, and 1 cup King Arthur Traditional 100% Whole Wheat Flour, Never Bleached, Never Bromated (Ooooh! Aaaah!)  Anyway, I've fed it a couple times since I started it about 3 weeks ago.  After feeding, I let it sit out at room temperature for about 3-6 hours and it bubbles up real nice and gets a nice sour smell, although not usually as sour as my white starter.  I restir it and pop it in the fridge.  It usually bubbles a little more then gets a nice layer of hooch on it which I stir back in when I get it out again.  I've noticed that this starter, and flour in general, is not as "sticky" or "cohesive" as white flour, and it doesn't "appear" to be as active (bubbly) as white, nor for as long.  Am I seeing and interpreting this correctly?  I should note that I haven't tried to make bread with this yet.


Keith