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wanting to start a starter - questions

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berryblondeboys's picture
berryblondeboys

wanting to start a starter - questions

OK, I've been reading and looking and I want to make a sourdough. I was going to make what I found in the Reinhart Whole Grain baking book, but I see so many people buying starters from KAF or other places, why?

And, I've reread the directions three times in the book and I'm still puzzled. Once I make it and if it's a go, how do I keep it? Is there a lesson you can point me to? posts? I know I have to feed it and such, but I know these things are perpetual. I plan to make 1 to 2 loaves a week that are a Whole grain sourdough bread.

I made a sourdough in high school, but the starter went bad eventually as I forgot about it (as a teen will do). That's my only experience with making sourdough.

 

Melissa

Marni's picture
Marni

BerryBB,

Here are some links that I hope you find useful.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/lessons/myfirstsourdough

 http://www.thefreshloaf.com/lessons/moreaboutsourdough

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/233

This last one is the method I used after two or three attempts (maybe more, I lost count) failed.  I had read a long article in the Los Angeles times about why this type of juice starter worked and for me, it did!

I believe many people buy a starter because it  is a faster, surer way to get one going.  Also, there is the connection to the place it comes from (San Francisco, for instance).

I've only had my starter for about six months, but it hasn't been too hard to maintain. There are more articles about maintaining starters on the site and I'm sure some helpful experts will have great advice.

One thing I do know - starting a starter takes patience. Please keep us posted on how it goes.

Have fun,

Marni

berryblondeboys's picture
berryblondeboys

Thanks Marni, the last one is the lesson/post I had read. It's very similar to what's in the PR book. I also just got pineapple juice to start it and I'm excited about it and just think that even making your YEAST from scratch is just cool... why I get a kick out of making things from scratch, I DON'T know! LOL

 I guess I need to do some searching on maintaining it. The book just gives hints, but I don't see anything like a formula to follow to keep it going strong as you use it and store it perpetually.

Melissa

Pablo's picture
Pablo

Hi Melissa, That's the one that I used, the pineapple juice/flour deal.  I followed her instructions and it worked perfectly.  I find that maintaining it comes pretty naturally and they are pretty forgiving.  Mike Avery has lots of sourdoug advice too (http://www.sourdoughhome.com/) he posts here frequently.  I totally agree with you that making your own yeast from scratch is WAY cool.  I say the ingredients are flour, water, salt and then, for the sake of the most strict accuracy, I add (may contain a trace amount of pineapple juice).

I've just tried to start another one with only water and flour.  I left it outside covered with cheesecloth hoping to catch some locale yeastie/beasties. It seems to have taken, it's bubbly and smells good.  I'll be baking with it tomorrow for the first time. I fed up a part of that pineapple starter with rye and I'm going to go for a sourdough rye bagette today.

Be careful, though.  I got so hung up on figuring out my hydration levels that I forgot the salt in my last load of bagettes.  Bland and beautiful.

Have fun!  :-Paul

berryblondeboys's picture
berryblondeboys

Boy, I just found this and the info is GREAT: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/3064/maintaining-100-hydration-white-flour-starter

 

HOWEVER, in my continual sleep deprived, brain dead state, I don't know if I can wrap my head around it or commit to dealing with a starter (keeping it active) on a regular basis.

So, a starter needs to be revived after every three days to keep it active? Yet, further I read, if you use it once a week it should be good... did I not process something?

Once it's all good to go and I'm gotten a starter to the point it's in the refrigerator, first day it's OK, 2nd day is probably better, 3rd day might work, 4th day feed it? Or, how do you KNOW when it needs to be fed?

 I feel so dumb and I'm not a dumb person, but my brain is stuck I think! LOL So sad, but true.

Melissa

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

You've got it about right.  After 3 days in the fridge, the starter will need refreshment before use.  Here's the schedule I'll typically use:

1. Starter goes in the fridge on sunday after being fed.

2. On the following Friday morning, pull it out of the fridge.

3. Friday night, I feed it.  I prefer a 1:2:2 ratio with 25% whole wheat, 75% white, using 50g of starter as the seed, but use whatever works for you.

4. Feed it twice more Saturday, once in the morning, once at night.  During the last feeding, I'll usually bulk it up  (1:4:4 feeding with a 50g seed) to temper the sourness (I prefer a less sour loaf) and get the volume I need.  Alternatively, I could do a standard feeding in the morning, and do a 1:2:2 feeding at night with a 100g seed.

5. Sunday morning, bake.  Feed the leftover starter, and pop it in the fridge.

Simple as that, really.
Pablo's picture
Pablo

There are lots of ideal situations out there, I think.  But there are also lots of stories of starters being left for months and ignored in back of a 'fridge and with a few feedings they pop right back to life.  Like wise in the freezer.  I've only been playing with them a little while myself, but they've been very forgiving to me.  Like a very adaptable house guest.  I'm pretty lax about the whole process. 

Personally I won't throw any of it away.  I periodically add flour and water to them, especially if I'm going to use one soon.  If it's been in the 'fridge a week I take it out and feed and, make sure some bubbles are happening (an hour or so) and pop it back in the 'fridge.  I try to keep all my starters (you do know this is an addiction?) at 100% hydration because it's easier to figure total hydration ratios in the recipe that way (also easier to forget the salt! :-()

I look at what I want to bake and I know right from the start that I want, say, 1000gm at 75% hydration.  If that's the case, and I have 200 gm of starter at 100% hydration, then I know that to get 1000 gm at 75% I'll need 571gm flour and 429 gm water - my starter is half and half water and flour by weight, so if I add 200 gm starter, that's 100 gm flour and 100 gm water.  So, to the starter, I'd add 329gm water and 471 flour (the original totals, minus what's in the starter).

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there's LOTS of leeway in dealing with sourdough starters, in storing, feeding, and using.  Just jump in and get started and you'll develop your own feel very soon.  Paul

Marni's picture
Marni

Melissa,

I totally understand the overworked sleep deprived Mom thing you have going. I'd suggest just getting your new starter going- it does take at least a week to get good action.  In the meantime, you can be reading and deciding how you want to maintain it.  Many things can effect the starter, room temp., hydration, type of grain...

I agree with Pablo that they are very forgiving once they are established.  Also, I can't believe I forgot to mention www.sourdoughhome.  A terrific site.  My family raves about the sourdough pizza crust I make using his (Mike Avery's) recipe.

Marni

berryblondeboys's picture
berryblondeboys

You all know you are speaking a foreign language, right? LOL I'm still trying to figure out the hydration stuff because in the "real world" things can only add up to 100% , so having 100% water and 100% flour is your own bread baking language! LOL I'll get it though and it will help once I actually start a starter and get the feel for it. So much with baking is the FEEL of it - cakes, cookies, desserts, breads...

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

"I'm still trying to figure out the hydration stuff because in the "real world" things can only add up to 100% , so having 100% water and 100% flour is your own bread baking language!"

Yeah, that's a weird quirk of baking percentages.  It's incredibly simple, though.  In short, flour is the baseline from which all the other ingredients are judged.  So, for example, if you have 100g of flour and 50g of water, in baking percentages, that's 50% water in the recipe.  This is why you can have a >100% hydration starter.  In that case, there's more water than flour, by weight, in the recipe.

Make sense?

berryblondeboys's picture
berryblondeboys

I get it, but it'll take a go at it to really process it. I'm so not a "learn from a book" kind of person. I'm so incredibly visual.

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

Yeah, I found it was one of those things that didn't really stick until I started altering recipes myself, either by changing the total volume, or more commonly, adjusting recipes to account for ingredient substitution (eg, adjusting hydration levels to compensate for the inclusion of whole wheat flour).

apprentice's picture
apprentice

Since Hamelman's book was my first "real" bread book, I can't start work on a new bread from another source without doing all the calculations to get percentages all three different ways he does. That is, overall recipe, starter if any, and then final dough. I understand the recipe much better then and can tinker with it more easily if I feel the need. I look at this as a "getting to know you" stage with a new bread before we get intimate! :)

If there's a mistake in the original, I'm more likely to catch it before wasting lots of ingredients. Or at least realize there's a possible mistake but also could be a misunderstanding or lack of knowledge on my part. In other words, I know I've got to ask a more knowledgeable somebody, "What's up with this, d'ya think?"

Richard L Walker's picture
Richard L Walker

[I made a sourdough in high school, but the starter went bad eventually as I forgot about it (as a teen will do).]

As many of us do ... and it has nothing to do with being a teen.  That was a LONG time ago.

I enjoyed reading about the Friday to Sunday baking schedule.  I never thought of doing anything like that.