The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Keeping starter refrigerated longer

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slingshotz's picture
slingshotz

Keeping starter refrigerated longer

So I have a pretty decent wet starter about 3 weeks old and my first batch of bread would have worked fine if I didn't forget about it and overcooked it.  However I only plan on making bread every 3-5 weeks and was wondering how I could make the starter more dormant in the fridge.  I hate the thought of refreshing it every week and throwing away half of the starter, it seems like such a waste of good flour.  The starter is quite active and seems able to double in a few days sitting in the fridge.  

 I've read ways of keeping the starter longer by either converting it to a firm starter or freezing it.  Anyone have opinions or techinques they use?  I'm a little hesitant on freezing it as I'm wondering how it will affect the flavor and strength.  I've read up what I can about firm starters but I still don't fully understand it, to me it seems like making a really dense ball of dough that is barely hydrated to allow lots of extra food for the yeasts to feed off.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

but in the fridge, the temp slows their eating and reproduction down, so everything happens slower.  The idea is to slow them down and just keep them alive then revive them the day before baking. 

I put a freshly made firm ball of dough into a glass jar, screw on the lid (no holes) stick on a date and description lable all kinds of warnings to whoever even thinks about discarding it, and park it at the upper back of my 5°c fridge.  The less moisture the longer the storage time, super dry will keep about 4-6 months or longer in my experience.   So you may want to experiment with something in between.  The moisture increases with time, the ball will slowly sag and may go flat.  I would start with a firm ball but not too firm, but firmer than bread dough but not crumbly, it should still be pliable and can be shaped into another form without cracking.

Somehow I get the impression you'd like to hear this from another source, right?

Mini O

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

your beasties.   LINK 

Something basic I wrote earlier.  

I don't think I would freeze the liquid starter in your situation.  

Mini O

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

When you say you're reluctant to throw away the flour every week, it sounds like you're discarding a substantial amount of it. Can I ask how much starter you have going?

Or more to the point, (if you have a lot) did you know you could keep a starter as small as about 5 tablespoon (about a quarter cup)? This would mean: one tablespoon of the old starter, two of flour and two of water for each new batch. So each week you'd be tossing just two tablespoons of flour. I probably chuck that much out cleaning up after kneading and making a loaf. And wearing a fair bit as well. If you go by weight (which of course is best) you'd want 15g old, 30g water and 30g flour.

If you feel that's just too small, you could double it and you'd still be tossing just 4 tablespoons. Or not tossing, putting into your Best Pancakes In the World discard jar.  

Aside from fitting in a smaller jar on the counter and in the fridge, you simply need to "bulk up" the whole thing to whatever the recipe needs - plus a tablesoon or two extra for the next batch - over a day or two.

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Paul

slingshotz's picture
slingshotz

Thanks for the helpful replies, I'll have to experiment with keeping the starter firmer to get my 3-5 week window.  The part where I don't have much experience is the method on which to use the firm starter to bake a bread.  Do I take half the starter out and use that to bulk up or bulk the entire starter and take all but the original amount for the recipe?

I followed a recipe from a forum link to grow the starter and ended up with about 2 cups of starter and it suggested that 1 cup be tossed (or made into pancakes) to be refreshed every week.  My guess is that the creator of that recipe bakes every week but it was the clearest recipe I found to start the starter.

I'm just getting into this so it's hard to digest all the differing information on the forums. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Take some time to just think and get it clear in your mind.

The firm starter is simple, I have about half a small coffee cup of it at the moment, sitting in my fridge.  I take out a heaping teaspoon or a level tablespoon (as long as it is something)  and mix it with water to dissolve it and stir out lumps and then add flour.   Then I let it sit out to ripen and use in a recipe (normally overnight or 8 -12 hours).   The amount of water and flour depend on how much starter is used in the recipe. 

EXAMPLE:  If the recipe asks for 200g starter, then I add 100 g water and 100g flour to my 20g firm starter.  I can remove 20g after it has matured and start another firm starter (by adding some water and flour) for the fridge and leaving the 200g to go into my recipe for bread.  The old starter in the fridge can be dumped and replaced with the new starter.  

Mini O

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Arrived in Austria to start the December bake.  My 4 month old starters don't look much for wear so when I feel like it, I will feed them and let them gorge themselves at room temperature. (They will be having their own thanksgiving feast.)  Most of my whole flour has gone rancid including my rolled oats.  Bird food.  Very frosty morning and the Alps are full of snow.  It's great to be alive! 


Mini O