The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Stiff and Liquid starters and baking Rye bread

ema2two's picture

Stiff and Liquid starters and baking Rye bread

OK, can you stand more newbie sourdough baking question from me?

I know you can have stiff (50-60% hydration) starters and liquid (100-125% hydration) starters. I read Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman and he makes reference to being able to convert your starter between the different hydration states, and in an appendix gives specific directions about how to convert a liquid starter to a stiff starter. He doesn't explain how to convert from stiff to liquid. Can this be done successfully?

In his sourdough section, he specifies liquid or stiff starter in each recipe. In the rye section, he just specifies "mature culture" and an amount. Does anyone know if this means liquid or stiff starter?

At the moment I have a 60% hydration white flour (KA Bread flour) starter and a 100% hydration rye flour (Hogson Mills whole rye flour) starter.

So if the rye recipe needs a liquid starter, I'm good to go. If it needs a stiff starter, I have to convert my liquid rye starter to stiff or my stiff white starter to rye, both of which should be do-able.

I tried the rye in Glezer's Blessing of Bread and both times building the rye sour from my 60% hydration white starter, using the Hogson Mills whole rye flour, not the light rye she specifies, as I haven't been able to find any, and after 24 hours I just had a ball of cement. So I thought I'd try one of Hamelman's rye recipes unless someone has a suggestion.

Finally, for the 1-2-3 sourdough, can someone just confirm that this is the process:
Mix the discard starter (with water added to the equivalent of 100% hydration), with double that weight of water and triple that weight of flour. Let sit for 15-30 minutes of autolyse. Then knead or stretch and fold in the bowl fo develop the gluten. Form into a ball and let ferment (What is the endpoint for this fermenting period, a certain increase in dough volume or a time period?). Divide the dough and shape it. Let if proof (again, is there an endpoint for this, the finger in the dough imprint test?) Score it. Then bake (425-450 dF for a free form loaf on a baking stone, and a bit lower for a pan loaf) until 190-200 internal temperature.

Finally, what can I do with my discards besides 1-2-3 sourdough? I found a waffle recipe in KA All Purpose Baking Cookbook (which I just borrowed from the libraby) but I don't own a waffle iron.

Thanks for everyone for their patience with my questions.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

First of all,  I'm not sure of your "discard" definition.   In a 1-2-3 Sourdough bread, I use a recently fed but mature starter at about 100% hydration.  Here's the link:  Easy Sourdough

About the firm to liquid starter, check the recipe... there is usually a step where the firm starter is changed to a more liquid one, check the hydration and just plug in your ready to go liquid starter.  or take the mature firm starter and add water.  Mature means it has ripened and smells sour.  A freshly fed starter is not a mature one.

Discards:   check with the SEARCH machine in the upper left corner, there are all kinds a ideas.  There are also ways to make less starter.


ema2two's picture

What I meant by 'discards' is what I toss between feedings, so it is mature.

I feed my starter on my counter once a day, so I have about 80 gm of starter that has expanded in the container and was recently fed that I have to toss when I feed it again.  Or I'll wind up swimming in sourdough, soon.

fsu1mikeg's picture

The stiff or liquid starters are only used for the non-rye levain breads.  Hamelman has a specific rye starter section in the book.  That's the starter he's referring to in the sourdough preparation section of his rye formulas.  I use a rye starter I already had made from a different book.  I think Hamelman's rye starter is a little more stiff than what I use, but it doesn't make a huge difference, as I prepare the sourdough for baking following Hamelman's directions. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"The stiff or liquid starters are only used for the non-rye levain breads."

All my rye breads use sour levain, even the small amounts of rye! 




mcs's picture

Your 100% hydration rye starter shouldn't be liquid, it should be thick like paste.  As it ages and is fed, the consistency will change, but it shouldn't be as thin as a 100% hydration white starter.  According to Hamelman, the rye starter you have going is what's supposed to go in your rye bread.  According to me, you can use your rye starter in anything.  I only have 1 starter (100% hydration rye) and I use it to flavor anything that I want 'sour'.


ema2two's picture

My rye starter is what Hamelman describes, 100% hydration, but a thick pasty consistency.  My best description is like wet beach sand--too soft to make any sand castles out of.

As for my white flour starter, which is a 60% hydration starter.  I want to try Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough, which calls for a liquid starter.  I'm making the home proportions, which call for 1 oz (2 Tablespoons) of liquid mature culture in the liquid levain build.  Given the small quantities, can I just use 1 oz (or a little less) of my 60% mature culture (with some extra water if I use less than 1 oz) and make it as is?  Do I have to formally convert my stiff culture to a liquid culture, calculating exactly how much water to add and feeding it a time or two while liquid to do this?

As for timing, does this sound like it would work:

  • build the final levain in the morning before work
  • mix the dough and have bulk fermentation that night after work
  • retard overnight in the fridge
  • bake the next morning

thanks for your patience with my questions

janeellenk's picture

I am a relative novice and trying to understand if it could be that a sourdough rye recipe uses more than one starter -- one sourdough and one more of a poolish?  It is not clear from a recipe I am trying from the BIen Cuit book.  It has you make 2 starters but then it only says to add the starter (no "s"). I don't have the recipe in an electronic format.  Anyone have any experience with this type of recipe?  Do I use both?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

you might have to post the recipe.  

Normally a Poolish is made with commercial yeast, just a tiny bit to some of the flour and water and allowed to ferment before adding more ingredients.

Sourdoughs can have a preferment and an addition of more sourdough culture, I suppose.  You also might be looking at a typo.  We would know more seeing the recipe, amounts and method used to make the bread.  

A starter is also a fun word.  Once the starter is added to flour and water, and this is allowed to ferment, it also becomes a starter, just bigger.  Basically all you do in making bread with sourdoughs is making bigger starters and baking them before they ferment too long when it's big enough.