The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

using "un-peaked" starter

eatbread's picture

using "un-peaked" starter

if you use a starter in your dough that isn't at peak, does it just rise the bread slower, as in eventually it will reach the same volume as if you had used a starter at its peak, or is its perforance actually diminished?

Mebake's picture

Given some time, it will pickup strength. Its always better to underproof a dough or a starter than to over proof.

Ambimom's picture

When I first began baking with sourdough, I didn't know a ripe starter from a dead one.  I couldn't understand why I was making a series of hard pancakes with the consistency of rocks.  If you have an active starter (visible bubbles, distinctive smell (some say it smells like beer), and creamy texture) that you've stored in the refrigerator between baking...go ahead and use it straight from the refrigerator.

But, if you're establishing a starter, you must first endure at least two or three days of feeding every 4 to 6 hours.  By the end of the process, you will see that your starter is nice and bubbly and risen quite substantially from where you began.

By trial and error you will learn the amount of starter you want to keep; the best feeding schedule; and baking amounts.  It's up to your personal taste and routine.

If you're a beginner, just stick to water and flour for your starter.  Also invest in a scale that measures grams and ounces.  That way you will always feed the same amount.  

eatbread's picture

oh i have a well and bubbly starter that is making me wonderful breads. i was just curious in the interest of wanting to start some dough without waiting for my starter to peak. i usually let it peak and throw it in the fridge, then either letter it warm up a bit or just use it straight. i mean, isnt making a dough with your starter just giving it a really big feeding?

davidg618's picture

If letting refreshed starter peak before refrigerating it is a good thing. Here is my reasoning. 

I think starter's peaking is an indication that the yeast has reached a point wherein it's surrounded by its own waste products--ethanol and carbonic acid (carbon dioxide in solution)--not food, so it's production of carbonic acid has decreased. Furthermore, the relatively weak (compared to kneaded dough) gluten structure has reached the point where it is supporting all the weight it can. 

I make this argument because if you stir down a recently refreshed starter at its peak, exposing the yeast to fresh food, and reestablishing the gluten structure, it will rise again. Peaking  only means the yeast is out of food locally, not globally. 

I refresh refrigerated starters 1:1:1 with room temperature water and flour, and return them immediately to the refrigerator. The 1:2 ratio of cold starter to room temperature flour and water raises the starter temperature to a point where the yeast is active again. It reproduces, and expels wastes, causing the starter mass to rise until it cools, once again to refrigerator temperature at which point is goes dormant, or nearly so. However, in that brief time, unless you're storing a very large mass of starter, the starter hasn't reached a point where it once again is surrounded by its own waste rather than food. Consequently, when you remove it from the refrigerator it's in a local environment where, with rising temperature, it can "go to work" almost immediately.

I use a very small amount of seed starter to build levain ready for use. With a starter I recently acquired I can build 500g of ready levain from 20g of seed starter in 18 hours. I've never tried it, but if I kept 500g of seed starter--I don't--I suspect it could be used directly if it had been refreshed within the previous two or three days..

David G 

eatbread's picture

Thanks for the reply, your reasoning follows very closely with mine. it's nice to hear that i'm not totally off. It's been working well for me, but its good to be reassured once in a while that i'm not undermining myself because of a small dysfunct in method.