The Fresh Loaf

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totally confused and overwhelmed, please help.

CSBaker's picture

totally confused and overwhelmed, please help.

So, I have made quite a few loaves of yeasted breads, and those are getting better all the time.  I decided to take it to the next level and made a starter, which after following the day by day directions on this forum, it came to life on Day 6, and I named it Vivian.

Anyway, all I need now is my first sourdough recipe, and I have discovered a whole universe of new things I don't know. Surprisingly, I can't even find a simple sourdough recipe that just calls for "starter."  I have one of Peter Reinhart's books (Crust and Crumb) and every sourdough recipe calls for one of Reinhart's starters (firm, mild, intermediate, raisin water, etc), so do I need to make one of his if I want to follow the formulas in his book?  Oh, and every recipe calls for like two cups of starter. Well, I don't have that much.   Should I just feed it a few days before I'm going to bake without tossing half of it out?   

Does anybody know of a recipe that just calls for my starter?  

Thanks in advance! 

LindyD's picture

Do a search for 1-2-3 and you'll find a simple formula. Enjoy!

StuartG's picture

A couple of thoughts for you,

1) congratulations on creating life in your starter!

2) please perservere - making sourdough loaves is enormously rewarding and in my very humble and low opinion, much more of a personal achievement

3) the 1-2-3 formula, attracted me to baking to begin with due to the utter simplicity of the formula.  However, the procedure for baking them is actually a bit tough as the ratio of 1:2:3 ends up being a high hydration (lots of water) and makes a really rather wet dough that is tough for newbies (I know from a number of personal attempts and frustration at not understanding why kneading 1:2:3 should look so different than anything I imagined bread making to be).  For me, it wasn't until much later in baking that I realized this is a relatively high hydration loaf and can be tricky to handle and to shape.

4) if you like reading baking blogs, check out this post.  Its the one that hooked me and describes the 1:2:3 really rather nicely.

5) All the best and please post back your wonderful results!  Bon Appetit!


lumos's picture

 so do I need to make one of his if I want to follow the formulas in his book?

No, you don't need to make a different starter everytime you make bread from a recipe by a different baker. (I'm assuming that's what you wanted to know in your post) You can just make and keep one starter,  and it should work for any recipe, as long as it's made with a same type of flour (white wheat flour, wholewheat flour, rye, etc.) and the hydration level is the same. 

Some recipes ask for starter of different hydration, but it's very easy to convert the hydration level of your starter to meet its need.

But having said that, if it's going to be your very first sourdough experience, it's safer to stick to the recipe and instruction of the book you're using, of course. Once you get a hang of it, you'll notice it's not as complicated as it looked at first. (though as you become more serious and more obsessed like many of us here, you'll also find it IS actually very complicated thing to achieve a perfect result. But let's not go into that at this stage....:p)

And if you're thinking of taking your breadmaking life more seriously, both in sourdough and in yeast based, Hamelman's "Bread" is a really, great reference and recipe book to have on your side, too.

richkaimd's picture

You might enjoy reading about all of this in DiMuzio's text, Breadbaking.  I love it as a source for the explanation of lots about our hobby.  I found the book at a deep discount in a bookstore that was closing.  Maybe it's at these web sites:  alibris or powells books.  Or maybe it's at a library near you.

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss
jyslouey's picture

please.  I took a look through the formulas and there is one point re levain of which I'm uncertain - where the forumulas involve a levain, thre is a line that says" ripe levain, (not used in final dough)  while the qty is included in the subtotal, it is excluded in the adjusted dough.   May I ask what does the above underlined phrase mean and why would the weight for the ripe levain be omitted in the adjusted dough if the levain is added to the flour and water to make a firm levain?   Many thanks again.

 - Judy

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Judy,

It's the bit you keep in the fridge for next time.

Dan DiMuzio's given amounts are such that you can operate with minimal starter overhead if you bake often enough to keep your starter alive without additional feeds.

I haven't actually used this book much sice I bought it ( due to other experiments going on), but I like it. A good foundation (Baker's maths, discussion of pre-ferments, good photos of the process)

I made the straight version of the baguette which really turned out great, fluffy and tasty.


jyslouey's picture

I'm not familiar with starters so does this mean that when making the  levain, I will first need to have a ripe levain  available, add this to the new levain , when the new levain is ready, put aside the specified amt of ripe levain for use at another time and feed it with equal amt of flour and water meanwhile until I'm ready to use it for my next bake.  How long can this be kept in the fridge  for  and would it be equivalent to an old dough/preferment  - Judy 


MangoChutney's picture

Generally you feed your starter up 12 hours before you need it for baking.  In other words, if you bake in the evening and will need two cups of starter at that time, then first thing in the morning you feed your starter enough flour and water that it will have two cups to spare in the evening.  If you bake in the mornings, then you feed it that just before you go to bed.  Overnight makes better flavor than over a working day, but 24 hours is too long, so if you bake in the evening eight hours will have to do.