The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Types of "Cultures" ie Starters / Levains etc

carltonb's picture

Types of "Cultures" ie Starters / Levains etc

I have two students this coming year that want to specialize in breads, which is not a problem.

We then came to a discussion of sours, starters, levains etc. They wanted to become more familiar with them, again not a problem. 

What is turning into a problem is the discussion we had on them. They want to know what four to six starters they should have on hand all school year to use. Basically what types should they become familiar with. 

My suggestions were a wheat and rye.

What do you TFL posters think they should keep in their repotoire.

Thanks for the help.

Carlton Brooks

BreadBro's picture

Technically you only need one, because it is relatively easy to create another out of your main starter. I do a good amount of whole grain baking, so I keep a wheat starter and a rye starter on hand. The rye starter is nice because of the extra activity it gives the levain. I use my rye starter for 100% whole wheat breads and rye breads (which do much better with the added acidity).

I mean, I suppose you could keep a half dozen starters on hand, but its rather wasteful. I'd focus on keep one or two starters healthy at all times.

cranbo's picture

I would agree, one wheat and one rye is probably enough.

I also agree with BreadBro, it's simple enough to convert. 

If you wanted to add a 3rd, I'd add a whole wheat flour starter (assuming the  first "wheat" starter you mentioned uses all-purpose/bread flour). 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

can teach a lot about starters because they don't rise.   They change flavour and consistency as they ferment and become effervescent and put out aromas.  Fixated only on "rise" can lead to a lopsided understanding of the starter.

I would throw in a buckwheat or a corn starter simply because they are students and can learn how a non-gluten starter behaves.   The demand for non-gluten products is rising.   All year round?  Not so sure.   A non-gluten starter can still be made from one small inoculation from a wheat or rye starter about 4 days before it is needed.  Then again... starter maintenance always has something to teach.  

A rye is the easiest to maintain but one learns about starters when they don't behave.  I would say one rye and one wheat  OR   just one that is fed a mixture of both rye and wheat 50/50.  

carltonb's picture

Thanks to all who commented. Great suggestions.

I have been using two basic starters for over 30 years of teaching.  I can remember in my grandfathers bakery he had 6 or 7 that were constantly going.

I love the idea of having only two. But can BreadBro elaborate a little more on what you do. I understand the concept but need a little more direction.

Also Mini Oven I like the idea of teaching a gluten free.  But also being a nutritionist I do not understand the following "A non-gluten starter can still be made from one small inoculation from a wheat or rye starter about 4 days before it is needed.  Then again... starter maintenance always has something to teach.  " If you are starting a gluten free starter with a small amount of a gluten starter, is it not "contaminated" with gluten.

Again thanks to all for the help.

Carlton Brooks CCE, CEPC, ACE


DavidEF's picture

To change a starter from one type to another, simply change its food supply. If you're not sure your culture can take the sudden change, convert it gradually. For instance, if you have a 100% white AP starter, and you want to convert it to 100% rye starter, instead of feeding it all AP, make it 50/50 rye/AP at one feeding, then 100% rye at the next. To change from a gluten-filled starter to a gluten-free starter, do the same. Yes, it will still have some gluten in it, but that is the reason Mini said to do it 4 days before you need it. If you feed twice a day, that will be 8 feedings. The gluten content, if not gone altogether, should be at least infinitessimally small by that point. Even the most sensitive person in the world should not know the difference in eating bread made with that starter.

dabrownman's picture

about yeast water..  Not all breads are sour or need to be sour and YW is one of the great starters. With a SD and YW starter no commercial yeast is required.  Breads combining YW and SD are unique.