My cousin's well-tended garden boasts the company of a clump of chives descended from our great-uncle's plants of about a hundred years ago. My garden is simpler and consists of what grows by inclination in the fields and forests near my home. Much of what I find was not here when Europeans arrived- New England was arboreal then, and the man-made grasslands are eternally trying to revert. Of the flowers in my vases only the common fleabane and a bit of madder are native.vsd
My starter was not begged from the ether like so many of yours, but given to me by a friend who, now in the riper reaches of five decades, was given it by his mother when he left home for college. It's been sluggish, fretful company and I a reluctant keeper til I found tfl which is a little like finding bread religion..multidenominational of course..So anyway my starter woke up recently with a flower in its hair and a song in its heart, don't ask me why, I just thought I better use it and not ask any questions. The wind could and probably will change directions any day. These are a couple loaves of Vermont Sourdough, and an edition of Dan Lepard's White Leaven bread.
and with the fresh discard:
This is an adaptation of Hamelman's Golden Raisin bread, obviously unbound by particulars... Oatmeal bread is typically snugged up with sugar, fat and spices--this loaf is so warm and country without those things that it should have pigtails and a checkered shirt.
-brown dog, white horse.
Browndog, what a beautiful post. Your loaves, your photos, and your writing are just lovely.
I'm sitting in my kitchen next to my bay window enjoying the morning sun having a cup of coffee and a little of my own attempt at VT sourdough. Your composition brings lightness to my morning.
Nice to see you are still using your sourdough starter, and with such beautiful results.
By the way, I just flashed on a memory of my grandfather's horse, Pepper. He looked so much like yours. He was tall and mostly white with little black pepper spots here and there. I rode him in Montana whenever I visited my grandparents - when I was about 14 years old or so.
Bill, you're from cowboy stock? My word, who'd've thunk it? Must explain your affinity for sourdough. In the horse world where terminology can be as sternly pedantic as anywhere else, my 'white' Arab is technically a grey, and the little black (reddish-brown in his case) spots make him 'flea-bitten'. But I just call him my little white pony, and 'Pepper' gets points for culinary charm... I bet riding in Montana is something to remember-- I understand some places you just pick a direction and go forever.
You've reworked your starter maintainence quite a bit haven't you? Myself I'm as routine as an old hound who sleeps all day. I still feed at 1:2 proportions every 8 hours til it doubles under 4, which lately has only taken 2 feedings, and it's refrigerated the rest of the time. I 've followed the latest starter discussions only casually because this is working very well at the moment, but if you have updates I'm happy to hear them. And how did your Vermont sd turn out, as if I need to ask? Will you be posting pictures?
Yes, it's hard to believe there could be any cowboy stock here. According to my dad, my great grandmother made sourdough pancakes in the morning and baked sourdough bread in the afternoon for the ranch hands. They were homesteaders from what I understand, and my grandmother always told me the story of how she rode a horse to a one room school house, even when she had a broken arm. My dad worked on a ranch in Texas and Mexico when he was in his teens, and he has always had a horse and done various "horsey" activities. I believe one of my relatives ran a stagecoach between Dillon and Wisdom, Montana. I went on a great ride when I was about 14 with my grandfather up into some remote areas of the Anaconda Pintler range. I'll never forget that adventure. So, I've been exposed to a tiny bit of horse culture in my life, but being an engineer and then a banker takes you far away from your roots.
Meanwhile, the VT sourdough was good in flavor, but I took no photos. I tried to squeeze two large loaves in the oven, a lazy thing to have done, and the result was some misshapen mutants, to say nothing of the crime scene created by my attempts to try a new slashing tool. It wasn't one of my best by a long shot, but the flavor made up for the appearance. It's hard to be disappointed with fresh sourdough bread.
I seem to remember some discussion that "Pepper" was part Arab, part quarter horse? Could that make any sense?
As far as starters, The only thing I've really done with my starter is switched to feeding it 10g:45g:50g (starter:water:flour) and letting it rise for 12 hours at room temperature. Other than that, it's the same. I've been leaving it out lately just to see what happens, but I would refrigerate it and manage everything the same if I were not doing that. I also converted some of my starter to a Glezer style firm starter, after much nagging from that bread prodigy, Zolablue. She's hassled me enough, and I finally got my act together and did it. Since it was converted from my old starter, it seems to still behave much the same, though it has a pungency the other doesn't. It raises bread in about the same amount of time so far, but I keep hoping for some speeding up at some point.
Yikes, sorry this ran on so long.
no, I didn't make it up. It's the 'official' term for a Quarter horse/Arab cross, though I imagine your grandfather would've either laughed or spit if someone called Pepper that. It does indeed make sense, if you like the theoretical brains, fire and endurance of an Arab but want something bigger than a pony to sit on. And Bill I see you haven't learned to be cautious as per asking a horseperson a horse question--something not prudent to do generally unless you have a few spare hours and excellent interest-feigning skills. Watch now as I exercise restraint.
I put the Vermont sd together becaue the recent talk about rising time got me curious, I assumed my new-born starter might now act quicker in dough as well, but you know, the rise times for fermentation and proofing were both still hours longer, and at acceptably warm temps. The bread was lovely, tasty, tangy-- holey enough by my standards, not dense, with a good tender crumb and crackly crust etc. The Lepard loaf took an hour or so longer in bulk as well, but since I retarded it overnight I couldn't judge there. So what do you think? How do I get shorter fermentation times--I assume somehow strengthen my starter? or should I just not push the river?
-My version of the ideal vacation is horseback-riding in New Zealand coast-to-coast. On the someday list, that. And though I would never wish bad bread luck on anyone, certainly not you, Bill, it does aid my perspective to understand that the most accomplished among us still stumble a little now and then.
As one suffering from incurable chronic verbosity, I can't begin to criticize. You have excercised restraint and as usual expressed more in far less words than I ever manage.
Your starter may just be a little slower than most, which isn't bad as long as it tastes good. It is interesting for me to hear about ZB's starter and firepit's starter, both of which rise in about half the time mine does. Yours may be even a little slower rising than mine it sounds like.
Remind me of how long it takes to double in what period of time, and we can compare.
Ideally, you could do as follows: take 10g of your starter and feed it with 45g of water and 50g of flour (use the same ratio but bigger amounts if your scale won't work on very small amounts or if you have larger containers - I have a scale w/.1 gram increments and cylindrical jars that hold about 450g of water). Mark the time and the level carefully. If you happen to have an identical container, you can improve the measurement of volume levels by first weighing the water needed to fill the identical container to the level of your starter right after feeding. Then fill the identical container with another equal weight of water. That is the height needed for double volume. I have found that the exact shape of the container, even one that is cylindrical affects the volume measurement, so I do it that way to get a better reading. Oh, and what kind of flour are you using? We should try the same flour, if possible. I am using KA Bread Flour, so that would be convenient, but I can feed mine for a cycle or two with something else. I have KA AP, and KA Organic AP, which might also be good choices, if you happen to have them.
Take the temperature of your starter at the beginning and maybe a couple of additional times, just to make sure what the temperature is. The temperature makes a big difference, as you know.
So, if you can tell me the time it takes for that starter to double and also the temperature during the rise, we can compare, since I have times and temperatures for that process for my starter.
As far as making it faster, I don't really know. You could try changing the feeding ratio up to 1:4:4, like I've been doing. It then can be on roughly a 12 hour feeding cycle at room temperature. That might turn out to help, but I doubt it. It didn't seem to make any real difference to the speed of mine from when I fed it 1:2:2. Susanfnp says she feeds 10% rye if her starter seems sluggish. I could see trying to get more details from her about that. I haven't tried it, but maybe I will.
After hearing about firepit's experiment, I'm not so sure I want to speed up my starter. His seems to be very fast rising but very mild, maybe too mild, although there are so many variables it's hard to know. I do wonder if fast rising is somehow correlated with mild flavor with sourdough starters. I notice in Ed Wood's book, the starters he describes as very fast rising he also describes as mild in basically every case. The ones he says are more sour tend to be described as slower rising and "not suitable for bread machines". It's the only place I've ever read about a comparison of many different starters.
hey, Bill, just to be quite clear, I meant restraint as pertains to rambling on indefinitely about horse minutiae. Restraint as a general policy rarely looms so large as it should with me. *sigh* And since I always enjoy hearing what you have to say, I can't feel you're suffering under a liability.
Starter stats: I'm getting doubling after two feedings at 1:2:2 in something under 4 hours. I have not been keeping big amounts, in fact 10 grams is what I usually feed with 20:20. I have been feeding Gold Medal Harvest King only because I happened to buy a bag out of interest. I can easily pick up some KA bread, I also have plenty of KA organic artisan on hand, and KA ap as well. I favor olive jars, tall and skinny, and do have a couple identical. My scale weighs in 2 gram increments which isn't wonderful--what scale do you have? And as to thermometers, I have a candy thermometer and a little digital person model. Yikes indeed. I expect one of them can tell me what I need to know. I fed late this morning at the usual 1:2:2 after a couple days off, and got a roughly 5 hour doubling. It's in the fridge now awaiting further orders. Thanks!
Yes, the rise times sound very similar to what mine does. However, mine seems to be doubling after a 1:2:2 feeding in about 4.5 hours at 75F right now. So, yours sounds a little faster actually. I'm therefore surprised it doesn't fit the timing for the VT sourdough a little better. Mine is not that far off. I would say it takes an hour longer to do the bulk fermentation, but the final proof seems to want to run about the same if not a little shorter than what he recommends.
If you can tell me what temperature your doubling is happening in, then we can compare a little more accurately. I can more or less adjust for a temperature difference to compare them. Your thermometers and jars all sound great to me. I like the Escali scales that use normal AA or 9V batteries and have 1 gram increments, tare function, and 11 pound capacity. However, yours sounds just fine. I used to have one with 2g increments, but I prefer the 1g increment in my Escali. Actually, I have one with 0.1 gram increments, but that's just for certifiable lunatics. You're far too sensible for that kind of gadget frivolity.
I guess what I would favor is trying KA AP. I have some of that on hand, so we could just do that. How about we both just feed our starter as close to 10g:40g:40g as possible with KA organic AP, and keep track of temperature and mark how long it takes to double? I think that would be an interesting comparison, if you have time. Let's do it when the starter is fully active, so give it a couple of feedings 1:2:2 as you would normally do to wake it up. If the timing doesn't work to wake it up with 1:2:2 feedings, you can let it run at night with a 1:4:4 feeding and it should have peaked by morning. I'll do the same and in a day or two, depending on the wakeup feedings, we should both have a doubling time for a 1:4:4 feeding at a known temperature with the same flour.
Since I fed yesterday I assume one feeding today will bring it right round to under four, Bill, and it'll be easy enough to keep on top of, I'm sure it won't run overnight. (Famous last words, hah. At my age if I've learned nothing else, I should know better than to use the word 'sure'.) So just to clarify in my rusty brain-- I'll feed at 1:2:2, if and when I get doubling within or under 4 hours, I will at that point take its temperature, feed at 1:4:4 with KA organic ap, mark temp and elapsed time at doubling.
I think we're both into the rusty phase, but it sounds right to me. I have to get my act together and feed 10g:40g:40g with KA org AP and see what happens, then. Sounds like you'll be doing it soon. In my case, I'm letting it get fairly ripe, as in my 1:4:4 feeding from last night at about midnight rose all night and should be fairly ripe in the next hour or so, when I do this feeding. Remember to let it ripen for a while after it has doubled after the 1:2:2 wake-up refreshment. I would think it could go for a few more hours after it has doubled before it really has peaked and dipped a little. Also, the water should be at the same temperature as the surroundings, if possible. I use a mix of hot and cold so it is just at room temperature. I guess same for the flour, if you are refrigerating or freezing your flour. It should be warmed up to room temperature, so hopefully the starter will rise at the same temperature the entire time.
I didn't allow for ripening time, ahem. It doubled in about exactly 4 hours, but if I let it ripen a few more hours, I reckon I will be into the wee hours if it doesn't take right off. I think I'll hang on to it and do 1:4:4 in the morning? Or just do 1:4:4 this evening like you suggested? Or, or, or...I guess it should sit out meantime? Hoo-boy. What happened to our friend Mr Refrigerator, he's been black-listed? See how little it takes to founder me? I haven't got past step one and I'm in crisis. It's the blinkin' numbers as does it.
Lots of choices, really. I would probably feed it 1:2:2 again now, and let it rise until this evening. Before bed, feed it 1:4:4 and then in the morning do the test. With a 1:4:4 feeding in the evening it should be ready for the test something like 10-12 hours later, I would think. Or, it would probably work to refrigerate the starter now for a while and just do the last 1:4:4 refreshment this evening before bed. Even if it is refrigerated for a few hours, it should still come fully alive with a 1:4:4 feeding this evening.
I happened to have my starter active and ripe this morning because I've been trying leaving it out and feeding it approximately 1:5:5 every 12 hours routine, much like susanfnp's standard routine. I did the test, but I'll wait to see how yours comes out tomorrow.
Good luck with it. By all means do not stress out. Just something fun to try.
oh, you could hear me hyper-ventilating through the screen? Dear me, I am giggling--here's you an engineer, a banker, a sea-faring cowboy and an ace baker, patting the hands of invisible crazy ladies and talking them out of panic attacks. Santa Claus can't have a bigger heart than you, Bill. I do hope you keep a dog.
I am proceeding as per your first suggestion.
Bill, if you knew me you would not be surprised. My starter was weighed, marked, had its temp taken, its best dress on and was stepping out the door when there was...an unfortunate event, the details on which my shreds of dignity will not allow me to elaborate. So. I had to pull another 10g from the fresh discard and take a few steps backward, no, I have not been studiously ignoring you...exactly...at any rate, I'm hoping hoping that my starter will be active enough to run today, but I may not have results til manana, I will let you know.-K
What? This bread experiment isn't the top priority in your life? I'm shocked...
No problem, I'll be checking my email in hopes of results in the next couple of days.
your journal. The way you write and the pictures kinda remind me of Isak Dinesen's stories. So please don't become non-verbose!
One observation with my Sir Stinky starter for both you and Bill and don't know if it's appropriate to give you my info but I will anyway... :D
I've noticed that Stinky increases his rate of activity if I am really consciencious about stirring him periodically through out the day...And when I stir, I mean I reallllllly stir quickly and kinda lift and pull at him to increase the oxygenation of the mix. It seems like after a day of doing that, he gets pretty perky. I don't know exact times of doubling because I haven't really been getting anxious about when it does or anything. It's ok to me if the whole process takes 3 days because I don't have a deadline for the bread. I would probably be very anxious about it if I did and would then go toward my obsessive nature of trying to log it all down.
The other thing I've noticed about his eternal happiness of the sunshine mind is that he likes wider containers. He's sooo happy in his 4 cup mixing cup. He just speeds up his activities nicely when removed from the cold, fed, and stirred up. But when I put him in my tall narrow drinking glass, he kinda shuts it down. He is very slow to rise in that instance.
This makes me wonder how much of a variable oxygenation is to the rise time. Another reason I say this is because one of the things I did differently this last bread baking go round was that I am usually sooooo careful not to deflate the bread on the stretch and fold. So by the time I shape it, it still has alot of previous gas in it. The bread barely rises much by the end of the final rise. This time, I actually used DF/JC's method of rolling the bread into the batard and pinching it with the pad of my hand in 3 places and these guys had a much better surface tension and also rose like the dickens in no time at all! The hole structure was not huge but it wasn't dense either. Maybe 8-12mm holes?
Just something to ponder amidst your gorgeous garden!
The bread, the photos, the writing....wonderful. weavershouse
and thanks! Do you know I always assumed weaver was your family name--the truth is much more exotic. I should get you to weave me a horse blanket, you could drop it off next time you 're at Baba a Louis. My neighbor/employer/friend keeps a flock of sheep for *sigh* the spring lamb market (and me a vegetarian) and pasture-mowing. They used to sell the wool but demand has essentially evaporated, at least around here, they can't make any sort of a profit. Can you say polar fleece?
I just saw this post, sorry.As far as weaving a horse blanket I'd have to keep my head out of the bread bowl and off this site if I'm ever going to get something on the loom. And the garden, of course, takes time and so does all the sitting and staring I do...planning the next loaf or hoping the green beans would finally come already!
The wool market is bad everywhere in this country and I wish it wasn't so. I thought natural fibers were making a comeback but not quick enough I guess. Organic wool and cotton are available now even for knitters and spinners/weavers but that's not enough to keep most of the sheep farmers going even with premium prices. We need a fiber revolution...WEAR MORE WOOL-SAVE THE POLAR FLEECE. weavershouse
Bill. I'm now struggling to get my starter, taken from pretty fresh refrigerated discard (less than a week old,) in shape. It's very slow, it seems odd, gloppy-textured after a few hours although there is some rising but the bouyant attitude is gone--except that I mixed some up with organic rye as a check and that's cruising, it doubled in about three hours. But the organic white just barely doubled after several hours and then wouldn't budge. I must've caught the attention of the wrong somebody in the cosmos, that's all I can say. I checked your starter maintanence blog and didn't much like the prognosis, it seems I'm an easy candidate for: over-feeding, over-heating, under-ripening, and the plague. I've got 2 batches of 10:20:20 going now after today's under-performance, they are not looking peppy but maybe they'll perk up in a while, they've got til 9 for the 4 hour mark. Jiminy. Crickets.
What a pain. I'm wondering if I somehow jinxed you by trying to do an experiment like this. However, it must be OK if it perked up with rye. I bet another feeding will bring it right back to normal. In any event, doubling in 4-5 hours is about what mine does depending on the temperature. I wouldn't worry about it. I'll look forward to hearing how the test goes.
No jinxing, Bill, I've learned a lot--despite testing positive for panic and high drama... problems demand that I focus and attend to details I don't otherwise absorb. I spent a good bit of time on your starter blogs Thursday night. I really have been a wayward keeper.
I took the rye-goosed starter, fed it 1:2;2 early Sat. morning and later that afternoon with snappy rises each time. I stirred, I ripened, I bundled it up, and this evening tossed caution and did a retest at 10:40:40, base temperature at 70 degrees. At quarter to seven pm, mind you. We cozied up with pizza and Dr Who and left the goo to entertain itself a while. Four and a half hours later, bingo, we had lift off, or doubling anyway, and still gurgling and playing with its toes. (Bless me if that's not a mixed metaphor, but I'm too sleepy for refined thinking.)
Maintained pretty much at 76 degrees or so I thought, my thermometer doesn't spark confidence though. Final temp 70. You're conspicuous by your absence, by the way, I hope you're on the high seas.
The test results on the plague aren't back yet.
Sorry not to respond sooner after all you've been through with the plague, starter panic, and drama. The family was migrating to Nantucket, MA for the summer. We're like a flock of geese moving north in the spring. I left my boat in Maine, so I'm still hoping to make my way up to Jonesport, ME before bringing the boat back to Nantucket, so I still have some hope of adventure on the high seas before this season is over.
Regarding the starter experiment, it sounds just right to me. I would be quite happy to have it double in 4.5 hours at anything between 70-76F after a 1:4:4 feeding. I was a little confused by what you meant by a base temperature of 70, and a final temperature of 70, whereas it was maintained at 76F. What would you guess was the average temperature of the starter itself over the course of the rising? It doesn't matter too much, since if cooler temperatures prevailed, it just means the starter is that much faster. My version of this experiment was: feed the starter 10g:40g:40g, i.e. 10 grams of starter, 40g of water, and 40g of KA organic AP. The whole thing happened at 75F, as the temperatures in my kitchen were very constant during the test, luckily. The rise time was 4 hours, 35 minutes. It did continue to rise to about triple over the course of a few more hours. I didn't keep it going after that.
The reason you hear me questioning the temperature so closely is because the rise times will be very different depending even on the difference between 75F and 70F. For example, at 75F, my starter rose by double (with AP flour) in 4:35 at 75F, but at 70F, the starter would probably rise by double in 6:15. It makes a big difference.
It looks like my rise was faster using KA organic AP. I normally feed my starter KA bread flour, and from my notes a typical rise by double after feeding 10g:45g:50g (slightly higher feeding ratio of 10.5x total flour to starter flour instead of 9x, slightly higher 77F temperature, slighly lower 90% hydration) was 4:50. If I were to guess, I'd say that based on this, my rise time for bread flour after a 1:4:4 feeding at 75F would be 5.5 hours, a fairly different result from what I got with KA organic AP flour.
What this points out is that the variation in rise time can be significant depending on temperature, feeding ratio, flour type, and hydration. In particular temperature changes things much more than you might imagine. For me, the trick is to find a consistent routine to follow and become familiar with the particular rise times at the typical temperatures you experience over the course of the year. That way, when you take it out of the refrigerator, you'll be able to tell pretty easily if it's back to normal or if you need another feeding or two at room temperature.
Another interesting thing to try might be to see how long your starter takes in a firm consistency (60% hydration) to rise. Glezer's firm starter rule is that the starter should rise by 4 times the volume in less than 8 hours. The basic approach would be to take 12g of your starter, mix with 28g of water and 50g of flour, then knead it for a minute or so to get a reasonable little dough. I find it comes together fairly quickly if you just roll it around under the palm of your hand. Then, put it in a jar and see how long it takes to rise by 4 times.
which is what the caveat re my thermometer was for, covering my...bases. I checked the starter with a candy thermometer and set it in the oven with the light on. For oven temp I used an old, cheap indoor/outdoor thermometer that seems to read relatively correct, but deciding whether to pack a sweater is a less precise maneuver, I understand. Honestly I was surprised the end reading was only 70, but I am at a loss to explain it, one or both of my thermometers could easily be off, or perhaps the interior of the jar never warmed as much as the air in the oven. If I want clean science it means spending money on gadgets, apparently.
This is the second time I ran the test, I posted the first results but edited when things improved. The first time it didn't even double before it started falling at around 7 1/2 hours.
I'm really surprised that a few degrees matters so much, seems to me 'warm' ought to be a broad concept to microbes, they really are thugs after all, just when I was beginning to look more kindly upon them. Tell me again why you're feeding (regularly?) at 10:45:50, this is to lengthen the cycle to 12 hours? And you're just leaving it out, but that's you baking frequently, I'm still answering to whims so mine would be better off in the fridge mostly, correct? Should I be changing feeding proportions? I have Glezer's book, I plan to peruse her starter info and may as well work up a firm starter for novelty's sake, maybe it'll better suit my habits. It would be interesting to see the rise time. Also think I'll mix up more VSD and see what happens. Maybe I should just go by the book times and see what I get, but it's hard to ignore instincts screaming in your ear.
I'm cringing as I ask this next question, I expect it's dead obvious but science comes painfully slow to me. Is there any significant difference usage-wise between the starter I've fed at 1:2:2 and this new one at 1:4:4? Is one stronger or are they the same, given that the rise times are so similar? At least I'm showing my hand...*sigh*
Nantucket, well! I could spend a summer there without much complaint. Excellent reason to be off-line, you have no business being indoors under the circumstances really. These exchanges always get me itching for the sea, even though I'm happiest just watching it and walking the sand, a rare commodity in Maine.
Thanks for your input and help, as usual. At least it's becoming more intelligible to me and less esoteric, what I really hope is that someday it will feel routine.
Wow, lots of good questions.
First of all, the first time you ran the test, it sounds like the starter wasn't all that healthy, yet. Normally, I would expect a starter at 100% hydration or a little firmer should rise by more than double, more like triple, if all is well. As I mentioned, however, the timing is highly variable depending mostly on temperature, but also on hydration and flour type. However, with reasonably strong flour I would be expecting a thick but stirrable paste to rise by more double, then continue rising or at least holding steady for several more hours, well beyond doubling.
The temperature relationship is very significant. In "The Bread Builders" they show a nice illustration with "generation time" vs. temperature. Generation time is described as the time it takes the organisms to double in population. At 82F, ideal for the yeast to grow, the yeast double every hour, but at 68F they double every 2 hours. So, if you feed 1:4:4, a dilution by a factor of 9, the population would have to double a little more than 3 times to get back to where it started before the feeding. So, you can see that if it takes around 3.5 hours to grow by a factor of 9 at 82F, it would take 7 hours to do the same at 68F. Of course, the actual rise times are far more complicated than that, but the idea that it could take twice as long for the same rise to happen at 68F as at 82F gives an idea of what you're dealing with.
I'm feeding 10:45:50 to get a roughly 12 hour room temperature feeding cycle. It also is a little more thick at 90% hydration instead of 100%, which should allow for a little longer ripening after it doubles. The higher feeding ratio also causes the culture to spend more time at a higher pH, which should encourage the Lactobacillus, which don't do well once the pH drops. So, it's a way to get some of what makes a firm starter more forgiving without going all the way to a firm starter. I have been maintaining a firm starter for a little over a month. It seems to have converted over just fine from my liquid starter, and it is performing about the same so far. I don't see much difference, but it is nice that it ripens on about a 24 hour cycle, rather 12 hours. However, it's a little more of a hassle to mix and knead the firm starter dough, even if you do it less frequently. All in all, I'm not seeing much difference so far.
I haven't noticed much real difference between the 1:2:2 starter and the 1:4:4 starter routine, or even with the firm starter. I've found so far that they all are rising equally well, produce doughs or levains with about the same flavor, and are all easy to maintain. The firm starter seems a little more aromatic, but I haven't noticed any difference in the levains. As far as I can tell after you dilute them in a dough or a levain, they all seem much the same in rising capability and flavor, provided you contribute the same amount of fermented flour in each case.
Refrigerating is a good strategy for storing the starter. I usually feed, let rise by only double, and then refrigerate. The starter will continue to ripen slowly in the refrigerator, which is why I don't let the starter fully ripen before refrigerating it. If I weren't busy playing with the 12 hour and 24 hour feeding cycles to see how they do, I would just refrigerate my starter. I only bake about 2-3 times per month, so I too normally refrigerate in between. It just saves the hassle of keeping track and feeding and of course the extra flour. Now that I've played with it a while, I don't believe refrigeration changes the flavor all that much. As long as you feed the starter a couple of times at room temperature when you take it out for a baking session, it seems to me, it bounces right back to the same basic state it would have been in if I had been feeding it at room temperature all along.
My experience has been that the VSD rise times seem a touch short for my starter. Since yours seems to rise in a very similar amount of time, now that you have it all revved up, you may find it takes similar rise times to mine. I normally would do a bulk fermentation of closer to 4 hours total, including the autolyse. I'm not sure, but it may be that Hamelman is telling us to go a little shorter than double on the bulk fermentation. It seems like Glezer advises similarly in at least one recipe I was reading (Essential Columbia). I do think I've had better results by going a little shorter than double on the bulk fermentation rise, too. I found that 2 hours or maybe 2.5 hours was pretty good for the final proof, so maybe if I went shorter on the bulk fermentation, the final proof could run longer without having overproofing problems. I think you'll find that it will go a lot faster and with better texture now that your starter is rising faster. Remember that the same temperature dependence is there. If you aren't using 76F, as recommended, the rise times can be very different. I would expect to wait a lot longer at 70F. If it takes 6.5 hours from mix to bake at 76F, it ought to take more like 8.5 hours at 70F, for example.
I think you will find the starter maintained 1:4:4 is indistinguishable from the one maintained 1:2:2. In theory, maybe they should be a little difference, but I can't really tell. In fact, I have a hard time noticing much difference even with the firm starter, other than the nice aroma it has. However, that nice aroma doesn't seem to show up much in the flavor of the bread unless I make a big, ripe, firm levain to include in the bread itself.
The weather here has been perfect. Outside is definitely good. Roque Island, ME, not to far from Jonesport, has a large bay full of sandy beach. It's one of the few in Maine, but it is spectacular. I hope to make it if the weather will let me go there this year.
Have a good time with that VSD. I look forward to hearing what happens with the invigorated starter.
Hmm, this is not the first time today I've been accused of asking a lot of questions...must be true...thanks for the comprehensive answer. I realize that you've addressed some of this already but things take a while to sink in with me, so please don't think prior efforts were in vain, call them groundwork. Also I understand that anyone's 'standard' approach might change with time and experiment.
What I'm gathering pretty clearly by now is that I can't be cavalier with sourdough like I could, was, am with farm-raised bugs, not without really affecting performance. Consistent warm temps will take some doing even now it's June, until Tuesday anyway when the weather gods are waving 90s about. But I imagine I'm up to the challenge. I did mix up a firm starter for the lark of it, maybe two hours ago, and look forward to seeing results either way. It does seem that feeding could be an event, and probably I won't choose to maintain it if it's not a stellar performer, but for now it's a bit of fun and learning, as this whole experience has been, crises and all. Not as if I need bread, but am definitely penciling in VSD for soon.
In Maine we tend to stop at Ogonquit for the sake of the sand, your haunts must be norther since I'm not familiar with the names, though we once got as far as Bar Harbor and the wonder that's Acadia. Years upon years ago my family would rent a cottage on the Cape now and then, I can't even say where, but it was well before the population eruption, and a week on the beach could be very serene indeed. As young as I was I remember wandering alone about the sands and shrubs and grasses and shells, finding beach plums, tasting salt on my lips, set me up for a lifetime of loving the sea despite the fact that mountains have trumped. Not having lived on the coast will be a regret, when I die, that I have made a reluctant peace with. I wonder if you ever go back West?
The speed of the rise is affected in a big way by the temperature. However, there isn't anything wrong with a slower cooler rise. Between about 65F and 85F, I think you can be fairly cavalier, as long as you realize how different the rise times will be. In fact, some would argue lower temperature, slower rise is better for flavor, or at least different. If your starter rises slowly when you feed it because the temperatures are lower, you can just wait for it. Just follow the same basic pattern, much slowed down, which would be to feed it and let it rise by double, then let it ripen from there for some period of hours until it stops rising and seems ready to fall. In fact, you have to be a little careful with high temperatures. I think temperatures around or above 90F are probably not a good idea for a sourdough starter. So, if you have a choice between leaving it somewhere possibly too hot and somewhere that may be slower and cooler, I would opt for the cooler temperatures, so you don't overheat the culture and possibly kill it. Although there are always exceptions, if your starter is healthy, the difference between 65F and 85F to the final bread that results is qualitative, but you should still get good bread either way. At 65F it'll just take a lot longer than at 85F. To give you an idea, with my starter, I would expect the VSD to take about 5 hours from mix to bake at 85F and about 13 hours at 65F.
I'll be interested if the firm version of your starter will rise by 4x in 8 hours at a mid-70s temperature with a 1:3:5 feeding (about what I suggested with 12g:28g:50g of (100% hydration starter:water:flour). I found that the 4x rule only worked if temperatures are above about 74F in my case. If it isn't happening in the middle of the night, I'd also be interested in how long it takes the firm starter to roughly double in volume. I have some benchmarks for that with mine. You kind of have to eyeball it, since it rises like a dough with a big round crown.
I do get out to Montana in the summer, spring, and winter for periods of time. My parents have a cabin in the mountains near the Anaconda Pintlers. It's the same place my grandparents had when I was a kid. We go there quite often to fish, hike, ski, and sometimes for holidays. I have pleasant childhood memories pulling me back to Montana and the mountains, as yours draw you back to Cape Cod and the seacoast.
I understand about cool temps and doughs as a general rule, in fact I've never been at all fussy and just let them work til they're ready at room temperature. Could've been my mantra til a few months ago--"Don't worry about that, it'll be fine." But sourdough has expectations-- or maybe not. I guess you're telling me that it doesn't, exactly, or not unreasonable ones. Like you and others here I prefer a mild sour so I think that's one reason I wanted shorter rises. Then in my very limited experience, the breads that responded quicker (from being warmer as well as a healthier starter I presume) baked, looked and tasted better. Then there's Hamelman's 2 hour-ish stats poking me, and of course the whole open crumb business, but I can let all that go if the bread is good, it's much too soon for inflexibilty and universal truths.
As to the firm starter, I did that last night at 5:45 pm (just not thinking lately--it's pumpkin time for me by 10, and here I am starting long-term late day projects.) Took the 12g starter from the 1:4:4 batch, added 28g water and 50g KA org ap as you suggested. Went in the oven, not too close to the light, don't even ask me what the temp was, who knows? In the 70s thereabouts I guess. By 9:15 it doubled, and by 11:45 it quadrupled, not just the crown but the rim, where it touched the glass. If my measurements were accurate, that is. I used the water volume measure that you suggested before, that works here as well? It was in a pint wide-mouthed mason jar and over half-full by midnight. My impression is that this is currently a happenin' starter, and aren't I feeling over-horsed just.
The weather is perfect here. Sunny, 70s, breezy, just right.
The health of the starter will have a big effect on the bread quality. I would say that matters more than the exact temperature as long as you're anywhere around the 70s for the fermentations in whatever recipe you make. Yours is now meeting the Glezer firm starter "gold standard" nicely. Yes, I think the volume measurement worked, and your starter sounds like a good performer. It sounds like it's doing great if you can fully quadruple in 6 hours or so. No excuses is right. All you have to do now is refrigerate it when you're not using it and feed it at room temperature a couple of times when you remove it from the refrigerator to do some baking.
I have had better luck making milder bread using temperatures around 76F, but I don't think it will make much difference anywhere from about 70F to about 80F. I've had some slightly sour results in both lower than 70F and higher than 80F temperatures.
Hamelman's recipe for VT sourdough specifies mixing the levain in with the dough minus the salt, so the initial 20-60 minutes autolyse adds 20-60 minutes to the overall rise time of the dough, and it's effectively more time, since without salt the fermentation will go at a faster rate during the autolyse. Notice that the levain is specified to ferment for 12 to 16 hours at 70F. If you have warmer temperatures, like 80F, the levain should take quite a bit less time, like 7 hours, to ripen to the same degree it would in 12 hours at 70F.
With your starter healthy, you could probably adhere closely to "the clock" for the VT sourdough recipe, as Susanfnp did and get good results. You should find that shorter bulk fermentation times than you've been used to up until now will work with the starter working as it is now. Between the extra time the mixing of the dough and the shaping of the dough takes, you should have enough total fermentation with your starter - if the temperatures are in the mid-70s, by just following the recipe times fairly closely. If your temperatures are lower, you have to lengthen the rise times, and the difference can be hours, depending on just how much lower. For example, if the temperature is 70F, then I would expect to be modifying the times to more like 4.5 hours for the bulk fermentation and 3 hours for the final proof.
Let him have his head and race all the way to the barn on the way home. Give him some oats and let him get frisky. It's almost impossible to be overstartered, I'd say.
Bill, this is what I did yesterday on what must have been the hottest day of the year. An excellent illustration of how warmth affects rising time, I guess. The loaf on the left was an attempt at Columbia with the firm starter. I gave it the shorter of the stated rise times, I think it might've liked more because it's a touch dense but very tangy and perfectly nice eating. The others are VSD with increased whole grain, wheat in this case. The dough rose well within Hamelman's stated time blocks, quite unlike what my experience has been before. The dough is different with this bread every time I make it--sometimes it's almost firm, and sometimes it seems to want nothing more than a good lie down. Maybe it's my scale, or maybe the flour changes that much, or maybe humidity, but anyway, this turned out mild and pleasant, though none of the loaves had the dramatic ovenspring that makes a showy loaf. But it was really new doing sourdough while confident that my starter was frisky and too cool was no issue. Thank you a thousand times, Bill. I'm liking sourdough better and better, even if I do still land in the dirt now and then.
Is Nantucket still idyllic, or has this tropical steam ferreted out you guys as well?
Looks like the sourdough starter is doing great. Nice loaves. I thought they were worthy of a larger photo, like weavershouse.
I've been out of touch sailing around Mt. Desert Island, ME, for the last few days. The weather here has been unbelievably nice. We climbed to the top of Sargent Mountain, walking straight from the boat in NE Harbor, all in sun and cool breezes.
Good luck with the continued sourdough experiments. I'm thrilled to see that it's working and you are getting some breat results.
Browndog, those look great. Despite what you said, those breads look quite showy, and I'm guessing that the increased whole grain made for some really tasty eating.
Bill: Do you ever sail in Penobscot Bay, If so, please give a wave to Vinalhaven for me!
Somehow I missed this earlier today but I'm glad I spotted it. Beautiful breads. I only used my banneton once but it made such a huge loaf that I haven't used it again but I love the look of the loaf. I wish your photo was bigger, they're too nice to have to squint to see. How much wheat did you use? weavershouse
you're a sweetie, thank you. The reason the picture isn't bigger is because the breads really aren't showpieces like some other people's are, ahem. They are plenty tasty and even pretty enough to look at if you don't have anything to compare them to...I just wanted Bill to see that I actually do try to implement the reams of good information he so generously shares. The recipe is Hamelman's a few pages past the original--he increases the whole grain flour by 5%, I think it's around 1.4 ounces more. More prefermented flour and starter, too.
I love the look a banneton gives, and find my 1 1/2# form much more useful, I have a 2# that really I regret buying, yes, too big. I may get another of the smaller. I do experience some of the difficulties others have mentioned--a beautifully risen dough that sticks, or a crust made chewy not crispy by rice flour. But when it all works, it's so pretty.