The Fresh Loaf

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anyone have a recipe using unfed starter?

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

anyone have a recipe using unfed starter?

I have a highly demanding 1-year-old. The ability to make a levain (especially a multi-stage levain) is usually a limiting factor in my sourdough bread production. I'm wondering if anybody has a good sourdough recipe (for actual sourdough bread, not like muffins or something) using unfed starter. I'm not picky (well, I am, but not in this case).  It can be highly acidic a la SF or sweet and creamy (probably not likely in this case) like the French love.  I'm just looking for a flavorful bread. Anybody got a recipe/method for that?

I noticed Reinhart says it's okay to use unfed starter as long as it was fed recently in Bread Baker's Apprentice. But I'm apprehensive and looking for a little more guidance.

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Refrigerate and use within a week. Follow a normal recipe just allowing for different timings. Watch the dough and not the clock. 

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Thanks!  This sounds like a one-week schedule recommendation. What ratio do you recommend feeding the starter for a one-week approach such that it's viable to use directly in bread?

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

I was too busy answering your question rather than give you the excellent advice others have given you. Keep a low hydration starter in the fridge. Night before take a little off and build a levain (won't take you too long at all) and Bob's your uncle.

Keep your starter in the fridge then when it runs low feed it. It can go for weeks (even months) between feeds. I can explain to you my starter maintenance but it's so similar to Dabrownman's NMNF you might as well just read up on his.

To answer your question, if you still want to go down the "unfed" route (bit of a misnomer - rather "no recently fed" route), I would give it a really good feed once a week. Say 1:5:5 and allow it to mature. Pop it in the fridge and take a little off each day you wish to bake.

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

A while back I gave a dollop of my SD starter to my brother with instructions about regular refreshing.  He took it home, put it in his fridge and promptly forgot about it as it slowly wound its way to the back of the second shelf.  He called me three months later wondering what he should do with it.  I said that he should first try refreshing it, which he did quite successfully.  

While I know this goes against the grain (of most SD recipes), I sometimes use my SD starter without having refreshed it for weeks.  It's never failed me.  

Don't be afraid to experiment.

HansB's picture
HansB

I have made this. Makes a good loaf: http://www.homecookingadventure.com/recipes/easy-sourdough-bread-vermont-bread

 

I think I found it through this site.

Trevor J Wilson's picture
Trevor J Wilson

Sometimes I get busy (or lazy) and don't feel like maintaining my usual twice-a-day room temp feeding schedule. I usually keep an all-white stiff starter (50% hydration). So when I decide to take a break from its regular maintenance routine I make a large batch for its last refreshment, let it proof at room temp at least 12 hours -- though usually 24 -- then toss it into the fridge. The point of letting it ferment so long before refrigerating is to build up a large population of organisms before everything gets slowed in the fridge.

When I want to bake I just grab a piece of the starter and toss it into the dough. The starter will usually last a few weeks before I start to run low. I only use a small amount per loaf (usually 50g for an 800g loaf, or 6.25% of total dough weight) because the gluten in the starter is fully degraded -- using large amounts of degraded starter tends to make for a tight crumb, so I only use a little.

The starter slowly loses activity over the passing weeks, but never to the point that it's unusable -- the doughs just rise slower and slower, and they tend to rise slow anyway because of the small amount I'm using. The key to this method working is that you need a very active starter before you refrigerate it. A sluggish starter won't retain enough rising power to give your loaves a good lift if it spends too long in the fridge.

I don't know how long the starter might last, as I usually start to run out after 3 weeks or so. But it's never a problem for me to take it out, give it a few room temp feedings to bring it back to full vigor, then toss it back in for another few weeks.

This method does not give me my most open crumb -- for that I use freshly fed and highly active starter. But the crumb is still nice and open provided I nail the fermentation and handling. And the slow rises give a wonderful tangy flavor that I'm quite fond of. 

This works very well for me when I'm not feeling inclined to maintain my starter daily, but I can't say for certain that it will work for you. Like I said, it depends upon the strength of your starter (among other variables, such as refrigerator temp for one). But might be worth a try.

Cheers!

Trevor

 

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

This sounds like it might be just the ticket.  I think my starter is fairly active. It has no problem tripling in size in roughly 12 hours at room temp. I use organic rye for the insurance and I don't mind a little rye flavor in my final dough. I keep a liquid starter, but should be easy enough to convert. I have toyed with the idea of a stiff starter since they are known to be more flexible.

The only tricky part might be the unpredictibility of the rising/fermentation time of the dough. What cues do you look for and are we talking 4 hours or 12 hours?

Also, when you say "fully active" with respect to the starter, do you mean you refrigerate at peak height?

Thanks, this is a great tip!

Trevor J Wilson's picture
Trevor J Wilson

My starter will triple in volume in 8 hours or less (usually closer to 5 or 6 hours). That's if given a feed ratio around 1:2:4 (1 part starter, 2 parts water, 4 parts flour; all by weight) and kept at decent ambient temps (high 70's to low 80's F). Without knowing anything else about your feed ratio or proofing temps, I'm inclined to think that tripling in 12 hours may not cut it (at least, not for best results). 

But you never know until you try.

I refrigerate my starter well after it's passed peak height. In other words, I refrigerate it long after it's already collapsed. If I refrigerate it at 12 hours the dough retains some cohesiveness to it, but has still fallen. If I refrigerate at 24 hours, the dough has dissolved into a sticky goo. But I prefer to wait the full 24 hours since I get a greater population of yeast/bacteria and my doughs rise quicker as a result. But if you go much past 24 hours the microorganisms become overly hindered by their waste products and you'll get a less vigorous rise when using this method. 24 hours seems to be the sweet spot for me and my starter, though your mileage may vary. 

As far as proof times go, that can vary quite a bit depending on factors such as ambient temp, flour strength, dough hydration, etc. I'd say my doughs probably average a 5-6 hour bulk and 2-3 hour final proof when using this method at comfortable temps -- the shorter proof times come in the first week, the longer proof times by the last. Keep in mind that you can use more starter than I do -- the crumb may not be as open, but the dough will rise quicker and you'll still get good bread.

And as far as what cues I use to determine when the dough is ready, that also depends on my goals and the dough in hand. But typically I bulk to around a 30% rise in volume. As for the final proof, I tend to go by eye, feel and past experience with similar doughs. But the finger poke test is certainly a good place to start. I hope that helps.

Trevor

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Maybe the starter is my problem. I found my dough gets quite sour before it gets pillowy and risen. This might also be why I'm struggling with when to end bulk fermentation.  I don't remember this being a problem in the early days of my bread baking, but I was paying more attention to the sourdough starter then.

Will try your starter recommendation.  I just have to get it right once ever couple of weeks, which would be awesome

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I just realized you're the person whose YouTube videos I've been studying. I'm honored to have your advice. Thank you for your generous wisdom and all you do for the art of bread baking. 

My starter stats are as follows:

100% hydration

100% rye

I'm not super strict about my feeding regimen but it's a refrigerated starter that generally is fed twice a week. My instincts were about right. I timed the tripling at about 13 hours. Doubled about 5. Fed it 1:2:2. 80F water and ambient temp 70F.  So, since this may not be active enough...should I power feed with higher inoculation more frequently to get it going?  Leave it past its peak before feeding?  Did I understand you before that the yeast continue to multiply after the starter falls, which is why you wait to refrigerate?

Im definitely going to try your starter as well but it's bugging me that I'm not getting this right. ( Also occurred to me that shaping might be my issue so I'm re-educating myself on that one too.)

Thanks for your advice. 

Trevor J Wilson's picture
Trevor J Wilson

Given that your starter is 100% rye, I wouldn't expect that it would rise as fully as a wheat starter (due to lack of gluten), so doubling in 5 hours may be perfectly fine. Especially considering the cool ambient temps that it's kept at. Based on what you're describing here, I don't think there's anything different you need to do -- unless you can keep it at a warmer temp.

As for your question regarding activity after the starter fails, yes, the yeast/bacteria populations will continue to increase even after the starter has collapsed. The starter collapsing is a result of the gluten integrity failing (in wheat starters), not the microorganisms going dormant. Eventually, the populations will slow as they become hindered by their own waste products, but that happens well after the starter has collapsed. Rye starters are also more active than wheat starters, so in your case you may not need to wait a full 24 hours, 12 hours may be fine. 

If you want to give this method a try, I would suggest giving your starter 2-3 refreshments at your current 1:2:2 ratio at room temp. Actually, if you could find a warmer spot for it that would be much better -- something mid-70s at least, high 70's even better. If you do find a warmer spot, you may even be able to feed it at a 1:3:3 ratio on the second or third refreshment -- if your starter is able to still double in 5 hours at that ratio then that's a good sign.

That suggestion is really just a starting point though. You'll likely need to adjust things as you go along. The goal is just to get your starter very active and then let it sit long enough (maybe 12 hours in your case) so that it becomes saturated with yeast/bacteria before you refrigerate it. You need the starter to be saturated since you'll be using the starter direct from the fridge rather than building a levain. Otherwise, the population will be too small and make for a very weak rise once you dilute the starter (thinning the population) into the dough. 

That's really all there is to it. Just keep fiddling around until you find something that works. Good luck!

Trevor

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I have a couple of recipes (one for Cheese & Onion bread, one for English muffins) that use both fed or unfed sourdough starter and a little bit of commercial yeast. The starter is for the added flavour while the dry yeast is to compensate for the possible lack of yeast activity in the unfed starter.

You can also use the unfed starter and just let the dough ferment until it is risen (doubled) and pillowy. Essentially the flour and water you add for the dough is 'feeding' the starter. But doing this means you have to watch the dough, and the timing can be unpredictable, which might not fit your need for a more manageable schedule.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Yes, I've tried exactly that. I've reasoned to myself that the flour in the dough is doing the same thing that refreshing the starter would do.  But, just as you say, I've had mixed results with this. I've spiked the dough with commercial yeast, also with mixed results.  (Probably because I'm not always available to take the bread to the next step when the bread is ready.)  But this is good encouragement to keep trying.

Actually, I read recently (I can't remember where) that commercial yeast doesn't handle the acidic environment of sourdough starter very well.  Apparently, that particular strain isn't very tolerant. If that's the case, I wondered why spiking the dough makes any difference at all. But it certainly does in my experience.

Filomatic's picture
Filomatic

I'm not saying it's the best practice, but I keep mine unfed in the fridge.  When I want to bake, I do 2-3 very small feedings at 1-2-2, approx. 12 hours apart.  This way it's low maintenance and I ensure that the starter is very active when I use it for levain.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Good note. I'm still trying to figure out a feeding schedule that works for me.  I find if I store it in the fridge, it's pretty forgiving, it's just the turning it into the levain part that is cumbersome.  Since I have no schedule, I always do something different based on my gut.  Sometimes, it doesn't work very well.

Making Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough right now (inspired by our last conversation).  Just put the levain together a few moments ago. So, at least this time, I managed to do it

On a side note, when I was a kid, I used to have nightmares that I would forget to feed my dog. When I was pregnant, I had nightmares that I would forget to feed my child. Now, I'm waiting for the nightmares that I forgot to feed my starter.  I'm sure they're coming...

Filomatic's picture
Filomatic

Definitely not the easiest stage of child rearing, but bread is flexible and forgiving, and you'll learn a lot by experimenting and seeing where you have room for error and not, and you're going to find a practice that works well. 

Since you have Hamelman and like rye I suggest you try his rye sourdoughs. These are short bulk and final fermentation breads (90 mins/75 mins) with no folds, so quicker to make.  I've made six or seven of his recipes, my recent favorite being the 5 grain levain with rye sourdough. Then use the leftovers for an old bread soaker in your next loaf ... 

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

awhile back. I think it was that one. I actually can't remember if it turned out. I actually did read The Rye Baker (thanks for your suggestion) and it gave me more context for the bread I had already made. The only thing I really remember was the mess I made on the tiny cutting board full of knife indentations that I was attempting to use in lieu of a solid surface. Ha. But once I have renewed courage, I will try again. 

Filomatic's picture
Filomatic

The rye SD 5 grain is only 25% but it's all used for the preferment. I baked it two weeks in a row, one baking the same day and the other with a 30 hour retard after shaping and there was no discernible difference (surprisingly). What was great was that I mixed at 8:45 am, shaped at 10:15, into the fridge at 10:30. The rye SD was made the day before, timing it to come ready around 9 the next day (4-6 pm). I baked when I got home from work at 6 straight out of the fridge. Perfect bread for your schedule, since the builds can be done in a minute, the final dough can be made in minutes, and the baking can be done during a nap. 

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

If I'm not mistaken, this is how TFL's very own Sorcerer In Residence, dabrownman, manages his No Fuss No Muss starter. One grows up a sizable batch, stores it in the fridge and takes out aliquots as needed for bakes.  I could be mistaken about essential  details though.  You might search for it and verify. 

Tom

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I can already tell that dabrownman is one of the site gurus.  Will check it out. Thanks.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Gonna try it for sure.

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

then just make a levain up for the next bake when you can, it will mature and hold a few days (in the fridge) and you can bake as your schedule allows.

happy baking

Leslie

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Checked out the NFNM (apparently it is so famous it has its own acronym) post.  Looks very helpful.  I'm going to definitely try that!

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I just want to make sure I've got this right...

I think Trevor is suggesting using unfed starter.  Meanwhile, it looks like dabrownman builds his levain (from a starter similar to Trevor's) in 3 stages 4 hours apart.  I think Trevor's suggestion is more my speed.  Building the levain is what I find time consuming more so than feeding the starter, which I can do twice per week in the fridge, or even better, less than that per Trevor's suggestion.

Am I reading this wrong?

Filomatic's picture
Filomatic

commenting on the difference between DAB and Trevor's methodology,  I don't use young levain.  How woman Hamelman's levain  is an overnight procedure. Very manageable to make the afternoon or night before and ferment 12 to 14 hours or 14 to 16 hours for rye breads.

Arjon's picture
Arjon

Lots of different methods work in terms of producing good bread. The key is to find one that solidly fits how you (intend to) bake in terms of how you value / prioritize your time, what you find more or less convenient, etc. 

Because we don't all regard such factors the same way, there is no one size fits all method that's best for everyone all the time. Indeed, I usually put my starter right into my dough, but not all the time; I occasionally make a levain then a dough.

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

or as I sometimes do (especially if I make a sudden late afternoon decision to bake the next day), just add all the flour and water at once and leave it to do its thing overnight.  

The wonderful thing is, experiment a bit then do it your way, it is such a flexible thing, I love it.

Leslie