Sorry if this gets you all rolling your eyes: but what does "mature starter" mean?
Fed, bubbly and peaked.
P.s. if you're creating one from scratch then it means when the starter becomes viable.
that it's risen -- or risen as far as it will go? And how do we (I) know that it won't rise any further?
Thank you for saying there's no such thing as a dopey question!
It won't rise anymore. Or you can wait until till it just begins to fall. If it's a thick rye starter it may peak and stay there for a while. If it's a thin wheat starter it may not rise much. So for now let the recipe be a guide. There are different levels of maturity from young to mature and getting a feel for this will come with time and practice. For now your best way to determine this is visually. Smell is another way to determine how mature it is. So when feeding a starter get to know it by how it behaves and smells. Another way is to take a little off and drop it into a glass of water, if it floats then it's mature, i.e. active enough to use in a recipe.
We've all been there. Every single one of us. Ask away...
with chronological age? It just means that the starter's fed, fat and happy? And not one that was started months ago and is strong enough to withstand fridge conditions and once-a-week feedings?
Am I driving you crazy?
I've asked all the questions you have.
When making one from scratch, mature means it's fermented, strong enough and has become viable to use as a starter. It can take a long time.
Once it has become a starter then it is kept going indefinitely by feeding it. When you feed it the starter then has to mature again but this time, because the starter is viable, it takes hours instead of days. Fed, fat and happy :) Good description.
When not being used it is stored in the fridge.
For now follow this rule of using when fed, fat and happy.
You will find that if refrigerated when peaked, just like a dough, you can retard the starter and use within few days. If kept for longer periods of time then repeat the process. You need to know and follow the rules before breaking them. For someone who is just starting off follow recipes, use mature starter (or make an off-shoot starter called a levain), and get to know your starter. It's a learning curve.
The devious reasoning behind all these questions is that I did bake a loaf this weekend, but not before getting completely bogged down in "mature", "peaked", "build" and "refreshed" -- to the point of mental paralysis. So I took a deep breath, took 50g of the starter and used it.
I'd used Debra Wink's method about two weeks earlier and Bonne Maman (that's her name) was deemed ready to bake bread (she was doing some incredibly exuberant feeding frenzies). The results are here: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/55733/starters-maiden-voyage#comment-403680
Now, I know the crumb is tight, and I know that my dough-handling skills leave much to be desired, despite the fact that I was manipulating that lovely, pillowy mass extremely cautiously.
And here's where these questions all come into play: after the first few days of rye and pineapple juice, Bonne Maman was put on a once-a-day regimen of 2:1:1, using white flour. And I kept that up for the next week or so. Towards the end of that week, she was really blowing her stack, quadrupling and then receding to a few mm above her rubber-band marker. At which point Debra suggested that I move along to 2:3:3 twice daily, so I did.
Suddenly, no more feeding frenzies. From what I can tell, she rises to just about 2x or 2.5x, recedes by 3-5mm, and then stays 'way high above her rubber band.
I thought she was growing up, hence the question about the "mature" starter. Shows you what I know…
Thanks for your patience.
That is one mighty fine loaf indeed. You should be very pleased.
What you'll soon know is that terminology is flexible and will be used slightly differently by many bakers. When a making a starter it is mature when it's ready to use.
When feeding an ongoing starter it is mature when active and bubbly.
Now that your starter is viable it will continue to mature over the coming weeks.
1: mature = viable.
2: mature = active and bubbly i.e. when a viable starter is fed.
3: mature = age i.e. more predictable, stronger and balancing the flavours.
Thank you! Both for the kind words and for the clarification; so we not only have many words to say the same thing, we have the opposite: the same word for many things! It's all about context…
Okay, next dopey question: when a recipe call for "mature" starter, that means I'm supposed to feed it and then stand over it to watch it rise? And then pounce on it at its apex? Wow -- is that what you all do?
Or is that where the third meaning comes in: it becomes predictable, so I can feed it and know that it's not going anywhere for the next X hours…
Gah, learning curve!
The baker assumes you have a viable starter and doesn't mean it has to be many months old before you try the recipe. What the author means is fed, bubbly and primed for use.
To answer your next very good question - that is what we all do. Either the recipe will give you a recommended feed and timing (which will be a guide) or will assume you don't need this advice in which case before long you'll get to know your starter, it'll become more predictable and second nature to you so there will be no need for any acrobatics :)
Oh, I've just answered the 3rd meaning.
If your starter matures at 3pm it's not going to die at 3.05pm. Using when fed and matured (in this case peaked) is optimal time.
There will be a range from a young sweet Levain to an overly mature very tangy levain which is beginning to smell alcoholic.
When a recipe advises a build for a starter it's balancing the flavours for the final loaf. As long as you have a mature starter and watch the dough (not the clock) it'll work.
I was about to let you go and get on with your business, when you threw me another one. Is a "build" the same as a "levain"?
Honestly, I was going to just thank you and wish you a good evening…
If you keep a starter, feed it, take some off and use in a recipe then you're using it as an all in one kinda way.
If you keep a starter simply as a seed, take some off and build and off-shoot starter then you're building a levain.
The best way is to see how other people keep and use theirs to learn the process. See Hester's comment below for a good idea.
I shall now let go of your hand and let you get on with your evening.
All the best,
Is to maintain and use your starter. Ask questions but until you bake with it it's all just theory. You'll soon find everyone has their own way. Yes they'll all be following certain principles but there's plenty of room for your own personal needs.
I look forward to more questions, answers and bakes :)
Theoretically, next loaf at the weekend… not sure if I'll try the Trevor "low-hydration/open crumb" again or just explore this 1-2-3 bread that sounds like it could be fun and totally undemanding. I'm tempted to try to lick the Trevor bread. We'll see what my energy level is like on Thursday.
Thanks again for your patience.
now that I have a reliable starter in the fridge. Say 100 gmSay I want to bake on Saturday morning... Because I do the final fermentation over night in the fridge, I'd have to make my dough Friday during the day. Say it calls for 60 gm of a 'mature' starter. Either Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, I'd remove say 5 grams from the fridge. Say I feed it 1:1:1 = 15 grams. next feeding would be 15: 15: 15 + 45 grams and then again (a third feeding) , or 2nd feeding could be (instead of 1:1:1:, could be 1:2:2) so... 15: 30: 30 which gives me 75.... you always want extra since some sticks to the jar.Sometimes, I make extra so I can return some to the stash in the fridge.
Hope this doesn't increase your confusion.
You're not really confusing me, just raising some more questions:
And my math is weak when my head is spinning: am I still discarding at this stage?
I appreciate your jumping in to help!
Feeding. I just do it that way to convince myself it's good to go.
No, It's not heresy. Sometimes a recipe calls for an overnight levain using say 60 gm of starter. If I'm going to let the levain sit out all night (which I usually do) I'll grab 15 grams of starter from the Fridge and do: 15: 30 : 30 to get 75 grams. I'll give 10 back to the fridge and use the 60 in the final levain build. The remaining 5 stays in the jar b/c I cannot ever get it all out.
So, I grok that all is flexible and -- to a certain extent -- customisable. Learn by doing, eh?
And, yes, it's amazing how that stuff sticks to the spatula and the jar. Do you always use the same jar? And am I being too much of a mommy because I give Bonne Maman a clean jar every evening?
I have 4 Wide-mouth pint jars. When I am getting a starter ready to bake, I need one just to tare the scale for accuracy. I rotate jars and in fact store the starter in the fridge in a beautiful crock
But I use the jars for refreshing and feeding my starter, getting it ready for the next bake.
I'll bet it's very happy living in there.
Thank you for your explanations.
This might be heresy but every few months, so maybe 3 times / year I use a small amount of my starter and build a fresh batch.. Just my preference. I also have some dried kept in a cloth just in case. lol