Baker's % for Seed/Starter?
I'm wondering why most recipes ignore what's in the seed/starter. They just use a baker's % for the starter to put in the pre-ferment. I can see why in a lot of recipes the flour and water in the seed is negligible but for some I've run across, it can be significant. For instance, a recipe I like a lot came from the Breadtopia site called "Traditional Whole Grain Sourdough" raised the question. In that recipe, the BP% in the pre-ferment for the starter is around 50% and the pre-ferment % of total flour is 32%. In that combination, it turns out that the seed/starter has a significant amount of flour and water that will affect the flour ratios and final hydration. The reason I noticed this issue is that when you run the hydration without the seed/starter it came out about 64%. So I tried a variation with that hydration and it came out way too dry. But, when I included the water in the starter (assuming 100% hydration) it came out 67%. Also when I calculated the % ratios of flour including the starter, there was a significant change because the starter added significant flour to the final dough. Now I see some recipes where the starter is a major factor in the dough. So, I'm wondering if others have found this a problem and perhaps recipes should take into account what's in the starter.
Yes, I find the same to be true, as well as frustrating. Especially when the author of the recipe doesn't state how they calculated it. At least some list it as % TDW, or %TFW. Makes it a little easier to figure out.
I got to the point where I just take a new formula and put the numbers in my spreadsheet. Then see what it looks like and make adjustments. Then change it to conform as close as possible to the BBGA guidelines. But they are just guidelines, not rules. I've also had my share of loaves that came out nothing like what they should have because I "assumed" the author already calculated it into the total formula. Lesson(s) learned.
Right. Unfortunately, the BBGA format also doesn't say anything about the configuration of starter/culture used. It treats the starter just like any other non-flour/water ingredient. So, if someone wants to modify the recipe, who knows what will happen.
The other thing I don't like about BP for starter is that since recipes often don't say anything about the hydration of the starter, the makeup of the yeast/bacteria in the starter is unknown. For instance, for the same baker's percent of starter, the amount of flour in the starter can vary a lot. For the same weight of starter, a 120% hydration starter has only about 70% of the flour that a 60% hydration starter has. I assume that translates into less yeast/bacteria (or different makeup) so the fermenting characteristics will be different for the exact same baker's %.
But that's where the adjustments come in. The adjustments in total hydration are usually minimal (<2%) being they are talking about "seed starter", not the levain itself. It gets even more confusing when the author uses the terms "starter" and "levain" to mean the same thing.
As for the hydration of the starter using BP, or the its makeup (young, mature, etc), it depends on the baker. Ideally it would be mentioned somewhere in the directions for the recipe. If it's not, then it would fall on (y)our experience or trial and error. It's not a perfect procedure, but it has come a long way from the days of using volume measurement and "a pinch" of something.
The problem is that in reality "starter" and "levain" DO mean exactly the same thing, in general usage. The fact that many of us agree to let them mean separate items, as a convenient shorthand or as a sort of convention or whatever, is fine - but we can't assume that everyone agrees with it, and it's certainly pointless to try to enforce it worldwide.
Recognizing that the amount of flour in "it" can be significant, and that therefore "it" ought to be taken into account in all calculations, is a separate issue - a recognition that I think ought to be welcomed everywhere.
A good example of how recipes should be detailed are those in Jeffery Hamelman's bread book. You are first given the overall formula breakdown in bakers per cent. The per cent amount of flour used in the pre-ferment, and the hydration of the preferment, then the final mix ingredients by weight (overall minus the pre-ferment). I love it because I can recalculate to match the final dough weight I want.
The levain should be the same bakers % as in the levain section of the formula and a sample left over to build again.
I really like Hamelman's book. He's so clear in what he's doing. Thankfully, he is explicit about the mature culture makeups. Also, because he doesn't use a very large seed in his recipes, the lack of seed breakdown in the Overall Formula is not really that significant.
Hamelman's thinking on this is that the amount of seed he is using to elaborate the levain is taken out again before its use, and therefore isn't taken into account in the formula.
Hmm... That's a bit puzzling. Since he seems to be making the pre-ferment to the same formula as the culture, it seems like an extra step to weight out the culture amount instead of just making what he needs. When I read that part where he said that the culture amount was removed, I had thought it was to keep something for the next pre-ferment.
Yes, it is. That's what I thought I was saying. I hope I didn't confuse.
Ok, I understand now. Thanks.
I must be missing something. And that is very possible. But the BBGA spreadshhets are very detailed and includes everything you are asking, I think. Take a look at THIS.
Here is my spreadsheet. I followed the BBGA pretty closely. Let me know if I missed something.
Note that G37 is not totaled in G51. This is Hamelman’s method. He doesn’t calculate the seed in the total levain because he plans to use it as a starter for the next day’s bake. The starter perpetuates that way.
Yes, it does include the flour put in the pre-ferments but excludes the flour and water in the seed. Now, most the time this is not a big deal but if there is a large seed, as mentioned in the first post, it is misleading. According to BBGA format, the hydration of that dough would have been 64% but because the baker's % of the seed was 51% in the pre-ferment and the pre-ferment flour was 32% of total flour, the final hydration was really 67%. I assumed a 100% hydration for the starter but this would be even worse for a liquid seed. Also, the whole wheat in the recipe with BP for the starter was 32% but with the seed included it was really 37%. I really liked that bread, so I thought making changes using baker's percents wouldn't necessarily work that well. For instance, if I decided to halve the seed, that would have a big effect on the hydration but wouldn't show up in the BBGA format. Now, I'm probably getting too anal with all this but there are so many variables to deal with already, I think the formulas at least should be accurate. I'm still working on my spreadsheet, but it is able to convert a recipe from one that uses Baker's % for the starter instead to one that uses Flour %. So both the flour and water in the seed with be included in the calculations and ratios. That also means that if a seed with a different hydration is switched in, the flour amount is still the same.
Yes, I see Eric’s formulas use 120g seed. I think of a seed culture that large as levain. I only keep 26g of starter. In that case I would definitely calculate the seed.
If the hydration of the seed is not mentioned, I take it to mean 100% hydration. In the majority of cases I think that would be correct. It would be nice if all instructions included the hydration of the seed and also the temperatures during fermentation. A bulk ferment for 6 hours at 65F and another at 78F will be drastically different.
One of the things I like about those who post their recipes here is that they usually include a lot of detail. Good stuff! The ? is in the details.
I was just looking through Daniel Leader's book "Local Breads" and ran across another example. The german rye seed in the pre-ferment was a baker's percent of 67% and the baker's percent of the pre-ferment flour to total flour was 40%. The final dough was 70% bread flour and 30% rye so the contribution of the seed to both the hydration and flour was significant.