The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Starter

DeeBaker's picture
DeeBaker

Starter

OK, so I took the slow starter back out of the fridge. Took it down to 42g, added 42g flour, 42g warm water, and set it in the oven to double. It doubled overnight. Pulled 26g out, fed it 42 and 42. This is what it looks like now. The full starter was light and airy. Once the oven cool down, I'll put it back in there to rise and feed it again.

I'm waiting for the discard to fall. I've never actually seen my starter fall, I just always looked for doubling.

 

DeeBaker's picture
DeeBaker

naturaleigh's picture
naturaleigh

Hey!  If you are wanting to maintain a 1:1:1 ratio on your starter, you need to add equal amounts starter, flour and water for each feeding, otherwise you will end up with either thicker or thinner starter.  This will affect how quickly the starter rises.

DeeBaker's picture
DeeBaker

OK. That makes sense. So why do some recommendations say you have to give more flour for the tarter to really feed it and make it active? If I want to make a more active starter in a cold kitchen, what should I do with regard to ratio? I always heat my water to 90 or so to warm up the wheat.

 

naturaleigh's picture
naturaleigh

Is this a new starter or established starter?  If you are attempting to 'grow' a starter, then yes, the 'recipe' for that might involve a higher ratio of flour.  If you are just feeding an established starter, you typically feed at 1:1:1 (old starter, water, flour in equal parts), unless you are maintaining a thicker starter.  However, most recipes deal with 100% hydration starters (or 1:1:1) and you would have to do some math to adjust for the thicker percentage of flour in your starter.  I assumed you were asking about a routine feeding, but if you are trying to build a new starter, I would just follow that recipe.  It will behave differently from day to day until you get it well established.

As far as helping the starter along in a cold kitchen, you can add warm water, just not hot water or you will kill some if not all of it.  I also place my starter jar on a thick woven pad, which keeps the glass off of the cold counter.  You can put it in the oven with the oven light on to help with ambient temp too. 

DeeBaker's picture
DeeBaker

New? No. Established? That’s the question. It is quarantine months old. I didn’t realize how important the percentages were, and couldn’t bear to discard, so I let it grow and grow, and then after the first bread, fed it smaller amounts, and then almost killed it in a preheating accident which taught me to always look in the oven before preheating, since it lives there with the light on.

So after the taffy incident, I did lots more reading and the math started making more sense: 100% hydration, 20% inoculation. So I took the starter out of the fridge where I was keeping it, kept 42 g, fed it 1:1:1 and washed the rest down the drain. I meant to do 20 g at 1:1:1 this morning, but first I poured too much water, then too much flour, and quit at 26:40:40 ish. I resolve to cut it down to 40g tonight and keep it 1:1:1 for 100% hydration going forward. I think I came up with a feeding schedule that will get me my one pizza a week, 2-3 breads, and discard for weekly waffles and cinnamon rolls or bhajia. It would be a 40/40/40 feeding at night and a 100 discard or Levain and then 20/20/20 feed in the morning. Does that make sense? 

naturaleigh's picture
naturaleigh

Hiya!  I think I understand your plan...? ;-). I usually keep my resting starter amount (that I keep in the fridge) at 50 g, that way there is less discard when I go to feed and/or build.  If I plan on baking and only need a small amount (my everyday loaf only calls for 50 g of starter) the 50/50/50 plan works out nicely--enough for the dough and enough to feed and return to the fridge.  Some of my recipes call for more starter (like my pizza dough), so I end up building that slowly up over 3 days or so.  The first refresh I keep at 50, then the 2nd feed/day 2 I build to 75 or 100 g, then the 3rd feed/day 3 up to 125 g (starter/new flour/water).  I generally keep a jar for discard and will use this for discard recipes (banana bread, muffins, waffles, pancakes, etc).  I don't gauge my feedings too precisely, but just keep in mind that the starter is doubling when you feed, so I make sure I have enough for my recipe and enough left over, 50 grams, to build my resting starter.  If you end up with less after making your dough, just start with what you have left over, say 20 grams, and build up to any amount you want.  Some people just use the tiny amounts left over, their 'scrapings', to keep in the fridge--I am not that brave.  I'd rather have more than I need (without being too wasteful).

DeeBaker's picture
DeeBaker

I did soooo much math last night my head hurt, and I read a whole page of starter threads in the other section. Can you explain how 50g of mother then becomes 50g of starter without losing the mother? Do you build the mother to 150 and then take 50 twice?

I have to redo the math for a fridge starter plan. Look like fridge starters you want to build in two feeds to get them going after being cold. My pizza is a 40/40/40 levain. Bread is 60/60/60. Cinnamon buns are 75/75/75. Trying to figure out how to do each of those with a 2 day build. I think I found a formula that works with a 60g mother that will get fed around every 4 days.

In other good news, my starter was beautifully vigorous today. Cinnamon buns are 68% hydration but 27% inoculation so we will see how it fare compared to my 75% bread. It's already very tight, a lot like conventional breads I've baked.

SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

What does this mean?

"My pizza is a 40/40/40 levain. Bread is 60/60/60. Cinnamon buns are 75/75/75." What do these numbers refer to?

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To answer the question about starter/mother/levain, if you need 100 grams of levain for a recipe and you have 50 grams of starter, you'll build up your starter by feeding it without discarding (at the correct ratio of starter:flour:water by weight) and then reserve 50 grams of that to continue as your mother and use the rest in your recipe as the levain. Any left over after the levain and the mother are set aside is discard that you can use for pancakes or whatever. 

One other note: the more mature the starter is, the more flour it seems to need at each feeding to stay healthy. Some people feed as much as 1:5 starter:flour with their very mature, active starters. The higher concentration of  yeast and bacteria in your starter the more flour it needs proportionally to stay healthy. 

DeeBaker's picture
DeeBaker

Every time I think I learn something I end up with more questions!

So you add 50g water and 50g flour to a 50g mother, pull off the 100 and the rest is the mother again? Is that better than pulling part of the mother out and growing that and bringing the mother back to full after a couple of pulls? My yeast often takes two feedings to get up to speed, so I was looking for a way to do that, and its annoying that my recipes aren't the same levain build. Since I realized that I can adjust numbers if I keep the same ratio, I thought about shifting the recipes to use the same levain.

I might be overcomplicating this. I had only 7g of starter left after making the 227g cinnamon bun levain, so I added 7g flour and 7g water to that this morning, plan to add 18g of each tonight and will have 54g mother tomorrow. I think if I had a 75g mother I could adjust the pizza and bread recipe for that, keeping them at the same hydration and 2% salt. If I start having to feed 5 to 1, I think I might scream into the sunset.

DeeBaker's picture
DeeBaker

Oh and I meant the recipe called for building a levain 40g starter/40g water/40g flour and so on.

 

naturaleigh's picture
naturaleigh

I think some research on starter maintenance and use would be helpful for you.  There is a difference between starter and levain.  There are numerous sites on the Internet, but here is a link to get you started:  https://www.theperfectloaf.com/sourdough-starter-maintenance-routine/

You always have to maintain your starter, with routine feedings, normally daily for starters kept at room temp and weekly or so for starter kept in the fridge.  As an example, when I am ready to bake on the weekends, I take my resting starter out of the fridge on Wednesday, let it warm up for a few hours, then weigh out a certain amount and then add equal amounts new flour and water (discarding the rest, to use for waffles or whatever).  The fed starter then sits on the counter (first refresh).  I then repeat two more times over the next couple of days, weighing out a specific amount, adding the same weight of flour and water, and discarding the rest.  At the end of the third refresh (for me, Friday evening), I will use a certain amount of that peaked starter to build my dough (levain) and then refresh/feed another portion of the starter, to rest in the fridge for my next bake (after it grows over a couple hours)--that is your starter that you maintain and take a portion from to feed 2-3 times before you use it for your next dough/levain.   If you bake daily, you would refresh and wait for the starter to peak, pull off whatever amount is called for in the recipe, and then feed a portion that is left over so you can repeat the process.  Your main starter is usually fed or maintained at a 1:1:1 ratio (sometimes at thicker ratios for stiffer starter) but your levain/dough recipes will dictate how much fed, peaked starter (after 2-3 feedings) that you will use, not usually at any of the ratios you mentioned. 

I think you are confused between routine starter feeding amounts and what you would be pulling off of a fed starter to add to a levain.  Essentially, you begin with a jar of starter, feed it a certain amount (keeping to a particular starter/flour/water ratio), use some for your bake and feed a certain amount, again, to park, either on the counter (which will require daily feedings) or in the fridge (which does best with weekly feedings).  Hope this helps.  Spend some time doing some research and I think you will work it all out.

DeeBaker's picture
DeeBaker

More questions:

Thanks for the link, I have been to that site, and reread it last night. I am still feeding my starter 1:1:1. It did seem to rise and started to fall before this morning's feeding. Is that evidence I should feed it more like 1:2:2 or greater? That would still keep it 100% hydration and give it more to eat before I wake up.

Are you refreshing once a day or twice?

 

naturaleigh's picture
naturaleigh

For routine feedings (not planning on baking soon), I feed once per week for refrigerated starter, daily for on-the-counter/room-temp starter (even if it rises and falls before the next feeding time).  I have had really good luck with this process and get good results with my bakes...I think my starter is healthy and happy!  However, you will probably get several different opinions on starter ratios and times on this site. 

I don't think it is necessary to feed more than once per day though, unless you just want to.  My starter reaches double or triple within a few hours, so I usually only need 2 lead days before a bake.  After giving the first refresh feed (first day out of the fridge), on day 2 I can feed once in the morning and repeat in the afternoon, which means my starter is peaking in the evening when I am ready to begin my levain/dough (which means I've gotten in three refresh feedings before a bake).  So, on the first day, I'm only feeding/refreshing once, but on the second twice because of the rise times and that's how it works out best for my bake.  I could just feed once per day for three days, then use some of the starter on day 3 for my levain/dough/bake.  Does that makes sense?

Just because your starter falls doesn't mean you need to immediately give it another feed.  Most established starter is very forgiving and can stand some neglect, so don't get too hung up about being tied to it or the clock as far as feedings.  So long as you don't let it sit out forever on the counter without feeding it, or leave it in the fridge forever without feeding it, you can usually get it back to a happy place pretty quickly and easily.  You also don't need to keep it on the counter unless you bake a lot.  Keeping it in the fridge cuts down on feedings and wasted flour.