The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Why can’t weak starters make good bread?

tttt1010's picture

Why can’t weak starters make good bread?

This is a subject that perplexes me. My understanding   is that to create good crumb, we mainly depend on the wild yeast to leaven the dough with carbon dioxide. If I use a weak starter straight out of the fridge to make a dough the rises 50% in volume, I have created just as much carbon dioxide as a dough that has been innoculated with an active starter that has also risen by 50%. So why doesn’t the weak starter create as much open of a crumb?

headupinclouds's picture

As I'm slowly learning, the transformation of dough over time during bulk fermentation is an extremely complex process, but I think it can be helpful to simplify the process into good things (gluten development, aeration, etc) and bad things (proteolysis and amylase degradation, etc).  In general, a mature starter will help to achieve the good things before the bad things happen or take over.  Of course this is an oversimplification, as too much or too little of any of these properties can be a problem, but I think it helps to answer the question.  A lot of this has to do with the different roles LAB and yeast play in a well balanced starter, where "well balanced" will vary depending on the goals of the baker.  I think the most common issue is that LAB have a tendency to dominate yeast in new and/or poorly maintained starters, which can contribute to faster dough degradation, which in turns leads to less trapped CO2 during baking.

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

Sourdough and Starters. One of which is needing to go into a feeding frenzy if a starter has been in the fridge for more then '2 minutes'. 

There are certain guidelines of when and how to use a starter straight from the fridge which will need a more detailed post about. As a general rule the longer a starter has been in the fridge the more it's degraded and the flavours will be off. Hence the feeds. However one may use a starter straight from the fridge but in order to get better flavour and a stronger dough less should be used as the flavour will be balanced and they'll be a smaller percentage of over fermented dough. It's also a good idea, if it's been a while since the last feed, to ensure its health before wasting a bug batch of dough. 

If you have used a small amount of starter from the fridge and it's raised your dough well then it's not weak. 

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Very good point. Who's to say which starter is weak or strong, if you don't use it? Until you try to use the starter, you don't know if it's weak or strong. But then if it's weak it might be too late! Maybe that's why so many bakers are scared of using a starter from the fridge.

headupinclouds's picture

You ask "Why can't weak starters make good bread?" and later refer to a "weak starter straight out of the fridge".  I want to clarify that a refrigerated starter does not imply a weak starter.

Ciarli's picture

..there is a new school of bakers around based on using very weak starter and no rising times! their idea is simple: if you put in less water and bubbles you have more bread. their bread loaves are flat but baked with special ovens and very delicious indeed. however they failed to substitute water or nothing as they call it, with another liquid because every liquid is based in water.