The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

feeding schedule impact - does 2 + 2 = 4?

Muddy Gardener's picture
Muddy Gardener

feeding schedule impact - does 2 + 2 = 4?

Hello, wise ones.    Here's a general question which might or might not have a general answer.   Let's say I'm feeding an established starter or creating a levain.   

What's the difference in outcomes between giving it two lots of flour+water, vs giving it one feed with the same total amount of flour and water, and waiting the same total amount of time?

This is kind of basic but I don't really understand it.

tx

justkeepswimming's picture
justkeepswimming

I was musing about some of this earlier today as well. I understand the general dilution principles, and how time and temperature can slow down or speed up a levain build/starter feed. 

But why do some recipes specify a 2 or 3-stage levain build, rather than just giving the seed culture the same total amount of flour/water in one big build? I suspect it has something to do with how long it takes the seed culture microbes to replicate after a larger feed, the need to balance that with enzyme activity causing degradation of the flour, or competing microbes taking over the levain before the seed culture gets up to speed. But I don't know for sure.

Will follow along..... 

phaz's picture
phaz

Lol, my bet is you're gonna get a lot of answers to this one. And I'll bet a majority of them will only be confusing, so here's the skinny - there's no difference that would concern the casual baker. I always dump almost all my starter in a loaf, throw in a bunch of food, and stir a couple times a day. I'm making a loaf every 3 to 5 days, never had an issue. This is actually one of the best things you can do for a starter that nobody knows about (unless they've read some of my other posts!). Enjoy! 

justkeepswimming's picture
justkeepswimming

I am most definitely in the casual home baker category, lol. Heck, I bake batards in a graniteware roaster. 😆 But I do also like understanding some of the concepts, so the results come closer to what I am hoping for.

mariana's picture
mariana

In my experience, it has to do with the microbial culture of the starter. Some starters have to be fed, just have to, 1:1 once or twice per day to preserve their nature, their microbial community, flavor, etc. Not even 1:1:1, but strictly 1 part starter to 1 part of fresh dough. Other starters, notably the "French" kind, with milky or  buttermilky flavor, would tolerate any degree of dilituion, even 1:20 is fine.

It is different from levain, though. When we build a levain for bread dough, we follow the schedule for a particular kind of bread, regardless of the kind of starter we have. It has more to do with accumulating flavors inside leavens and briefly adapting microbes to a new environment, as in low hydration pannetone, etc.

Finally, the quality of gluten in your starter  is also important. If you refresh often in small proportions, you preserve gluten better. If you leave it highly diluted alone for a long time, its gluten might deteriorate, while you are waiting for the microbes to multiply, and that would render the  starter or levain useless, can't add that spoiled gluten to your bread dough.

justkeepswimming's picture
justkeepswimming

Thank you, Mariana, this makes sense to me. Your input is always so helpful and clear, it is much appreciated. 

Mary

mariana's picture
mariana

.