The Fresh Loaf

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Stiff Starter Daily use straight into Panettone

TheBreadcrumbsBakery's picture

Stiff Starter Daily use straight into Panettone

This is my first post. Over the years I have had bread questions and something from the fresh loaf always pops up on google. Great content on here from all contributors so I’d like to start off by saying thank you to everyone.

Especially those dealing with panettone, as even after what seems like 100 tries(closer to 40) some huge batches(10+ 500g loaves) and most of them very small(2-4 500g loaves) I have yet to have a successful bake. I have ruled out many things including poor ph levels, temperature. Mixing technique, especially development of the first dough prior to adding any fats and I’ve concluded that perhaps my lievito madre is subpar. I’ve even purchased some Petra panettone flour to help, still no dice. I am now going to make a brand new liquid sourdough starter to then form a stiff starter, maintain that daily for about a week and dive straight into the panettone.


my question is this. If I am refreshing my stiff starter daily, do I need to do the 3 refreshments prior to the first dough that is typically done in the evening? OR can I just use my stiff starter that I have been refreshing daily? I know the refreshment are to reduce acidity but if I am refreshing everyday and ph is where it should be, shouldn’t I be ok? Of course I will try it but DAMN, I’ve done so many failed doughs that I’d rather hear it from the experienced bakers. Thank you so much! I hope to get this wonderful bread down soon! 

naturaleigh's picture

I don't have any panettone experience but one of the things that popped into my head was a question about the water you are using.  Depending on where you are located and if you are using water out of the tap, your water could be impacting this challenging dough very detrimentally.  I would check into the mineral and chlorine content of your water.

As far as your question, typically if you are feeding your starter daily you shouldn't need to worry about the refreshments unless it is a very specific percentage/ratio of flours and water (or if there is some special process related to panettone).  Of course, you would want to use it when it is at peak, so you would want to time your feeds and typical peak times to when you were ready to use it.  

Have you had other successes with this starter but just not with the panettone?  Welcome to the forum and best of luck...I hope you find a solution!!

CharlotteS's picture

I am still working to improve my panettones each year, but I  suspect (based on my own prior failures and your description of your starter maintenance) your problem is that your starter is not sufficiently strong.  Refreshing your starter only once a day is not enough. While you are developing it, you need to refresh it every four hours or so, except when you “put it to bed” over night, at which time you give it a large enough feed that it doesn’t go past peak. And it must be kept at a warm temperature—80 degrees during the day, 70+ at night.  I have found that it takes about a week to convert my regular liquid sourdough starter (which is strong and healthy) to build a panettone starter that is strong enough to use, and it then continues to improve from there. 

This year, I also started to wrap it up over night, rinse it every morning, and knead and then roll it out and fold it up (like one would if one were making croissants) several times after each feeding. Until I did all of that, I didn’t get really good results. (Rather than wrap it in cloth and tie it with string, as is traditionally done—which would have been difficult since I was maintaining only about 60 grams of starter—I wrapped it in Saran Wrap and put in a small narrow glass so that it still expanded under pressure.)

In between bakes, I put the starter in the fridge, wrapped up tight and in the narrow glass, until I want to use it again. I think it can last about a week or two that way, but will need several days of feeding again to get back up to full strength. Once done for the season, I have heard that you can keep it in the fridge for a month at a time before waking it up and feeding it. I haven’t tried this and I’m not sure I will. I may just build a new one next season. 

There are many good YouTube videos on maintaining pasta madre or lievito madre and excellent posts on this site that I think you should look at. See posted by mwilson, for example. 

Good luck!