The Fresh Loaf

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A whole lot of starter!

dyarza's picture

A whole lot of starter!

Hi everyone,

I am reading Nancy Silverton's Breads From The La Brea Bakery.  I am very intrigued by using a natural starter as opposed to yeast, and really believe when she writes about the benefits to the flavor and texture of the bread, but I can't get past the sheer amount of material that gets used, and specially wasted.

After some quick spreadsheet calculation, it would take 25.12 Lbs. of flour to get the starter going, and after that, to keep the starter fed three times a day it will take 32.2 Lbs. of flour a week.  Nevermind the cost, what bugs me the most is that so much is discarded.  Unless I am making 12 loaves a day, so much starter goes in the trash (I can only give my friends so much).

Right now I am baking just a bout every weekend, starting with making a poolish on Friday night, etc...

Is there a way to make a lot less starter and still have it perform well?  I get the feeling that Nancy's response would be no, it is the kind of thing you have to commit to.  Maybe I should just stick with yeast?

My father keeps a starter that is a lot less work and he bakes every three days or so, but the results are less than spectacular (don't tell him that).

Anyway, any insight anybody might have would be appreciated.



fancypantalons's picture

I think it goes without saying that those numbers are insane. :)  First off, you don't need to feed your starter three times a day.  Twice is plenty.  Many just feed once.  And some, like myself, refrigerate, and so it's even less than that.

Meanwhile, those flour numbers are *way* off the scale.  The feeding regimen I use, and this goes for when I was first establishing the starter, as well as my regular maintenance routine, involves a twice-daily feeding of 50g of old starter, 100g of new flour, and 100g of water.  Then, the day before I plan to bake, it gets a 50:200:200 feeding, to get it up to volume (and to also temper the sourness a bit).  Over a week period, that's 1.5 kg of flour, or a little over 3 lbs. And these days, I save most of the castoff for use in pancakes, etc.

And, truth be told, I could probably go with an even smaller feeding regimen (I'm betting I could do 25:50:50 and still have it work out fine), but that'd mean at least two larger feedings prior to baking, which would compromise the sourness ('course, if you don't mind that, it's an alternative you could try).

And lastly, like many here, I refrigerate my starter between uses.  So I actually feed Thursday night, Friday morning/night, Saturday morning/night (this is also the day I put the dough together), then back in the fridge.  That translates to just 500g of flour over the week, or just over a pound.

Incidentally, you mention your father's starter... what's wrong with the bread he produces that it's "less than spectacular"?

JMonkey's picture

I keep about 40 grams of starter and feed it at a 1:5:3 ratio. When I need to build it up, I do so. Usually I keep 5 grams, feed it 15 grams water and 25 grams flour, and put the leftover starter in a container I keep in the fridge. I then use the leftovers to make English muffins and waffles.

holds99's picture

I have made and still use Nancy Silverton's sourdough starter.  However, Ms. Silverton's recipe takes 14 days, uses huge amounts of flour and there are easier ways to make a good wild yeast sourdough starter.  Here's a link to Sourdough Lady's recipe, which may be of help.

Another good option is to buy a starter.  They're available at a reasonable price and doing so will save you a lot of time.  Here's a link to Mike Avery's website.  His books are excellent, very reasonbly priced and can be downloaded.  Mike is an extremely knowledgable sourdough source.  If you want to save yourself a lot of time and get started on the "right foot", so to speak, I  would strongly suggest purchasing his book: An Introduction To Sourdough Baking.  Here's a link to his website.

In Appendix B (page 49) of his book he tells you how to make a sourdough starter.

Good luck with your starter.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL