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ElsieD

Establishing and Working with Homegrown Sourdough Starter

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Cyalexa- this is probably a dumb question, but how do you make your white starter? 100% white flour, 50% water, and how much rye starter? Do you bake right after mixing it, or do you let it rest before baking with it?

 

Patti,

 

I dissolve 6g of my rye starter in 20g water, add 20g AP flour and mix well. I cover this and leave it on the counter about 18 hours then proceed to use it as "active starter" for baking.  

 

I will make a white flour starter for baking anytime other than the first 36 hours after refreshing my rye starter. I prefer to have the rye starter be several days old before I use it to make a white flour starter but don't always plan well enough in advance and have had acceptable results when it is only 36 hours old.

 

My favorite sourdough recipe is a slight modification of the Tartine basic county dough. The original should be easy to find online, I know it's on the Bewitching Kitchen blog. If you want my modifications send me a PM with your email address and I will send it as an attachment. 

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Cyalexa - I have to admit that I am totally confused by your advice to Patti. Why, if you were making white bread, wouldn't you keep a white starter? Why would it take 18 hours to make an active starter if you added white flour to your rye starter? Why would it take 36 hours for you rye starter to become active after refreshing? This is totally contrary to my experience.

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Thanks ElsieD.  It is healthy and the aroma is ok if not a bit 'complicated'. These starters though make up to a thick paste consistancy dont you think? the bubble holes in mine seem to stay there so it looks more acive than it probably is.  I am really looking forward to baking off a loaf with this yeast. Sorry your last starter died.  I am very pleased this one is doing ok for you. What flour are you using please? mine is high protein white. Im using bottled water as our tap water i think is has a high level of chlorine

Mine isn't looking all that great at the moment. I will feed it shortly and if it doesn't look like something tomorrow I will likely discard it and give up. Or for a lark, I may just add in a bit of yeast to see what happens. I use bread flour and have been using tap water. Your post has me wondering if chlorine in the water is a problem here as well. Our water quality in this city is very good but they also use chlorine. I do have some Perrier so maybe I should try a third and final batch if this one doesn't turn out and use that as the water source?

Cyalexa, I went to the blog you mentioned and while the blogger talked about starter, I could not find how she said to go about starting one.

Mick, are you out there? Any hints?

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Cyalexa - I have to admit that I am totally confused by your advice to Patti. Why, if you were making white bread, wouldn't you keep a white starter? Why would it take 18 hours to make an active starter if you added white flour to your rye starter? Why would it take 36 hours for you rye starter to become active after refreshing? This is totally contrary to my experience.

I don't keep a white starter because I don't want to keep my starter in the refrigerator and I don't want to feed it every day. The stiff rye starter can live happily on the counter for a week without feeding. The 100% hydration white starter, made from a piece of my stiff rye starter, takes about 18 hours to reach its maximum activity. I don't like a heavy sourness so I only use a small amount of the rye starter to make the white starter. Perhaps that is why it takes so long to reach maximum activity. Once it is highly active, I use the white starter to make a levain, according to whatever recipe I am using. I suppose I could make the levain from the rye starter but it is very stiff and I would have to make adjustments in the levain recipe to get the proper hydration. I am math challenged and find it easier to use the rye starter to make a 100% hydration white starter, then proceed to make my levain. This method also reassures me that I am using an active starter as activity is not visible in my rye starter. I have used the rye starter to make other starters as early as 24 hours after it has been refreshed, but have better results if I wait at least 36 hours.

 

I do not profess to be an expert, I am merely reporting on what has worked for me. 

bread.jpg

bread 2.jpg

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Cyalexa, I went to the blog you mentioned and while the blogger talked about starter, I could not find how she said to go about starting one.

 

 

She made her original starter according to a recipe by Dan Lepard, before she started blogging. I imagine the technique is available online but I haven't looked. The link I am providing describes how and why she switched to a rye starter. She shared some of her "Dan" starter with me and when she switched to a rye starter, I did as well.

 

http://bewitchingkitchen.com/2013/08/09/sourdough-blues/

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My white flour starter was healthy with a very good if not tangy aroma.  However, it was very (and I mean very) slow (which could be a great positive as that could lead to a great flavour). However,  was not convinced it could be vigorous enough for me to make a loaf with it. So, it has now gone (alas).

 

Is everyone using a rye starter to then make a white starter? Is no-one just making a white starter? I am sure they dont do that in San Francisco? It seems like adding an unnecessary extra step - but if it works, then i guess it is ok.  I might try it next time, as I have a bag of rye flour waiting to be used.


Edited by Chelseabun (log)

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You all might be following this already, but just in case: http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/10/breadmaking-101-the-science-of-baking-bread-and-how-to-do-it-righ.html

 

Serious Eats has been running a series on bread baking, and I think it is the best things they've ever done. The link above is for today's entry, which contains links to previous sections. Highly recommended. It's not a sourdough loaf (so this may be the wrong thread), but so much of the information will be helpful in baking any loaf that I really recommend reading through his posts.

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Update on my starter, which is a white flour only starter: last night it was roughly double in size and showing some bubbles, but didn't have much odor other than a typical flour odor. I split it in half and added 50g each of water and flour. Look at the results!

IMG_20141015_100539.jpg

The one on the left was fed with standard King Arthur unbleached all-purpose white flour. It smells slightly tangy and is showing some bubbling activity. The one on the right was fed with an organic unbleached AP flour. It smells very tangy and has a lot of bubbles; it's doubled in size overnight. How long do I keep going on this before I bake with it?

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Fine looking bread, Cyalexa. And thanks for explaining your methods.

 

The point of this thread was to show how simple it is to make a starter just using flour and water, and to go on to make bread with basic resources and even in unfamiliar territory. Then to show what happens when you liberate your starter from the fridge after four weeks and have to bake for customers within a couple of days. I suppose I should have devoted more time to the thread because it is already disintegrating before my very eyes.

 

To recap, I demonstrated (with numerous boring photos) what you are likely to see in the first week or so of tempting flour and water to ferment. Nothing is very certain, a little panic sets in, but a point is reached where it either flares up or fades away. Elsie, I really think that your mixture, having shown considerable signs of activity, should be given more chance – adding commercial yeast is like starting a fire with petrol.

So, what should you do when you get to the stage (somewhere between 7-9 days) where your mixture is clearly active but immature and somewhat erratic. Don’t refrigerate it – feed it once a day at a ratio of 1:1:1 (starter: water: flour by weight) keeping the quantities manageable (1=50g?). Use some to bake a loaf – we’ll come back to that.

 

After several days of daily feeding, when it seems to be relatively stable, if you are not going to bake regularly you can store it in the fridge.

 

Assuming you do, 24 hours before you want to bake (let’s say Friday morning for mixing Saturday morning) take your starter out of the fridge and refresh enough to provide the amount you want for your dough plus some to make an ongoing starter. In the evening refresh it again, putting some aside in the fridge for future bakes.

 

If you are a frequent baker, keep the starter at room temperature and feed every couple of days. Refresh it eight hours before (or overnight) you want to mix your dough.

 

So,  here’s  a simple recipe for when you think your starter is ready to produce a loaf – be brave, you won’t know until you try. For an 800g loaf (baked weight):
 

Strong White Bread Flour  518g  100%

Water  306g  59%

Starter  137g  26.4%

Salt  8g 1.5%

 

Let’s stick with the Friday/Saturday model. You took your starter out of the fridge Friday a.m. and refreshed it. Friday evening you refreshed it again saving some for later use.

 

Saturday morning. Mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl using your hands (you’ll never learn anything about dough unless you use your hands). Soon as the mixture comes together get it on the work surface and knead it ten times. Cover and let it rest for a few minutes. Repeat the ten kneads and rest. Repeat a third time. Oil a plastic box or similar container, roughly shape it into a ball, drop it in the box and cover so it doesn’t dry out.

 

Let the dough ferment for four hours at room temperature. If you’re feeling keen, give it a stretch at the end of the first three hours – take it out of the box stretch it as far as it will go without stressing, fold it over itself in thirds, stretch it in the opposite direction, repeat the folds, return to the box.

 

At the end of four hours, shape the dough into a ball and place, seam side up in a proving basket that has been floured with rye flour. Cover with a cloth and plastic. Use a tea towel lined colander or a bowl if you don’t have proving baskets. Leave at room temperature for three and a half hours.

 

Heat the oven to about 210C. Turn out the dough onto a rye-floured baking sheet, slash the top, bake for about 50 minutes.

 

Yes, I could add more detail and add a few refinements but fundamentally that’s all there is to making top quality bread.

 

So, before you head for big names, mixers, baking stones, dutch ovens, using steam, adding yeast, making bigas, poolish, etc., etc., just give it a try.

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Ah, we are wild bunch, like overfed starter!! You might have to whip us into cold storage to retard the growth! :laugh:

 

But seriously, if there's one thing I can see on this thread, it's that everyone IS giving it a try. We may go off on tangents occasionally, but we still recognize the direct route. (And very much appreciate your guidance.)

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I agree with Cakewalk's sentiments and thank Mick for this topic. Without it, I would never have even attempted this. So I still have my second batch and will be patient with it. I figure as long as it has some bubbles on the surface it must still be a bit alive. Before Mick posted his latest, I was going to turf it but my husband said, why don't you give it a pinch of sugar and see what happens? So, that is what I did. I probably shouldn't have, but there you go. Later on I threw out half of it and fed it again. I did not add any yeast as I had threatened to do earlier. I shall proceed as recommend - throw out half, then feed with 50 gms. Each water and flour on a daily basis.

Nancy, did yours on the right collapse after it doubled? You have some nice bubbles going there.

Elsie

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Ah, we are wild bunch, like overfed starter!! You might have to whip us into cold storage to retard the growth! :laugh:

 

But seriously, if there's one thing I can see on this thread, it's that everyone IS giving it a try. We may go off on tangents occasionally, but we still recognize the direct route. (And very much appreciate your guidance.)

 

Thats 100% correct. We gave it a go! Mine lasted over four days before being cast into the bin (in yeast terms, four days is many thousands of generations LoL). So it had a good life!


Edited by Chelseabun (log)

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The point of this thread was to show how simple it is to make a starter just using flour and water, and to go on to make bread with basic resources and even in unfamiliar territory. Then to show what happens when you liberate your starter from the fridge after four weeks and have to bake for customers within a couple of days. I suppose I should have devoted more time to the thread because it is already disintegrating before my very eyes.

 Mick, please accept my sincere apology if I have contributed to the disintegration of your thread. I was only trying to participate and offer an alternative approach. I'm sure I would enjoy taking one of your classes. While I have been known to travel to a food event, across the pond may be more than I can manage. Regards, Cindy

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Chelseabun, I hope you will try again.

Thank you. That is very nice of you to say that.

 

I dont know why the ferment was so weak.  It was a very lovely starter apart from that.   It had the 'right' smell about it.  A loaf made from it would have been very nice.  But it would have struggled to produce enough CO2 as it was.  You know, it was organic flour from my local windmill.  I was expecting it to work. 

 

I will give it another go though :)


Edited by Chelseabun (log)
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Thank you. That is very nice of you to say that.

I dont know why the ferment was so weak. It was a very lovely starter apart from that. It had the 'right' smell about it. A loaf made from it would have been very nice. But it would have struggled to produce enough CO2 as it was. You know, it was organic flour from my local windmill. I was expecting it to work.

I will give it another go though :)

Disappointing, isn't it? I was pretty happy with my first batch until, as we say here, it went south. As Mick suggested, I should have stuck with that batch. No reason why I couldn't have done that AND started a new one. I won't be as quick to toss this batch out. Looking forward to hearing how yours goes.
Edited by ElsieD (log)

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Disappointing, isn't it? I was pretty happy with my first batch until, as we say here, it went south. As Mick suggested, I should have stuck with that batch. No reason why I couldn't have done that AND started a new one. I won't be as quick to toss this batch out. Looking forward to hearing how yours goes.

Yeast multiplies fairly quickly.  I have made cider and wine from wild yeast before.  Just from intuition, it just looked like it was being inhibitted somehow.  I am viewing it as a success though and at least i can say that i was inspired enough by this thread to try a sourdough starter myself. 

 

We say 'went south' too.  We have a lovely expression (meaning gone south): 'gone pear shaped'!

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I agree with Cakewalk's sentiments and thank Mick for this topic. Without it, I would never have even attempted this. So I still have my second batch and will be patient with it. I figure as long as it has some bubbles on the surface it must still be a bit alive. Before Mick posted his latest, I was going to turf it but my husband said, why don't you give it a pinch of sugar and see what happens? So, that is what I did. I probably shouldn't have, but there you go. Later on I threw out half of it and fed it again. I did not add any yeast as I had threatened to do earlier. I shall proceed as recommend - throw out half, then feed with 50 gms. Each water and flour on a daily basis.

Nancy, did yours on the right collapse after it doubled? You have some nice bubbles going there.

Elsie

It hasn't collapsed, but it has a decided stratification as of today: lots of bubbles on the top (whitish) layer, a thin layer of dark clear orange/yellow liquid, then a less bubbly (whitish) mass below. I haven't stirred to mix it yet, and it looks like this:

1413430148972.jpg

(The batch on the left is the other half of the starter, noted before, fed with KA AP flour that began the batch.)

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I've not posted in the thread because I didn't want to discourage folks from trying Mick's method, but now that the disappointments are coming in, I should like to point out the simple flour-and-water starter is rather tricky.  Indeed, I've never been able make it work, including two attempts since reading about Mick's adventures.  Nor are we alone.  Debra Wink wrote an interesting article, later posted to The Fresh Loaf, reporting on similar experiences of folks on that board.  Mind, I'm not endorsing the pineapple juice solution, as it hasn't worked for me either.  Just noting that starting a starter is tricky.*  Frankly, the simpler solution is to get an established culture from someone else or to buy one, e.g., from Sourdoughs International.

 

* Incidentally, although I don't teach classes or have thirty clients, I used to do a lot of sourdough baking.  The method by which I cultivated a starter then shall remain nameless, in part out of deference to Mick's desire that the thread stay focused on the flour-and-water method and in part because it's no less tricky.  But I was able to replicate it over the past two weeks (simultaneous with the second trial mentioned above), which gives me confidence that my failures with flour-and-water weren't due to lack of skill, bad flour or poor water.

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Mick, I don't feel like this thread has disintegrated- look how many people you have trying out sourdough as a result of your writing! I think all the posts here, from you and others, have been very encouraging to us sourdough newbies to just go ahead and mix flour and water and see what happens, whether it is white flour or rye. I have in the past tried the method using grapes from my yard ( Nancy Silverton) and the raisin water method (Peter Reinhart) and neither worked out for me. I'm traveling to my parents' house today, and I have my scale & starter with me because right now I have a great smelling and active starter and I'm going to keep it that way. To me, you have had wonderful success with this thread! I thank you for all the advice you have given because I think this thread has encouraged me to really work on my bread baking.

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Bit short of time right now - but:

 

Hey People - I'm a bit of an old bruiser. I specialise on being on the wrong side of the argument and upsetting people. No need for anyone to apologise for anything. I'm really pleased that people have got involved..

 

I'm just concerned to get over my point of view before the thread does explode into a multiplicity of ideas. I'm just a bit slow about doing it.

 

Mick

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Just refreshed my starter. Not seeing much action but there are some small bubbles on the surface so will stick with it.

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I just checked my starter and there are way more bubbles on the top than I have seen at any time during the last few days. Hope springs eternal!

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Nancy, did yours on the right collapse after it doubled? You have some nice bubbles going there.

Elsie

Sorry, Elsie - I didn't see this question earlier. I haven't seen a collapse yet.

I have a question about the 'hooch'. In my stratified starter the hooch was a layer in the middle of the starter. I think I stirred the whole thing to get it well mixed before discarding some and feeding the rest. So far it seems to have survived. What would the experts have done?

IMG_20141017_163346.jpg

There doesn't seem to be much difference in activity between the two. The one on the left has been fed only organic flour until last night, when I ran out. There is quite a tangy aroma coming from both of them.


Edited by Smithy Added photo and comment (log)

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Sorry, Elsie - I didn't see this question earlier. I haven't seen a collapse yet.

I have a question about the 'hooch'. In my stratified starter the hooch was a layer in the middle of the starter. I think I stirred the whole thing to get it well mixed before discarding some and feeding the rest. So far it seems to have survived. What would the experts have done?

attachicon.gifIMG_20141017_163346.jpg

There doesn't seem to be much difference in activity between the two. The one on the left has been fed only organic flour until last night, when I ran out. There is quite a tangy aroma coming from both of them.

To my untrained eye, that looks like a nice starter you have going. Can you post a side shot?

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