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nanetteb

Sourdough Starter - Hows, Whys, Whats

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Thanks everyone on some very good knowledge and experience. The trouble with me is that I'm too impatient and expect the dough to rize in a heartbeat and have it in the oven ready for baking.

In Nancy Silverton's book, she does add yeast to the recipe when she is making Rustic bread and some other breads. I guess she is not looking for the good sour flavor that is in the regular sour white bread.

Anyway thanks for the info and I will try your suggestions starting tomorrow and bake day on Sunday for dinner.

Polack

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Ypu might like to check the recent thread on "turning" the dough, and the egCI Sourdough unit, especially the science section referenced there.

The overnight proof is in the cold - put the dough in a fridge

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Ferment the sponge starter stage longer and hotter - 85F for 8 hours say, so that it becomes quite sour. This then flavours the bread, without interfering with the bulk rise

Hi Jackal10,

Can you please elaborate on this? I have the sponge in the refrigerator. When I like to bake, I would take out like 2 Cups, let it warm to Room Temp., then feed it. From this I would take 2 Cups to use to make the bread. I then would let it rise in Room Temp for 4 hrs, then retard over night.

Which part do you mean to ferment the sponge starter longer and hotter?

I have also used Nancy's recipe for a sourdough starter and have also noticed that its not so sour also. Could I just use more then 50% sour dough starter in my bread recipe to make it more sour?

I will also be trying out the sourdough starter you had sent this weekend.

Thanks for your inputs.

-Nhumi

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I keep my starter in the fridge. When I want to bake I remove about 1.5 to 2 cups starter, add one cup flour, cover, and let work to form sponge for several hours in a warm cupboard under the oven. Six to eight hours is good. Then proceed.

I add flour and liquid 1:1 (milk or water -- depending on how you feed) to the remaining starter, allow it to ferment, stir down, and return to fridge for the storage.

Remember not to put anything in your starter to feed it you didn't build it with it. In other words, fresh dough to starter is fine, but not with any additions such as sugar, oil, egg, etc., or you'll kill it. I also keep a bag of dough hunks from one baking to the next to add to fresh dough. Opening the bag can give you quite a whiff but the rewards in sour flavoring are worth the nose wince. :wink:

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I too keep my starter in the fridge.

I mix the sponge - about 20% of the flour and an equal weight of water with only one tablesoon of the mother starter, and leave that to ferment at 85F for 6 hours or so. Temperature, witin a few degrees is critical SeeTechnical details in the eGCI sourdough unit.

When the mother starter is getting low I refresh it the same way.

I then short mix all the sponge with the remaining ingredients except the salt.

I let it autolyse for an hour or so (the enzymes split the starch into sugars to feed the yeast - salt inhibits this process. Also allows the gluten to develop, which salt hardens), then add the salt and mix in.

I let it ferment for 4 hours at 85F, turning (folding) every hour, and let it then stand for another hour or so - the dough will tell you.

Portion, shape, and put into bannetons (cloth lined baskets)

Put the baskets with the dough, covered with a cloth in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.

Turn out, slash, bake. I find baking from cold gives a better rise and wet doughs are easier to handle cold. Nancy Silverton lets hers warm up, but I disagree.

If you add commercial yeast to the dough it will not be very sour. The commercial yest inhibits the sourdough.

Sourdough starters adapt to their feeding regime, and as the original junk drops out to form a stable culture. Keep your starter out, feeding it every day, and it will get sourer.

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I too keep my starter in the fridge.

I mix the sponge - about 20% of the flour and an equal weight of water with only one tablesoon of the mother starter, and leave that to ferment at 85F for 6 hours or so. Temperature, witin a few degrees is critical SeeTechnical details in the eGCI sourdough unit.

When the mother starter is getting low I refresh it the same way.

I then short mix all the sponge with the remaining ingredients except the salt.

I let it autolyse for an hour or so (the enzymes split the starch into sugars to feed the yeast - salt inhibits this process. Also allows the gluten to develop, which salt hardens), then add the salt and mix in.

I let it ferment for 4 hours at 85F, turning (folding) every hour, and let it then stand for another hour or so - the dough will tell you.

Portion, shape, and put into bannetons (cloth lined baskets)

Put the baskets with the dough, covered with a cloth in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.

Turn out, slash, bake. I find baking from cold gives a better rise and wet doughs are easier to handle cold. Nancy Silverton lets hers warm up, but I disagree.

If you add commercial yeast to the dough it will not be very sour. The commercial yest inhibits the sourdough.

Sourdough starters adapt to their feeding regime, and as the original junk drops out to form a stable culture. Keep your starter out, feeding it every day, and it will get sourer.

I add equal liquid to the flour also for the sponge -- forgot to add that in post. It appears I can use far less of my starter than I have been, according to your formula. Although perhaps not as little as yours, as I did not use a starter pack to build it. I need to go back to look at your course. Which has been helpful, adding to my sourdough experience from previous . . . mumble mumble . . . many years.

I like baking from cold also after overnight retard in fridge.

But, I do have two questions, jackal.

How do you maintain the 85 degrees for the sponge?

How do you prep the cloth for banneton so the dough does not stick to it, but "turn out" smoothly?

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I don't bake very much, but was intrigued by Nancy Silverton when I saw her on Julia's show.

So, the next day, someone I work with gave me a whole bunch of red grapes from their backyard vine. So I decided to try her starter recipe.

It didn't work out very well. I found out later that my wife had rinsed the grapes and I had used bleached white flour. It worked enough that I got one small loaf of sourdough.

Then another friend at work gave me a bunch of concord grapes. This time I didn't rinse them at all, and I specifically went to the whole foods store and got unbleached flour.

I'm sitting here looking at the big glass jar that has been sitting on my kitchen island for 3 weeks now. It does not appear to be doing anything!

I actually got lots of bubbles and such with the first try. I got nothing this time around.

I'm wondering what I did wrong? Should I leave this jar (covered loosely with saran wrap) sit longer? I have fed it a couple or three times in the last week, and have stirred it everyday since beginning over 3 weeks ago. I tried following her recipe strictly as I could. Temperature has hovered between 74 - 80 degrees, with an average closer to 75.

doc

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How do you maintain the 85 degrees for the sponge?

How do you prep the cloth for banneton so the dough does not stick to it, but "turn out" smoothly?

I have a spot next to the Aga that is at 85F. Others use the warming oven, with the door open a bit, or over the pilot light, or on top of the hot water tank. You can make your own "proving box" from one or those insulated picnic boxes, or an expanded polestyrene fish box, and a low wattage lamp.

For the linen, I flour it well, from a sieve, then turn it over and tap the flour out. I also shake some flour or polenta on the dough before putting it upside down into the banneton.

Don't wash the bannetons, and they won't stick.

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I'm sitting here looking at the big glass jar that has been sitting on my kitchen island for 3 weeks now.  It does not appear to be doing anything!

I actually got lots of bubbles and such with the first try.  I got nothing this time around.

I'm wondering what I did wrong?  Should I leave this jar (covered loosely with saran wrap) sit longer?  I have fed it a couple or three times in the last week, and have stirred it everyday since beginning over 3 weeks ago.  I tried following her recipe strictly as I could.  Temperature has hovered between 74 - 80 degrees, with an average closer to 75.

doc

There are lots of threads here about making a starter from scratch.

Throw yours out and start again.

Leave out the grapes. They are the wrong sort of yeast. Just use good organic flour, and if you like, some rye flour, although I think it better just to use the flour you are going to bake with.

Mix equal parts flour and water by weight, and leave covered in a warm place. You might have more sucess with bottled water, as some tap water has lots of chlorine in it. It will start to bubble after a couple of days. Feed it daily when it is active: throw half away and then add equal amounts of flour and water.

After a week or so its ready to bake with as your mother starter. It will keep in the fridge for ages.

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To add to jackal10's comments:

If using bottled water, do not use distilled, it is devoid of mineral content. You can use tap water if you get it from the tap and leave it on the counter overnight or for 24 hours just to be safe-- the chlorine will dissipate, but the valuable minerals will remain. If you use ogranic rye flour as 5% to 50% of the total flour(organic as well) for the very beginning, it will be more active more quickly (but not too quickly) due to the abundant yeasts and amylase enzymes in rye flour. As you make subsequent feedings with bread flour, the rye will be dilluted each time until it disappears. If your starter gets sluggish, you can awaken it by using 5% rye for a feeding or two. If your starter has been in the refrigerator for a while, remove it and feed a few times before actually baking with it in order to bring it back to full power.

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To add to jackal10's comments:

If using bottled water, do not use distilled, it is devoid of mineral content.  You can use tap water if you get it from the tap and leave it on the counter overnight or for 24 hours just to be safe-- the chlorine will dissipate, but the valuable minerals will remain.  If you use ogranic rye flour as 5%  to 50% of the total flour(organic as well) for the very beginning, it will be more active more quickly (but not too quickly) due to the abundant yeasts and amylase enzymes in rye flour.  As you make subsequent feedings with bread flour, the rye will be dilluted each time until it disappears.  If your starter gets sluggish, you can awaken it by using 5% rye for a feeding or two.  If your starter has been in the refrigerator for a while, remove it and feed a few times before actually baking with it in order to bring it back to full power.

Well it looks like I did a whole bunch of things wrong that will have to be corrected on the next try. Right now I have a starter that's being fed and will use tomorrow morning for baking. I used tap water in it but I do have a lot of small bubles and it seems to be working A okay for the moment. I will try, on the next go around to cold proof the dough so I can have it ready for baking when I want it and not when it wants to. So much to learn and so little time.

Polack

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Most of the time, tap water is OK. It is more critical at the initiation of the cycle than later on. If it ain't broke..................

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Most of the time, tap water is OK.  It is more critical at the initiation of the cycle than later on.  If it ain't broke..................

It looks like I took on a hornets nest when I wanted to add a new hobby to my every day life, to bad I wasn't 30 yrs old, maybe I could have taken on a new profession.

Anyway what about a good rye bread made with this starter is there a good recipe available? There used to be a Jewish bakery in the neighborhood that made some of the finest rye bread and I was wondering if it can be duplicated? This bread was very heavy and sort of moist on the inside with a very crispy crust. As for their New York Rye, It was even heavier and the crust was so hard you really had to pull hard to break it. These two ryes were the best I ever ate and haven't been able to find someone in our area that would even come close to making it as good.

One last thing, my Irish bride of near 40 years is starting to give me the evil eye because I'm taking over her oven on Sunday when she's making dinner for the family. Hey I was up before 5am, got the dough mixed, had it rising while I went to church came home shaped it and had it proofing again before she started, and she says I'm stealing her stove. I'm definitely going to have to cold proof on Saturday and I'll only have the baking on Sunday. What do you think?

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One last thing, my Irish bride of near 40 years is starting to give me the evil eye because I'm taking over her oven on Sunday when she's making dinner for the family. Hey I was up before 5am, got the dough mixed, had it rising while I went to church came home shaped it and had it proofing again before she started, and she says I'm stealing her stove. I'm definitely going to have to cold proof on Saturday and I'll only have the baking on Sunday. What do you think?

Polack, just make sure your dear Irish bride doesn't start feeling like this "sourdough stuff" is stealing her husband as well as her oven! :biggrin: Ever since I got into sourdough bread baking, my own husband has been giving my precious starter the evil eye and complaining that I care more about it than him.

I'm not sure if this answers your question, but I've left my dough to cold proof in the fridge as long as 20 hours and it was perfectly fine.

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After reading the last two posts, I would like to offer a few suggestions.  To McDuff: it is possible to make respectable bread in a rack oven -- not great or world class bread, but some that is very good and very respectable. Jackal is right, for the desired characteristic thin, crispy crust of artisanal breads, steam is necessary immediately after the bread is placed in the oven.  Depending on how much bread is in your oven, twenty seconds could be too much.  Too much steam can close the cuts made while scoring and penalize crumb quality and volume as a result.    Any steam after that is redundant.  Are you venting the oven during the latter stages of the bake?  That would help evacuate the steam that you have injected into the oven as well as the steam driven off from the bread during the bake.  That should promote crust crispiness  When the color is good -- and I mean good -- try leaving it in the oven for up to five minutes with the door cracked.  That will assist in the final stages of baking without burning the crust.  That might help your gummy situation, Sobaicecream.  Wet doughs can require a long finish with the vent open and the door cracked.  Proper cooling is critical after removing the bread from the oven, if you are baking in a rack oven, you are probably baking on pans.  Even if they are perforated, try removing them to cooling racks, so that the moisture can continue to escape.  Leave them well ventilated with plenty of room all around them.  Another issue to examine about cuts not opening is that your breads might possibly be overproofed.  It's difficult to say without seeing it or knowing more, but that is common of overproofed breads.  Are they collapsing or even slightly deflating when you score them?  If they are, try baking them sooner.  If you are not getting good crust color, that could be another indication that your loaves are overproofed.

Boulak, I ate some Price Chopper supermarkets Portuguese rolls and batard today and would like to try to duplicate the effort. The baked goods were very light in color with good crust and holey inside. Would you happen to know what they use to keep the product so light in color after being baked and would there be a recipe to be found for these items?

Polack

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Hi, I just obtained a sourdough starter from a local baker and I can't seem to keep it alive. I put the starter with some water and flour and let it sit and it will be nice and frothy. But after I refresh it twice, it appears dead. The flour and water have clearly seperated and there are no bubbles on the top.

I refresh by pouring out 2/3rds of the starter and then adding back equal parts flour and water to make up the original amount. I don't think it's too hot since I just leave it my microwave which always stays around room temperature. I suspect there might be chlorine from my tapwater so I've started my latest batch with bottled water but, apart from that, I can't think of anything that could go wrong with it. Is sourdough usually hard to keep alive or am I doing something wrong?

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They will seperate imto two layers; that is normal

If you are keeping it at room temperatrure it will run out of food in a day or so.

Take a Tsp of the thick stuff and stir into a cup of flour and a cup of water; incubate somewhere warm (90F) and it will come back to life

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I've been having a somewhat similar problem to Shalmanese. I made a firm sourdough starter before Christmas from Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking book. Had no problem making several loaves of bread. I then refrigerated the starter for a few weeks and have attempted to revive it 3 times. Once it worked and the other 2 times it died (or virtually died). In all 3 cases the starter initially responded to feeding but in 2 cases it died after about 48-60 hours. The process suggested for reviving the starter suggests combining 10g starter with 25g warm water and about 45g flour and repeating every 12 hours for several days. I've tried reviving it on a Wednesday intending to bake on the weekend. Any ideas on what might be the problem?

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You said you were adding equal amounts of flour and water is that by weight or volume? 1 cup of flour is 4 oz by weight, 4 oz is 4 oz for water. Maybe you need to add more flour = food

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Shalmanese: For various reasons having to do with growth-limiting conditions for sourdough microorganisms, it would be much better if you reduce the amount of "old" starter you hold behind. You are holding back 33% of the old starter. The starter culture would have much better growth characteristics if you held back only around 10% of the old starter. I often refresh by dumping out all the old starter and only holding back whatever sticks to the inside of the jar. Reducing the percentage of held back old starter is the single most important thing you can do to increase the activity and health of your sourdough culture.

I would also recommend feeding your starter at 1:1 flour and water by weight rather than by volume. This also helps to reduce growth limiting conditions and makes it easy to know how much flour and water you have in a given weight of starter.

Finally, you should try to feed your starter when it is at peak activity. If you wait until the starter is starving before you feed it, you are starting off on the wrong foot already.

Rickster: It sounds like your starter culture is awfully young to be put in the refrigerator for three weeks. This is the kind of treatment that is often only handled well by cultures that are very robust and well-established (which is one reason I think it's better to acquire an established culture rather than making your own).

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Interesting. Thanks. The culture had been going for 3-4 weeks before I refrigerated it. Didn't realize it would need to go longer.


Edited by rickster (log)

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Many strong sourdough cultures are decades old, having co-evolved through literally billions of generations.

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After chatting To Dan Lepard at a baking class in Melbourne in the last couple of days I think I can offer an insight into why the active starter from your local bakery might suddenly lose activity.

Dan described a similar phenomenon in starters when their environment is suddenly changed. For example I have seen this previously when changing from refreshing my starter with a white flour to a rye flour. The starter activity suddenly drops.

Apparently the reason for this is related to the yeasts in the starter reacting to a changed environment by forming spores instead of reproducing. They will do this if there is a sudden change in flour or water. On the other hand, if their conditions are returned to the ones that they were previously accustomed to, the starter will come back to life (so to speak)!

Starter cultures can however be 'taught' to like a different environment by making changes gradually. For example, by introducing gradually increasing proportions of rye flour in the refreshment.

So the bakery starter is probably reacting to a change in the flour and water that it is used to by going into hibernation.

It might be worthwhile finding out what flour the bakery use to feed their starter. If you can get some of that flour, then you may well find that the starter behaves better. You could then introduce gradually the flour that you intend to use at home, until the starter is accustomed to it.

Alternatively you could try creating a starter from scratch using the flour that you intend to keep using. It isn't as hard as it seems. There are lots of descriptions around of how to do it. In the last week I have been posting daily updates on an Australian sourdough forum comparing a couple of different methods for making a starter.

Starter Experiment Blog

cheers

Dom

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