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Question about starters?

9202 Views 36 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  isa
I'm attempting my first starter and decided to use Peter Reinhart's mild Levain starter. All is going well and I'll be ready to bake by the weekend. This question is to Kyle and others:

I'm confused by the amount of time you should let a starter ripen. Reinhart and Leader mention in their book about 4-5 days whereas Glezer's and Cookwise say 7-14 days. The longer the ripening time the more acidic? And how much should you feed a starter once it's ripe and want to keep it in the fridge(if you're baking bread once a week)? Do you feed it before keeping it or vice versa?

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Thanks Kyle, you're a wealth of information and I appreciate it!

So now that my starter is ready---do I need to feed it 3 times a day(or 8-12 hrs.?) until I'm ready to bake on Sunday or can I stick it in the fridge as it is? Also, is the consistency like a very thick pancake batter or looser? The flour I'm using seems to have a high hydration level. I have to say, the process is very interesting and I'm excited about baking my very first loaf of pain au levain.

An interesting observation ---my professional baker friend who makes the most awesome bread has had his starter for years. He does add additional commercial yeast to his bread dough because he says his starter isn't as good(leavening wise) anymore since the water in the area he works is awful. So I guess he just uses it more for flavor.
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I have seen a bunch of chefs promoting this Hearth Kit. Does it truly make a difference? It does lessen your oven space, does it not?
Well, I made my first bread with starter and it was a failure. It didn't rise at all. The starter had a texture close to a poolish, and i had made the levain about 6-7 hours before mixing the final dough.It was about 70-75F in the kitchen. I fed the starter last night and it quadrupled in volume when I checked this morning---so I know it's still alive. I will try again today. Just in case I am also making the starter from Artisan Baking.
Can I add a bit of instant yeast to my levain if its leavening power is weak or is that a big no-no? Can the commercial yeast and wild yeast co-exist in this starter?:confused:
Salt was at 2.6%, actual recipe said 2.75 %
Final dough temp was about 72F. Bulk fermentation 3 hours, and about 3 hours proof.
I've got another batch fermenting and to this one I did add .04 oz. instant yeast to the starter and proceeded to make final dough. Looks like it's rising fine----but ideally I don't want to "cheat" when making a levain bread.
My bread came out great. I used Reinhart's Crust and Crumb recipe, with a little addition of honey. Very tasty, good rise and nice big holes in the crumb(I would still like it lighter). There is definitely room for improvement, though. I went into Kyle's website and read through his step-by-step starter commentary. My starter is definitely not as bubbly as his, but then again mine is more of a very thick/gooey(can't pour it) batter rather than the more liquid one he has in his photos.

I also made Cookwise's "light-as-a-dream hot rolls" and they were wonderful. Very light and puffy.
Ok, I guess reading from too many books produces information overload and confusion. In Peter's book he says a wetter starter produces more acetic acid(sour flavor) while a drier sponge favors lactic acid bacteria. At the San Francisco Baking Institute webpage I lifted this quote from one of the instructors
"A stiffer starter, at around 50% hydration will produce more acetic acid, resulting in more sour bread. A liquid sour, at 100% hydration, will favor lactic acid, and produce a mild and less complex flavor." Maggie Glezer's book says the same thing.

In smelling and tasting my starter, I do notice it is more sour when it is more liquid.
Meaning if your starter is pretty firm in the first place---you don't have to build an intermediate starter? I've been keeping my starter at 100% hydration(like you said, easy on the math) and it's alive and kicking. I've still been hit and miss building the levain loaves. I tried Leader's recipe with the starter at 90%-100% and it wasn't too good. I still like Peter's mild levain recipe best. But the confusing part is building the intermediate starter---why can't you just use the refreshed starter as is??
Bighat, can I come over for dinner?!?!?!That sounds so good.

I'm making your Italian bread recipe in an hour.
Italian bread was a success, my husband and I devoured it with shrimp scampi cooked in olive oil and lots of garlic.

My past 2 bread baking days have been very successful. I refreshed my starter and used it the next day as is(a test). I made one formula with 50% starter and another with 40%. I made the dough more on the wet side since I like all those big holes. A crosssection of the my bread looks a lot like Thom's country french bread photo in Artisan Baking. Happy with the results:)
Update on my starters---I made Peter's San Francisco sourdough today in baguettes and batards---the taste was amazing!!!! I no longer buy store bought bread since I've been making it on a regular basis. My shaping techniques need improvement, though.
Very cool! My starter does not produce very acidic breads, but I am very pleased with the flavor results. The depth of flavor is wonderful----the loaves come out with a hint of wheaty nutty sweetness, mahogany reddish blistery crust and great aroma. I've given up on trying to inject steam in any shape or form---I just lose way too much heat and the crust still softens. So I brush the loaves with a small amount of olive oil(I know, it's against the norm, but it's just bread for the family and it seems to work) and pop them in the oven. I get better results from this than spritzing the loaves with water(plus the extra flavor on the crust is yummy).
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