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Question about starters?

9204 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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Thank-you......I appreciate the links too!
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.
Does the phrase "moving target" mean anything to you? :)

That Reinhart favors a more liquid starter may be why he also advocates building a firm, or intermediate, starter before building a dough. I think that one of the reasons he advocates a 100% hydration starter is ease of maintenance.
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??
You can use the refreshed starter as is. Reinhart mentions that and I think some of Silverton's bread that I've made does it that way. That's too bad that you found that discrepancy re: the lactic and acetic acid and the stiffness of a starter. I'll bet Wing and Scott have something to say about it. I'll look. Speaking of Scott, I fired my brick oven yesterday for the first time since Jan 1. Roasted some chickens, some potatoes and two gorgeous loafs of that cook's illustrated Italian bread. They came out absolutely perfect.
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:)
Congrats! Now you are beginning to experience the moving target that is bread baking. It is not quite the exact science it's thought to be. The more you play the more you will learn.
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.
Great stuff AC! Isn't this wild yeast stuff cool? The shaping requires lots and lots of practice. One thing my "teachers" at Amy's kept drumming into my head was to slow down. Better to do it right than to do it fast. The speed will come later :)
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).
Oddly enough, the softening crust can be the result of too much steam. If there is too much steam present then the bread can't bake off sufficient internal moisture during the baking process. It has to leave at some point so it waits until it's out of the oven. As the bread cools the moisture escapes, softening the crust. I had this problem and stopped spritzing as well. What I do is put a sheetpan under my stone before preheating the ove. When I load the loaves, I pour 1 cup of HOT water onto the sheetpan and close the oven. This seems to do the trick for me.
Can a starter be frozen??

Kyle didn't you mentionned a while back you had frozen starter??
I can only report that starters are supposed to be able to be frozen and revived. Yes I did freeze my starter, copious quantities infact. But I moved before trying to revive any of it. In the madness of moving, the frozen starter did not make the cut :)
How would you revive the starter Kyle?
Once it was thawed, I would toss out all but 2 oz. I would add 2 ounces of bread flour and 2 ounces of water an give it a really good stir. Then let it sit for 12-18 hours. It should have more than doubled. Then I would add 3 oz. each of flour and water and let it sit again. After 3-4 feedings the starter should be quadrupling in volume after 8-12 hours. The key to feeding it is to at least double what you are feeding, by weight. If the starter has been domant for a while, or frozen in this case, I like to at least triple it on the first feeding.
Thank you so much for the information Kyle.
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