ACJ 022| Sourdough Starter Questions

In this episode, I answer Pete's questions on sourdough starters. Pete's questions were:

  1. In SCS 022 you're saying your starter is so active that you have to feed it twice a day. Mine is about one year old and I'd call it highly active as well. But can you please go into more detail there. What makes a starter active? Is it just temperature and time? Also what makes it mature (enough so you can bake with it), is that just the amount of bacteria/yeast? What's the correlation between temperature+feeding, activity and maturity?
  2. Related to that, I'm not throwing away any of the starter before the final feed. My method is, after using almost everything for baking, I start with adding just a few grams flour+water and increasing that exponentially (doubling it) every day for a week until I add about a kilo on Saturday afternoon. Then Sunday morning I bake again. The results are really good. I just can't throw away the living creature (and the expensive organic flour). Can you please explain what exactly is problematic with that and what you achieve by throwing away most of your starter before you bake?
  3. I wanted to make my bread taste sourer. I'm already using 100% whole wheat starter, so increasing that is no option. I opted to place the starter into the fridge (8 degrees Celsius) 50% of the time and at room temperature (22 degrees Celsius) the other 50%. That didn't make a difference. Then I placed it into the fridge 100% of the time and it was a little sourer. The third time around I accidentally left it outside after adding the final feed (which is a lot of food given the method described above) and it was remarkably sourer. I don't see how that could work after listening to SCS22, it's the wrong way around! So maybe it's a coincidence - but are there any other factors that contribute to the sourness than temperature and whole wheat content?
  4. I'm trying to vary things a little and use various types of flour - rye, wheat, spelt, different percentages of whole wheat/white flour and so on. What I experienced is that the amount of water needed is vastly changing depending on the kind of flour. I ended up using less water initially and then add as much as needed to get the desired consistency - i.e. by visual judgement rather than using the scale. However, especially rye flour is very deceiving in that respect. I struggle getting the right amount in there right away. I tried finding a list of (at least roughly outlined) absorbency factors of different types of flour but didn't find anything. Have you got a bullet-proof way to deal with this issue?
  5. I'm finding the knock test to check whether the bread is done not exact enough ;). I'm using the thermometer and settled on 100 degrees Celsius core temperature. Does that match your experience?
  6. What's the best time to add seeds and nuts to the dough? Streching/folding doesn't work all that well anymore when a certain threshold is exceeded. On the other hand it's not distributed properly when adding them after bulk fermentation. I'm currently adding them just before bulk fermentation after streches and folds but am still not thrilled by the dough consistency afterwards. Maybe you've got a better suggestion for large amounts of seeds and nuts?

If you have any follow up questions, please leave them in the comments section below.

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There is 1 Comment

bobku's picture

Hi Chef Jacob,

Just thought I would add a comment about the sourness. It was me who brought up the comment about making a more sour starter by keeping it warm. That was from Broad and Taylor web site and although they are selling a product I thought it was intersting since the attributed the information to Debra Wink. But its makes sense to me now, when I would ask this question on TFL. It started a very long thread with conflicting information, everyone was very adamant about their opinion making everything even more confusing. From what I understand now, you have the 2 types of sour flavor acetic acid (think vineger) and lactic acid (think yogurt) both contributing in a slightly different ways to a sour flavor. Acetic Acid favoring cold temperatures and Lactic Acid favoring warmer temperatures. So I think both methods are justified, giving us even more options for sour flavor, resulting tn different experiences and different opinions.