How much starter?

18 posts / 0 new
Last post
bfotk's picture
bfotk
Offline
Joined: 2014-03-21 20:50
How much starter?

Is there a general rule for the proportion of starter in a dough, assuming the starter itself is 100 percent hydration which I understand as 50/50 flour and water in non-baker percentage terms?

For instance, if one were to change the Sourdough Boule video recipe to use 300g of starter rather than 500g (adjusting the added water and flour amounts to maintain the 70 percent hydration) how would that change the product or the process?  What if the starter were upped to 700g?

lenb's picture
lenb
Offline
Joined: 2014-02-08 14:50

Hi Tom,
Currently, I use 150g starter, 225g water, and 350g flour in each loaf.  This seems to work.  It's also easy to remember because each ingredient is close to 1.5 times the previous.  

I tried to  increase starter and decrease water and flour to keep the total amounts the same but I found this didn't work for me.  My explanation (to myself) is that flour included in starter has already been used by the yeast&bacteria while the starter is growing, so during fermentation and retarding, the yeast doesn't have enough to fresh food and the loaf doesn't rise enough.  I have no idea if my explanation is correct..

bfotk's picture
bfotk
Offline
Joined: 2014-03-21 20:50

Len,

Thanks for your input...particularly the opening sentence of the second paragraph.  Do you use 100% hydration starter?

I've spent a lot of time with calculator and spreadsheets tweaking this and that always including the water and flour from the starter.  The goals have been to get a recipe with about 1000g of dough at the end of the day (well, two days) or to convert a recipe using firm starter (like 50% hydration) which gets used to create a more liquid preferment.  The results haven't paid off for the time expended.

JB's 70% Sourdough Boule with 500g starter, 275g water, and 500g flour calculates to 70% only if one figures in the flour and water in the starter.  It's 55% otherwise.  I figure the water in a liquid levain/poolish has to count, even if the flour in it doesn't contribute in the same way that the added flour does.

Maybe, after years as a math teacher, I'm fussing too much about the numbers.  And the baker's percentage thing seems to be understood differently and calculated differently and applied differently by various apparently authoritative figures.  Even the word poolish has different interpretations and applications, it seems.

jacob burton's picture
jacob burton
Offline
Joined: 2015-05-25 20:37

The amount of flour and water in your starter should always be taken into consideration when calculating your final hydration rate. Some bakers like to express their starters as a percentage based on their flour (i.e. the baker's percentage), but I find this counterintuitive, as it doesn't take into account your final hydration ratio. This is why I always recommend using a 100% hydration poolish, because it makes the final formulation of your sourdough easier (not to mention, it's the preferred environment of both lactobacili and wild yeast, as compared to a lower hydration starter).

In general, to achieve a 4 hour bulk fermentation and a 2-3 hour proof, you want about 30% of your recipe's flour coming from your starter. Thinking of it from this perspective makes it much easier to convert standard bread dough recipes to sourdough, and gives you the ability to create your own formulations. To illustrate this, lets look at converting a basic baguette formula from below:

  • 1000g Flour - 100%

  • 600g Water - 60%

  • 20g Salt - 2%

  • 5g Yeast - .5%

To get a 4 hour bulk and 2 hour proof with a sourdough starter, I would omit the yeast and multiply my flour amount by 30%:

  • 1000g flour X .30 = 300 flour (since my starter has an equal amount of flour and water, I know that I'll need 600g of active starter).

New Baguette Recipe Using Sourdough Starter

  • 600g Poolish Sourdough Starter (300g flour & 300g water)

  • 700g Flour (1000 - 300)

  • 300g Water (600 - 300)

  • 20g Salt

Now the thing about sourdough starters is there's no right or wrong amount to use. You can have 10% of your flour come your starter, which will result in a longer fermentation period and a more complex flavor. You can also do a multi day build, with retarding steps in between, such as this:

Day One

  • 50g Starter

  • 100g Flour

  • 100g Water

  • (125g Flour and 125g Water Total)

Day Two

  • 250g Preferment (From Day One)

  • 250g Flour

  • 250g Water

  • (375 Flour / 375 Water Total)

Day Three

  • 750g Preferment (From Day Two)

  • 625g Flour (1000g - 375g)

  • 225g Water (600g - 375g)

  • 20g Salt

This final formula would be mixed together as usual, bulk fermented, divided, proofed and baked. This would yield a fairly sour, complex loaf of sourdough, all based on our original baguette formulation that originally used commercial yeast.

Hope this helped. Let me know if you have any more questions.
 

lenb's picture
lenb
Offline
Joined: 2014-02-08 14:50

Chef, I'm confused.

The times that one allows a starter to develop after feeding, or  a dough to ferment, or a boule to retard seem like magic to me.  I'm sure there's science and craft behind them but to me it is a mystery.  

In the recipe above, do you allow the starter to develop for 24 hours on day 1 and 2?  How long is the ferment, retard, final proof?

Thanks.

jacob burton's picture
jacob burton
Offline
Joined: 2015-05-25 20:37

It's one part science, and one part being able to "sense" the science through intuition. This intuition can only be developed by paying attention to your bread through every stage of the baking process.

It really isn't that complex though. Let me see if I can simplify.

In general, the longer the fermentation process, the more complex the bread will be. But with anything in cooking, there is a law of diminishing returns. As you extend fermentation, more acid will build up in the loaf, which will give a complexity of flavor, but will also weaken gluten strands, which can cause a flatter loaf of bread. This build up of acid that causes gluten strands to weaken usually happens around day 3, assuming the dough isn't refreshed with fresh flour and water (which dilutes the acid).

There are two main strategies for slowing down fermentation to create more complex flavors; (1) the indirect method, and (2) retarding fermentation.

The indirect method is any approach that calls for two separate stages in mixing the dough's ingredients. This is most commonly seen when using a preferment as discussed in SCS 21, but can also be used in a multi stage build like the example I gave in my previous response.

The trick with using the indirect method is timing the fermentation periods between the addition of ingredients, so you're adding more flour and water when the yeast is at its peak. The visual cue for this is when your dough or preferment has doubled in size, and starts to slowly collapse back in on itself.

To aid you in your timing and to slow down fermentation, you can place the dough or prefermet in the fridge. As I mentioned in our bread podcasts, every time the temperature of the dough raises or drops by 17°F, the yeast activity will double or half respectively, all the way down to around 40°F, at which point the yeast slow down so much the dough is pretty much in suspended animation (although a very small amount of fermentation will still occur).

So if you take an active dough at an ambient temperature of 70°F, the yeast will begin to slow down at an exponential rate as the dough itself cools to refrigeration temperatures.

However, there is lots of wiggle room in a multi-stage build, as long as you get the timing on the final build right.

So in the three stage build I addressed in my previous comment, the timing on feeding your preferments isn't that important, as long as you hit it within a 4-6 hour window of the yeast's peak activity. If you think you're going to miss this window, then retard in your fridge. Then when it comes time to add ingredients for the final build, you go through the basic stages of bread baking: mix ingredients, allow to bulk ferment until the dough is 1.5-2X it's original volume, punch down, divide & shape, and allow to proof until 1.5-2X it's original volume.

If you under proof, the bread will be dense. If you over proof, the bread will collapse, also resulting in a dense loaf.

So the moral of the story is, the longer it takes for bread to ferment, the more complex the flavor will be. In a multi-stage build, there is a lot of wiggle room, as long as you don't under/over proof the bread during the final stage, right before baking.

Let me know if you have any more questions or need me to clarify any points.

Ed_f's picture
Ed_f
Offline
Joined: 2014-01-19 22:09

Don't want to hijack the thread - but this is closely related to the post of mine that disappeared.

Wasn't there supposed to be some information posted on using a sourdough starter for any bread formula?  It would seem the question of hydration, the amount of flour and yeast all play into these questions.  Do we really know how much yeast to assume is available with a starter compared to a formula in which we add known quantity? This part of the puzzle for me on preferments and proofing - that is, how do I know what the "real" chemistry of the dough is?

jacob burton's picture
jacob burton
Offline
Joined: 2015-05-25 20:37

Don't worry about hijacking Ed, all questions are always welcome. Yes, this does relate very closely to your question and should answer most of it. The basic concept is, yeast is a living organism that reproduces quickly, so it's not so much a question of how much yeast does it take to leaven a loaf of bread, it's more "how much starter does it take to leaven a loaf of bread in a given period of time."

Technically, the smallest amount of yeast, whether wild or commercial, is enough to leaven a 1000 pounds of bread dough, it's just a matter of how long will that actually take.

In my comments above, I lay out a rough guide line for converting a recipe that uses commercial to sourdough.

When I record my next podcast episode that talks about the sourdough bread baking process, my e-mail newsletter subscribers will get a bonus video featuring my charming face and "doodle" board that explains these ratios in a little more depth.

Unfortunately, I've been in the weeds lately with R&D for my spring and summer menu, editing this year's boot camp lecture videos, and creating new dishes for our lunch-lecture series on the regions of France. Because of this I haven't gotten around to recording the new podcast and bonus videos as quickly as I wanted to, so for that, I apologize. Hopefully you can expect this content within the next two weeks, but the life of a chef means I'm subject to lots of unforeseen issues that need my immediate attention.

Stay tuned, and in the meantime, feel free to fire away any questions you have in this thread and I'd be happy to answer them.

Ed_f's picture
Ed_f
Offline
Joined: 2014-01-19 22:09

Jacob, Thanks for the information. Really looking forward to your next videos and information on this topic, but certainly understand how "life" can delay things.

Reading through all of this again I realize that as was stated by someone else, the question for me is the rate of proofing.  I understand over time any amount of yeast will do the job, and realize the way I stated it was not so clear.

BTW I found you, the forum and podcast after first discovering your 70% hydration formula. I have easily baked 300 loaves using that now (two in process now) and it is always great! I could happily use only that formula, but what fun would that be? So, that is why I am trying to branch out.

But even using that formula and trying to extend the fermentation I have a couple  questions.
1. With an extended ferment at what stage should that happen? Do you mix the entire formula and if so, do you add salt or let all fermenting be salt free?

2. Back to what I was trying to ask before. It seems like such an unknown as to what my poolish is going to do. Some days I toss it in the fridge and find a little increase the next day. but often I find it has doubled or tripled even at that temperature. Always get great bread, but it has to be making a difference and is there some way to predict? And is there a point that (maybe this is your 3 days) at which it just won't do the job anymore?  Thanks for any information.

bfotk's picture
bfotk
Offline
Joined: 2014-03-21 20:50

What an amazing flood of information has arrived from a quick question from the new kid on the block!

My first entry into sourdough was a half batch (two loaves) of baguettes using the adapted Stella Culinary recipe.  They were lovely.  That was 2/24.

On 3/14 I made first 70% boule which was a total success.  I did 1/2 of the Stella recipe so it would fit in my new Lodge combo dutch oven.  Since then I found I can increase the size and turn out a 1000g loaf using the same recipe.  I'm using a bit of rye flour in place of some of the whole wheat, too, and cut down a bit on the salt which was just a bit too much for my taste.

I find that the baker's percentage really makes all that easy...as long as I'm dealing with a recipe that adheres to it consistently and as long as I stick with a 100 percent hydration starter/levain/poolish, whatever you want to call it.

It's when I try to adapt a recipe from a source that which doesn't use BP at all or uses it in manner that Chef Jacob calls "counterintuitive" (post of 4/7 above) that I run into trouble.  I know recognize almost instantly which recipe presentations to avoid.

At this moment there's another pair of baguettes proofing in the kitchen.  They'll be baked and served tonight as an accompaniment to a dinner of mesquite smoked, split chickens, with my personal dry rub for chicken slow grilled over indirect heat.

jacob burton's picture
jacob burton
Offline
Joined: 2015-05-25 20:37

@ Ed,

"With an extended ferment at what stage should that happen?"

You can extend fermentation by retarding the dough in the refrigerator, or just a cool environment (like a 55F root cellar will cause the yeast to ferment more slowly than a 70F room temperature). You would normally retard the dough once the yeast shows initial activity during bulk fermentation, or right after you've formed the bread and the proofing stage begins.

Another method for extending fermentation is the pre-ferment, or a multistage build, the latter being favored by some sourdough bread bakers who like a real sour flavor (see reply #4 for more information on a multi-stage build).

"Do you mix the entire formula and if so, do you add salt or let all fermenting be salt free?"

Depends. When doing a multi-stage build, obviously I won't be mixing the whole formula, and I'll add the salt during the last mix of the build. If I'm planning on retarding my dough overnight, I'll mix together all the ingredients and then place in the refrigerator. Generally speaking, you add in the salt right before your dough starts bulk fermentation.

"It seems like such an unknown as to what my poolish is going to do. Some days I toss it in the fridge and find a little increase the next day, but often I find it has doubled or tripled even at that temperature."

If your starter is fairly active, it will rise and fall in a predictable manner. Get your starter on a routine, feeding it the same amount at the same time every day, and pay attention to its rise and fall patterns as well as your environment: hotter = faster fermentation, colder = slower fermentation.

"And is there a point that (maybe this is your 3 days) at which it just won't do the job anymore?"

All starters and environments are different, but the most sure fire way to know if the starter is past its prime is the float test. If the starter doesn't float, then it's not producing enough CO2, meaning the yeast and lactobacilli aren't operating at their peak.

As far as the multi-stage build goes, you can build a dough indefinitely, but will quickly end up with more dough than you know what to do with.

If you're retarding dough in your fridge, 3 days seems to be the mark at which enough acid is produced to weaken gluten strands (not to mention the yeast are pretty spent), which means you'll be producing a denser loaf of bread. However, I have had lots of success with feeding a sourdough starter, retarding in my fridge immediately, and baking with it 3-4 days later with good results.

This is a lot of information, so lets focus in on your original questions; converting commercial yeast recipes to sourdough. The formula is to have 30% of your flour come from your starter. Mix and knead as normal, and your bread should come out great.

The one caveat to this is bread recipes that have a lot of sugar (above 10-15%), because excess sugar will slow down sourdough cultures as well as commercial yeast. 'SAF Instant Gold' yeast is designed specifically for doughs with high sugar content. If you still want that sourdough flavor in a high sugar dough, you can add the SAF for it's leavening power, and the starter for its flavor.

@bfotk,

"It's when I try to adapt a recipe from a source which doesn't use BP at all or uses it in manner that Chef Jacob calls "counterintuitive" (post of 4/7 above) that I run into trouble.  I now recognize almost instantly which recipe presentations to avoid."

That can be one of the most important aspects of learning the how's and why's behind food; being able to spot a bunk recipe before you even attempt it.

Ed_f's picture
Ed_f
Offline
Joined: 2014-01-19 22:09

Thanks Jacob. Sorry I threw so many other questions into the mix. The interesting part of that to me is how often you basicially said "it depends"  - which considering all of the variables makes sense.  There are many differing opinions out there and "THE" method is contradicted by the next guy. So,  I was kind of looking for your approach. I appreciate the information.

jacob burton's picture
jacob burton
Offline
Joined: 2015-05-25 20:37

@ Ed,

It really is just a matter of learning how to "speak bread." There are lots of different factors that will effect density, gluten structure, oven spring, fermentation time, etc. That's why I laid out the bread podcasts in the order I did; as you work your way through those (and revisit them every now and then), you're slowly learning how to speak bread.

As you continue to ask questions, bake bread, and absorb the information, you'll start drawing connections, becoming more fluent in the language of bread. Eventually you'll get to the point were you can imagine the type of bread you want to make and custom write a test recipe based on the baker's percentage without cracking a single book. When you bake the bread, you'll be able to tweak a few things (like hydration, fermentation period, etc.) based on your initial results, and quickly produce the desired end loaf you envisioned.

Avi@Decadence247's picture
Avi@Decadence247
Offline
Joined: 2016-03-14 02:12

Hi Chef and everyone else..

I've bee baking for a while but with commercial yeast. I've begun baking with sourdough recently and have had some good results. But...my last 2 attempts have bee disastrous, edible but disastrous.

It seeks that my starter is very active. I refresh a batch of starter (equal qty starter, flour and water) for my recipe and it already begins to drop after more than doubling over 4-5 hours. I mix this with flour and water, autolyse for 25 min, add salt and do a final mix in the dough mixer until it passes a windowpane test. This dough is then folded a few times and then stored in the fridge for 24 hours, after which I do a s&f. Bake in the fridge until the next morning. I usually ferment over 36 hours at about 5-10deg celcius in the fridge before dividing, shaping and proofing, but it seems as though my dough doesn't have any strength at 36 hours and ends up dense and spread with a slight proof. The dough at 24 hours has already seen it double and is full of bubbles. After 36 hours is has risen just slightly. I tried commercial bread flour and thought it was the problem, having moved over to stoneground and had the same issue. The bread us tangy and does have taste but lacks the crumb structure I am looking for.

I have stuck to the 70% basic sourdough boule recipe from Stella Culinary as a base and it has worked before. 

I'm really stuck and now and contemplating whether or not to bulk fermenting the dough. Else, I will reduce the amount of starter used to create the poolish which should see the poolish ripen slower and not be as active as it currently is. This should give me more room with regards to the dough not over fermenting. 

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

jacob burton's picture
jacob burton
Offline
Joined: 2015-05-25 20:37

Hi Avi,

When doing a cold fermentation with sourdough, you are increasing the amount of acetic acid production, which will weaken gluten strands. It sounds like this is what's happening with you. Try reducing your cold fermentation to 24 hours total and see if you have better results.

Let me know how your next batch turns out.

Avi@Decadence247's picture
Avi@Decadence247
Offline
Joined: 2016-03-14 02:12

hi Chef 

I will definitely reduce the fermentation time down to 24 hours and see if this helps.

I probably will try to do a cold proof tonight as I am in the bakery tomorrow am decorating a cake - so i could make use of the empty oven smiley.

Here is how I will go about it: Mix levain and wait for it to pass float test (1pm - 5pm), Mix dough in dough mixer, autolyse for +-30 min, then mix until passes the windowpane test. I will then do a series of S&Fs, divide, let rest, then shape and store in baskets and couche (5pm-6pm). Tomorrow morning, I will remove, slash and bake.(6am-7am) 

One thing that does bother me is that at 70% hydration, the dough seems to be so soft and not springy and tight as I would expect it...but it may be just me...

jacob burton's picture
jacob burton
Offline
Joined: 2015-05-25 20:37

If your dough is a little tacky, you may need to develop the gluten a little further. Also, make sure you're using bread flour and not AP. If all else fails, you can drop your hydration down to 67%.

Avi@Decadence247's picture
Avi@Decadence247
Offline
Joined: 2016-03-14 02:12

Thanks Chef.

I mixed my levain with 20% starter followed with 40% flour and water respectively.  Wasn't sure if it would bloom on time, but it tripled in 5 hours and passed the float test.

I then halved the 70% SD Boule recipe from SC and followed the steps. I mixed by hand until all flour was mixed in and sprinkled salt in the mix, let to autolyse for 30min. Instead of mixing in a mixer till it passed the window pane test, I opted to perform about 18-20 s&fs immediately after the 30min autolyse. I noticed the dough was getting tighter and it was forming a tough exterior...like that of a balloon. I formed the dough and let it rest before putting into a proofing basket. I put this into a plastic bag which I sealed and tucked it away in the fridge for a bake tomorrow morning.

Looking fwd to tomorrow now...

Newest Forum Topics

The last four weeks, all but one of my loaves of "English-Muffin" Bread have turned out like this:

Prior to that, I hadn't had any trouble and I have not (knowingly) changed any ingredients, procedures or equipment. 

Why is this happening and how can I prevent it? Thanks. 

Comments: 0

When I was in Honduras and had made a side trip to Guatemala, I found a coffee jelly/jam that I eventually used for a new recipe I developed. Now that I'm back in the States, I can't get that jelly any more, so I have been looking into making some myself. 

Comments: 7

I've been developing a seeded multigrain sourdough loaf with considerable success, if I do say so myself.

I'm interested in putting this on a firm mathematical footing in terms of baker's percentage.

In addition to bread flour, whole wheat flour, and rye flour, I'm using pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, cracked wheat, and medium cornmeal.

So do I add grams of the "extras" as I calculate hydration? Perhaps I count the cornmeal and the cracked wheat but not the whole seeds?

Comments: 0

I'm happy with my sourdough rye, but my wife would perfer a less dense version, something more deli like.  She also, however, wants not to reduce the rye-ness.

I'm using 1 part Hodgson Mill whole grain rye flour to 2 parts major brand wheat bread flour..  It's at 65 percent hydration.

So what might I do assuming that I don't want to change the rye/wheat proportion?  I figure that proofing schedule, handling, or hydration could be variables worth looking at  But there's also oven temperature and how long the loaf's under cover that might have an effect.

Comments: 0

I wasn't sure which bread forum to ask this in. What I'm looking for, or interested in creating is a list of common ingredients used in various bread, expressed as range of bakers percentages used.

I know it could be be almost any percentage I would like depending on my personal taste. I'm just talking in general, a percentage range for fats, sugar, eggs, potato flakes, dried milk, cocoa etc. that you would find in in various breads.

Comments: 0