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Author Topic: Consistency of Starter  (Read 1726 times)

Offline baker_nick

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Consistency of Starter
« on: August 02, 2010, 10:27:38 AM »
What should the consistency of a starter be like?  Mine is really thick, to the point where it's basically a cohesive dough.  What should it look like?

Thanks!

Offline Steve

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Re: Consistency of Starter
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2010, 10:42:30 AM »
Nick, I would tell you that it matters - a little - on how you want things to taste.  In very general terms the thicker stuff is a little bit tangier.

For my money, I like to stay around 50-50 water and flour.  It is about like pancake batter.  If I think I need more sour taste I just add a little more volume of starter to the recipe and adjust other ingredients accordingly (usually the flour).  Again, and this is only my personal take, it is just a lot easier to work with, measure, and feed regularly.  If I need some putty type stuff for a recipe it is easy to use a little starter and make up a separate batch.

But you will notice that a lot of the recipes in 'Bread' will give you starters that can be easily modeled into ash trays.  They are a lot like clay!   You have to crumble them into the mix when you use them.  I can not really appreciate the difference in taste, usually, since I truly have a 'beer palate', but I follow the recipe just to see where it will take us.

Have fun!   :thumbup:

Offline Paul

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Re: Consistency of Starter
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2010, 11:16:29 AM »
Going by Hamelman's own instructions for a liquid levain (p. 358), the starter he is looking to use in most recipes is 125% hydration. In his formula, he feeds 5.5oz or 156g of old starter with 2.4oz or 68g of flour and 3 oz or 85g of water for a total of 10.9 oz or 309g of Chef stater. That's about 6 times more than I keep. But then I don't make 22 loaves of sourdough bread every day.

Myself, I keep my starter at 100% hydration as it's a lot easier to account for the water and flour you're adding should you need to adjust anything. If you want to make a regular yeast recipe but use starter instead, you can add ANY amount of starter and know that half that weight was water so it's simple to adjust the recipe.

Since all the recipes in the book that use starter (that I've checked out so far) will give you the steps required to build a levain beforehand. These don't typically use more than 2 or 3 tablespoons of starter (1 to 1.5 oz or 28 - 42 grams) for the Home versions so even if your Chef starter is 100% hydration instead of 125%, that small amount at 100% won't really matter too much. We're talking a difference of 3 or 4 grams of water in a recipe that usually yields over 3 pounds or 1500g.

However if you wanted to "stick by the book", then you would want your Chef starter to be 125%. Hamelman has instructions on converting your liquid starter to a stiff one for those occasions you may need one. See page 362.

How "thick" is 125% starter? It's like pancake batter. 100% is like stiff pancake batter. At least when you first mix it. After the yeasties have had their fun, the consistency liquifies a little.
Paul
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Offline baker_nick

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Re: Consistency of Starter
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2010, 11:39:11 AM »
thanks for the replies.  I've been trying to maintain it at 100% hydration, but its definitely thicker than pancake batter.  especially when i remove it from the fridge.  i can take it in my hand and break off chunks at a time.

Offline Steve

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Re: Consistency of Starter
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2010, 12:18:59 PM »
And to each their own - I certainly am not an expert - but I keep my (rather) large starter on the countertop, not in the chill chest.  It seems to snap back after a feeding much more quickly.  but I am sure there are plenty of folks that prefer the cold method.

Offline Paul

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Re: Consistency of Starter
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2010, 03:49:50 PM »
 :o How are you measuring your ingredients? It should certainly not be that "chunky" that you can "break" bits off.

Also, how old is the starter? When did you first make it and how many days did it stay out on the counter before you started refrigerating it?
Paul
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I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.

Offline baker_nick

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Re: Consistency of Starter
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2010, 09:15:52 AM »
by weight.  i was doing 30:60:60.  so, this starter has had a pretty interesting life, starting from some pretty wild directions (2c flour 2c water 1 packet yeast).  maybe i should write it all down.

anyway, things have drastically changed. i took it out of the fridge (was out of town this past weekend) and gave it a feeding.  i then left it for about a day and a half instead of giving it 2 feedings a day which I had been doing.  after coming back it has nearly exploded.  first time i saw that.

this was the first time it really got going, and it thinned out quite a bit.  now it's at "pancake batter" stage.  i'll try to keep it going and see what happens.