Sourdough Tips |
Sourdough Information Sheet (for Basque &
French natural leaven starters)
allow any form of metal
such as a spoon or lid to come into direct contact with the stored,
un-used sourdough starter as it will cause a chemical reaction that
will contaminate and blacken the implement and eventually in time will
kill (loose all activity) the starter and a blackish blue or pink
liquid will surface, and the starter at this point, can’t be revived.
Do not use any clay crock type container because the possibility exists
that there are trace metals or minerals present in the glaze or in
the clay itself which in time can leach into the starter, that could
impact adversely the starters activity or cause future health problems
with the people consuming products made with the starter on a regular
basis. Glass containers are used my many people but I do not advise
it when using my French starter as it is very activity and would
probably break the jar.
The container should have a lid with an
“easy fit” that will allow some “off-gassing”,
and be kept on but loose, at all times between
feedings. For this reason the regular refrigerator containers are not
suitable as their lids fit too snugly and will blow off as the
pressure builds up when gasses increase.
separate starter into two containers and use one
as a “back-up” and the other as the “working starter”. The back up
starter is one that is kept in a small quantity plastic container
(approximately 2 cup, 500 ml capacity), slightly less than half
filled. This portion of starter remains in the refrigerator or freezer
and is nourished once every 2 months. This starter is a “fall-back”,
in case the working starter becomes contaminated. This portion of the
starter will keep a sweeter smell than the working portion, this is
normal. The third option is to keep an air-dried starter dry and in a
dark place until needed.
To activate “air
dried starter”, Place the air-dried starter in a 2 to 4 quart
container that has a loose fitting lid and leave the lid slightly
open, add equal portions flour and water by weight, not overwhelming
the starter with too large a quantity of flour and water, added to the
dry starter. Place starter container in a 80 to 85 degree F area,
feeding every 6 hours even if the first few feedings no bubbles are
present which would indicate activity. Once bubbles are present, feed
as the starter demands. Allow a day or two to activate the starter,
when the bubbles appear and are covering the top and sides and are
viable up the sides of the jar, give another 24 hours or more before
using as the flavor must be developed.
working starter is kept in a larger clear plastic container that will
allow for multiple feedings (approximately 3 to 4 quart capacity). The
amount of starter kept in this container is relatively unimportant but
the minimum is 1.00 lb. (454 grams). The reason for the large size
container is for the ease of building up to the amount needed for
baking without changing containers.
see-through container allows the viewing of the starters bubble formation. The bubble
formation tells the condition and the vigor and when the starter needs to be
Never use glass
container, because an active starter in a glass container with a tight
fitting lid could explode from internal pressure
is critically important to keep a clean starter container at all times. A
build-up of dried starter around the top edge is easily contaminated and
can adversely effect the entire starter. Once every couple of months
clean another container and lid thoroughly with boiling water, transfer
the starter. Wash the starter container with soap and water, (not
detergent) removing any crusted starter that may exist. Return starter
to the container, feed and use or refrigerate as needed.
Feeding of Starter
Some people feel that any off-colored liquid that has surfaced on the starter should be
poured off. I feel that If the liquid is not overly
discolored, it is not necessary to pour it off.
Use tap water as long as it
is non-“softened water” or if in doubt of your waters contents, use
filtered spring water.
Use a good unbleached,
organic and if possible un-bromated medium bread flour in approximately
equal amounts that equal at least 50% of the starter itself. Mix well but
do not over mix enough to develop any gluten structure in the flour.
Stir the flour and water in
with a plastic or wooden implement that has been cleaned with boiling
water or use disposable chopsticks as a safe alternative.
the starter for use:
starter should be brought out of refrigerator at least 48
hours before it is needed for baking. Start feeding
starter approximately equal portions of the water and flour
by weight. Stir down starter after feeding and place in a
warmer area in the room at least 80 degrees F but preferably
85 degrees F. and feed starter again when the bubbles on the
sides of the container are uniform in size from top to
bottom, this will be approximately every 5 to 10 hours
depending on room temperature, activity level of the starter
and weather conditions.
Continue this procedure until desired
quantity is achieved. The important feeding is the last one
approximately 5 to 6 hours before use. This feeding must consist
of more flour than water so that the starter becomes the consistency of
very thick apple sauce. The starter should be as thick as you can
stir with a chopstick. The last feeding, allow the bubbles to
form in a uniform pattern through out the starter before use.
In the case of a
“sponge and dough” formula, a starter can be used straight
from the refrigerator up to 50% of the sponge weight itself,
and placed in with a sponge and let sit for the 10 to 12
hours before being placed in the dough portion of the
formula with possibly only the salt to be looked at ( to
bring the salt into the minimum 1% and Maximum 2% range) and
maybe the % should be raised, other adjustments such as the
deletion of the yeast, need not be made. This method
enhances the flavor of the sponge and add to the shelf life
of the finished loaf.
sometimes used as a flavor only such as in crackers or pizza
crust. When used as a flavor it is used directly from
the refrigerator or from a room temperature multiple fed
starter but placed in the formula and baked within a 2 to 4
hour period. In this application it is being used as a
Always feed un
used starter once more before returning it to the
refrigerator and allow 15 to 30 minutes at room temperature
after feeding before returning starter container to the
refrigerator, this acts as a sugar fuel to the starter. The
starter does not really stop its fermentation activity when
refrigerated but just becomes slower. In fact one
should check the starter container every few days while in
the refrigerator to make sure the lid remains on the
starter, burping lid if necessary.
refrigerated at 35 to 39°F (1.6 to 3.8°C) when not in use.
starter is not in constant use:
Every 1 to 2 months, remove from refrigerator, let come to room
temperature, pour off liquid if necessary and feed as described above and
let sit at room temperature for 1 to two hours, stir down and refrigerate
for later use. Starter
can be air-dried on clean parchment in the following manor:
Spread a thin layer of thinned starter out on parchment paper, let
it naturally air dry, it will flake and release itself from the paper as
it dries. When totally dried, place the chips of starter in a dark dry
covered container. To activate starter, place chips of
starter in starter container, add equal weights of water and flour to make
a good semi-stiff consistency as you would for a normal feeding. Place
semi-covered container in a warm location. It may take 2 to 3 days for
full activity to return.
return any “old dough” or dough of any kind to the starter container.
The introduction of
old dough containing salt or commercial yeast would compromise the taste
and quality of your natural levan.
regular starter can be altered to become a semi-rye starter by
substituting about 1/10th of the white flour quantity with rye meal
coarse or coarse rye flour to every 4th feeding. This will
create a more active starter and can be used in country type white bread
loaves or used in rye sourdough breads of any kind in place of, or
in addition to, a regular starter or sponge. The introduction of
rye to the starter changes the starters ph factor and becomes “sweeter”.
that is fed looser, meaning more water to flour ratio, will yield a more
acid finished loaf and may be more active, giving off larger and more
random crumb cell structure than the starter that is fed thicker. The
thicker starter will usually give a sweeter and more even crumb finished
product, due to the available sugars in the flour itself and the less
properties of sourdough have various favorable effects on bread dough:
They stabilize the baking ability of
They give the bread an aromatic flavor.
They tenderize the bread crumb.
They make the bread crumb firm yet
They improve the shelf life properties
and the durable life of the bread.
Rye bread designed with 0% and
up to 1.6% commercial yeast and 1.8% salt,
35 to 40% sourdough starter
80 to 82 degrees F, dough
temperature coming out of the bowl,
10 to 30 minutes resting time(
table time or first proof),
89 degrees F proof box
temperature for final proof.
50 minutes final proof time,
baked at 428 degrees F in
conventional oven with some form of humidification.
guide lines will yield a better more moist loaf of rye bread with good crumb
structure, losing approximately 12% moisture content in the baking process
with good molding and shaping qualities exhibiting aromatic round yet sharp
ratio of lactic acid to acetic acid are:
75 to 80% lactic acid
20 to 25% acetic acid.
The acid value measures the quantity of
acids present in sourdough; the pH value measures the strength of the acids
in the sourdough.
Fermentation of sourdough is caused by micro-organisms in flour and air
found everywhere in the world.
organisms in sourdough are:
1. Lactic acid, which forms in soft doughs at temperatures of 95 to
100 degrees F.
2. Acetic acid, forms in a stiff dough at 100 degrees F.
3. Budding fungi which creates alcohol and Carbon dioxide, which
finds its optimal environment in softer doughs which contain high oxygen
levels where the cells can easily multiply.
When slower doughs are required:
Use 18% sourdough starter
to the flour 100% in the formula.
Slightly higher salt
level 1.8 to 2%
Mix a firmer dough
Hold dough in cooler
temperatures for both fermentations. 76 to 80 degrees F.
Yields a sweeter bread
with a more even crumb structure.
Touch of rye in the
starter will yield a sweeter faster natural yeast activity.
When a more active dough is needed:
Use 30% or more starter
to the flour 100% in the formula.
Mix slowly and stop
Mix a softer dough with a
higher level of hydration which will allow more slippage and a more random
Using 85 to 89 degrees F
for both fermentations. 3 hour fermentation time.
Yields a more full bodied
acid loaf, thinner crust with a greater pull.