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OT - Wild Yeast critter maintenance - care and feeding of sourdough starter

20stone20stone Posts: 1,481

I gave some starter for a buddy this weekend, and was compiling a brief (for me) FAQ for it.  Since there are a bunch of folks here that bake with free range bugs (http://eggheadforum.com/discussion/1206737/wild-yeast/p1), I thought I would toss this up for folks just getting started.

For those of you that know what you're doing and see f%$##ups in the notes below, please feel free to correct.

//////////////////

Keeping your starter going is a very simple process, which will likely be less work than reading this note.

Short version

  • It is your pet, give it a name – Like a dog from the shelter, you can either keep its original name (And Goo Too, for the one I gave away this weekend), or rename it as it suits you.  Spawn3's stub of it (from the same gob of starter) is Vlad, short for Vladimir Gluten
  • At a bare minimum, feed it once a week and fridge it to keep it going – If you aren’t baking much, you can pull it out on Sat AM and feed it, let it get fully frisky, and then pop it back in the fridge for a week.  I have gone more than a week, but then it requires a little more rejuvenation
  • Make waffles – As you feed it, you will be discarding ~100g of starter every week.  You can dump it in the trash, but you can make waffles (or pancakes) instead…and you should - https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018025-sourdough-pancake-or-waffle-batter 
  • Use it - Bread, pizza dough and naan are all better with free range bugs
  • Share it  - Starting a new starter from scratch is a PITA.  Give a buddy a head start with a blob to start with


Feeding

  • Dump out all but ~20g (it doesn’t need to be too precise)
  • Stir in 50g of AP and 50g room temp FILTERED water (chlorine in tap water is no bueno for bugs… including the bugs you want).  It will look like paste, and you will doubt your ways
  • Let it sit on your counter until it is rockin’ – You can tell because it will have lots of bubble and be at its max volume.  On our counter, that’s about 12 hours – You will now have what recipes call “fed starter”, and this is what you want to start with to make a levain/poolish for bread recipes.  Now you can either throw it back in the fridge for a week, or repeat the cycle daily until you are overcome with bread or run out of AP


Nuances with starter (and breads)

  • How fast your starter gets rockin’, and how fast your breads proof is a function of a bunch of stuff, and with practice, you can manipulate the variables to hurry up or slow down the process
  • Variables
    • Friskiness of your bugs – This is a function of whether you are using a rockin’, fed starter, or if you let it go too long and it’s a little dead.  Unfrisky bugs will still work, but they need a little more time to roll out of bet, take a shower, and get a cup of coffee before they can kick ass
    • How many bugs – More starter => faster rise
    • Temp of ingredients – Warmer (to a point) => faster rise.  When making bread, I add 95F water to room temp flour (because Ken Forkish told me to).  If you use cold starter (which you can do in a pinch) or cold water or cold flour (some crazy people freeze their flour), everything goes slower.  Also, different steps of the rise can be retarded by throwing the dough in the fridge.  That slows the bugs down (and makes the dough “more complex”, I am told).  You can also race by using a proofing drawer, setting in the sun, putting by the stove, etc.  Not ideal, but will work in a pinch
    • Enrichment of dough – Enriched doughs, like the pain au bacon that I have going right now, will rise faster than a straight dough (flour, water, salt, yeast).  Most recipes will advise you of this, but it is fair warning, since I expect this crowd puts bacon in everything.
  • Once you think about those variables, you can see how different recipes/cookbooks get to the same end point.  The Forkish approach is to use a very small amount of starter and let it rise for a long time (to enhance flavor).  Others will have overnight fridge rises and such trying to get to the same end point
  • Commercial yeasts are cheaty… but some recipes were designed with them (see “bread, Wonder”) and can be made better with sourdough, but won’t necessarily be the same, or what you are shooting for
LBGE since 2008 and a MM from 2016
Karubeque C-60 Dishwasher (when time is no object)
Owner of multiple large scale refrigeration devices (sometimes too many)
Vertically integrated BBQ and charcuterie operator, for recreational use only
Elicitor of secrets from goats through unconventional methods
Sourdough bread enthusiast

Houston, TX

«13

Comments

  • NPHuskerFLNPHuskerFL Posts: 16,947
    edited January 15
    I'm the crazy person you speak of that stows away "some" of my flour in the freezer :lol:
    Many years ago, probably about 22 years to be exact, I had the displeasure of dealing with Weevil bugs. Once we started storing our dried pasta and other similar items in dry or frozen state we never had the problem again.  I do have 10 lb of flour (variety) at room temp at any one point in time because I do bake frequently. 

    One thing I'll add to this  very well written soliloquy is that your new pet doesn't require oxygen as it is anaerobic. I store mine in the refrigerator in an airtight large-mouth glass container that is airtight.  However, you will notice more activity when you add water and flour at feeding time because you are putting oxygen into the mix. So basically it does like oxygen and it'll invigorate activity but, it does not need it to sustain life.

    LBGE 2013 & MM 2014
    Die Hard HUSKER & BRONCO FAN
    Flying Low & Slow in "Da Burg" FL
  • NPHuskerFLNPHuskerFL Posts: 16,947
    edited January 15
    Edited.
    One more fun fact... You can take your active starter pour some out onto parchment paper and place it into the oven on a baking tray with just the light on to dry it out. Take the the sheets of now dried out sourdough starter and break it up and place into a jar and store in the freezer indefinitely, refrigerator for a few months or place in an envelope and ship it to a friend. They need only add water and flour and they will have an active starter.

    Much easier than shipping liquid form starter.  Ask @Dyal_SC how my gifted starter arrived to his doorstep :lol:
    LBGE 2013 & MM 2014
    Die Hard HUSKER & BRONCO FAN
    Flying Low & Slow in "Da Burg" FL
  • ThatgrimguyThatgrimguy Posts: 3,830
    Great thread!! I need new goo. Need to get on it and get back to baking.
    Biloxi, MS
    Guild's Grocery BBQ Team
    The Grocery Cart
    XL / Small Green Eggs
  • 20stone20stone Posts: 1,481
    Great thread!! I need new goo. Need to get on it and get back to baking.
    I will hook you up, especially since you sent me my first batch back in the day. Please PM your address, and I'll send some your way. 
    LBGE since 2008 and a MM from 2016
    Karubeque C-60 Dishwasher (when time is no object)
    Owner of multiple large scale refrigeration devices (sometimes too many)
    Vertically integrated BBQ and charcuterie operator, for recreational use only
    Elicitor of secrets from goats through unconventional methods
    Sourdough bread enthusiast

    Houston, TX

  • SciAggieSciAggie Posts: 3,564
    Great idea for a thread. In the case of care and feeding of starter:
    I usually refresh my starter twice before making bread if it’s been in the refrigerator. For example if I want to mix dough on Saturday and bake on Sunday, I’ll feed my starter maybe Thursday night before bed, Friday morning before work, and again Friday night. Then I’ll make dough Saturday morning. I’ll refresh in the beginning with a 1:1:1 ratio, then go to a 1:2:2,then maybe 1:3:3
    This lowers the acidity levels in the culture.
    Also, if I know I won’t use my starter for a week or so, I’ll put it in the refrigerator about an hour after refreshing. 
    Coleman, Texas
    Large BGE & Mini Max for the wok. A few old camp Dutch ovens and a wood fired oven.
    "Bourbon slushies. Sure you can cook on the BGE without them, but why would you?"
                                                                                                                          YukonRon
  • Hawg FanHawg Fan Posts: 1,463
    Great thread.  I use to bake sourdough bread every week when my kids lived at home 15 years ago but stopped because we didn't eat enough bread to continue baking every week.  I've been on a quest to make a pizza dough and naan that agrees with my palate  for several months now and that has morphed into baking artisan bread.  I've read several threads, including @SciAggie and @NPHuskerFL and I'm learning a lot.  Utilizing what I've learned from these threads has greatly improved my pizza dough and bread.  Thanks!

    Any road will take you there if you don't know where you're going.

    Terry

    Tulsa, OK
  • 20stone20stone Posts: 1,481
    SciAggie said:
    Great idea for a thread. In the case of care and feeding of starter:
    I usually refresh my starter twice before making bread if it’s been in the refrigerator. For example if I want to mix dough on Saturday and bake on Sunday, I’ll feed my starter maybe Thursday night before bed, Friday morning before work, and again Friday night. Then I’ll make dough Saturday morning. I’ll refresh in the beginning with a 1:1:1 ratio, then go to a 1:2:2,then maybe 1:3:3
    This lowers the acidity levels in the culture.
    Also, if I know I won’t use my starter for a week or so, I’ll put it in the refrigerator about an hour after refreshing. 
    Thanks for adding this. I normally cheat and take my fridge goo and go straight to levain. I do like a good dose of acid in my dough, though.

    That being said, your results speak for themselves.  I may give your way a shot. 
    LBGE since 2008 and a MM from 2016
    Karubeque C-60 Dishwasher (when time is no object)
    Owner of multiple large scale refrigeration devices (sometimes too many)
    Vertically integrated BBQ and charcuterie operator, for recreational use only
    Elicitor of secrets from goats through unconventional methods
    Sourdough bread enthusiast

    Houston, TX

  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,950
    Like Hawg Fan, I used to bake once a week, but with the kids gone, we don't eat enough to warrant the effort.

    I had a very detailed write-up, much like yours, but also including the dough making, proofing times and temps. Sadly, I didn't have it backed up, and I couldn't remember the exact percentages.

    From memory, I did much the same, with small variations. I'd refresh w. 40% of what I had, instead of 20%. Used water a little cooler, about 89F. I tried boosting the restart time by exposing the starter to warm sunlight. While it would be bubbling from the extra warmth, that seemed to exhaust its tising power, and the bread was too heavy. I did like the flavor that came from an over night in the fridge, but usually didn't bother.

    I bought Modernist Breaf for my younger daughter as a Christmas/birthday present. Not all that much on sourdough, but they talked about refreshing it more often. Part of this I suppose is due to the book being aimed at people turning out lots of product.
  • jtcBoyntonjtcBoynton Posts: 2,113
    Lots of good advice.  Couple of thoughts:

    Just like data on your computer, you should always have a backup of your starter.  Backup starter can go a month or so between feedings. If you dry and freeze some it can keep much longer. 

    I disagree that "Commercial yeasts are cheaty".  Commercial yeasts are strains of yeast selected for their vigorous leavening properties (and not taste).  Sourdough starters are a combination of yeast and bacteria. The bacteria are more important than the yeast in determining flavor.  Commercial yeast are fine when making something that need leavening but the taste is coming from other ingredients.


    Southeast Florida - LBGE
    In cooking, often we implement steps for which we have no explanations other than ‘that’s what everybody else does’ or ‘that’s what I have been told.’  Dare to think for yourself.
     
  • NPHuskerFLNPHuskerFL Posts: 16,947
    50/50 whole grain stiff levain. 
    Before feeding. 


    6 hr fermentation slightly before peaking. Strong enough to sustain an extended cold ferment.  Keep your starter strong. 

    LBGE 2013 & MM 2014
    Die Hard HUSKER & BRONCO FAN
    Flying Low & Slow in "Da Burg" FL
  • NPHuskerFLNPHuskerFL Posts: 16,947
    Step 1 in feeding. Don't accidentally slip and pour out everything but a thimble full of starter! Yeah, that's how my day started. Went to pour off some and forgot that I had it mixed pretty stiff. Long story short it came out in a glob into the sink (felt like slow motion) and just left a very very small amount in the jar. :neutral:

    LBGE 2013 & MM 2014
    Die Hard HUSKER & BRONCO FAN
    Flying Low & Slow in "Da Burg" FL
  • ThatgrimguyThatgrimguy Posts: 3,830
    20stone said:
    Great thread!! I need new goo. Need to get on it and get back to baking.
    I will hook you up, especially since you sent me my first batch back in the day. Please PM your address, and I'll send some your way. 
    Awesome!! I should have just remembered to get it at Brisket Camp!!!
    Biloxi, MS
    Guild's Grocery BBQ Team
    The Grocery Cart
    XL / Small Green Eggs
  • lkapigianlkapigian Posts: 3,013
    edited January 25
    I get the Maintenance, But How do you Start a Starter
    Visalia, Ca
  • NPHuskerFLNPHuskerFL Posts: 16,947
    lkapigian said:
    I get the Maintenance, But How do you Start a Starter

    http://biggreenbrotherhood.com/sourdough-starter-how-to/

    LBGE 2013 & MM 2014
    Die Hard HUSKER & BRONCO FAN
    Flying Low & Slow in "Da Burg" FL
  • 20stone20stone Posts: 1,481
    lkapigian said:
    I get the Maintenance, But How do you Start a Starter
    1. Ask for some from a buddy
    2. Wait til it shows up
    LBGE since 2008 and a MM from 2016
    Karubeque C-60 Dishwasher (when time is no object)
    Owner of multiple large scale refrigeration devices (sometimes too many)
    Vertically integrated BBQ and charcuterie operator, for recreational use only
    Elicitor of secrets from goats through unconventional methods
    Sourdough bread enthusiast

    Houston, TX

  • HeavyGHeavyG Posts: 4,945
    20stone said:
    lkapigian said:
    I get the Maintenance, But How do you Start a Starter
    1. Ask for some from a buddy
    2. Wait til it shows up
    Or...

    http://carlsfriends.net/

    Camped out in the (757/804)
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 26,712
    I've killed two.  
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.  Love me or hate me, I am forum Marmite.
    Large and Medium BGE, Kamado Joe Jr, Akorn Jr, smoker with a 5k btu AC, gas grill, fire pit, pack of angry cats, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.  Registered republican.
    New Orleans, LA - we know how to eat 

  • NPHuskerFLNPHuskerFL Posts: 16,947
    Survived

    LBGE 2013 & MM 2014
    Die Hard HUSKER & BRONCO FAN
    Flying Low & Slow in "Da Burg" FL
  • westernbbqwesternbbq Posts: 2,145
    Great instux @20stone!  Thanks mucho for posting.   I have killed one starter off but am using what you posted here for care and feeding of another...the za i mae last weekend was amazing with sourdough starter,,,
  • FockerFocker Posts: 8,297
    Survived

    Good deal.
    Was going to offer dehydrated Ischia, Camaldoli, or San Francisco, from Ed Woods.
    Brandon
    Quad Cities
    "If yer gonna denigrate, familiarity with the subject is helpful."

  • NPHuskerFLNPHuskerFL Posts: 16,947
    @Focker Thanks. Yep, woke up this morning and it had more than quadrupled an expansion. If anything it's even stronger now. Although I definitely won't be pouring off that much ever again at least not purposely. Not that I did it on purpose to begin with. Gave it a heavy bleeding again this morning with stone-ground whole-wheat. Trying to manipulate the actual acidity following some things that I read about on the interweb. I guess I will see how it affects the bread when I make my next loaves.
    LBGE 2013 & MM 2014
    Die Hard HUSKER & BRONCO FAN
    Flying Low & Slow in "Da Burg" FL
  • EggDanEggDan Posts: 173
    @NPHuskerFL I currently use only AP for my starter. I’ve had it for months and it rarely doubles in size. I’m interested in starting a second one with wheat flour. Have you ever tried 100% AP flour?
  • NPHuskerFLNPHuskerFL Posts: 16,947
    edited January 26
    @EggDan yes AP works okay. I used to use 100% KAWBF & that's fine as well. However, whole grains typically yield a more traditional sourdough flavor. Also adjusting your starter to less or more hydration will change flavor. Less hydration will normally result in more acid/sourness. Little adjustments make a difference. 
    I've switched to a 50/50 ratio of Arrowhead Mills stone ground wheat and KAWBF for feeding and hydration is closure to 70-80 in lieu of the norm of 100%.  Also keep in mind your environment has different bacteria and climate in general. In other words, flavor from place to place will vary.  Also never pour off the liquid that rises to the top between feedings (hooch) that should be stirred in imho... It's just acidic liquid caused by the fermentation. Basically alcohol. No don't drink it :grin:  . In a perfect world you will never see this Hooch because it essentially means your starter is extremely hungry. You'll get different opinions on whether to pour it off or Stir It In. Mine typically does not have Hooch though simply because I use my starter a lot. But when I didn't or don't bake a lot and this liquid does appear I do stir in.

    LBGE 2013 & MM 2014
    Die Hard HUSKER & BRONCO FAN
    Flying Low & Slow in "Da Burg" FL
  • lkapigianlkapigian Posts: 3,013
    I've gone from a burger on a grill , to the " right of passion" overnight cook to the " multi day " sous vide " and the Multi Week " lactose fermentation" now to the forever bread .....
    Visalia, Ca
  • NPHuskerFLNPHuskerFL Posts: 16,947
    @lkapigian ain't it something how we evolve :smiley: 
    It's nice to have it in your mix of tricks. A sandwich is just a sandwich a sandwich on your own fresh baked sourdough is magical.
    LBGE 2013 & MM 2014
    Die Hard HUSKER & BRONCO FAN
    Flying Low & Slow in "Da Burg" FL
  • Pizza night
    1- LGBE
    1- KBQ C-60 (The Dishwasher)
    I- Blackstone 36" Griddle
    1- Sweet-A$$ Roccbox Pizza Oven
    1-Very Understanding and Forgiving Wife
  • 20stone20stone Posts: 1,481
    Pizza night
    That's what I like to see!

    Now I don't need to drive up to repo starter, though I might come up to eat pizza. Looking forward to pics of pies
    LBGE since 2008 and a MM from 2016
    Karubeque C-60 Dishwasher (when time is no object)
    Owner of multiple large scale refrigeration devices (sometimes too many)
    Vertically integrated BBQ and charcuterie operator, for recreational use only
    Elicitor of secrets from goats through unconventional methods
    Sourdough bread enthusiast

    Houston, TX

  • 20stone said:
    Pizza night
    That's what I like to see!

    Now I don't need to drive up to repo starter, though I might come up to eat pizza. Looking forward to pics of pies
    Only got one pic but the dough was awesome. Chewy bite but had structure and flavor. 

    Getting better with “the box” every cook. Love that thing. 


    1- LGBE
    1- KBQ C-60 (The Dishwasher)
    I- Blackstone 36" Griddle
    1- Sweet-A$$ Roccbox Pizza Oven
    1-Very Understanding and Forgiving Wife
  • NPHuskerFLNPHuskerFL Posts: 16,947
    Rock the Box man!  Looks Dayumn good!
    LBGE 2013 & MM 2014
    Die Hard HUSKER & BRONCO FAN
    Flying Low & Slow in "Da Burg" FL
  • 20stone20stone Posts: 1,481
    20stone said:
    Pizza night
    That's what I like to see!

    Now I don't need to drive up to repo starter, though I might come up to eat pizza. Looking forward to pics of pies
    Only got one pic but the dough was awesome. Chewy bite but had structure and flavor. 

    Getting better with “the box” every cook. Love that thing. 


    Beauty!
    LBGE since 2008 and a MM from 2016
    Karubeque C-60 Dishwasher (when time is no object)
    Owner of multiple large scale refrigeration devices (sometimes too many)
    Vertically integrated BBQ and charcuterie operator, for recreational use only
    Elicitor of secrets from goats through unconventional methods
    Sourdough bread enthusiast

    Houston, TX

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