Newbie questions about bread starters

Discussion in 'Bread' started by collegeconfusion101, Oct 9, 2015.

  1. collegeconfusion101

    collegeconfusion101 New Member

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    I have little experience with bread, and zero with starters, but i have a project going for work, and i am curious as to how i should go about it.

    So i would like to use the starter on Monday, but i'm told i should let the starter do it's thing overnight, which means i should ideally get the starter going on Sunday. So my first question is, how do you transport a starter? Ideally, should it not be agitated at all? I usually ride my bike to work- so if i had the starter in a mason jar or something, would the agitation from the bike ride kill the starter, would it help, would it have no effect? Should i drive?

    As i started thinking about it, my thoughts then went to, how to people share starters? Do you just take a spoonful of someone else's and mix it into your own flour/water matrix? Do starters just last/live for a long time? Do people just feed their starters frequently? If so, how often do you feed them?

    Any and all help is appreciated, thanks!
     
    collegeconfusion101, Oct 9, 2015
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  2. collegeconfusion101

    Winterybella Well-Known Member

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    Well I really would not even know how to 'start' as this whole subject is very intimidating to me. However, Google and I have a wonderful relationship so I looked this up. I found a few things. Just so I can help out I am doing a straight copy and paste Collegeconfusion. Someone is responding to a question similar to yours. Here's what I thought was a response that might be useful to you.

    "There are two way I ship (or travel with) starter. I either make a very stiff starter mixture (100g of 50/50 starter + 100g flour) and ship it in a plastic bag placed in a mason jar with a lose lid. make sure it is 3/4 empty to let the starter rise.

    I also dry my starter for either shipping or "backup" in case my active starter dies. To dry starter, I make a very loose starter mixture (pancake batter like) and spread it on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat (silicone pad) in a thin layer (~ 1/8").
    I dry it over 3 days until it is totally dry and looks like dry crumbling animal skin. Once totally dry I store it in my freezer (it must be TOTALLY dry). I have revived starter that I froze in 2006.. For mailing I crush the flakes into fine crumbs and pack it in zip bags."

    At least it's a beginning and welcome.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2015
    Winterybella, Oct 10, 2015
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  3. collegeconfusion101

    Becky Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to the forum! :)

    I have never made my own sourdough from scratch, but I have a friend who has done it and she used Paul Hollywood's method which uses grated apple. It's not quick though, so it wouldn't be ready to use by Monday unfortunately!

    http://paulhollywood.com/recipes/sourdough-starter/
     
    Becky, Oct 10, 2015
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  4. collegeconfusion101

    justme4910 Well-Known Member

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    my friends wife made some sour dough starter using instant mashed potaoes,that was years ago,if I think about it,I will ask her if she still has the recipe,and it should be ok to haul on your bike,they did use to haul it across the states in covered wagons

    and yes,I'm just guessing at that :)
     
    justme4910, Oct 13, 2015
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  5. collegeconfusion101

    Chris Member

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    I've been making sourdough bread for about 3 years, and the site I used that I found very helpful was "Breadtopia" (http://breadtopia.com/sourdough-no-knead-bread/), and I use their "no knead" recipe.

    The site has a good link on making starter here: http://breadtopia.com/make-your-own-sourdough-starter/

    To summarise what they say - unsweetened pineapple juice works really well; it apparently has enzymes in that mean the natural yeasts in the flour and air will take to it, but the nasty stuff that would make it go off can't survive. The recipe on the site says to use wholemeal flour, but I used strong white bread flour for mine, and it worked fine. It takes about a week before the starter really gets going, so persevere! If you're going to be making mainly white sourdough, use strong white bread flour for the starter; if you'll be making wholemeal, use wholemeal for the starter.

    Once you have your starter, it's fairly robust. I keep mine in the fridge, and once a week (though it doesn't matter if you forget and leave it a fortnight) I pour all but 1 cup (250ml) away down the sink, then pour the 250ml of starter back in my container, add the same amount of water, and add strong white bread flour until it's a slightly runny and put it back in the fridge. There are all sorts of arguments about the correct level of "hydration" - some say the starter should be the consistency of toothpaste, but I find a slightly runnier starter makes it easier to pour and easier to see if it's got any bubbles in it (which means it's still alive).

    As for letting the starter do its thing overnight, I don't bother, because the no-knead recipe I use has an 18 hour rising time anyway. Here are the steps I do for a small sourdough loaf:

    1. Take my starter straight from the fridge, pour about quarter of a cup of it into a bowl (60ml or 4 tablespoons). If there's plenty of starter left, I put the starter container back in the fridge, but this is also a good opportunity to feed the starter again (see above).

    2. Add one cup of water (I just use tap water at room temperature - if your water is heavily chlorinated, might be better to boil some water first and let it cool down so it doesn't kill the starter, but my tap water seems fine) to the starter in the bowl and stir it in.

    3. Add about two cups of strong white bread flour and a teaspoon of salt to the bowl, and stir until you have a sticky mess. The dough should be much stickier than for standard bread - too sticky to knead, but only just too sticky. So at this "porridge" stage, add a little more flour until you get to that "too sticky to knead but only just" stage - the sticky mess should come away from the side of the bowl, but it shouldn't be firm enough to knead.

    4. That whole process should only take a minute or two - no heavy kneading required, as the very slow rise will do that job for you. You simply cover it with a damp cloth and leave it for 18 hours. Your mileage may vary - 18 hours is about right in the UK in a room at about 20C. If you live in a warmer climate, 12 hours will probably do. However, as sourdough is quite lazy and slow, it's quite forgiving. An few hours extra won't hurt.

    5. After 18 hours, it's time to "stretch" the dough. When making bread with commercial yeast, you'd knock the air out the dough at this stage, but with sourdough we don't want to undo that 18 hours of work the yeast has done! So you gently scoop out the dough onto a floured board, with floured hands, and gently stretch the dough. It will be quite stretchy at this point, a bit like Blu-Tak, and stretch it at all four corners until it's thin enough to be translucent. I aim for a sort of square "pane" of dough covering my board. Then gently fold the left hand side over about 2/3 of the way, then the right hand side 2/3 of the way covering that, then do the same to the top and bottom sides. What you'll have now is a sort of slightly puffy ball of dough. Put that into an oiled bowl, cover, and leave for about 2 to 4 hours. It won't double in size like an ordinary loaf - in fact, you may not notice much difference at all during this time.

    6. The secret of crusty sourdough and making it rise is to put it in a VERY hot oven in a container. I have a set of steel saucepans that are ovenproof up to 250C, or you can use a heavy duty casserole dish, or a terracotta cloche. The important thing is to heat that up first - so I put the cold saucepan, empty, in the cold oven, and turn the temp up to 250C. Once it reaches temperature, take out the saucepan (250C is VERY hot so be careful, even with oven gloves you need to be careful not to burn yourself), sprinkle a little matzo meal in the bottom, or semolina (to stop the dough sticking), and very very gently scoop the dough out of the bowl and drop it into the very very hot pan.

    7. If you like that artisan "split" at the top of the bread, very quickly slash the top of the dough with a sharp knife, but this isn't essential. Put the pan back in the oven and cover it with a baking tray to stop the top burning. You can also put a small pan of water in the oven for a crustier loaf, but it's not essential. Cook for about 20 minutes, then take the tray off the top of the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes.

    8. Carefully remove the pan and turn it upside down, and tap the bottom of the bread to see if it sounds "hollow" - if it doesn't, put the loaf back in the oven (no need for the pan now) for a few more minutes, but I find 30 mins is fine for a small loaf.

    It's very tempting to rip it open and eat it hot, but sourdough really does benefit from being allowed to cool. If you eat it hot, the inside will still feel pretty sticky and doughy. That hour or two cooling helps the bread settle, so resist temptation!
     
    Chris, Oct 17, 2015
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  6. collegeconfusion101

    Becky Well-Known Member

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    Apologies @Chris, your post went into a moderation queue because of the link but I have authorised it now.
     
    Becky, Oct 18, 2015
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  7. collegeconfusion101

    Chris Member

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    No problem, Becky, and thanks!
     
    Chris, Oct 18, 2015
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  8. collegeconfusion101

    Chris Member

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    And - just realised, I didn't answer the question about transporting a starter. I don't really feel qualified to, as I haven't done that - but just to pass on a tip on the Breadtopia site, I made a "backup" of my starter by smearing some onto some baking parchment and letting it dry. Then I crumbled once thoroughly dry and stuck it in a jar.

    I haven't actually tried reconstituting it, so don't know if this works or not, but I know that's how they post you the Oregon Trail sourdough starter (which you can get here for the cost of just the postage: http://carlsfriends.net/) - the powdered starter lasts for years, apparently.

    I'm very tempted to make a donation to Carl's and get some Oregon Trail sourdough - but as I live in the UK, I'm a bit worried about how our border agency customs officers will respond to a envelope full of white powder arriving :)
     
    Chris, Oct 18, 2015
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  9. collegeconfusion101

    justme4910 Well-Known Member

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    what is strong white bread flour? what is the strong part ?
     
    justme4910, Oct 20, 2015
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  10. collegeconfusion101

    Chris Member

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    "Strong" refers to the gluten content - perhaps it's a British term! The more gluten, the more structure your bread will have - it's why people who are gluten-intolerant always complain that gluten-free bread is stodgy. It's the gluten that makes dough springy and stretchy.

    So, in ordinary white flour ("all-purpose"), the protein content according to my bag of Dove's Farm White Organic Plain Flour is 10%. That's the gluten.

    In "strong" flour for bread, it's likely to be about 12% protein. I use Allison's "Very Strong" White Bread Flour, and that has 14% protein.

    I always used to think it only applied to white flour (for wholemeal bread, I just used wholemeal flour), but my supermarket also sells "Very Strong" wholemeal flour, which is 13% protein.

    I'm in the UK, and when I was a kid, white bread flour came from Canada, because that was where the high-protein flour came from. British flour wasn't strong enough to make good bread. These days, though, we seem to make high-gluten flour here - I guess it's down to selective breeding of the wheat, or something.

    Chris.
     
    Chris, Oct 20, 2015
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  11. collegeconfusion101

    justme4910 Well-Known Member

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    thanks for the information Chris,I live in the States and I just read the side of my sacks of flour

    they say protein 2g per 1/4 cup(30g) on the All Purpose and Self Rising bags

    so if I remember right,the Bread Flour should have a higher Protein or Gluten level? to make better bread,the next time I'm at the grocery store,I will check out the differences in the Protein levels of the flour,I was told to use Bread flour from somebody on here,to help with my White Bread,since it was coming out dense,I'm assuming that is due to the Gluten levels


    and that I should get a set of kitchen scales too :)
     
    justme4910, Oct 20, 2015
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  12. collegeconfusion101

    Chris Member

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    Hi, Justme - yes, 2g protein per 30g is pretty low, that's less than 7% protein (I'm using the terms protein and gluten interchangeably - I'm fairly sure virtually all the protein in flour is actually gluten), which is half the level my bread flour has, and would definitely result in quite a dense loaf. So yes, I'd definitely check out to see if you can get bread flour with a higher protein content.

    Good luck!
     
    Chris, Oct 21, 2015
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  13. collegeconfusion101

    justme4910 Well-Known Member

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    come to think of it,the local grocery store doesn't carry bread flour,they do have bread machine flour,anybody know the difference between the two?

    I actually need to be going to a bigger grocery store,the one I go to doesn't have much of a selection for anything,but it saves about 40 minutes of driving time
     
    justme4910, Oct 22, 2015
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  14. collegeconfusion101

    Chris Member

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    All a bread machine does (I use one myself most of the time) is knead the dough for you, and lets it rise at a controlled temperature (usually a little warmer than room temperature). In terms of what flour you use, I don't think there would be a difference between the flour you use in a bread machine, and the flour you'd use making it completely by hand. I certainly use the same flour whether I'm making it entirely by hand or in a bread machine. My guess is that "bread machine flour" (not a term used in the UK, as far as I know) just means "bread flour" - but the proof of that would be to check its protein content. If it's 10% or less, than it's just ordinary flour and not "strong" flour.
     
    Chris, Oct 22, 2015
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  15. collegeconfusion101

    justme4910 Well-Known Member

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    justme4910, Oct 22, 2015
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  16. collegeconfusion101

    Chris Member

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    Thanks, Justme - very interesting! I know when I was a kid, bread flour in the UK came from Canada - so I'm sure if they can export it to England, they (or the more northerly states of the US) could export some a little further south :)
     
    Chris, Oct 23, 2015
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  17. collegeconfusion101

    JustJoel Member

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    You didn’t mention what kind of bread you were making, or what type of starter you wanted to use. I couldn’t say anything about sourdoughs. I don’t really like them, and I have commitment issues. I use poolishes quite often, bigas not so much, and an Asian starter that doesn’t ferment called tangjhon (it’s a slurry made of milk or water and flour that’s thickened on the stove, then added to the bulk ferment. It makes for a lovely pillowy crumb, and it also helps to keep the bread fresher longer.

    I don’t know if one can travel with a starter. I don’t think a little agitation would hurt a biga or a poolish, though.
     
    JustJoel, Jan 3, 2018
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