Hooch - To pour or to stir?

Just was wondering what the general consensus is on hooch?

My starter was left in my fridge for a week or so, while I was away, and on my return a layer of hooch had developed on the top. I just stirred it in and fed my starter to make bread in a day or so, but I've read in places that I should have poured it away.

So hooch - pour or stir?

11 comments

Hello Barrythewomble,

How are things on the Common?

Seriously though, as the 'hooch' is a 'waste' product from the yeasts/bacteria in the culture, I think the philosophy of discarding it is to end up with a 'cleaner' environment after the new feeding than would exist if it was just stirred in.  Whether this is actually beneficial for the culture I can't really say as both techniques are used and both seem to end up in the same sort of place in the end.

I've just come home after three weeks away ( and four since I last used it) and mine had no hooch though it did have no 'texture' suggesting that the gluten present had broken down.  Perhaps with a little more time it might have separated.  I keep mine at 100% hydration by the way.

Keep on bakin'

Farinam

I just stir it in - it's mostly the water from the original mix, plus some byproducts produced by the fermentation process. Unless it's mouldy or something, in which case you've got bigger problems. My thinking is that I maintain the hydration better that way, and it hasn't caused any issues in baking or culture health. Of course, if it's at the stage where it develops hooch, you may need to refresh it more than once before you bake with it, just to get it up to full speed again.

I always just stir mine in, never had a problem.  I figure if I can have a glass of wine, so can my beasties :)

k.

K.

Happiness is making bread!

Thanks everyone, I like the idea of my starter just having a glass of wine, although mine smelt more like cider! This is my first starter so I wanted to be sure I wasn't going to ruin my first loaf. Any thoughts on a good recipe to start off with?

Oh, and the common is dirty as ever, but I'm making good use of the things that I find.

Good to hear the news about the common.

I regularly recommend the Pane Francesa recipe that SourDom published in his beginners blog on this site as a starting point that you should practice (might need a half dozen tries) until you get the feel for your timing (which will very likely vary from the times that are published in any recipe) and the characteristics of the dough and dough development for your particular flour(s).

After that, the world is your oyster but remember to rely on your senses rather than rigidly trying to follow instructions (but use them as a guide).  Just as there are more ways to kill a cat than choke it with butter, there are more ways to make a very respectable loaf of bread.

Good luck with your projects.

Farinam

Thanks farinam, I'll start with that and see where I end up.

My first post here, I've been baking with sourdough for a couple of months now and have read some of the guides found on this site (Dom's).

So, I don't want to hijack this thread, but since my issue is similar to the threadstarter then why not just add a question instead of starting a new. My issue is that "Project Zeus" starts developing a thin layer of hooch on top quite quickly, within 24 hours in the fridgde. As far as I understand this issue is caused by underfeeding right?

I try to keep my sourdough at 100% hydration and around 0,5 l, always in the fridge to avoid having to feed it too often. When I bake I take it out the day before and chucks a decent part of into another container and feeds it some flour/water to get the right amount for my recipe. However, the dough in the fridge seems to have a quite high level of activity despite the low temperature, lots of foam and bubbles. How do I reduce the level of activity and hooch development without having to feed it too often?

I reduced the amount quite a lot yesterday btw, and gave it a new round of around 100 g 50/50 water and plain fine wheat flour.

Hello DrZoidberg,

I assume that when you take out your aliquot to bake and that you replace it with fresh flour and water and put it straight back into the fridge.  I also assume that you are using a strong bread flour.

One thing about cultures is that they don't starve to death (at least not in the short term), they merely become dormant until a new food source arrives.  The disadvantage is that there is likely to be a slightly longer induction time for things to get up to full speed.

So, as long as your levain for your loaf comes good, the fact that the fridge stock looks a little 'tired' is not likely to be a problem.  Because things don't stop at the fridge temperatures (they just slow down), maybe you have a very active culture that uses up the new food supply before the coolth has had time to work.  The fact that you have reduced the volume might go some way to alleviating that effect.

I only keep a couple of hundred grams as stock and take out 90g for a loaf to feed up for the levain and replace that 90g in the stock with fresh flour and water.  I have not had any hooch formation even after a month without attention.

Good luck with your projects.

Farinam

Thanks for your answer! I will reduce my amount of stock the next time I bake then. I'm not sure what 'strong bread flour' means though, I use all purpose flour (wheat) for the maintaning of the sourdough in the fridge (occasionally organic) - and I use organic rye to kick off the starter I use for baking.

My bread turns out great when it comes to taste, texture and the likes, I still need to fine tune my timing regarding the starter though - I've still only managed to bake one excellent batch when it comes to large air pockets in the bread.

Hi Dr Zoidberg,

Strong flour has a higher gluten content.  This is indicated by the protien content of the flour and for making bread 11.5 or better is generally preferred although it is possible to use softer (lower protein) flours.  As a general rule lower protien flours are used for cakes and biscuits to give a softer mouth feel and they use other protiens (eggs etc) to provide the 'strength' to maintain the rise from gas generation and expansion.  AP, as the name suggests, is probably somewhere in between.

The gluten is broken down over time by the bacterial and enzymatic actions and a high gluten flour is likely to be more resistant to phase separation (hooch formation).  Gluten breakdown is also what causes a loaf to collapse if it is overproved.

Keep on bakin'

Farinam

Thanks for clearing that up, I guess the flour I use is around 11-12, I'll have a look at the package when I get home.