is my starter ready to bake?

Hey guys! I've been reading you for a week weeks and decided to start with my own sourdough starter thanks to you!

Sorry for my english but I'll try to be as much clear as I can. I've been feeding my starter (and discarding most of it) everyday since 9 days and I'd like to know if it's ready for baking my first bread. Today I fed it with 100 gs flour + 100 cc water and in less than 3 hours it was almost coming out of a medium size jar. It has lots of thick bubbles on top aswell (it looks like when you use yeast to make a sponge for regular baking). What should I do now? Should I add equals proportions of flour + water until I get the recipe ammount of start requiered and leave it until it's bubbly again? 

Thanks guys! I'll be waiting for our replies before start baking!

 

4 comments

Hi erock,

Based on your observations, it sounds like your starter is active enough to be turned into leaven and then developed into dough for baking. Normally, once my starter is rising and settling predictably and seems very active like yours, I will take a tablespoon of it and then combine it with equal parts flour and water (100g each).  This will be your leaven. After being covered with a towel overnight the mixture should have risen from the yeast activity. Here's a good test to see if it's ready:

Take a spoonfull and drop it into a cup of room temperature water. If it floats, the yeast is active enough and your leaven is ready to use for baking. If not, you can try to speed it up by putting it in a warmer place and trying later (or if this doesn't work, your starter needs more time to mature.)

This mixture will be your leaven, and once mixed with the rest of your ingredients to make dough it will be ready for its bulk rise. You'll need to do some math to account for the leaven in your recipe of course. Since your leaven is 50/50 flour and water, you will need to subtract from the recipe's required flour and water to make up for the excess. E.g. if you have 200g starter, then remember to leave off 100g water and 100g flour when measuring out your ingredients.

The wild yeasts in your starter will normally be less active than something from the store like active dry yeast, so expect some extra time here. As the dough develops in this stage I try to help it out by turning the dough in its container every 30 minutes or so (where turning is a little like kneading in the container -- I go around each side of my square container and fold the bottom of the dough over the top towards the other side). This takes ~2-3 hours for me, and by the end I'm left with dough very similar to what you'd expect from using store-bought yeast.

From this point you should be ready to shape your loaf. I dump my dough into a proofing basket dusted with flour and then let it do it's final rise for half an hour before it goes into the oven. If you're looking for a sourer dough then you can also try doing this final stage in the fridge for 8-12 hours.

Interested to hear your results, and good luck!

-LK

http://breadatheon.blogspot.com

 

Hey Leaven! Thank you so much for your reply. I've tried what you said about scopping a little bit of mix into a bowl of water and it sank, so I'd probably need to keep refreshing and feeding my starter until it doesn't, right? How many days should it take? What I did now was discarding my first jar of starter and I took 1 tbs of the leaven and added 100 gs flour + 100 cc water. Now it's resting and I'm sure it would double it size in just a couple of hours.

Hope I got it right! If not, I'd appreciate your feedback again.

Thanks again man!!!

Eric. 

Hey Eric,

Yes, if a spoonful of your leaven doesn't float at first then that means that there hasn't been enough aeration from wild yeast activity yet, and there could be a few causes:

  • Spooning out the dough squeezed out too much gas. I did this a lot when I first started (no pun intended :) ). Be careful to manipulate the leaven as little as possible.
  • It was too cool to allow your yeast to make enough CO2 to form those bubbles we're looking for. Yeast are similar to reptiles (and the opposite of someone like me) in that they get more active the warmer they are. After I mix my 1tbsp starter with 100g flour and 100cc water, I leave this overnight (8 hours) in my kitchen that stays around 74°F/23°C. If it's normally cooler or warmer than this, you can offset it by changing the temperature of your water that you start with. E.g. use warmer water for cooler rooms. A safe range to play around with is 60°F-85°F(15°C-29°C). [1]
  • Not enough time passed. If your leaven doesn't float in the morning you can try waiting until the afternoon to give your yeast a chance do do some more aeration. Moving the leaven to a warmer room would also help here. If the leaven is still failing the float test after this extra time then you will probably need to wait until your starter is more mature.

[1] https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/bread/yeast_temp.html

The amount of time it takes your starter to mature all depends on the naturally ocurring yeasts in your area and the conditions of your environment. There's no set time on how long it should take. My first starter took 2 weeks before it was ready to use, but my most recent was ready in 5 days.

Keep feeding your starter like you have. It is recommended that you keep a consistent schedule by discarding and feeding the starter by the same amounts each day around the same time, but developing a starter is a forgiving process. Don't get too worried if it fails the float test right away or if it's less active than you'd expect.

I suggest trying the same process tomorrow to see if you can get your leaven to float. 1tbsp starter + 100cc warm water + 100g flour, mixed by hand, and then left under a towel in a warm room overnight. In the morning try the float test, and remember to be as gentle as possible when spooning out the leaven so that you don't squeeze out too much gas.

Good luck and please share your results.

Best regards,

LK

 

Heyy again! So, I did what you told me. I started to mix all the ingredients by 8 pm, so once I finished it was already too late to let it proof. So I put in the fridge over night and took it out by 8 am. I left it by the bench to proof for about 5 hours and when I came back from work I shaped them and then baked. Here are the results! I'm pretty happy for being my first sourdough bread. By now I'm pretty sure it didn't 'rise' enough (or maybe because I didn't used any moulds or tins) cause it was overproof. The crumb is a bit chewy but it has a really nice crust and it doesn't taste too sour, just enough for my taste.

Here are the pics! I used the Pane Francese recipe I found on the web

 Any thoughts and replies would be really appreciated!