Discarding a starter necessary?

Ladislav

Hi everyone,

I have found (as probably most of you have too) that discarding a half of the starter when feeding is really necessary for building-up  a healthy and vigorous bacteria colony. I take out a portion every Saturday and bake a bread from it but as it isn't enough, I still have to waste some (more feeding added then taken out).

Call me a penny-pincher but personally, I really hate sending it down the drain...and I can almost hear the poor bacteria screaming too :)  But obviously if I try to keep most of it - the starter becomes very weak...and then ultimately useless (the "acetone smelling stage").

Has anyone found any way around it?

Thanks

Ladislav

 

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Replies

Shady Grove Baking's picture
Shady Grove Baking 2011 May 25

Ladislav,

 

I am the same, and I hate to toss out a portion of my potent starter. I don't believe there is a way around not taking half the starter out, however, there are certainly ways that I have found to use that bit your pour off. I have become quite creative in finding ways to make the excess starter useful.

For example, pancakes, pizza dough (and freeze it), I have dehydrated it as a backup starter, and mostly, I experiemnt with the 100-200 grams of extra starter I have after feeding and this has lead to the creation of some tasty recipes. I hope my ideas help.

Ladislav 2011 May 25

Thanks for the reply, Shady Grover :)

 

Having read the replies from you and from the others I think I will try keep the amount of the starter a bit smaller and certainly I will try to bake more from the "discarded" portion.

 

I was already making pancakes,  blintz/blinis and pizza dough but I will surely try more recipes.   Have you got any tasty suggestion from your experiments?

 

Nevertheless, I still wonder how the professional bakers do with the whole feeding/discarding situation. I suppose they don't discard  much otherwise the waste would be huge...

 

Ladislav

 

chazzone 2011 May 25

 I don't see any reason to waste starter, and I never pour it down the drain.
If you make bread every week, the portion that you use in your bread is the portion that would be discarded, if you were simply feeding it.

If you have too much, then you need to keep less starter in the first place, or make something with what you are flushing away.

 

Ladislav 2011 May 25

Thanks for the reply chazzone,

I certainly will try to be more organized portion-wise:)

Recipes and suggestions from other members what to bake from the discarded part of the starter are plentiful too. I may even try to summarise them in a new thread...

 

Keep baking

 

Ladislav

 

panfresca 2011 May 25

There's only so much pancake and pizza dough most people can consume.

If you work out the cost of the flour in the starter you're discarding, it's not much. I just put it down to part of the cost of making bread, which is very low - especially for the quality you're getting.

If you're really worried about it, it's surprising how small a starter can be and still "work". You just build it up when you want to bake.

I'm surprised to see you only discard half of your starter - it's usually much more. As I understand it, that method would result in much higher acidity, which maybe is what you want?

Kym.

Merrid 2011 May 25

There are recipes on this site for other things to make with excess starter - including cakes and biscuits. There are other sites also that have different things to make with starter.

Personally, I just use some culture each week, building up the starter as needed for the loaf, and only refresh the culture in the fridge every couple of weeks. Or I just take a large amount of culture and build that to make several pizza crusts which I prebake and freeze to use as needed, and refresh what's left for my ongoing bread making. My culture hasn't died yet, and seems healthy enough when I bake.

Ladislav 2011 May 25

Thanks Merrid,

I will try to bake more from the discarded starter portion. Do you have any tried tasty recipe?

 

Do you really refresh/feed your starter only once in a couple of weeks? It seems rather a long time. Does it loose any quality or "life"?

Prebake and freeze some pizza bases surely is a good idea.

 

Ladislav

 

Merrid 2011 May 26

I've only done pancakes (but several variations) and pizza bases so far, but I have seen recipes for cakes and things although I haven't tried them myself.

Mostly I refresh the culture only every 1-2 weeks (but it lives in the fridge) and it's still going strong. I do build my starter in at least two stages, though, and more if it's been a while since I refreshed the culture. If the culture starts getting too much hooch, I divide in half, refresh, put back into the fridge and do a bake-and-freeze seesion to use up the rest. I hate wasting the stuff too!

Ladislav 2011 May 25

Thanks Kym,

Yes, you are right, a relatively small amount of a starter could still work surprisingly well. I surely will try to keep my starter smaller and bake more from the discarded portion.

 

I discard usually only a half of the starter before each feeding which seems pretty much what everybody does. Do you discard more? I have found that the level of acidity of a live vigorous starter is just about right and I don't experiment (yet) in that direction...

The only time my starter went much more acidic was the "two-weeks-not-feeding" accident when all the starter structure seemed to collapsed  with a strong aceton-like smell and I couldn't revive it from that stage..    

 

I looked on your gallery and the Cross Buns you have made looks really lovely. Would you share the recipe?

 

Ladislav

 

eyendall 2011 May 25

 I puzzled over this myself until I realised that the problem was one of terminology. What you develop in the jar by regularly discarding and feeding is your CULTURE. That takes several days, even weeks, to create. What you eventually take from this to make your loaf is your STARTER. If you bake weekly then you only need to refresh your established culture once a week. (I have neglected it for as long as two weeks without adverse effect). It will keep well, covered, in the refrigerator.

When you are ready to make bread, refresh your culture and put it back in the fridge for use next time, keeping the discarded amount to make your starter.

Take the amount of culture you have discarded (for me it between 100-250grams) and add flour and water to it to produce your starter (also called preferment).   Let  it bubble and froth over several hours at room temperature, then add the final amount of flour and water to make up the finished dough; fold and stretch the dough adding salt as you do so. You could probably create a good starter (preferment) with as little as 50 grams of culture). 

To make the final dough I use the 1:2:3 formula . To 300 grams of the finished starter I add 600 grams of water and 900 grams of flour. At high baking temp this produces a very nice crusty country-style loaf.

Ladislav 2011 May 25

Thanks eyendall, for pointing out the correct terminology. From that point of view my question was about discarded starter (build-up and matured).

I too usually take about 200g of the starter (from the fridge) to make a preferment for baking. I have never tried to do it with as little as 50g. Does it still work well?

I have heard about the 1:2:3 formula before and I will try it soon.

 

Ladislav

 

 

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2011 May 25

 Ok here is what I have been doing.  I feed my storage starter once a day.  The size of my storage starter is 20 grams.  2 grams is saved each day and feed 6 grams of water and 12 grams of flour.  The storage starter is kept at room temperature.  The "discard" is placed in a container and placed in the fridge.  I make a huge loaf, 2300 grams, every week that I use to make sandwiches from for my lunch.  I just add my discarded starter into the dough of that loaf and I have no waste. 

Ladislav 2011 May 25

Thanks LeadDog, for a contribution.

I am amazed by the (very) small amounts of flour you work with. It's like a true laboratory technique! 

Has it anything to do with your line of work?

I will think about your method of adding a discarded starter to the dough.

 

Thanks for the quote too...

 

Ladislav

 

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2011 May 25

 I picked up the idea for the small amount a long time ago but don't seem to remember why, maybe just to reduce waste.  The most recent influence came from the Tartine bread baking book.  The book has a person use only 2 grams of starter to do their preferment builds with.  When I make my weekly loaf of bread I take 2 grams of starter and add that to 165 grams of water and 165 grams of flour.  It does make for a very nice active starter.  It became evident to me that a person doesn't need to have a very large storage starter and what I do works very well for me.

panfresca 2011 May 25

 LeadDog, I really like that idea. I'm stunned by the 1:165 starter:build ratio! Had no idea the critters had quite that appetite. How long would that take to ripen at room temp? 

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2011 May 26

 I normally do 24 hours but it is ready in 12 hours.  The Tartine book uses a time table of 12 hours I believe or even 8 hours.

atephronesis 2011 May 25

I am relatively new to sourdough and I was wasteful at first before I finally got the rhythm down. I keep a very small amount of starter in the refrigerator, about 50 grams. On baking day, I pour out 33 grams of the cold starter into the mixing bowl and mix in 33 grams of flour and 33 grams of water for my loaf. I let it wake up for 3 to 4 hours. At the same time, I add about 15 grams of flour and 15 grams of water to the "refrigerator" jar and leave it out next to the the mixing bowl on the counter. Then, when I am ready to make the dough, I pop the refrigerator jar back into the fridge.

Those portions suit my personal baking needs, but you get the idea. I bake a sourdough loaf at least once a week. Because I put the culture in the fridge after about a 3 hour wake up, it doesn't take too long to revive whenever I want to use it.

 

My first post here...

Ladislav 2011 May 25

Thanks atephronesis (is it "phronesis" as "wisdom"?)...for your precise feeding guideline. I will try to cut down the starter amount too although I am used to take out about 200g of the starter for the dough.

 

Yes, I have also found that letting a freshly fed starter to "wake-up" in the room temperature is beneficial.

 

Ladislav

 

Ladislav 2011 May 26

This is not a baking question but do you have any particular reason you like an Ancient Greek?

And also: "phronesis" rather then "sophia"?  :))

Ladislav

 

pollyanne 2011 May 26

 Just to add one further idea - I compost my discarded culture.  I figure it feeds my family one way or another.  (This also helps me justify the produce that sometimes does not get used before it becomes compost!).

Ladislav 2011 May 26

Quite an innovation. Never occured to me to compost a starter. Does the yeast culture do any harm to the usual composting process?

Ladislav

Jeff 2011 May 26

[quote=Ladislav]

Hi everyone,

I have found (as probably most of you have too) that discarding a half of the starter when feeding is really necessary for building-up  a healthy and vigorous bacteria colony. I take out a portion every Saturday and bake a bread from it but as it isn't enough, I still have to waste some (more feeding added then taken out).

Call me a penny-pincher but personally, I really hate sending it down the drain...and I can almost hear the poor bacteria screaming too :)  But obviously if I try to keep most of it - the starter becomes very weak...and then ultimately useless (the "acetone smelling stage").

Has anyone found any way around it?

Thanks

Ladislav

 

[/quote]

I never discard starter when I feed it. I use a large container, and use more starter in my bread, I get the benefit of a more sour loaf by using a larger starter. If it fills the container, I move it to the fridge to slow it down. I never need to throw it out.

pollyanne 2011 May 27

 well, to tell you the truth, I use the slow, cold method of composting, which means I may not know if it does any actual harm, but I figure that any natural decomposition or growth processes that go on will work toward the ultimate health of the compost...

Ladislav 2011 May 27

I know what you mean: finally everything goes "dust to dust",... but I tried to compost some "after baking" bits and small amounts of flour and it seemed to attract rats more then do any visible good to the composting process so I stopped doing that immediately :)

Ladislav

jandals 2011 June 25

You can make waffles with your excess starter. I found this fantastic recipe this morning and made waffles for lunch! Delicious!!!


Sourdough waffle recipe from King Arthur's Flour 200th Cookbook

Combine 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 2 T sugar, 2 cups buttermilk (warmed slightly) and 1 cup sourdough starter.  Let this work for a least 2 hours, best is to let it work overnight in the fridge.

Beat 2 eggs, 1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil, and 3/4 t salt and 1 t baking soda.  Blend into the sponge.

Ready to cook in the waffle iron, or as pancakes.

 

I used plain yoghurt instead of buttermilk.

 

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/lessons/sourdough#comment-5071

 

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