Stiff vs Liquid Starter

TeckPoh's picture

After reading LeadDog's and Davo's posts here, I thought we could have a whole thread to talk about Stiff vs Liquid Starter.

Well, I've been brought into the sourdough world with a liquid starter (100% hydration). Since then, I've come across formula and books (like Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking) which use a stiff starter. Both works. According to Glezer, "it is a better sourdough starter for homebakers than the typical batter-type one because it is very easy to tell if it is active enough to use. When ready, it will quadruple in volume in 8 hours or less." I have only tried it once, but, intend to delve more into stiff starters (new year resolution!).

I know there are other reasons for using a stiff starter. Over to you.......

298 users have voted.


jacklang 2008 December 18
Bernard Poitrenard "Commercial starters in France" in Kulp and Lorenz p204 puts it succintly
"A firm sourdough (55% water adsorption of the weight of flour used) encourages the production of acetic acid over lactic acid (stronger acidic flavour)
A liquid sourdough (100% water adsorption of the weight of flour used) encourages the production of lactic acid over acetic acid (milder acidity)"

Martinez-Anaya (op cit) says "Sourdoughs with low consistency produce more lactic acid and ethanol, ferment faster and consume more fermentable sugars" and cites W.Sieibel and J M Brummer  Cereal Foods World 36;299 (1991) and P, Weustink, Getreide, Mehl Brot 43;49 (1989)

Of course there are many other influences on flavour and perceived acidity besides hydration of the starter/preferment, and other reasons such as ease of handling and mixing that dictate the hydration.

Personally I prefer the flavour of a stiff starter/preferment, although the difference is only slight.
However its much easier using s stiff starter if machine mixing. If hand mixing/stretch and fold in any quantity its much easier to get an even distribution if using a wet preferment - a stiff preferment need breaking up in the water before mixing in, and that is another step.

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2008 December 19
I think Jack covered everything that I know about stiff vs liquid starters.  The reason I made the stiff starter was to make Pierre Nury's Rustic Light Rye bread that is in the book "Local Breads".  We are having a potluck today at work and that is the bread I wanted to make for it.  The starter for that bread is kept at 55% hydration and the preferment for the dough is 50% hydration.  The starter according to my nose had a much more noticable vinegar smell to it so that agrees with what Jack posted.  The bread is full of very big holes.  I'm going to write it up in a blog so you will get to see the pictures.
LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2008 December 19
TP the bread is already all gone.  The bread is wonderful.  Make some yourself and you will see.  Check out the pictures in my blog.  

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