The question of stiff vs liquid starter has recently been bought up here on Yumarama and since it was discussed over on Mellow Bakers previously previously, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to carry that conversation across to the blog as well.
Someone recently asked what the point was between using stiff and liquid levain, specifically in Jeffery Hamelman’s book BREAD. I pondered and, in effect, could not come up with a solid answer for myself, primarily because I haven’t really dabbled with a stiff starter very much. But still, why DOES Jeffrey ask for a stiff starter here or a liquid (he prefers 125%) there? In other words, what are the benefits of each, in his view?
So I figured I’d go to the source and ask.
Someone recently brought up a question I was a little confused about and figured I’d go to the source to see about an explanation.
Same but different. Bread No. 51 for the MellowBakers.com Hamelman Challenge is a slight variation of the last bread I posted, the Pain au Levain. This time around, it includes both a liquid white sourdough starter and a stiff rye sourdough starter. Both were created from my normal 100% hydration white starter, PJ.
Is it worth keeping a liquid white sourdough starter and a whole wheat and a rye one, then maybe even stiff versions of each? Aside from the increased hassle of keeping the feeding schedule for a large number of different sourdough starters, there’s not really a great reason for the home weekend (or two) baker to go to all this trouble. I wrote to Jeffrey Hamelman about the issue of handling multiple starters recently and here’s what he said:
Thanks for writing and for asking your astute questions. Feel free to quote me on the answers.
I’ve maintained two starters for a number of years: a firm German-style rye culture (made the third week of August, 1980), and a liquid levain kept at 125% hydration (it’s about a dozen years old). We use the rye for all our rye breads, and the liquid is the base levain for all other breads. Continue reading “Pain au Levain with Mixed Sourdough Starters”
Trying to catch up on the breads I missed over the last few months while moving across the country, I chose to do the Normandy Apple Bread from our February list over at MellowBakers.com.
Again, this bread took a bit of pre-set up preparation although not as convoluted as yesterday’s Aloo Paratha. The ‘unusual’ aspects of this bread was the need for apple cider and dried apple slices.
Try as I might, I haven’t been able to find apple cider around here, although I’ll use the fact I’m not familiar with all the stores in this area yet as a plausible excuse. Maybe I passed by it several times without noticing. So instead, I found some natural apple juice, the kind that hasn’t been filtered and is slightly cloudy with a little bit of apple sediment at the bottom. It’s pretty tasty as juice so I hoped it would work well as cider substitute.
In a continuation of the “How To” on drying an active starter previously posted here, we’ll look at the steps to revive that starter. A few people have asked how this is done or how long it takes to get a dried starter back to active duty.
So let’s get going and you’ll see it its actually pretty fast and easy.
Our Mis en Place here is very simple: your starter flakes and some water. Here is the bag of dried starter I made from my ‘from scratch’ starter PJ in the other thread some 7 months ago. It has been kept in the freezer for most of that time. You may be using your own dried starter or a bit you got from a friend, a commercial one like Carl’s or King Arthur or specialty source starter from Sourdo.com… the specific source won’t make any difference, the reviving process is the same.
There you are, going along making another batch of tasty sourdough bread, everything’s going peachy, the dough is in the oven baking, making the kitchen smell heavenly, the loaves are a lovely golden brown and only a few minutes before it’s time to pull them out to cool, when you suddenly realize…
O! M!! G!!! You immediately feel flushed and light headed, your stomach suddenly knotting up: you’ve accidentally put ALL your starter into the dough and forgot to save some to keep feeding. There’s no way to get it back out of the dough, it’s now bread and well baked.
This is the end of your starter, one of the few ways to actually kill it.
Perhaps you’ve been cultivating this starter for several months or even years, perhaps it was even handed down to you from your great gran from the “old country” and there’s no way to get more. You even washed out the jar so you can’t scrape a little batch up from the smears on the sides and continue on.
Or maybe a good hearted soul decided they’d do you a big favour one day and clean your fridge of all the old stuff, that bottle of sauce with just a teaspoon left, the lettuce that’s seen a better day, that jar of white goo that smells really weird… all into the trash or recycling and the jars washed up. “See how neat it all is?” they proudly say.
Or you have not fired up the starter for a very long time and go to grab your yeasty pet only to find the contents are totally encased in mould.
Oh, I hear a few of you chuckle, “That would never happen to me” you say with confidence. Stop chuckling, this has happened to a LOT of people, people who are totally familiar with and have been using sourdough for years, verily, your “pro” home bakers. All of the above scenarios have happened to people I know.
An inattentive few moments and there goes that starter you created from scratch several years back, gone. The bread comes out of the oven and tastes great but it is a sad affair indeed because it’s the last you’ll get of old Sam or Punchy or whatever you named you pet starter. Gone to sourdough heaven.
All you can do now is start from scratch. In a few weks, you will have a new starter but it will take a long time before it has matured and developed its own character. And very likely it will be different from ol’ Sam.
So how do you avoid that heart-crushing scenario? Simple: dry your starter. Do it next time you do a starter feed. It’s crazy simple and will ensure you can revive ol’ Sam even if you do get a brain fart moment and toss all of it into your latest dough. Here’s how…