Author Topic: Starters...General Questions  (Read 1957 times)

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Offline iceman3876

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Starters...General Questions
« on: March 24, 2007, 09:59:24 AM »
Questions

I am new to the idea of starters and need some guidance.

1. What are the main advantages to using a starter?

2. Are starter weights subtracted from the usual weight of a dough when added in to dough?

3. If starters were left on counter (covered with cloth), how long could they survive without spoilage or    whatever term aplies?

4. Whats the advantage to a mail order starter?

5. Is idy yeast also used in conjunction with starters when mixing dough for slow rise? (

Thanks so much?


Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Starters...General Questions
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2007, 10:38:15 PM »
iceman3876,

I’ll take a first stab at your questions, and others may add their own comments.

The main advantages of using a starter in my opinion are the contributions of the starter to a more intense and complex crust flavor and aromas, and better crust texture and structure. Consequently, the pizza will have a more artisanal, and less commercial, character. When using a natural starter, the crust will also not stale as quickly, although this is normally not an issue for a bread product like a pizza crust that is usually completely consumed soon after it comes out of the oven, or a reasonable period thereafter. Of course, if a starter is used, there is no need to buy or use commercial yeast. However, one must feed the starter to maintain it. So there is a cost involved either way.

Many recipes treat the starter (or a preferment) as part of the recipe. It is also possible to add a starter to an existing recipe, but this is a less technically desirable approach in my opinion and may yield less predictable results. To give you a simple example of how the math works in the former approach, consider the following:

Total Formula:
Flour (100%):
Water (62%):
Salt (2.3%):
Total (164.3%):

Preferment:
Flour:
Water:
Total:

Final Dough:
Flour:
Water:
Salt:
Preferment:
Total:

182.59 g  |  6.44 oz | 0.4 lbs
113.21 g  |  3.99 oz | 0.25 lbs
4.2 g | 0.15 oz | 0.01 lbs | 0.75 tsp | 0.25 tbsp
300 g | 10.58 oz | 0.66 lbs | TF = N/A
 
 
7.5 g | 0.26 oz | 0.02 lbs
7.5 g | 0.26 oz | 0.02 lbs
15 g | 0.53 oz | 0.03 lbs

 
175.09 g | 6.18 oz | 0.39 lbs
105.71 g | 3.73 oz | 0.23 lbs
4.2 g | 0.15 oz | 0.01 lbs | 0.75 tsp | 0.25 tbsp
15 g | 0.53 oz | 0.03 lbs
300 g | 10.58 oz | 0.66 lbs  | TF = N/A

The above example is for a single 300-gram dough ball having the percentages of water and salt shown in the Total Formula section, and where the preferment (starter) represents 5% of the total weight of that dough ball and the starter itself is made up of 50% water and 50% flour. If you add up the ingredients in the Preferment section and in the Final Dough section, the result should be equal to the quantities recited in the Total Formula section.

I don’t know why you would want to leave a starter unattended and unfed, but I suppose ultimately the yeast in the starter would run out of food (sugars naturally present and extracted from the flour by the action of enzymes) and eventually the water (and possibly the alcohol) in the starter would evaporate and the starter would dry up. It perhaps could be revived by adding water and feeding it again, but I don’t know whether there would be some remnant damage.

When you buy a starter from a reliable and knowledgeable commercial source, such as from a company like sourdo.com, you will get a starter that has been produced under the proper conditions and you will also know the provenance of the starter. Homemade starters may work but they may be less reliable and unpredictable in performance. There may also be potential contamination or other quality issues when purchasing from intermediaries who are not the original custodians of the starter, like a sourdo.com. To a degree, where you get the starter depends on what you are trying to achieve. For some, having a true and faithful copy of the original starter is important. Others will be satisfied with homemade starters or starters, like Carl's, that are routinely shared and handed down from one person to another.

It is possible to supplement a natural starter with commercial yeast, as several members of the forum have done from time to time. Doing so, however, can alter the characteristics of the finished crust. When commercial yeast is used, usually it is combined with the natural starter and the other dough ingredients at the time of the final mix. In the above example, the commercial yeast would appear in the Total Formula section and also in the Final Dough section.

Peter

Offline iceman3876

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Re: Starters...General Questions
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2007, 11:38:20 AM »
Pete

Thank you for the information. I have to say that I have consistently made outstanding pizza with your information. I look forward to launching into the starter area of pizza making.

Thanks

Marty

Offline ron45

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Re: Starters...General Questions
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2007, 03:36:21 PM »
Well said Pete. The longer rise times associated with natural starters give a big boost to flavors of the grain. As you point out, I would not add commercial yeasts to a starter as they will probably completely defeat the yeasts in your starter and change the characteristics of the dough. My experience so far is in whole wheat bread baking using a desem starter. But the principals are not that different. I hope to adapt this starter which makes the lightest whole wheat [ 100% whole wheat ] bread I've ever come across, to use in making pizza dough. It may not work but I want to see what happens.

There are places where whole wheat doesn't work well such as tortillas or many deserts. But we used to get pizzas from a natural food co-op that were 100% whole wheat crust and delicious. I hope the desem starter will make the dough light enough to not get in the way of the flavor of the other ingredients. I'm in the process of casting the doors for my mud bread/pizza oven and will soon be ready to try my had at baking in one of these things.

Ron
Card carrying tree hugger.