Frequently Asked Questions!!
Like I mentioned in the beginning of the post my starter is just about a month old as I write this post.
However since we did a bake along on Instagram, I had an amazing response from you guys.
So many of you joined hands in this and when so many people come together we are bound to have some queries, mistakes, success, failures, disappointments, happiness and what not right.
I used to get so many queries every single day that I have compiled them all here for you guys!!!
So here is a series of FAQ's that were asked to me. If I miss anything do drop a comment or send me a DM on Instagram I would love to clear it out for you.
Do we have to use Glass Jar?
Yes a clean wide mouth and tall glass jar is preferred.
It is easier to clean, easier to see through and the chances of any contamination happening is negligeble.
You do not have to go purchase one for the same. I am reusing my olives jar container.
Having said that you can also use tupperware bowl or a plastic container too but glass is preferred.
What is the temperature of Water?
The preferred ideal temperature is 85°F so if you have a thermometer go ahead and use it.
My thermometer got spoilt just before lockdown and I could not buy one so I do a pinky finger test, which is dip you pinky finger in warm water and count till 20.. If you are able to keep your hand immersed without having the need to take it out then you are good to go.
You can also use room temperature water too, just that it would take a little longer for the yeast to get activated.
Remember yeast prefers warm environment to flourish and grow.
Since we are talking about water I would like to add that use filtered water.
Chlorine in the water would contaminate and hinder the yeast activity.
Can I use regular APF (Maida) or whole wheat flour (Atta) to make the starter?
You can absolutely use any flour to make the starter.
The point here is higher the percentage of bran and husk present in the flour more of their own wild yeasts and bacteria attached to the flour. That is why using a whole organic grain like whole wheat or rye is recommended for starting a starter from scratch. (Note the flour mentioned above and copy paste)
Exactly what do you do with the starter? Is it Healthy?
In simple terms the Sourdough Starter is the replacement for commercial yeast.
This is the yeast that our ancestors have been using to make bread before the invention of commercial yeast and bread made using this starter is considered to be healthy as it is easy to digest by the body.
And the bonus it tastes amazing
Once the Sourdough Starter is ready, can we replace it with yeast in a recipe directly?
No you cannot directly replace the yeast with the starter.
Then how to replace yeast for starter?
Theoretically, for 8 gms of instant yeast or active dry yeast, we will be using 1 cup of Starter.
How much is 1 cup of Sourdough Starter? - Not measured yet. I will update it the next time I take my starter out to feed.
Also the time duration to proof the dough is more as compared to the regular bread dough.
I have not tried this method yet, I found this article on the internet which can read for more information on this topic.
What is the difference between Sourdough and Yeast Bread? Which is better?
In Sourdough Bread we make use of the culture that is made from scratch which means the leavening of the bread is brought about by natural wild yeast.
And the yeast bread as the name suggests is made using commercially available Yeast.
Anyday Sourdough is healthier, more nutritious and easily digested by the body,
Think of it as Idli being the healthiest breakfast in India same is Sourdough to the western world.
What can we do with the discard? Throw it or Use it?
I recommend the discard for the first 7 days to be treated as discard only.
In the first 2-3 days bad bacteria gets killed and we do not want to use that in recipes right.
After day 7 you can use the discard in a plethora of recipes like banana bread, pancakes, kulcha, waffles, crackers, naan, jalebis, bhature etc.
Refer the next section for more Discard Recipes.
The texture of my Starter was thin, watery on top and doughy at the bottom on Day 3, Is it normal?
Yes it is.. It indicates that the starter needs more flour to balance out the water collection on top.
I personally experience this too.
But I did not alter the recipe as the hydration levels would mess up.
I simply stirred it and continued with the feeding. My starter was just fine from day 5.
The reverse can also happen. That is the starter might be too paste like specially if you are using Whole Wheat Flour.
In that case also do not worry you are doing just fine.
Just continue you are doing great and your starter would be just fine.
I do not have a weighing scale, can I follow cup measurements?
As a beginner I would not recommend this.
It would become too difficult to calculate the hydration level while making bread.
As 1 cup of flour is not equal to 1 cup of water by weight.
That being said there are blogs who do share the recipe for the same so please feel free to check that.
Can we use a starter made from Wheat Flour to make bread using All Purpose Flour (Maida) or Bread Flour?
It does not matter what flour the starter is made from. You can easily interchange and use.
And this is what bakeries usually do.. They make starters using cheap flours I mean in terms of cost and make bread using nutritionally rich and enriched organic flour.
But this won't be true for gluten-free bread and since I do not have the expertise in that please check with the recipes that you are following.
How do you know that the starter is matured and ready? Is it just based on the number of days?
So on Day 3-5 you won't observe anything drastic.
On Day 6 you would start seeing small bubbles.
Day 7, after you feed your starter the starter should rise and become double if not tripled in a span of 4-6 hours with the characteristic big big holes.
That is how you know it is ready.
Other thing to note is Smell - you would get a characteristic bread like or yeasty pleasant smell.
Next Float Test: Without disturbing the air pockets formed take some and add it to water.
If the starter floats on top you know it is ready. This is not hundred percent true. For some it works and for some it doesn't.
Please remember that every starter is different.
You might not see any rising in your starter on day 7. For me it took 10 days to actually see the rising
It is like a baby reaching its milestone of turning around, crawling, sitting, standing and walking. So do not go by the number of days just observe your starter for significant rise and characteristic bubbles.
At what stage should I use the Starter?
So your starter is doubling and rising in the 4-6 hours mark.
It has big and small bubbles.
For some it even passed the float test.
Now what? When do I add it to the dough?
There is a right stage.. Your starter should be at its peak.
When you feed the starter, it starts rising and in 4-6 hours doubles or triples in volume. But after that it starts falling back due to lack of food.
You have to use your starter before it falls back.
Check the image below..
The blue arrow indicates that the starter reached its peak.
The pink arrow indicates it is now falling down. Which means the starter cannot be used to make bread at this stage.
I would say take a day to observe how your starter is rising, till where it rises, how much time it takes to rise, when it starts falling back, how long does it remain at the peak stage.
Once you get familiar with these things you can start baking bread the next day.
What will be the final quantity of starter this Starter recipe would yield?
If you follow the recipe from the recipe card on page 5 you will always have 100 gms of Starter in your Mother Jar.
I have explained how to increase the feed for recipes on Page 7 and How to care and store your starter on Page 8
It is Day 10 today and I still do not see any activity? Should I continue?
Yes do not get disheartened.
As long as you have not used Hot Water there is no way you have killed your starter.
So please continue.
Try using premium quality flour for your next feed and keep it in a warm place.
How to bring up the Starter to 100 percent Hydration?
I got a message from a fellow reader on our Instagram bake along series.
She said she made her starter from some other recipe and was not sure about the percentage.
What you can do in that case is take out 20 gms from your Mother Starter.
To that add 10 gms Water and 10 gms Flour. Mix and allow to rise.
After 12 hours repeat this step.
Follow this for 3 days and you will get your starter to 100 percent.
Usually recipe calls for 1:1:1 ratio of Starter:Flour:Water. Why are you using only 25 gms for feeding and not 50 gms?
As a beginner we need to use our resources wisely.
So it is better to go with less quantities.
That is the only reason we are using 25 gms and not 50 gms.
Your yeast gets accustomed to the feeding schedule you practise so do not worry just go ahead.
You can even start with as little as 10 gms of Starter. Here is a mini version that I tried using 10 gms Starter: 5 gms Flour : 5 gms Water
Why do we have to discard each time?
There are two reason for the same:
- You have started with 50 gms Water and 50 gms Flour. So your jar has 100 gms culture in it.
For the Day 2 feeding you would add another 50:50 so your starter would now have 200 gms in it.
For Day 3 feeding you would then add another 100:100 so now your starter would have 400 gms of Culture in it.
So can you imagine how difficult the calculations would get and how much of a big Jar you will have to use? It is not practical right.
- The other reason is the yeast needs fresh food and air to breathe. Taking out a small portion ensures that the starter always gets fresh food to eat.
My started is separated into two with a brown line in between. What should I do?
The brown line is known as HOOCH.
Very common. It indicates that the starter is hungry and needs feeding.
I personally got this on Day 3.
So I fed my starter twice on Day 3 and Day 4 and from day 5 followed the recipe.
Sometimes the brown line would appear in between or at the bottom or at the base. Do not worry. It is fine.
You can either remove that part or mix that in. Doesn't matter. I mixed mine.
I have some Yellow/Pink Spots on my Starter, is that normal?
No it is not.
Pink or Yellow spots indicates that the starter is contaminated and you need to start again.
I do not have a Dutch Oven, can I use something else to bake?
You can read the whole purpose of using the dutch oven from our No Knead Bread post.
If you do not have dutch oven then you can use either an iron skillet or pizza stone preferably as the base.
And cover the dough using the bowl of your stand mixer.
Can I feed the starter any time of the day? Why stick to a routine?
Theoretically you can feed your starter once every 24 hours.
But think of it as a Pet, you do feed them at regular time intervals right.
So till day 15 please try to maintain and stick to a routine time as the Yeast would get adjusted to that and will get to know how much feed and what time the will receive their feed.
Aren't they smart??
So I think I have covered it all, let me know if you still have any queries I would be happy to help.