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Basic Techniques - Using a Starter

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Using a Starter

Starters offer an alternative method of preparing the yeast before mixing the bread dough. A portion of the yeast is prepared and then combined with water and flour. This mixture is then left to ferment for between two hours and five days, which results in a finished bread with an open, airy texture and a superior flavor. Breads made with a starter require planning because additional time is needed to allow the starter to ferment. Once the starter has fermented, it is ready for the mixing step. The main difference between the main starter methods described here is time; the ingredients are the same – flour, water, and yeast.


Making a starter

Any bread can be made with a starter. Simply mix some of the flour, water, and yeast together into a thick batter, and let it ferment at room temperature. The proportions of ingredients and the timing depend on the recipe. The timing varies from two hours for a French poolish to thirty-six hours for a fully matured Italian biga .


Creating and feeding a sourdough starter

A traditional sourdough starter is made with a flour and water paste that is left to ferment by wild airborne yeast. Here some yeast is added to encourage the fermentation process. Once established, a sourdough starter can be kept indefinitely in the refrigerator. The longer a starter is kept, the better the flavor of the baked bread. If you do not make bread regularly, it is important to “feed” the starter every two weeks. To do this, stir, discard half, and replace with an equal amount of water and flour.

A traditional sourdough starter is made with a flour and water paste that is left to ferment by wild airborne yeast. Here some yeast is added to encourage the fermentation process. Once established, a sourdough starter can be kept indefinitely in the refrigerator. The longer a starter is kept, the better the flavor of the baked bread. If you do not make bread regularly, it is important to “feed” the starter every two weeks. To do this, stir, discard half, and replace with an equal amount of water and flour.

In a large glass jar, sprinkle or crumble the yeast into the water; let it dissolve for 5 minutes. Stir in the amount of flour specified in the recipe. Cover the jar with a dish towel and ferment at room temperature for at least 48 hours and up to 5 days. The starter will become a loose, frothy batter. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

After using a portion of the starter, replace it with an equal amount of flour and water to keep it active for the next time you make bread. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup (250ml) starter, after removing this amount stir 1 cup (125g) flour and 1/2 cup (125ml) water back into the jar. Ferment at room temperature for 12–24 hours before refrigerating.


Old-dough method

A piece of “old dough” can also be used as a leavening agent. Instead of making a flour and dissolved yeast batter, simply incorporate a piece of dough saved from a previous batch of plain bread into your new batch. Old dough can be made from scratch and kept wrapped in the refrigerator for up to two days before using or freezing. Alternatively, when making a plain bread remove a walnut-size piece of dough after the rising period. Wrap the dough loosely in waxed paper and foil, allowing room for it to expand, then refrigerate or freeze it. To use the dough, if frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight, then let it rest at room temperature for a minimum of two hours.

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