Converting my seed culture to Peter Reinhart’s “mother starter”

Long ago I tried Peter Reinhart’s formula (in artisan breads every day) to create a “mother starter” (what you save and refresh and use to builder actual starter). I got some results but not very good and I eventually discarded the mess.

Meanwhile I’d gotten a packaged “sourdough” mix as a gift. I eventually mixed that and end up with a batter-ish seed culture, in a jar, that I’ve managed to keep alive for many months. It’s easy to feed and seems to be fairly robust. But my attempts to use it directly in making dough have had mixed results, primarily because none of the recipes really say how to use a seed culture like this (at least directly).

So I decided to try a little experiment. I’ll continue to keep my seed culture “batter” (it gets replenished when some is used for pancakes on Sunday) and then add a day to the normal two-day Reinhart processes. So my challenge was had to decrease the hydration of the seed culture to get something close to the Reinhart mother starter AND to create the correct quantity for input into the actual starter (which usually needs 71g) without waste (replenishing the “mother” was hard and that’s probably why I lost it before, so now my idea is to make a new one, from the easier-to-maintain seed culture, as needed.)

I also was put off my the stretch-and-fold approach to kneading in my earliest reading of Reinhart’s books, but after a lot more experience and a lot more reading (multiple books) I’ve also decided to get that another try. So my target is the Pain au Levain (p.61) “purist” version with stretch-and-fold (I found yesterday fastidious following of Reinhart’s directions produced a great loaf of what is called “transitional sandwich” from the whole grains book).

So (before I knew my target quantity was 71g) was my experiment:

  1. 1/4c (67g) of my seed culture (definitely a “batter”, not a dough, even a sponge)
  2. 20g whole wheat flour (not enough, still too sticky)
  3. 10g whole wheat flour (hard to mix but still not enough)
  4. 5g whole wheat flour (very difficult to incorporate, seemed OK until after a lot of kneading, still a little sticky)
  5. 5g (approximately) of all-purpose (just convenient since I’d put whole wheat away, thinking I was done in step 4)

But after looking at the pictures (p.43) I think I went a little too far, so I’m thinking (nice simple number) use 33g of whole wheat and knead (a lot) with floured hands). Now my experiment should have added up to about 107g but I must have had some losses (like what stuck to my hands) as I weighed out only 101g of the finished product.

So now I need to: a) compensate of my backing off of flour added, and, b) the discrepancy of calculated to weighed. Let’s see: a) use 100g (total) instead of 107g as mix, so reduce created amount by 0.934, and, b) compensate for loss (got 101 instead of 107), so increase by 1.059. Net result, adjust by 0.989. IOW,

  1. 67.8g of seed
  2. 33.4g of whole wheat

Now adjust these down to 71g, by simple factor of .71, with final result:

  1. 48g of seed
  2. 24g of whole wheat

Now there are enough “errors” in all this (my feeding does not precisely maintain the hydration ratio) that the first time I use this formula, I need to potentially adjust a little (final weight may be slightly off) for weight of finished product and “feel” (should be a little sticky still to make Reinhart’s mother) and I should be able to use that, the next day, for the actual starter.

Now, after mixing there is still some more work:

  1. leave the mother at room temp for 4-8 hours to get 2x rise (with such a small quantity this is going to be tricky to determine, my experimental batch is now on counter and I should start monitoring about 5pm to get a feel)
  2. after the 2x rise, knead briefly (just to degas) and then seal tightly (plastic wrap) and return to the fridge.

Obviously since this could take up to 9 to do all this, I should start (given my schedule) by 3pm to get the mother in the fridge.

Now for the Pain au Levain starter (make on “day 2”), I’ll need:

  1. all my mother (will make more as needed, Reinhart has a much larger batch but I don’t bake often enough to use it so would just waste a lot throwing it out and meanwhile replenishing, easier just to think a day ahead)
  2. 142g while bread flour
  3. 85g whole wheat flour
  4. 151.5g water

Mix for 2 minutes (hand, I know I’ll need to do that, mixer handles this poorly, plus is more trouble to get out and then clean up), then knead for 30 seconds. Starter should be “tacky or slightly sticky”. Leave at room temp for 6-8 hours to get 1.5x rise (so again need to start around 3pm).

Plus somewhere (need to find again) I think either the starter or the dough should go longer than one overnight for optimal flavor development, so in reality getting the dough ready for baking is actually a 4 day process (!!), so this means starting on Monday in order to bake on Friday.

So that’s my next adventure.

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About dmill96

old fat (but now getting trim and fit) guy, who used to create software in Silicon Valley (almost before it was called that), who used to go backpacking and bicycling and cross-country skiing and now geodashes, drives AWD in Wyoming, takes pictures, and writes long blog posts and does xizquvjyk.
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3 Responses to Converting my seed culture to Peter Reinhart’s “mother starter”

  1. dmill96 says:

    The converted seed culture worked fine (nice rise in the mother starter). With the excess, after making the actual starter today, I made a simple “tortilla”. It was surprisingly sweet, although it should have had a smidgen of lard and salt to be an actual tortilla. The starter had risen nicely and is now waiting the dough making step tomorrow. We’ll see if all this was worth it.

  2. dmill96 says:

    Well the dough is in the fridge now. Stretch-and-fold was difficult since I only made a half batch and there wasn’t much mass to resist the stretch (just lifted dough ball off the board). Smells good, but we’ll see tomorrow in the baking.

  3. Pingback: What is the point of blogging? | dailydouq

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