Starter Varieties (trouble shoot)

I’m experimenting different kinds of starters. I’ve succeeded with 100% plain white and 50/50 all-purpose/rye.

Bothe of them pass the floating test, except the 100% whole meal starter, it never floats!

I know that floating test is not the only base to relay one,

Is this normal because whole wheat is dense?

Also, anybody tried all spelt starter? I felt it’s weak and collapse quickly.

Whole grain and low gluten sourdough starters will look different from all purpose or bread flour starters. They’ll collapse when stirred and not have big surface bubbles, and they possibly won’t float because it’s the trapped air that makes the starter float and without much gluten to trap the air, down it goes. Flour type also impacts how quickly the starter peaks when fed.

Possibly there’s a slight difference in yeast and bacteria types and ratios, but in my experience,
Starter type doesn’t impact the final bread you make; it’s the flour in the final dough that matters most.

The point of starter is to cultivate a population of yeast and bacteria you use to then inoculate what is usually a much larger dough. I find that the flours that make up that larger dough will have a much bigger impact on your resulting bread.

Here is an interesting discussion and a big research article on this subject.

If you happen to have a recipe that calls for a humongous quantity of starter, obviously it will impact the final bread more.

You can actually see this in the spelt ciabatta recipe, where for one batch I used spelt starter, so all the flour in the final dough is spelt. And for the other batch I used in all-purpose flour starter, so that dough is a mix of different flours and much airier.

This difference isn’t because of the microbes in the starters; it’s because of the characteristics of the wheats in the final dough.

Here’s that spelt ciabatta recipe if you want to look at the photo galleries.

I am afraid to even say it as I trust her instincts better than my own, but I have to disagree with Melissa ever so slightly. To me, if you use a standard amount of starter (e.g., 20%) of a different type of flour, that is something that can change the bread in a noticeable although not dramatic way. That would mean that approximately 9.1% of the flour in the bread is from the starter. Not a huge amount, but noticeable especially if you are adding, for example, whole wheat starter to an otherwise all white bread flour recipe.

I just keep a single starter these days, but I use it to make a levain of different flours before baking. For example, my bake today will be 100% bread flour (and a teaspoon of turmeric) with a 20% kamut levain made overnight at 1:5:5 to yield 80g (8g starter with 40g water and 40g Kamut flour). I like adding the kamut flavor (although I doubt it will be noticeable at all in this case with the tumeric added) and also used it in the hope that it would be less obvious when folded into the atomic yellow turmeric flour.

I agree with you – I just phrased my thoughts unclearly 🤦

What I more meant to say is what you’re saying – I think – that the flour in the starter impacts the final bread because it contributes the final dough, but not because it changes the character of the starter and it’s microbes.

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Thank you Melissa for the clarification and the informative links posted, which will help to gain more knowledge on how different starters works.

my aim for testing different starters, is to find out whethere it enhances the flavor of the bread or add knots (ex: tangy, nutty, earthy…etc), or build a complex flavor!

And that’s bring a question to my mind, will this be noticeable in only plain bread (1 kind flour), and not noticeable in mixed flours?

and i noticed whole grain starter kicks the fermentation.

usually i use 50g starter for 500g flour.

thank you for contributing in this topic.

i use recipes with require either strait starter, or levain.

as i mentioned my aim for testing different starters, is to find out whethere it enhances the flavor of the bread or add knots (ex: tangy, nutty, earthy…etc), or build a complex flavor! and will this be noticeable in only plain bread (1 kind flour), and not noticeable in mixed flours?

My thoughts…

One can only get a lot of flavour from a starter if the flour itself, be it starter and/or final dough, can impart flavour.

So I think I’m leaning towards what @Fermentada said if I’ve understood it correctly. Bread dough is starter! Albeit with salt, the correct hydration, gluten formation etc. But essentially its starter and indeed can be starter for the next loaf. The potential for starter to impart flavour obviously can be tweaked to how it’s kept, how mature and how much is used etc. But how it’s used and the flour used will affect the final loaf.

You can have the most tangy starter in the world but use just little to make an all durum flour bread and the durum flour will tame it right down and you won’t notice it. Same too if you use durum flour for the starter itself. It simply can’t get the same tang as normal wheat flour.

So flour in the starter, how much starter is used to the ratio of flour in the final loaf will all affect the final outcome.

Starter used as seed only to build a levain is pretty much only that - starter. Flour used for the levain, to what extent it’s fermented and the % used in the final loaf will have a bigger effect than the seed starter itself. That’s what a levain is! The beginning of the recipe where you home in on the final outcome. If the levain is a big percentage and you’ve used durum flour that will make it less tangy. If the starter is durum flour but it’s been used to preferment a large % of whole wheat flour then the whole wheat flour will impart more flavour than the sweeter durum starter.

If you have a really tangy starter but build a levain and use it young then it will take away the tang.

It’s all a balancing act.

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thanks for clearing that up.