A Starter/Levain Question

Discussion in 'Pastries & Baking' started by kylew, Oct 23, 2001.

  1. kylew

    kylew

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    This weekend I made Thom Leonard's Country French bread fro Artisan Baking Across America. His method calls for a small piece of "levain", disolving it in water and then adding flour. What you end up with looks a lot like the barm starter from Crust & Crumb, a thick batter like starter. I had a batch of "firm starter" a la C&C in the fridge and used .8 oz. of it as the seed for the starter. It worked nicely. Here are my questions-

    What is the relationship between the "firm starter" as described in Crust & Crumb, "old dough", and the "levain" called for in the Thom Leonard recipe? Are they variations on a theme?

    If I am right about the seed + water + flour= barm starter, Is there any reason why I could not just use refreshed barm?

    PS Joe Ortiz also uses a walnut sized, firm starter in his recipes. It seems the same would apply.
     
  2. thebighat

    thebighat

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    This stuff gets really confusing to me too. Old dough is a piece of dough, fully fermented complete with salt, that is anywhere from 3 hrs old at room temp, to 15 hrs old at refrig. temp. I use it a lot because it really jumpstarts a dough.
    The firm starter is, I think, just another name for an elaboration or a build. the bread made from it is generically called levain and is made from a starter which goes through several builds before being incorporated into a dough. It can get real tricky, if you read in The Bread Builders and now the Taste of Bread, how the acid levels vary in the different builds and the bakers would adjust how much they added to a dough. Way over my head. I think the terms levain and firm starter are just different terms to describe how one takes an active sourdough culture and multiplies it in terms of size, in order to add it to a dough.
     
  3. kylew

    kylew

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    I suspect there is something gained by taking a firm starter and reconstituting it. It sounds like old dough is a firm starter that has bee furthe "elaborated". How long can you keep old dough in the fridge? Is it added to a dough like a firm starter would be?
     
  4. thebighat

    thebighat

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    Well, according to Prof. Calvel, an old dough can be held for 16 hours. It's added during the last part of mixing the dough. But it's not going to be carrying the same microbial load that a firm starter like Reinhart's is, that's the principal difference. It's made from baker's yeast. I think you could add another build to a firm starter, if you needed to make an enormous volume of bread. To me, a firm starter is nothing more than a sponge made from a culture. It looks like a sponge, and acts like a sponge, to inoculate a dough with a mature fermentation.
     
  5. kylew

    kylew

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    My firm starter looks like a very firm dough. I add just flour to refreshed barm to get the firm starter. The 16 hour limit is a problem for me as I very rarely bake every day. I think If I work off refreshed barm and firm starter I should be able to accomodate most old dough recipes. I wonder if the increased macrobial load of the firm starter extends the shelf life. I know I have used week old firm starter and achieved pretty good results. I think it's time for a little more acsdemic reading.
     
  6. kylew

    kylew

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    My firm starter looks like a very firm dough. I add just flour to refreshed barm to get the firm starter. The 16 hour limit is a problem for me as I very rarely bake every day. I think If I work off refreshed barm and firm starter I should be able to accomodate most old dough recipes. I wonder if the increased macrobial load of the firm starter extends the shelf life. I know I have used week old firm starter and achieved pretty good results. I think it's time for a little more acsdemic reading.
     
  7. kylew

    kylew

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    My firm starter looks like a very firm dough. I add just flour to refreshed barm to get the firm starter. The 16 hour limit is a problem for me as I very rarely bake every day. I think If I work off refreshed barm and firm starter I should be able to accomodate most old dough recipes. I wonder if the increased macrobial load of the firm starter extends the shelf life. I know I have used week old firm starter and achieved pretty good results. I think it's time for a little more acsdemic reading.
     
  8. kimmie

    kimmie

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    Hi Kyle and TBH,

    That's an interesting question. What would happen if you froze it, to get around your 16 hour limit?

    :rolleyes:
     
  9. thebighat

    thebighat

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    Re-read Crust and Crumb, because I think he says you can freeze it. Kyle, this makes two completely different kinds of bread, you know this? They could look the same, but they won't taste the same. You wouldn't be really concerned about lactic and acetic acid making bacteria when you use pate fermentee. It's just too short a time frame and the yeast level in the old dough and the dough is going to be something on the order of 1.25 to 2%.
     
  10. kylew

    kylew

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    I want to go back and do lots of re-reading. Would there be a bigger yeast/bacteria load in the firm starter as opposed to the old dough?
     
  11. thebighat

    thebighat

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    I don't know about that, what the actual count is, but it's the nature of the bacteria and yeasts that's different. An old dough bread is leavened with baker's yeast, and a bread made with a firm starter, which may look and feel like an old dough, is leavened with wild yeasts and bacteria.
    I made the rustic loaf from The Taste of Bread Today, very nice stuff.
     
  12. kimmie

    kimmie

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    TBH,

    Did you try doing Calvel's French bread again? I remember you saying your experience with is wasn't so great!

    :chef:
     
  13. thebighat

    thebighat

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    I like the bread, I was only bemoaning the fact that I can't slash a baguette to save my life. I was looking at a baguette at the earthy/crunchy grocery store where I work part time(for now) from a place named Iggy's, and geez, it was beautiful. How do they do that? I say I'm working there for now because they had a new drill for closing...I had to count EVERY product in the bakery and write a number down in a teeny box. So there I am on my knees in front of this crammed cookie display, literally throwing my hands up, when my wife and one of my daughters walked up. Bear in mind, I'm an alcoholic drug addict (clean for a looong time) left-handed and have attention deficit disorder...I can't count all those cookies. No way.
     
  14. kylew

    kylew

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    13 years for me TBH:) I'm also glad to hear that professionals struggle with the slashing thing !
     
  15. kimmie

    kimmie

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    for the slashing thing! It looks so easy doesn't it!

    ;)
     
  16. thebighat

    thebighat

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    Everything you read says to make the cuts just before the bread goes in the oven. I'm wondering if you made them enough before loading them so that they would have to proof a little more and maybe push the edges of the cuts open. I find baguettes to be the hardest shape to make consistently nicely, and I used to make 30-50 a day. After reading parts of The Taste of Bread I can identify the method we had to use for our baguettes as what he calls the intensive method. It got a 17 minute mix on 3rd speed on an 80 qt Hobart which really beats the dough up. It would 90 degrees coming off the mixer and got no bulk fermentation. It was grossly warm and sticky and would rip when you tried to stretch it. I found it curious that the consultant who set the bakery up would go to such pains with his freshly ground whole wheat sponge and dough breads and then treat the hard crusted stuff, which is always a good seller, with disdain.