The most exciting part about baking a sourdough loaf is that we bake with the same 4 ingredients and yet the results are so varied. A small change in quantities and ratios lead to a significant change in the end result. This time I have attempted a sourdough loaf with minimal sourdough starter. The impact of that experiment is here for all to see.
How much starter is needed for a good sourdough loaf?
The short answer is -“it depends”. People use anywhere between 10%-40% of the flour weight as the starter. If you use 100 gms of flour for the loaf then the starter will be between 10 gms to 40gms.
The actual amount of starter to use depends on the strength of the starter, weather in your area, preferred amount of sourness in the bread and the quality of flour you use.
If you like a distinct sour taste in your loaf then you can opt for more starter in your dough. The more frequently you use your starter the stronger it will be. The older your starter is the stronger it will be. Your starter will be a lot more stronger if you bake twice a week than once a month. If you use bread flour or flour with high protein then you need lesser starter as compared to weaker flours.
While other factors can be controlled, one thing that is completely out of control is the weather. I realise I talk a lot about the weather when I talk about sourdough baking. But we need to understand that the weather plays a key role in dough development and the final loaf. The easier way to manage this variable is to have a temperature controlled place to bake. But if like me you don’t have access to such options then you can alter your recipe and still enjoy a good sourdough loaf.
If you are baking when the weather is very hot i.e. above 32C or 89F, then you can reduce the amount of starter because the yeast in your starter will be active a lot faster thanks to the hot weather. 35% starter on a hot day could possibly turn your loaf quite sour and also get over proofed.
If you are baking when it is cold, i.e. below 22C or 71F, then you need to add a little more starter to improve the chances of the yeast becoming active and multiplying. At the lovely temperatures of 22C-28C or 71F-82F, you can play around with the recipe and time to get varied kinds of loaves with different textures and flavour profiles.
Usually I use between 20-25% starter to bake my loaves and they turn out beautiful. This time, I reduced the starter to 15%. The temperature was around 30C or 86F. So I could get away with lesser starter than usual. Though I feed and use my starter regularly, the flour we get here in India is not very high on the protein. Maida, a weaker form of all purpose flour, has only 8-9% protein content in the flour. So it was a bit of a risk to use less starter. The fallout could be a dense loaf or a very closed crumb.
In such cases, I find that the coil fold method better than the stretch and fold method for strengthening and gluten development in the dough. I let it rest longer for bulk fermentation and also proved it a bit longer in the refrigerator. The result, as you can see, is a beautiful open crumb and I am content with it!!
PIN IT FOR LATER
Rustic Sourdough Loaf with minimal starter
- OTG or MIcrowave Oven to bake
For the Sourdough starter
- 8 gms Unfed starter
- 15 gms All purpose flour
- 15 gms Water
For the Bread dough
- 250 gms All purpose flour
- 180 gms Water
- 38 gms Sourdough Starter
- 7 gms Salt
- In a glas or plastic jar, take the unfed starter and add the all purpose flour and water to it. Mix well to ensure no dry flour remains.
- After mixing, set aside the jar in a warm place to double in volume. It should take around 3-4 hours.
- Mix the flour and water for the bread dough. Cover and set aside. It is recommended to mix the flour and water atleast 2 hours before adding the salt and starter
- Once the starter is active and bubbly, add it along with salt to the bread dough. Mix well to ensure the starter is incorporated nicely into the dough. Set it aside for 30 minutes
- After 30 minutes, perform one round of coil fold as shown in the video. Set aside for 30 minutes again. Repeat the coil folds three more times at 30 minute intervals. The entire process will take 2 hours
- After the final round of coil fold, cover and set aside the dough in a warm place till it doubles in volume. It should take around 5 hours.
- Once the dough has doubles, transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Stretch and fold to form a tight dough ball.
- Transfer the dough to a banetton. Cover it and refrigerate it for around 15 hours. It should increase significantly in volume
- Preheat the oven to 230C
- Take out the dough from the refrigerator and transfer it to a greased dutch oven or any oven proof dish. Use a sharp blade to score the dough to slice it on top so that the steam can escape the bread as it bakes
- Bake for 40 minutes covered and 10 minutes uncovered
- Cool the loaf on a wire rack. Let it cool completely for around 2 hours before slicing it