Changing How We Mix Our Starters

The absolute best places to learn about baking bread are twitter, instgram and The Fresh Loaf. We can not list the amount of small tips and tricks we’ve picked up from other bakers’ tweets, or all the brilliant info we’ve gleaned from instagram conversations and Fresh Loaf threads. Not only is there usefull stuff but generally the online baking comunity is very helpful, it has been invaluable in the development of our bread baking at Baltic Bakehouse.

What we’ve been doing for a last couple of weeks is experimenting with short build times, which is reducing the amount of time the sourdough starter ferments after its final mix and before it is mixed into the dough. A combination of things led me to playing around with this, all of them from one source or another online. Firstly i was reading the brilliant Farine blog, which for any bread enthusiast is a must, I came across a post (which I can not find any more, I know talking about a post and not linking to it is a no no, sorry) with a baker talking about leavans and short build time, and once a starter has gone too far the bread won’t be good enough. This also happend while stumbling across the instagram feed of Philp Agnew, a baker in Australia, he bakes some fantastic looking bread and after reading through his accompanying blog was intrigued to see that he mainly uses short build times. His starter is mixed around 3 hours before it is mixed into the dough. 

This was interesteing because its not something we do, mainly because of schedual, we refresh and mix new starter last thing on the baking shift, around 4pm. This starter then rests for around 17 hours before being used the next day, it works well with our schedual and we got good results. However, it can be tricky due to the great varience of room temp during the year, it’s hard to get consistent results. I’d been thinking about how I could get a firmer grip on the starter refreshing times and this seemed to be it. So we changed to a 3 hour short build, with the starters for the days bake getting mixed at 6am, we use 50% mature starter, a blend of flours we’re happy with and final mix temp of 26 degrees. Once mixed they rest at room temp, we are generally mixing enough for them to hold their heat well, if you were trying this at home you might want to pop them in a warm place. When we get to about 9am, most of the mornings bake is finished and it’s on with the mixing for tomorrows bread. 

When mixed the starter is in a much less developed state, there is more strength to it and a more floral and youghurty smell, with a lot less acid development. This produces dough that feels different, I can’t really expalin exactly what that difference is, it just feels different to hold and shape. But the biggest change is the final loaf, in regards to texture, shape and appearance this method is so much better. These loafs have a more open and softer crumb, giving a loaf with better spring and volume, there are also many more blisters. The short build time has really helped, we wont be going back to our other methed.

I constantly find that good bread is about tweaking things, a little change here and a little change there. The ideal spark for these little changes can be an instagrm photo, or tweet or a fresh loaf post.