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2019-06-23 - The Detmolder Three Step!

No, not the Texas Two Step, that's something else again
The week before last we talked about starter rehabilitation, using the Five Percent Solution, or the Five Percent Kick. It is a very workable way to jump start a slow starter.  However, the five percent kick isn't very sophisticated. It gives the starter a heck of a lot of food all at once and the starter gorges itself and takes off like a rocket.  But, it works!

Sadly, this tends to benefit the yeast more than the bacteria and should, at least in theory, lead to milder breads. For more sophistication, and more balance, we're heading across the ocean to Detmold Germany, the former home of Bundesanstalt fuer Getreide, Kartoffel und Fettforschung (BAGKF), the German Federal Institute for Grain, Potato and Fat Research.

They developed a number of ways to revitalize a sourdough starter. In this article, we'll talk about the Detmolder Three Stage (sorry, the three step was an attempt at humor) Process. It consists of three stages, which together are designed to build a balanced healthy sourdough starter. It is intended for rye flour, where its benefits help make better rye breads, but it is also very useful for wheat starters as well.

If you are looking for a more in-depth discussion about reviving starters, look at our "reviving starters" page.

The stages specify how much the starter is fed, how long the stage continues, and the stage's temperature. Here are the three stages:

Stage Stage Name Function Hydration Time Temperature
1 Refreshing or freshing stage Encourages yeast growth 150% 5 - 6 hours 78 - 80F
25 - 27C
2 Basic Sour Encourages bacterial growth, or sour potential 60 - 65% 15 to 24 hours 74 - 82F
23 - 28C
3 Full Sour Balance the yeast and bacterial activity 100% 3 - 4 hours 85F

This process is loved by German bakers because it is fast and it grows very quickly. In just over a day, you can go from 100 grams of not very happy starter to 18,000 grams of very happy starter.

The Detmolder Three stage technique allows you to maintain a smaller amount of starter than doubling it twice a day would lead to. When I don't have time to feed a refrigerated starter for three days before using it, I'll use the Detmolder Three Stage process. If you'd like to download a copy of the starter calculation spreadsheet, just download this archive from our web site.

The information above makes it seem that the process is terribly finicky and precise. It's not quite that bad. In a rye bread class at Camp Bread 2007, Jeff Hamelman needed to get some starter ready for the next day. The temperatures in San Francisco were a bit low. He was offered the use of a proofer so the starter could be kept at the correct, precise, temperature. He commented there was no need, it wasn't that exacting. He put the bucket of starter on a work bench because that was warmer than on the floor. If the room had been too warm, he would have put the bucket on the floor because floors are usually cooler than the room's air. The bread came out wonderfully! (Of course!) If you have a proofer, and your kitchen or bakery is too cold, by all means use the proofer. But you don't have to.

The rest of this post will be about using the spreadsheet. The file in the archive you want is startercalc5.xls This file will work with Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice Calc and LibreOffice Calc.

Unless you want to modify the spreadsheet, everything you need is on the first sheet of the spreadsheet.

Column B has the labels that A look at the control area of the spreadsheetdescribe the contents of column A. B3 says "Method" and A3 has a dropdown menu which allows you to choose between nine different feeding protocols for your starter.

To the right, around area C1 - H4 is an explanation of the feeding regimen you have chosen.

Cell A4 is where you enter the number of grams of starter you need.

Cell A5 is where you can enter the date when you need the starter. In this example, I want to use the starter on June 28th, 2019.

Cell A6 is where you can enter the time of day you want to use your starter. In this example, I want to start mixing my doughs at 7:00 AM.

Cell A7 allows you to enter the percentage of Calcium Sulfate you want to add to your starter. Calcium sulfate, also known as Gypsum, is used to harden soft water and was part of an effort on my part to investigate the impact of harder waters on dough development. My suggestion is don't use it. I'll probably remove this field in the next version of the spreadsheet.

Lines 10 through 24 show the feeding schedule. You may notice that the last feeding is at 100% hydration, but the final starter is at 94.2% hydration. That is normal, as the second phase is quite dry. In practice, I've not had any issues using this starter as if it was at 100% starter. If this worries you, you can add a bit more water after the starter is developed. (I should probably add a line telling people how much water to add to get 100% hydration starter. Another task for version 6.)

To the left, you can see the dropdown menu showing the none feeding protocols this spreadsheet supports.
A look at the method dropdown As you select different protocols, the descriptive text to the right will change.

Sorry about the absurd fractions, feel free to round the numbers. (That will be a project for the next version.)
As a "reality check" the spreadsheet shows the desired and actual amount of starter the feeding should produce, any error in the amount due to rounding, and the starter hydration.

Of course, there are real world influences on the amount of starter you actually create. The amount that gets stuck to your spoon, carried out of your mixing bowl and lost. The starter gives off carbon dioxide as it ferments. And there is a certain amount of evaporation. I usually make about 10% more starter than I actually need so I'll be sure I have enough, and to be sure I have some left over to build up to the next bake.

If you have questions, please get in touch with me! Until next time, may your dough always rise, no matter whose tools tell you how to feed your starter!

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