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Regular Starter

We need 288 grams of rye starter to make the breads in this recipe. If you want to be really excruitiatingly correct, you could make 144 grams each of a starter with a lighter rye flour and a darker rye flour. This is more practical if you scale the recipe up and are making more than a few loaves. For this batch, we'll make 288 grams of starter with medium rye flour.

I find that it takes a few days for a starter to really hit its stride when it comes out of the fridge. That is covered in the page on reviving a starter. So, we start with a small amount of a starter and feed it up for two or three days. You can start with a wheat flour starter or a rye flour starter - we use so little of it, it really doesn't matter which we start with.

We'll start 2 days before we want to bake. I want to start making my dough about 9:00 AM. (Hey, bake day is a Sunday, and I want to sleep a little late!) I like to feed the starter about 5 hours before I want to use it. How long your starter will need to wait after being fed will depend on your starter.

Feeding Day Time Starter Flour Water
1 Friday 4:00 AM 9 grams 5 grams 5 grams
2 Friday 4:00 PM 19 (from previous feeding) 9 9
3 Saturday 4:00 AM 37 18 18
4 Saturday 4:00 PM 73 36 36
5 Sunday 4:00 AM 145 72 72

Let's be honest here. I'm not getting up to feed the starter at 4:00 AM. I'll feed it at 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM because 6:00 AM is when I normally get up. I will get up at 4 on bake day, feed the starter, and go right back to bed. But not day in and day out. As the amount of starter goes up, so do the number of feedings to get the quantity you want. I prefer to feed a starter fresh out of the fridge for three days. However, that doesn't always happen. In this case, the starting amounts of starter, flour and water would have been smaller than I like to mess with. If the starter isn't lively, perhaps another feeding or two and delaying baking would be in order. Remember, if the starter isn't in good shape, chances are the bake won't go well either.

Detmolder Starter

While the usual way of handling the rye starter works well, in the past few years, I've become very attached to the Detmolder Three Stage Starter process. It was developed by the people at the German Federal Institute for Grain-, Potato- and Fat Research (Bundesanstalt fuer Getreide-, Kartoffel- und Fettforschung (BAGKF)) in Detmold, Germany. Each stage contributes to the starter's revival and growth. It lets me revive a starter from the fridge faster than any technique I know of. It seems to me that the starters revived this way deliver more rise and more flavor than regular starters. However, it is a bit of a hassle to use the Detmolder three stage process. My friend Samartha has an excellent overview of the process on his webpage.

Here's a description of the process.

Stage 1 is called the refreshing sour. It starts out with a small amount of starter, and is mixed with flour and water to produce a very wet starter at around 140% hydration. It is run for 6 hours at 80 F. This stage promotes yeast growth.

Stage 2 is called the basic sour. It is drier than stage 1 with a hydration of 66%. It goes on for 24 hours at 82 F. This stage promotes acidity and taste components.

Stage 3 is called the full sour and it has the same hydration as stage 1. It is a short stage, going on for just three hours at 86F. This stage promotes growth again, and gets the bacteria and yeast components back in balance.

All that said, it is worth mentioning that Jeffrey Hamelman was more concerned about the feeding quantities than the temperatures in Camp Bread 2007. The facilities didn't have a proofer available for the three stage Detmolder starter, so Jeff told us how to cope with the temperatures we experienced. If he wanted to cool the starter, he'd put the container on the floor. If he needed to warm the starter, he'd put the container on a work bench. If things were cool, he'd make a thinner stage as thinner starters work more quickly. If the bakery seemed warm, he'd make a thicker stage. I'm not that confident in my shoot from the hip baking skills, so I tend to use careful measurements and keep my temperatures under control.

Because the Detmolder starter is a bit more dry than the regular starter, we use less of it and dilute the starter with a bit more water to get the dough hydration right. All that said, here's the feeding plan to create 220 grams of the Detmolder starter.

Stage Day/Time Starter Water Flour Temperature
Refreshing Sour 11:00 PM Friday 2 grams 4 grams 3 grams 80F / 27C
Basic Sour 5:00 AM Saturday 11 grams (from Refreshing Sour) 24 grams 32 grams 82F / 28C
Full Sour 5:00 AM Sunday 67 grams (from
Basic Sour)
78 grams 78 grams 86F / 30C

If you are very observant, you might notice the final amount of starter is a bit over the 220 grams we need. This is because I rounded the ingredients so you wouldn't have to measure 1.3 grams of starter, 3.9 grams of water, 2.6 grams of flour and other inconvenient amounts.

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