For beginners, I would recommend maintaining a white roller milled starter. I can predict the timing of a white starter. All white roller milled flours across the world are similar, and so this means I can be more precise with timings and temperature.
Ironically to get a white starter you need to convert a wholegrain one that you have developed with organic microbe-rich flour. It might seem counter-intuitive but the white starter is a slow starter that peeks after 8 – 12 hours. It means you can refresh before you go to bed and it will be at its microbial peek as you wake up in the morning. To convert, you simply change your refreshment flour and use white roller milled flour.
Most people want a set routine when it comes to refreshing starters.
For beginners I would recommend the following:
- 100g roller milled white flour
- 100g water at 23C
- 25g of sourdough starter. (please discard the rest – or you can use it in other formulas)
Mix together the flour, water and starter in a clean pot, and put a lid on that is not airtight. Leave for 8 hours at room temperature (22C) and it will be ready to use when it has doubled in size. You can use it for about 2 – 3 hours. At this point, you do two things. Make your leaven whilst it is wild and bubbly and active. Then you pop it back in the fridge unit the next time you need to use it.
This way it is stored whist the microbes are at their highest number.
Leave it any longer and it will start to sink as the gluten starts to degrade. It is best to put it back in the fridge. You need to refresh it about once a week even when you are not baking.
Once you start getting familiar with this routine you can start to tweak the water, the temperature and the timings, but to begin with please stick to this routine.
For the domestic baker who wants to make amazing bread like the bakeries, refreshing once isn’t enough to build the numbers that a starter in a bakery has. To build up your starter, the best thing you can do is DOUBLE refresh your starter. Back to back, without refrigerating it. The white roller milled starter is easy to refresh because this can be done about 12 hours apart.
Timings to refresh your starter for the retarded method:
I like to refresh at 10 am and again at 10 pm the day before I bake. This will give you the best loaf.
An example if you want to bake on Sunday:
- Refresh Friday Morning at 10am
- Refresh Friday Night at 10pm
- Saturday morning make a fast leaven and then pop your starter straight back in the fridge.
Things to Refresh your starter for the ambient method:
Refresh the night before you want to make your leaven, and again in the morning.
An example is that if you want to bake on a Saturday:
- Refresh on Thursday Evening at 10 pm
- Refresh Friday morning at 10am
- Friday night at about 9 pm your starter is ready to use to make your slow white leaven, then pop your starter straight back in the fridge.
Please note: when you take your starter out of the fridge to begin your refreshment schedule don’t worry if there is a hooch on top (a grey liquid), it is a naturally occurring alcohol and it just means your starter is ready to be fed. Just stir it back in, or if it is very old (ie you have been away for some time) pour it away.