Sunday, 12 May 2013

WHAT'S A STARTER?

Ever since I discovered the benefits of a bread starter, I’m inclined on using one. You might even say I’m on a roll! (Sorry, I had to say it.)

I recently came across a recipe that uses taro paste to make a Water Roux汤种. Can you believe it? Taro! I'm so going to try it out.

So, just what is a starter? It is essentially made up of flour, water and a little yeast. You mix the ingredients together and leave aside to ferment for several hours. All (or part) of the starter is then combined with the bread dough. A starter is also called a sponge, a mother dough or a pâte fermentée.
Some common starters are:

Old dough / pâte fermentée/ 老面 - a piece of dough held back from a previous batch of bread which is used as a starter for a new batch

Water Roux / 汤种 – has the consistency of a smooth paste and popular in home baking

Poolish – a fairly wet sponge made with a ratio of equal water and flour and most often used in French baking. 

Biga – and Italian-style firm starter

Sourdough/ 酸酵种 - as long as the starter is properly fed and cared for, it can be kept active for years to provide predictable results over and over again

Why use starters?  According to Amy’s Bread, starters not only help the bread rise. They also “provide a wonderful aroma and a more complex flavour to the bread, improve the browning of the crust, create a chewier crumb and a larger hole structure, and make the bread moister so it has a longer shelf life.”

Pre-fermentation time is different for each type of starter.  If you're using a starter for the first time, it can all be rather intimidating. Will the Old Dough like the new one? Will the friendship blossom? Will there be happily after?!  The anxiety can drive any amateur baker crazy! You just need to bear in mind that every relationship requires time to mature.  Similarly, a starter takes time to work its magic.

Remember, good things come to those who wait.


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