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How long before I can use the starter

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cex112's picture
cex112

How long before I can use the starter

Hi,


A few days ago I started my first sourdough starter using the Bourke Street Bakery books recipe. Now this recipe says that the starter isn't ready to use until week 4 (if I'm reading it right).


 


Just wondered if people thought this was right, as I've seen other people suggest that after a few days its ready to go.


 


Thoughts and guidance would be most welcome.


 


Regards,


 


Royston

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

#1 your starter should double in size in 4 to 6 hours after a feeding


#2 It should smell like sourdough and not stink


 


I am in the same spot you are but my starter stinks pretty bad and did not double on day 4.

cex112's picture
cex112

Hi,


Thanks, I'll look out tomorrow to see if it doubles in size. It is definitely very bubbly on a morning (I'm only feeding once a day). But I don't think in reality it is doubling as there's already a lot of gas in there when I feed it perhaps.


Smell wise, well I've never had sourdough, so I don't really know how it should smell. Mine doesn't smell too bad though. It had a strange tangy smell for the first 2 or 3 days, but I think that wasn't the yeast but bacteria working, it has changed to something else now.


 


Cheers


Royston

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

Well I mix mine pretty vigorously to eliminate gas and incorporate air. When I divide the starter I usually add the water first to break the starter down to its basics (Tell me if this is wrong) and then mix in the flour. I am hopping my starter is ready to be used next weekend so I can give it 11+ days to be ready to bake its first loaf. I did this as more of an experiment with procedure then to actually produce a good starter. I probably will keep it as my first but I want to maintain a Rye and Wheat starters at some point.

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Royston,


If you feed your starter, keep it on the bench and mark a line on the container with a rubber band or marker pen and check how long it takes to double, that will give you some sense of how long it will take to raise dough.


Some bakers do seem to have strong starters from the beginning. However, in general starters tend to get stronger with time and proper feeding. If you use it young it can be like getting a puppy to draw a sled - it might be able to do it but it will do it a lot better when it's older and stronger!


I wouldn't risk using a starter in the first week, and particularly not before Day 4. At that point the culture can still be dominated by other bacteria that are not desirable for bread making. These can even mimic the effect of yeast for a while - creating bubbles and making the mixture rise. However they tend to have a different, stinkier smell. If it doesn't smell like yeast yet it probably isn't ready, even if it might be rising and falling.


Good that you are keen to use your starter - it will come and be great when it does!


Kind regards, Daisy_A

cex112's picture
cex112

Hi Daisy,


 


Thanks for your reply, looks like basking is also good for developing patience in one's character. From what I'm hearing I'll need to wait, and that's fine, I just wanted to be sure that was right, 3 weeks sounded a long time.


Cheers


 


Royston

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

Baking has done more for my patience level than anything else I've ever tried. I am a "want it done yesterday" kind of gal but after baking for almost five years, I've learned good bread takes time. Short cuts definitely do not work in baking =) and the best bread usually takes the longest. One recipe I make starts on Friday night and ends up getting baked on Sunday! Commercial yeasted breads are quicker and some have good flavor but I've found the sourdoughs with long rise times and over night retards in the fridge have the most depth of flavor and so, at least in bread, I've found patience =).

cex112's picture
cex112

You're right, and I kind of like that, its so counter culteral, particularly in the UK where we want everything anytime with no preparation or waiting.


 


Thanks


 


Royston

Paul Paul Paul Paul Paul Paul Paul Paul Paul Paul Paul Paul's picture
Paul Paul Paul ...

Judging by your description of your starter it sounds like you have leuconostoc bacteria instead of yeast. This bacteria will also make your starter rise, but it stinks, and is tangy. There's a chance that this bacteria could kill your starter. Usually on the 2nd-4th day this bacteria will be doubling your starter. The next day your starter will probably be dead looking as the leuconostocs die off. If your starter pulls through, then it'll take about a month to get a mature sour taste with great rise, but you can use it as soon as it smells like good yeasty bread and doubles in 2-7 hours (ish). You probably won't get very sour bread, and it may not even rise very much until you let it mature a little more. If you want, you can create a new starter using whole wheat flour and pineapple juice in place of regular flour and water for the first four days. This will lower the pH levels so that leuconostocs die and yeast grows, giving you a foolproof starter. After four days your starter should be doubling and then you can move on to regular flour and water. If you don't want to toss your current starter, then feed it as you have been for a while and see how it goes. You may get good results, you may not. My first starter died on me, but using WW and pineapple juice I have another starter that is perrrrrfect.


 

cex112's picture
cex112

Thanks Paul,


 


Sound good advice, I'm sure I had that bacteria to start with, then it seemed to die away at about day 4 and since then started getting more bubbly with a difference (less) smell.


As others have said, I'll start looking to see if and how long it takes to double in size. I don't think my container helps much there though as its in an insulated plastic jug (just something that was handy) and its hard to tell. Maybe I'll move to a jar or something.


 


But I'll let this one run for a while, there is life in it.


Cheers


Royston

proth5's picture
proth5

I recently attended a class on non commercially yeasted pre ferments given by - oh well, I've already dropped those names in my blog - let us say "well qualified" bakers.


Their advice was to wait at least three weeks - maybe even four - so that the whole thing has time to get the right bacteria going.


One of them suggested that the young culture could be used for baking, but that the results would be somewhat "intense" in flavor - more like salt risen bread.


For my part, I have found that these very young cultures can give you a few baking problems that straighten themselves out if you just have patience.


So, another case for waiting.

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

I want my starters ready for Thanksgiving. Should I just keep discarding and feeding for those 4 weeks or should I store it in the fridge for a little time?

proth5's picture
proth5

I'm not the best person to answer that because I really have a strong preference for refrigerating my starter only under the direst of circumstances. (That is to say I don't usually refrigerate it.)


Opinions on that practice vary widely and I won't wade in to that controversy, however I would consider that for the first few weeks of its life it would be the best way to get a good mature starter from your culture.


Hope this helps.

cex112's picture
cex112

Great to have consistent advice, ties in well and give more understanding. Thanks fro taking the time to respond.


 


Royston

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Whether you keep your starter on the counter or keep it in the fridge is more a matter of personal preference. My starters are always kept in the refrigerator, I just take out the amounts I need for a baking day.


I wouldn't put my starter in the freezer, though.


Karin

tgaydos's picture
tgaydos

From 1970 Southern Living cookbook:

Place mixture in a jar, cover with cheesecloth, and leave at room temperature for 3 or 4 days. When it foams and bubbles, it is ready to use. It may be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator until ready for use.

It absolutely KILLS ME how convoluted sourdough bread has gotten and how fragmented the procedure is now. Not everyone has starter handed to them, man!