The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

1st starter attempt: Toss or not?

  • Pin It
Bread Breaddington's picture
Bread Breaddington

1st starter attempt: Toss or not?

Having a go at it now that the winter's over. It's not exactly warm yet, but it's not cold either, so I was hoping it would be alright. Maybe it isn't. It's up on the fridge where it's a bit warmer, but who knows.

After reading several guides I decided to do a 100% hydration starter, .5 oz WW .5 oz whole rye, and 1 oz ap flour. 

Showed some activity after the first 24 hours, smelled like yogurt, so I kept feeding it. It's now been about 4 days of feeding every 12 hours, and the rate of activity has maybe doubled (as in, bubbling), but it is still very slight, and very little rise is discernible. It has begun to smell like old cheese.

From what I can gather by this point in time if it was going to become a useable starter it would have at least started to resemble one by now. The activity is slowly increasing but not much.

Would you keep feeding this, or throw it out and try later? Might it just be slow to develop since it's not quite summer yet?

jcking's picture
jcking

It's doin' somethin' right? It can take a week or two to double. Stir it up: often. Some of the buggies need air.

Jim

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Are you still feeding it a 50/50 mix of rye and ap flour?

cranbo's picture
cranbo

This starter behavior is totally normal. Keep it in a warm place, and keep feeding it 2x per day for 7-10 more days, and it will be good to go.

Patience is a virtue at this point...don't give up now! :)

Bread Breaddington's picture
Bread Breaddington

Yes, I am still feeding it the same mixture. I plan to change to all AP eventually.

Anyway, everyone seems to be saying to keep at it, so that's what I'll do.

Funnily enough, after just the last feeding it seems to be noticeably more active, a good bit more bubbly and gassy. Smells less rancid, but a bit salty somehow? Anyway perhaps I spoke to soon initially, it seems to be getting better all of a sudden... time will tell.

G-man's picture
G-man

That's definitely the way to think about sourdough. You will not have your answers after a week, and you may not have them after a month. Just keep waiting and feeding and treating it well and eventually you will be rewarded. It is difficult, especially these days when everyone is used to instant gratification. Sourdough doesn't care for anyone's "need it now!" schedule

Bread Breaddington's picture
Bread Breaddington

Oh I was willing to wait, merely worried.

But funnily enough, since the last feeding it has gone from being rancid and weak to smelling nice and doubling itself. Really unexpected that it would change so quickly. But I'm not going to complain. 

I'll just keep feeding it for a week or so before I try to do anything with it, but it seems to be doing alright now.

Baker Chris's picture
Baker Chris

When it appears to be as frothy as it got last feeding - that is, when it looks most active: most bubbles, maybe a visible increase in volume - reserve @ 50 grams (@ 1 3/4 ounce), and toss the rest.  Take that and add it to @ 7 ounces or so of warm water - aim for about 80 degrees or so - and, add 7.0 ounces of your 50/50 flour blend.  Take a spatula (because it will be easier to keep the batch in the container and scraping it off the spatula is easy) and stir it thoroughly, so that you have a thick paste.  If you're not getting it working enough, add a bit of warm water, no more than a table spoon at a time to make it more workable.  Once you have a uniform paste, just tidy up the sides of the container with the spatula and then wipe the spatula clean so the bulk is in a neat pile in the container.  Watch it for the next 24 hours and what should happen is unmistakeable activity and significant increase in volume.  This will work in an ambient environment of 65 to 70 F, if it is warmer the cycle may speed up.  Then repeat this process every 24 hours, more often if you are getting the kind of activity where it is peaking and falling before 24 hours go by.

Bread Breaddington's picture
Bread Breaddington

Is there a specific reason why you would reccomend changing the feeding like that at this point in time? It seems to be doing well now, but if somehow that would be better, my ears are open.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

To clarify Baker Chris' comments and add my opinion, I'd like to know how much starter you're saving when you feed. You're feeding 2oz (57g) of mixed flours, correct?

I think what is being suggested is that you make sure you feed your starter enough flour. 

So if you're feeding 57g of mixed flour and 57g of water (100% hydration) , you probably don't want to keep more than about 30g of starter at each feed. You should feed your starter with 2x the weight of the starter in flour & 2x weight of the starter in water. Otherwise you could be starving your starter during its formative period. 

Also, you don't want to feed less than 20g of starter either; I've heard this can increase risk of poor starter strength and being overrun by non-beneficial bacteria.

Bread Breaddington's picture
Bread Breaddington

Yes, I remove half the starter and add back the amount removed in fresh stuff. I had thought this was standard procedure?

So yeah I'm feeding the remaining culture with an 1x the amount of material. You're saying that I should instead be feeding it with twice the material now? So to not deprive it now that it's starting to grow more, basically? This is news to me but it's about time for another feeding, I'll try it.

So, based on what you've said I'll try 2 oz culture with 4 of flour and water, to come out at 10 and not make it too enormous.

G-man's picture
G-man

As a starter grows more active it gets hungrier. You don't necessarily have to change the amount you feed, but it certainly doesn't hurt and in a lot of cases it can really help. It gives the culture a lot of food to go through between feedings and can really give you an indication of how healthy your starter is. If it has the same activity using twice as much food, it's pretty lively.

Baker Chris's picture
Baker Chris

You just need to give it plenty of food, in a nutshell ....

Bread Breaddington's picture
Bread Breaddington

Okay, thanks for the advice. After last night's feeding at a much higher ratio of new material, the culture appears to be just as active as it was previously. So it must be pretty busy. 

I suppose the only question I have now is, should I keep up this feeding regiment indefinitely, or will there be a point where it no longer requires it? 

Aside from when refrigerated, which eventually I'll do.

Baker Chris's picture
Baker Chris

You can experiment with frequency of feedings, ratios, how long you allow the ferment before baking with a levain...  If you don't plan to bake for an extended period and put it in the refridgerator, you can leave it there for a good long time and, when you want to resucitate it, just do what I described above and it will bloom again - then you condition it until it smells and tastes the way you want it to and use it.  If you stop feeding it, it will exhaust the food supply then go to sleep - if you raise the temperature too high you can kill it, but under refridgeration I dunno how long it'll last.  In any event, you can always just start over...

cranbo's picture
cranbo

The 2x per day feeding schedule is only required when you are baking (or 2 days before you are planning to bake, if your starter is already very active). 

Refrigerated, your starter will be OK for weeks at a time without feeding. I have had starters in my fridge, unfed, for months and revived them in a few days. I do agree that over time, this kind of lack of feeding can have a negative effect on your starter. 

To revive,  2-3 days before you are planning to bake start feeding it again at 2x per day, and you should be in good shape.  

 

Bread Breaddington's picture
Bread Breaddington

Okay, I see. I've got to get it healthy before I refrigerate it though!

So you say the twice daily feeding is needed before you're planning to bake, okay. Makes sense since you'd want it active. But that seems to imply to me that it's okay to feed it once daily in the intermediate period. And I'm taking about room-temperature, to be precise, I don't know if you are.

So what I've been wondering is if there's a certain point where I can reduce the feeding of my starter and it'll be fine at room temp, or if it will need at least the same amount of material when growing (now) as it will when mature enough to bake with.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Yes. If you leave it at room temp, you can probably get away with feeding it only 1x per day while not baking.

Part of this also depends on how hot your room temp is though; the hotter it is, the faster the dough will ferment, and the more often you will have to feed it to keep it healthy. If your room temp is 80F, then you'll probably need to feed 2x per day to keep your starter from starving by the end of the day. 

But if you're planning to bake, you should be feeding it 2x per day at room temp. 

 

Baker Chris's picture
Baker Chris

... leave it sitting in its crock on the counter for coupla three days, no harm done.  When I go to feed it again, it is very liquid and vinagary smelling, and the hooch has risen to the top.  I just stir it back together and take, say, 50g of it (tossing the rest) and innoculate 200g of the 50/50 mix (I use bread dough & whole wheat, btw) and 200g of water @ 80 F (or so); voila! in six to eight hours it's going gangbusters.  Could probably use it right then and there, but a coupla more cycles and it's stable again....  Just play with it, watch it, smell it, get to see how it behaves - I'm still experimenting myself, you can make a lot of progress in just a few weeks with understanding it by experimenting a bit.

Bread Breaddington's picture
Bread Breaddington

So you're saying it's pretty flexible, then. That's good.