The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Starter

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Papist's picture
Papist

Sourdough Starter

After several failed attempts, I finally got a starter going.  I didn't realize that it had to be fed twice a day.  That is a lot of flour I am throwing away, is there a way around this?  Also, since it wasn't feeding it twice a day it's become a alittle limp.  I fed it last night then against this morning.  I appears to be doing better.  Can it be resuscitated at this point?  I have an abundance of soft white wheat that I can't seem to find a use for.  It doesn't work in breads.  Can I use that to feed my starter? 

gmabaking's picture
gmabaking

You can find a wealth of information at Sourdoughhome.com. A search of TFL will give you lots of posts to look through with very helpful information.

Like all of us though, you will probably from time to time find that you have built up your sourdough stash to the point that a small child could swim in it. Then it is time to make pizza, bagels, and my current favorite, Sourdough Waffles. This recipe doesn't require fancy ingredients or whipping egg whites. I use a Belgian style waffle maker which makes two waffles, about the same size as a piece of bread. After cooling, I put each waffle in a plastic sandwich bag and then fill a freezer bag with them. They fit perfectly into a toaster and are really almost as good as baking them fresh. The first time I made them I used soft wheat flour and they were great. I copied it from an online site long ago and apologize that I can't give due credit to the source.

Sourdough Pancakes or Waffles

3 eggs

1 cup milk

2 cups starter

1 3/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soada

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter

Beat eggs in a medium bowl. Add milk and sourdough starter. Add flour, baking soda, salt and sugar to the egg mixture, mixing well. Stir in melted butter. Drop batter by 1/2 cups onto hot griddle for pancakes or onto hot waffle iron for waffles. Makes about 14 bread size waffles.

Hope you enjoy your sourdough adventure!

 

Papist's picture
Papist

So this is normal for it to be all watery at the top?  Or does that mean that I am adding too much water?  Thanks so much for the help.  I'm loving the concept of the starter- but I'm having trouble mastering it. 

gmabaking's picture
gmabaking

Tradition has it that sourdoughs (the people type that is) would drink the liquid that collects on the top of the starter. It is called "Hootch"  You can either drain it off or stir it in, don't think it matters much but I will leave that part for the more experienced bakers. If I have let my starter sit in the refrigerator for a while and the liquid is grayish, I drain it off, if it is clear, I tend to just stir it in.

If you put "How to revive sourdough starter" in the search on the left side of this page, you will find directions on how to use a small portion of what you have and rebuild. I don't have time to feed regularly enough to maintain starter at room temperature. I store a freshly built starter in the refrigerator and then when it is time to bake, I let it warm up a while, feed it and let it double before I use it. (Lots of directions about how to do that too)

If you decide to rebuild, you can still use the leftover for things like pizza or waffles. Remember to enjoy the process!

leslie c's picture
leslie c

Oh, just wondering--responding to what you said that soudoughs would drink the hooch--has anyone in the forums ever had a drink of the hooch?:) I usually stir it back in and put a little extra flour to keep the right consistency, but I always wonder what it would taste like--probably kind of like really bad beer, I guess. But I don't have the guts to take a swig. But, what would happen if I did?:) Could those little guys make me sick, or would it just...be like eating yogurt? Macrobiotic something or other?

G-man's picture
G-man

More like a swig of bad beer, especially if it's been sitting a while.

The problem is that you don't know what you're drinking. The good news is that anything bad in the hooch is going to be in such a small concentration that it probably won't do you any harm. The fact is, all alcohol products contain these bad things, just in negligible quantities. The bad news is that the portions of bad to good are a lot less controlled. You might get a nice mouth full of acetone one day, nearly pure ethanol the next, methanol next week, or maybe butanol, isopropanol, or any other of a number of alcohols produced via bacterial fermentation, depending on what's dominant in your starter, which of course depends on how you treat it. It's all going to be fairly diluted because nothing will live past certain concentrations. Generally when these products are put in bottled form, they've been distilled. Still, I wouldn't really recommend drinking the stuff unless you don't care what you're drinking.

There's no real way of knowing for certain without getting it tested.

leslie c's picture
leslie c

I care what I drink, at least to the extent that I'm probably never going to drink the hooch. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If you reduce the size of your starter, you feed less flour.  

First...  How old is it?  How big is it?  How are you feeding it?  and What temperature is the starter? 

You can feed it soft white wheat, no problem.  

Suggestion: Take 1/8 cup starter, double the volume with water and add flour to make a soft soft dough.  Put into a big enough container should it rise x4 with a bowl or plate under.  Cover with plastic and loose rubber band.  Feed again when it reaches maximum height and starts to fall in on itself. (anywhere from 6 to 18 hours)

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

Maybe take a fresh container (I use a square ziplock container) put in 2 T of your present starter, add  2 T of A/P flour and 2 T of tepid water.  Stir well.  Cover tightly - I use Saran wrap underneath the ziplock top, and leave at room temperature.

Tomorrow put in 1 T flour and 1 T of water x 2, continue that until you see some bubbly activity, then you can prolly cut down to feeding the starter to once a day (I do).

If your area has little humidity as here in the winter months, add a few grains of yeast to get it going.

Papist's picture
Papist

Thanks for the replies.  It seems to have revived properly.  How do I go about storing it in the refridgerator?  

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

I had forgotten mine for a few weeks and it came back anyway. So, once you have a nice strong starter going, it will most likely be faithful to you :)

anna

 

Papist's picture
Papist

So my starter is doing well again, but it seems to prefer store bought rye flour.  Is this normal?  The fresh gound spelt doesn't give it as much of a rise.  Also, how can i transition it into the fridge?  Does anyone have any good sourdough recipes to share or links for good pizza doughs, breads, english muffins?  Thanks

leslie c's picture
leslie c

I think as long as your starter is healthy and is at least a month old, you can put it in the fridge any time. Feed it and put it in. Once it's been in the fridge a week, feed it. Keep feeding it weekly until you want to use it. Pull it out of the fridge a couple days before you need to use it. Feed it immediately upon removing it from the fridge, then feed it daily after that. Easy peasy. 

 

If it prefers rye, then I'd go with rye. Never did have much luck with the rye flour myself, and rye is expensive, so I keep a whole wheat starter. 

Papist's picture
Papist

Oh, so mine is not a month old.  I should wait a month before transferring it to the fridge?  And when I do finally put it in the firdge, do I so so immediately after feeding or a few hours?

 

Perhaps I am having bad luck because I grind my spelt and freeze it?  I mean, it is a little cool when I feed.  Maybe that is the problem?

leslie c's picture
leslie c

I would wait a month, to get it healthy and established before putting it in the fridge. Maybe there are others out there with a different opinion?

As for timing after feeding it--I feed mine and put it immediately in the fridge, but I think a healthy starter will be tolerant of your behavior regardless. I know that I've put mine in the fridge after I forgot to feed it for a day and I just didn't want to deal with it. I've also left it in the fridge while on vacation and didn't feed it for two or three weeks. When we moved over the summer, I would forget about it for weeks at a time. After mistreating it this way, I'll pull it out of the fridge and feed it regularly for a few days and it bounces back, happy as ever.

If your starter is cool when you feed it, or if the flour is cool, then your starter will be slower, perhaps less vigorous. It helps to keep your starter in a clear container where you can see the way it expands and contracts, so you know what kind of cycle it's on. Mine expands and hits its peak about 5 hours after I feed it. In warmer temperatures, this will take less time. 

Papist's picture
Papist

What does 100% hydration mean.  I want to make a pizza crust and it calls start at 100% hydration.  Also, can I use sourdough for most recipes?  I grind my own and I don't like soaking my flour.  Sourdough seems much more simple. 

Grenage's picture
Grenage

A 100% hydration starter has an equal weight of flour to water (water being 100% of the flour weight).  For example, 50g flour and 50g water.

Papist's picture
Papist

I was under the impression that to feed a start you ahd to put in equal parts water and flour.  Is this not true?  Are there reasons to not have a 100% hydration?  And how do I tell if I am indeed at 100%?  I mean I put in eqal parts, but sometimes a cup of flour is more than a cup- depending on if you pack it too much.

leslie c's picture
leslie c

Is the recipe specifying hydration for the starter? I thought you were refering to the hydration for the pizza crust recipe.

Grenage's picture
Grenage

You don't have to put in equal amounts, but it's common due to it being both simple, and a good ratio for growth.  You're talking about cups, where as I (and most others) will be talking about weight.  I recommend weights, volume is not remotely precise - admittedly probably won't make/break a starter, but it could a recipe.

leslie c's picture
leslie c

I don't know why you couldn't make a sourdough crust, but you'd probably need to use a lot of starter. Or give yourself a lot of lead time. Sourdough is more slow moving than the commercial/instant yeasts. Sounds delicious though! 

Just looking online, most recipes I'm seeing recommend equal parts flour to starter. And then depending on whether your starter was really wet or not, you'd want to add more flour if the dough was too wet.