The Fresh Loaf

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My starter won't double between feeding!

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fidlfixer's picture
fidlfixer

My starter won't double between feeding!

I was wondering if anyone out there could help me with my starter troubleshooting? I've been at this a while trying to create and store a good starters and I've tried everything. Right now I am using Ed Woods book as help. I have a good starter it smells good and will rise but only after 4 hours or so. I can bake with it but my loaves are dense and a bit sour tasting which supposedly indicates a higher acidity level in the starter. So i followed the instructions for "washing" the culture and starting again but I still can't get the starter to rise in between feedings in a 2-4 hour period. They are bubbly and foamy but not rising? Help?

thanks!

Sarah

 

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

Hi Sarah ...

What ambient temperatures are you living and baking in? Yeast is highly sensitive to temperature - so you can help control its behaviour, particularly its feeding and doubling habits, by raising or lowering the temperature you keep it in.

Sourness in the finished loaf can also be controlled by temperatures used during the fermentation stages, as well as the quantity you use of starter and how often you feed it etc. Lots and lots of variables.

There are gazillions of tips and facts about looking after a starter on this site, and just as many about controlling sourness - just put your question into the Search Box and you'll have more than enough fascinating reading material to carry you through the next week!

But if you still can't sort out the problem - then here are a few questions that folk here would need answers to in order to help you.

1. How are you feeding your starter - what flour, how much flour, how much water etc?

2. What room temperature are you keeping your starter in?

3. Do you refrigerate your starter at all?

4. How often do you feed it?

5. What percentage (by weight) of starter to main dough flour?

6. Do you retard your dough before baking at any stage and for how long?

7.Even better - What is the recipe you are working to?

All at Sea

fidlfixer's picture
fidlfixer

All @ Sea thanks so much for your reply here are my answers:

First at the moment we are experiencing 90 degree weather my kitchen is holdin at aroun 85-89 degrees.

1. How are you feeding your starter - what flour, how much flour, how much water etc?   well first i was feeding it unbleached all purp flour 2/3 cup to as much water as to attain a thinkc pancake batter

2. What room temperature are you keeping your starter in?  about 87 degrees

3. Do you refrigerate your starter at all?  yes this batch came from the frig

4. How often do you feed it?  i'm trying 2X day every 12 hours so far I've been doing this for about a week

5. What percentage (by weight) of starter to main dough flour? this i don't know i'm flowing recipes that usually call for 4 cups of flour and 1 cup starter?

6. Do you retard your dough before baking at any stage and for how long?  i usually do an over night first rise, then let it relax for 15 minutes put into pan and let rise again and this is where it doesn't double

7.Even better - What is the recipe you are working to?  Ed Wood's book but I've tried others

thanks again!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

It is important to know just how much starter is being fed. :)

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... I knew I forgot a vital Q!  ;0)

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... spring to mind straight away given your answers, Sarah.

The first is that you are baking bread in very hot climate - and that means the yeast is going to gobble away at the starch storehouse in the flour like a devil on speed. Because of that speed, your dough will ferment and prove very fast too. That means you have to keep a close check on dough development - to ensure it doesn't over-ferment or over-prove.

I am 99% certain that it overproofing is certainly a major factor with your finished breads being dense. By the end of that overnight rise, the yeast is all out of food and beginning to starve. When yeast can't feed off starch (because there is none left) it starts to attack the protein content of flour - ie, the gluten. The effect on the gluten is to destroy its strength. Hence you end up with dough (and bread) that has a very poor internal crumb structure - the gluten no longer able to support itself and contain the little pockets of gas. The gas escapes as the gluten collapses and net result ... dense, heavy bread.

To stop the dough overproofing, you need to do one or several of the following things:

1. Use less starter.  (Don't measure using cups if you can avoid it - it's too inaccurate that way. Instead weigh the starter and flour and water, so you know in grams or ounces exactly how much you are using. Then you can start systematically reducing the starter to flour ratio accurately. And discover which percentage works best for you in those temperatures.)  For the main dough, I find 100grams of starter to 500grams of flour works very reliably in these hot temps (just a little cooler than yours, but not much)

2. Shorten your bulk ferment time - overnight is too long if you're keeping the dough in room temperature. That's why you aren't getting a second rise. You can try an overnight bulk ferment by placing the dough in the fridge - but I would first try to find out just how long it takes to ferment at room temperature - then start playing around with refrigeration etc. This means you might have to arrange your bulk ferment to happen during the day when you can keep an eye on it. Once you know, then you can start making alterations to your recipe that will allow an overnight ferment.

If you're not doing Stretch and Folds during the bulk ferment, but just leaving the dough to rise, then once the dough is nearly double its size and you can achieve a good windowpane test, then move swiftly on to pre-shape and final shaping and then final proof. 

Once your shaped dough looks almost risen enough - but no more, try the poke test to see if the dough is ready to bake.  (You'll find lots of info here on the poke test and window-paning).  If it passes the poke test - ie - when you press lightly on the dough with 2 floured fingers, the indent springs back slowly and only partially, then it's time to bake.

As for your starter - left to me I would make a smaller quantity, but make it somewhat thicker.  A 70% hydration is always good in hot climates. That means for 50 grams of flour, you only want 35 grams of water.  I would take a heaped teaspoon of your current starter when it is nicely risen and add my 50grams of flour and 35 grams of water and stir. That will give you about 100 grams total.  Feed twice a day is fine if keeping at room temperature. But obviously you won't be feeding it like that when you refrigerate it.  But if you find the starter beginning to smell too sour, then feed more often  or increase the amount of fresh flour and water per feeding.

Do you allow your starter to come up to room temperature before feeding? If not, and you are feeding it cold, then that will account for it taking longer to double after feeding.

You might like to add some rye into the starter mix - since rye gets yeast all of a go-go and you'll certainly get a faster doubling out of your starter that way. Perhaps try 1/2 unbleached, unbromated white and 1/2 stoneground rye.

When you want to bake with it, then take 2 heaped tsp of starter, and add 100 grams of flour and 70 grams of water.  And let it double. Then at its peak, incorporate into your main dough.  This quantity will give you 100 grams to bake with and sufficient left over to keep for baking with in the future. (Apologies for quoting metric grams all the time - but I'm so used to them I don't ever use imperial measures any more. You can easily convert them though).

Let us know how you get on!

All at Sea

 

 

 

fidlfixer's picture
fidlfixer

All at Sea... I thought i would shoot you a progress report. Your advice on the feeding worked and i am able to get a doubling in about 4 hours or so I put it in the basement where it is holding at 75 degrees and it seems to be helping.

So i have been working with a No-Knead sourdough recipe from a book and the instructions are mix starter and water then flour and let proof overnight for 8-12 hours which i did and then relax the gluten 15-30 mins then put in pans and wait until doubled then bake but it is still coming out acidic...it's eatible and i like it but i'm trying to achieve a less dense and sweeter loaf and i can't? I am also trying to do this once a week and haven't found a good protocol for baking that can be worked into a working schedule.

Any advice is greatly appreciated!

 

Sarah

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

take one tablespoon of starter and add 1/4 c flour and enough water to make a paste or thick batter.  Then place into a small narrow glass, cover and let it rise.  mark the starting level and when it stops rising.   It is important to know how long it takes to peak.  After peaking, reduce to a tablespoon and feed again.  Feed when it peaks or just after.  With each feed, the peaking time should be sooner.  When it peaks under 12 hours, then you can shift gears with the next feed, wait only until 8 hours have gone by and feed again.  A couple of 8 hour feeds ought to speed it up a bit and give more advantages to the yeast.  Return back to the 12 hours feeds where the flour amount (by volume is at least twice that of the starter volume) and add water to achieve your favorite thickness.