The Fresh Loaf

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Established starter suddenly not rising

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Babedia's picture
Babedia

Established starter suddenly not rising

Hi, I've been using my starter for about 6 months now with good results. I bake once a week, feed the starter and keep it in the fridge until 2 or 3 days before baking again to give it time to build up. Last week I took it out of the fridge as usual but perhaps took a bit longer to feed again (normally I do it within a few hours of taking it out of the fridge but this time it might have been 8-12 hours, not sure). It didn't rise at all. I've had a busy few days and couldn't deal with it so decided to take some of the starter I froze recently, just before going on holiday. I fed it as soon as it thawed and 24 hours later absolutely no rise at all. What could cause well established starter to stop working? Do I need to start from scratch or just keep feeding this regularly to see if I can get it started again?

Ford's picture
Ford

I would try feeding at a 1:1:1 ratio of starter:flour:water, every 12 hours for several days, before resorting to a restart.

When you get it going again, spread some active starter on parchment paper and let it dry at room temperature  Then store the flakes in a jar or plastic bag in the refrigerator as a back up in case of another disaster.

Ford

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

until it tastes sour and shows signs of life (how little that may be)  Refreshing too often right now will dilute the weak starter too much.  Be patient, stir and wait.  Freezing is rough on a starter.  I would let it sit 24 hours before adding flour.  Reduce & feed the starter after two days.

The one that didn't get frozen, give it a good feed a (1:5:5) (starter, water, flour) ratio at least.  It should perk up before the frozen one.  

Babedia's picture
Babedia

I'm afraid I already got rid of the other starter as I hadn't been able to do anything with it for 4-5 days and it'd been sitting outside.

What I have now (from the frozen one) is about 50g. How much flour would you add? I've been doing 1:1:1 so far and a mixture of white and rye.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

just add a little flour mixture (some rye is always good) to thicken and carefully mark the glass for any rise that might occur.  First the starter will sour, then a little tiny rise and some tiny tiny bubbles on the side thru the glass.  Separation of water and flour is a sign of low acivity and should be met with patience.  Stir two or three times a day.  Then reduce to 20g and do a 1:1:1 and put into a clean narrow glass, mark and wait.  Let it reach its highest level before reducing to adding more water to double the amount and add flour mix to thicken to toothpaste like consistency.  Cover and let rise in a warm place over 26°C.  It should jump at the chance now.  With each feed, let it peak and start to fall.  As soon as it rises double, you can reduce the starter amount to 10g and up the water and flour amounts to your liking.  (1:2:3) is popular.    Always let it peak and start to fall before reducing and feeding.  This will strengthen the yeast numbers in the starter and at each feeding  the starter will be a little faster and rise higher.  Settle into a schedule that works for you by tweaking the water and food amounts to 10g of starter.  Stick to the schedule for a week and set the pattern in the starter to establish it.  Make it predictable.  When you want to take a break, stick the almost peaked starter into the fridge and continue after a day or two. Reducing the water in the starter lets it keep longer in the fridge.  

If you want a long time storage, take a teaspoon or two of the just fallen ripe starter, double the amount with water and add enough flour to make an extremely stiff dough, almost packed together crumbs but smooth on the outside.  Roll it in flour and tuck into a small plastic container with lid and pop it into the refrigerator.  It will keep for months like that.  It may turn grey or dark, but the innermost part of the starter will stay light colored and usable.  I have a couple of starters like that and one marathon ball rolling up to well over a year.  It has a nice protective shell on the outside.

When ready to revive long time storage firm starter, trim off the grey matter to get to center, drop into a small glass to just cover with water and let it rehydrate,  when soft, add equal amounts of flour and go thru the process above only it all happens much sooner.  Don't discard for the first 24 to 48 hours or until some signs of life appear and continue.  Just add small amounts of flour to thicken.  (1:1:1) until it acts and looks hungry.  When wild yeast goes into "hibernation" it takes about 3 days to wake up the spores.  So watch and stir but don't over do the passion.  If you discard before the yeast get active, the yeast population is reduced and the process takes longer.  Temps should be above 23°C.  I like 26°C myself.

When using for a recipe use elaborated starter at peak activity.

Babedia's picture
Babedia

Thank you for such detailed advice! I will follow it word for word. Thanks!