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Monster Raving Loony Starter

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rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Monster Raving Loony Starter

Hi folks!

 

I'm very new at this sourdough game, but I decided I would try to create a sourdough starter myself. Just over 2 weeks ago, I created my first starter mixture and I started feeding it.

 

On the 3rd day it made a feeble, pathetic attempt at bubbling up, but by day 4 it had turned into a sour smelling, stinky, yeast-free soup. Further feeding did nothing to alleviate the problem and by day 7 I threw the whole sorry lot away and started again. This time with nothing but rye flour and water. Not a lot of water either. JUST enough to create a very thick paste.

 

By day 2 I thought I could get a "yeasty" smell. By day 3 it smelled undeniably yeasty with fruity hints and a hint of beer.

 

By day 4 it had gone into orbit. It started doubling so fast I had to feed it at least twice a day. It now doubles in less than four hours. It's day 8 now, and I've baked two loafs with it since. The first one, I didn't add enough salt, but other than that it seemed ok. The second one was much better. At least for a total newbie like me.

 

But what am I going to do about this monster starter? Just feeding it is going to cost me a fortune in flour. It's insatiable.

 

My house already is on the cool side (though today was an exception as a lot of cooking was done and the house was warm and toasty, but that'll change during the working week!).

 

I'm reluctant to put the starter in the fridge this early in its life. I want it to mature a bit first. So the coolness of the house is as cool as it's going to get.

 

This evening I tried something new. I split the starter in two, but rather than throwing one half away and feeding the other, I kept both halves this time. The first half I fed as usual. The second one, I added half a teaspoon of salt, but fed the same way as the other one, otherwise.

 

Just checked, and both bowls are going strong again. Yipes. Well. I could try a WHOLE teaspoon of salt on the next feeding of Bowl Number Two, but maybe I should start looking at how much a swimming pool would cost me.

 

Joking aside though... Any ideas on how to rein in this monster starter? LOL What a problem to have ...

gmagmabaking2's picture
gmagmabaking2

Putting your starter in the refrigerator should settle it down between feedings... That is where mine naps... I feed it once a week and it doubles in less than 6 hours.

I am no expert, but have been keeping this starter going for about 4 years now.

Happy Baking,

Diane

isand66's picture
isand66

Ditto...the refrigerator is the way to go.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

and like Diane said put the chill to it.  We keep 100 g of 66% hydration rye sour starter in the fridge for 3 weeks at a time, use about 25 g of starter aw week out of it and never feed it.  I just take the last 10-20 g and rebuild the starter to hit the fridge again as soon s it is 100 g again after 3 builds and 7 hours on the counter.   No muss, no fuss, no feeding no waste.  Never acts up like the other children either:-)

Happy baking 

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Hi guys and girls! Thanks for the comments.

 

I hear ya about the refrigerator but my starter is only a week old. Well, this is day 9. See? I'm still counting in days! :P - but I thought it needed a bit of time to reach a certain level of "maturity" and I'm not sure whether refrigerating it at this early stage wouldn't slow *that* process down too much?

I'm not sure I can actually "stiffen it up" any more than I already do. Sorry if I'm mistaken but I think by "stiffen it up" you mean reduce the amount of water in order to get a "stiffer" dough? I'm already at the stage where I HAVE to add a few more drops of water or else I'm not able to stir all the flour in. Maybe I should start using my fingers to do the mixing :-)

I will try adding more salt to the second batch. If I kill it, I'll just shrug and move on; after all I still have the pristine first batch going and I won't be adding any salt to THAT. Has anybody ever added salt to their starters here? Would it do anything else, other than slowing down the growth of the yeast?

 

Heath's picture
Heath

I refrigerated my started from when it was a week old, and it's been fine and performing very well.  I take it out of the fridge and feed it twice before baking with it.  It's several months old now.

phaz's picture
phaz

if it's rising good, which it sounds like it is, use the fridge. Careful with salt, too much will kill off the good bugs. Using the fridge, you just may have to take the starter out a day before using it to let it warm up to room temp. Also not a bad idea to give a feeding or 2 before use, just to make sure everything is live and kicking. I bake often enough that I keep 1 starter on the counter and use feedings to build it up to the amount needed for the next bake. keeping a small amount of starter helps keep waste down too. the starter on the counter never gets much over a half cup before I'm using it again, and if I see too much fridge starter I just add some of it to the counter starter. The fridge starter gets pulled about once a month for a warm up and a feeding. Happy baking!

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

[stroking chin pensively]

 

Ok - that all sounds pretty good. So I'll put the original half of the starter into the fridge this evening after its feed, and that should take care of that.

 

In the meantime though I think I'll continue my "salt" experiment with the other half. Tonight I'm going to put a whole teaspoon into it. Let's see how that goes.... Again - has anyone here ever experimented with adding salt to a starter and how did that work out for you?

phaz's picture
phaz

I hear some have added salt, when they were having problems, and only in very small amounts. Salt in direct contact with yeast will kill it, so I was never brave enough to add it to my starter. The little buggers in a starter are kind to me, so I am kind to them, most of the time anyway!

Skibum's picture
Skibum

. . . will surely kill it IMVHO.  b

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Quite probably, and in that case it'll be a cheap lesson learnt, I'll flush the experiment down the drain and I'll go back to the other half which has, in the meantime, continued to bubble on happily without any salt. But I'm not so sure it will actually kill it. This starter is a monster, and *half* a teaspoon of salt had no noticeable effect on it.

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Indeed, phaz, there is a thin line between "brave" and "stupid". That's why I split the starter into two separate parts yesterday, and I'm only doing the "salt" experiment in one of the two. In the other one I'm carrying on as normal, without any salt. If the salt experiment goes horribly wrong - and it sounds like that is a very real possibility here - then I can be reassured that the other half will still be there, alive and well. Hopefully :-)

phaz's picture
phaz

Same here, the fridge starter is actually my back up. Haven't had to rely on it yet, but ya never know. 

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Better safe than sorry :-)

 

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

rozeboosje,

Have you tried reducing the amount of the starter? If you have a scale, it's easy to do. If you want to keep the ratios the same, so your feeding schedule will stay about the same, then start by measuring what you are already doing. Then divide by ten, or even more. Take it down to a small amount of starter, add the amount of flour it needs to survive for 12 hours, and the amount of water it needs to be the consistency you want it to be. To make it less active, you could use a plain white bread or even AP flour. You can convert a little bit at a time, over several feedings, if you think the sudden change will upset your little pets. Rye is great for starting the culture, but you don't need it after that. Of course, that depends on what you want your starter to be, but refined wheat flour is much less active.

You are right to be a little paranoid about the refrigerator. Different cultures will react differently. Some really don't like the fridge. Maybe try splitting your unsalted starter again, to have one to test in the fridge. Do expect to take it out as much as 12 hours (one feeding cycle) before you bake. You may not need it, especially if you keep using rye to feed it, but it's a good way to ensure it has plenty of time to wake back up before being expected to raise bread. If you do decide to not refrigerate, and you'd like to stop throwing away starter when you feed, you can find something simple to use it for. I like to add starter to my pancakes, as several others on here have also said. Some make pretzels, and some english muffins.

If you don't want to have to bake something every day, yet you still feed starter every day, you can keep your "discard" in the fridge, and save it up to use later. It won't be as good as fed starter for raising bread, but it still works just as well for pancakes! Before I relegated my starter to the fridge, I was feeding twice a day. I had mine down to a few grams starter plus 40 grams flour and 40 grams water for 100% hydration. It doubled in 12 hours, even at that high of a ratio, in the late spring/early summer temps. I kept my "discard" in the fridge until it became sizeable, then I made pancakes or something to use it up.

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

"If you want to keep the ratios the same, so your feeding schedule will stay about the same"

Well, I'd love for the feeding schedule to be stretched a bit, and I'd prefer to feed the starter once every 24 hours, at most, even while outside the fridge. So if I understand this correctly, then, you would recommend, say, reducing the starter to a fraction of its original amount, but then add a *larger* relative amount of flour.

 

So if I was feeding my starter by halving it and then adding a cup of flour, I would now divide it by ten, and, say, add 1/5 of a cup of flour, so in relative terms twice as much flour. Plus however much water it needs to get to the consistency of a very thick paste (which seems to work best for me, personally).

 

?

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Feeding twice as much flour relative to your starter may not get you exactly twice the hours out of it, but something like that. Cultures tend to grow exponentially. But you can start with that, and if it still doesn't hit your target feeding schedule, reduce the "seed" starter by even more, until you get it where you want it. This will change with the seasons too, unless you have a very perfectly regulated environment in your home. What you do want is to make sure it reaches a peak before you feed it, for maximum vibrancy. Some people even say you should let it go past the peak a little, and feed it after it begins to fall back down. To me, that sounds like child abuse. But, then again, it's just sourdough!

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Hello DavidEF

 

I had already switched to organic white wheat flour for the feeding but reducing the size sounds like a great idea. And I certainly like the sound of pancakes. Also building up the discard in the fridge for later use sounds like a cunning plan.

 

Cheers

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

You can still get the activity down some more by switching to refined flour. Whole Wheat flour doesn't make for as much activity as Rye flour (or so I've heard), but still a lot. Refined flour is going to keep the activity down, but still keep your buggers alive. Once again, it is up to you and what you want/need your starter to be.

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Aha..... I think I'm starting to get my head around it. My first attempt at making a starter used refined [insert brand name here] flour and it was an unmitigated disaster because, I reckon, that particular flour was probably bleached and sterile to boot. But NOW that I used rye flour to get it going and the starter is well and truly established, that same refined flour that was useless in the EARLY days of the starter would now be useful for slowing it down a bit?

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Yeah, I think that is exactly what would happen. I also tried to make a starter from bleached, refined AP flour, and got no activity at all. It smelled like Elmer's school glue. But, it worked well enough for feeding. I prefer unbleached flour now, because I found it helps the culture to deliver better flavor. I now use a refined, but not bleached, bread flour for feeding and for baking.

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Excellent. I split the unsalted starter in about four, and threw out two quarters. I "overfed" the other two quarters, and put one into the fridge and left the other quarter out. Just to see what the difference will be. I also left them a little bit more hydrated (but not a huge amount, it's still more "pasty" than "watery").

Did something similar with the salted starter, just for laughs. I split it in half, and added new food and a half tea spoon of salt (so the total amount of salt would now be about 3/4 of a tea spoon. Funnily enough, here we are just over an hour later, and the salted starter is definitely starting to puff up a little again. Whatever the salt is doing in there, it's NOT (yet) killing the starter. The unsalted starter is actually quieter, but as you said the extra feed may mean it'll take longer to spring back to life, in which case ... mission accomplished.

 

The two quarters (one salted, one unsalted) in the fridge are indeed a little quieter, but with the residual temperature both are still a little bit active. I guess that will slow right down over the next hour or so as the temperature falls right down to what it is in the fridge.

 

This is fun :-)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

in the fridge stiff - not pasty.  Pasty has way too much water.  Your 100 g should have at least 60 g of flour and only 40 g of water max.  63 -37  would be better built up over 3 feedings, throwing nothing away-  using 10g of starter as the seed max.  You knead like a dough and put it in a straight sided container marking the level with a rubber band after the 3rd build.  When it expands by 25% after the 3rd feeding then you refrigerate it. 

Hope this helps.  It will be interesting to see how the salt turns out.  

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

I'm afraid I didn't read this in time. I hope it's ok to stiffen them up at the next feed?

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

When ever you use them up or they need feeding   If you are at 100% hydration with the current take 10 g of it and feed it 10 g each of flour and water - let it sit for 3 hours.  Then without throwing anything away, feed it 20 g each of flour and water and them let it double which will take about 3-4 hours.  then for the 3rd feeding feed it 25 g of flour and 5 g of water, knead it and put it back in its storage container.  When this has risen 25% then in the fridge it goes.

When you bake with it just take out 10 g - 20g and build that to what ever amount of levain you need at 100% hydration. A 1,000 g loaf would need between 150 and 200 g of levain.  Just put the starter back in the fridge.  If you bake twice a week in two weeks you will need to build the starter back to its 100g again using 10 of old starter and doing it all over again. Since I only bake 1 loaf a week mine stays in the fridge 4 weeks between rebuilding it back to 100 g..  No muss, no fuss, no waste, no worries,

It is a shame you can't find whole wheat and rye flour which are the best for starters like this.  If you trying to mimic Tartine or Forkish breads that are made not to be very sour, you just build your levains with white flour. more liquid and throwing some of it away each levain feeding'

Here is the post i was looking for about SD starters. 

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/32637/more-you-want-know-about-labs-and-yeast%26favtitle=More%20than%20you%20want%20to%20know%20about%20Labs%20and%20Yeast

Happy baking

 

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Great stuff. I'm SO bookmarking that article :-)

I do have whole wheat and rye flour, but they're organic. What I can't seem to find is a "refined" rye or wheat flour that isn't bleached. It's either organic, not too refined and definitely not bleached, or bleached, refined AND sterile. But since the starters are belting along right now, maybe the "sterile" bit is no longer that much of an issue?

 

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

So far in the local shops I have only been able to find either organic unbleached white flour in the "health shop", and ordinary, bleached, refined flour in the supermarket. We're not exactly spoilt for choice in this area of Ireland. I may have to go look a bit further afield than my local town :-)

Anyhoo. Have done a bit of experimenting and the results can be seen in the pictures toward the end of the thread. The big tub, outside the fridge and toward the back, with the red and white chequered tea towel covering it is the original culture, without any added salt and treated as best I could according to your instructions. The other ones are various experiments: my original feeding regime but put in the fridge, and my original feeding regime with an additional half teaspoon of salt, one inside and one outside the fridge.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

for any reason. I have heard of people putting a little salt in a levain to slow it down but not a starter.  Salt rising bread is another matter and another fun experiment to make a fun starter very different than SD.  Whole grains that you grind yourself are better for beginning a starter since the yeast you capture comes fron the grain.

Once it is going, if you aren't baking more than a couple of loaves a week and don't want the cost, waste and maintenance time of keeping a run away counter starter happily fed then - cut the size to 100 g , stiffen it up to 60-66% hydration and put it in the fridge when it has risen 25% after the 3 rd starter build.  Your bread will be more sour and you will have some extra cash and time to make something else at home like smoked meats,  fancy pastries, beer at home or whatever:-)  

Happy starter makng  

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

"for any reason" - well, how about for (to use Richard Feynman's famous phrase) the pleasure of finding things out? I currently have one unsalted started IN the fridge and one unsalted starter OUTSIDE the fridge (both treated as per DavidEF's suggestions above), but I'm also still keeping two salted ones, just for the fun of seeing what will happen to them. If they die, well, it was a fun experiment. If not, well, let's see what happens then, shall we? :-)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

I did what you did - looked around and asked questions to see if it has been done before and what if anything was found out.  No worries with these kinds of experiments and they should be encouraged - scientific curiosity is an especially terrible thing to waste!

I personally think my apprentice has put just about everything in starter for feed to find out what happened (except Drano) so she doesn't need encouragement to experiment.   Still, yeast has had more experiments done on it by scientists than any other living thing by a wide margin.   There are  laboratory controlled experiments on what salt, sugar, alcohol, temperature, ph level or anything else pertinent does to SD symbiotic cultures of yeast and labs - not just yeast cultures  alone.

It seems pretty straight forward what salt does and what these other things do to SD cultures in various concentrations.  But, as you say and I agree completely, one does need to have some fun and experience the pleasure of finding things out for themselves, especially when it concerns their children - to a point.

I look forward to your results too but they say curiosity killed the cat, likely why they have 9 lives, so I suggest not cutting off a finger to find out if it hurts - no pleasure to be found in that unkless you like that kind of thing - as some do  - which is fine by me:-)

There are quite a few interesting home experiments done by Fresh Lofians on SD starter cultures and posts made by them about them andother controlled scientific findings.  The search box will turn them up and they make interesting reads.  bUt I would wait to read them until after your experiments are concluded.  No one, including me, wants to hear the ending of the movie when they haven't seen it yet.

I wouldn't put salt in my starter 'for any reason' because I already know what salt will do to it depending on concentrations.  But, I didn't say you shouldn't do so to yours...so you can find out too.   I would also encourage you to try other starter experiments even if done by others before, like feeding your starter various odd things besides salt, like my apprentice has so much fun doing and see what they do to the SD culture too - not Drano though.  Even though SD cultures are hard as heck to kill once established,  Drano works every time!

It's best to be a libertarian when it comes to bread I'm thinking -  and most other things too.  Didn't mean to upset you in any way with my comment.

Happy Starter Salting and other SD experiments. 

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Hi dabrownman - not at all, and I do trust your judgement. That's why I am making darned sure that I am keeping the unsalted ones going. Those are the primary cultures that I'm depending on. The salted ones are just ... well ... experiments.

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

I just posted two pictures displaying the "state of play" as per this morning, about 06:00 UTC (07:00 BST). You can find them at the bottom of this thread.

All four tubs had expanded overnight. The two in the fridge were obviously slowed down but still managed to expand - everything above the fold line in the plastic beaker is expansion. I trust that now that they have been in the fridge for several hours the expansion will go into slooooooooowwwwww....moooooooooo..... even if it doesn't quite stop altogether.

I notice bigger bubbles in the salted ones, both inside and outside the fridge. I'm afraid I had already mixed these up when I saw your last post so rather than making them stiff I made the ones outside the fridge a little bit more liquidy (but only marginally so). I guess I can always make them stiffer at the next feed...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

amount and see what it does...    ☺

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

LOL - I think I'd prefer to edge up to that very very slowly..... But I guess that now I have four tubs on the go I can afford to lose one without being too upset about it XD

Donkey_hot's picture
Donkey_hot

First of all, salted  sourdough starter is not as uncommon as one might think... some well respected professional bakers and admired bread book authors employ this method.

Personally, if I decided to slow the vigor of my starter, I would simply adjust its refreshing ratio, and avoid refrigeration or salt altogether. 

 

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

That's what DavidEF suggested, too, and I followed his advice in the biggest tub - see pictures below - outside the fridge.

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Well this is the story the morning after. The tall pots are in the fridge. The salted one in the back, the unsalted one in the front. Both had been filled to the line you can see in the shape of the beakers.

In the other photo, the big tub in the back is the original starter. The one that prompted me to post this thread. With that I took the conservative approach and I reduced it to a quarter, if not less, and I followed DavidEF's advice on that.

The smaller tub in front is the salted, unrefrigerated starter. It was less than half full when I prepared it last night. LOL

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Hm... Where did the photos go that I pasted in there?

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Pots in fridgePots outside fridge

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

I remember reading somewhere that salt strengthens the gluten bonds somehow. Maybe that is why you have larger bubbles in the salted starters. The gluten may be stronger, and able to hold more of the carbon dioxide in. Seems curious that they still grow about as fast as the others. And yes, the refrigerated ones will slow down to almost no noticable activity now that they are chilled. Interesting experiment! Looks like, if you wanted to, you could reduce that "original" one down even smaller, and put it in a smaller container. The smaller it is, the less it will eat. Have you got it down to 24 hour feedings yet?

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

I waited 24 hours before feeding it last night. I think that was pushing it a bit, but all are still very much alive. I'm at work now so I have no choice but to wait 24 hours again (when I took the photos this morning it was about 12 hours after the last feed and I didn't feed them then) - it'll be 24 hours since the last feed by the time I'm home, later.

Yes, I probably will move to a smaller container for the "original". May do that tonight.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

2% would be like making bread dough and Mini's 4% would be twice that and sadly,  all of us have doubled up the salt in bread by mistake before :-)  makes for very salty tasting bread but it doesn't kill the yeast off completely - not sure what it does to the Labs.  You have a lot of vigorous starter perking away and will need to bake a lot of bread in a couple of days:-)

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

You're gonna roll your eyes at this but I actually don't know the percentages here.

Roughly this is how I was proceeding before I decided that this needed to be slowed down a bit. I would half the amount of starter I had, and then I would add a cup of flour and just enough water to turn it into a thick paste. In the salted ones I was adding half a tea spoon of salt to that mixture. Over time (using my l33t math skills) I would imagine my mixture would approximate two cups of flour, enough water to make a thick paste, and 1 teaspoon of salt. At a guess. Not sure what this would translate to in "percentages".

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Tonight I'm going to weigh the content of flour I put in that cup and the half tea spoon of salt I use, so that I can actually give you some real figures. I don't think my cup or my tea spoon are quite as big as what Mini Oven is suggesting, but let's take the guesswork out of that.

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Hi dabrownman,

Ok - here are the measurements. One of my "cups" turned out to contain 80 grams of flour. A half cup, therefore, would be 40 grams.

My "tea spoon" is obviously a pretty small one. My scales only measure in whole grams, and half a teaspoon of salt didn't register. A whole teaspoon, slightly heaped, though, measured in at 2 grams, so I'm happy to work on the basis that one half tea spoon in my measurements is about 3/4 to 1 gram

 

I guess that would leave my salt content close to the 2% mark, right?

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

No, wait. Up to now I was adding WHOLE cups. So my salt content would be closer to 1 percent rather than 2.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Salt has different weights.  That is why I mentioned heavy table salt.  Sea salt can weigh half as much and can vary depending on flakes or crystals or minerals in the salt.  so...  that is why weighing salt is highly recommended (and the flour too!)    It sure beats guessing.  

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Indeed. I am using fine sea salt.

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

I baked a nice loaf there yesterday evening. I'm happy with it BUT I'm a total beginner, so while it tastes OK there are a few things I'd like to improve on before I will feel happy to show off here with a picture [grin] - I'm happy that I ended up with a nice airy texture and no big gaping holes at the top, but it still doesn't LOOK very impressive. So I'm going to try a few variations with maybe a slightly less wet dough that's easier to shape, and some variations in oven times. Play time!

 

While the reduction of both flour and water, and making the starter stiffer has certainly done the trick slowing down my monster starter, I did notice one thing I wasn't too happy about. Over the course of 24 hours the outer layer of the starter dries out creating somewhat of a "skin". Today I dusted the wad with some dry flour to try and avoid that. This is the result:

Is that "skin" something to worry about? Should I include or discard it when feeding the starter? Am I right to try prevent it from forming? Is dusting it with flour a good or bad idea?

 

Cheers

 

 

P

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

I usually keep a plastic lid over my starter. When it is in the fridge, it is kept in a tightly-sealed container with the lid on tight. When I'm keeping it out at room temp (therefore expect it to be more active) I keep it in that same container, with the same lid, but the lid sits loosely on top, and I put it somewhere that it is not likely to get bumped. The lid helps hold in moisture, so it is less likely to dry out. However, after several days in the fridge, it can still make a little skin. I usually just knead that back in after I take it out of the fridge. Then I let it sit for a while to come up to room temperature and soften, and also become more active, before using it to make bread.

Currently I am using an "old dough" as my starter, which is basically a 67% hydration dough made of flour, water, salt (at 2%) and the wild yeasts and LABs that live there. A lot like your salted stiff starter. Didn't know bread could be so simple, or I would have started earlier in life. My starter had been well established and mature for a long time before I attempted this, and I did it in parallel with a 100% hydration starter kept out and fed twice daily, until I was sure it would work. But it's very convenient. When I want to bake, I make new dough and mix my "old dough" into it, then take a new piece out to be the "old dough" for next time. This way, I never have to actually "feed" my starter, and it is always ready to bake. I can make extra "old dough" for pizza, too. After a couple days in the fridge, I bake it without adding any new ingredients to it. I just let it warm up to room temp and start to rise a little, then make pizza, and bake! The flavor is wonderful!

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

It's probably my bad experience with starter number 1 - remember, I started a weak earlier with a starter that died a horrible death before trying again, creating this ravenous beast - but that's why I'm keeping the moist towel on top rather than an air tight lid. I'm afraid that I'll suffocate the poor thing. I have relaxed a little bit since, seein' how resilient THIS one seems to be even in the face of an insult such as adding salt to it, but every time I feed it and it's reduced to something "dead" looking for an hour or so, I get that little sinking feeling that "I must have screwed it up this time". Like I said, it's abating a bit, but it's still there, that little twinge of anxiety. LOL

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

I keep 100 g in a a used Pillsbury frosting container that comes with a plastic lid. Think small.  A stiff starter won't rise much in the fridge a container that is twice as big as the starter is plenty It will form ia skin n the fridge but a tight fitting lid keeps this to a minimum.  If you keep it on the counter covered in a towel, a thick crust will form.

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Ok - well, I can certainly find a smaller container. I would like to keep it outside the fridge though if I can. Between yesterday and today it has behaved itself much more calmly. So the tips you (and the others here) have given me have most definitely helped.

But, regarding that skin. Is it a good/bad/indifferent thing to have that skin form, and if a skin *does* form, what's the best thing to do? Discard it, mix it back in? And are you saying it should now be OK for me to put it in an airtight container between feeds?

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

Your containers pictured are indeed pretty huge.  I use all kinds of containers depending on how much I need, what's available and what's clean.  But I always aim to have the volume of the culture approach cube/sphere geometry (minimum surface-to-volume ratio) as it approaches saturation (= fully grown).  That way you minimize loss of the heat from fermentation's metabolic inefficiency, thereby 'naturally' warming your culture when it hits its stride in log-to-stationary phase. 

Currently (my methods are always evolving):  Routine (leading up to the final build for a typically sized [~2000 gr] weekly bake) refreshments of my starter contain 5-10 gr previous starter + 4x that weight of water + 5x that weight of flour.  That is, I've been keeping my starter at 80% hydration (it's a Ken Forkish thing).  Reduce water to 3x if you want a stiff 60% starter.  Those quantities fit nicely in 8 oz jelly jars or the miscellaneous Rubbermaid take-your-applesauce-to-work containers we have in the cupboard.  Leave the (sealed, either screw-cap or snap-on) lid loose while it's growing (to let CO2 escape) but tighten it down for storage when the culture is fully grown.  What to do with the skin?  Tighten the lid and you won't get one.

A watched starter never grows ;-).  Or grows reluctantly.  They can be awful shy little buggers.  Put them in your "warm spot" and leave them be.  Remember, unfettered populations (like Homo sapiens, for example) grow by logarithmic growth.  That is, volume increases are slow to non-detectable during the early stages of the cycle but are increasingly dramatic on a per-hour basis as the culture nears saturation (fully grown).  To be accurate, it's the cumulative volume of carbon dioxide produced by increasing numbers of bugs that results in the overall volume increases we observe in our growing starters (and doughs for that matter), not an increase in the microbial population itself, which is indeed undetectable without lab methods.  So just ignore it for the first few hours unless you thrive on worry.

Happy culturing.

Tom

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If your cup is 130g of flour, then one teaspoon of heavy table salt would be 5g or about 4%.    half a teaspoon would be 2.6 grams  only 2% well within recipe salt strength of 1.5 to 3%.  (That doesn't count the starter flour)  

So...  salt will have little impact on the yeast in the starter other than to regulate fermentation and tighten protein strands.

I would also think about reducing the size of your starter before feeding to reduce the amount of starter so it requires less flour while feeding.  Try using as little as a heaping teaspoon of starter. 

From the looks of all that starter, you might try using it as soon as it peaks or a little later as it levels off.  Whatcha doing today?

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Yeah. I'm going to work on reducing the sizes now that I'm happy that everything's alive and well, and I know I can dump a whole bunch of it into the fridge where it can sit safely in case I mess it all up and I need to start again with a backup.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

I spread, about 4 T of some 70% hydration starter on parchment paper and let it air dry.  I divided it in half and wrapped it in parchment paper but wax paper or plastic wrap will do.  Half I put in a plastic container and froze it and the other half I put in a glass jar and put it in the cupboard. Both cam be refreshed with a little water and a feed and be back to full strength in no time if needed.  Yeast in a fungi like a mushroom so it is the spores you want to keep alive but dormant. The Labs seem to do fine these storage ways too.  The best way to back up store is to freeze dry the starter but most folks don't have equipment at home to do it.

So no need to keep a back up in the fridge in case something happens,  Oddly, it seems the easiest way to kill off you starter is to use it all up in bread and forget to hold some back :-)  Difficult to kill those wee beasties otherwise. 

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Brilliant. I will do that. I have some "grease proof paper" that may be a decent substitute for your "parchment" or "wax" paper. Cheers.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Yeah, I thought about suggesting you could dry some for backup, but I wasn't sure you're ready for that much fun yet. As far as the paper, grease-proof should work. Probably just about any smooth surface would work actually, because the stuff flakes off after it dries, at least in my experience. You could then put it into a container of some sort, even a zip-lock bag. But, as dabrownman said, the yeasties are pretty hard to kill anyway (but that didn't stop HIM from making TWO backups!) Also, your starter, though obviously active and strong, isn't really mature yet. I would wait on long-term storage options until you're sure it is stable and mature. What good would it be to "save" some from this week, if it gets even better next week, right? Then again, it's not hard to throw away, either, so have fun any way you like.

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

good points indeed. Pancakes it is, so!

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

I posted some numbers in reply to dabrownman, if you're interested. The upshot is that my salt content is hovering around the 1 to 1 1/4 percent mark.

 

Today I reduced sizes again, and made the two starters outside the fridge much stiffer. Because of the reduced size I also transferred the unsalted (original) starter to a much smaller tub. Both are now sitting like little wads of putty in the bottom of their tubs, hopefully happy and contented after the feed they just had :)

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

rozeboosje,

Keeping your "discard" in the fridge to use for pancakes and such is a good idea. Expecting it to be a backup for your starter is a little risky. Typically, your "discard" is on the decline as far as food is concerned, and that's why you are discarding it. If you want it to be useful for a backup, you still need to feed it before putting it into the fridge. Although activity will be lower than at room temperature, it will still be alive and will still need to eat a little. Your experimental starters that are in your fridge now have been fed, and should be okay for a week or two before feeding again. The "discard" starter, if it isn't fed, will probably be okay for a while in the fridge, but I wouldn't depend on it to be a backup for anything.

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Hm. That makes a lot of sense. Thanks.

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

I did a bit of measuring as I realised that that is a lot more important in this kind of food technology than it would in my usual "getting the dinner on" kind of cooking where it's much more acceptable to do your quantities purely by look and feel. Getting the weighing scales out is definitely something I need to get used to!

 

I posted my figures in reply to one of dabrownman's comments. In case you're interested. I think the 1% salt value that I arrived at will go some way toward explaining why I haven't killed my starter outright.

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

This has been a classically amusing and informative (and long) TFL thread if there ever was one.  Fun read!  But before it falls off the home page, I wanted urge you, Roze, to count your blessings.  An active starter is a cornerstone of successful baking with natural leavening.  The more active, the better.  Perhaps (but I'm doubtful) some yeast genotypes have stumbled into your starter that have a particularly short doubling time or extraordinarily efficient fermentation metabolism.  The last thing I'd think of doing would be to try to rein them in, to punish their exemplary behavior, with salt.  That will impose a selection (as will any and all regimes under which you chose to maintain them) that may well evict (read: elongate doubling time to eventual extinction) the very bugs that you've been so fortunate to domesticate.  Refrigeration will certainly slow them down, but that will impose a (usually benign) selection as well.  I would (and do, with mine) try as gentle an approach as possible to synching your culture's cycling with your life's cycling.  Find a cool place to keep your starter (cellar, garage) and monitor its nose.  Don't go altering its feed willy nilly just to "slow it down" or you'll lose track of its character (you'll be changing it).  For example, I know that my starter is one day past needing refreshment when it starts to smell like cheap chardonnay.  So I try not to let it get that far.  But when it does (and it does :-( ), I just know that it will probably take twice as long to double when I do feed it and therefore I may have to postpone baking by a day to get it back up to speed.

It sounds like you've got a very healthy microbial population there.  Congratulations.  Treat it with respect.

My $.02.  Happy baking!

Tom

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Hi Tom,

 

I'm certainly starting to come around to that view. With the tips given here by DavidEF and dabrownman, my starter has already started behaving itself a lot better. While the salted versions are still doing well, it's becoming more and more clear that it's simply not necessary to hurl that insult at them. The unsalted ones are equally happy, and with smaller portions and stiffer pastes the runaway doubling seems to have calmed down a bit.

 

I am definitely counting my blessings here :-)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I save the salt for high ambient temperatures where refrigeration is a problem or not available.  I tend to thicken the starter or reduce the inoculation (saved starter to feed.)   Just remember that when temps drop, you may be increasing the water, decreasing the flour or using more starter to feed amounts.  Watch your starter and let it guide you. 

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Will do.

I baked a loaf last night. I still have a LONG way to go before I produce anything as pretty looking as what I see on this site. But I just had some for breakfast and the flavour is starting to come together nicely. A pleasant, mild tang, but nothing overpowering. Looks like the starter has matured even in the 3 days since the weekend. So far not too bad :-)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

feed it Toadies though..... like I do - right?  Everything is better with Toadies:-)  I saw my apprentice slipped some into Karin's Challenge bake today  which reminds me ....you made that great chock full of seeds bread where the crumb was totally outrageous. - you should join in the Queen of Seed's Challenge Tom - looks like a similar bake !

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

Aw, yer jes makin funa mah sayin, a coons age ago, We don lak bits in are bred.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

But after toasting Toads to make them Tasty and Toady Lucy grinds them up again just to knock the edge off of them so they are pretty fine.  When properly autolysed, folks would be hard pressed to to even notice them as bits or, in your case, hardlyt able to knock at tooth out but..... i can tell yoiu might be missing a few and every tooth you can keep in your head is plus in my book:-)

I just though you might want to join the challenge and think about putting putting your own invention in your starter! 

 

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

One more word before this thread (or your starter) dies.  Next time your little microbial Usain Bolt crew grows up, dip a rubber spatula into it and smear 1-2 tsp onto a scrap of parchment paper.  Let it dry well before folding up the paper and tucking it into, say, a saved 8 oz deli container.  Cover and place on a shelf in a ~dry place.  That way, if one of your experiments (or travel, or a period of benign neglect) results in an irretrievably lifeless starter :-(, you've got a backup to re-hydrate, feed and return to leavening action. 

Not that your experiments are likely to result in such genocide.  If microbes were that easy to kill, Earth would look a lot more like Mars than Pandora.

Tom

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

I see dab already counseled desiccation.  OK -- you've heard it (at least) TWICE.  Time to do it!

t

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

we could be twins:-)

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Thanks Tom! I will certainly do that.

chris319's picture
chris319

I remember reading that too much salt can impede the reproduction of LABs. That would be my concern in adding so much salt.

Three days is a little quick for starter but you're using rye flour.

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Yeah; after reading and trying out the recommendations posted here I soon realised that there was no need to use salt to slow down my starter. There are better ways, even outside the fridge.

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Just an update for all you good folks who have been giving me advice here.

 

The Monster Raving Loony Starter is still going strong. I ditched all the "salted" varieties, and stuck with the original, unsalted version. I have been able to avoid having to put it in the fridge so far. By following the advice given by dabrownman and DavidEF I managed to reduce the amounts of starter produced, especially immediately after baking.

I think I'm finding a nice rhythm in which I bake about twice a week. After baking I have only a little bit of starter left over, and I start with about 20g of flour. I tend to favour rye flour and alternate with white wheat if I feel the starter seems a little "sluggish". Which is hardly ever. I might discard half the starter after day 1 after baking, but after that I discard nothing at all, and about half a week later I have a sizeable amount of starter which I then use almost wholly for the next bake. And repeat.

 

The results are slowly but steadily improving. The picture I included here is today's bread. It was made with approximately 200g of white flour, 100g of rye flour, and whatever was in the starter - I reckon the starter comes to in or around 100g by the time I use it. And 11g of salt. While previous attempts were pretty decent (I brought a loaf into work on Monday and my colleagues enjoyed it with some of my wife's home made jam and real Irish butter), I think today's one was the best tasting yet. I reckon it's the rye that did that. Previous attempts used whole wheat flour instead of rye.

 

This pan rose to almost 9cm. I was quite happy with that. I used the boule shaping techniques illustrated elsewhere on this site and it worked!

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Love the bold bake too.  Well done all the way around.  I'm glad you have  found a way to keep your starter on the counter and not have any waste.  Waste not - want not they say and thriftiness is a virtue, especially when it comes to food and so many doing without around the world.

Don't forget, if you want more sour you will want to refrigerate your starter for a few days to bring out the LABS and reduce the YEAST, retard the dough either bulk or shaped and do your final proof at 86-88 F.

Happy baking

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Great. Well, winter is on its way, and we have a "sun room" (or conservatory as they call them here in Ireland) which will get progressively colder in the coming few months. I think it may retard the dough quite nicely.

My problem is going to be the final proofing, I reckon. Having looked it up 86-88 F is 30-31 degrees celsius. I can't see any part of my house getting that hot during the winter :-( - If I can't get it up that warm, will it be ok to simply proof it for longer?

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

my kitchen temp in AZ.  In the winter I just use a heating pad set to the right temperature to get to 86 F or put a kitchen towel on the pad,underneath the bread or levain or what ever and cover the whole shebang with a towel to keep the warmth in,  Too hot, i just add another layer of towel underneath what ever I am trying to keep warm. 

If you are looking to get more sour you want to final proof it at a high temperature (90 F) because the labs will reproduce 3 time faster  than the yeast will = more sour.  Longer at room temps won't make more sour but the bread will take longer  to proof.  At 36 F labs also reproduce at 3 times faster than yeast, even if they both are very slow. 

Here is chart showing jow temperature affects labs and yeast.  Long retards at 36 F for starter, levain and ferments and final proof at 90 F will give you the most sour your starer can make.  But some folks don't like sour and room temperature is the way to go,

 

Reproduction Rates of Labs and YeastL/Y 
T(°F)T (°C)L. SF IL. SF IIYeastRatio
     36         2 0.0190.0160.0053.787
     46         8 0.0470.0430.0212.222
     61       16 0.1440.1500.1141.265
     64       18 0.1870.1980.1631.145
     68       20 0.2390.2590.2251.064
     72       22 0.3010.3320.2951.021
     75       24 0.3740.4160.3651.024
     79 260.4530.5080.4141.094
     82       28 0.5350.5980.4171.284
     86       30 0.6090.6720.3461.760
     90       32 0.6580.7060.2023.255
93340.6570.6710.05013.127
rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Interesting how the L/Y ratio goes down, and then up again. So if I understand correctly, in order to get more sour, considering that I won't be likely to achieve the 30 degrees C for the proof, all I can really do is go for longer retards at the early stages. Which means, I think, that in the winter my bread is likely to get sourer. Temperatures of 30 degrees (for the final proof) are rare in Ireland, even in the middle of summer.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

I'm glad everything is under control, and your baking is turning out beautiful boules such as this. With a little more tweaking, you could get it to where you have no discard to throw away, ever, but you're probably close enough, and it seems the schedule is working well for you. Thanks for posting the update!

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Nah, thank YOU for all the great tips.

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Yup. Haven't thrown any discard away at all this week. This is my mid-week loaf, barely half an hour out of the oven. It's 2/3 white wheat, 1/3 wholemeal rye, with linseed inside and poppy seed on the crust.

pantone_000's picture
pantone_000

I seriously envy those of you who can make a starter and actually maintain it (and use it).

I live in a tropical country (Philippines) and the average room temp in a day is 30-32C, and even higher in the summer. I'm afraid making a starter in a household with no refrigerator (yikes, that's why i don't make cakes) will also yield a monster-raving-loony-starter (Asian edition) that may double up in an hour or less.

: /

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

starter and later consider adding salt to slow fermentation.  4% salt to flour amount?

rozeboosje's picture
rozeboosje

Very true that. It's nice to be able to just leave the starter in the "sun room" in the knowledge that with Winter in place the environment will rarely go over 10 degrees Celsius.