The Fresh Loaf

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Seed culture question

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smiddlet's picture
smiddlet

Seed culture question

Hi all -- Started my very first seed culture following the Reinhart method outlined in BBA. I initialize the process last Saturday, June 10th at 2:30 pm. Rye flour and water, as per Reinhart.

The next morning at about 10:30 am (Sunday the 11th - Day 2), the mix had risen about 25%, which I thought was nice. I added a cup of bread flour and the required water, and after checking back on the culture in only 30 minutes, I could see some nice bubbling and rising.

Monday (yesterday), I came home from work at about 5:30 pm and noticed that the culture had doubled, but had fallen onto itself. I could see track marks up the side of my Lock and Lock container as evidence. The culture had fallen down to its initial level. I halved the culture and added a cup more of white flour and some more water, as per Reinhart's instructions.

The thing is, I checked on it this morning, and no rising. A few bubbles, but not the vigorous bubbling it showed on Day 1 and Day 2. I think that perhaps I left it without being fed for too long (if you look at the times, it was 22 hours between Day 1 and Day 2, but 30 hours between Day 2 and Day 3) and exhausted the culture? I had also left the stove light on underneath the container (on the oven hood) for about 20 minutes, and perhaps warmed it up?

Sourdough novices and experts, any ideas?

pincupot's picture
pincupot

I am also interested in growing my own. I have read the Reinhart method as well as one from Nancy Silverton's "Breads from La Brea Bakery" who suggested using ogranic grapes as an added sugar boost and the "Fields of Greens" Cookbook by Anne Somerville who suggests using organic raisins. I don't have access to the grapes and have been thinking about the raisins. Anyone else used organic fruit to enhance their sourdough culture?
pincupot

KazaKhan's picture
KazaKhan

Just keep the daily refreshments up and it'll come good. My starter took 9 days before it was useable which is about average from what I've learnt.

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

The rising you observed on the first couple of days is probably not yeast, but rather bacteria growing (don't panic, it's not bad bacteria!). It can really fool you because it looks very convincing. Keep up with your feeding and as KazaKahn said, it will come around. Keep us posted how it goes.

It isn't necessary to keep it real warm. Room temperature is perfect.

rmk129's picture
rmk129

I am also presently trying to make my first starter following a mixture of SourdoLady & Floydm's instructions :) I am on the 3rd day with no evidence of anything at all...today I went and found another source of rye flour for the third feeding just in case my first source was not fresh enough. From all the advice posted above (and in all the archived sourdough starter posts) it definitely seems that patience is key (easier said than done!!!), but I still have a question...

If we are following SourdoLady's schedule and do not see any activity or bubbles at all after day 3, do we still switch to feeding 1/4 cup flour & 1/4 cup filtered or spring water on day 4? Or should we assume that our starter is on a delayed schedule (my room temperature is very low) and keep adding the 2 Tbsp whole grain flour & 2 Tbsp juice (or maybe wait longer between feedings?) until we see some evidence of "yeastie life"?

Thanks for all the great advice!

smiddlet's picture
smiddlet

So the second seed culture went just great. On the fifth day, it shot right up, tripled in size and a fantastic smelly yeasty smell. From that, I put together the starter (barm) as per Reinhart's instructions, and left it at room temperature for about 7 hours. Came home to a bit of a mess -- it got pretty active, more than doubled in size and leaked. Nonetheless, popped it in the fridge and put together the first build (levain) which, when put together, doubled in size in three hours. That's in the fridge right now and unfortunately, I can't put together the final dough until Thursday, so hopefully that's okay.

Question about feeding: Reinhart's starter is frankly huge. It's about 2 pounds, I think (though I'm terrible at estimations) and this one recipe only takes 4 oz of starter. Seems like a bit of a waste. Would one suggest that I bring it down to a manageable amount and double that amount? If so, what's a good amount of starter for the home-baker?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Well I just baked my first Chinese sourdough only rolls and I think I have to let them rise more before baking. Now I have to learn to be patient with the dough.

I kept 8 oz sourdough starter for the Fridge and when I want to bake with it again, the day before, mix in the amount I need for my recipe. If my recipe calls for 9 oz, I take a measure cup and a fork, fill it with 4 oz of water and add flour beating with the fork and add water and flour till I reach 9 oz. Stir up my starter and dump it in. You can leave it out giving it plenty of room overnight or put it back into the fridge. A lot depends on room temperature. If It is 36°c in the kitchen, then put it into a cooler room or leave it out 6 hours or so and then put it back in the fridge. If you bake every day you can leave it out every day. What you want the yeast to do is multiply, after it has done that (gone up and down) you can put it into the fridge. At least that's how I understand it. I keep mine wet so it doesn't rise too much and "go over." Never hurts to put another pan under your baby as it grows, can save on clean up. From what I read here, doubbling your yeast can be done at 12 hour intervals or as soon as it falls, you can feed it again. Someone let me know if I'm wrong. I can't explain why some starters are thicker than others, personal preference I suppose, they also adjust their recipes for less or more liguid.

After I take out my recipe sourdough, the rest goes back into the fridge. You can feed it now or later, up to you and when you plan on baking. I hope this helps. :) Mini Oven

smiddlet's picture
smiddlet

Ah, perhaps I should've read the comments before I gave up yesterday. There was absolutely no rise after Day 4, and after adding more flour and waking up this morning to nothing, I threw out the seed culture.

But that's not to say I gave up on the whole enterprise -- second culture underway. One cup of rye flour to 3/4 water.

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

You really didn't need to throw out your first batch. The only time I would throw it out and start over is if the mixture turns orange or pink or grows mold. If you use pineapple juice or orange juice instead of water you will have better luck in getting the starter going. Don't be impatient--it can take a full week sometimes. Also, it is not necessary to use a whole cup of flour in the beginning stages. It is, in fact, wasteful because you should be dumping out at least half of the mixture every day before you feed again. At this stage there is no need for large quantities as would be used for baking. It is very important to do the dumping and feeding daily whether you see activity or not. Once the yeasts kick in and start to grow you will know it because the smell changes to a pleasant yeasty smell and then once the starter has consumed all the nutrients in the flour the smell will change to a sharp alcohol smell from the fermentation. Good luck, guys, and hang in there. Sourdough does require patience!

smiddlet's picture
smiddlet

This time I will follow the patience creed.

I'm just following Reinhart's instructions (didn't see your starter recipe until afterwards). Started again on Wednesday morning with one cup of rye flour and 3/4 cup water. Checked on it this morning, and it had easily doubled. Mixed it with one cup of bread flour and 1/2 cup water and saw a rise in the first twenty minutes.

Now that I know this rising is a result of bacteria, and probably not yeast, I'll take it easy.

rmk129's picture
rmk129

Hi smiddlet,
Sounds like we are in the same stage right now :)
For me it is day 4 and I woke up this morning to find the first ever signs of life in my starter (bubbles and expansion!)...now I know how you got so excited! However, since my starter seems to be on a slower "schedule" than yours, this might just be the bacteria too! So I will try to hold tight, follow the "patience creed" and expect the activity to stop soon...

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

My starter instructions (Maggie Gleezer's) said to keep feeding for two weeks. The initial activity she said would be bacterial, and would die down, then gradually it would liven up again as the yeasts began to grow. And it did! The starter is now over a year old and performing superbly - so do persevere!

rmk129's picture
rmk129

Oh boy...two weeks... and to think that only a few months ago I was so proud of myself for having the patience to make my first loaf of bread that involved a two-day process :) Thanks for the encouragement...my "starter brews" are bubbling away at day 5, but I promise not to give up on them when this initial activity passes (unless mould is involved).

Another question...do most people clean/rinse out their starter jars on a regular basis (daily/every two days/weekly?) when they keep their containers at room temperature in order to discourage mould from growing on the insides of the containers?

KazaKhan's picture
KazaKhan

I use sodium percarbonate to clean my starter containers. I also use a clean container to refresh after I use the starter.

qahtan's picture
qahtan

I run all my stuff through the dishwasher, ,, qahtan

KazaKhan's picture
KazaKhan

So do I, however I rinse with the sodium percarbonate (sterilising powder from the home brew section of the supermarket) before using the containers for my starter. Maybe a little over the top...

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

I try to keep mine down to about 6 oz in the fridge, and then build it up to what I need for baking over a couple of days to rev up the activity a bit. Unfortunately, I always seem to have more than I need, so I'm giving that away on Craig's list.

But 6-9 oz works pretty well for me.

rmk129's picture
rmk129

Thanks to everybody for your helpful tips!!!
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I am very happy to report that after 2 weeks I now have three sourdough starters that seem to be going strong (white, whole wheat and rye). I even baked my first loaf of sourdough bread today...it certainly doesn't look like many of the other fantastic sourdough loaves posted on this site, but I am ecstatic with my Ciabatta-like result anyways :)
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I have posted photos of my "journey" in my Baker's Blog, and I would definitely welcome any constructive criticism of my steps/results from experienced sourdough bakers on this site!
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My First Sourdough Adventure
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I am especially looking forward to attempting a whole-wheat and/or rye sourdough loaf at some point, but from the comments I have read it seems like I should try to get comfortable with the process using a white loaf and starter first since the whole wheat doesn't rise as easily??? This is funny because when I look at all my starters side-by-side, it seems that the white starter always has the fewest bubbles and activity, while the whole wheat and rye are always busy bubbling and frothing away!?!?!? I think I may be missing a major concept here. Any suggestions on this would be welcome, as I really prefer the flavour of whole grains.
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Thanks again for all the great support and happy baking!

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

I haven't done a white loaf at all yet - mine are 50% wholemeal (which I mill myself) and 50% white. The rise etc is fine, and it proofs at quite a speed!! I haven't tried 100% whoelmeal yet, but shall do eventually....

But you don't need to start with white - the techniques are much the same.

Andrew

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

If you go with 100% whole wheat, it does behave significantly differently from the 50-50 mix. For sourdough, I've found it helps a lot to mix the water and the flour together first and let it sit (autolyse) for about an hour. It makes a big difference in how long I have to knead it.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Thanks, I'm going to try that with my barley/oat combination. I'm also using your Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread Recipe and substituting Barley / Oats / white wheat flour, 25/25/50. :) Mini Oven

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Great! Looking forward to hearing how it goes. Oats and Barley sound great. If it works, let us know what you did -- I'll want to try it!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If it works out....At the moment, I've got problems and I think it's the Barley flour. Seems everytime I use it, my yeast refuses to cooperate. I was noticing that barley can be full of alpha-amylase. Could too much of this be killing my yeast?
My loaf has been sitting in a 23°c living room since noon yesterday. It never really doubled so about 20:00 hours, I did a final fold and shape and put one in the fridge and left the other one out, covered to rise. It is 08:00 now and nothing. Pulled the loaf from the fridge and set them both outside. We are expecting thunderstorms also.

The oat starter on the otherhand is brewing away. I cut the loaf to look for bubbles and some are there, reshaped into rolls, and stuck into a plastic bag to rise. I am going to take two spoons of starter and mix one with barley flour and the other with oat. Could it be that barley neutralizes the pH? Add to my expr. two more spoons but with a little orange juice in each. My husband is telling me to stop breaking my head over it and go back to adding comercial yeast. Looks like this batch are doggie biscuts. Is there anything I can do now without overworking the dough?
Letting the whole grain flour soak for an hour helped a great deal and the satiny texture looks good. Even now the surface is intact and smooth. Unfortunately it just lies there. :(
Mini Oven

11:00 ....Dough 1 cm higher. I just baked the buns, cut them through first to look for bubbles, a few. Then stretched them into sticks. After one hour, baked them. they did puff up in the heat. Broke one open, does have air pockets. Taste? Aftertaste like an aspirin only a little rye like. Crumb? Still hot but not bad, no soggy or heavy spots. Suggestion? Forget Barley bread and leave it for Beer and whiskey production. Guess I'm stuck with bleached white wheat, middle ground corn, and whole oat flours.

The oat/barley experiment looks so far like this: after 3 hours, nothing much going on in all 5 bowls (one has just sourdough, the control). 11:00 added to all bowls 2 tsp water, tsp white wheat flour, pinch of sugar, stir one minute. Saran wrap back on and wait.

15:00 Looks like no bubbles in Barley-water, and very little action in control starter with white wheat flour. Barley with orange is thick and bubbly, so is oat and orange, pulling up second is oats and water. What did I do? Develope an oat starter that only works with oats or orange juice?
So for all practical purposes the starter I made only works with oat flour. White wheat & Oat Sourdough Bread will need starter for the oats and commercial yeast for the wheat. Guess I should bring my wheat starter back from holiday. Then if I want pure wild yeasts I would use two starters for my sourdough bread. Does anybody else have a combo going on?

rmk129's picture
rmk129

Today I am starting my second sourdough loaf attempt. Thanks to andrew_l and JMonkey for tips on using whole wheat flour in sourdough loaves!
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For my first attempt, I used the same techniques as I did for my first loaf but this time I added a short autolyse step (no time this morning to wait the full hour) and I tried adding about 50% whole wheat flour. I stuck with my white starter for now instead of trying out my whole wheat starter(don't want to change too many things at once!), so I am assuming that I got approximately the correct flour ratio by using:
1 1/2 cups proofed white starter
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 to 1 1/2 cups white flour
(I must admit that I also ?"cheated"? and added 1 Tbsp vital wheat gluten just to make sure I don't end up with a complete brick for my first attempt :)
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Salt question:
I have a quick question--I read somewhere that to make their 100% wholewheat sourdough loves, some people recommend mixing and kneading all the ingredients except salt for the first rise, then add the salt to the dough *after* the first rise, before shaping. I assume this is to reduce yeast "inhibition" during the first rise? This seems like quite a troublesome step to me so I am not doing it this time around...any opinions on whether this method is worth the trouble?

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

I omit salt during the autolyse so that it doesn't tighten the gluten strands. Delaying salt at this stage allows the flour to more fully soak up the water, or so I'm told.

But I've always added salt immediately after the 60 minute autolyse and then kneaded it right up for the first rise. It's turned out OK for me.

Well ... actually there was that one time that I COMPLETELY forgot to add salt until the loaf was shaped and in the fridge for an overnight proof. I had to knead it up once again, this time with salt, and let it rise for a second shaping. Turned out ok, but with a tighter crumb than I'd have liked ....