Help! Help! Sourdough Starter Woes
I am a newbie to sourdough baking.
I started my first sourdough starter on Sunday January 26th. After 4 days using orange juice (water on day 4) and whole grain rye flour I got bubbles, a "fruity" aroma and a slightly acidic taste. Success!
On day 4, I modified my twice daily feeding schedule to a 1:1:1 ratio using 50% AP and 50% Whole Wheat. I continued this schedule. The starter peaks (a little more than double the volume) in 7.5 hours at 73F.
On day 10, I tried my first bake, following the basic sourdough recipe in Reinhart's BBA. A total disaster. The firm starter did not rise more than 20% and, of course, the final dough did not rise properly either. I ended up forgoing the actual baking and throwing out the dough. I surmised that my problem was a starter that was too young.
A couple of days ago I decided to try again, this time following Hamelman's Vermont sourdough recipe in "Bread", which I cut in half so as to only make one loaf. Last Thursday (day 12 in the life of my starter) I created the liquid Levain using a small portion of my active starter. I waited until my starter had peaked and was, supposedly ripe (7.5 hours after feeding) before building the liquid Levain according to the recipe. This was done at 8:00pm and I left it overnight on the counter to ferment ( at approximately 70F) for 12 to 16 hours.
I tested the Levain the next morning. It smelled "floury", like raw dough, no signs of acidity or sweetness; but there were a few bubbles. Even after 16 hours there appeared little change. I concluded that the my starter was not "ready" and decided not to carry on. I noticed that my starter was subjected to a "new" feed (all AP flour) when the liquid Levain was built and I have read that this change in feed may cause problems. So perhaps the 50/50 feed mixture I am using was a contributing factor.
I decided to keep the liquid Levain and have been feeding it 100% AP flour, trying to develop an "all White" starter. So far, it smells the same (doughy) and has a few more bubbles but I would not call it very active.
From what I have observed my starter appears weak and lacking in LAB, although I have read that a starter should be "ready" to use after a week or so. I can understand the lack of sourness (LAB) because I have been keeping it at around 72F and feeding it twice daily. But what contributes to, as Hamelman states in his book "With liquid-levain cultures, ripeness is indicated by a mildly acidic aroma and a subtle sweetness, as well as by numerous small bubbles, somewhat like soap bubbles, that partially cover the surface. It should have a pleasing tang when tasted, acidic but not aggressively so."