I've been using this site ever since I started down the road of sourdough, almost one year ago. I am amazed by the member's expertise and abilities I find here. Every question I've had has been answered, and i've never written before because everything I wanted/needed to know could be easily found in your pages. Until now. After a couple of initial disasters (I may just chronicle them here sometime, in order to aid any other newbies), I started making fine bread. Not nearly as lovely as yours, or Chad Robertson's (I'm basically following the Tartine methods), but fine for me. Then, suddenly, in late January, my starters just seemed to give up. I've regenerated them, but I'd like know if any of you experts can tell me what happened and if I can do anything to prevent this in the future.
My first starter is called "Baby".
Baby has been with me from the beginning. She started as Robertson's 50gm whole wheat flour and 50gm white flour with 100 gm water. At first, I fed her once a day by taking 75 gm of the starter and adding 150 gms flour mix and 150 gms water, as per Chad's instructions. She started off sluggish, and I was going through tons of flour, and I read here about feeding starters twice a day in smaller portions. I also read about the power of rye, so I moved over to 45gm of starter with 15gm BRM ww, 15gm KAF ap, and 15gm BRM dark rye with 45 gm water, feeding her twice a day. Baby took off.
Based on Baby's success (for me. You can see I couldn't shape or score yet),
I made "Newbie", a 100% rye starter. It was happy as could be. I started successfully storing both in the fridge, taking turns pulling one out one week, feeding it for 5 times, then making a loaf. When I'd put one back in the fridge, I'd start with a base starter, say 30 gm, give it 90 gm of water and 100-110 gm flour. I switched Baby over to BRM light Rye for my lighter loaves. Both did fine. Until late January.
Now we've just ended a brutal winter. We had record number of days below zero, and my apartment never quite felt warm. My kitchen is cool year round - it doesn't get much sun, and I keep my place on the cool side year round. But this winter, it was cold in there, until I turned the oven on. Suddenly, both Baby and Newbie weren't rising anything. Including themselves. Calling them sluggish would be a complement. They just sat there. I made a loaf of bread that was as flat as my first miserable attempt at sourdough. I threw it out. The only way I had any successful loaves in February was by adding dry yeast during the autolyse.
In March I pulled both starters out, nursed Baby back to health by feeding her for over two weeks straight, twice a day. I've made some loaves with only her and they are great. For me.
Newbie never caught back on, so I started a new, 100% rye starter. Which is doing great.
(recent breads are Whole Wheat and 20% Rye from Tartine 3)
So, here are my questions:
- Will a 100% rye starter stay strong, or do you need to restart one every few months?
- What happened? Was my kitchen too cold? Am I storing my starters in the fridge wrong?
- Is there anything I can do to prevent this happening again?
Those are my questions. I know I still need help with shaping and scoring and oven spring, but I'll keep reading all your wise words on those topics. Thanks, in advance, for any help.