The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Six Days and No Action...none, nunca, nothing

  • Pin It
CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Six Days and No Action...none, nunca, nothing

 My apologies, this is my first post and I posted it incorrectly elsewhere.  Hopefully this is correct. SourdoLady HELP! I am dead in the water........I thought I was following a correct recipe, but all is for naught.

Ok for the past 6 days I have tried to get a starter going and it just ain't happening. Each day at noon I add: - 2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour and - 2 tablespoons of orange jusice

I cover with a wet cloth so they-the would be yeasties and lactibacili- won't dry out. They are placed in the laundry/furnace room so things are at about 75 degrees temp. Do I have to use rye flour or regular flour instead? Please advise asap. enjoy Country Boy

Jeffrey's picture
Jeffrey

Maybe there's no yeast on your grain, try some unfumigated raisins, they often have yeast.  Maybe some other flour, mine did fine after the raisins, even in a cool kitchen.

 

I only used an ounce of raisins.

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

 

Does it say on all the raisin boxes what is and is not fumigated?  I am here in Westchester, NY and not California.

Thanks.

CountryBoy 

 

Jeffrey's picture
Jeffrey

I'm in Kansas City.  We have to import raisins too, but late in the summer we have lots of grapes.  Those should work.

 

Try to find Organic or all natural raisins, i'm not sure if they ever fumigate them, but just to be safe, we used organic ones.  We just happened to be across town where they have an organic grocer.  Most of the big grocery stores around here have them.

 

good luck finding some,  and getting your starter going. 

 

jeffrey

 

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

CountryBoy, how fresh is your WW flour? Maybe you just need to switch flour, as Jeffrey said. I buy mine at the health food store in bulk and you can just buy a very small amount. I used a mixture of rye and wheat when I made mine. I have never used raisins, but I know many people have good success with them also. Whatever you use, it must be as fresh as possible to have viable yeast cells on it. Try it again with new grain and see what happens. Good luck with it!

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Well I bought it at a health food store very recently-5 lbs is the smallest amount I can buy. I will open a pkg of Rye Four and start all over again but the way things are going I am beginning to believe that this whole idea of Starter is a widely held myth.

My wife says to use Fleischman's starter and get on with life but I tell her that SourdoLady is the boss and I gotta do it her way.  Ugghh...............................

Thanks,

CountryBoy

breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

I started mine without the fruit juice (it was a few years' back, and I hadn't heard of that method yet). I talked to a sourdough baker at a local farmer's market, and he told me to use 50/50 organic wheat and rye flour. Organic because less chance of the yeasts being killed on the wheat, and rye because the enzymes in it encourage the bacterial growth you want.

 

I followed his directions, 50/50 wheat/rye and 50% water, closed container, room temperature. I had bubbles in days and a weak but functional starter in a week.

 

He was strongly of the opinion that all the yeast you need is located in the flour itself. Which made sense to me, based on my experience, and further research.

 

The important thing is find the method that works for you -- there's a lot of different and successful methods out there, you'll find one for you eventually. Good luck!

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Hey, I like your attitude! Don't give up the ship. It will be worth it when it starts to work for you. Another idea--are you using orange juice made from concentrate that you mix with water? The reason I ask this is because in some cities the water is purified with chloramines and they are very harsh on wild yeasts, as is chlorine if it is in high concentrations. Chloramine is worse though because it doesn't dissipate after the water has sat for awhile. Six days isn't forever either, so give it some more time.

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

CountryBoy,

Hang in there, it will be well worth it! I too had some problems my first week but now 3 weeks later I have some extremely active starters thanks to SourDoLady's and other's advice on this site. And the resulting bread's flavor is so much tastier than using commercial yeast.

 

Are you discarding enough of your old starter before you feed it 1 TBSP each of flour and water? You should only be keeping about 1 TBSP of starter (or whatever equivalent weight is to flour and water, I use a scale rather than volume measures). If you don't discard the excess, that little amount of food you're adding is not enough to support the entire colony. Also, be sure, as SourDoLady suggests, not to use your tapwater, as in Westchester County I know it is chlorinated unless you have your own well. Use bottled water or let your tap water sit out in a pitcher 24 hours to release the chlorine first. My starter took about 8-9 days of daily feeding before it really took off and rose in triple, so give it time. 

MountainDog (Just up the Hudson Valley from you in Ulster County)

 

 

 

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Thank you folks for your support and guidance.  I have tossed out the old starter and am now starting anew with Rye flour instead of the WW flour.  Please note my process: the flour was and is recently bought in a health food store and is date stamped to be used approx. a year from today.  Also, I am using water from our own well.  Also, the OJ is freshly squeezed by the same elves who make all Tropicana OJ.  Also all items are added at room temperature and left in the furnace/laundry room at about 75 degrees.

I will now try each day to add 2 Tablespoons of OJ and 2 of Rye flour. I cover the bowl with a wet towel. If it does not work in 6 days time I am assured by my wife that she will leave me or require me to get a life and cease consorting with SourdoLady and her friends. (my life is a shambles; my cats have stopped talking to me and I don't know what the bottom looks like but from where I am looking up it can't be much further down.)

CountryBoy

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

 Thank you for saying...You should only be keeping about 1 TBSP of starter (or whatever equivalent weight is to flour and water... I have been failing to do so.  Also this next batch will have that difference and I will put it in a Plastic container so as to keep it more airtight. Is that ok?  Please advise.  If I keep it 3 weeks or 3 months will it be even better?

My wife thinks I should bake a loaf of regular bread first to gain confidence but I don't think anything could give me confidence at this point.

enjoy

countryboy

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

I have my starters in plastic containers I got from King Arthur Baker's Catalog and they work great, but that's because I am a kitchen gadget junkie - clean Chinese restaurant soup containers or empty yogurt containers work fine too, but I prefer clear ones so I can mark the level and see the rise easily. My starters are pictured here in their homes. I fed them everyday at room temp. for about 2.5 weeks over the holidays by saving 100 grams of the old starter an adding 100 grams of water and 100 grams of flour ( a digital scale makes weighing right in any container a breeze). I now only feed them about once per week by keeping them in the fridge - I take them out and feed them at least day before I need to use them in a recipe.

 

Yes, the starters get better over time, some French bakers claim to have starters that have been kept going in their families for generations! I would not keep feeding your starter with juice after about the third or 4th day, however, water is fine after that, you don't want the juice to flavor your starter, you just need it to make the environment more hospitable to get the growth started. I used organic rye flour to start mine, then made a second starter from that by just feeding that one with white flour.

 

You should bake some yeast bread first to practice if you are new to breadmaking, so that you can compare your results later with the sourdough - check out the lessons Floyd has posted here, they'll build your confidence and you'll be better prepared for sourdough baking, which is very different from using yeast in terms of rise times.

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Your pics of your bread are awesome! But I have a question about the thermometer(sp) that is there.  Do I need it?  I bought an expensive oven thermometer so I know the digital readout of my electric stove is correct.  Why do you have yours?

Ok, I will do the lessons posted by Floyd and hopefully I can accomplish something on that front while my starting is deciding to start.

Finally, what is the best way to store flour?  I wrap mine in plastic and put it in the fridge; is that ok? thanks as always and

enjoy

countryboy

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

I actually just had the thermometer laying there when I took the pic for scale, and I might have been checking to see how warm my kitchen was at the time, it is an instant-read digital thermometer that you can get in supermarket gadget isles nowadays. I use the thermometer to test the internal temp for doneness of large boules and other breads to ensure the inside is done, it should be at least 205F - 210F in the center of the loaf before I'll take it out of the oven.

Flour storage: depends on the type of flour, how often you use it up, and how warm your kitchen is. I store my all purpose and bread flours (white flours) in large 6-8 qt airtight plastic containers (similar to the ones used for the starters) in my pantry at room temp. I store my whole wheat and rye flours in the same type of container but in the fridge, the oils in whole grain flours can go rancid if left in warm temps too long. If your kitchen is on the cool side and you bake quite frequently and use up your whole-grain flours a lot, you could get away with storing them in your pantry for short periods. I suppose even white flours would go stale after too long in a pantry, especially after the hot summer we just had, but I do quite a lot of baking and use mine up very quickly so have not worried about it. I got my flour containers in a restaurant supply store rather cheaply, but large round rubbermaid-type containers found in the housewares section of many stores work fine too.

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Now don't go throwing it out on the sixth day if it hasn't started to grow! Sometimes I have known them to take longer. Give it at least 10 days. Sounds like you are doing everything right. I also keep my starters in plastic containers. They aren't fussy--glass or plastic is fine, but no metal or metal lids.

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Maddog, thanks for the feedback. I will treat my flour accordingly, however, how long is too long to keep flour? I realize fresh is best but I am curious how long is too long. Also I got up this morning and am trying to bake a beginner loaf as recommended by you and the recipe from Molly Katzen.  At this moment, my bread is waiting to rise for 1.5 to 2 hours and then we will see what happens.  I can tell you now that all the flour would not fit into the mixture that she has outlined.  I have about 1 cup of flour left over.

SourdoLady I thought you told me to throw it out after 6 days and to start again-"Try it again with new grain and see what happens"-  due to possible stale flour don't you remember?  How many days do I give the starter before giving up on it?

I had no idea bread making is so difficult and can't imagine what the pioneers did for breadmaking...i know they did not have time to stir their starter 2-3 times a day..

enjoy

courntryboy

Jeffrey's picture
Jeffrey

Maybe your just putting to much into it.  You don't even need to follow the recipe real close, it still normally comes out.  Just don't worry so much, and enjoy.

 

Two or three hour rises are really quite normal.  Wait until you try sourdough, four to five hour rises are the norm.  Some starters are faster, some slower.

 

As for starters, sometimes starting your own, can take a few tries.  Especially this time of the year, yeast doesn't blow in the wind much, when it's cold out.  Sometimes, it's just not on the flour, it's hard to say.

 

Instead of starting your own, you can go to http://home.att.net/~carlsfriends/, and order one.  All you need is a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope.  Ours came in Wednesday, it's already very much alive.  Today, i'll make a loaf of bread with it.  We just treated it like we did our old starter, and fed it flour and water.

 

For practice you can mix up a couple tablespoons of water, with a couple tablespoons of flour, put in an eighth of tablespoon of commercial yeast.  The treat it like sourdough.  Which it is, just not as good as some.  You get fast rises though, and you learn what to expect.  Mine never got real sour, and i hear they die out easily, or just get replaced by wild yeast.  We made pancakes with ours.

 

btw  how warm is where your starter is.

 

jeffrey

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Sorry, I guess you misunderstood me. I just meant to add the new flour to the existing mixture. At any rate, give it a bit more time than you did before. Stir it vigorously several times a day and keep it covered. You really aren't trying to capture yeast from the air and you could inadvertently capture some bad bacteria in this early vulnerable stage of the starter. Also, the starter from Carl's Friends is an excellent one should you decide to send away for it. I have it too and it makes fine bread. If you have enough patience to wait, I guarantee you that yours will grow!

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Jeffrey, the starter is is the laundry room which is about 75-80 degrees. Re: following of the recipe...or not...You are right. In the Molly Katzen book it has the recipe and then off in the corner in small print it says approximate....???!!!  Are they kidding? This is supposed to be a recipe that is tested....not something "Approximate".  American Test Kitchens recipe this ain't....In anycase my 2 loaves came out and it is a beginning.  The color, texture, and taste seem ok and I would send pics just to prove I ain't making this all up but I have no camera that can take closeups.  My wife is relieved to actually see something and to discover that this whole thing is not just a philosopical quest in my mind with no tangible results...Also my cats are talking to me again so that is a good sign too.

SourdoLady, I will stir the contents 3 times a day and will not throw it out after 6 days.  How many days minimum do I keep a starter before giving up? I assume that your recipe measurements of Tablespoon amounts are not approximate but exact.  I believe you said that if it turns pink or green and looks infected then there is a problem and needs to be thrown out. So that notwithstanding I will keep this starter forever .....However, I continue to wonder how the folks in Pioneer Days did this.

gianfornaio's picture
gianfornaio

You shouldn't need anything more than flour and water-- I was going to guess that the orange juice may be killing your yeast-- that's interesting about the chloramines, sourdolady. Might the acidity also be a concern for new yeast cultures?

With rye flour you may not see it rise much, because (from what I understand) the gluten is different, but it should still be feeding your beasties... if you double your previous flour weight (or add the same amount but throw out half of your starter), and feed it twice a day, you should be fine. I prefer to use wheat flour, since I can tell visually how it's doing by its rise.  

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Ok, ok, so the blob is growing.  If it continues at this rate there will definitely be news to report.  I think in retrospect that the Rye flour I am using now must be different in some way from the whole wheat flour that I used previously.  It was probably good to have thrown the other stuff out....nothing was happening.  This batch looks entirely different.  Both bags of flour have been date stamped with expiration dates about a year from now...This is Day 3 with OJ and I believe at Day 4 I switch to water...Also my wife used to be a lab technician and suggested to me that the 3 a day mixing is providing air to the yeast so it can breath......since I am a Total Novice on this I just proceed as directed....I am curious if anyone ever gains any confidence in this particular activity or is it always a matter of planetary alignment...

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Yay, it's growing! Just wait until you bake that first loaf. You will be like a proud papa with his first born!! You are at the stage where it MAY stop growing and appear dead for about a day. Don't dispair as this is normal. Just wait it out and it will begin to bubble again--and much more vigorously.

 

About gianfornaio's comment about the orange juice--no, it isn't killing the yeast. Wild yeast thrives in an acidic environment. The orange juice also helps to prevent bad bacteria (mold, etc.) from taking over because it does not like the acidic environment. That is the main reason for using the juice. It just helps to get things going smoothly. The little shot of vinegar sometimes helps kick it up a notch if it seems sluggish, but it is optional. I used the vinegar in mine and it really helped.

Jeffrey's picture
Jeffrey

Your first loaf, That sounds really cool.  You even have cats to cheer you on.  The first loaf i made was an ugly sight.  Of course it was in a Dutch oven, in witch i really didn't know how to operate.  Finally i learned about putting coals on top.  Watch those cats though, we have one that likes to steal a bite of dough, from time to time.

 

Yes, it's ok to approximate in bread, you aught to see the way my Mom makes it (ok, perhaps i have a leg up from watching Mom).  She just dumps a bunch of flour in the bowl, then adds water until it's as thick as she wants.  She told me when i was a kid, "Moms don't need a measuring cup".  I don't think i'll ever be able make bread as good as her's.

 

That starter is really great news!  As Sourdoughlady said, wait until it's rotten before you throw it out, but it sounds like it's coming along, you'll love it.  It's beginning to make since why the miners in Alaska slept with there starters, to keep them from freezing.  Why so many people keep one going for years.

 

Be sure to keep us posted.

 

jeffrey

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Ok, it is day Four and I switch to keeping just 1/4 cup and add 1/4 of flour and water.  I see a bubble or two but am losing hope. Do I go on like this for weeks?...even if nothing happens?  .......mumbles...i am just doing what i am told and proceed on faith alone.................

T4tigger's picture
T4tigger

CountryBoy, you sound just like me.......I want the starter to work, and I want it to work NOW!   (Patience is definitely not one of my virtues)  It took about a week for my starter to get going.  Spiking it with a little bit of rye flour on an occasional feeding will perk it up a bit faster.   Good luck!

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Ok I will be patient....I promise.  Can I mix the flour?  I started with rye flour but is it necessary to keep to that or can I add unbleached white bread flour.

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Don't switch to unbleached flour until you get good bubble action going. If you are seeing a couple of small bubbles you are on track. Be patient! It will more than likely be two or three more days until you see much activity.

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

SourdoLady, thanks for your perseverance and hand holding on this.  I will proceed as you direct.

demegrad's picture
demegrad

Reading through you post, it seems to me that your starter is going very well.  Being that you measure by volume and seem to be using equal parts flour and water, that will give you in the ball park of 160% hydration (by weight) which is quite liquid, and there's nothing wrong with that, but your not going to have many visual Ques that it's working.

 A bubble in suspension has mainly two forces acting on it, one is buoyance which will cause the bubble to rise to the surface, and the other is drag on the bubble which is relative to the velocity at which that bubble is rising to the surface and the fluids viscosity.  So basically since your fluid (starter) has such a low viscosity there's nothing holding the bubble down.  Sure you'll see some bubbles on the top of the starter which are being held in place by either small amounts of gluten developed during mixing but mainly the bubbles are on the surface due to surface tension.  But any amount of agitation or constant peeking will break that tension and release the bubbles.  In the end of this story I would look for few bubbles and search for other evidence that your starter is working.  Such as smell and the developing presence of a watery type of liquid on top of the starter. 

demegrad

http://www.demegrad.blogspot.com

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Many thanks for the guidance.  Your blog looks very technical and advanced; I think I will book mark it and go there after I have more experience and knowhow...

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

CountryBoy, if you go to my blog on Wild Yeast Sourdough, I have pictures posted of how my starter looked when I made it. The bubbles are quite visible. When it is sufficiently grown to be useable you will have large frothy bubbles on top. There's no mistaking it. The starter will also have a yeasty, winey smell.

 

Don't be afraid to add the small amount of cider vinegar as I mentioned in my blog recipe for the starter. It really kick-started mine.

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Hi SourdoLady,

I am not sure that I can find that mention of cider vinegar.  How much did you put in...a teaspoon full?  The recipe I have from you shows pics but I see no mention of cider vinegar,  which I don't have. Will balsamic or regular vinegar be acceptable? 

Thank you for the suggestion and persevering with me on this. You are obviously The Best.

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Cider vinegar IS just regular vinegar--the golden brown kind. You could also use white vinegar but I don't know about balsamic as it seems more complex to me. Just put in 1/4 teaspoon of it. It doesn't take much. You should only need to do it once. Do you have any more bubbles today?

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Hi SourdoLady, it is 6 days and the quantity has doubled and the top of the mixture is covered with bubbles!  Thank you.

My three questions are: 1-Do I need to add vinegar if all is going well? My apologies for not reading your directions carefully, wherein you definitely do mention the vinegar....2-Do I do this for another 2 weeks before actually using in bread...? 3-Having developed the starter do I now need a special recipe for the sourdough and if so can you recommend one?  Or do I just use this with my regular bread recipe?

You are obviously an angel from on high.............

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

CountryBoy - I highly recommend you go out and get yourself a copy of the Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart if you have not already. He has a simple basic "lean" sourdough recipe in there you could try with all steps explained in detail. Short of that, I thought the following website had a nice set of instructions and photos for a first sourdough loaf, the only thing I would do differently is not add the oil called for in the recipe as that will tenderize the loaf and probably give you a softer tighter crumb: http://www.northwestsourdough.com/firstloaf.html

 

If you google "basic sourdough bread recipe" you'll find others to try. If you are new at this you may have trouble trying to adapt a commercial yeast bread recipe - the dough-building steps and rise times are dramatically different for sourdough.

 

Don't add any vinegar at this point - your starter is nice and healthy now. If you continue keeping a really acid environment you inhibit the growth of the acid-producing bacteria making up the rest of the microflora in your starter along with yeast. All you need to do to keep it healthy is feed it every 24 hours by saving about 3 oz. of old starter and adding 3 oz. of warm water and 3 oz of unbleached white all-purpose flour - mix it up well, cover, put in warm-ish (@70F) spot until next feeding time. Feed it like that for about 2 weeks and you will have a great starter established. Even right now though, as long as the starter doubles within 12 hours of the last feeding, you can use it in a recipe, it is active enough to raise a loaf - it just develops a better flavor with time.

 

After about 2 weeks of daily feeding, if you are not baking every day, put the starter in the fridge an hour after feeding it and you'll only have to take it out and feed it once a week, or a day before you plan to use it in a recipe, which ever comes first.

Good Luck!

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

CountryBoy--you of little faith!! I told you it would work! I am happy for you that you have found success. No, if all is going well you don't need the vinegar. I pretty much agree with everything mountaindog has told you except that I would feed it more often than once a day if you are leaving it at room temp for 2 weeks (which I recommend). You will build a stronger starter if you feed it 2 or 3 times a day. It really consumes the nutrients in the flour very quickly when left at room temp. Be sure you dump out most of it before each feeding--VERY important! You don't need to keep a large quantitiy at this stage. You could even save 1 Tbsp. and feed 2 oz. each of flour and water. When you want to bake with it, then increase the feeding amount so you have enough.

 

Go ahead and try a loaf to see how it is. The flavor will improve dramatically over time, however.

sewwhatsports's picture
sewwhatsports

I have 2 starters that are both active.  My liquid is at 125% hydration and my stiff is at 60% hydration.  I can get a fairly decent sour flavor from the stiff starter but not so from the liquid.  I do retard the dough over night in the refrigerator without any perseptable change in the sourness.  Any suggestions for making the liquid starter more sour?  I did a regular bread pan loaf of sourdough yesterday with the liquid culture and it is not sour at all.  I had refreshed the starter and it more than doubled in 8 hours so I know that the culture is good.  The breads I did today with the stiff culture are definately more sour.  Your thoughts ladies and gentlemen? 

Rena in Delaware

breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

Here's something I wrote in an earlier post:

"I've taken some technical classes about sourdough, but of course don't have my notes with me here to properly regurgitate the details, BUT the 'jist of it is that there are 2 kinds of beasties contributing to the flavor of the bread, and the one that is "tangier" likes drier conditions and the milder flavored one likes wetter conditions."

 

So the answer is, it's naturally milder. One of the reasons people keep two kinds of starter is because they want different flavors.

 

sewwhatsports's picture
sewwhatsports

Ok breadnerd, I appreciate the information.  I plan to keep both cultures but honestly like the stiff one better.  But my husband is not a sourdough fan so maybe doing bread for him with the liquid culture is the answer to that concern.  Again, thanks for the information.

Rena in Delaware

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

 My warmest and most grateful thanks to you three for your patient perseverance.  Yes I am a long way from the destination but I believe that Thanks to You Folks et. al. that I am on the road.

Yes, MountainDog today I started reading Reinhart together with three of the other big names and I did so because you folks have been so wonderful and really gotten me interested in it.  Now I see all over again how wonderfully wise your directions have been and hopefully my questions will not be based on so very much ignorance, but rather just less of it.

And yes SourdoLady I will commence 3 feedings a day tomorrow as you have said.  No, no, no, I was never of little about thee but rather me, me.....enjoy, countryboy

Jeffrey's picture
Jeffrey

It won't hurt it, the worst it can do is add fruit sugar.  That's gotta be at little healthy for it.  Any winemaker will tell you, yeast really loves the sugar in grapes.  If anything is living in there, the thing will be foaming up by tomarrow.  If not, you've might have added some yeast.

 

As you spike the starter with rye, from time to time.  Sooner or later, you'll introduce the yeast that really loves grain.  Then you can some of both yeast, along with the lacti.  I hear yeast that really likes beer doesn't like taste as good, but i'm want to try it any way.

 

jeffrey

seagrape's picture
seagrape

Hello all!  Reading all your comments makes me feel how lucky I was catching a starter.   I live in Belize and bread here is like cardboard.  I followed the instructions with flour water and oj.  After seeing a few bubbles, I added 2 large unwashed grapes with a lot of white yeast on the skins.  I have been baking with it now for a year and consistantly get great loaves with nice bubbles and blistering on the crust.  I spray the loaves with a spritzer bottle of 1/2 water and vinegar for the blistering during the first 15 minutes of baking whenever I think of it.  If any thing the bread is too sour after the overnight in the fridg.  if there is any such thing.