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Still Confused with Starter Feeding

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maswindell's picture
maswindell

Still Confused with Starter Feeding

I started the Bahrain starter from Sourdough International which seemed to activate ok. Then after feeding 1:1:1 the starter it sort of sat and did nothing. Ed Wood suggested feeding 1cup of flour 1/2 cup of water. It took off and tripled within a 12 hours. Now after removing half the starter and left with about 1/4 cup I fed with 1/4 cup AP and 1/4 cup water but nothing happened after 18 hours.


I leave it on the counter to do its thing and check every 4 hours but nothing happens. Where did I go wrong ? Once the original starter was activated I set aside in another container, about 1/8cup which is now refrigerated. Should I forget about the container and work with the refrigerator portion.


Did I overfeed? It's warming up in SOCAL so should I put it outside and see what happens ?


I think I might be reading too much from all the various posts regarding starter issuses, but I'm sure the solution is easy - I just cant find it .


Mike

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

Feeding by volume you are not getting the ratios you think you are getting.  Ratios are determined by weight, not volume.  1/4 cup of flour does not weigh the same as 1/4 cup of water and neither is the same weight as 1/4 cup of starter.  THAT's why Ed Wood suggests 1 cup of flour to only 1/2 cup of water. 


By feeding your starter with equal VOLUMES, you may not be giving your starter enough food.  1/4 cup of flour and water may not be enough to feed 1/4 cup of starter and make it vigorous for baking. 


If you have a scale that measures small amounts (kitchen scale or even a postal scale) you should weigh your starter and the ingredients that go into it.  That way, you will know that if your starter weighs X amount (say 2 ounces) you would add 2 ounces of flour and 2 ounces of water for the 1:1:1 ratio.  You can also safely feed it higher ratios, e.g. 1:3:3 or 1:5:5 or play with the hydration levels by changing the amount of water relative to the flour additions.


If you don't have a scale, I'd follow what Ed Wood suggest, water should be twice the flour volume, and those mixed together should be at least twice the same volume as the old starter you are mixing them with. 


If you don't have a scale, you should highly consider getting one.  An inexpensive scale is about $25 to $30 and it should be able to switch between pounds and ounces, ounces, and grams (Most people use grams as they are MUCH easier to handle).  You should look for a tare function that allows you to zero out the scale as you add each ingredient.  That feature truly is the best thing since sliced bread. 


Scales come in handy for bread baking in so many ways--you no longer need to dirty a host of measuring cups and spoons, simplifying kitchen clean up.  And you will get more consistent results with your bread baking so it's easier to analyze what tweaks, if any, are needed toward the perfect loaf. 

maswindell's picture
maswindell

Thanks for the reply, I'll double the water and see what happens. I guess a scale is on the shopping list .

Soundman's picture
Soundman

If you're doing volume measuring, 1/4 cup of flour to 1/8 cup water is a better ratio (as Janknitz was saying). In equal volumes, you could say that water weighs twice what flour does, or thereabouts. (Get a scale and you won't have to guess).


Once your starter gets active and stable, you may find feeding more, proportionally, of both flour and water will keep your starter happier.


Good luck!


David

maswindell's picture
maswindell

I fed again with 1/4 cup of flour and few teaspoons of water, left overnite and all I see is bubbles but no rise - now what ? Did I miss the rise or should I just wait it out to see what happens.


 


Mike

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Bubbles are a good sign. Really new starters take a while to develop their yeast. The yeast actually are late arrivals to the show (see Debra Wink's Pineapple Juice Solution Part 2).


Keep feeding, by removing half and adding in equal weights of flour and water, the flour weight to at least equal the weight of the starter you're feeding.


A new starter (in my experience) takes 2 weeks to develop the yeast enough to reliably raise bread.


You're doing fine, so stick with what you're doing!


David

avatrx1's picture
avatrx1

should I be "feeding" my starter with weighed amounts such as  1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water or should I be weighing my flour and my water?  I do have a scale.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

So, if you are feeding 1 measured cup of flour, WEIGH that flour, and add an equal weight of water. 


BUT, it's better if you just use weights in the first place, not volume.  A cup of flour today may weigh 130 grams, tomorrow it may weigh 140 grams, depending on how you fill the cup, the humidity in the air, etc. 


Weigh your starter.  Say your starter weighs 2 oz and you want to do a 1:1:1 feeding (100% hydration because the water weight equals the flour weight).  You would then add 2 oz of flour and 2 oz of water.  Or say you wanted to do a 1:2:2 feeding.  That's 2 oz of starter, 4 oz of flour, and 4 oz of water.   

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

First, how much starter do you have?  The feeding (flour + water) should at least equal the weight of the starter so that it has adequate food. 


Secondly, maybe there is something else going on.  Is your air conditioning on keeping you nice and cool?  (I am totally jealous if the answer is yes--we have no AC and it was over 100 here in Northern Cal yesterday, keeping my kitchen in the high 80's. Can't bake until the fog comes back!). 


My starter was sluggish and just not moving when I started it this March until I realized that the ambient temperature in my kitchen during our unusually cool spring was running 65 degrees and below--too cool for the starter.  Once I caught on to that fact and kept my starter in a warmer place at night it took off and became a very good starter.  Last week, our kitchen was warm but not hot (mid 70's) and that temperature took my starter to a whole new level of activity.  I am constantly in awe of how sensitive my starter is to temperature.   


Or perhaps your kitchen is too warm, which would make your starter use up the available food more quickly than anticipated.  You should see an increase in volume and even bubbles if the temperature is too warm, especially if you are checking it every 4 hours.  But it can also deflate and start producing hooch when it runs out of food.  If you have it in a clear container, you'll be able to see the "high tide" mark if that's what's happening. 


So I'd look closely at temperature.  I think mid 70's is ideal--up in the 80's it is too warm and will require more frequent feedings.  That wouldn't work for me on weekdays when I'm out of the house for work 10 or more hours. 

maswindell's picture
maswindell

I'm in SOCAL and it has been warm, 75-80 on average. I'm just keeping the starter on the counter and nothing has been happening. I have about 1/3 cup of starter which is more like pancake batter more than anything else.


I've seen where it's supposedly impossible to kill a starter, but I think I've succeeded! My backup starter in the frig has a nice layer of hooch on so perhaps I should just try and use this, any opinions ?


Mike

maswindell's picture
maswindell

Yesterday afternoon I fed with 1/2cup of flour and 1/4c bottled water and within 3hours the results were great more than doubled in volume. Perhaps this weekend I'll be baking my first SD


Thanks to all


Mike

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

Volumes of feeding or non-chlorinated water? 

maswindell's picture
maswindell

I think the increased flour made a world of difference. I fed again last nite with 1/2 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of bottled water and the starter doubled in about 4 hours. It does have a fair amount of bubbles but nothing like I have seen in other posts.


Should I be worried or just the fact it has doubled will this be a stable starter for no knead baking ?

avatrx1's picture
avatrx1

Another question.  What is hooch?  Is that the liquid I see on the bottom of my container?  If I understand your post correctly that would indicate the starter needs to be fed? or do I have to start over?  If I don't want to have to feed this every day, should I put it in the fridge?

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

It is a byproduct of yeast metabolism.  49ers actually drank it for the buzz!   <YUCK!>


Generally, it lies ON TOP of the starter, though, not on the bottom.  And if you take a whiff, you will have no question whether or not its alcoholic. 


It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that your starter has used up all the food.  You can pour it off or stir it back in. 


If you don't want to feed your starter every day (generally I need to feed at LEAST twice a day in a relatively warm environment like my kitchen in the summer) you can put it in the fridge once it's well established and going strong.


The conventional wisdom is to feed it, leave it on the counter for 2 hours*, and then refrigerate until you use it again.  If you are not going to use it again soon, feed it at least weekly.  When you are going to feed it or use it, bring it out of the fridge, let it warm up to room temperature, discard (you can use the discard in a bread, pancakes, waffles, biscuits, etc) and feed.


*Personally, I have had a little better luck feeding it and putting it immediately in the fridge instead of waiting 2 hours.  It still "eats" verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry slowly, but I find this way there's less risk of using up all the food and making hooch before the next feeding.  When I take it out of the fridge, I let it get active and bubbly and peak before discarding and feeding


As someone below said, you REALLY need to read the SourDo lady's posts about pineapple juice starter.  It is a good basic primer on sourdough.  I also like sourdough.com and sourdoughhome.com.  And WildYeast's Susan has some great tutorials on her blog. 


 

avatrx1's picture
avatrx1

If I want to use the starter or poolish, and it has the liquid on the bottom, should I measure the amount I need from the solid part and NOT the liquid?


If I am going to feed this, should I pour off the liquid in the bottom and then feed in the usual way by removing and then adding fresh?


 


how does one know when this is ready or just a flop?


I must have some sort of brain block on all this.  not sure why


 

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

Bubbles mean something is happening.  My starter also didn't start to double until it was good and strong and the temperature range was just right.  Keep feeding it. 


BTW, are you feeding your starter with tap water?  I've read differing opinions on whether chlorinated water can inhibit starter growth, but most sources say it can, especially when a starter is young and vulnerable.  I use bottled spring water, just to be on the safe side. 

avatrx1's picture
avatrx1

Count me among the confused starter novices.  I mixed 1 c water with 1 c flour and a pinch of yeast per the directions I had.  I covered it with saran wrap and left it on the counter overnight.  It was nice and bubbly today.  I was gone all day and when I got home the bubbly starter was still bubbly, but had separated and was now liquid on the bottom and very soft solid on the top.  It seemed to have collapsed somewhat since morning.  It was cool in the house all day (about 70)


Having no idea what I'm doing, I scooped out 1/2 cup of the stuff after I stirred it all back together and then I added a mixture of 1/2 c flour and 1/2 cup water.  Stirred it in really well and then covered it again and put it back on the counter.


When can I use this mixture?  Do I have to wait for it to get bubbly again?  Should I be refrigerating it at this point?


 


If I want to use it - in the event I refrigerate it - do I have to warm it to room temp first?  Do I have to feed it again?


 


Now what?  I read somewhere on here that when making a bread, you should approximate the amount of starter ingredients in the recipe and deduct that from the final dough mixture.  In my case that would be to substract from my recipe -the 1 c. flour and 1 c water and about 1/8 - 1/4 tsp yeast,  I would make my final bread dough by adding all of the starter.


 


How do I know just how much yeast got thrown out when I "fed" the starter with the 1/2 cup water and flour?


 


Sorry for being so hard to teach.  I'm usually pretty good at directions.


Susie


 

sphealey's picture
sphealey

If your are working on growing a sourdough starter, it will take several days (up to 2 weeks) before it has an established colony of natural yeast and bacteria and is basically managing itself.  Until that time you will have to manage its growth and environment.  This is especially true if you started using the "pinch of commercial yeast" technique, because for the first 3-5 days that commerical yeast will overwhelm the natural yeast - until the bacteria get going and create some acid.


Here are some things to consider:



  • Generally you are on the right track with the "remove half and feed" process.  Most methods call for doing that 2-4 times in the first 2 days, leaving the starter for 2 days, then resuming feeding at either 1/day or 2/day until the starter is established.

  • Use a scale.  When you read of feeding ratios like "1:1" that means 1 part flour by weight to 1 part water by weight.  A cup of water weighs 237 grams, a cup of flour weights 120-160 grams depending on how you measure.  To feed at 1:1, especially after the developing starter gets goopy, you really need a scale.  Try a garage sale, Big Lots, or Dollar Store:  any digital scale with 1 gram resolution and a tare function will work great.

  • If you have any rye flour and/or whole wheat flour, try a few feedings of 50/50 rye/whole wheat.  Whole wheat has a lot of natural yeast and rye supports sour bacteria and yeast formation

  • You can search on this blog for the "pineapple juice method" and decide if you want to switch over to that at this point.  The pineapple juice will knock down the commerical yeast and given the bacteria a chance to grow, but psychologically it will feel like a setback to you for a few days. Which can get discouraging I know.


In any case, keep at it:  you are already making progress.  Be sure to ask here for lots of help and advice.


sPh

avatrx1's picture
avatrx1

I wasn't necessarily looking for a sourdough, although that would be fine if it turned out to be that.  I was hoping to try  a pizza recipe on this site that starts with this:


Biga Naturale
22g mature storage starter (100% hydration)
100g all purpose flour
50g water
Mix all ingredients evenly and leave to mature overnight (8 to 12 hours) at room temperature until it at least doubles (may
triple) in volume.


 


It's the pan pizza recipe submitted by foolishpoolish on May 28th.  I guess I don't know what a mature starter is...........


Thanks so much for the help!


Susie


 

sphealey's picture
sphealey

=== I guess I don't know what a mature starter is........... ===


Generally, the term "mature starter" refers to a well-matured sourdough culture - one that is at least 4 weeks old, has stable flavor, and reliably raises dough. 


What you have is basically a "poolish", which is flour, water, and a very small amount of yeast left to ripen 6-24 hours.  You can use it in this recipe as well, although if the recipe doesn't call for more yeast in the bulk dough you will have to add some.  It sounds as if your poolish was ready to go (ripe) when you stirred it down.


sPh

sphealey's picture
sphealey

Here is a good pizza recipe to start with:  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/recipes/pizza


You could modify that a bit by using 210 g of the flour (1-1/2 cup more or less) and 238 g of the water (1 cup), plus a bit of yeast (pinch to 1/8th), to make a poolish anywhere for 4-16 hours before starting to make the dough.  Start the poolish at 10 PM or so, make the dough at 10 AM, refrigerate per recipe, make the pizza at 6 PM.


sPh


 

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish

To clarify (again):


My recipe did not call for poolish. It called for a 100% hydration storage sourdough starter at 'peak activity' (which I referred to as 'mature').


Susie, if you have any other questions about this recipe, please do message me and I will do my best to answer them.


Thanks,


FP


 


 

sphealey's picture
sphealey

=== My recipe did not call for poolish. It called for a 100% hydration storage sourdough starter at 'peak activity' (which I referred to as 'mature'). ===


True - as I noted.  But the poster did not have a sourdough starter available; she had the beginning step of a 2-week processs to get one.  Under the assumption that she might have wanted to make pizza today or tomorrow I provided some alternatives.  Which I also noted.


sPh

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish

Mature starter just means starter that is at peak activity ready to use in a recipe (ie not starter that has just been refreshed).


It has nothing to do with poolish or age of starter.


Hope that helps,


FP