The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Feeding the Bell Curve

Noche's picture

Feeding the Bell Curve

My starter was supposed to be fed on the second day but it was flat after less than a day. I decided it had done exceptionally well up to this point and it had peaked and was going into its flat production from what I was seeing. So, it was too thin and I divided it for safey sake and fed more flour to both the old and the new and both perked right up.

Did I panic or do the right thing?

I couldn't get my horse digital thermometer to read the oven temperature but I think it was way too hot, up in the 90's. I now have the starters out on the counter at room temperature and it will stay at 68 degrees tonight and will be up in the mid 70's during the day tomorrow. Tess has this same Carl starter and told me she uses it on the counter and it does just fine (SC). I will have to wing it as the oven is out - just too hot. Perhaps I will try the hot water in the microwave tonight and put my starter in there and see if that works better than the counter at 68 degrees tonight.

Val's picture

I had a similar problem when I first cranked up my starter - too hot, too thin. I moved the stater to the counter (about 66 degree room temp) and fed it daily with equal weights of flour and water. It took several weeks to really get going, with slowly improving bread quality over the period.

Noche's picture

I have operated on intuition for some time. I measure two things when cooking my bread recipes - water and salt. All other items can take care of themselves.

I always just grab flour and kneed until it feels right. I have already determined the water I need for a two inch over the top of the pan loaf, at 3600 feet. I throw in potato flakes, soft spring white and oatmeal by the handful. I eyeball my butter and sugar if I use it. I grind my own cornmeal and flour and use to hang my feet over the end of a wagon pulled by mules hauling my grandmothers shelled corn and wheat to the mill one half mile from home on the creek.

If we reserected five good American cooks from the early 1800's and read them some of the blogs here ... they would get hysterical.

scott lynch's picture
scott lynch

I agree with Val that the temp is way too high--fermenting a sourdough starter in the 90s is likely to give you practically pure acetic acid and to break down the gluten in your doughs so they get more slack than you intend.  You can always tell if you're too hot (or too long) when the starter gets really runny and smells alcoholic or sharply like vinegar. I have come to prefer room temperature for everything to do with sourdough--too hot and you get pure acid and too cold and it all shuts down and nothing happens.  The window seems to be about 60-80 F.