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Care and Feeding of Sourdough Starter

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jim2100's picture
jim2100

Care and Feeding of Sourdough Starter

Hi

I have begun a sourdough starter, recipe here , but have a few questions about feeding. Question is: Do I repeat this day 4 feeding for several weeks, using a 1/4 cup of flour each day for the next two or three weeks?

 

"Once your wild yeast is growing, the character and flavor will improve if you continue to give it daily feedings and keep it at room temperature for a couple of weeks longer.
After that time, it should be kept in the refrigerator between uses/feedings."

Qt. What are the daily feedings?

The same as day 4, Stir down, measure out 1/4 cup and discard the rest.
To the 1/4 cup add...
1/4 cup flour*
1/4 cup filtered or spring water

or is it; 2 T. whole grain flour
2 T. juice , as in days 2 & 3?

Is it this again and again?

 

Jim

 

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Hi Jim,

Once you get to the point where the starter is actively bubbling, switch to water and unbleached flour (unless you are wanting a WW or rye starter). Then continue to feed once or twice daily for a week or two longer before refrigerating. How often to feed is up to you, but if you see that it bubbles up and then recedes and stops bubbling it means that it needs more food. Also, if you see a clear liquid on top (hooch), it needs to be fed. ALWAYS dump out all but a small amount of the old starter before feeding. This is important because it is now waste and does not contain any nutrients for the starter to feed on any longer.

 

If you are getting good activity from the starter then you will want to make sure that you are feeding it well. If you are only feeding to mature the starter and aren't using it to make dough yet you probably won't want to increase its volume too much. Save only a Tbsp. or so and feed it at least 1/4 cup of flour and however much water to achieve the consistency of starter that you prefer. Most people like to do equal weights of flour/water.

 

You can start baking with it at any time once it has frothy bubbles on top and tiny bubbles suspended throughout, but the flavor will continue to improve a lot after it ages some. I also like to give my starters a spoonful of ww or rye flour now and then, as they really like it. You won't even know it is in there by tasting. Good luck with your starter!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

SourdoLady's description sounds exactly like what I usually do. The only thing I would add is that once you have the starter really going, you can refrigerate it for long periods of time without any feedings or additional trouble. When you want to bake, you take it out of the refrig, use something like 1:4:4 (by weight) of old starter:new flour:new water, and let the starter revive - usually takes 6-12 hours if the starter is more than a few days old. I repeat that feeding again usually, which will only take about 4 hours on the repeat feeding. Then it is vigorous, and you can put it in the refrigerator and use it to make bread for a couple or three days, with best use of the starter timed for around 24 to 48 hours after it rises and is put in the refrigerator. You can refrigerate the revived starter overnight in between these repeat feedings to bring it back to life.

This process allows you to start a recipe when you want with one day of notice to bring the starter to a fully refreshed state, i.e. do two feedings in one day to revive your old starter from the refrigerator, refrigerate overnight and use in a recipe the next day. That might mean actually baking the bread two days after that, as often you might make a pre-ferment first and refrigerate that for another night.

I mention all this because not everyone wants to bake everyday. I tend to bake once every one or two weeks and freeze my breads, so I don't want to be feeding my starter in between baking rampages. You can definitely be a sourdough aficionado without daily or constant attention to your culture. In fact, I left for the summer on an extended trip last year and still was able to revive my starter from sitting in the refrigerator for almost two months without any trouble.

jim2100's picture
jim2100

Thanks for the nice responses.

There is a lot to learn. I will save these tow answers and re-read them whan I get to that stage. I fed them, I now have two, this evening and all went well. i have two because the first did nothing until I put the apple cider vinegar in and it took off. I am using pineapple juice also with whole wheat flour.

 

so I will feed them for the two weeks and then refrigerate until I figure out a recipe to use them in. so far I have only baked five loaves of bread. Tomorrow will be number six.

Thanks Again

Jim 

 

 

 

I enjoy cooking with wine. On occasion I even include it in the recipe.

caryn's picture
caryn

I have a question for you, bwraith:  When you revived your starter after your summer trip, how many times did you ned to refresh it?  Did it still bounce back after 2 refreshings?

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Caryn,

I don't think it took more than about 3 or 4 to get to a stable point where it was taking the usual 4-5 hours to double in volume. As long as there are still at least some organisms there, they will wake up, and the exponential growth means it just doesn't take that long for it to restore itself, at least that how mine worked.

Bill

caryn's picture
caryn

Thank you, Bill.  I asked because I have some starter in my refrigerator that seemed really potent, but I have not refreshed it for about 3 or 4 weeks. I may bring it out and refresh it to test it even if I am not baking this weekend.  I have been using a firm starter (as opposed to the more liquid starter that I have neglected) for my breads recently. 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Caryn,

My experience has been mostly with a 100% hydration starter fed w/KA Bread Flour 1:2:2 by weight. After only 3 weeks, it would take only two feedings to bring it back to normal, I'd say. I honestly can't say I can tell the difference on the third feeding, even after 4 weeks, but I generally do three if I'm not in a rush. I would do one "revival" on the first day, which might take more like 8-9 hours to double. Then I would refrigerate it, and the next day I would get in two feedings - usually the first would take about 6 hours and the second might take the usual 5.5 hours (this at about 68F). At 72 or 73F - more like summer the schedule is shorter by about an hour to get the same basic results. After the third feeding, I pretty much get the same each time, i.e. 5.5 hours at 68F ad infinitum. It wouldn't matter if I refrigerate overnight or for a couple of nights. It would still wake up and be done in a about 5.5 hours.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

My starter usually lives in the fridge and I feed it once a week, but it is not very lively and takes much longer than it should to double itself or raise the dough in any recipe I've tried. In order to give it a boost I've left it on the counter for the last 3-4 days and given it large meals of 1:10:10 by weight every 24 hours, but it is still the same. It takes at least 24 hrs to double at 16C - 21C. Today after 12 hrs I fed it again and this time added a bit of whole wheat flour in addition to the usual white AP. Now it's been 12 hrs and there are only a few medium size bubbles. Can anyone suggest something to liven up this lazy starter of mine?

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi,

It helps to use whole wheat flour or a little rye in the beginning, as they should have more wild yeast organisms in them than AP or bread flour would. Also, you may want to try using pineapple juice, orange juice, or some kind of acid instead of water. For example, you can add ascorbic acid, or crush up a vitamin C tablet and add it to the water you're using. I found about 250mg (half of a typical tablet) in 6 oz of initial water for starter was a very big help in getting the starter to work reliably. I've also had trouble with alkaline water that came from my well with an initial pH of almost 9, which I solved by switching to my cooler water, which is Poland springs and is perfectly neutral (I happened to have a pH meter to determine these things). However, adding acid probably would have solved that in any event.

You could be missing the rises, if they are happening at night while you're asleep. It could be you are in a cycle where every 24 hours it has risen and fallen, then you dilute it a lot in the feeding and essentially start the cycle over. I'm just taking some wild guesses, and you probably already thought of all this, so my apologies if this is no help. I know how frustrating this part of the puzzle can be. In my case I had dead or lazy starters until I switched water and used acid in the water or acidic juice (I've heard people say wine works too) and a little whole wheat or rye in the initial starter.  Also by doing 1:10:10, you may be going too far with the ratio. You might want to try more like 1:2:2 in the beginning. Maybe the dilution is so much it can't really get enough organisms going. In order for the culture to become stable you have to get to a critical concentration of organisms, so they can create the acid environment that rejects everything else. Otherwise, you'll have other things growing in there. This is why it helps to add the acid.

Check out the recipe in the posts previous to this. You'll notice it specifies pineapple juice. You don't really need pineapple juice, just any kind of acid that gets the initial water to a pH around 3-4 before you mix in the starter flour. You can toss in a teaspoon of vinegar to 6 oz of water. Or, you can toss in a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice. Wine already has a pH around 3-4, so that works, too. You only need this on the very first day. After that the culture will drive the pH down to 3-4 very quickly, once it's healthy. In a matter of a few feedings, the flavors from whatever acid you used will be completely gone because of all dilutions.

In my case, there was some organism - maybe it was in the flour, which may have been a little old - that would take culture over in the first night. I would get this huge rise, followed by a bad smelling, extremely bitter/sour culture. The culture was close dead after that, though it would create some small amount of gas. Then, it could take many days going into weeks to recover and finally work right. I found other people talking about this same phenomenon in various mailing lists. I mentioned this problem to Peter Reinhart, asking his advice, as it was the BBA method I was using. He was kind enough respond with some of his own ideas, and he also said to check out a discussion group that was saying it was leuconostoc bacteria that is an organism associated with food spoilage (there was a whole discussion group about this that concluded with the use of pineapple juice but many other things were also suggested, with an emphasis on ascorbic acid as possibly the best choice for several reasons). Anyway, in the end, once I used good water, added some very fresh whole wheat flour, and added a little bit of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) everything worked reliably without a single failure. I finally got bored with figuring that all out, and now I just have one of those cultures that I've maintained for a couple of years now without any hitches.

Good luck figuring it out.

mij.mac's picture
mij.mac

Hi L_M,
I've been reading here for a while now and I've noticed your comments a few times. I think what is meant by the 1:10:10 feeding is to make sure you're starter's good and healthy, with that amount of feed it will take it longer to double than the standard activity test of 1:1:1 in two hours. I'd guess about 8 hours. But that's good. When it does double is it nice and bubbly? If so then it's fine. There's quite a difference between 16C and 21C for yeasts. At 16C they'll take twice as long to double than at 21C. I'd just wait and see what your starter is like when it has reached it's peak. If it's looking and smelling good, fantastic. If not then you may have a problem. Slow is good don't forget. If you don't want slow you can always add yeast to your bread. It's cheating a bit but so what? lol 
I feed my starter more than that but feed it just once a day. It serves me really well and makes great tasting bread with the advantages of a yeasted loaf and the flavour of natural leaven. mac

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Actually,

I realize that SourdoLady already explained all this in the recipe I was mentioning, I just hadn't read her explanations lower down the article yet.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/233 has a great explanation of these problems I was mentioning in the last post.

I arrived at her basic recipe (but use ascorbic acid instead of pineapple juice) and had 100% success with it over a number of repeated attempts, and I had been failing miserably before that, as described in my previous post. I also tried vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice, and wine. They all work, as long as you get the pH to a range of about 3-4 in the initial water, as I had mentioned.

For a 3-4 pH, I found you could get 6 oz of liquid as follows:

1 tablespoons lemon juice added to 5.5 oz water

1/2 teaspoon vinegar added 6 oz (less 1/2 teaspoon) of water.

250mg ascorbic acid or vitamin C added to 6 oz of water.

Use wine, orange juice, pineapple juice instead of water.

This is more or less from memory, so I may be off here, but I think this is about right.

This is for those who don't have pineapple juice or one or the other of the other ingredients is more convenient for whatever reason. They all work and would give eventually virtually the same result, as far as I can tell. As I mentioned the reasons for this acid addition are very well explained by SourdoLady in her recipe/article referenced above.

L_M's picture
L_M

Thanks to both bwraith and mij.mac for your responses and suggestions!

First to bwraith - you could be very right about the fact that I need to treat my starter as a new one. I have read all of the info above many times and Sourdolady's explanations are very clear, but I guess as I was just trying to liven up my year old starter, it never occurred to me that following instructions for making a new one could actually be benefitial in my case. I didn't use (or know about) using juice when I started this one and luckily there were no problems along the way, no horrible smells, colours or large gas attacks, but it did take a good 7 - 10 days to really get going. I was never very happy with the resulting bread so the starter sort of got stuck in the back of the fridge but I did feed it every week at a 1:1:1 or 1:2:2 ratio and the discards always got used in other baking, so at least I was using the starter for something. Every once in a while I'd try to make bread with the starter but as I said it would just take much longer than the recipe suggested so I'd just stick it back in the fridge again. But now - since I really want to get this thing moving already I tried a few of your suggestions all at once in the last feed which was about 4 hours ago, and things are looking promising - it has grown by 33% but still has hardly any bubbles yet. First I cut down the feeding to 1:4:4 - maybe the 1:10:10 was just too overwhelming for my poor starter. Next I used a mixture of 25% whole wheat : 75% AP for the refreshing flour, and I put a few drops of vinegar in the water (total of 40 grams water). The water I use is quite hard and it passes through the filter in our fridge but I really have no idea what ph it is. Lastly, I also thought that maybe I was missing the peak time during the night, so I switched the feeding time so I could make sure that didn't happen, and it certainly didn't. 

Now to mij.mac - I do understand that the 1:10:10 is just for every once in a while to make sure things are healthy, and that is what I was trying to do. You said it takes about 8 hours for your starter to double using that ratio for feeding - I still say WOW cause lately mine has been taking more than 24 hrs and the peek isn't very exciting at all! Small to medium sized bubbles and just around double the volume. I had more dramatic peaking results with a lower ratio of feeding, so like I mentioned above - maybe it was just too much food all at once. About the temp - I would really like to get into a rhythm that I can rely on room temperature which is now between 16C - 21C and the fact that it takes a long time doesn't bother me at all as long as the results are worth it, having a good texture and a complex but not sour taste. What ratio do you use for your once a day feeding?

I certainly hope this slow poke of mine is on it's way to recovery.

L_M

mij.mac's picture
mij.mac

Hi L_M,
Well, most of the time my starter lives in the fridge, but when I'm baking with it I'll use what I need throw the rest away, which is usually just a spoonful then feed what's stuck to the jar with a few ounces of water and flour. I let it sit until the next morning or until it's doubled then put it back in the fridge, every now and then it gets a little vacation out on the counter to keep it happy. My kitchen is between 17 and 20 during the winter and I wouldn't worry about timing, when it's done it's done. 
It occurred to me that if you weren't waiting until the starter was active before you fed it again and repeated that. The effective feeding would be increasing each time, so you would have the opposite problem to most that feed too little then have their starter decline slowly over weeks and moths. The thing that you need to feed is the critters in the starter. It's very easy to forget that bit. 
mac

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

L_M,

 

You mention that your water is quite hard, so adding a few drops of vinegar as you have would certainly buffer the water's high pH down to something more neutral.  Since yeasts, including those in your sourdough, like an acid (low pH) environment, try using bottled or distilled water for your feedings rather than your tap water.  Although your water is filtered, filtering doesn't affect pH at all.  The slow activity that your starter has been experiencing might simply be that the yeasts are in an environment (the high pH tap water) that is hostile to them.  Most bottled waters (as long as you stay away from mineral waters) and distilled water will have neutral pH levels.

 

Not sure that's the answer, but it is something else to try.  Good luck.

 

PMcCool

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi mij.mac,

So if I understood you correctly you mean I'm over feeding it because I'm not waiting until it really has a dramatic peak?  What happens if this takes 30 or more hours?  What happens if it doesn't bubble up very much? Should I just wait? Oh, and I forgot to mention that I've started to give it a good stir a few times during the day.

So far it is now 5 1/2 hrs since the last feeding and it hasn't changed much from the last report. Hmmm

L_M

mij.mac's picture
mij.mac

If it takes thirty or more hours, so be it, it really is no big deal, I would feed less, of course next time and see how long that takes, but don't worry about it, these things are really tough. I've got a starter here with me now that I'm giving to a friend, I fed it yesterday about 12 hours ago, right now it looks dead but I know later on at some point it will be going crazy and smelling amazing. So you just have to wait, If you've fed so much that it takes 24 hours to peak it having a few hours to get fed again won't worry it, I know you want to see it peak but it's a very slow process. I'm sure you'll want to decrease the amount you feed it next time but I think you'll be very happy with the results when you bake with it. I hope your water is okay, I've never had a problem with water so I'm not able to comment on that.

mac

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M, my kitchen is at about 68F, 20C (if I did that right). I do a 1:4:4 feeding once my starter is active. In my case, I always let my starter rise to double volume, then refrigerate. I don't generally leave mine out once it's active, I guess because my erratic schedule means I might forget it. So, I drop it in the refrigerator as soon as it's done. In the next day or two, I can take it out of the refrigerator, use a bunch of it, and refresh some of it in a 1:4:4 ratio. It would take about 4-5 hours at 20C to double. That starter seems to do a good job of raising anything I've tried with it within a few hours, more or less according to what the recipe would suggest.

That process can be repeated indefinitely, as long as I don't let the starter stay in the refrigerator for more than about 3 days. After that, hooch starts to form on top of it, and it shrinks down in volume in the refrigerator - eventually to about 1/3 of where it gets at it's peak. If you put the vigorous starter in the refrigerator, it continues to rise for the first 24 hours, stays steady for another 24 hours, then declines slowly after that.

If the starter is older than about 3 days, I then have to "revive" as opposed to refresh, which for me means a 1:4:4 feeding, which will take quite a bit longer - maybe more like 8 hours, depending on how old the starter is. Then one or two repeated feedings are needed after that. In my case, in between feedings, I leave it in the refrigerator, just so I don't have to be that careful about the next feeding.

There is a pretty big difference in activity from 16C to 21C, so if most of the time is at more like 16C, maybe there is someone who could comment on what happens at that low a temperature. I know that winter chill very much slows things down for me, but my winter temperature is more like 20C and in summer it might be more like 23C.

I think the reason to avoid really large feedings is kind of what mij.mac was describing. When you dilute the culture that much, it will take a lot longer to get a doubling, i.e. to get to where there is a high concentration of organisms. You have to wait for that to happen, or the culture won't become stable. If the culture isn't stable, then other organisms besides the ones you want may end up establishing themselves. I agree you should wait as long as it takes to get a doubling, no matter how long, more or less. However, I would reduce the ratio to 1:1:1 or 1:2:2 until it gets going. After that maybe 1:3:3 or 1:4:4 is good in my experience.

Good luck with it. I'll be curious to hear if you discover the reason or discover a procedure that works.

mij.mac's picture
mij.mac

Yeah you're right I think most people should go with 1:1:1 feeding. I now in the states you like your bread sour, it is sourdough. Leave the bland stuff to us limies. : -)

mac

L_M's picture
L_M

bwraith you've explained very clearly the schedule you work with and it sounds like a very lenient one enabling quite a bit of flexibility, and that suits me just fine!  Just hoping my starter will accept that routine. When I think back, I very rarely had any hooch even after leaving the starter in the fridge for 2 weeks - just a strong alcohol smell. After feeding I'd leave it out on the counter for about 2 -3 hours until I saw it started to rise and then straight away I put it back in without letting it become really active. I have probably diluted this starter so much along the way that I'd be lucky if I still had 1 single yeast cell still left in it! lol.

About the temp - at night it may dip to around 16C - 17C for a few hours but for the most part it's been around 19C - 21C lately.

It's now almost 12 hours since the last feed and I'm getting quite a few big bubbles so I think it's on it's way. I'm going to put it in the fridge for the night and take it out again in the morning to continue because it just might peak when I'm asleep and I certainly don't want to miss that event. Hope I'm doing the right thing...I'll see tomorrow.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

PMcCool,

Thanks for this information. I've at times felt like I was just a little nuts on this point, but I did measure the pH in my water sources when I was having so much trouble getting a culture to establish itself. My well water is filtered. I've never looked into what well water ought to be in pH terms before the filtering, or what effect charcoal filters might have on the pH, but I do know the pH in my tap water coming from the well via the filters is around 9. This made a significant difference to the starting pH of my cultures and to the time it took for my culture to become acidic. The Poland Spring water I have has a neutral pH. I have not tested any other bottled waters. When you say "mineral water" could you define that more clearly? Also, what pH would mineral water typically have, as opposed to other bottled water. Basically, I quit using the well water and went to only using the Poland Spring water because of the pH problem. Also, the machine I have has hot and cold spigots, so it's very convenient to mix hot and cold to get warm water to mix with my cold culture from the refrigerator when I'm doing a refreshment or revival. My refreshment becomes active more quickly when I mix warm water with it, which more or less instantly brings the overall temperature to about room temperature or a little higher.

Bill Wraith

L_M's picture
L_M

Yes it is coming along fine now - at least doubled and still puffing up from what it looks like to me. No major smell of any kind but I do detect a bit of bananas?????? For the next feed I'll go for 1:1:1 and I'll see how long that takes. Hopefully in a day or 2 I'll actually make some bread!

PMcCool thanks for the info on the water. In the meantime, I was quite curious so got my filtered water checked with a pH meter and it came out to be 7.35 so it is certainly lower than brwaith's original well water but does it sound like a reasonable level that I can use it as is? I was also wondering what type of water you meant that is bottled but not mineral.

You've all given me a lot of support :-)))

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I'm betting it will only take a few hours to double on a 1:1:1 feeding, now that it's really bubbling up. I'll be curious to hear how it goes. I think the 7.35 pH of your water would be effectively the same as neutral. My well water pH was much more extreme at about 9. Nonetheless, in my case, even when I changed to neutral spring bottled water, I still needed to use a little acid in the beginning to make my cultures work reliably. Only guessing from afar, but I think the problem in your case was more the very large feedings, cool conditions, and not letting the culture reach that bubbling, rising state when the acidity rises, and the culture stabilizes. By the way, the pH after feeding a bubbling culture at a 1:1:1 ratio of old culture:water:flour will be lower than it would be if you feed a less active culture at a very high ratio, so you probably don't need to add vinegar anymore. The pH should be up closer to neutral, like 6 maybe, after the feeding, and then it will drop back down to 3-4 fairly quickly, as it starts to rise again. Adding the flour and water has a buffering effect on the old culture, but the organisms multiply in the new food supply and fermentation results in acid levels rising. A stable situation is reached when you have a feeding schedule that keeps the pH down most of the time, except for short periods while the culture is growing into the new food supply after a feeding. If the time when the pH is up closer to neutral is not too long, then any organisms introduced in the flour during the feeding will not be able to get a foothold before the yeast and lactobacillus push the environment back toward a pH of 3-4.

Bill

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Glad to hear that things are perking up.  I'd echo Bill's comment that a 7.35 pH isn't a problem. 

 

Most of the bottled water that you'll find in the U.S. is going to be nothing more than plain old H2O.  A lot of the "springs" that are so prominently featured in product names tend to be municipal water supplies, lol.  Those kinds of bottled water are just fine for your starter.  If you go to your local supermarket and buy a 1-gallon jug of something that says "drinking water" or "demineralized water" or "distilled water", you'll get something that will work for about the lowest price possible.  House brands are just as good as national brands.  Most of those sell for less than $1 per gallon.  The other advantage, particularly if the water is labeled as demineralized or distilled, is that you know there is no chlorine in it that would disrupt your culture.

 

Others, some domestic, more often imported (think Perrier) naturally contain alkaline minerals which make them a high-priced form of hard water.  Ergo, high pH and unhappy yeasties.  The labels usually flaunt the term "mineral water" somewhere.  That was what I was suggesting you stay away from. 

 

PMcCool

bwraith's picture
bwraith

PMcCool, Do you happen to know what the pH typically is for so-called "mineral water" such as Perrier? Just curious how it compares w/my measurement for my well water.

Thanks, Bill Wraith

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Bill,

 

Since I didn't have an answer at the ready for your question about pH, I did some research.  It turns out that I was not nearly so well informed as I thought I was.  Here's the most definitive answer I can give, now that I have looked up some information: mineral water pH values are all over the map.

 

Manxman pointed out that the brand he checked (I'm assuming Perrier) is actually acidic, with a pH between 5 and 6.  That happens to be true of a number of varieties, especially if they are carbonated.  When CO2 is dissolved in water, part of the CO2 and part of the water combine to form a weak solution of carbonic acid.  However, even non-carbonated mineral waters can be acidic, depending on the types of minerals that are dissolved in the water.  One extreme (and thoroughly non-drinkable) example would be the acid runoff from some mine tailings that forms when rainwater leaches through the piles of mined rock.

 

What I initially had in mind were mineral waters that contained dissolved compounds, most often carbonates, featuring calcium, or potassium, or magnesium.  These tend to produce alkaline solutions.  From what I saw in looking around today, pH values can range upwards of 8 or 9.  One vendor claimed a pH of 10 for his product, which didn't seem to have any independent substantiation.

 

So, my apologies for making a sweeping generality.  A little knowledge is, indeed, a dangerous thing.

 

PMcCool

L_M's picture
L_M

This time the conditions were just right - bubbly starter and 21C room temp. Starter got fed 1:1:1 and it's temp was also 21C, and now I'll just be patient. It's been almost 5 hrs and it's coming along but not ready yet so again I'll put it in the fridge overnight and tomorrow when it peaks I'll feed it again at 1:1:1 until I see it gets going a bit faster, unless one of you suggest that I up the ratio already.

It's good to know that the water is not causing a problem for my starter, but seeing as I don't live in USA it will be interesting to see what is written on the water bottles here. Thanks.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

In this stage where your culture doesn't yet seem to have become fully active, yet you have some degree of activity at (1:1:1), I think it might be a better bet to feed it before bedtime and possibly again in the morning, leaving it out on the counter, rather than refrigerating the culture every night. I do refrigerate my culture after I've refreshed, but that's only after it's fully active. I then can use the culture straight from the refrigerator to make bread for the next 2-3 days. After more than 3 days, I need to do a new revival/refreshment cycle to bring it back to a fully active state. I did say it was possible that it was rising at night and maybe you had missed that event, but I think you checked that is not really happening. Basically, at this point you have some activity, so what you are trying to do is feed it in a 1:1:1 ratio every 12-24 hours, until it takes off and becomes fully active. Once you catch it on a doubling of volume with lots of bubbles, and it becomes fully active, you can probably use somewhat higher ratios. I use 1:4:4, but that's basically just because it conveniently brings a small amount of culture up to a volume I can use to make several breads over the course of the next couple of days. As I had mentioned my tendency is to go on baking binges, so I tend to build up the volume of my culture to have plenty of starter to use in a several firm starter preferments and a poolish substitute and so on. And, once it's fully active, then the refrigeration storage strategies I had mentioned earlier should work.

It may take some further patient following of the 1:1:1 feedings every 12-24 hours for the "real stuff" to establish itself fully. However, it's encouraging that there is some bubbling going on and that it is rising.

Bill

manxman's picture
manxman

the ph of perrier as I have in France is 5.36

bwraith's picture
bwraith

PMcCool,

Thanks for the further info on water pH levels. I had honestly wondered if my meter was just broken or miscalibrated, but I checked it pretty carefully. I think my well just has water with a pH of 9 for whatever reason. I hope it isn't because of some sort of toxic runoff. I do live next to a large swamp. Anyway, the fact there is such a thing as water coming out of the ground advertised with a pH of 9 or even 10 leaves me less skeptical that my own water seems to have a pH of 9. I plotted pH over time in my culture, and it definitely started a couple of pH points higher with my well water in it, and took much longer to get down into the 3-4 range than my concoctions with Poland Spring bottled water and a little ascorbic acid.

Bill Wraith

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Bill,

 

Not to worry about the swamp next door.  If your well were drawing from there, the water would most likely be somewhat acidic.  The tannins and other compounds present in the decaying vegetation (fallen leaves, pine needles, moss, whatever) react with the groundwater to and produce mild acids that drive the water pH down.  It's very natural and not the least bit harmful.

 

Since you are seeing a pH of 9 with your well water, that suggests that the aquifer it is drawing from has a high content of dissolved solids.  The usual suspect is calcium carbonate, aka limestone.  There are other compounds that produce similar effects and some of them might also be found in your well water if you were to have it chemically analyzed.  Again, very natural and not harmful to your health.  In fact, the Kentucky bluegrass region and the area around Ocala, Florida are both favorites of horse breeders, in part because of the naturally occurring high mineral content of the local water supplies.  Builds strong bones, you know.

 

The downside of water sources with high pH values (other than not being friendly to sourdough starters) is that over time they clog plumbing with mineral deposits, stain fixtures, leave laundry looking dull, require larger quantities of soap, and so on.  I remember the professor in one of my water treatment courses in college remarking that when he had lived somewhere near Chicago the water supply was so hard that he had two water softeners in series, since one couldn't sufficiently remove the hardness.  It would have been interesting to know what the pH, as well as the dissolved solids analysis, was for that water source.

I'm glad to hear that you have a handle on what's going on with your starter.  Enjoy the bread.

 

Paul

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Paul,

I enjoyed your posts below about water source pH and other details. It's interesting to think about what is going on way down there somewhere in the aquifer that might affect a loaf of bread. What discipline leads to taking courses in water treatment?

Bill Wraith

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Bill,

 

In my case, it was Civil Engineering.

 

PMcCool

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

We are in different time zones so unfortuately I was already fast asleep with the starter in the fridge when you posted about maybe leaving it out on the counter, but all is well and it is back on the counter, got it's feeding after becoming bubbly and it's slowly rising again. This time I'll feed it before I go to bed like you suggested and just leave it out for the night, and continue with that routine until it is really vigorous. In one of your posts above you mentioned that you put the starter in the fridge after it is active and it continues to rise for the next 24 hours in the fridge. Does that mean you put the starter in the fridge when it is just at the beginning of it's very active stage? Otherwise I may have misunderstood you somewhere else along the line, because after it peaks isn't it supposed start to fall, instead of rising anymore - please correct me if I'm wrong...thanks for helping me understand what's going on in there! 

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

Sorry I missed on the timing of that suggestion, but it sounds like the culture is doing well. I let my culture rise to double or a little more before I put it in the refrigerator. However, it is still active enough to continue to rise for a while. It seems to peak over the course of the next 12 hours or so. It probably takes a while for it to cool down, and it probably takes the yeast a while to shut down it's activities. I think the lactobacillus can continue on at lower temperatures. So, all that adds up to some continued ability to increase the volume of the culture. So, be careful to use a large enough container when you refrigerate, or you can get a messy overflow surprise next morning. After it peaks, there is a period where the very center of the surface begins to cave in. At this point, it seems to have a nice smell. If I refresh my culture 1:2:2 early in the morning, it will double in 4-5 hours (if done in the first 2-3 days after it was last refreshed). Then I refrigerate it, and it seems to get to that stage where it is just beginning to cave in at the center by the middle of the next day. That's when I make something with it.

I just did one version of my routine sourdough baking process in the past 24 hours or so, and I thought it might help to clarify the process if I described the chronology - sorry if this is way more than you wanted to know...

From my notes:

11:15am yesterday: approx 1:2:2 "revival" of two week old refrigerated culture. 3oz old starter, 6.5 oz bread flour, 6.5 oz water. The culture had about 1/8 inch of hooch on top and had a slightly sharp, slightly alcoholic, but pleasant aroma. (The culture would have more like 1/4 or 3/8 inch of hooch after 2 months sitting in refrigerator, and the aroma would be sharper and not quite as pleasant in some way I can't really describe.)

7:30pm yesterday: 1:2:2 "refreshment" after volume doubled.

12:30am today:put doubled refreshed culture in the refrigerator. Note the refreshment only took 5 hours, as opposed to 8 hours for the "revival".

9:00am today: created "firm starter" for Miche - 7 oz starter, 5 oz sifted red whole wheat, 4 oz bread flour, 4oz water.

9:20am today: 1:2:2 "refreshment" of starter i.e. 8 oz starter, 16 oz KA bread flour, 16oz water.

10am: raisin focaccia dough: 20 oz starter (set aside before the above refreshment), 10oz "KA Italian flour", 3oz KA rye blend, 2.75 oz olive oil, 0.5 oz salt, 1 tsp yeast, 6 oz water, 2.5 cups golden raisins, knead in mixer for 5 minutes.

10am-noon: folding focaccia every 45 minutes or so, now letting it rise before putting in pan.

12:30pm: firm starter above put in refrig after doubling (3.5 hours).

The refreshment started at 9:20 looks like it will be done by 1:30pm, so the time will only be about 4 hours this time.

So, the things illustrated here would be:

 1) After 2 weeks, the starter needed a couple of cycles of feeding to become very active. On the third refreshment it is rising about as fast as my starter will ever rise in my experience, i.e. 4 hours for my 1:2:2 refreshment.

2) The firm starter with a lower ratio of expansion and whole wheat flour rose faster than the 1:2:2 refreshment. Note that the refrigerated 1 day old culture is able to quickly raise the firm starter dough.

3) I used up most of the starter, and I want to do some more baking tomorrow, so I made a fairly large volume on the refreshment today. Note that since the culture was only 1 day old, it rose vigorously after a single feeding.

4) If I don't use it, it can still live in the refrigerator for a very long time and be revived in the same way as above. If the starter is very, very old, i.e. maybe 2 months in the refrigerator, then it might take 3 or 4 refreshments, and the first refreshment might take all day to rise - and I might toss in a touch of acid and be especially careful with my cleaning techniques, since the natural acidic and antibiotic qualities of the culture will not be in much effect until the culture revives more fully.

I'm sure there are a million variations on all this, and maybe others will have comments/criticisms/improvement on this approach.

Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

After I read my last post, I realize that my ratios were wrong. When I do a typical refreshment, I do 1:2:2, not 1:4:4, i.e. it's a 1:4 ratio of weight of old culture to new culture. So, my 4 hours rise time is for 1:2:2, not 1:4:4. So, a 1:4:4 refreshment, even for very active culture probably would take more like 6-8 hours.

I'll edit the previous post, which had 1:4:4 everywhere, but there was a lot of discussion before that with the same wrong ratios.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi brwaith,

You have really been very kind to write everything out so clearly for me, and it does make the theory easier to understand now that you wrote out your schedule as well.  For me - the more details the better!

It looks like it will take about 12 hrs to peak this time (still on a ratio of 1:1:1) so it certainly is alive but not really kicking yet. I'll fed it before I go to sleep and just maybe I'll have a big surprise in the morning!

After this slow poke of mine really gets going I'm sure I'll easily find a schedule with a convenient routine of feeding, building and baking.

I'm off to check those bubbles...

L_M

    

L_M's picture
L_M

Just reporting on progress - last night it got fed at a ratio of 1:2:2 and took 9 hrs to peak. Just fed it now at 1:3:3 and we'll see how long it takes. It looks like I'll be able to make some bread soon...

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

The rise times sound much more reasonable now, especially if it's a bit cool in your kitchen.

Just in case you did not notice my earlier post, I made a mistake stating what ratios I am using. I realize my usual feeding ratio is 1:2:2, which is a multiplier on the old starter of 5x. My rise times at about 68 deg F (20C) has been about 5 hours at that feeding ratio. To me that seems like a significant dilution, and although it's certainly possible to go much larger, I'm not sure there is that much point to large dilutions, but maybe others have some comments on this. I think there is a balance between a) expanding the culture, which you may need to do if you want to use it as a poolish substitute, or if you just have a whole lot of bread to bake, and b) with making sure you don't dilute so much that you destabilize the culture. If you dilute by a huge ratio, I think you run the risk that the acid and other aspects of the environment of the culture which is friendly to the wanted lactobacillus and yeast organisms and unfriendly to other unwanted organisms won't be re-established for a long time. A highly diluted culture is a little like just starting a new culture from scratch. Other organisms introduced by the flour or just from your kitchen environment may have a chance to take over the culture before the acid environment of the culture is established once again. So, if you do a large dilution, it makes sense to be extra careful with cleaning everything and I would consider adding some acid, so you keep the pH on the acidic side even after the dilution.

In other words, if the culture is not doubling in less than about 24 hours, there is a significant number of hours when the culture is effectively just flour and water at about a neutral pH, which means during those hours other organisms have a chance to establish themselves (unless you spike it with a little acid), as described in previous posts and in SourdoLady's instructions).

For refreshments of 1:2:2, I know it works well and is very stable in terms of rise times and repetitions, regardless of refrigeration, types of flour and whatnot. Again maybe others can comment on the dilution ratios they use, what rise times they experience, and why they chose that dilution ratio. I have not deviated too far from 1:2:2 on my refreshments, and I used only 1:1:1 for feedings when trying to start a culture from scratch.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

Things are progressing nicely - the 1:3:3 feeding took 11 hrs to peak but for some reason it didn't even make it to double volume whereas before it was usually a bit more than double. Do you think this is significant at all? I did notice your ratios and  time changes, so it looks like my starter is slowly catching up to where it should be. I'm hoping that tomorrow I'll be able to use the starter for baking so tonight I fed it at a ratio of 1:4:4 in order to start expanding. If I see that it still takes too long then I'll just keep on feeding it for a few more days until the same ratio feed to peak time is constant. For the past few days the room temperature has been quite close to 20C for most of the time so luckily that is also one less factor to worry about. Thanks for the reminders about keeping everything very clean and/or adding acid for the very diluted feeds. I'll keep you posted...

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

Sounds like it's very much alive. One thing to consider is that multiple feedings at lower ratios may be better than one at a much higher ratio. For example, if a 1:2:2 feeding that takes 5 hours to double can be done 2 times in 10 hours to multiply your starter by 25, it may be better than a 1:5:5 feeding that takes 12 hours and multiplies only by 11. I have not done those experiments, and maybe there is someone who knows the answer to "ideal feeding ratios". I guess there is also a convenience issue. If you can only feed the starter every 12 hours because you aren't there during the day (or you want it to run all night), then maybe the larger ratios are more convenient. That's more or less fine tuning, though. It sounds like the culture is quite active at this point, which is the main thing.

Bill

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

This thread has changed my drinking habits! As  a result of it, I've checked loads of the bottled water available in the UK - and  now realize that sparkling water is always on the acid side of the spectrum, so no more sparkling water! And my two favourites (because of where they come from - Buxton in Derbyshire and Abbey Well in Northumberland) are very good indeed. So - still water and from near to my childhood home!
But can I justify the cost of using them in bread? I don't think so - I'll have to move to a house with a well....!
Andrew
wine is acid too - a dreadful thought!

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi brwaith,

Sorry it took so long for me to respond, but we've had a lot of rain and power failures as a result, and along with that came computer problems. In the meantime I really don't think my starter is gaining any strength. Rising times are still too long, and volume is less than double at peak. If a starter at peak is supposed to look like a poolish at peak, then mine is still missing a lot of medium to large bubbles throughout. I get tiny - small ones in the middle, and medium - large on top. So....I'm back to feeding at 1:1:1 with a few drops of vinegar and a lot of tender loving care!

I do remember in some of Sourdolady's and jm_chng's post (and maybe others as well) that it was suggested to discard most of the active starter before feeding because otherwise there would be too much of the waste products brought into the new feed. I realise this is only for a very well established starter, but from your usual ratio of 1:2:2 this isn't really dicarding most, and you say that your starter is very consistant and produces good results, so I guess I'll have to just experiment with my starter and see what works best, but only after I'm sure it's really, really going well.

It has now been 2 1/2 hours since the last feed of 1:1:1 with a bit of vinegar and it is just barely showing signs of life.... patience and more patience!

L_M

mij.mac's picture
mij.mac

perhaps someone would send you some established starter, or you could look up Carl's Friends and get some of that starter. That way you know what you are dealing with. You can always keep your starter backed up for later. If you have know quantity it's easier for people to give you advice and easier for yourself to know it's something you're doing wrong rather than the starter or vice verse.You can get Carl's starter for the price of p&p and it activates very fast. Charles Perry does a very goo job as do the others volunteers.

mac

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi mij.mac,

To tell you the truth I never even considered that as a possibility, most likey because I'd really like to conquer this challange I've gotten myself into, but if all else fails I may end up ordering some :-)

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I agree with Mac that it could be worth a try with a purchased starter. If you find that a known starter works fine, then maybe your starter just has some version of yeasts/lactobacillus that are somehow sluggish. You would then know it isn't your methods or your ingredients, just something about that particular culture you have. Another starter that worked easily for me was the KA sourdough starter, which literally was some fresh culture in a little plastic jar. I just added flour and water and it did its thing.

You could also try starting completely from scratch. I've used the BBA method (but add acid to the first mixture), or try out SourdoLady's method here on the site. You might discover that starting from scratch works, too. Again, that would more or less isolate the problem to the culture you have, as opposed to some detail in your methodology or ingredients.

I haven't found a good explanation for when starting with a very tiny amount of old culture and diluting it tremendously is a good thing to do, but I've read it works for "cleaning" a culture that has been contaminated. I think Mike Avery mentions this procedure in some of his tips. To me, it seems like a huge dilution is a way to allow organisms in the flour or elsewhere to establish themselves. I guess if your culture isn't working right, maybe a huge dilution would allow some kind of "reordering" of the dominance of the various organisms.

Sorry you haven't gotten it to work so far.

One last thought. Are you using a container that will reveal a doubling of volume easily? If you are using a bowl, it can be very deceiving what constitutes a "doubling" of volume. I use a 750mL measuring cup with a loose fitting plastic lid for my culture growing. It has marks at 125mL increments, so you can very easily measure volume.

Finally, one last thought on ingredients. Anything special about the flours you are using? Are they fresh, or have they been treated or have any unusual additives?

I'll be very curious to hear more, as you try various things. Darn, it's so easy once it's working, and yet I remember the seemingly interminable struggle with the acid and water problems on my first try at growing a culture from scratch. Good luck getting it firgured out.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

During this whole time it actually did cross my mind to start another starter from scratch just to see if that would be more successful, but I haven't yet - I'm still nursing 'slow poke'. About the flour - this is plain AP flour that has no additives and has not been treated in any way (at least nothing is written on the bag). How fresh is fresh? The date gives 3 - 4 months until expiry date and that is about as fresh as I've ever seen in the supermarket, and I always check. There is only 1 brand of bread flour available and that is enriched including Vit C, but since I have ascorbic acid and the protein content of both are the same (11%), I usually just buy the AP.

One thing in your last post that did ring a bell though was the size of the container you use. In order to be absolutely sure about the doubling in volume, I have been using a marked measuring cup as well so it would be easy to keep track, but mine is only a 1 cup size which made me just remember reading somewhere that for creating a new starter it is necessary to use more than a very small amount to get things established, and later on it is fine to store just a bit in the fridge and build from that as needed. So for this last feed of 1:1:1 with a few drops of vinegar I made 150 grams total whereas before this it was only 70 - 90 grams. Maybe it will make a difference. This mornings feed took almost 12 hours to peak and again did not reach double volume. I'll keep you posted.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I imagined you had probably gone over the measuring, the flour, the water, the acid plenty by now, and it sounds like you have it as ironed out as could be. It all sounds good to me. Could it just be some flour that is contaminated with some undesirable organism? Maybe changing the flour would be worth a shot, but I bet you tried that too.

That does leave Mac's suggestion or starting from scratch, using a purchased starter, or both to try to prove the problem is the culture itself and nothing amiss with your process or ingredients.

I used fairly small amounts when I was doing starter experiments, just to keep from going crazy with quantities of flour on the feedings. I probably worked with about 250mL of initial flour/water mixture and allowed that to double in volume. I've read lots of people who work with smaller amounts than that and advocate doing that. I just like working with enough that I don't have to be quite so precise measuring the amounts or seeing the changes clearly.

It might be worth running variations in parallel if you start over. I did a lot of experiments at one time when I was trying to get one started for myself and then picked the one that seemed to be working the best.

Again, good luck with it. I'm sure at some point this will all resolve itself. It may be that starting over will work and you'll never really know what was in "slow poke".

Bill

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

L_M, why don't you try feeding 'slow poke' with a couple of Tbsp. of rye and/or whole wheat flour added to your AP flour for a few feeds. That will allow it to pick up some stronger fresh yeast cells which may be what it needs. If that doesn't improve things, I would also recommend that you start anew and build a starter with the freshest whole grain flour that you can get (health food store).

 

It is also really not essential for a starter to double in volume to be able to rise a loaf of bread. As long as it has large frothy bubbles on top and many tiny bubbles suspended throughout, it will rise your dough just fine. My favorite starter looks that way and it makes outstanding bread.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M, (and hello SourdoLady),

Just for convenience, here is the link back to SourdoLady's starter recipe (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/233), which in my experience is a very reliable method, although I use a lower hydration ratio (1:1 by weight, not volume). Her explanations of "how it works" regarding the rye and/or whole wheat, the acid, and all the other details is excellent.

I think the explanation for the difference between a) SourdoLady's point that a culture that doesn't rise so much but has lots of large and small bubbles will still work and b)my own focus on rising as a good measure of culture health probably is related to the fact that the lower hydration culture in the recipe I follow results in a consistency that is like a very wet dough or a thick batter. In fact, I probably am feeding it with slightly less than 100% hydration and I use either KA AP or KA bread flour, so it's pretty sticky and extensible if you lift some out with a spatula. As a result, it may form a good enough gluten structure at that consistency to normally rise to double in a few hours when fed, if it's working.

Another thought along the same lines is if the AP flour you're using has a lower protein content, like 9% instead of 11, maybe that combined with the breakdown of the gluten caused by the culture is resulting in it not rising so much, especially if your culture is wetter than what I usually do.

In that case, maybe you could try a radical experiment and just make some bread with "slow poke". If it has lots of bubbles, maybe it's good to go, and we've been too focused on rising.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi to all, and thank you SourdoLady for joining in as well. 

 Last night's feed took almost 12 hrs to peak and this morning the "nose" court decided that 'slow poke' is going for a very,very, long vacation into the dark corner in the back of the fridge. It had an unusual smell lately that wasn't horrible but all the same I think enough was enough, and is was time to move on. So, this morning SourdoLady's 'OJ' was born. I used volume instead of weight because that is what the instructions specify, but I will move to weight like I always use, as soon as it is established. Bye now I have quite a lot of containers with discards from slow poke at different stages so I might just try to revive with some whole wheat flour, refresh, build and make some bread, but from my past experiences the results were not very good, which is actually the reason I initially asked for help.

The flour I always use for bread is AP with 11% protein (alternating between 2 different brands) and it does keep it's structure quite well so I don't think it's a low protein problem. Bwraith, as both you and SourdoLady pointed out, a starter with a higher hydration may not double itself, but will have enough strength to make bread may not be the problem in my case because I was using 100% hydration by weight. My main concern was really how long it took to rise a 1:1:1.

Anyhow...I'll probably do a few experiments along the way while I'm waiting for 'OJ' to get going, so thank you all again (especially bwraith) for helping me out and I'll post occasional progress reports. 

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

Good luck with starting over. My condolences for the loss of "slow poke". I know exactly how you feel about wanting to figure out how to start one on your own from scratch even if you can buy a starter, but I learned a lot from using some of the purchased versions, too. So, I still think Mac's suggestion is worth doing, if you get a chance. It's another point of comparison. I still keep my KA SF starter going, and I occasionally use it instead of my own concoction. The one I finally started from scratch is the one I use most, though.

Meanwhile, hopefully whatever is wrong with "slow poke" will not exist in "son of slow poke". Who knows what's in "slow poke", but hopefully it's just something unique about that culture that will be gone once you start over.

I'll be interested to hear. I'm off to go sailing in the British Virgin Islands for about a week, so I probably won't be able to respond for a while, but I'll check back in as soon as I'm back. Hopefully by then, you'll be in full swing with "son of slow poke". Of course you may likely give it a different name than "son of slow poke".

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi brwaith,

I'll be looking forward to posting successful events involving 'OJ'  (or - son of slow poke), made from fresh oj of course, and who knows, I might just purchase a ready made one as well, but I'm sure that will only be after I have created one by myself!

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

Hah, "OJ", OK that gives me a chuckle, but are you sure that's the name? I was going to suggest "Tenacious", or "Patience".

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

First I want to thank SourdoLady for those wonderful instructions! Everything went according to the plan with no problems at all. Around day 4 - 5 it started to get hooch so I gave it 12 hr. feedings, and then I started to give it feeds of 100% hydration by weight at first using 1:1:1 and then 1:2:2 so it would be more convenient for me, since it was moving quite quickly. Yesterday (day 6) I started to build up for the first loaf which I baked today.  I'm sure the started had just peaked when I started to mix the dough, but for some reason the time it took from mix to bake was 11 hours at room temperature 21C - 22C, which was much longer than I expected since the recipe calls for 225 grams of starter added to 500 grams flour. The most disappointing thing is that the bread is much too sour for our liking. I feel like I'm back to square 1    :-(( 

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

It sounds like the rebirth of the starter went well, at least. How long was your 1:2:2 feeding taking to rise? Just curious how it's doing now that you started over.

Also, it would be very interesting to hear the details of the recipe. I seem to generally have the opposite result, which is that most of my recipes seem not that sour, which is OK w/me. I probably wouldn't want my bread to be way too sour. However, I'm curious to discover how to control the sour flavor.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi brwaith,

Hope you enjoyed your trip!

It seems that 'oj' has slowed down to about the same pace as 'slow poke', so even though it is frustrating, I think there are some things that I can now use as comparison from starting this new one. There are several factors that I think I'll just have to isolate and make some observations along the way. One of them being that possibly I have moved on to the 'next stage' too quickly each time as far as increasing the feeding goes without really making sure that it was strong enough and working on a reliable pattern yet. Another one that I noticed was that the activity decreased as the ratio of AP to rye flour increased.

As for the sourness - I certainly don't think I can shed any light at all on the subject of how to make bread more or less sour because even this new starter made my bread too sour (same as slow poke did when it was only a week old as well). This does make me wonder though how long I'm going to keep up trying to make sourdough, because none of us like any of the results so far and I really don't know what to do to get a complex but not sour flavour. One thing I do know is that I need a good strong starter to work with before I can really make any comparisons at all.

The recipe I used is quite basic I think:

225 gm starter (100% hydration)

200 water

340 gm AP flour

40 gm ww flour

10 gm salt

I realize that ww flour makes for a more sour taste so next time I might try it without, but it really isn't very much so I'm not sure whether it will make a difference at all but I'll let you know next time.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

Very sour bread might be a symptom of an over-ripe starter? If you have dropping yeast levels, high bacteria levels, high acid levels in the starter because it has fermented too long, that might result in a slow-rising, very sour bread.

Maybe there is something about the AP flour that won't hold up in a sourdough culture, so it doesn't rise enough, then you let it run too long, it becomes overly sour, then you make very sour bread that has a hard time rising. Just a theory.

It seems that you were doing just fine until you tried to switch to AP flour, which is what makes me wonder if the flour is somehow at the heart of the difficulties.

You could try using SourdoLady's approach for a more hydrated culture and use bubbling as your measure rather than how far it rises. Or, you could switch to a solid starter as in the Glezer book and try that. Maybe it would work better with your flour. Or, maybe you could switch flours. I use bread flour in mine and it works well for me. I do that so I can use the barm like a poolish in my dough for certain recipes, and I want the gluten to hold up even though I let the barm ripen a bit. In some cases the poolish is almost 40% of the flour in the recipe.

Or, try using a shorter time between feedings, even if it doesn't rise by double. You could try feeding the AP version after about 5-6 hours. Have you tried tasting it, or using a pH measure to determine the activity in the culture? Maybe the pH is dropping long before you get to the volume doubling of the starter. 

Of course, it may be something completely different, but it strikes me that if you were doing fine right up until you switched to AP, maybe the flour just won't allow a rise of double before the gluten gives out.

I did have a great time, by the way. It's beautiful down there. Jerk chicken, snorkeling, sailing, wave riding, and very tired but happy kids were all good.

Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

After the first revival, i.e. after it doubled in about 7 hours (after about a week in the refrigerator or so), it smells yeasty and is not very sour. In addition to the yeasty smell, it has a little bit of something like banana that is the beginning of some acidity, but it has only a hint of a sour taste at this point.

I put it in the refrigerator, so I'll tell you what it's like tomorrow when I take it out to feed it again. I'm building it back up to use it to do some baking.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

Sounds like you had a very nice time out from the regular day-in day-out routine, so you are probably all 'refreshed' as well!

You have so many interesting ideas of what might be the problem(s) with my starter - maybe you should consider becoming a detective :-))) I'm sure you'd solve each case!

I doubt that the cause for this last bread to be so sour was because my starter was over - ripe but rather it just wasn't strong enough yet to raise the dough and it took a very long time, but again I am not experienced enough to say what is going on inside so anything is possible.

Back to the flour - I understand what you are saying about the possible lack of strength of the AP flour, but it does work very well in a poolish and any other form of dough, and it could be that for sourdough it just isn't strong enough, but there is only one brand of bread flour available and that has 11% protein (same as the AP I use) and the bread flour is enriched so that means introducing all sorts of extras that may or may not effect the delicate balance of the yeast and bacteria. For now I am staying with 1/2 whole rye and 1/2 AP for the feeds at 1:1:1, but actually I am using a bit more water to loosen the texture slightly and it is now somewhere in between a 100% hyrdation and SourdoLady's directions.

The taste test - how sour should it be when the pH is right? Mild, medium or very? If I remember correctly, very often I have found that it smells like bananas when it was already quite bubbly.

I honestly think everything was going fine with 'oj' and then when I got hooch long before the next scheduled feeding time I probably changed too many things too quickly and everything went out of control. Rye was replaced by AP, mixture was thickened to 1:1:1 and fed twice daily, then 1:2:2, and you know the rest of the story...

But, the good news is that 'oj' seems to be recovering and I'd like to take it one step at a time. For now while it is on the counter for the next few days or so and I'm only interested in strengthening and developing the flavour of the starter, and not for making bread yet, what should I do when it peaks in only a few hours? Feed it or let it sit and wait for a 12 hr or 24 hr feeding schedule? I'm sure we'll get this starter going!

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

If the culture has developed hooch and is very sour, that sounds like a culture where the fermentation has been active long enough to get to a "declining" stage of the culture. I guess that's what makes me wonder if somehow when you switch to the AP version, it really is working fine, but maybe you're letting it run too long waiting for it to rise. Sourdough culture definitely breaks down the gluten in flour, and my understanding is that some flours don't handle it too well, though I haven't had any trouble with KA AP or bread flour using the methods I've described along the way. If somehow there is little yeast in the culture and lots of lactobacillus as a result of it sitting way too long, all the symptoms you've mentioned might be explained.

This morning, I took my refreshed and refrigerated culture out and smelled it and tasted it. It had more of a "tangy" smell, whereas last night it was only yeasty. The taste was not strongly sour, but it was definitely more sour compared to last night just after it had risen by double. Last night there was the slightest hint of sour flavor and hints of that banana-like aroma. I fed it again after tasting it, and tasted again. It was pretty much just flour paste, and it had lost any sense of being sour except maybe the slightest hint. It took 7 hours to rise yesterday after having been stored for a while. Now it has already risen by about 50% after 3 hours or so. It should be doubled by about 5 hours. The ratio was about 5x, i.e. 1:2:2.

I'm probably going to make a "barm" for my baking experiments to be done in the next couple of days, and I'll probably have a chance to taste a two day old refrigerated version of it. I'll let you know what it tastes like when the time comes.

Maybe I'll also leave some of the culture that's rising now out on the counter for a few more hours and see how that tastes.

Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

There can be a big difference between the time between refreshments to maintain a culture and the time you wait after a refreshment to use a culture in making bread.

I think SourdoLady's recipe says you can do daily feedings, leaving it out on the counter. I've read recommendations of twice daily in some recipes when the culture is not put in the refrigerator. You can play with temperature and feeding ratios, too, where higher ratios and lower temperatures should cause the culture to take longer to reach a ripe stage. I think the trick is just to find a repeatable process that results in an vigorously active, reasonable tasting culture in a reliable, repeatable time after a refreshment.

In my case, I refrigerate once it has risen by double, which greatly slows down the activity. The flavor will become more sour even in the refrigerator over the next couple of days. I've had good results with the basic approach of refresh, let it double, refrigerate, repeat, where I refresh repeatedly two or three times, maybe with an overnight refrigeration if inconvenient to repeat refreshments within the day, if I want to get it fully active and ready for bread baking.

Somehow, I keep thinking that if the culture becomes very active in only a few hours when you go back to the basic OJ culture, then the AP should become fully active within a few hours also, although longer than with whole grain flour in it. So, I'm still thinking SourdoLady may have had it right back when she said that rising isn't necessarily the best measure. Large and small bubbles, and tangy smell and flavor, and dropping pH, if they are there, may be a good indication.

Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I've been doing some experimenting today I thought you would find possibly relevant to your experiences with "slowpoke" and "OJ".

I started with my normal bba style "barm" starter (a 1:1 by weight starter) after it had been refreshed twice today 1:2:2 (using KA bread flour) and has been doubling in volume in 4-5 hours at about 78 degrees F (a shelf above my Bunn coffee maker gets me those temps). I used the slightly higher temperatures just to speed things up a little.

I did three cultures simultaneously from there:

1) I took the recently doubled barm and refreshed with KA bread flour in usual 1:2:2 ratio, my normal procedure - call that the control in this experiment. It is quite sticky after mixing. The taste is essentially just flour paste taste, i.e. not much of any taste at all at this point right after the feeding.

2) I took some of the same recently doubled barm and refreshed in a 1:2:2 ratio using KA "Italian Style Flour", which is stated to be about 8.5% protein content and made from soft red spring wheat. I thought this might be an example of a flour that would have a hard time providing a good rise in a sourdough culture. When I mixed this one, it seemed like pea soup, somewhat different from the sticky, somewhat smooth surface of (1), just above.

3) I took the same barm and just allowed it to continue fermenting. Of course, it already had that yeasty smell along with a hint of an aromatic smell we've been calling "banana". It had only a very moderate sour hint when tasted.

After 3 hours the following was noted:

for 1), It had risen by 50% with lots of bubbles and not quite as strong of a yeasty smell as (2) had, but very notable, nonetheless. However, it was clearly rising "agressively".

for 2), It had only risen slightly - maybe 20%. However, there was a heavy yeasty odor wafting up from it, and there were lots of bubbles throughout, including plenty of medium sized bubbles (say 2.5 mm in diameter).

for 3), It had risen about 30%, and the smell is decidedly more aromatic than yeasty now. The flavor has a clear sour flavor, and the "banana" is more like "tangy" or slightly sharp now, instead of just a hint of "banana".

After 4.5 hours:

for 1), It  has risen to more than double and is beginning to have that banana smell in addition to the yeasty smell.

for 2), It has risen only about 50%, rather than more than double as in (1), but it smells almost the same as (1) above, just beginning to have a banana smell. Also, it continues to have lots of bubbles in it.

for 3), It has risen about 75%, so it has not quite "redoubled", but it isn't that far from it. It now has a decidedly sour smell with a slight sharpness to it. It is still pleasant. The taste is definitely sour and seems headed toward being sharply sour.

 

I guess right about now is when SourdoLady would be telling me not to pay attention to the rise in (2) above and instead realize it is nice and active with lots of bubbles, yeast smell, and beginning of sour smell and taste.

Meanwhile, (3) is getting to a peak ripeness that should be great for flavoring a dough and has tons of cranking organisms ready to raise a dough.

I will place (1) in the refrigerator and by tomorrow it will be not quite as strong as (3) is right now, but it will have significantly more sour smell than it does now. If I left (1) in the refrigerator for another day, it would probably be very similar to (3) or a little beyond it in sour flavor. It would probably not raise the dough quite as well as it would tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I'm leaving (2) and (3) out. I'll let you know how they are at 6 hours out, when I think (3) will probably stop rising and become very sour/ripe. I think(2) will begin to show significant sour and continue to bubble.

The basic point is that I believe the activity is about the same in (2) as in (1), although it is not rising anywhere near as much. It may well be that your flour has characteristics more like the KA Italian Style flour. Even if the protein levels are somewhat higher than the KA, maybe it contains a particular quality of protein that degrades in sourdough culture and therefore is difficult to get to rise before you've created a very sour culture and subsequent dough, as you've described.

This makes me want to encourage you to find a different flour that is "stronger" to use in your sourdough baking. I say this because even if you take the starter at the 4.5 hour point in my experiment above and use it to make a dough with the same flour, it might not work very well, because the same sourdough conditions will prevail that keep the culture from rising. Of course, this is all just a theory, but I think it fits the description of what's happening very well. I'm pretty sure that if I stuck to the rule of doubling the volume of the KA Italian flour, then used it to make a dough that also has to double, it would take a very, very long time, and it would be very, very sour when I was done.

After 6 hours (added as an edit a little later):

for 1), It was put in the refrigerator with a very mild sour smell (milder than (2) has) which we've both said has some sort of "banana" character to it. It had big bubbles and small bubbles, some were almost 1cm across. It had risen to about 2.5 times over the 6 hours. The yeasty smell was certainly there although milder than (2).

for 2), It has not risen above 50% - just seems stalled there. However, the smells are much stronger than I would have expected. The sour/sharp smell seems more pronounced than in (1), and the sour taste is definitely stronger than in (1). In fact, it seems to now have characteristics more like (3). It doesn't seem as pleasant of a smell or taste as earlier.

for (3), It has risen only slightly since the 4.5 hour point. It has a stronger sharper smell and taste. It isn't quite as pleasant to me as before.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

You certainly have a soughdough lab going there! Those experiments are very interesting and do seem to give a lot of signs leaning towards the fact that your flour theory is correct, BUT, the good news is that 'oj' actually tripled itself last night and had fallen back quite a bit by the morning but there were still large bubbles on the surface and small to medium ones throughout. the taste was very sour and sharp, quite like the container of discards left in the fridge from the past few days.

I must go now, but I'll continue later on today - I just wanted to give you a short update so far. Thanks again for helping me so much with all of your time and experience.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

Now it's about 18 hours after these experiments were fed.

I left 1) from my previous post out overnight. It has a very strong sour taste and has fallen back to about 50% of its peak.

2) Has a banana and chalk smell. The sour flavor is strong but a little unpleasant.

I also took some of (2) last night when it was about 6 hours old and I fed it 1:2:2 with bread flour. It rose to double in about 4 hours at 78F, so it behaved normally for a vigorous culture.

So, it at least is an example of how a flour that doesn't rise properly because of the protein quality/content can still create a vibrant culture. However, I think you have to switch to using bubbles, taste, smell, and time/temperature, as the indicators of when the culture is good.

Maybe your flour is fine, but I still say that your culture should be taking more like 4-6 hours at 21C to bubble up and begin to be ripe, so if you are detecting bubbles, and the beginning of sour flavor and taste in your "white flour" culture after 5-6 hours, it's probably already ripe, based on the vigorous activity of OJ, even though it did not rise.

To me the flavors are fairly subtle at the end of 4-5 hours. The yeasty smell is more noticeable. At the end of 9 hours, the sour taste and smells were more pronounced. Nest morning, yes, they were very strongly sour smelling and tasting and had fallen. Also, by the way, for some reason (2) had a particularly strong banana smell compared to the higher protein ones this morning (after about 18hrs), and there was something like chalk, if you can believe it that seemed to be in the low protein one.

Sorry if all this is way more than you ever wanted to hear, but it seemed interesting to try to make a "non-rising" 1:1 culture, and also useful to try to show how the bubbles, flavors, and smells developed in it compared to the process with a stronger flour.

Bill

 

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

I can't believe it ! After typing a long detailed answer/experiment/observations I must have clicked on something and it all dissappeared :-(((( and now I'm all typed out. Anyhow in short for now, I checked the starter with a pH meter when it had doubled and was full of tiny and small bubbles and smelled faintly of bananas. The reading was 4.27. Then an hour later it had medium surface bubbles and tasted even a bit sourer (still smelled of bananas) - the reading was 4.17. Newly fed starter 1:1:1 with all AP this time read 5.04 and tastes mostly just of flour with a tiny hint of sourness. Is there a reading or range that would give an optimum for maximum yeast population before they start to die off?

I have to go again, but I will be back...

L_M

Val's picture
Val

What type of pH meter are you using? I bought a pH meter and a mositure meter normally used for measuring soils. The mositure meter works, but I don't get a response on the pH meter. Thanks.

L_M's picture
L_M

Val, I don't have the pH meter with me here so I will only be able to check out the brand name for you tomorrow. I do know that it was made for measuring liquids, so I hope the readings I got were correct.

 Bwraith, I'm back after some more tasting and smelling. Sorry if my last post wasn't too clear... essentially this afternoon I fed 'oj' 1:1:1 after about 7 hours and for the first time it was all AP flour. Earlier on, at about 5 hrs it had risen about 75%, started smelling like bananas and was medium sour tasting. At 6 hrs I checked the pH and it was 4.27. At 7 hrs I fed it and the taste of the unfed portion was stronger and when mixed the smell was not as pleasant as before - more sour and yeast like. The pH of the unfed portion was 4.17 and the newly fed was 5.04. The stirred down unfed portion continued to rise, full of small and medium bubbles, and a few large ones on the surface - and this time it rose til tripled and then collapsed. The taste was really sour and sharp and smells like yeast with a touch of alcohol. The fed portion has now risen by about 75% and is still rising, has lots of small bubbles throughout and on the surface some medium ones, smells like bananas and tastes quite sour. This is the same time period as before to get to the same stage, which still sounds a bit slow, unless all I'm looking for is very small bubbles, no real banana smell, and only mildly sour taste, which would be about 4 hours.

Back to the flour - for the time being I haven't found any flour here that is stonger than 11%, but I will keep looking. At this point I don't think I'll venture into ordering flour from overseas so I really have to make do with what is available, but I can easily add gluten if that will help. I feel that if I blame it all on the flour then for me that will be  giving up... and I am nowhere near giving up! Your experiments have been very helpful to me demonstrating the differences and pointing out the characteristics of the stages along the way.

I think I'll still wait until 'oj' speeds up a bit before trying to make bread.

More reports tomorrow

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I understand your issue of just having certain sources of flour. I have not found mail ordering flour to be that bad of a deal, but I'm in the US. However, it is not at all off the mark to want to just use your local ingredients anyway. You probably can use gluten if a recipe requires a stronger flour. I guess the thing that's a little tricky is that sourdough is hard on gluten, so you'll have difficulties making certain recipes that count on a long rise with lots of sourdough activity for an extended period, as those recipes may just not work well without stronger flour. Maybe others have comments on how to best judge how/when to adjust recipes if you only have AP flour.

You may want to try to work with creating sourdough preferments that allow you to add the nice sourdough flavor and then perhaps use yeast to raise the final dough, so that it doesn't take as long and will therefore not break down the gluten in the flour. Also, good folding techniques and less early mixing can do wonders. In fact, it wasn't until I started using those techniques, which are well described in the Glezer book, and (my favorite on the whole mixing/folding process) Hamelman's Bread, that I really was able to get good results from somewhat lower protein organic sifted whole flours.

Good luck with it. It sounds like you have a good culture and maybe you can now get reasonable flavor out of an AP style culture by timing/watching pH/smell/taste. I'll be very curious to hear the results as you begin to make some bread with it.

Bill

 

L_M's picture
L_M

Val,  the pH meter is made for industrial use and it is 'Metrohm' from Switzerland. Hope that info can help you a bit.

Bwraith, the progress seems to be just about the same as yesterday. Last night I fed it 1:2:2 just to make sure it would last through the night and it took about 8 hours. Todays feed of 1:2:2 was just about the same and I'm going to try and make sure I don't let it sit for too long from now on, just in case this was causing a gradual decrease in yeast population as you suggested might be happening. In addition, if 'oj' doesn't start ripening a bit faster I will loosen the texture to something like 125% hydration at first to see if that helps and then for sure I'll be looking for bubbles/smell/taste rather than a rise.

When I finally get some bread going here, I really hope we are going to like it! If not, then I imagine using a sourdough preferment would be the next best choice. In the meantime I always use some of the discards that I save in the fridge and add some to whatever I'm baking for extra flavour, so that is sort of the same idea but on a smaller scale.

Generally I add gluten to a recipe that calls for grains or if I want it really chewy, and hopefully it will help the dough stand up to the tough sourdough conditions as well.

I'll keep you posted

L_M

Val's picture
Val

Thanks for the meter info.

rosbucs's picture
rosbucs

I have been making sour dough starters for years and have never refrigerated it. i find that stirring and feeding it works well. I kept one alive for 3 years this way. I did this because I was curious how the settlers crossing the plains did it without refrigeration and it worked. YOU MUST KEEP TAKING CARE OF IT WEEKLY OR IT WILL GROW BAD. But the longer it runs the better the taste. Throw it out if it turns dark.

inspsfj's picture
inspsfj

I have 3 going right now.  All about a month old.  I need to keep better records. 1 has been whole wheat all the way, 1 started with rye fed with whole wheat and now AP, and 1 a modified discard of the AP.  The best way I have found to get the rise on is to put them in the oven with the light on after I feed them.  I haven't baked with the whole wheat yet and the AP is still not as sharp/sour as I want.  I'm lucky not to have the water problems, we are rural enough not to have the clorine. 

Do you folks brew also?  You all are so totally into the baking, me to, just like homebrewers are to their suds and home vinters to their grape.  Luv it!

Using the oven light for a steady temperature my first attempt at spounge exploded to the wrap covering the bowl in less then 3 hours.  It was great, even scared me a bit.  I've got the rise, now I need the flavor I desire.

L_M's picture
L_M

Yes, I should have done this a long time ago but bwraith just inspired me with all of those wonderful pictures on another thread, so I decided to whip out the old camera...

I seem to be having a bit of trouble organizing them in the post, but the top and bottom pictures are 11 1/2 hours after 'oj's meal last night and had risen about 60%. The middle 2 are after 13 hours and have risen only a little bit more.

 At what stage should I feed? Maybe even earlier or later than the pictures? The smell wasn't too different between them, but at 13 hours it was more sour tasting.

All opinions welcome - thanks

L_M

start 1 -astart 1 -a

starter 2 astarter 2 astarter 2starter 2starterstarter

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I'm still thinking maybe you're letting it go too long between feedings. I'm wondering if the culture is too much lactobacillus and not enough yeast. I think the acetic acid inhibits the yeast, so when you leave it too long, the yeast would decline, then the bacteria after that as the pH drops. My culture seems to work best if I feed after about 4.5-7 hours for a 1:2:2 feeding ratio.

Quoting The Bread Builders (Daniel Wing and Allan Scott: "If refreshment intervals are excessive - too infrequent for the leaven temperature, thus too acid - dough structure will be compromised, rising power (gas production) will drop off, yeast will become dormant, and flavor may become too strong for many tastes. Too frequent refreshment, on the other hand, will dilute the culture and lead to insufficient fermentation, gas production, and acid production, especially if the culture has been long dormant in the refrigerator and cell populations are low. Such a leaven needs serial refreshment at longer intervals, to revive and rebalance it." In other discussions, the time he expects is more like 6-8 hours, rather than 11.5 or 13. In my case, the culture was well past its peak by 13 hours. I'm guessing you shouldn't be experiencing times that are so much longer. However, once again, this is based on my limited experience with my particular process. However, when I read the details in the book I just quoted, he implies in various places that the right amount of time for the culture to be ready should be less than 8 hours for an active culture being fed at room temperature.

Bill

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

In your middle pictures I can see that the surface of the starter looks like it has a small depression in the center. That is an indication that it has reached its peak and should be fed again.

 

Last night I was reading in Hammelman's book and he says that the rise in the first several hours is not from the yeast multiplying but rather from the gases produced during fermentation. If you let it go 8+ hours then the yeast start to multiply. With that in mind, maybe your next feeding will give you more volume. Just thought I'd pass that tidbit on.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

SourdoLady,

Could you tell me what pages you were reading in Hamelman. I'd like to read what it says, but I can't seem to find it at the moment.

I agree that there is a dip indicating ripeness in the photo. Maybe I'm going too far when I say 7 hours, but do you think it may be getting too ripe also, if you've followed this long thread?

Hamelman says something about looking for a sweet, subtle smell and bubbles, which is consistent with what mine is like somewhere around 5.5 hours after feeding, but hers does seem to take longer.

I'm wondering if another way she could do this would be to feed shortly after the fastest part of the rise, just to see if that helps bring it into balance. You were right that her culture doesn't seem to rise as much as I'm used to w/mine, which we were thinking might have to do with the flour she is using. The "rule of doubling volume" definitely doesn't work with her culture. That's why we were talking about taste, smell, bubbles, and so on.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Thanks to both of you for the input. The dip in the middle picture started about 1/2 hour before I took the picture and fed it.  The rise usually takes a long time to get going and goes faster towards the last third. This time after a few hours I put it in the oven with just the light on to see if it would speed things up - well it certainly did, but unfortunately it got to 32 C, so I won't be doing that again. So with that extra heat it has now taken 9 hours and it looks ready again, but this time it rose to double! Hopefully the flour is ok after all.

So as before, I'm not really sure when to feed. when it dips or earlier? My main corncern of course is that I want good textured bread that isn't sour.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I think if you want less sour results, try to feed it before it gets to the point where it is dropping in the middle. Sometime around 1/2 hour or even an hour before you think that dip occurs might be worth a try.

I think you will find that the culture will become more vigorous if you repeat at a more frequent rate, i.e. before the dip in the middle of the culture happens, because I think right now the culture may be suffering from being fed too infrequently. Sorry if that turns out to be wrong.

Also, I think the culture will become somewhat milder in flavor if you don't let it ripen as much each time.

I see what you mean about the oven light being too hot.

Bill

Val's picture
Val

I'm still learning a lot about the sourdough game, but I thought I'd share the instructions I received from KA Flour when I took their sourdough class. I've been following their regime for room temperature maintenance, and it works well for me:

"As far as sourdough critters are concerned, room temperature is the preferable environment for your starter. It's a daily task, but a simple one, and you might find it less demanding than you'd think. You can always stash it in the fridge when you need to, but do follow this schedule for a while if you can. You will learn a whole lot about your starter by observing it under these optimum conditions.

Feed the starter once a day as follows:

Stir the starter well and remove all but four onces. Add four ounces of water and four ounces of flour, mix until smooth, and cover.

Getting ready to bake:

If you plan to use the starter the next day, feed it twice the amount without removing any starter. There should be a minimum of six hours between feedings, and the last feeding should be six to eight hours before you want to make bread with the starter."

I usually stir the starter several times per day. This degasses the sponge, brings the starter back into contact, and reinvigorates the fermentation.

Hope this helps. 

 

Squid's picture
Squid

Val, did you really like the sourdough course at KA flours? I'm thinking of making the 10 hour drive each way to take the course..... weather permitting.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Val,

Thanks for posting another good example. What type of flour do you use when you feed this one?

I feed a KA SF starter similar to the bottom part of the instructions when I'm reviving it, but I refrigerate it once it's re-invigorated basically so I don't have to think about it in between baking sessions that tend to be erratically timed - sometimes days sometimes weeks between sessions. Also, I don't use the KA starter as often as the one I've been describing in previous posts, which uses bread flour and more or less came from the BBA "barm" instructions.

I think L_M is trying to get her starter more vigorous by following the bottom part of the instructions, and there again, the 1:2:2 feeding with an 8 hour time frame seems to be reasonable, based on your post.

In my case I tend to use a shorter time, but that may explain why mine is fairly mild. I'm guessing I would need to allow more like 8 hours to get to a more ripe stage that is more sour and pungent.

Bill

Val's picture
Val

Squid - I did enjoy the course, but I'm only an hour away, so it was a leisurely way to spend the day. Ten hours is a long ride, but going there is like a pilgrimage. You can also go crazy in their store.

My course was four hours on a Sunday afternoon. We did manage to go through the whole process of preparing loaves of bread, including baking them in their wonderful steam injected oven. They present the bread making steps out of order to compress everything to the four hour period. The instructors were very good, and we got lots of tips and hands on experience. They do give you starter to take home, and if you're able to get home quickly, you can take a bag of dough to bake at home. The bread we made is the Pain au Levain on page 279 of their Baker's Companion. It took me several attempts at home to finally be able to make a decent loaf. I'm convinced that it took my starter about two weeks to finally develop enough activity to adequately raise the bread.

Bill - I'm using KA AP flour to feed my starter. The starter has a very fresh smell and is very smooth and sticky. I found that if I take the pain au levain recipe we used in the baking class and add an ounce of rye flour for an ounce of AP, and retard in the frig for 24 hours, I get a nice tangy flavor. Without the retard, the flavor is more mild.

 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Val,

I haven't tried putting rye in the starter except when I started one from scratch that is still the one I use the most these days. I'll have to give the rye addition a try to see what it's like. However, are you using whole rye or a white rye flour? Thanks for the tip.

I've only tried playing with the timing and not any added ingredients so far. When I want more tangy flavor, I've generally just allowed the culture to ripen longer at room temperature, or used the starter after two days in the refrigerator instead of just one. In either case, they seem to give me a more tangy result.

Bill

Val's picture
Val

Bill:

Sorry I wasn't more clear on this. I put the rye flour into the flour for the bread, not into the starter.  The recipe, as I now use it is: 20 oz AP flour (or 10 AP and 10 bread flour, depending on your tastes), 3 oz whole wheat flour, 1 oz whole rye flour, 14 oz water, 0.6 oz salt, 16 oz ripe starter.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Val,

Thanks, sorry I misread your post before. I like to add a little rye and whole wheat to the "basic sourdough" as in the BBA. I agree it adds a nice flavor and texture. In my case, I'm doing 2 oz rye and 2 whole wheat. However, I've rarely retarded the whole dough in the refrigerator, so I think mine then comes out more mild. When you retard the whole dough, how do you store it in the refrigerator and at what point do you do it? After first mixing, after bulk ferment, after shaping? I've heard so many different approaches mentioned as possibilities, but a specific example that you find successful would be helpful, so I can try something that is known to work for that type of bread, which I make frequently.

Thanks, Bill

Val's picture
Val

Bill:

I retard after shaping. I put the shaped loaves in the willow brotform, wrap the baskets completely in plastic wrap (a little olive oil on the plastic touching the dough), leave them at room temp for an hour, and then put them in the frig for 24 hours. I pull them out, invert the baskets on a parchment lined peel, cover them with the plastic wrap, and turn on the oven. After an hour heat up (500 F), I remove the plastic, score the loaves, steam the oven, and slide the loaves onto the baking stone. I turn the oven down to 450. The loaves are a little cool when I put them in the oven, but they're at 200 to 210 on the instant read thermometer at 30 minutes.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Val,

Thanks, that was very clear. I will try that the next time I make that style of bread. I do sometimes retard a sourdough focaccia I like to make that is essentially a focaccia made by subsituting my starter for poolish in the BBA raisin focaccia recipe. I put the whole pan in the refrigerator after the dough has risen for about an hour (covered with plastic wrap). However, I haven't done a lot of retarding of the dough itself after shaping.

Are there any particular rules of thumb you know about retarding at other times besides after shaping/some proofing? For example, is there a typical method you know for doing something similar during the bulk fermentation?

Bill

Val's picture
Val

The retard after shaping guideline came from KA's Bakers's Companion. They also suggested the rye flour for more tang. I tried an 8 hour retard after shaping once, and the result was less tang. The retard promotes acid formation without over fermenting the dough. I guess you could do it at other stages, but I don't know what impact more acid would have on workability or other preshaping issues. Certainly retarding after shaping puts your dough working behind you, and you're only interested in flavor at that point. When you remove the dough after 24 hours, there is a distinct smell of acetic acid coming from the dough.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The sourdough I got from my favorite baker's barrel the other day was a little dark, I'm sure it had a good portion of rye in it.  Enough to temp me to take a few kilos of rye flour with me. 
Worried about the protein in the dough?  Add an egg white into the final mix for each loaf.  :)  

Squid's picture
Squid

Val, thanks for your feedback. I've ordered the DVDs so maybe I'll feel confident enough not to have to make the drive. Or at least make the drive during the summertime when weather isn't an issue.

L_M's picture
L_M

Val that did ring a bell - when I first got 'oj' going I did stir a few times a day and things progressed very quickly but for some reason I stopped, so I'll try that today and see if it helps to wake these guys up. The instructions you quoted from KA actually call for feeding the starter 1:1:1 once a day as a daily routine. Is that really enough for a starter that is active?

Today's feed was at the 11 hour picture stage and again it did take 11 hours to get there with about 70% rise. Bwraith it certainly makes sense to me about not waiting too long in between feeds if I want a very mild flavour in the bread. At this point (and I believe this is exactly what was happening with 'slow poke') I think the starter is not balanced correctly and when I get that solved, fine tuning in the bread will probably be a lot easier. I truely feel that it is something I'm doing wrong and not the flour or the culture itself, and I'm open to all ideas to get things back in balance, but keeping the starter at a controlled temperature (other than room temp) seems to very difficult for me. Let's see if the stirring helps.

L_M

Val's picture
Val

One feeding per day seems to work well. I usually feed in the morning, stir when I come home from work, and stir again before bed. The starter doubles between each stirring. I stir more often on the weekends, with similar results.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

There is a difference between maintenance mode and refreshment mode. All you need in maintenance mode is a process that keeps the culture alive and in a state that reliably allows you to bring it into readiness for bread making, which I'll call "refreshment mode". The upper part of Val's instructions is for maintenance mode. She can feed it once per day at 1:1:1, and the culture stays alive indefinitely. However, the culture is not ready for bread making until the lower instructions for "refreshment mode" are used. Refreshment mode is where you feed it repeatedly a few times. The time between feedings in refreshment mode is more like 5-10 hours. The objective of refreshment mode is to bring the culture into a an active cycle of refreshments that should be happening in less than 8 hours, typically. In Val's instructions, you feed 1:2:2, and it refers to times from 6 to 8 hours. It says "minimum" 6 hours, but actually, there is a maximum too. You can't let the culture become too ripe either, which is one of the points in "The Bread Builders" discussion I was mentioning.

I think you are right now in refreshment mode. You want to know that the culture is in a reliable vigorous cycle.

I would suggest the following:

The culture should be in a cycle more or less like:

  • Quiet phase - after feeding for a few hours.
  • Rising phase - the majority of the rise (even if not double) happens.
  • Ripening - the rising is much slower, a dip occurs in the middle, increase in sour flavor and tangy, sweet pleasant smell.
  • Decline - the dough falls back and becomes sharper smelling, maybe not as pleasant.

Try to feed the culture at the end of the rising phase - lean a little earlier in the cycle - a few times and see if it helps. It may be that it will do better and the time to get to the end of the rising phase will be shorter.

Bill

 

L_M's picture
L_M

The stirring hasn't seemed to make much of a difference but I'll keep it up for the rest of the time until the next feed. Brwaith I'll try feeding a bit earlier and see if there is any improvement in the time it takes to rise after a few meals. One question about the two 'modes'. If for some reason when you were getting ready for a bake and you wanted to move into  'refreshment mode' and the starter didn't react as you had expected - let's say you saw that it was going to take much longer than your usual 8 hours for the first 'revival' feed. Wouldn't you wait until you felt it was ready to be fed? The reason I ask is that all of the instructions in recipes and books are for 'when everything is going well' and the rise times etc are within the normal range. Do you feel that if 'everything is not going well' as in my case, feeding a bit early will help re-establish a healthy balance by diluting whatever shouldn't be there in such high concentration, but at the same time hoping it's not the yeast I"m diluting? More news when it happens...

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

This is only just a guess, but let me try to describe what makes me suggest shortening the cycle. I think originally, you had a "sluggish" culture of some kind, hard to say why. However, then you started a new culture from scratch, so if there was something special and wrong with the old culture, you probably fixed it. The OJ starter behaved as expected in the start-up phase. However, when you switch to the AP flour for feeding, you have problems, and you describe waiting for what seem to me very long periods of time for it to rise after you switch to feeding the OJ starter with AP. It seems like your flour doesn't hold up very well as the sourdough culture becomes more acidic. So, if you rely too much on how much that flour rises, you can end up letting it go too long before a feeding. The result is that the yeast activity dies off as the acetic acid concentration rises, which attenuates them. The lactobacillus keep going, but after a while they'll decline also as the pH drops way down. At the same time, your flour's gluten falls apart, so it just doesn't want to ever double in volume.

When you feed after all that has happened, the yeast needs to wake up and multiply, but the yeast is very attenuated, either in population or activity or both, so it takes a long time for them to come back. The lactobacillus are still there and crank up and fairly quickly drive the pH and the acetic acid concentrations up, and you end up in a cycle where you have high lactobacillus concentrations but not much yeast each time you feed, and you wait a long time since the culture is sluggish, so it's a kind of vicious cycle.

If this theory is correct (and yes, I'm way out on a limb here), then if you shorten the feeding cycle, you will dilute the acidity before it gets so high each time, catch the yeast before they are wiped out by the rise in acetic acid concentrations and thereby keep them rising in population and activity. If everything works out, the yeast will make the culture more vigorous and it will not be quite so sour at the points when you want to feed it. Then, you can play after that with how sour you want it by letting it go an extra hour before feeding or feeding it an hour earlier to move the balance more or less sour.

Maybe this is all wrong, but I think it's worth a try. Everything I've read seems to point toward a shorter time than you are experiencing between feedings if you are in "refreshment mode".

If you have a chance, could you give your subjective assessment of how long each of the phases I'm mentioning below is taking currently? I still think that feeding at the end of phase 2 will help, and that with some repeated feedings the end of phase 2 will happen sooner.

Again good luck with it.

Bill

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Hi Bill,

Yes I have been following this thread all along. It is interesting to read all the variances between the baker's cultures, isn't it? I have come to realize that there are many ways to achieve the end result that you are striving for and conditions are so different from one kitchen to another that it is impossible to have one way that works for everyone. Keeps life interesting, huh? I do believe that temperature in proofing is a huge factor in getting higher volume during the proofing. 

The page I was reading on in Hamelman (took me awhile to find it again) is page 55 on the bottom. While he isn't specifically talking about sourdough yeast, I'm sure all yeasts reproduce in the same fashion.

Good luck to you and L_M with all your experiments!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

SourdoLady,

I agree completely. I've come to appreciate that all the more on this thread with L_M. I'd never run into the issue of flour not rising in a 1:1 starter in my various versions. However, I was able to make what seems like an extreme version of a "not rising 1:1 starter" with KA Italian style flour as mentioned earlier in this thread. About the highest rise I ever got in my experiments there was about 50%. However, I was able to convert it back to my usual starter using bread flour without any trouble, so I know the culture was pretty much OK. It bounced right back with only one feeding with KA bread flour. However, if I hadn't been thinking about all this, I would've been totally mystified if I had tried to do what I normally do using KA Italian flour, as I have always, until this thread, relied almost entirely on the rise to indicate feeding time. I was aware of the bubble amount/size, taste, smell, dip in center, but I hadn't been connecting them to the life cycle of the culture as much as I've come to appreciate now. After all this discussion, all those other signs are very clear to me, and I think it's going to help me with manipulating the flavor of my  starters.

Thanks for letting me know the page in Hamelman you were mentioning. I hadn't been there on page 55 (I was checking the back appendices) when looking around for the discussion you mentioned.

Bill

 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

In another recent posting someone asked Shristi about how the starter is being handled. I hope this is OK to just quote and comment here, and that Shristi won't mind. If not, sorry...

Shristi said: 

->My starter  is at 100%

->After making a bread I save a little bit of starter (about a 1/4 to 1/8 cup). I add 100gms of h2o & 100gms of flour to it and mix it up. Leave on the counter for an hour and then put it in the fridge. Then when I want o make the next bread I take it out of the fridge leave it out for an hour and add 100gms each of flour & water again and leave it on the counter for 7-8 hours or until it's really rising nicely and super fluffy. Then I am ready to make the dough with it!

--->end of Shristi quote...

So for "maintenance mode" Shristi just feeds it what looks kind of like 1:2:2 or so, leaves it out for an hour, and then refrigerates it. This way it is still quite immature and has lots of food left, and even though going at colder temperatures, it can bubble gently away in the refrigerator at very slow speed for a while. I don't know how long Shristi leaves it in the refrigerator between uses.

For "refreshment mode" the feeding looks like about 1:1:1 and leaves it out at room temp for 7-8 hours until it is fluffy and rising nicely (like end of phase 2). I think that since it goes in the refrigerator after only an hour, the culture can go longer before shutting down and declining. So, maybe that's why it can be completely refreshed with only one feeding. Mine would normally take 2 feedings, if I do it a week later. If I do it the next day, though, it could be only one feeding, even though I wait until the culture is more toward the end of Phase 2.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Thanks for that extra example bwraith, it really seems like there are endless ways to go about handling starters! I'll have to figure out a routine that suits me once I get this thing going...

L_M

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

Here we go : the quiet phase lasts for about 4-5 hours

                  the rising phase is most evident from 7-10 hours

                  the ripening phase is from 11-14 hours

                  the decline is about 14-16 hours (I think)

This is all a rough outline of course. This evening I fed after 10 hours and the periodic stirring during the day didn't seem to make a difference at all. My scheduling was a bit off so I fed it 1:3:3 so it will last through the night and not get over ripe in the meantime (my vicious circle).

Your last post to SourdoLady got me thinking again about the flour...when I stir down the starter before it's meal, it is still very strong and elastic and not at all like pea soup or paste or anything of that sort. Even the left overs that are in the fridge for a day or two are still very elastic and the gluten hasn't weakened that much. Very often I make a double batch of yeasted dough using left over starter, yogurt, and even some ascorbic acid. I mix it in the mixer until I get a very, very thin and clear windowpane. Then it goes through a bulk fermentation of about 3-4 hours.  Then I shape, put 1 loaf or some buns in the fridge for tomorrow and proof and bake the rest. The loaves that have been retarded usually are only about 10% smaller in size than the same day baked ones so in this case the flour seems to hold out very well. In this particular bread I add oats so I also add about 1 teasp gluten per loaf, but if there were no oats I wouldn't add the gluten and it also keeps it's strength.

 The other thing I remembered is that when the starter got very hot from being in the oven with the light on, it did double, which seems to correspond with SourdoLady's remark above about temperature being a huge factor in getting higher volume.

I really think (hope) everything will be within the normal range once these yeast really get going.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

Well, I have to admit that the fact the culture still seems sticky and elastic at the end of say 10-11 hours, doesn't fit my theory very well regarding the flour. After I did the test with KA Italian flour, it seemed so similar to your descriptions in other ways, that it made me think the flour quality is involved. Also, the fact the culture behaves normally until you try to switch to all AP seems to indicate the AP flour could be a problem. However, the KA Italian flour starter turned to pea soup very quickly.

I don't know if the behavior of the flour with yeasted dough is such good evidence of the flour's performance, though. The sourdough culture has a much stronger deteriorating effect on gluten compared to a regular yeast dough.

All in all, I still think it would be worth trying to feed more like at the end of 10 hours, i.e. at the end of phase 2, rather than any later. It just fits written instructions, explanations of the timing of growth, and real examples better. The only part that is mystifying is why what seems to be good flour won't rise. It still may be simply that the culture is out of balance due to letting it run too long between feedings.

Another interesting test might be to try to add flour to some of the starter when it is about 8-10 hours old, enough to get about 65% hydration overall and knead it into a dough, let it sit a couple of hours, fold it a few times, and see whether you get a good windowpane result. That might give some idea of the quality of the gluten in your flour when exposed to a sourdough culture. For example, if you have 100 grams of 8-10 hour old starter, add 30 grams of flour to that, (OK 62.5% hydration), and then make a dough out of it, let sit a few hours, fold a few times to develop the gluten, and see how the windowpane test comes out.

Sorry, I know every time you post, I throw out eight things to try.

I'm very interested to hear how it all goes. Sorry nothing has worked yet, but I think it must be close to working, or you wouldn't have bubbles, rising, and a life cycle, as you've already posted.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

No need to be sorry - I'm learning a lot from all of this - the experiment is under way! It's been 4 hours already and the gluten is developing nicely but so far in my attempts at the NK bread using yeast, I don't feel the gluten gets as stretchy as when I mix in the mixer even with quite a few 'stretch  and folds' along the way.

The example of my yeasted bread does have about 50 grams of old starter per loaf in it, and I realise that it is only a small amount, but I imagine it would have some effect, and this is of course after I have fully developed the gluten during the mix. For some reason I find that I get the best volume for same day baked loaves that way.

Last nights feed of 1:3:3 went well. It took 12 hours to get to nearing the end of the rising stage and it had increased by about 90%. It could be that we are on the way to correcting the balance. The fact that with the larger feed ratio the time was just slightly more than before sound promising. Maybe 'oj' is a hungry fellow and would be happier with meals like this all the time. If again the timing works out that way, I'll feed it a big meal at night again.

I'll let you know when the gluten starts to fall apart in our experiment

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

The idea of making dough just by adding flour to the mature starter may not tell all that much. I think it should be a fairly difficult test for the flour to pass. The mature culture should have done some serious damage to the gluten in the culture flour, then you only add a relatively small amount of fresh flour and let the culture work on it for a while too. So, it might not mean all that much if the gluten is not good after that, but if the gluten is still OK after all that, then the flour held up well against a sourdough culture. At least it might give you some idea of how it behaves relative to yeasted dough you've made with the same flour.

I agree that while you're in "refreshment mode", if you want to leave the culture out on the counter longer, it makes sense to feed it in a higher ratio. However, since the culture population should grow exponentially during part of phase 1 and all of phase 2 (Bread Builders talks of "doubling times" for the population), then increasing the ratio from 1:2:2 to 1:3:3 shouldn't make a huge difference in time. In other words, if it takes 2 hours to double the population, then you have to double the ratio to get it to take 2 more hours (theoretically). OK, so your mileage may vary. However, by going from 1:2:2 to 1:3:3, you probably only add about an hour to the time when it will reach the end of phase 2, let's say, because it's only a ratio of 7/5, i.e. not even a 50% increase in fresh flour and water.

Don't forget temperature is a great tool also. If you have a cool spot for the night, you can slow down the process that way probably as much or more than a large feeding.

Paraphrasing some tips for "Routine Care of a Leaven" from The Bread Builders:

  • Allow your leaven refreshments to ferment at 70-75F (21-24C) so neither yeast nor bacteria are favored.
  • Only store leaven that is active enough, i.e. you know it would be ripe and bubbly in eight hours or less at room temperature. If not, continue to expand/refresh at room temperature until it is. (To me this means you want to get to the end of phase 2 before 8 hours at room temp, if things are working right).
  • If you will use a leaven the next day, let it ferment for 5-6 hours at room temp and refrigerate it. (This is my usual way of doing it)
  • If you will use a leaven in three days, let it ferment at room temp for three hours and put it away (heading toward Srishti's approach)
  • If you will use it in a week, let it ferment for only an hour before refrigerating (Srishti's method).
  • Refresh leavens before they become soupy. Gluten softens at pH of 3.7; L sanfranciscensis dies at pH of 3.6.

Also, interesting advice from The Bread Builders (paraphrased):

-> Refreshment schedules are dependent on temperature. A culture that might be stable when refreshed once every few days at refrigerator temperature should be refreshed twice a day at 57F and four times a day at 75F, as in the classic French three-leaven method.

This quote refers to "refreshment mode" once again, not "maintenance mode". Actually, I kind of want to change maintenance mode to "storage mode" or "stalling mode".

I hope the above gives some further feel for some typical approaches.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

The dough held up for quite a few hours but I never really got a great window pane. When I checked again lately, which is about 13 hours into the experiment I could see it had lost some of it's strength and when I tried to gently stretch and fold it, all I had  was soft dough that was ripping.

'oj's feed was again about 10 hours, and had risen to only about 60%. There doesn't seem to be any improvement as far as time or volume goes. What you pointed out about increasing the ratio makes sense and I decided this evening to give it a much higher ratio feed - 1:5:5 - first of all to last though the night, and secondly because I feel that it might be a more drastic way to clean out the acidity and get things back in balance. I've got to find something that works already...

'Storage mode' sounds like a very appropriate name. The methods suggested in the book all sound quite convenient and could easily fit into my schedule, but I'd like to wait with 'storage mode' until I'm sure it can be activated enough to make bread with.

Hope 'oj' likes his big meal

L_M 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

Well the last dough making/window pane test may not mean a lot, but at least you can say that you don't get good gluten results with a heavy dose of your culture in it.

I hesitate even to begin to suggest yet another thing, but...

What if you took some 8 hour old starter and make a typical dough out of it, i.e. a 65% hydration, 30% of the flour being starter.

For example, 100 grams of 8 hour old starter mixed with 100 grams of flour and 45 grams of water, so you get a total of 150 grams of flour mixed with 95 grams of water. Knead that normally and just see if you get a good windowpane test on that right after proper kneading and then a few hours later when it would have risen if things were going better than they are at the moment. If you don't get a good gluten test sometime during that test - like right after kneading, then that could indicate a problem with the flour, as that would be pretty much a typical situation. If you are able to get a good gluten test with regular yeast, then this test should have a good chance of succeeding.

You said you put some ascorbic acid in your yeast dough. I was curious if this was to help strengthen the gluten in your yeast breads.

At least doing some more dough making tests might give you another feel for what is happening with the flour and how your culture affects it.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

It sounds lke a good test - if it is too small for the mixer I'll knead it by hand. Come to think of it, at the moment I don't have very much starter rising so it will only be a 1/2 batch. Yesterday's test is still sitting in a bowl on the counter and by now it has turned into nothing more than a puffy, stringy, mess.

The feed of 1:5:5 took 14 hours, but unfortunately I think I caught it a the point where it had already finished rising but it did increase by about 90 %. So far I seem to get a better rise with a higher ratio feed. Any ideas why? This morning I gave it 1:5:5 again, and I'll keep an eye on it to make sure I catch it earlier.

Ascorbic acid : I've read it does strengthen the gluten but I haven't done any back to back tests to really know if it works, so sometimes I add and sometimes I don't. Another thing I"m not sure of, if it's actually the ascorbic acid that is doing something or just the fact that it slightly lowers the pH, because I've also read that adding lemon juice or vinegar is just as effective.  

Test results will follow...

L_M

L_M's picture
L_M

When you add the water for feeding the starter, do you use room temperature or warmish, like baby bottle temp water? I've been using room temp. Maybe that is one reason mine takes so long to get going - next feed I'll use warmer and see if it makes a difference.

L_M

caryn's picture
caryn

I have been following this thread, and must say that my head is dizzy- the discussion  of the different conditions and ratios and the implications is somewhat overwhelming, but I am enjoying it, and trying to extract from it what might be relevant to my situation.  Since getting excited about having an active sourdough culture several months ago, I seem to have the opposite problem from most.  My culture may be too active.  I noticed that the last time I baked the Thom Leonard boule, though it  rose nicely, it rose perhaps too quickly, and as a result I think the flavor was somewhat flat.  It did not have the sour flavor that I was after.

I also decided it was time that I revitalize my starter that I had left in the refrigerator for about 4 weeks.  (My other bread was made with a firm starter that I was attending to more regularly.) So I refreshed it by using 2 ounces of the starter, bread flour and water (1:1:1).  In about 4.5 hours it was almost triple in volume.  After about 6 hours, I refreshed it again as before.  That is where I am now.  As far as temperature, I let it rise in my oven with just the light on (I measured a cup of water one time, and discovered that the oven light seems to keep the temperature at 70-72.  So what do you think are my best options to obtain good flavor?  I do want to taste a bit of sour- I like that.  I am actually not planning to bake until next weekend, since I have too much bread in the  freezer already!!

Incidentally when I made that last Thom Leonard boule, I let the dough retard in the refrigerator overnight before shaping it.  That did not help the flavor.  It was not as good as the previous loaf that I made making the dough and baking the same  day.  I do think that the reason that it is difficult to determine the answer to this and many of the questions many on this site are posing is there are so many variables that go into this process.  I guess that what makes this so much fun!!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Caryn,

My culture tends to be more active and less sour, too. I've found that letting the culture ripen more before feeding seems to help, i.e. continuing to ripen more into phase 3, as described earlier in the thread, each time. Also feeding it a few more times at room temperature without refrigerating seems to help for me. However, having a vigorous activity sounds like a relatively good problem to have.

Bill

caryn's picture
caryn

Bill- Thanks for replying so quickly.  Does ripening mean leaving the starter at room temperature for 11+ hours after it has risen to its max? 

Val's picture
Val

From what I've read, many suggest a dough temp of 78F as ideal for proper fermentation. KA Flour uses a "Water Temperature Formula" to calculate the proper water temperature given a certain set of starting conditions. The general principle is warmer temperature water in the winter and cooler water in the summer. The formula is:

 (4x desired dough temp) - (flour temp + preferment temp + room temp + friction factor) = water temp in degrees F

The friction factor is the rise in temperature of the dough during kneading. In a stand mixer, this may be 10 to 15 degrees F. You need to conduct an experiment of measuring your dough temp before and after kneading to get your friction factor. In hand kneading, your friction factor would be very low.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Val,

I think 78F is probably a good temperature, just as KA recommends. If you look at the activity curves that are published by various researchers, it seems like somewhere in the mid-high 70s is good because both the yeast and lactobacillus have approximately equal doubling rates or activity in the various measures. Hamelman in bread seems to recommend 76F in numerous recipes for the fermentation temperature. However, I think leaning a little cooler is safer if you have trouble controlling your temperatures. If you make a mistake with your system for warming and get the culture too warm or even hot, which is a common mistake, then things begin to happen very quickly at the higher temperature, particularly with the lactobacillus. At cooler temperatures around room temperature, the activity rates are still reasonably close, yet you aren't pushing any edges with warming systems, and things happen more slowly so you can catch a mistake. Anyway, that's been my reasoning for staying a little closer to room temperature in my adventures with starters. However, I do happen to have a little shelf above my Bunn coffee machine that stays right at about 76F if I leave the machine on. So, I have used that, especially in the winter when my kitchen drops below 70F and is a touch chilly.

Bill

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Elagins@sbcglobal.net

Hi all; been following the thread with considerable interest and am surprised that no one has mentioned Nancy Silverton/Breads from the La Brea Bakery. She bakes exclusively with wild yeasts and has not only detailed instructions on growing and feeding starters, but also on creating different kinds of starters for different kinds of breads, e.g., whole wheat starters and rye sours.

Almost all of my "creative" baking is with wild yeasts (I use commercial for things like sandwich bread, english muffins, and pizza crust). I've found that wheat starters (unlike rye, which is very finicky) can be neglected pretty heavily. As long as there's one viable organism in the mess, it will spring back to life after a few feedings (incidentally, i like to keep my starters looking like stiff pancake batter, so it's usually at least 1:1, and often more like 1:1.2).

The trick to sour isn't in the yeast as much as it is in the bacteria, of which there are two kinds to worry about. one produces lactic acid as a byproduct and the other produces acetic acid. the lactic acid guys like cold and the acetics like warm, so the trick is to let your starters triple in volume in a warm environment, then refrigerate it at least overnight to promote the lactic acid.

Often, when i make sourdough bread, i'll raise the dough over 2 or 3 days. day 1 refresh starter and grow preferment (refrigerate); day 2 ferment dough and shape loaves (rise and refrigerate); day 3 proof at room temperature and bake. one of the things i love most about doing it this way is that authentic sourdough crust, covered with those tiny little bubbles all over -- to me, the sign of a properly prepared and respected sourdough.

Again, i strongly recommend Nancy Silverton's book for anyone who's seriously into wild yeasts ... also Peter Reinhart has written some very good stuff on sourdoughs in The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

Enjoy!!!!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

On the optimistic and hopeful side, I'm hoping the reason it's rising higher is because maybe you are catching it earlier and the yeast is getting ready to crank up more, i.e. you hopefully will get both the yeast and the lactobacillus going. I think by letting it ripen too much may have ended up with more lactobacillus and not much yeast, which I think would explain a sluggish, very sour culture.

The higher feeding ratio means that you will delay the point where phase 2 comes to an end. The trick is to try to monitor the culture to feed it at the end of phase 2, regardless of what feeding ratio you use. Your approach of using a higher feeding ratio if you plan to wait longer before a feeding is good. If you can, going back to 1:2:2 or so would be good, but still trying to feed it at the end of phase 2, which should be a couple of hours earlier with that ratio, if you have a chance to monitor it. What I'm hoping is that you will see the culture pick up, so that you could feed it twice in one day at 1:2:2 with less than 8 hours between feedings. If you also get a doubling of the culture within 8 hours, then I think it's really working.

As far as water, I would try to have the temperature of the culture end up at about room temperature. So, when I take the culture out of the refrigerator, I do put in water that is up around 90F to help bring the culture up in temperature. However, if you have your culture sitting at room temperature already, I would just add water at room temperature. At around room temperature you will not favor the lactobacillus. At temperatures much above or much below about room temperature, you begin to favor the lactobacillus.

Bill

FINEART's picture
FINEART

My Name is Dina, and this is the first time I am posting on this site, I have had some difficulty figuring out how to do it. I have been making sourdough bread for some time. I have several starters now that I keep in the refigerator. They have served me well now for over a year. I remember that I started the first one, and it took a week to get bubbly and start to smell sour. I used white flour, whey and water. Another one I started with Rye flour, grape puree and water. The rye flour fermented quickly and only took a few days. since I bake once a week, I take one of them out of the fridge, add two cups of flour and two cups of water and let sit for 12 to 24 hours. I return a cup to the fridge and continue with the recipe, which usually requires another ferment of at least 12 hours before adding the last of the flour and kneading into dough. I'm interested in trying new things and different ways with bread. I tried to make a pane pugliese with a biga starter, but found the dough very sticky, and not to my liking working with it. If anyone has any thoughts on that score, I would appreciate it. Also, I have been making a bread with Cumin and barley which I find very tasty. I can post the recipe if anyone is interested in trying it.

Dina

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

Perfect timing - still rising but probably nearing the end. It took 12 1/2 hours and increased in volume by about 90%. The experiment will have to wait for tomorrow because I just didn't have enough starter to work with, so tonight I fed again 1:5:5 (with room temp water) but built it up so I'll have enough. Tomorrow I'll go back to 1:2:2 and hopefully it will now be faster and I'll be able to feed twice during the day as you suggested.

I'm very pleased that others have joined in as well, and thanks for the ideas and comments.

L_M

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The thread is so long, I didn't realize there is a second page!  I just wanted to add that I have been baking in China with low gluten flour and found that by adding an egg white to every loaf  (measured with the water and after my poolish has stood while I'm combining my loaf ingredients together), the stretch and shape of my dough improved a lot.  My gasses weren't escaping and it could hold itself up in the oven.  I couldn't find gluten to add and eggs was a cheap alternative.  Just a thought... :)  

L_M's picture
L_M

Last  night's feed of 1:5:5 took only 11 hours this time and again it rose by about 90% and was still going. I divided it up and used 100 grams in the experiment and the rest I fed at 1:2:2.  It was later than the 8 hrs that you suggested bwraith but anyhow I mananged to get a good windowpane after a several 'stretch and folds' along the way. At about 5 hours it was best, and by 6 hours it had already started to become slightly weaker. I believe that is actually a greater amount of starter than called for in a usual recipe, and if I can get it rising fast enough, I think the flour may hold out possibly with a bit of help from gluten or egg whites as Mini Oven has suggested.

My main concern is now back with 'oj'. It has been 9 1/2 hours now since this mornings 1:2:2 feed and it has only risen by just under 50%, but it isn't ready yet. It seems that there is more activity when I give a higher ratio feed.

I'll post final rising time and volume later.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

It sounds promising that you could make a dough that passes the windowpane test with a reasonable but high proportion of starter in it . It sounds good that it continues to be OK after the amount of time the bulk fermentation and final proof might take. It could be that adding a small amount of ascorbic acid to the dough, as you do when making yeast bread would help when the time comes, too.

I'll be interested to hear what happens after the feedings you have planned.

Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

One more idea would be to try feeding a version of OJ 1:2:2 every 6 hours regardless of the rise. As long as you have a small rise and some bubbles you could just feed it at about every 6 hours. At the end of the 9.5 hours you mentioned with OJ with only 50% rising after 1:2:2 feeding, what was the taste/smell of it? In mine there is a really yeasty early on smell and the vigorous activity from the 3-6 hours point. Maybe at 9.5 hours from a 1:2:2 feeding it is already very ripe, even though it has no rise - in fact, that may be why it doesn't rise - maybe it gets too sour before the yeast has a chance to raise it. It's possible  the culture has too little yeast and lots of lactobacillus from your description, and the yeast probably will do better if you feed relatively early in the cycle, rather than late.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

The results are : 11 hours and just over 50% rise, and the taste was certainly sour. The smell is pleasant until I mix it, and then it gets stronger but it doesn't smell odd or overly sour. During the day I can easliy feed after 6 hours regardless of how well developed it is but I am concerned that it might be diluting the yeast if I use that as a regular routine.

For tonight I gave it a very large meal 1:8:8 so I'll be sure to catch it on time, and tomorrow I can split it, feed part like you have suggested and the other part in a large ratio feed, which so far I have found seems to get the starter more active. I think I'll try this back to back experiment for a few feeds to see if we can get some conclusive results.

I guess you can imagine that I would really like to make some bread out of this starter by now...

L_M  

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

From what you've said, if the culture is sour tasting after 11 hrs, it probably has the lactobacillus in it. What seems to be missing is that yeasty smell at around 3-6 hours, and also enough bubbles to really raise the culture seems to be missing. To me that sounds like not enough yeast in the culture. If the yeast are multplying at a normal rate, then feeding every 6 hours should increase the amount of yeast, i.e. the yeast organisms will double several times in 6 hours, and you are only diluting by 1/3, so the yeast ought to be getting stronger on that schedule until they are more in balance. I'm still guessing that you have no yeast because the yeast don't do well in the heavy sour environment of the ripe culture after about 9 hours or more, and then you dilute by a large amount, and are essentially starting over with not enough yeast and too much lactobacillus. That's the cycle that might be broken if you change the feeding schedule to much shorter and go to 1:2:2 so it's not diluted each time. Sorry it's still not coming together. I certainly do understand you'd like to make some bread with it.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

So bwraith, you really think I need yeast for actually making some bread? lol - maybe that's why it isn't working! There is no yeast smell around here - only bananas. The only day I had a beery, yeasty smell was around day 5 -6  after I started 'oj' and then it disappeared and never returned.

Last night's feed of 1:8:8 lasted 15 hours and increased by almost 90%. This morning I divided the starter and went ahead with the experiment I mentioned in my last post, so maybe after a few meals we'll see which method is more successful. The reason I am trying out this high ratio feed method for a few consecutive feedings is because after seaching high and wide in my books and on the net, I have found a  few places that mention how to revive a starter if nothing else works using this method, so I thought along with everything else I'd give it a try. Mind you I have no idea whether these are reliable sources or not, but we'll see if it works. I'll let you know how everything looks, smells and tastes at the 6 hour feed.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

The lack of any yeasty smell at about 3-6 hours into it could be an indication the yeast is not present or at least not there in great numbers. The high feeding ratio method is a way to more or less go back to almost a "starting the starter" mode, which can be used to hopefully rebalance the culture, assuming the organisms are there. You could do a couple of other things after the high ratio feeding: 1) add some whole rye or whole wheat, which might introduce some yeast, as it appears whatever you did originally did result in yeast. 2) after the really high ratio feeding, you could add a little ascorbic acid. This would be like using pineapple juice as far as slightly acidifying the culture. The differences are that ascorbic acid probably doesn't inhibit the yeast as much as either acetic or citric acid, if some of the things I read are correct. And, the ascorbic acid might help your flour's properties so that it rises better/longer than you've experienced so far when the culture becomes very sour. I don't think the ascorbic acid is very critical, as long as you stop paying attention to the rise and instead use the idea of the phases in the lifecycle. I think what may have happened is that by waiting way too long to feed because of my bad advice to wait for the culture to double, the yeast died off or is very much attenuated. We must remember SourdoLady, who warned of the problem of paying too much attention to the rise in the culture. I've learned a lot as we've conversed on this about paying attention to all the signs of the life cycle of the culture, not just the rise in volume, which can be misleading if the flour isn't able to rise properly.

Whether you use a larger or smaller feeding ratio, I would try to feed much earlier than you have been in the "life cycle" and see if that helps. The rule of thumb for the 1:2:2 feeding would be about 6 hours. The rule of thumb for the 1:8:8 feeding is probably only 8 or 9 hours. If you go 9 hours on the 1:2:2 or 12 hours on the 1:8:8, you are probably going too long.

So, I'm still very interested to hear about how this all goes. You're a very patient person. I had some tricky problems with my well water when I was first starting my culture, which was highly alkaline, and I hadn't put in any acid to the very beginning version. What solved my problem was the addition of a small amount of ascorbic acid to the first day culture. After that, I had no problems, and it now seems like the simplest, easiest darn thing in the world. However, my KA bread flour seems to be a little more tolerant than your AP flour, so the rise was a fine indicator of the lifecycle, and once I got around the strangely high alkalinity of my well water - actually I switched to Poland Springs bottled water from my water cooler - all went great and still does. As some earlier posters mentioned, once things are working properly it seems quite difficult to hurt the culture, rather than struggling to get it to work.

Best wishes to you in getting into that routine soon, where you just feed it, wait a few hours, and refrigerate to store, and feed it a couple of times to bring it back to full force.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

Nothing really new to report this time after the 6 hour feed -  just more of the same. No yeast smell, a few bubbles, a slight rise, and medium sour taste. But, there is always hope that tomorrow will be the day it just takes off. You have really been a terrific coach, and I appreciate all the time and effort you have put into this for me. Something will work - it's just a matter of finding the right combination, and I hope we are getting close. To start off with I"ll add a bit of whole rye and make sure to cut down the length of time between feeds as you have suggested, and we'll see how that goes before adding the ascorbic acid. 

Simple routine....hmmm that does sound nice.

L_M

Val's picture
Val

Does anyone know of any information on the mechancial properties of active starters? The reason I ask is that active starters, with lots of CO2 bubbles, are effectively thick foams. Their strength is a function of the density (bubbles/cu in.), the viscosity of the starter (thick or thin), the relative amount of strengthening agents (glutens, etc.), etc. Once the starter reaches a certain density, it can't support itself and begins to collapse if there's more CO2 evolution (bubbles break or leak). Also, the starter in contact with CO2 in the bubbles may be less active due to the CO2 partial pressure in the bubble. The more bubbles, the lower the activity. Stirring the starter to remove bubbles and increasing the density of the starter could increase activity. Also, the density will vary depending on the containment vessel - generally cylindrical or conical. Discussions generally revolve around the chemistry and biology of the starter. Just wondering if anyone's looked at the physical/mechanical aspects of starter performance?

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I know what I was told regarding a firm starter but I'm not sure if it applies to a batter starter.   I've read a batter starter must be fed more often but I only know that from reading and not by experience so I'm wondering if what works for firm starters could apply here...?

I can tell you that I have an extremely vigorous firm starter going now - Maggie Glezer's - and when I was having problems getting it to quadruple in the 8 hours or less called for I found I was actually feeding it too often by watching the clock and not the behavior of my starter.   When it is fed too often somehow the organisms get diluted and it becomes weaker and weaker.  I was told not to be so concerned about the hour of feeding rather to make sure I allowed it to fully rise and then fall before I fed it again.   And that overfeeding the starter was a sure way to kill it. 

I learned the "quadrupling in 8 hours or less" was only to tell me it was ready to bake bread with but the most important thing was to wait for it to rise and then collapse.  And then I could even wait another 12 hours after that quadrupling, which is the beauty of a firm starter, to feed it again because it is so packed with flour that the pH falls slowly, and there is plenty of sugar for the flora.

With this starter you do not have to use so much flour to refresh and you get an extremely strong starter that takes a tiny amount for a recipe.  I refreshed it today and in just 4 hours so far it has already more than tripled so that shows me a huge improvement when I followed the above instructions.

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

Today I started digging into the fridge to see what was going on in all of those containers with left overs - and I have quite a few by now! The oldest one is about a month old, and in it a 1/2 cm layer of gray hooch has formed. Next, the 2 weeks old one smells like apples and alcohol and there are lots of small bubbles and just a tiny bit of hooch. Then there are the recent ones of up to 1 week old, and one of yesterdays feedings and both smell very alive (strong banana?? Could it be that this is a yeast smell after all?) with a touch of alcohol, and lots of medium to big bubbles. Aren't these all good signs - just like one would find with a starter that is healthy and is in 'storage mode' in the fridge?

After posting last night I realised that in order to discover what will really make a difference in my experiments, I needed to make them more extreme. The 1:2:2 will continue to be fed at 6 hour intervals regardless of the stage it's in (and that means it looks like it is somewhere between the quiet and rising stage), and the high ratio feed will get fed when it looks like it has pretty well risen all it's going to.

Val - that certainly is a different way to look at what is going on inside, and gives another explanation as to why the stirring helps.

zolablue - I have also read that a firm starter rises faster and keeps longer than a thin one, and that the time to feed it is just after it starts to fall.

Oh dear - I'm getting kind of jealous of all these fast moving starts! lol  After I get this all worked out I'm sure I'll try different textures and methods to see what works best for me.

Thanks again to everyone for trying to help

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

I'm not experienced enough to know if the types of bubbles produced by the lactobacillus are different from those of yeast. Lactobacillus do give off gas, just not as much as the yeast when a culture is in balance. I don't think of yeast when it's active and bubbling as smelling like bananas or apples, but maybe there is someone who can say more about how to know if a culture has both yeast and lactobacillus in the right balance. The thing that made me think the yeast is not really vigorous in your culture is the description of it as being fairly sour and being sluggish, which is not like mine which is quite mild and has a very different aroma during hours 3-6 after feeding, not at all like the sour, tangy, fruity flavors and smells that start at about hour 6 but aren't that strong for another couple of hours. Also, during hours 3-6 there is a warm, musty smell that to me is the yeast smell. I wish I could describe it better. My reasoning for going to the 6 hour feeding is just to see if the signs of the lifecycle aren't working as expected in your case. If rising, smells, and other signs aren't working as expected, a simple time regimen might help to get things working . As I mentioned, it's possible to feed either too frequently or not frequently enough, as it's more or less a game of feeding it at a consistent point in the lifecycle such that the culture is stable. If you feed our 1:1 starter in a 1:2:2 ratio, my own experience and some reading I've done both suggest that 6 hours is a good guess for the right amount of time before it starts to get much more sour and much lower in pH. It seems to me you've been leaning toward much longer times between feedings than would be normal in my experience and my reading of what's typical for this type of culture. Again, this is the time between feedings in the "refreshment mode". Once culture is good and active, I've had no problem keeping it that way by simply putting it in the refrigerator after 4-7 hours, after which it will keep for a long time and is easily refreshed by going back to refreshment mode, i.e. feed 1:2:2 every 5-7 hours a couple of times at room temp.

If you want to make a bigger change to try to get out of the disappointing cycle you're in currently,  you could try some experiments where you convert the starter to a firm starter as in the Glezer approach Zolablue likes. You could try to convert back to the more liquid SourdoLady culture also. It may be that all the things you need are in the culture, but somehow a 1:1 culture is not happy in your particular flour/water combination. Those other cultures have significantly different environments, as they are more stiff or less stiff. One of those cultures may be more workable with your particular flour and water. So, just tossing out some more ideas, as usual. I'm sorry it doesn't seem to have come to life after all the things you've tried. As I said, you are quite the patient one.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

You are right - I have a lot of patience, but to tell you the truth by now I'm starting to wonder if this is ever going to work, and I certainly don't know what is or isn't growing in there. But...as you suggested, I've made it into a more liquid culture for now since I know that it worked well that way in the beginning. During the day I feed it every 6 hours and at night I feed it a higher ratio so it will last. There are some bubbles but not that many and certainly no frothing yet. The other high ratio feeding starter seems to be improving as far as time goes and it does get quite bubbly, so we'll see.

I'll let you know if anything new happens.

L_M

L_M's picture
L_M

Yes folks, we have hooch - so at least something is happening. This morning there was about 1/2 teasp of hooch and the rest of it was very foamy when I stirred. This morniing and afternoon's feed was 1:2:3 (starter: flour: water) by weight. I was about 1 hr late for this afternoons feed (7 hours) and there was a little bit of hooch starting again. This brings me back to exactly what happenned on about day 5 - 6 with 'oj'. It was just about the same consistancy, and I had already moved into using AP flour. The hooch came, I thickened the culture to 100% hrydation, started feeding more and things went off track. This time I'd like to stay on track! So far it isn't easy to see the stages it's going through because it just gets foamy only a few bubbles and no frothing. Should I stay with the 6 hour feed intervals, and what about at night - feed it more or just let it go til the morning? I want to keep this one happy - so far the thinner consistancy seems to be  a winner. The only reason I changed into a thicker one before is because it seems to be more popular and any recipe conversions or changes just seem to be easier with a straight forward 1:1, but if 'oj' is happier like this then I'll stick with it. This sounds very familiar.... (kids)

L_M 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

For whatever reason, you seem to have better luck with the thinner starter, so it sounds like a good idea to stay with what's working better for you. I've read a few of SourdoLady's posts about "proofing" her starter, and if I understood her comments (correct me if wrong, SourdoLady), she suggests that the culture will not be into the "very sour" stage in the first 3-8 hours. This was in a post about how to avoid overly sour culture and bread. That's a big range, but it gives you an idea of the rough time frame for the earlier stages of the lifecycle, i.e. before it gets really sour. That same amount of time should be a rough rule of thumb for when to feed it if you're trying to make it become more yeasty and vigorous, i.e. every 6 hours plus or minus is not a bad guess. However, she says you can feed it once a day (maintenance mode) and just "proof" it, i.e. feed it and wait 3-8 hours (for less sour culture), when you want to make bread. By the way, I've read that wetter conditions favor yeast, so maybe if yeast wasn't thriving in the "slowpoke" et al, that is one reason why the thinner culture may be helping you with that. I've read a lot of posts of people who would favor feeding a culture maintained at room temperature in the morning and the evening also. The only part that still confuses me, is that I would expect that if you have a vigorous thin culture, you should be able to take some of that thin culture and feed it 1:2.2:1.8 (roughly)  (culture:flour:water), and get approximately a 1:1 culture, and normally, I would expect that 1:1 culture to rise nicely by double in something like 6 hours at a temperature of 70-72. Also, I would expect it to raise a dough nicely in 4-6 hours. I would not expect that a good vigorous culture would suddenly fail to work just because you change to dough consistency or 100% hydration consistency, if there is nothing unusual about the flour or water. It seems very sensible to feed in a larger ratio at night, if you are trying to make/keep the culture very vigorous. Once you are convinced the culture is very healthy, it should be the case that it's fairly forgiving in "maintenance mode", i.e. you could feed it less frequently (once or twice/day at room temp, or once or twice/week refrigerated) and it should still bounce back to life very quickly when fed and brought to room temperature. In my case, I feed my culture a couple of times at 1:2:2 at room temperature (every 6 hours approximately) to make it come back fully to life if I've left it in the refrigerator for more than 2 weeks. Once you are convinced the culture is really vigorous, you can experiment with which method is most convenient. The fact that your flour seems to weaken when exposed to very sour culture for too long, as in a couple of the experiments you did, makes me think you'll have more success with less sour cultures and breads with that flour, and that you may find the same technique you mentioned with your yeast breads of adding some ascorbic acid may help strengthen your flour when you make bread or maybe even when you make a firm sourdough preferment or convert to a stiff starter for a given recipe, when the time comes.

Best of luck with the continued saga. I'll be interested to hear what happens.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi brwaith,

It seems that 'oj' is still happy in this thin consistancy, and lasts for about 6 hours at the most before the hooch starts forming at a feeding of 1:2:3. I guess that means either he is just a hungry fellow, or things still need to stablize before it will last a bit longer until the hooch forms. When looking at other posts and threads there certainly does seem to be quite a range of what people consider to be an adequate amount of food for maintaining a culture at room temp, and how they go about it.

The high ratio feed experiment of 1:8:8 at 100% hydration is still chugging along, and it seems to be doing ok. It usually takes about 12 - 15 hours to get nice and bubbly and it rises anywhere from 80%-90%, so there is still hope that this will work out as well.

Tomorrow I will experiment to see how long each of them take at 1:1:1

When I do finally get around to making bread, I will try to get the dough ready for the oven as soon as possible, and hopefully the addition of a bit of gluten and ascorbic acid will keep it strong enough to last.

I'll let you know how it goes

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

I guess there is not much to add at this point. It sounds like one or the other of these cultures should hopefully become vigorous enough soon and allow you to make some bread. I think the every 6 hour rule of thumb for roughly 1:2:2 feeding is about right if you want to really encourage it, and feeding at higher ratios when you want to go longer without feeding is a reasonable thing to do also. Notice mij.mac's comments about the problem with the acidic starter in another thread - feed more often at a higher ratio is the suggestion for an acidic starter. Once it's doing well, you can probably get away with less frequent feedings and refrigeration, as suggested. The one thing I think might have been a problem in your case was feeding too infrequently and at too low a ratio waiting for it to rise while instead it was just getting very acidic, although we've been at this so long, I'd have to go back and read a lot of posts to reconstruct what all happened long ago. Best of luck, and still interested to hear the results.

Bill

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

L_M, I think you should mix up a small batch of dough and give OJ a try. I'll bet you will be surprised that your loaf will rise just fine. I have baked many a fine loaf with starter that didn't double in the proofing stage. What do you have to lose but a few cups of flour?

L_M's picture
L_M

Well at least I hope it will turn out ok. You are right SourdoLady, enough playing around - time for business! During the day I saved all of my experiments, and when each seemed ready I put it in the fridge. When I had enough I put them all together added flour (with a bit of gluten and ascorbic acid), water and salt. Now it is rising and so far the dough feels good, but that's all I can say at this point.

This is still all quite a mystery to me. The only sign I get constantly is a change of smell after a few hours. First it is just flour and water and then it starts to aquire this banana smell which is probably yeast, but doesn't smell like dough with instant yeast. Other than that it's pretty hard for me to tell what's going on. No big bubbles, no great rise, no frothing, just foamy which is pretty hard to see until it's mixed. I also tried using 125% hydration and that does seem to slow down the formation of hooch, but the other signs still missing. With the 100% hydration the medium - big bubbles do appear but it takes a long time and if your theory is correct bwraith, then I shouldn't be waiting that long. So, I'll see how the bread turns out and that may add a few pieces to the puzzle.

L_M 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

I hope your bread experiment goes well. For what it's worth, I've been out at a cabin in Montana for one of my kid's school breaks, and I only had some yeast and some very nice flours from "Wheat Montana". I made some ciabattas for sandwiches, a miche-like bread and what turned out to be a favorite, a focaccia with about 3 cups of pears in it. I made all the breads starting with a poolish I expanded a few times during the week, and it did not smell anything like my sourdough culture after it bubbled up. To me the poolish had almost a wet paint smell after it started bubbling and was even more that way after being in the refrigerator for a while. So, whatever the smell is that I refer to as "yeasty" in the first 3-6 hours of my culture's life cycle is not at all the same smell I got from a poolish made with regular yeast in 3-6 hours. I have no idea what all contributes to the smell, but in my case there is a definite change in character in my sourdough culture after about 6 hours, when it begins to smell "tangy" and tastes more and more sour. However, I don't think it matters too much if yours has different characteristics. As long as you can identify changes in smells, tastes, bubbles, or whatever else you notice that allow you to estimate how ripe the culture is, you're pretty much in business. Or, if you simply arrive at certain amounts of time that work, especially if the temperature is reasonably constant, then you should be fine. The main thing is to find a convenient and repeatable process that allows you to bring the culture to a consistent bread-making ready state when you need it.

I'll be curious to hear how the bread turns out.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

As a matter of fact the dough is still rising...after 6 hours yesterday, spending the night in the fridge, and about 9 hours on the counter again today - so it looks like it just isn't going to happen. The good thing is that the dough seemed to hold out for about a full 24 hours before it started to rip.

There has been a slight change in the starter that might be a good sign. Last night I fed both the 125% and 100% at a ratio of 1:10 and after 11 hours they both had quite a few bubbles, so in the morning they got fed again the same ratio. Today both of them got bubbles at least an hour or 2 before they started getting the 'smell', so this is the exact opposite of what had happened until now. As a matter of fact the 125% culture looked ready after only 8 hours so I split it and part I just left, and the other part I fed 1: 1: .7.5 to test it for time. 

This morning I also made another 2 small batches of dough from the starters of last night but they are not moving any faster than yesterday's.

More if/when something new happens.

L_M

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

L_M, what is the temperature of the location where the dough is being proofed? Try putting it somewhere that is nice and cozy for optimal yeast growth. An oven with the light on stays nice and warm (I also turn the oven on for 30 to 60 seconds to warm it up a bit at the start--before putting the dough in just in case you forget about it and don't get it turned off in time!)

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

It may be that you just need to keep going a while longer with feeding your cultures as you've been doing. If the yeast really is knocked out for some reason, it should come back in a few days if you feed it before it gets too ripe, as you've been doing. When getting my first culture going, I made the mistake of not putting a little acid in (like pineapple juice in SourdoLady's version), and I got the problem where it rises out of control and then dies, as described by SourdoLady in her blog. The problem was solved by starting over and adding a very small amount of ascorbic acid to the first day's culture. However, the culture that had the problem also bounced back after about a week, after I kept feeding it, just out of curiosity. It had similar symptoms, i.e. it was sluggish and got very sour long before it had the chance to double, but after about a week it started bubbling and rising in a very stable way. There was no doubt when it bounced back.

Somewhere way back there, someone suggested that you buy a starter culture. I think it would be worth a try. Even if you  want to start one on your own for the fun and challenge of it, you might learn something relevant to starting your own by going through the process of refreshing and maintaining a known good starter. It would eliminate most of the process/ingredient questions, if you are able to maintain a good starter with your own water, flour, and feeding schedule.

Bill

Val's picture
Val

I began my starter with a packet of dried starter (Gold Rush brand). Following their directions, my starter stayed very thin and had a terrible smell. I converted to equal weight feeding and room temperature storage, and began to see a difference within a few days. My starter has acquired a stable flavor and activity, presumably by finally settling in with the local yeasts and bacteria. My starter has been going for 2 1/2 months and I bake several times per week.

L_M's picture
L_M

SourdoLady, I will certainly try your suggestion to keep the dough in a cozy spot. In the meantime I've been relying on room temperature which at the moment is about 20C - 21C during the day. The water, starter, flour have all been at room temp and since I didn't use the mixer, the dough also ended up around the same temp. My oven is electric and very well insulated, so the automatic proofing setting will reach at least 40C. If I only keep the light on in the oven it will get to about 30C -32C. If I turn the oven on only for about 30 sec - 1 min, it would probably get to around 26C -28C. What temp would you consider optimal for yeast growth? I remember the discusssions with jm_chng about the effect temp has on the different rates of growth concerning yeast and sourness, but this data is not available anymore. 

Bwraith, I hope you are having a good time at the cabin. It sounds like you are doing more baking then skiing! It is very interesting the way we interpret smell in relation to something else familiar to us - I've never thought of poolish smelling like wet paint and of course I detect this unknown not very ripe banana smell!

I feel that with 'oj' it's either almost there, or it's just not going to get there. If it doesn't work out within the next few days I will try to order some (I believe it was mij.mac that suggested it) and hopefully I'll be able to keep a well established starter alive...

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

For the dough, I've always found 23-25C seems to work well for me. I get doughs to rise in about 5 hours duration of total bulk fermentation and final proof combined. I'd be curious what SourdoLady's favorite rising temperature is. 

I'm back now, but actually we did ski much more than bake everyday, but that's because during the day I would put everything in the "dough retarder", a little half-size wine cooler/refrigerator that happens to be in the cabin. I just removed a few bottles of wine for a few hours. It did the job nicely. It was fairly easy to get in some baking in the afternoon.

Bill

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

I am a farenheit person so I have no idea what the centigrade temps you mentioned are without finding a conversion chart. I think that 85 degrees F. is probably about perfect for optimal yeast growth. The other day I took my starter out of the fridge and wanted to get it going so I ran some hot tap water into a bowl and then placed my starter container in the middle of it. Boy did it start rising like crazy.

Bill, where abouts in Montana was the cabin where you were? I am in Billings. Since you mentioned skiing I know it wasn't here. We have been pretty warm lately. Today it was 75 degrees!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi SourdoLady,

25C is 77F degrees. I have a cabinet just above my coffee machine at home that sits around that temperature when it's on. I use this as my proofer, and I haven't gone to much trouble to try higher temperatures, although you're comment now makes me curious to see what I can do. However, like L_M, I've had my troubles with too much heat in my oven, even with just a light on. When I read about temperatures in "The Bread Builders", I see that up in the 80s, the "doubling times" for yeast and lactobacillus are closer to 1 hour, as opposed to more like 75 minutes at 75F. If you go much above 85F or much below 70F, it looks like the lactobacillus begin to be heavily favored, but from about 70-85 both yeast and lactobacillus should be happy, if I understand the graphs in the book. The peak for the yeast itself was around 82F, and it says that gas production is fastest at 86 for the yeast. However, at 90F, it looks like the yeast slows way down. Using 85F therefore sounds perfect for the yeast, just as you say. However, it looks like it's not good for the yeast if the dough gets much up toward 90F, if these graphs are right. Of course, then there's retarding the dough in the refrigerator and all the complex effects of that process, so there are a million variations, as usual.

I was near Philipsburg, MT near the Anaconda Pintler range this week. The skiing was lots of fun but not as good as we hoped, as it was in the 40s during the day and we only had a couple of inches of snow all week. I used Wheat Montana flours, as you and mountaindog I think had mentioned along the way, which worked very well for our afternoon baking experiments.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

I'm on the lookout for the perfect cozy spot that will keep the temp of the dough within the range you mentioned in "The Bread Builders". It sounds easy enough because there is quite a large range that seems suitable. The cable box on top of the tv is good for a while but after too long the dough gets too hot even when I buffer the bowl with a layer or 2 of towels. SourdoLady, I like your idea using a hot water bath, so I'm sure I'll find something that works, and soon our long, hot and humid summer will send me looking for a cool spot!

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

Wondering if you've seen any changes/progress in your starter struggles.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

I have concluded that the 125% hyrdation works faster so I'm sticking with that for now. Last night I fed it 1:10:12.5 and took about 8 hours to get where I think it is ready, and it didn't even taste as sour as before, so I was very happy and hoped to be on the right road...so I made some dough and kept it between 24C - 31C (while I was looking for the perfect spot) and it still took 9 hours for the first rise. I decided not to continue because it would be too sour for sure but at least it did finally get to double in size. Yesterday's bread (which I discretly didn't mention, went straight to the cows - and they loved it!). So as you see there really is no change. The culture seems to go through it's cycle on a regular schedule and it is happier with large meals but it doesn't seem to be able to raise the dough in a reasonable amount of time - where are those yeast when I need them????

L_M

P.S. I noticed that you've started on a new venture helping out - it really sounds just like all of the symptoms I experienced as well. I admire YOUR patience!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

Are you still using the same bread recipe as a much earlier post (I can find it)? Just curious what recipe you are using.

My ratio of 1:2:2 is a 5x expansion, whereas yours at 1:10:12.5 is a 23.5x expansion. Your culture would have to double a little more than two more times than my 5x expansion to fill the additional feeding ratio, as in 5x->10x->20x->22.5x. Each doubling should take around roughly 1.3 hours, depending a lot on temperature and lots of other stuff, of course. However, roughly speaking if the "doubling graphs" in "The Bread Builders" can be used this way, yours should take about 3 hours more than the 1:2:2 expansion takes (in theory). If my 1:2:2 expansion takes 5-6 hours, your 1:10:12.5 should take about 8-9 hours. So, it does at least have a life cycle that is in the right general ballpark using that way of looking at it. Hopefully, a few more feedings will bring your culture to life.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

Going by the info you mentioned my starter is on track, but for some reason it really isn't. I still think I should have more visual signs than I do at the moment letting me know when it is ripe. I've been searching on the net for any other info and I found this :

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/food/sourdough/starters/  

 As you can imagine I'm ready to try just about anything, so I've started experimenting with the remedies mentioned to fix a new starter (I think it is in paragraph V and I would classify 'oj' at the moment being 'barely alive'). I've started  the 24 hour, 1 tablespoon method, and I've managed to set up a table lamp on a pile of books that so far keeps the starter temp at about 75F. This evening I'm going to try to set up an arrangement that will keep the temp at 85F - which might not be that easy - and if so I'll also try the 12 hour 1 cup method. I can't quite figure out why after each of the methods the instructions say to put it in the fridge for at least 12 hours before trying again. Any ideas why this is necessary? 

I used half of this recipe to make 1 small loaf and I made it up in a way that it would keep the math simple for me (so I wouldn't have to get hubby to help me with the calculations), so I hope I've worked it out to being reasonable. My idea was to get the dough to be 65% hydration, using the starter wihich was 125% hydration:

- 225 grams starter

- 265 grams water

- 500 grams flour

- 12 grams salt

 Maybe it was too much or too little starter, but I've seen such a range in recipes that I thought it would be ok. What do you think? Could this have been part of the problem?

I'll report on my lab tests

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

Sorry that starter hasn't perked up. I'm still thinking a few more feedings as you are doing them now may well do the trick, but it's a great idea to give the sourdough doctoring faq process a try. The author is obviously very experienced. I agree it would be nice to understand why refrigeration is part of the process. I really don't have a clue why that should be done when trying to get a "barely alive" starter to recover. It does sound like your starter is in that barely alive stage described in the document. Good luck trying out the process. It doesn't sound all that different in some ways from what you've already been doing, but maybe it will go faster if you follow the ratios, temperatures, and refrigeration suggested there. There is a discussion of how to revive a sluggish starter on Mike Avery's site too, if I didn't already mention that.

Your bread recipe seems perfectly reasonable. I would expect it to work just fine. Using that recipe with my starter, the dough would probably rise in 5 hours at room temperature.

Good luck trying some of the other methods. That faq does recognize that getting a starter from the first few days to the mature phase can be difficult, and is not well documented anywhere. I agree it seems difficult to find good information about this part of the process. The comment he makes that the signs of the life cycle of the culture aren't really the same when it is in that unstable stage is also interesting. I don't remember going through any trouble once a starter perked up. Basically, once I got straight on adding some ascorbic acid to the first day recipe, everything worked like clockwork for me on the various starter experiments I did after that. Once it got really going on day 4 or 5, I just started feeding every 6-8 hours at the 1:2:2 habitual ratio I've always used, did that a couple of times, and then put it in the refrigerator. I don't recall paying much attention to it other than that.

Please let me know how it goes. I'm very curious to see what may finally solve the problem.

Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

Mike Avery's site also has a good section on starting a starter. Note the discussion of leuconostoc bacteria at the bottom, which is exactly what was happening to me when I first tried to start a starter (I used whole wheat, not rye, just as he mentions). This is the reason for the pineapple juice or other acid addition in the early stages of starting a starter in many recipes. Peter Reinhart suggested using ascorbic acid, pointing out that acetic acid is a strong inhibitor of yeast. That's why I ended up trying ascorbic acid (250mg/6oz of water in the culture) instead of vinegar or citrus when I was starting a starter. It seemed to work very well, at least several times I started starters this way without a problem. Anyway, you are hopefully past that point - just mentioning this additional site, which is yet another example of the process used by someone who does this a lot. The suggestion to stir periodically is there, too.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

The 12 hour, 1 cup method results are in, and in 1 word  - WOW - Major difference from before in many ways! Right now I don't have time but later I'll give details.

* happy * happy * happy * happy * happy * happy * happy * happy * happy *

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

Whew! Glad to see a post like that from you. So, I will be very interested in exactly what you tried and how it went, when you have a chance. There is nothing like a real example when it comes to these starter problems.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

You can imagine how excited I was to see all those nice bubbles!

Even though the instructions were in volume I converted them into weight and with just a little bit of adjustment they both worked out to be 100% hydration.

Here we go : the 1 tablespoon, 24 hour method which worked out to be about 1:15:15 produced something very familiar to what I've been getting all along but it did have more noticable bubbles suspended throughout. After about 20 hours it started to recede (from it's 50% increase) so there really isn't too much to news to report on that one. The smell was stronger and the taste was a bit sourer but that's about it.

 The 1 cup, 12 hour method was essentially 1:1:1 and when this was done there was absolutely nothing similar to what I've been getting up til now.

- It doubled and kept the height throughout.

- The bubbles were of all sizes with the biggest on top.

- The smell had now another dimension - apples - think 'granny smith' sour, tangy, and when I first mixed it there was also a bit of yeast smell.

- The taste also had the extra tang besides being just sour.

- The consistancy was much looser after stirring it down, whereas before if I tried to pour, it would pour in a glob like poolish, now it seems that the gluten has been severely weakened.

I hope these are all good signs but I'm going to do a re-run of both the methods after their 12 hour rest in the fridge just to make sure.

After it was ripe I took a bit of this (1 cup, 12 hr.) starter and made a 1:1:1 test at room temp to see how long it would take. It has now been almost 8 hours and it has just doubled but doesn't have the apple smell yet. Either the temperature is making a huge difference or it isn't quite healthy enough yet. I'll try again tomorrow after the re-run.

Thanks for the head up on Mike Avery's site. I did check it out before but I didn't think his method for 'revival' was very different from what I had been doing.

I guess I was lucky both times (with 'slow poke' and 'oj') that I never had the problem of leuconostoc bacteria - that probably would have really thrown me off.

To tell you the truth, I still have no idea if I was feeding too early or too late in the cycle, or if it was something else that was wrong, but hopefully NOW I'm really on my way...

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I'm happy for you, and your patience knows no bounds. Yes, the temperature will make a huge difference to the rate of reproduction and activity of both the yeast and lactobacillus. In particular, 85F would make the yeast grow at the fastest it can according to those "doubling graphs", which may be helping that one to take off. I still can't find any explanation for why the refrigeration "rest period" helps. However, remember that there is a time vs temperature trade-off, and once the culture is healthy, you can let it run longer between feedings at room temperature without getting to the point where it is starving.

I did have that leuconostoc problem, and let me tell you, it threw me off for weeks. However, getting a pH meter, some reading up on acid/base chemistry (that was going back to the good old school days), some lucky finds in a mailing list where several posters were trying different acids and were zeroing in on the leuconostoc problem, and finally a very kind email reply from Peter Reinhart explaining this problem and suggesting to use some ascorbic acid combined to get me over the hump.

Yes, I agree you were roughly doing what is recommended in the higher ratio method in that faq. It seems like the refrigeration "rest" is a difference in both of the methods, though.

Let me know how it goes. Once the culture stabilizes, it should display the phases of the life cycle we've discussed and be much more forgiving about feeding schedules and ratios. Once you know it's really healthy, you should be able to feed it, let it proof for a while, and then refrigerate it in a regular routine. It all seems so very easy for me now, but your struggles brought back all my memories of the trouble I had getting mine working. I look in the refrigerator and have regained an appreciation of that little jar of culture, which I may have begun to take for granted after more than 2 years since I got it going.

 Best of luck keeping it going, and let me know more details as they emerge. It's all very useful info for some future endeavor in starter creation I'm sure will come up at some point.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

 This was again in the 1 cup, 12 hr method. I'm not sure I'll go ahead with another re- run of the 1 TBSP 24 hr test as it is clearly far behind in progress than the other.

So, at the end of the 12 hours there was froth (which I only had before in the first few days when starting 'oj'), and from the high mark it was evident that it had risen to more than double but by the 12 hours it had fallen quite a bit and there was also much less froth  then a few hours before when I checked it.

The smell today was - red wine and yeast -

The consistancy after stirring was again loose but not runny or watery and no signs of hooch.

Using some of this starter, I've started another 1:1:1 test at room temp . So far it has been about 2 hours and there is no rise yet but there are bubbles and it is starting to smell a bit like yeast. We'll see how long it takes. I imagine that according to those charts it should take about 3 - 4 hours at the very most and probably even less. 

I'll let you know how it goes

L_M 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

Sounds like it's really working now. When I feed 1:2:2 at room temperature, it doesn't do much for at least a couple of hours to maybe 3 hours. Then it takes off and rises by double over the next 2-3 hours. With a 1:1:1 feeding, it ought to be similar, but maybe a little faster.

Let's hope it continues to be healthy and you make some bread with it.

How did you go about maintaining at 85F in the 1 cup 12 hour method? I'm curious what worked for that.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

I was very lucky and borrowed a small incubator that is actually a water bath with a metal plate in it connected to a thermostat. If I didn't have that then I imagine I'd have used the oven with the light on and set the starter far away from the light and possibly kept the oven door propped open a bit if necessary.

I'll probably do a re-run tonight as well after it's rest in the fridge, because I want to really make sure it's ready before I try to make bread. I was a bit concerned that it had collapsed a few hours before the time was up. In the instructions it says that it will probably be quite puffed up before it is stirred. Besides that, it seems that 'oj' fits all the descriptions of being fresh, but again the time it is taking to raise a 1:1:1 still seems a bit long considering that it mentions that it should take 2 1/2 hours to rise bread. Just so you understand - I really couldn't care less if 'oj' is the world's fastest or slowest starter - I just want to know that it is healthy and properly balanced.

So far the 1:1:1 at room temp is at 5 hours, risen about 75% and still going, lots of bubbles but no froth.

More when it happens...

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I wouldn't expect it to raise the culture in 2.5 hours at room temperature. That just seems way fast. It should take 5-8 hours at 70F, I would think. I still would avoid being overly concerned with the doubling rule. If you see "LOTS" of activity and froth and so on, it's probably fine. It might raise a dough in 2.5 hours, depending on all kinds of factors. I wasn't excited about that comment by the author of the starter faq, even if the 1cup/12hr method worked, as it seems like he would have to be much more specific than he was about the dough ingredients and temperature, and it also certainly has to do with handling of the dough.

Collapsing "before its time" is probably a good thing. That means it went through its full life cycle, rose and fell back in a reasonable amount of time. The faq author makes the point that a culture behaves differently in this stage before it becomes fully fresh and mature. In the fresh stage, if you do a 1:1:1 feeding, it should rise and peak and begin to fall in a 12 hour period at room temperature, let alone 85F, at least that's my experience. So, the 12hr/1cup/85F method seems, from my perspective as a maintainer of a stable culture to be a very low ratio, very high temperature, and would result in overly ripe culture. However, the author seems to be saying that if the culture becomes sluggish, then this is what you want to do to bring it back. If your culture consistently rises and falls in 12 hours at room temperature with a 1:1 feeding, it's beginning to sound a lot more like my stable culture.

I think it's likely that if the culture begins to work right, you will probably end up doing something closer to 1:2:2 for 6 hours at room temperature, as opposed to 1:1:1 for 12 hrs at 85F to get it to really liven up. This is not just my culture. Other sources give typical times that are similar. For example, BBA suggests 4-6 hours, Bread Builders suggests 5-6 hours, and so on. In other words, don't stay too long in "new starter mode" once the culture is "fresh". You might end up with the same underfed, over-ripe situation as before. I like your idea of redoing the 1cup/12hr/85F/refrigerate method a couple of times. If it seems really healthy, you might want to try moving more toward room temperature, feed 1:1:1 or 1:2:2, and refrigerate when it's not yet really ripe.

As always, I'm very curious to hear your further reports on the various experiments you're trying. I want to go back and redo my own starter experiments now, knowing all that you've done so far. I'd like to think it would be much easier this time with all the extra experience gained in this process.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

The 1:1:1 starter at room temp took 6 hours to double and just started to dip in the center so I put it in the fridge (you can just imagine how many of those containers I have by now!).  The only reason I'm using that low ratio feed is for testing the timing, and I intend to keep 'oj' in the fridge in 'storage mode' as soon as I'm sure it's healthy, with maybe just a few more on the counter feeds with a higher ratio for good luck.

I'm wondering whether the 85F doesn't slightly change the characteristics slightly because when it is at room temp it doesn't get frothy, just very bubbly like a poolish. There is also no alcohol smell (today's red wine), but is that is because I haven't let it get so far into the cycle?

I'm getting ready to set up the re-run test again for tonight so I'll report tomorrow.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I don't get froth with my 1:1 starter when proofing at room temperature. It just rises by double in 6 hours, maybe by triple in 8-9 hours, and then it stops and starts to fall, and is kind of stronger, more alcoholic, and starting to get stringy by 12 hours. I think the reason your 85F proof forms froth is that the gluten breaks down, so the culture froths instead of rising. The alcohol is also a symptom of a much more ripe culture. The multiplication of the yeast and lactobacillus and the rate of fermentation will happen much faster at 85F. The graphs in "Bread Builders" would show a doubling time of 120 minutes at about 68F and a doubling rate of only 60 minutes at 85F for the yeast. The difference is less dramatic but still big for the lactobacillus, too. I'm sure the fermentation activity itself goes much faster also. That means you have a lot more organisms eating a lot faster in much less time at 85F compared to 70F. It's like hitting the fast forward button on a video.

For me the alcohol and stronger tangy smell happen at about 9 hours when I do my 1:2:2 at 72F. It wouldn't normally dip in the center until around then, too. At 1:1:1 it would ripen a little earlier, but it shouldn't be all that different because it's only the difference between a 3x and a 5x expansion, which ought to be only an hour or hour and a half different in schedule. In my case, I refrigerate at the 6 hour point for 1:2:2 at about 70F, after it has about doubled. I could wait longer to have a stronger flavor in the starter, but I usually refrigerate it and use it a couple of days later, when it has risen further in the refrigerator and then dipped in the center. I think that's when it seems to taste best for my preferences. There are all kinds of different schedules and ratios to feed that will result in different flavors. I tend to like a more mild culture, so I lean toward earlier refrigeration and earlier use of the culture in my bread recipes, before it has matured so much. I think the higher feeding ratio may push it in the mild direction also.

Best of luck with it. Hopefully, it's heading toward stability, and all this will become much easier and more forgiving.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

Tonight's test is almost done and by now I can see what the results will be. At 8 hours it had risen by about 60% and there was a layer of froth just in the center on the surface and there was also a slight smell of alcohol. At 10 hours there was very little change in appearance, maybe started to drop a bit and the smell was slightly stronger. Now it's 11 hours and is receding a bit more, the froth is slightly less than before and I'm really not sure but I think the smell is a little stronger and maybe yeasty as well. When the time is up I'll do another 1:1:1 at room temp to test the timing. After that I'm going to decide which one of those (all labeled containers) to use from now on. 

The first try (all using the 1 cup, 12 hour method) I'll call #1.

The 1:1:1 at room temp taken from the above without the 12 rest in the fridge is #1a

The next is the second night's try ( same as #1) I'll call it #2

Next is taken from #2 (the same as #1a) and it is #2a

Third night is #3

Room temp from that will be #3a

When I have all of the data to compare I'll use the one that seemed most active in the least amount of time and had the most bubbles. So far it looks like #2a is the winner but I'll see how #3a does.

 Your explanation as to why it doesn't froth at room temp in a 1:1 certainly makes sense, so now I won't be waiting for something that's not going to happen - and of course worrying why it didn't! 

The timing I got with #2a seems to almost correspond with the timings you get as well with your 1:2:2 (a bit slower maybe) and I think with the differences in our flour I should take in to account that when mine reaches about 75% rise it is just about in the same stage as when yours is doubled, since we are taking into account all of the other signs as well. When mine gets to double - yours triples, and shortly after that they both start to fall. This is easy now... if it continues this way.

As for the taste in bread - I will be trying to start out with the absolutely mildest flavour I can get. So far all of my attempts have been so sour and dense that by now my sourdough fan club is down to "0" members (including me)!!

One thing that is still not clear to me. If the graphs show the doubling time for yeast is 120 min at 68F, then why does  a 1:1:1 at that temp take much longer to rise? Does that mean the yeast actually doubles before we see it starting to rise? Or is reality not quite the same as theory?

More later

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

I'm impressed with all the endless experimenting you've done along the way. One very good part about that is you are more familiar now with the behavior of your culture and the characteristics of your flour. It will be easier going forward to have gained all that experience and familiarity with your ingredients and your culture.

I'm glad 2a is working well, since just feeding at room temperature is probably the routine you want to get into eventually.

I agree that your flour seems different and less able to rise in the culture than I'm used to with mine. Also, if you do the 1cup/12hr and follow it with 1:1:1 at room temperature, you're starting at a higher level of ripeness than if you do regular feedings at an earlier point in the life cycle. It may rise more normally once you are in a routine along the lines of 1:1:1 or 1:2:2 at room temperature. I still wouldn't worry that much about how it rises in the culture. If it raises a dough, it's not too important exactly what it does in the culture, except to the extent you learn your culture's habits and therefore know it's behaving normally, whatever that happens to be.

The doubling time is the time it takes the population of organisms to double, at least that's what I understood. After you feed, there is some starting population of organisms. Think of it as some number of organisms per mL of culture. Then, if the doubling time at 68F is 120 minutes, that means there will be twice as many organisms 2 hours later, and 4 times as many 4 hours later, and so on. At some point, the organisms rise to a level where their food runs out and/or their fermentation products (acids, C02, etc.) begin to inhibit their ability to reproduce or remain active. What you observe is the effects of that growth process. At first, there aren't enough organisms, or the organisms are dormant, so you just see flour paste for a while. Then, as the organisms wake up and start to reproduce, at some point a couple of hours later, they begin to be numerous enough and active enough for you to see bubbles and acid smells, as they fill up the culture with their fermentation products. Eventually, they overrun their food supply and make their environment very acid. At that point, the fermentation slows way down, and the population stops growing. Also, the gluten begins to break down. That's when it falls, alcohol comes to the top, and the culture is in the ripe stage. So, if the doubling time is 120 minutes, the rapid growth part of the process goes at half speed compared to if the doubling time is 60 minutes. If you use a feeding ratio that doubles the volume, like if you use 1:2.5:2.5 compared to 1:1:1, then it should take one extra doubling time to get the same amount of organisms per mL in the culture, since you diluted it by an additional 1/2. In this example, you would expect the culture fed 1:1:1 to take 120 minutes less to get to the same stage in the cycle, compared to a culture fed 1:2.5:2.5 (at 68F). Except that was for the yeast, and the lactobacillus has different doubling times. So the overall culture balance will be different at different temperatures. Also, the fermentation products and starting number of organisms in the culture will be different if you take that very ripe culture and dilute it 1:1:1, compared to if you dilute a less ripe culture 1:1:1, which makes the whole thing very complicated.

Yikes, I'm not sure that was very clear, but I have to run off to something. So, I'll just leave that as is. Good luck with it.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

Very interesting results as a matter of fact - #3 ended up looking like the loser if we only consider volume, but the smell was different than before and it had a very defined beery yeasty aroma. #3a took only 4 hours to get to it's ready looking stage at 75% rise and this time I didn't let it go on to double, but instead I used some of that to make #3b and put the rest in the fridge. When I smelled #3a it was yeasty but when I mixed it, the beery smell came through loud and clear so there was a very balanced smell of both and the end. Clearly #3a is the winner, and maybe #3b will be even better because as you pointed out it will be starting from a different stage in the life cycle. I won't be doing any more 1 cup 12 hour tests as I feel 'oj' is now completely on track, so I'll do a few more feeds on the counter, try some bread, and then if all goes well it will go in the fridge in 'storage mode'.

I will have to read your explanation on doubling time a few times over to really grasp it all but I also have to go now, so that will be later, but I wanted to let you know  how it all turned out.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

I'm glad it's all on track. Hopefully, you're over the hump, and it will be much more forgiving going forward. When you are using it for bread, it would normally be about right to use it just when it begins to dip in the middle, which might be around the 7-9 hour point. Or, my typical version is to take it out of the refrigerator and use it 2 days after it has been refreshed, risen for 5-6 hours at room temp, and refrigerated. If I plan ahead, I only store a small amount in the refrigerator, but when I want to make a bread that calls for a large amount of starter, I build up through serial refreshments at room temperature to the quantity I want. For example, the ciabatta recipe I like calls for about 23 oz of culture. So, if I expand 6oz of culture at 1:2:2, I would have 30 oz, of which 23 goes for the bread and 7oz is left over for a further refreshment and/or storage in the refrig. I think the culture will be milder if you use the culture earlier.

I'll be curious to know if the serial refreshments at room temperature continue to work well. Also, hopefully the bread will work this time.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

I don't know what happened but again I had something all written out and when I clicked 'post comment' it said I had to register, so everything I wrote dissappeared, so here I go again...

The #3b has slowed down quite a bit compared to #3a and I really hope it's not going down hill again, but maybe it's because the mixture was slightly cooler as #3a had part of #3 at 85F in it, and maybe because I fed it when it was as the 75% rise stage (in all respects) and that was too early. For serial refreshment at room temp should I feed when it just starts to dip - the same as you suggest that is the time to use it for bread? If so, I guess I just wasn't thinking because I fed when actually at that time you would have put it in the fridge allowing for it to continue ripening in there. Anyhow this time I'll wait til it dips and also I'll give it a higher ratio for the night - I hope a 1:4:4 is about right for now as I don't want to do anything too drastic. 

Your explanation about the doubling time was very clear even though the subject really can get quite complicated, and I think I understand but I don't think I'm up to figuring out doubling times by myself, like for a night feed - I'll just have to rely on my past experience to get as accurate as possible.

I really hope 'oj' is stong enough to bounce back.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

Yes, it would go more slowly with both the old culture and the new flour/water are all at room temperature, compared to having 1/3 of it at 85F. You're probably right that feeding it too early in the cycle would cause it to wake up more slowly than if you feed it when it is at its peak. The period when it has reached its peak is something you'll have to figure out from watching the cycle, but it seems like you've had lots of experience with that at this point. However, if it is healthy, it really should be quite forgiving, whether you feed it late or early. As long as you don't routinely feed it way too late, way too early, use way too high ratios or way too low ratios, extreme temperatures, a healthy culture should be very forgiving. A few refreshments at room temperature, or the 1cup/12hr method ought to bring it back into balance, if it's healthy. Yikes, I hate to keep saying, "if it's healthy." I guess you and I must both have lingering suspicions there is still something fundamentally wrong that is being missed. Maybe so, but it sure seems like it must be OK, if you had such strong activity with 1,1a,2,2a,etc.  

Also, if your room temperature is still down around 20C or below, that's a lot different from 25C or especially anything like 85F/30C. The difference from even 20C to 25C will probably be very noticeable - maybe 2 hours or so difference to reach its peak.

Finally, I normally put the newly fed starter in the refrigerator before it has reached its peak, i.e. let rise maybe 5 hours at room temperature and then refrigerate. That way, it can continue to ripen in the refrigerator. The earlier I put it in the refrigerator, the longer it will last and still be ready for bread making. Very roughly, 1 day in the refrigerator seems about equivalent to 1 hour at room temperature - very roughly, please don't take that as precise. In fact, I guess you could imagine a case where you feed it and only let it rise for an hour. In that case, if you took it out the next day, it wouldn't be ready to make bread. You'd still have to let it warm up and rise for a while.

I haven't really experimented that much with what feeding point at room temperature will make a starter the most vigorous, but it should work to refresh repeatedly (probably very roughly about every 8 hours) when the culture has just begun to dip. It should at that point have lots of rising power in a dough, and I would think it would respond well to a feeding of 1:1:1 or 1:2:2. In my case, I imagine feeding every 8 hours at 1:2:2. When I do my "revivals" after say a couple of weeks in the refrigerator, I would raise it twice in one day, e.g. feed the 2 week old, hooch covered, cold, fallen culture from the refrigerator 1:2:2, wait 8 hours at room temperature (mine would normally double in that time), feed again 1:2:2, wait about 6 hours (doubled again, normally), and then refrigerate. I could use that culture, which had been fed twice in one day at room temperature,  which I would now call fully revived, fresh culture the next day straight out of the refrigerator into any recipe, and it would be nice and active.

Another detail of how I refresh comes from Mike Avery's suggestions. I put 90F water in with my old starter first and froth it up with a whisk. Then I add the flour and mix it up to fully hydrate. That should warm up and aerate the old culture before adding the flour. I don't know how much that helps, but it fits in with the stirring recommendations and the need for some warmth after being chilled in the refrigerator.

I'm wondering if there is something good that happens during the refrigeration phase, as that is part of the "revival" method in that sourdough faq. I refrigerate just for storage and flavor development. However, maybe it is actually good for the health/balance of the culture, too. I don't know. From all the posts we've had in this thread the strategies go from long refrigerations and revivals to daily feedings at room temperature, so a lot of different things seem to work.

Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M 

On the problem of losing a long post, that happens to me too, and here is a tip for working around that problem. I hope it makes sense, but depending on how comfortable you are with "cut and paste" and computer stuff like that, it may be a little difficult to do. Try seeing if you can cut and paste on a small comment without posting it, as a way to learn how to do it. 

Before you hit the "Post Comment" button, first click on "disable rich-text", wait for your comment to change into html code, then highlight (i.e. select) that whole box full of text (normally by click at very top left of text and hold and drag your mouse down to the bottom of the text), and "copy" it (normally right-click on the highlighted text and click on copy). Then, click on "enable rich-text". Wait for it to change back into normal readable format. Post your comment. If the post doesn't work, stay calm. Go back, log on again, and create a new comment same as the old one you were working on. Click on "disable rich-text". Place your cursor in the text area and "paste" (normally right-click in the text area and then click on paste). Your old comment should be pasted in. Click on "enable rich-text", and the comment should be back to normal. Enter your subject again, and post the comment. In summary, if you "copy" the html of your comment before you submit it, you can "paste" the html code back in if something goes wrong. Just remember you have to be in "html mode", i.e. you have to disable rich text first to do the copy or the paste.

The instructions above are one way to do it in internet explorer, but there are other ways to do it, and it's different for different browsers or for Apples, but they pretty much all have some technique of "copying" a highlighted text area, and "pasting" into a text area. So, if you can "copy", that saves the html code, and you can "paste" it back in if the post doesn't work.

Maybe Floyd or someone else knows an easier way...

I'm doing the above right now, so I don't lose this one. Sorry if this is too technical or just unclearly written (at least not great writing, I know). It does work, but it helps to have a "good geek" involved, especially if the computer isn't your favorite tool. I think Sylvia said it's hard to find a good geek.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

Just wanted to let you know - more later. Dough has just finished autolyse...

L_M

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

This certainly was a day to remember - my first successful sourdough boule. 'oj' bounced back very nicely after a 1:5:5 feed for the night and took about 11 hours to double but not quite dip. The dough took 8 hours from mix to bake, and 6 of those hours were in bulk fermentation and even so I cut it a bit short because I was getting  worried. Next time I'll just let it rise more as I can see that everything turned out very well in the end. The taste was really wonderful - complex but not sour - perfect!

'oj' is feasting on another meal getting ready for another bread re-run in the morning.

I'll have to continue tomorrow cause it's already 01:20 and way past my bedtime...zzzzz

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

What a relief. I'm so happy for you. That good sourdough flavor makes a real difference. What I'm hoping you'll enjoy next is the ease of the routine going forward. I don't find it any more or less difficult than using commercial yeast. I'm so glad to hear your flavor was good. It will be interesting to know how it goes with refrigerating to store. It should work and become a routine. One thing you may want to check is the temperature of your refrigerator. I think it's good to avoid temperatures too close to freezing. Mine can get too cold, such that something in the back or against the wall of the refrigerator might freeze, if not set right. I think the Bread Builders says yeast doesn't grow below 8C, but my culture seems to store well for long periods of time at 40F and is still easy to revive with just a couple of refreshments at room temperature.

Bill

Val's picture
Val

Dear L_M:

I've been following your diligent experimentation with your starters, and you are to be congratulated for your perseverance. Now that your kitchen will soon be filled with the aroma and joy of sourdough breads, the "Starter Chronicles" will become a distant memory.

L_M's picture
L_M

Val thank you for those kind words, and I hope everything is still ok.

 Well bwraith, I just don't know what to say. I've been feeding twice a day 1:5:5 and that seems to hold as a schedule at room temp which is still around 20C. I've been letting it go until it almost or just dips, and it rises to about double - sometimes more sometimes less but it is always full of bubbles and really looks just like a poolish. Now all of that sounds great, I think, but here comes the catch: today's dough took 9 hours for bulk fermentation. Most of the time the dough was at about 25C sitting on the cable box on top of the tv wrapped in a towel - nice and cozy. Every hour or so I folded and that seemed to keep the temp quite stable. For the last few hours I just got fed up and stopped folding and when the dough had finally risen enough I took it's temp and it had risen to just over 30C. I shaped it and now it is rising again but soon I'll put it in the fridge and I'll have to bake it in the morning. The amazing thing is that the dough still feels springy and alive although there seem to be quite a few hours before I'll know the outcome. Yesterdays bread didn't keep well at all. By the morning it was already getting too hard and I believe that has to do with not fully fermenting the dough during the bulk  fermentation (at least that's what I've read)

The only thing I can think of is maybe I'm waiting a bit too long before using the starter for bread, and it is actually already over ripe at this stage (I noticed a comment from mij.mac about this on another thread), so I'll try to catch it earlier for the feeding schedule as well.

The recipe is pretty well the same as before but now the starter is at 100% hyrdation :

- 200 grams starter

- 500 grams flour

- 290 grams water

- 12 grams salt

Many recipes calling for all different amounts of starters say each rise should take about 2 1/2 hours so 9 hours is really not reasonable  considering the temperature.

I've checked the temp in my fridge where I used to keep the starter and it is a little below 4C, so just to make sure I'll keep it in a slightly warmer spot when I finally do put 'oj' in the fridge. It's been a loooong time since my kids were babies but I sure have been doing a lot of babysitting 'oj' lately! 

Luckily my son is 1/2 geek so he showed me how to copy even when I'm in the middle of writing ( ctrl c ) because I never even touched the " disable rich-text " before, so that was fine, but since usually everything is ok I just figured  'this' time is also going to be ok and I forgot to copy...lesson learned!

I am looking forward to a very ho-hum routine and not a roller coaster ride - maybe soon.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

I'm just not sure where to go from here either. It's possible the starter is getting too ripe, but I would expect that to be somewhat offset when you create the dough, since your formula uses 1/6 of the flour coming from the starter. With that formula, it shouldn't be as critical exactly how ripe the starter is, since it is being fed at a high ratio after that by the dough flour and water. 

I would focus more on the bulk fermentation. It sounds like it is running too long, but maybe someone else has a better feel for how a formula with 1/6 starter flour will behave. The typical recipes I use have a larger percentage of flour coming from the preferment. In any event 2.5 hours seems fast and 9 hours seems very, very slow to me for that formula and temperatures. If the starter just can't raise the dough in a short enough time, you could try adding about a teaspoon or two of instant yeast to the final dough. If everything works nicely at that point, and the bread tastes right, then it would point to the flour falling apart over the longer bulk fermentation time you're currently using.

I don't know if you're adding ascorbic acid, but with the sourdough fermentation contributing acid to the dough, maybe it's too much to also add ascorbic acid to the dough the way you would to help improve the dough texture with your yeasted recipes. However, I would have guessed that given the starter is 1/6 flour of the whole recipe, that having some ascorbic acid would help the gluten similarly to your yeasted recipe, as long as the bulk fermentation and final rise don't take so long after that. I wonder if the amount of ascorbic acid, whether too much or too little, maybe has something to do with what's happening.

Maybe running the bulk fermentation at a lower temperature would help, then just do the final rise on top of the TV set. Also, maybe don't worry if it rises by let's say 75% instead of double during the bulk fermentation in a more reasonable time, like 4 hours at 20C.

The folding may be reducing the amount it is rising too much. You might also want to try kneading the dough a little more at first and/or, folding it more frequently early in the fermentation, like every 20-30 minutes for the first 1.5 hours, get it reasonably elastic, then just let it rise. In other words, develop the gluten earlier, then let it do its rising.

Same with shaping and final rise - maybe be gentle with the shaping and don't worry too much, as long as it swells up and relaxes a bit in the final proof after shaping it and tensioning it.

Again, this is just a whole bunch of ideas, and I'm sorry there is not a razor sharp diagnosis coming from here.

Maybe someone else has a more clear idea of what to do.

Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I was reading back through the sourdough faq. Maybe something in there will ring a bell for you, the way it did with the sourdough starter faq. In particular, the discussions of how to avoid a "flat" sourdough, how to get a good rise, and some other discussions of overproofed starter, overproofed dough, and also "old method" vs. "new method" sourdough styles might apply. If you have flour that is not very tolerant of sourdough culture, the "classical method" may be the right one to look at. Some of my suggestions fell along those lines in the previous post. There were some discussions of fairly long proofing times here and there in the faq, but it sounded like "new method" approach, which seems to require stronger flours to work well.

Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

It's morning here, so I'm on the warpath again. I wanted to add some more things to think about. I know you're probably tired of all this by now, except it sounds like you have a stable culture, which ought to be much more than half the battle. So, I'll press on with this, coffee in hand. For the discussion below, because the starter is a larger percentage, I wouldn't add ascorbic acid, since the starter should provide the needed acid to stiffen the dough, and it may be one complicating factor. Don't focus on how much it rises, because I think either the flour or the character of the starter is such that you aren't going to get the normal doubling in the right amount of time.

Here's what I would try:

1) Feed a batch of starter for the dough, enough to make 400 grams of starter (changed the recipe a little), and put it in the dough before "the dip" - maybe an hour before. If the timing is inconvenient, just put the starter in the refrigerator maybe a half hour earlier than when it's ready and use it in the dough when you're ready to make the dough. In my case, I usually make up the starter the day before, and then do the dough in the morning the next day. I would think with a 1:5:5 feeding, it would be ready to add to the dough after about 7-8 hours at 20C.

2) Change the recipe to use 400 grams of starter, 400 grams of flour and 190 grams of water, i.e. 1/3 of flour is in the starter, but the overall hydration of the dough is the same.

3) Mix the flour and water for the recipe and let it sit for 15 minutes (autolyse).

4) Add starter, salt, and 1 teaspoon of instant yeast to the dough and knead it for about 5 minutes, maybe by hand, if you can, to avoid any unexpected results from a mixer. Adjust water/flour if needed to get a supple, not too sticky, not too gloppy, not too stiff, not too resistant dough.

5) Bulk fermentation no longer than 4 hours at 20C. Stretch and fold about 3-4 times at 30 minute intervals, i.e. put dough on a flour dusted counter, stretch it out, which should push some of the gas out, then pull each side out, gently stretching it, and fold toward middle, and brush off any flour dust after each side is folded, for all four sides. Once it feels hard to stretch and it seems stiffer, just let it rise.

6) Check for the completion of the rise using the finger poke method, but don't let the bulk fermentation go more than 4 hours, regardless of how much it rises. When you gently poke the dough with your finger, it has risen enough when it feels spongy and doesn't immediately bounce back. Before that, it should bounce back and feel more elastic. If it doesn't bounce back at all, it's gone too long.

7) Shape it to get some tension on the outer surface and do a final proof. Now put it on the TV. Don't let it go any more than 2.5 hours, and try the finger poke test every 1/2 hour or so again. It should feel spongy and not bounce back right away when it's ready.

8) Bake to an internal temperature of 96C plus a few more minutes, and until the crust is a nice color.

9) Let it cool down before cutting into it. Ideally, don't cut into it until there is no warmth at all left in it, but I know that's tough.

10) Mine keeps better than yeast bread, but the crust becomes soft, when stored in a ziploc bag with lots of air in it. You can also cover the cut part with foil or saran and rubber band. That will keep the crust nicer, yet it won't dry out too fast.

11) You can add a tablespoon of olive oil to the dough if you want it to keep a little better yet, although I find that just the sourdough helps it keep much better.

I realize this is a repeat of stuff you probably are very familiar with, but just in case any one of these steps rings a bell or maybe points to a problem, I'm mentioning each step. The idea here is to try "classical method" sourdough with a spike of yeast and a little bit younger starter, i.e. higher percentage of starter in dough for flavor, starter that is not too ripe but has risen and is as active as possible, and instant yeast to give it a boost on the rise. Also, I'm suggesting to avoid letting it proof too long, even if the rise seems too small. Finally, I'm suggesting to remove any complicating factors, such as ascorbic acid and any issues with what a mixer might be doing to the gluten.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

I see you are on line and have just posted a long list of suggestions. I'll go over them and get my thoughts organized before I repy, but in the meantime you won't believe the results of this bread! It is a bit too sour but other than that it is excellent. I've taken a picture as well, so...stay tuned.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

Well good. The more sour is probably from running the proofs a little too long. My most recent post is an attempt to go toward shorter rise times for the starter and the dough, and ought to be a milder bread. Anyway, it's great that it turned out OK. Maybe you really have made it to the forgiving stage. I occasionally have had a disaster, but I am more often amazed at how bread turns out well in spite of some seemingly huge mistakes.

By the way, we seem to have some rather negative ratings on our discussion, so if you would prefer to continue the discussion away from here, you can contact me via email, the domain part of my address is "@wraiths.com", and bwraith is the first part. Ask me or ask your son if that convoluted description of my email address didn't make sense. It's just that there are automatic "email address harvesters" out there that spammers use to find addresses.

Bill

Susan's picture
Susan

L_M, your bread is beautiful; congratulations! I've enjoyed following your saga so hope you two will, at the very least, keep us informed of your results.

Susan

L_M's picture
L_M

PatiencePatience

 Hi bwraith,

I don't know where to start, but the first 2 things that come to mind are : 'oj' is fine, and the flour held up amazingly well.

Here is a shortened version of what went on during the 24 hours from mix to bake, and some of the things you have pointed out are on my list to try out next.

Mix dough, autolyse for an hour, add 1 tablespoon olive oil (it was a last minute thought and I forgot to mention it before) and salt. Knead for only about 2 -3 min in mixer, start bulk fermentation, stretch and fold every hour for about 5 hours then just let it rise til it was fully risen (by the poke test) which was about 9 hours after the initial mix, and it was on the cable box for most of the time. Divided the dough into 2 pieces, preshaped, rest for 15 min, shape (next time I think I'll be more gentle), and placed in 2 pyrex bowls that were prepared with a good spritz of Pam. Set to rise on counter (as the dough was over 30C at this point) for a good 2 hours, then they went in the fridge overnight and had about 3 1/2 hours on the counter in the morning before they were ready to bake (again poke test). I had a bunch of knives sitting waiting to slash but in the bowl the only thing I could use was a pair of kitchen shears snipping consecutively to get a 'slash'. Wet the surface of the dough, covered one with the pyrex cover, and the other with aluminum foil and tried to seal it against the sides of the bowl. Put them in the cold oven, turned the heat to 215C, set the timer for 1 hour. After 30 min they had risen all they were going to and had just started to show signs of colour so I removed the covers. After another 20 min I removed them from the bowls and continued to bake on the rack. Internal temp was 210F. Waited for about 1/12 - 2 hours before I cut the bread and the texture was very delicate and light, but as I said before the taste was a bit too sour. The colour of the crumb isn't quite as white as in the picture.

I have to go now so I'll post this now and continue later on.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Well, I think that looks very good. It certainly looks light with some irregular holes, which is nice. The crust looks very nice. The blisters I think might be a symptom of overproofing, as is the a bit too sour flavor. However, it seems like a very good result. Good picture too.

So, patience is a virtue, as always, with sourdough.

I'm still somewhat mystified by the length of time involved, but maybe it is just the nature of your starter culture at the moment, and maybe something about the flour.

I'm still thinking making the rise times shorter is worth trying, as you experiment. For example doing more frequent folds early, then just letting it rise for a shorter time in the bulk fermentation might be worth a try. There's nothing wrong with adding a yeast spike, too. It's just another tool to help manage rise times, and it seems to contribute almost no taste if you use amounts like one teaspoon.

I'm also curious about the whole ascorbic acid question, if you get a chance. It may be that the acidity resulting from the sourdough fermentation is enough to take the place of the ascorbic acid you said you added in the yeast raised breads you've done. I'm curious whether you've added any ascorbic acid.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Thank you  Susan - I'm very proud of  'oj'!

bwraith, are the 2 votes, the negative ratings you refer to, or are you getting negative vibes from somewhere else? If it's the votes then I wouldn't worry, but if it's vibes - email sounds like a good idea.

L_M 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I wasn't sure if we're supposed to think of the rating as a message that the discussion isn't right for the list - maybe too detailed and specific. If so, then it's certainly easier to carry on a discussion with long posts and photos via email rather than laboring to post them through a browser. On the other hand, Susan at least seemed interested to follow along. I'm happy either way.

Bill

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Tis a good question, and I'm not really sure how people want to use the rating. It is there to use as you'd like.

I'd love to find or write a module that lets community members rate up/down comments like the way you can on Digg or Slashdot, but I haven't found one yet and I don't have the bandwidth to develop one on my own right now.

What do you think if I set up one or two new forums, something like "Advanced Topics" and/or "Off Topic"? I could filter their content out of the boxes on the front page, since that it what most people look at to see what is happening on the site (or put them into a seperate box). That way if a couple of people want to go into incredible detail on a specific topic they could. It'd be like stepping out of the room to discuss something in depth.

I could set that up this evening, if that sounds useful.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Floyd,

My first reaction is that it may not be worth going to all that trouble, unless there is a lot more forum activity that would be facilitated than I'm thinking really would be in an "off topic area". Also, my personal opinion would be to keep as much traffic as possible on list and visible in one place, unless the site had a lot more traffic than it seems to now. Maybe others would prefer if this type of traffic is in some "off topic area", though. For what it's worth, just an opinion, if anything, the ratings may put a damper on free, friendly, constructive exchange of ideas, which appears to be an objective of the site and its members. If you are going to have ratings, my suggestion would be to only allow one vote per member and only show ratings where more than 10 votes have been registered.

Bill

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Yeah... Keeping all changes easy to find has been my primary goal, which is why I haven't split any of it out yet.

On the other hand, I notice a significant drop in posts from new bakers whenever these high-end discussions about PH and lactobacillus flare up. My hunch is that beginning bakers get intimidated by these kinds of conversations and hold back on asking about the basics. I don't want to discourage either kind of post.

I get the sense that the current front page layout tends to encourage a single level of discussion (which oscillates between high and low). It is like we are all crowded into a single room at a party: some times that is fine, but some times it is best for everyone if the conversation breaks up into a few smaller groups.

The voting only allows a single vote per logged in site member. No articles have 10 votes yet and the ratings aren't being used for anything yet. I'm thinking that I may add a "Top Rated" (highest average rating) and "Most Popular" (most votes over 3 stars) block to the front page that would use them, I just haven't had a chance yet.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Floyd,

Yeah, I see the problem with intimidating beginners, and I see how a lot of esoteric discussion could scare some beginners away. Trying to encourage beginners is one reason I've attempted to answer some of the more basic questions that are posted, if they remain unanswered, even though I'm not as experienced as many here who could answer the questions more skillfully.

Maybe splitting out a separate area, as you described is best, then. It's all fine with me. I could see putting the "what makes starters different" topic going there too. Sorry if more has been made of this than should have been. I just had a bit of a feeling of wanting to go off list when I saw those ratings, and thought I'd mention it to L_M.

As I said, anything is fine with me. I've learned a lot and have enjoyed participating.

Bill

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Decent web design should make it easy to pick and choose between the content you want to read and the content you don't. You shouldn't need to take it "off list" if you want to go into the nitty gritty on some obscure topic. I take much of the blame for having a layout that makes it difficult to parse out and read just what you are interested in.

Take a look at these two pages:

Latest Comments

Latest Forum Threads

The forum threads list is based on when the thread is posted, not when the most recent comment is added, so active threads won't keep popping up to the top.

The latest comments includes the name of the post that the comment is on, which people have asked for for a long time.

Let me know your thoughts, all. I may try to replace the current front page blocks with these later tonight.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Floyd,

First of all, the site is very well arranged. It's one of the reasons I started to participate instead of just reading content on the site. Blame is not a word that would even come up in my mind. It's easy to work with just as it is. However, including the comment subject, the forum title, and the poster name together is very helpful, although more space is used. It may help that a very long thread like the one L_M and I have generated will not appear at the top of the "Latest Forum Threads", yet the discussion can easily be spotted on the "Latest Comments" for someone who is interested.

I still don't see a good way to avoid intimidating beginners when the conversation "flares up" with technical details in some area. Maybe you could have a "Beginner Questions" area, although if questions go unanswered, it won't really hold up very well. If we have even a few members who feel they are willing to answer at least a few questions per week, it might work, though. A good part of encouraging beginners is probably a matter of giving a beginner the feeling that questions posted by beginners will get reasonable and prompt responses.

Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Floyd,

I wonder if you could do it this way: have a checkbox in each comment composition form that is "sticky" kind of like how "auto-subscription" works for emails. It might be labeled something like "do not announce comment to front page". If you check the box, that comment and all subsequent comments in that thread from that poster would only be visible in the "Activity Tracker", not on the front page. As people comment in a thread, they can decide to stop the messages being logged to the front page in that thread from them. You could uncheck it, if you want to switch back to sending comments to the front page at some point going forward. It would let the poster make some judgement how visible they want to be each time a post is made. Because of subscription emails and the "Activity Tracker" the posts would still be easily found by those who are interested or subscribed via email notification, and a search would still bring them up. But, maybe that's too complicated. What you do now is so simple and straightforward, and I hate too mess with it too much.

Bill

Floydm's picture
Floydm

But, maybe that's too complicated.

Much. I mean, not too complicated for me to program, but too complicated for me to program in the amount of time I can afford to devote to this site right now.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Floyd,

Fair enough. I know only too well how that goes. In any event I do look forward to those different "Recent Comments" and "Recent Forums" views you posted. Even if they weren't on the front page but were available at the bottom of the page, I'd definitely use them all the time.

Anyway, Floyd, thanks for everything. If you like the idea of creating a separate area for "nitty gritty" in whatever way is faster for you to implement to filter them out of the front page, I would certainly give it a try, especially if you feel it would help the beginner problem you mentioned.

Maybe you noticed that Inkoate couldn't get the info he wanted from L_M's and my long discussion, understandably.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Floydm it sounds like a good idea to move it aside if you think we are bombarding the front page. I have no idea how many people are interested or following this thread but there have been times when others have joined in. It has been a fantastic learning experience for me so I am very grateful to have been able to participate here, so whatever way you think is best.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

I learned a lot from it, too. The site is great, I agree. I have no clue how many others felt they benefited from it or followed it, either. Floyd, do whatever seems best. L_M, feel free to contact me via email, too. It's all fine any which way.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

L_M: As my comment above says, I don't think you're bombarding the front page and I'm certainly not trying to tell you guys to close the thread. You guys are having a great discussion. But I do think it is an advanced enough discussion that new bakers looking to ask a simple question like "what is the difference between bread flour and AP flour" read it on the front page and think this site is too advanced for them. So they go elsewhere. My hope is to keep this place welcoming for the new bakers while also carving out some space for the hard-core bakers too. Which is all I'm trying to offer... it isn't meant as "Can it"; it is supposed to be "You guys know your stuff... do you want a space where you can go off?"

browndog's picture
browndog

I decided I should treat my starter better and stumbled onto this thread, find it interesting  because as a neophyte poster (and internet user for that matter,)  I wonder if there is an etiquette to posting that I am unaware of. Are new posters  expected to back off of these advanced discussions? I saw that one new name in the thick of this starter stuff was not acknowledged at all, might be where a two star rating came from.  The site is in general very welcoming to fresh blood and beginners, that was my experience, and it's not hard to be selective browsing the threads.  There is something daunting about putting oneself forward during these 'power' talks, however. (I can hear mij.mac now, I know EXACTLY what he would say...he'd be right, too.) Just wondering.

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

don't feel intimidated..sometimes your question will catch attention..sometimes not. Floyd and everyone here try to make everyone feel welcome. Some folks forget that we are not all of the same experience level. They surely will assist you if you ask if they would please slow down..I have a question and I'm new..  Welcome to the mix

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Browndog5,

Sorry if anything here is intimidating. It's just an exchange of ideas, some of it a bit on the technical or scientific side. Baking in general, and maybe sourdough cultures even more, have a lot of biology, chemistry, thermodynamics, and whatever other technical disciplines going on underneath. Some of us enjoy trying to understand that stuff, especially when trying to solve a baking problem. Then we start talking and you get the mess in this thread and some others after a while.

As far as posts sometimes getting no response, I think it's just that we all have only so much time to devote to the site and responses. To me the whole idea is to just say what you think or ask your question when you have some time and hope that you will eventually benefit from all the discussion that goes on over time.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

I think it's best if we just continue here so that anyone following this can keep up and I also feel that now it's really a just matter of fine tuning with the dough, so we are probably nearing the end anyhow (that sounds terrible).

For what it's worth, it seems that after a feed it takes at least 2/3 of the entire time between the feeds for any noticeable action to start taking place. During the remaining 1/3 is when it all happens, and low ratio feeds seem to really slow things down. I'm now making sure to feed before it dips and it probably doesn't matter that much for maintenance but that is the routine now and soon it'll go into 'storage mode' in the fridge.

Before I started on this sourdough spree, I used to add some old starter to all of my yeasted doughs so that is really almost the same as spiking a sourdough with yeast (maybe the proportions are different), so if all fails - and it won't fail - then I'll go back to my old method but for now I'd like to stick to working entirely with the sourdough starter, so I'll finally be experienced enough and arrive at a method that works for me and then I'll be able to choose when to bake with or without yeast.

I think you are right about getting the fermentation done quickly and that should be my main target at this point. I like your idea about using a larger quantity of active but not very ripe starter, and I'll use your recipe suggestion for my next batch but without the yeast. I've looked back at some of the recipes and it is really confusing to figure out at a glance how much of the total flour is used in the preferment. In Hamelman's "Bread" he does specify and it is usually only 15 -20 % and still the first and second rise are suggested at about 2 1/2 hours each. One thing you mentioned is for me not to let the dough rise too long even if it isn't ready. That may get me bread that isn't sour, but in my experience it will certainly be a brick - been there, done that :-) It does sound hopeful though that with a large amount of starter that isn't too sour, it will get the job done quickly.

The directions on the gluten package say to add a ratio of 1% of the flour in weight and that was about 2 teasp for my recipe. The amount of ascorbic acid was just a smidgen - somewhere in between 1/16 - 1/32 of a teasp so as always I don't know whether it was enough or too much or it didn't make a difference at all, but next time I'll leave it out.

The other site you mentioned certainly has a lot of info and I had added it to my 'favourites' quite a while ago, but lately I had forgotten to check back to reread, and as always different parts seem more relevent now than before, so it's always good to go back. - thanks for reminding me!

I hope I haven't forgotten anything and tomorrow I'll be mixing up a new batch so we'll see what happens. Oh yes, one more thing - on pg 168 ?? 'French bread' of the BBA there is a note on blistered crusts - that it is a result of overnight proofing in the fridge.

Let you know how it goes

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

Fine w/me to continue here or elsewhere, whenever you like. I've been having fun and learning a lot trying to understand and contribute to your experimentation and then hearing and seeing your results.

On the issue of stopping even if it hasn't risen, I guess it's a trade-off. I think there is some difference with a sourdough bread that may go against your "brick" experience. If the gluten is breaking down in your dough as it ferments, which happens much more quickly and dramatically with sourdough as opposed to straight yeast, it may just not rise by double. If it doesn't rise enough, well yes, you'll get a brick. However, if you are waiting a very long time for it to get from 75% to 100% increase in volume, that might actually be counterproductive. In any event the poke test should help a lot. It sounds like you had all that well in hand, in any event, as the picture of your bread was just great.

I still think you can play with the handling and maybe the ripeness and amount of the starter to get a fermentation that doesn't result in an overly sour bread, rises enough, and doesn't overproof. I understand your reluctance not to use yeast. It's a thrill when  it all works without it and is very good learning, exactly as you say. However, it can be an effective way to use the sourdough flavor of your culture at the point you want it, then use yeast to finish the process on time.

The higher ratio you're using of 1:5:5 is 1:11 dilution vs. 1:5 in my typical case of 1:2:2. I would think that would add about 1.5 hours of extra "inactivity" to yours. Mine seems to take about 3 hours to start to perk up, then in the next 2 hours, it rises very quickly. After that, it may rise for another 3-4 hours before it has risen all it will, which might be as much as 3 times in volume. However, I'm using KA bread flour. I think the timing will be quite a bit different with your AP, even at the same ratio, as we've seen.

Maybe your culture just is made up of organisms that aren't as active. I've read there are variations based on the exact species you have in your culture. If so, maybe everything is just running in a kind of slow motion. The fact the bread is so nice would support that. So, it may be just fine tuning the ripeness and the proof - maybe not going to the extremes I'm suggesting. However, I thought the extremes would illustrate a different point of view and spur some ideas.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

We did it! 7 hours from mix to bake! It doesn't smell sour at all but I have to wait for it to cool somewhat to find out. From the outside it looks very similar to the other one and maybe this one kept it's height even better, so I hope the texture is just as good. I used your recipe with a bit of olive oil and no ascorbic acid. The autolyse and the 2 folds all were spread out longer than I had intended, but life just got in the way of baking today. Anyhow since the bulk fermentation started taking a long time again I figured that maybe I'm not so smart, and like you said sourdough may be a bit different, so I went on to shaping even before it felt really ready. Same with the final proof - I cut it shorter than I normally would have, but in the end it seems that it was the right thing to do.

I can't believe that finally I've been able to mix and bake a sourdough bread in one day - and in time for supper!!!

Well bwraith, this has been a fantastic learning experience for me and I really can't thank you enough for your time, knowledge and support.

Taste results after supper...

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

OK, that is amazingly good news. I wonder if the ascorbic acid may have had something to do with the slowness, as you are adding yet more acid to the acid generated by the culture itself. At some point, if the pH is pushed too low by the combination of acids, it might inhibit activity or reproduction of the culture's organisms or hurt the gluten's texture.

I know what you mean about not getting the autolyse and fold done on time.

If this bread is very bland, then there may be some happy medium - let the culture get a little more ripe, and run the fermentation a little longer or retard overnight. Lots of choices. I also think I get better results by retarding the starter itself. I think it tastes better after a couple of days in the refrigerator, as long as you don't let it get too ripe before you put it in the refrigerator.

Another thing to try is using some small amount - maybe 10-20% - whole wheat, medium rye, or both in the dough. Or make a firm starter, as in BBA basic sourdough recipe and try that. In fact, one of my favorite breads somewhat along the lines of what you are making is the BBA basic sourdough with some rye and whole wheat added to the dough.

Good luck and let me know how it all goes. This has been lots of fun for me, too, and a good learning experience. Thanks for your patience and willingness to play along all this time.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

After supper now, and the results are in:

Taste - still a bit too sour, but only a tiny bit. I think if it was bland I'd be able work with all of those suggestions, but for now I still have to push it to be milder. It is actually just the aftertaste that is sour, but for all I know it just might be the nature of the cultures here, considering that the very few times I have bought sourdough from a bakery it was horribly sour.

Texture - not as delicate as before, but still lots of holes and I think next time the proof should go on a bit long before putting it in the oven. It didn't look anything like Mountaindog's puffed up loaves in the bannetons.

The crust - crisp, chewy and a bit too hard, so maybe I'll use a bit more oil next time. Strangely enough there were blisters again today, so there goes the theory about overnight retarding in the fridge... 

I forgot to mention that the dough was 22C - 25C the whole time.

A few more tweaks should do it but it might take a few days before I get around to it.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

I'm not sure what would make it still so sour. This is where one of those experienced bakers around here might be able to help with a suggestion. I got a sour aftertaste when I ran my proof at higher temperatures, like 80F. I also seem to get sour aftertastes when I retard firm starters with rye or whole wheat in them. Do you think your culture, at the point you use it in your bread, seems very sour? Maybe it needs to be used even earlier, if so.

I don't know what makes my culture mild. It may just be the nature of it. However, you might try maintaining it exactly the way I do, and see if that moves it in the mild direction. Assuming it has been in the refrigerator less than a week, I take it out, feed 1:2:2, let it sit for about 5.5 hours and put it back in the refrigerator. If I use it the next morning, it would normally be fairly mild but active enough to raise a dough well.

I like the effect on dough texture of adding a little whole wheat and rye, maybe 10%. You might want to try out what happens. I think it may be a help to a sourdough dough, as the whole wheat and rye may contribute some good nutrients for the rise, and they probably have more sourdough tolerant glutens. Of course, you have lots of things to try, and maybe this is something to try later.

Anyway, enjoy playing with the variables. I am curious whether you've moved into a routine of refrigeration of the culture for storage. It may be that it will help with the culture's character. We share the dislike of overly sour bread. It's the complexity, not the sour I'm after in the flavor, too. Maybe it has nothing at all to do with it, but that is how my culture is maintained, and it is mild.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

I am still not sure of 'oj's schedule. It has been on the counter all this time and only occasionally I put it in the fridge for a while if I think I'm going to miss the right time for the next feed. Again, I've been feeding when it is full of bubbles but not yet dipped and yes it is really sour at that time. It is already sour a few hours before that, so that means there is a sour taste long before it is very active looking. As I've mentioned before it seems to do much better with high ratio feedings. Maybe is is still just too sour as you say, and that helps to clean it out but for some reason even after that it doesn't pick up it's activity more quickly. 

I've now moved onto your feeding ratio and time schedule. This morning I fed 1:2:2 and left it for 6 hours. It was sour but there were only 2 bubbles on the surface and some tiny ones throughout, had risen by about 1-2 mm. Fed it again 1:2:2 and I'll leave it for 5.5 hours and then put it in the fridge overnight. Tomorrow I'll do another round like that and we'll see if there is more visual activity. If you have any more/other suggestions then just throw them at me! The 1 cup 12 hour method seemed to change the smells and visual appearance (alcohol and frothing) but by now everything is back to the way it was before. I'm very interested to see if 'vin' will perform any differently.

L_M 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

I have to admit, what you're saying about OJ just stumps me. It seems to say that you have the "barely alive" symptoms that won't go away to some extent. Yet, you were able to bring it to life with the 1cup/12hr method. It seems like there is something funny that happens every time you go back to a normal feeding schedule and use AP flour.

The overall symptoms still strike me as "lots of sour, but sluggish", like a vigorous wild yeast is not really established in the culture, but it has lactobacillus in it.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

Just more of the same - well maybe a bit, cause now there are 4 bubbles instead of 2... but really it's the same. Today's schedule is the same as yesterday's.

L_M

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

A day or 2 later I cut the feeding ratio down to 1:1:1  and there was still no change, so I decided to just let it be. When it rises, it rises, and only then to feed it. It started to rise a little higher but by that time I was already getting much better results with 'oj - jr' so I sort of neglected 'oj' and just put it in the fridge, but I may pull it out again and continue. Incidently, when any of the starters go in the fridge the activity halts, and the next day they are always at exactly the same level as before they went in. The spot in the fridge is about 10C.

If I now look back on 'oj' from the beginning I think what happened was the same as with 'oj - jr', a light case of leuconostoc bacteria. At the time I had no idea that the liquid layer in the middle was a tell tale sign, and since it never smelled bad, I just imagined it was hooch. It kept on coming back so I kept on feeding it and I probably raised the feed ratios too quickly for a young starter, and the activity slowed down.

Possibly if I had continued with the '1 cup, 12 hour' method for a few more rounds it would have brought it completely back to where it should be, but at the time it did look much different than before the treatment, and I hadn't had any previous experience with a good healthy starter so there was no way I could compare, especially with us being unsure about the flour and how much it could actually rise.

It's probably time to make some bread with 'oj -jr' by now, and I know I'm putting it off because I don't want another disappointment, but I might just give it a try tomorrow. How much starter do you think I should use this time? The same as I did before or your new adjusted version (with more starter)?

I certainly hope that anyone who wants to join in will feel free, but since this thread is so long, if something is posted in the middle it unfortunatley may go unoticed, so please don't take that as a sign of being unwelcome.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi L_M,

Good to hear about the latest with OJ and OJ-jr. I don't think it matters much which recipe you use, now that your starter is active. The recipe I gave you was along the lines of "traditional sourdough method" (and also a spike of yeast) as outlined in the sourdough faq, and I was suggesting it because the first couple of test breads you made were too sour and taking very long to rise. The theory was to use a higher percentage of less ripe starter, and then spike the final dough with yeast, hopefully getting a quicker rise, less sour flavor, and less gluten breakdown. However, I think any of the recipes will work now that you have vigorous starter. Also, it seems like the flour tests point to it being fine, too. So, I'd just do the one that suits your fancy and enjoy some baking for a change. I think you'll find it's a whole different game with a nice active starter, and there won't be any disappointment. If you made OK bread with the slow starter, you'll should be in more than fine shape now.

Your ideas about what was wrong before do make a lot of sense in retrospect. I think my "6 jars" - only two remaining - went through a similar long time period where they were mildly infected (after the first florid, stinky days). Even after more than a week, if you took the lid off, stirred, and then took a good whiff, you could detect some subtle unpleasantness in the aroma. I was able to revive one treated with ascorbic acid and all rye and one not treated with ascorbic acid and all whole wheat, but they just took days of feedings to finally rise vigorously and become "fresh and normal". It seems like the "1 tbsp method" in the sourdough starter faq did help me revive one of them, so maybe periodic refrigeration is a key to getting a sluggish starter to "take off". One lesson for me is that not only is it useful to add some acid in the first day or two of starting a starter, it's also a good idea to keep the temperature lower for the first couple of days to discourage the leuconostoc from getting the upper hand early.

I'm still waiting to see how my new jar does. This is the one that uses a 50/50 mix of rye/whole wheat, at 100% hydration, and uses water that has been doctored by adding 1/8 tsp ascorbic acid in 200mL of water for the first day, and it has been at room temperature the whole time. The result after three days is a much fresher smelling culture. It never developed any noticeable unpleasant smells. The sour smell seems closer to what I think of as the smell of a fresh starter. I'm in the third day, there are small bubbles forming in the liquid. So, at least so far, it seems much more like the typical schedule you would find in Glezer, The Bread Builders, or BBA. I'll report in if I manage to get it going, but I'm going on a little trip starting Sunday, so I may have to delay the whole thing in the refrigerator, unfortunately. So, as usual, for me the added acid on the first day is closer to a requirement than an option, if I don't want a florid spoilage bacteria culture after 24 hours. I suspect that I could also do without the acid at 60-65F for the first two days, as in the Bread Builders, but it's just not that easy to arrange 60-65F anywhere in or outside my house. I think adding acid, like pineapple juice or in my case ascorbic acid is very convenient and works well. Then just using room temperature for a couple of days, instead of going to 80F right away could be a good idea, too. I'm tempted to go to 80F now on day 3, as in SourdoLady or Sourdough-guy's recipes, but I'm reluctant in case it brings on the leuconostoc problem again.

Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

Just curious how things went with oj-jr. Are you in bread making mode yet? Just curious if things are working with the new culture.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

 Are you back from your trip yet? How are the remaining jars doing?

Over here I've been busy with other things lately but I did manage 2 sourdough attempts. The first one took a long time again - about 10 hrs from mix to bake and during the whole time the dough was at 22C - 24C . I used my original recipe with 200 gr starter added to 500 grams flour. The taste was only very slightly sour so that was a big improvement and the texture was quite the same as in the picture I posted of 'patience', so all together I was quite pleased, except for the fact that still means I can't mix, bake and eat in the same day. The second attempt was the recipe for NKB from :  www.breadtopia.com  and this was also quite mild but I wasn't happy with the texture. This may have something to do with general dough handling or not - I'm not sure, but I know that I'm always cutting my rise times short because I'm worried that it's just getting more and more sour all the time, since it takes so long.

At this point I think I have to zero in on the exact stage when I have the most yeast activity in the starter, and use it right on time for starting the dough. But, I'm not really sure when that is... I've been using it when it has tripled but still before the dip. I have a feeling that maybe that is too late and possibly it would be better somewhere between doubled and tripled (going also by how active it looked and not only volume). I guess I'll have to play around some more with the timing until I figure out how to get it moving more quickly.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

If you want a one-day process, you could try the following. Feed your starter the day before you want to bake enough to have the amount you need for my previous recipe, which uses a larger percentage of starter in the initial recipe, and of course enough left over to keep your starter going. Wait until it has doubled and refrigerate it. Next day, make the recipe I gave you earlier, but forget about the spike of yeast. You shouldn't need it anymore with your more active starter. With the higher percentage of starter in the recipe I gave you, it should rise more quickly. I find my starter works well if it has just doubled and is then refrigerated over night. It should also be less sour in my experience. Maybe you consider the process including just feeding the starter the day before to be a two-day process, but at least the feeding step is an easy step that only takes 4-6 hours, if you aren't trying to build a huge amount of starter. Another similar approach would be like the BBA recipe for "basic sourdough", but I can't remember if you have the BBA. You can create the "firm starter" the day before and refrigerate, then make the bread the next day. That also would take a relatively short time on the day you bake.

I don't think it's bad to have let it triple and just dip before using in a recipe with the smaller percentage of starter you have in your usual recipe. However, I have generally not let mine get quite that ripe before I use it in recipes with a larger percentage of starter in them.

I'm glad to hear it's at least working for you. Good luck fine tuning and finding your ideal every day recipe and routine.

I'm not back yet but will be this weekend. The last jar is in the refrigerator. I ran out of time. I'm going to try to keep going with it when I get back. I'll let you know if/when it comes to life.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

Thanks for your suggestions - I guess the small amount of starter just isn't enough to get it moving as fast as I'd like it to. The 'feeding of the starter' step is easily done the night before with a large feed or put in the fridge when it has doubled the day before, and I don't consider that as part of the 1 day process, so it's really just a matter of getting it all mixed, prooved, baked and cooled in time for dinner with a good texture and not sour taste. Maybe I'm expecting the impossible, but I will try what you suggested  again and this time I'll use the large amount of starter when it has reached the 'somewhere between double and triple stage', hoping that will give me lots of active yeast without being sour. 

Good luck with your last little jar!

L_M 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I know you want something easy, and for me the recipes I do which substitute starter for poolish, like the focaccia I do off the BBA recipe are like that. It's so easy to build some extra starter the night before that you will then use like a preferment in a recipe the next day is very easy.

However, maybe sourdough-guy's comments about starter that is too ripe adding "gluten rotting" acid to the dough, and also just the fact that very ripe starter may have already lost some of it's rising power until it can build back up in the dough, may slow everything down a bit.

That's why I think only letting rise to double, refrigerate overnight, which will allow it to continue to ripen and gain flavor but only slowly so it is still fresh in the morning, makes sense to me for what you are trying to do.

I think with 30% of the flour being in the preferment and using fresh not too ripe starter, it should rise fairly quickly and not be very sour. I think that's what you're after, more or less.

I find it very easy to work as above. The bulk fermentation for the BBA in my case seems to take about 3.5 hours or so. Then, the final proof should be maybe 1.5 hours, roughly - but use the poke test rather than just time, since temperature and your particular starter characteristics and ripeness can change the time quite a lot.

Good luck with it. I'll be curious to know how it goes.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

I think that is what I'll try next. We particularly enjoy the Italian bread from the BBA made into hoagies and I find a poolish more convenient than the biga it calls for, so I have previously made notes for the changes in hydration at each step, and I will try that out with my starter instead of the poolish. I have to check to see if it works out that 30% of the flour is in the preferment but I'll keep it in mind before I start for the final adjustments.

My first attempt will be from starter that has risen on the counter overnight, catching it early enough of course, because as I have mentioned before for some reason I'm not sure my starter continues to develop in the fridge like yours does. Even if I put it in as soon as it has just doubled, the rise completely stops and by the next morning it hasn't fallen but there are fewer bubbles than before and it just looks less active. This may be due to the fact that for the meantime while just keeping it on the counter it I've been dealing with only a very small amount of starter - about 50 grams, and it probably cools down very quickly once it's placed in the fridge.

I would really like the dough to perform in the same time span as yours does - it sounds ideal for the schedule I'm looking for. Maybe soon it will work out that way....

Keep you posted

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I would still give refrigerating a try. You're right that the rise I'm talking about happens when I have about 40 oz of starter built for various recipes, so it wouldn't cool down nearly as quickly as 50 grams. Mine may continue to rise a bit because I feed it KA bread flour, and I do make it a little thicker than 100% hydration. All of those differences might make mine rise in the refrigerator, while yours would not. However, I think there is a very good chance that even if your starter quickly becomes "quiet" in the refrigerator, that it is continuing to develop very slowly, similar to retarding a dough. It should certainly "slow down" drastically at refrigerator temperatures. The differences in type of flour and consistency could also mean that when mine has doubled, it's earlier in the cycle than yours is when it has doubled. I think you will find that the starter will be fresh and work well in your dough the next day, even if it doesn't look like it will after being in the refrigerator.

I think close to 50% of the flour comes from the biga in the BBA Italian Bread recipe. You might want to reduce that for the sourdough version. I think you'll get a very similar result w/the recipe I mentioned below. There are some problems with going too high on the percentage of starter, like "gluten rot" and too much sour flavor from the sourdough starter. If you were to take the recipe that uses about 30% flour from the starter, and then add the tablespoon of olive oil and use milk for any remaining water, if you do that, it should come out pretty close to the BBA Italian recipe, but it will have the different (hopefully very good) sourdough flavors in it.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

I chickened out of the Italian bread recipe from the BBA and went with your suggested recipe with the large amount of starter. As it worked out I used the starter that was on the counter all night and was just ready in the morning - it was full of bubbles and looked like it had just finished rising. The whole process took about 10 hours from mix to bake and again I cut the bulk fermentation a bit short just to speed things up a bit, but this time I let the final proof go until I felt it was ready. The texture was much better but the taste was still a bit too sour.

After that I tried SourdoLady's deluxe bread twice, and in short, they were both duds.

To sum it all up, 'oj-jr' seems to be able to double itself and become active within a reasonable period of time, but when it comes to making bread it just isn't doing the job properly - or else I'm expecting too much.

This has been a wonderful learning experience for me, even though I don't feel that I've achieved my goal, and unless I find a major break through, for now I think I'll just go back to using the starter for flavour in my yeasted breads.

Again bwraith, I can't thank you enough for all of your time and patience, and you can be sure that if I do come across something that works out for me - I'll let you know.

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

Well you've certainly given it your all. I can understand wanting a break from it. 

If you have a chance, you may want to take a look at my recent sourdough ciabatta blog entry. The starter percentages are very similar, although it has higher hydration and a ciabatta shape. It is quite mild, almost too mild, in fact. It took about 7.5 hours from mix to bake, so it seems to take less time. Also, the starter rises by double from a 1:2:2 feeding in about 4 hours and is refrigerated directly after that. The recipe, including the starter, was all done with KA organic AP flour. If you have the time at some point, I'd still be curious how long a 1:2:2 feeding at room temperature takes to double oj-jr, after all this, especially if it has been fed a couple of times and has just doubled.

My only suggestions at this point, if you keep the starter going, would be to try refreshing occasionally and refrigerating. I've noticed with my "jars" that it does seem to help to do a cycle of a feeding or two followed by a refrigeration overnight at the point 3-4 days out when the starter is sluggish but has fermentation smells, some bubbles, and a little rising. The procedure for reviving or getting a new starter going in the sourdough starter faq suggests refrigeration, too. I still have not found an explanation of why that is suggested in the sourdough starter faq.

As far as the last two jars of starters I've been doing for fun - you got me wanting to try again, I found they both have started up, one with ascorbic acid, and one without. The only difference I can notice is that the one with ascorbic acid seems to smell a little better. In my case it seems to have taken about 7 days to really get them going well, both the early ones and later ones with and without acid. Based on some comments from sourdough-guy, I think I could have accelerated the feeding schedule around day 3 and maybe had things up and running a day or two earlier. I also think there may be something about refrigerating overnight that is helpful, as suggested in the sourdough starter faq, to getting them to "take off". It seemed to work several times for me with the various starters I tried. However, it isn't like I did zillions of comparisons, some with refrigeration, some not. Still, as an example, I put away the starters in the refrigerator and went traveling for a week recently, and when I came back they "took off" the same day after I removed them from the refrigerator and gave them a 1:2:2 feeding.

Good luck with your baking. Let me know if you figure out the answer. I've certainly enjoyed trying to figure it out with you, even if we haven't solved the problem.

Bill

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

Yes I have read your amazing ciabatta write up!!! You have really gone over all the details that people can stumble on - fantastic work!

My starter goes in and out of the fridge depending on how much time and/or patience I have to play with it, so it is getting time in there to do it's stuff (whatever that is), but I'm not sure that 'oj-jr' really knows what to do in there either...

The time it takes for it to double from a feed of 1:2:2 is usually anywhere between 5 - 7 hours, and the longest it has been in the fridge without a feed after it had just doubled was about 1 1/2 - 2 days so, by the books that is still supposed to be quite fresh.

The only option that I think I really haven't explored fully yet is to give it really high feed ratios for a few days in a row, so that is what I'm trying now.

It is interesting to note from your "little jars" that in the end there is little difference between them. I guess that goes to show us that it certainly is possible to create starters in many different conditions.

Keep you posted...

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

I think if I took mine out after a couple of days and fed it 1:2:2, it might take about 5.5 hours or so to double. If I then feed it again 1:2:2 without refrigerating it would take about 4 hours.

I didn't get the long delay times getting my starters started this time, as I did the first time I went through this. Between some of sourdough-guy's and SourdoLady's posts, and then our discussion and the reading I did at that time,  I think I've avoided some gotchas that made my process take longer before. I did, however, still seem to get the big stinky rise in the first 24 hours.

One of these days, I'm going to start some more "jars" up, because I made a couple of mistakes even in the most recent ones I tried.

Bill

Leamlass's picture
Leamlass

I am new to the Soughdough 'thing', but have a Starter already to go, but I have changed my initail liquid starter to a 'stiff' starter as I have heard that it makes a milder sourdough tasting bread.  My question is, I have noticed that quite a few of you use the ratio: 1-4-4 and 1-10-10.  Would you explain to me what that means, I remember seeing the explanation some time ago, but have forgotten.  Thanks.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

In reference to maintaining or feeding a starter it's a way of saying there is one part starter to four parts water and four parts flour or (S:W:F) or (Starter:Water:Flour)  or   (1:4:4) in short.  Now the trouble starts when no one explains whether they mean   (starter:water:flour)   or   (starter:flour:water)  so it is best to always be clear on these things unless the water and flour are equal and therefore 100% hydration involved.

It is easy to take 10g of starter and add (4 times 10g) or 40g of water, stir well and add 40g of flour for a (1:4:4) ratio.  

Is that what you're looking for?  Or did you want more explaination into why so little starter is used comparing one-to-four ratios with one-to-ten?

Leamlass's picture
Leamlass

I appreciate you explaing the ratio to me Mini, I have just retired from the state of NC and they were very free giving out all kinds of Acronyms without any explainations for people that may not understand what they mean, so I always like to ask. 

Thanks so much for your help, this Blog is the best I think.  There always seems to be someone that does not fail to remember that they too started from scratch also at some point.  May your bread always turn out great !

IndoLee's picture
IndoLee

Hi Mini...
I've been refreshing my starter with a 1:.5:.5 ratio (i.e. 100% hydration, but a mix of 1 part starter to 1/2 part water and 1/2 part flour - by weight. Questions...

1)Why do so many people use such low ratios of starter to water/flour - like 1:4:4 to 1:10:10? (To slow down fermentation, especially when starters are left at room temperature - vs more retarded fermentation in refrigerated starters?);

2)I was taught to allow partial fermentation just before refrigeration (an hour or two after feeding, depending on how active - but well before fermentation peaks), to allow continuing (slowed but still active) fermentation to occur in the frig - in part as a way of extending referigeration times between feedings, but also to keep it a bit more active while refrigerated. But... most of the posts I read advise full fermentation before refigeration. What do you do?;

3) Lastly, what's your take on how/when to feed vs. when to use in your recipes: use freshly fed; use some hour(s) after feeding; use at height of fermentation - a bit before it falls; use unfed, etc. - all assuming starter is not refrigerated (i.e. is at room temperature) and is on it's "normal" feeding schedule/protocol?

Hope these questions are clear.

Maverick's picture
Maverick

I am not M.O., but I would like to take a stab at giving you some insight while we wait for her to answer :)

First, most people would call your ratio 2:1:1 since the .5 looks a lot like 5 unless you write 0.5, plus we like using whole numbers where possible.

Quote:
1)Why do so many people use such low ratios of starter to water/flour - like 1:4:4 to 1:10:10? (To slow down fermentation, especially when starters are left at room temperature - vs more retarded fermentation in refrigerated starters?);

Instead of thinking of it as a low ratio of starter, think of it as a higher ratio of flour (water doesn't matter as long as it is the same hydration). Flour is food. So it is just a matter of how much food do you want to feed the critters in your starter. If you don't feed enough, then they might start going dormant (or die) before your next feeding. If you are leaving the starter on the counter, then it will eat faster than if refrigerated. For those of us that feed every 12 hours, this means finding a ratio that allows the starter to finish eating in that time (and peak at this time). This can take time to figure out, and can change depending on the weather, etc. With a 2:1:1 ratio like you use, it would probably peak at 4 hours or so.

Edit to add: If you are feeding once a day, or your starter is crazy vigorous, that is where the 1:10:10 would come into play.

Even in the refrigerator I would say that a 2:1:1 ratio is pretty low. Of course it really depends on how often you are refreshing. While the starter is cooling down, everything continues to eat. Once it is down to the refrigerator temperature, some things stop and others just slow down a lot. If you are feeding every day (or possibly two) then that ratio might work. But more than likely the starter is going to begin to starve because if you are using the refrigerator I assume it is to avoid feeding for at least a few days or more.

Quote:
2)I was taught to allow partial fermentation just before refrigeration (an hour or two after feeding, depending on how active - but well before fermentation peaks), to allow continuing (slowed but still active) fermentation to occur in the frig - in part as a way of extending referigeration times between feedings, but also to keep it a bit more active while refrigerated. But... most of the posts I read advise full fermentation before refigeration. What do you do?;

Full fermentation does not make sense since it takes time to slow things down as it cools. Plus even then some action is going to continue. I think the better debate is whether to allow it to partially ferment or to go straight into the refrigerator. To me, this would depend on how much you are feeding.

Quote:
3) Lastly, what's your take on how/when to feed vs. when to use in your recipes: use freshly fed; use some hour(s) after feeding; use at height of fermentation - a bit before it falls; use unfed, etc. - all assuming starter is not refrigerated (i.e. is at room temperature) and is on it's "normal" feeding schedule/protocol?

To me, feeding time and when to use in recipes are the same. You do it after it peaks (but not after it collapses if possible). In a recipe there might be argument to use it a little before the peak, but that has specific application. The peak is where there is no more food left and you have the highest number of yeast cells. Feeding at this time will give you the most vigor. If you wait too long, some of the yeast will start the process of going dormant. This means it will take longer to wake them up. When you get a starter ready for use in a recipe, you really are just feeding it. Of course some may use starter in recipes at different times in order to achieve some goal or another, but in general I would say use and feed just after the peak begins to fall.

Hope that helps a little (and was clear enough).

IndoLee's picture
IndoLee

Maverick... Thanks! (Great Answers & perfectly clear)

So if I extrpolate, you seem to be saying that you rarely allow your starter to sit unfed for more than a few hours - i.e. after full fermentation is finished (evidenced by collapse of the starter after doubling or even tripling in size).  Even if fed twice daily with a high flour to starter ratio, and thus taking say 6 to 8 hours to peak, its sitting "unfed" for no more than 8 to 12 hours @ day.

I feed my little charge once @ day when not using it (and its not refrigerated), and twice @ day preparatory to use.  Clearly, at 2:1:1 its not continually growing/fermenting as it usually take 4 hours or so, depending on room temp, to fully ferment - so its sitting without growth for the better part of 20 hours each day I do not use/double refresh - on which days its still "dormant" for 16 hours (+/-).

I do this because I really like a super-sour taste and, while I understand the risk of killing it or allowing bad beasties/molds, etc. to take over, its never suffered those signs and springs to life after daily feedings with a 2 to 3 times increase in size before collapsing. 

When refrigerated, I feed it every 3 or 4 days.

I've read all the great posts here and learned to use retardation - which also helps get that extra tang.  Regardless, I'll try refreshing with a higher flour ratio (still at 100% hydration) and see how the bread changes.  (I want to keep those little critters smiling, fat and happy!)

Thanks also for clarifying when to use:  at the height of fermentation or just before - which makes perfect sense now that I think about.

Also... I'll try putting it straight to refrigerator after feeding - especially if flour to starter ratio is still relatively low by typical/other's standards (which seems to be the case).

BTW:  Thanks much for that formularization - your right, it looked really confusing when written 1:.5:.5!

What a marvelous resource TFL is.  Thanks all

Maverick's picture
Maverick

My pleasure. Having a good grasp of the science of it all has allowed me to understand my starter and how to react to what it is doing. Unfortunately, that has not followed over into my bread baking :) I just need to make more bread to get better at that (and I have ordered some "tools" to help with my weak areas). I guess feeding a starter twice a day gives me the practice I need for starter upkeep, so maybe I need to make two breads a day too (... in my dreams).

One thought about the sourness thing. It is my belief that too many people try to make the starter the same as the end product. This often causes the starter to suffer, and thus the end product suffers as well. The idea of the starter is to propegate the wild yeasts and the right bacteria. If you starve the starter, you run the risk of propagating the wrong critters. For instance, let's say you were to have L. sanfranciscensis building up nicely in the starter, but then starved it to lower the pH in order to achieve more sour. L. sanfranciscensis is pretty sensitive to pH, so you might loose it to something that favors the more acidic environment. If instead you always feed at peak then you will create a stable environment in which the same critters will continue to thrive in your starter. This allows for more predictability as well as more vigor in your starter. The only way to know that this is truly at peak is to wait for the starter to begin to fall.

My recommendation is to keep the starter at optimum growth and use the pre-ferment as well as retardation and other techniques to achieve the sour you desire. I will gaurantee you that no bakery would allow their stock starter to starve, and they still can produce some really sour loaves. That said, the one area that you might play around with your starter is in the level of hydration. Rather than starving it to achieve your goal, try raising or lowering the hydration. But really I think that the sourness can be achieved elsewhere without sacrificing your starter.

Okay, that was more than one thought and was longer than I meant to add.

IndoLee's picture
IndoLee

Hi Mav... 

Good point again - never considered the impact of "starvation" (good term) on WHICH yeasts/bacteria are being propogated - as opposed to simply an apparently healthy starter.  Guess the key is to repeat the same protocol for an extended period of time and see what grows (i.e. if starter turns out the rises/tastes I am looking for over this time period). 

Okay... so taking all the sage advise I've found here, I'm going to switch to 1:4:4 and refrigerate.  Hopefully, with 8 x more food @ each feeding (1:4:4 vs. previous 2:1:1) and refrigeration, I can still keep my refreshes to once a day - without starving the poor little guys.

Since I'm going to refresh every day (twice on days I bake), maybe I'll allow and hour or so of fermentation to occur before refrigerating.

Make sense?

Maverick's picture
Maverick

Sounds good. If you have the whearwithal to feed twice a day, I would recommend doing that first before you start a refrigeration regimen. This will do two things. First, it will give your starter time to become more stable after being previously starved between feedings. Second it will help you find out how vigorous your starter is and therefore how much it needs to be fed. The idea is that you can learn the time your starter needs to peak so you can time your baking better.

Let's say that you feed 1:4:4 in the morning. Then 12 hours later your starter has not peaked. Then you you feed a little less. The opposite is true as well. If 1:4:4 peaks before 12 hours, then you feed more and see what happens. The reasoning behind my advice is simple. You say you feed twice a day on baking days. So let's say you take your starter out of the refrigerator, let it get to room temperature and see that it has peaked (or whatever your routine is). Anyway, it is feeding time and you feed at 8pm with the idea that you will start making bread 12 hours later at 8AM. If you KNOW how much food to feed so that the starter is ready in 12 hours, then you are happy and ready. If you don't go through the process of learning how much to feed, then your starter could peak too early, or it could not be ready and you have to wait for the peak.

Yes, 1:4:4 is a good average to start with. But if it is cold in your kitchen you might need a 1:3:3. Or if it is warm (or you just have a more vigorous starter) then a 1:5:5 or even higher regimen might be in order. In my old house, it would get cold at night and warmer in the day. So I would feed a higher amount in the morning and a lower amount at night. Also things would change with the seasons (poor insulation and no central air). There were days where I would mix in the morning, put it in the fridge for a few hours, then take it out and let it finish. That was the hardest timing to get right. It was much easier to just feed more on those hot days. Now that I am in a new house (and beginning a new starter), I have to learn all over again.

By the way, you can certainly feed enough to allow for a 24 hour peak. The problem is that I think if you feed too high of an amount you run the risk of diluting out your critters and letting something else take over. One thing to keep in mind is that there is no harm in feeding early if you do not discard anything. This allows you to feed more without the above mentioned dilution risk. There were times that my starter hadn't peaked yet and I needed to do something else. So I would just feed the starter some extra food at the same hydration to get it to last until I could get to it. Of course you can end up with a lot of starter if you do this too often.

As a side note, some of my favorite bread was from an 8 hour feed schedule, but I cannot keep that up for long. I have to say that it is fun to be able to discuss starters without seeing someone's eyes glaze over :) For me, it really is a cross between a pet and a science experiment. Like you said, you have to love TFL where others share your interests.

IndoLee's picture
IndoLee

Floyd (or is it Maverick)?

More good suggestions - I like the way you think.  I will definitely try 2 refreshes @ day (before starting any refrigeration) - so my happy little critters can show me what they want @ 12 hours or so. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I just happened to stumble onto y'all by freak accident.  Well said Maverick!  :)

 

IndoLee's picture
IndoLee

Thanks M.O.  (Y'all sound like a good ole suthrn girl)!

Maverick's picture
Maverick

I wish I could make bread like Floyd. And yes that is the real M.O. above. Maybe I saved her some typing :)

-Maverick