The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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bastet469's picture

12:30 AM March 10, 2013 (96.5 hrs)


Same surface bubbles as yesterday....


I have NO IDEA if this one is going to work. I've given this one 72 hours rather than 48 in hopes that it would puff up the way Sweetbird's did but so far it looks like a pancake that was left out to rot!!

It's moist on top instead of having the dried crust Sweetbird mentions. The smell is mildly cumin-y like it was on Day 3 & 4. One thing is similar to Sweetbird's findings is the discoloration of the top layer. Below you can hopefully see that the underside of the starter is the same color as it was originally while the top turned greyish. The only reason I'm continuing is because of the bubbles I saw on the underside. I hope that means bacteria growth. :S

First refreshment (48-72 hrs.):

6.25 oz/117 g organic whole wheat flour (3/4 C.)

2.75oz/72 gms warm water (1/3 C.)

1 oz/28.5 gms chef (2 Tbs.)

Combine ingredients. Turn out onto work sureface and knead briefly. Cover and set aside for 10-12 hours.

 I removed the discolored portion of the chef and measured from what was left. Also, as I mentioned, I gave mine an extra day before doing the refreshment so we'll see what happens.

bastet469's picture

2:45 AM March 8, 2013 (50.75 hrs)

Back trouble caused me to turn in early and miss 12 AM deadline. But change seems minimal in both ferments. To make it easier on myself, I'll be referring to the cultures by the color of the container lids: Red for Reinhart, Blue for Ortiz.


Looks exactly the same as yesterday: no bubbles, no change in size.

Reinhart's book says that's to be expected. Proceeded with Phase 2 as directed.

Seed Culture, Phase 2

3 1/2 tablespoons (1 0z/28.5 g) whole-wheat flour, whole rye flour or unbleached bread flour

2 tablespoons (1 0z/28.5 g) unsweetened pineapple juice, filtered water or spring water

All of the Phase 1 seed culture (3 0z/85 g).

Add the new ingredients to the Phase 1 seed culture and stir with a spoon or whisk to distribute and fully hydrate the new flour. (The liquid can be cold or at room temperature; it doesn't matter.) Again, cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours, stirring with a wet spoon or whisk to aerate two or three times each day. There should be signs of fermentation (bubbling and growth) during this period. When the culture becomes very bubbly or foamy, continue to Phase 3. This phase could take anywhere from 1 to 4 days. As long as you aerate the seed culture regularly, it will not spoil or develop mold.

Added ingredients directly to container and whisked. Didn't bother to measure out the 3 oz of Phase 1. Cleaned off the sides of th container and drew a new fill line.
Line's based on actual level. Some excess gets on the sides when you move conatiner around.

A few bubbles began forming duing the time it took me to clean up the counter top! Poked a hole in the lid with a skewer (from inside-out) just in case of gas buildup.


Ball has spread more. Color & condensation remains the same. Cumin smell isn't as strong as it was on Day 1. Based on 48 hr photo of Ortiz's starter in Sweetbird's Blog entry on Pain de Campagne, I've decided to give it another day before feeding it.

bastet469's picture

12:00 AM March 7, 2013 (24 hrs)

Reinhart Stater

I noticed a thin layer of clear amber colored liquid develops on top of the mixture between stirs. It was too thin to photograph. Other than that, there was no chnage.

Ortiz Starter

Condensation has appeared on the sides of the container. The shape has flattened somewhat.


The surface has darkened slightly. Sorry that you can't really tell from the picture. Turn over the container and you'll see the difference in color.

bastet469's picture

Welcome to my Lab of sorts.  For the next week or so, I will be documenting my progress on two different ferments I started at 12AM EST on March 6th, 2013.  The first is from Peter Reinhart's book Artisan Bread Every Day.  The other is from Joe Ortiz's The Village Baker. The reason I chose to do two different recipes at the same time was partly to see which process suits me best and partly to help insure that I'll have at least one to bake with at the end if one fails.  In addition, since they both use a unique ingredient (Reinhart's pineapple juice & Ortiz's cumin) I'm curious to see what the effects will be on each.  Below are the recipes I used and pictures of the finished products. Reinhart’s is in the red topped container, Ortz’s is in the blue one.


What a difference right?

Peter Reinhart's Recipe

Seed Culture, Phase 1: Day 1

3 1/2 tablespoons (1 ounce) whole-wheat flour, whole rye flour or unbleached bread flour

1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsweetened pineapple juice, filtered water or spring water.

In a small non-reactive bowl or a 2-cup glass measuring cup, stir the flour and juice with a spoon or whisk to make a paste or sponge with the consistency of thin pancake batter. Make sure all of the flour is hydrated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 48 hours. Two to three times each day, stir the seed culture for about 10 seconds with a wet spoon or whisk to aerate it. There will be few or no bubbles (indicating fermentation activity) during the first 24 hours, but bubbles may begin to appear within 48 hours.


Very Soupy. Not much to it. Drew a line on the container to keep track

Joe Ortiz's Recipe

Chef: Day 1

 ½ Cup (78g) organic whole wheat flour

⅛ tsp. cumin

¼ Cup (46g) spring water

½ tsp. organic milk

Combine flour and cumin in a non-reactive bowl.  Stir in water and milk until a small ball is formed.  Turn out onto clean work surface and knead briefly.  Place in a non-reactive container and cover for 2-3 days until doubled.



12:00 AM March 7, 2013

Ortiz's starter has darkenend on the surface and flattened somewhat. Reinhart's--no change

neilbaldwyn's picture

Drying starter

February 10, 2013 - 4:17am -- neilbaldwyn



After some recent issues with my starter I'm looking to dry some as a back up. I'm going for drying it out on parchment paper, but wondered when is best to dry? I'm assuming that once the starter has reached its peak after feeding would be best but just wondered what other peoples experiences were?





neilbaldwyn's picture

Something off mid feeding cycle of starter

February 6, 2013 - 1:14am -- neilbaldwyn



I've had my current starter for around 2 years and until recently it has performed perfectly, being used almost every day.


Around a month ago I began to notice a sulphuric smell mid feeding cycle. There is absolutely no smell upon feeding, then after around 6-8 hours the sulphur begins, but dies off as the starter grows in strength and acidity, so that it has completely gone 24 hours after feeding.


BobS's picture

There's lots of discussion and great information about starters on TFL. Everyone does things a little differently, and what works for you is best. Here's what works for me.

I typically make two sourdough loaves a week. Sometimes more, and sometimes I miss a week, sometimes two. Sometimes I make more than two loaves.

When I started baking sourdough I had a lot of questions and two constraints. First, I traveled a fair bit for work, often on short notice, so I needed a process that was not too fussy  - no twice-daily feedings, no big mason jar of goo on the kitchen counter.  Second, I hate waste; the idea of discarding half of anything bothers me. I addressed the first constraint by having Fred live in the fridge nearly all the time; and addressed the second by keeping him fairly small. Here's Fred:

That's a half-cup container, and it contains 2.5 ounces of Fred. He's a little guy. Fred is a 100% hydration starter, so he's 50/50 flour/water by weight.  Fred's hydration is not so important, but one reason 100% is nice because it makes the math simpler. Fred is too small to make bread by himself, I use him to innoculate a levain that typically ferments 12-14 hours.

I made the original Fred about 3-4 years ago using the great instructions on this site from Debra Wink. Pineapple juice rocks.

The evening before (or two evenings before if I am retarding the final proofing) I take Fred out of the fridge and build a levain. Sometimes, when I have presence of mind, I take him out an hour or two before I start to let him warm up a bit, but often I just take him right out of the fridge. This is what he looks like after being in the fridge for about 10 days:

Sometimes, after a week or so, Fred will blow his top in the fridge. Not a big deal, and if no one notices for a day or two Fred will create a dry crust on top to keep his innards moisty. Fred's a bit of a teetotaler: I very seldom see hooch, perhaps only after a couple of weeks in the fridge. If Fred looks all watery and hoochy, I might feed him once or twice, but usually I will let him warm up and he comes back to life.

I feed Fred in a 1:2:2 ratio: 1 part starter, 2 parts flour, 2 parts water. My experience  (YMMV) is that this ratio provides adequate food so that he will be in good shape to innoculate a levain in a week, and can tolerate cooling his heels for longer if necessary . I always (well, almost always) remove 2 oz (of the 2.5 total) to start the levain build:

There's just a little bit of Fred left (0.5 oz):

The 1:2:2 ratio means we need to add 1 oz of water and 1 oz of flour in order to make Fred the man he was.  So we add 1 oz  water (that's a chopstick, which works really well for mixing the remaining starter and water) and then 1 oz flour. I feed Fred with AP or Bread flour, but I always give him a little treat of rye:

The 2 oz of starter is built into the levain - in this case a stiffer levain for Pain au Levain. There's no waste; I haven't discarded any starter.

If the formula for the levain called for less than 2 oz of starter,  I decrease the amount of flour and water in the levain by the excess amount of starter. For example, if the formula called for 1 oz of starter, I would use 2 oz of Fred, but then reduce the amount of flour and water I add by 0.5 oz each (that's what I meant about the 100% making the math easier). (It could be that innoculating the levain with more than the amount of starter called for in the formula changes the flavor profile of the bread. That's okay; I'vehad no complaints yet, and I have other details of technique to work out before addressing that one. If I found that it did make a difference, I would simply scale Fred down.)

The levain I'm building often has a different hydration than Fred. Sometimes it uses a different type of flour, e.g. rye. No matter.

The chopstick doesn't work for a lot of stiff starter, so I switch to the handle of a wooden spoon.

The levain goes in the proofing box overnight. Fred goes in for an hour or so just to help get his juices flowing. (I'm writing this in New Hampshire in February - the proofing box is required equipment). Then Fred goes in the fridge and does not reappear for a week or so. It seems to take about 4-5 days for Fred to develop sufficient strength in the fridge. If I want to use him sooner I will take him out and place him on the counter or in the proofing box until he's bubbly.

The next morning the kitchen is at 63F, but the levain looks good:

Fred, flour, water, salt:

Netvet007's picture

First attempt at sourdough starter

February 3, 2013 - 3:23pm -- Netvet007

This is my very first attempt at a starter.  I used the KA Flour Baker's companion book for my formula.  I followed it to the letter using a rye flour/water/molasses beginning.   4 oz water, 3 1/2 oz rye flour and 1/8 tsp molasses.  On Day 2 I discarded half and added 4 oz water and 3 1/2oz rye flour.  Day 3,4,5,6 I discarded half, added 4 oz water and 4 1/4 oz (1 cup) all purpose flour. I did this twice each day.

LisaE's picture

Maintenance Starter Feeding Ratios

February 1, 2013 - 11:38pm -- LisaE

Hello all,

I captured my own wild yeast and have kept it alive and I think happy for about 8 weeks or so. I have been reading so many different pieces of advice about feeding for maintenace and have never seen anyone else feed at a ratio of 1:6:6. I was wondering if anyone had any insight on if this is a bad idea or just another way to feed it.

I have tried 100% hydration, 66% and 50%. I found that 100 percent gives me good bread and seems to be very stable. 66% was fine but soooo sticky! And 50% just smelled like vinegar and I never baked with it.


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