The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Most bookmarked

  • Pin It
FlourChild's picture

Starter is ailing- what medicine do you recommend?

Recently my firm starter developed a spoiled smell- it has all the smells and appearances of a healthy starter (rises predictably, no visible discoloration, etc.), but added to that is a definite spoiled smell that I would never put in bread.  I would describe it as similar to the smell of spoiled milk.  The smell is much stronger in the early part of fermentation, after a feed, than it is later in the process. 

Luckily, I had a back up in the fridge (I maintain my ongoing culture at room temp) which sprung back to life easily and quickly and is doing well, so I am able to be relaxed about what is going on with that smell.  

My first approach was to let the smelly starter sit for two days after a feed, hoping that the desireable microbes would win out over the undesireables.  That didn't work.  My second approach was to let it go even longer- three days at room temp- after a feed, in hopes that a little alcohol or ketones or something in a underfed, overripe starter might help kill off whatever has taken root in there.   That didn't work, either.

So now I'm curious to experiment with it to see if I can find a fix:  what sort of medicine would you recommend?  I'm thinking of things like salt, freezing, lemon juice, etc.  I'll probably divide it up and try a different approach in each jar.  Thoughts?  Suggestions?  Advice?


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

My oven setup (fan-only oven)

I have got a very simple fan-only oven (BEKO), and it took me a while figure out how to put it to its best use - with lots of inspiration from TFL.

This is how I bake my bread:

Usually use an oven stone and a metal baking sheet.

You can see the backplate of the oven cavity in the picture below - the shelf positions and the hot air outlets are highlighted:

I noticed that airflow changes a lot when loading the oven in different ways - it is not always the bit nearest to an outlet that gets burnt first!

I am now using 2 basic setups that work well. In both scenarios I have a small pan on the oven floor into which I pour boiling water (about 1/4 cup) once the oven has been loaded. The oven keeps moisture very well, and using more water cools it down too much.

Scenario 1: For a batch of 4 X 500g boules or 2X 800g boules or up to 6X 500g tins:

The baking stone receives a lot of heat from below and stays hot during the bake. The side of the boules facing the backplate gets more heat.

Therefore after 10 minutes I shuffle the breads around: turning them 180 deg. and sqapping the loaves on the stone with the loaves on the baking sheet. Usually I turn down the temperature at this point and bake for another 20 minutes. The bottoms of the loaves that started on the baking sheet might still be3 weak after that, so I usually turn those loaves over and bake them for 5 more minutes.

Scenario 2: For a batch of 1 X 100g or 2 X 500g

I place the loaf (loaves) on the baking stone, and rotate them after 10 minutes.

The baking sheet helps distributing the hot air and helps getting a more consistent bake.


I hope this might be helpful,



GSnyde's picture

Hamelman's Whole Wheat with Mixed Grain Soaker and Seeds

Seeking a hardy healthy bread, I decided to try Hamelman's Whole Wheat with Mixed Grain Soaker.  It's 50% whole wheat, made with a pate' fermente', and has a soaker of millet, cracked wheat, corn meal and oats.  I also added toasted sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  It has a nice crispy crust, tender crumb and a wonderful nutty flavor.  This will not be the last time I make it.

Sorry for the lack of detail, but it's been a busy weekend.


clazar123's picture

So what is happening when kefir deteriorates a dough?

I am putting this in Sourdough because I think it is a lactobacillus issue and I think this audience may have a good understanding of what is happening.

Whenever I use kefir in making bread (any bread-WW,AP,Bread Flour), I find I am rescuing the loaf as the gluten strands are breaking as it rises for the final proof.  I have come to expect that a long rising (as in an overnight retard) WW will experience this consistently so I no longer use kefir for that loaf. Having an abundance of kefir last week, I thought I'd put together a quick, single loaf sandwich bread using a sourdough preferment (1 c flour-1 c water-2 tbsp starter set overnight), 1 tsp instant yeast and using 1 c kefir for the liquid in the final dough (not the preferment). No measurements were precise in this loaf-quick throw together-flour,water,milk,salt,oil,preferment,yeast. Nice soft dough with goodfeeling qualities.Set it to rise and the bulk fermentation was less than 2 hours and already there were some tear marks on the dough as it rose to double. It shaped nicely. I did not overhandle it but the dough had started to feel a little fragile. As the loaves rose for the final proof, there was noticeably more tearing. I let them proof as long as I dared (prob could have gone 10 more minutes) and baked them. The loaves were just ok-a little underproved.

I use standard,brand name AP flour (unbleached-prob Pillsbury or Gold Medal), homemade kefir, SAF instant yeast,homegrown starter,table salt and vegetable oil. Loaves with the same ingredients but NO kefir do just fine. I have narrowed it down to this over time.

So what is actually happening when this happens? Is there any way to counteract it?


Babedia's picture

Established starter suddenly not rising

Hi, I've been using my starter for about 6 months now with good results. I bake once a week, feed the starter and keep it in the fridge until 2 or 3 days before baking again to give it time to build up. Last week I took it out of the fridge as usual but perhaps took a bit longer to feed again (normally I do it within a few hours of taking it out of the fridge but this time it might have been 8-12 hours, not sure). It didn't rise at all. I've had a busy few days and couldn't deal with it so decided to take some of the starter I froze recently, just before going on holiday. I fed it as soon as it thawed and 24 hours later absolutely no rise at all. What could cause well established starter to stop working? Do I need to start from scratch or just keep feeding this regularly to see if I can get it started again?

hornedfox's picture

waffle dough?

I recently watched a TV programme which highlighted  great places to eat. One of these places made outstanding waffles. The waffle batter was more of a dough. It was made with yeast and when place on to a waffle iron it looked like a high hydration dough. I have tried to recreate this with out much luck. Anyone else tried this





SylviaH's picture

Blueberry Pie with Lemon, getting my Starter back in shape, Pizza, not today!

I finally dug my starter out and brought it up to smelling good and looking strong.  So now, it was time to bake a few loaves...though I'd rather be making pizza's.  

It has been a while since I've turned my oven on.  Now the weather has cooled a little, it was nice to turn on the oven and not have the kitchen feeling to warm.  I would even make a pie today.    

Mike was happy to hear there would be some nice sourdough bread to eat and a few loaves to stock up in the freezer.  I also would make his favorite pie, Blueberry.  I had a nice bunch of fresh blueberries.  This time I would add a little extra lemon.  Last night I prepared my lemon wheels, as I refer to them, in a simple syrup.  It turned out it was an interesting and delicious addition to my BP.  I will definately do this again.   The added candied lemon wheels tasted wonderfully lemony, not bitter or to sweet, just a nice balance of pure lemon flavor added to the not to sweet blueberry filling.  I added 3 of the thinnest wheels on top of the bb filling, just enough I think.

I baked six loaves of bread.  They were very flavorful with a lovely just enough sour and wheat flavor notes.  The smell is wonderful.   It was just a few changes to my usual all white sourdough.   20% organic whole wheat flour, a little agave syrup, a little grape seed oil and scaled to make enough loaves to fill 6 of my banneton baskets.  Mixed by hand and a long overnight ferment.  

I also mixed up a batch of pizza dough with Caputo Tipo 00 Italian Flour and placed it into the freezer...just in case I decide to fire up the wfo this week and a gentle breeze comes to the neighborhood.

Not the most attractive pie I've made but it timed perfectly with the last loaf of bread coming out of the oven.  So Mike could enjoy a slice, heading off to work, it was sliced a bit warm before setting up properly cooled.  The texture was just right..not runny, wet,  resulting with a nice crispy tender bottom crust.  To much sugar in your filling is one of those things that will make for a very runny pie and soggy undercrust!  The crust was a combination of butter and crisco, salt, sugar, water.  My old standby, favorite, flakey, tender, flavorful crust.   We also enjoyed a cuban style pork shoulder roast and fresh roasted brussel sprouts for dinner.  

This was earlier prep for dinner's pork shoulder....


Overnight soak of organic lemons in sugar syrup









HeidiH's picture

00 & Semolina Rosemary Olive Focaccia

Quoting Niki Singet's The Flavor Thesaurus:

"OLIVE & ROSEMARY. A hearty combination to put you in mind of Italy. Scattered with olive and rosemary, Focaccia becomes an edible postcard of the Maremma, the irrigated flatlands that span southern Tuscany and northern Lazio. A bite of olive gives the salty tang of the sea breezes that sweep in from the west, rosemary a hint of the maquis, so thick in places that there are local vineyard owners who claim you can taste it in the wine."

Yes, I had to look up "maquis." It's a dense growth of shrubs in areas around the Mediterranean.  Imagine the smell out West when the wind blows through Wyoming sagebrush mixing with the olives.  Or waves crashing against the pine treed Maine coast.  It smelled a bit like that at my house this afternoon.

We cut some breadsticks off it to have next to chicken Caesar salad.  And it was pronounced a good supper.

The formula for the focaccia was

400 g (67%) Italian 00 flour

200 g (33%) Semolina flour

Handful of fresh rosemary needles, finely chopped

Handful of oil-cured olives, finely chopped

9 g (1.5%) Salt

9 g (1.5%) Instant yeast

30 g (5%) Olive oil

480g (80%) Water

Put flour, semolina, rosemary, olives and salt into a large bowl.  Whisk to mix thoroughly to coat the olives with a layer of flour.  Whisk in the yeast.  Add the water to the oil and pour into the flour mixture.  Mix with a spoon or your hand until all the ingredients are incorporated into a loose dough the consistency of a very thick batter.

Cover and let sit 45 minutes.  Do one stretch and fold and return to the bowl.  Repeat for twice more and end with a fourth 45 minute rest.

On a cookie sheet or sheet pan, stretch the dough into a rectangle about 12" x 18".  Moisten the top of the dough with a thin layer of olive oil.  Poke holes about 1/2" apart all over the dough with your fingers.

Preheat oven to 425F and allow the dough to proof about 20 minutes.  Place in the middle of the oven and bake 20 minutes.  Remove the now stiff but not quite done bread from the pan and return to the oven shelf without the pan to continue cooking for 10 additional minutes.  This will make a loaf that is crunchy both top and bottom.



slogerot's picture

Acetone smell in well-fed starter

I've been working on my first sourdough starter for almost two weeks now (it'll be two weeks on Sunday). Things were going well initially, and around day 3 or 4 I started feeding it every 12 hours. It got that nice, tangy smell but never rose much at all. I just kept feeding it every 12 hours, waiting for it to start doubling, and two days ago it started to smell strongly of acetone. I know this is common, and from my searching it seems that it is usually a symptom of a hungry starter. I fed it as usual yesterday at 7:30 am, and called King Arthur Flour's baking hotline yesterday afternoon around 3 pm. They suggested to go ahead and feed as usual right then (dump all but 4 oz and feed with 4 oz of unbleached AP flour and 4 oz of spring water), and see if the smell went away by that evening.

It did not. I'm in central Texas and it is still quite warm here, so my kitchen gets up to 77 during the day, and we keep the a/c around 70 at night. I thought that maybe the warmth was causing the yeast to consume all the flour nutrients too quickly and that giving it a third feeding during the day would help, but it doesn't seem so. I then thought that maybe I could add a tablespoon or so of whole wheat flour to my usual AP flour (still keeping the total at 4 oz), in the hopes that it would help the yeast become active enough that I could start storing it in the fridge. I did this last night, and it did indeed rise a little more (maybe 50%), but it still smells like acetone.

Any suggestions? Should I just keep feeding as usual and wait it out? I'm happy to be patient and am in no hurry, but I'd just like to know if I need to do something in addition to my usual feedings to get this smell to go away.

Justkneadit's picture

Monstrous Bloom Again...Need help

Well, I did it again. Crazy bloom that has me scratching my head. I will list the process I used to make this Lavender Hazelnut Sourdough Boule, but could this bloom be a product of my stater being young..(12 days)? I will say the taste turned out much better than I anticipated. The hazelnut gave a smooth nutty flavor and the lavender didn't creep in until close to swallowing (well it did reach the nose first). Neither ingredient was overpowering, which was pleasing. Would be fitting to slather with honey!

First the Recipe.. and please feel free to critique my recipe because I am only 6 weeks into baking and I will take as much advice as everyone is willing to give.

Lavendar Hazelnut Sourdough Boule

Flour 550g:

  • KA Bread Flour 450g
  • Arrowhead Mills Spelt Flour 100g

Starter: 110g 100% Hydration

Water: 308g

Salt: 12g Pink Himalayan 

Lavender: 10g

Hazelnut: Toasted, grated 15g


Mix ingredients, minus salt, autolyse 20 min. Knead approx. 10 min then rest 30 min.  4 S&F's with 30 min in between. After last S&F 10 min rest, shape 10 min rest, then into brotform, then into sealed plastic bag and refridge for 13 1/2 hours. Pull out of fridge, keeping in the bag, rise for 6 hours. Poke test was barely passing. Score, oven, steam. Bake at 450 for 30 min, turning 180 degrees. Then, after 30 min reduce to 400 and bake for 10 min. Here is the result.