The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

trouble converting batter to firm starter

ericb's picture

trouble converting batter to firm starter

I keep a healthy batter-type starter. It always doubles within a few hours of refreshing.

A few days ago, I decided to make a firm starter. I mixed 1 TB of active starter, 1 TB of water, and 1/3c of bread flour. It doubled within a few hours, and quadrupled within eight. Up to this point, everything was perfect.

So, yesterday, after the firm starter had quadrupled in volume, I refreshed it: 1 1/2 tsp starter, 2 TB water, 1/3 c flour. When I got home from work, there was no sign that it had risen at all. I refreshed again, and there was still no activitiy. I had managed to kill the firm starter within 24 hours of making it.

Meanwhile, my liquid starter is perfectly healthy.

Any thoughts on what went wrong? I made a new firm starter this morning, so I'm anxious to see how it looks tonight after work.

Thanks for your good advice.




Yumarama's picture

She's a Stiff Starter Guru in these here parts so she can probably tell you exactly what happened - I won't say "went wrong" because the starter may have been doing fine.

Anyway, what she suggested to me when I made stiff starter was that once it's been mixed up nicely, you coat the ball in a dry layer of flour. What this does is give you a bit of a "crust" that will start to show cracks as the softer, wetter interior expands. 

So in effect, your starter may actually have been growing but not as visibly as you thought. 

summerbaker's picture

I know that it has been a few days now and hopefully your stiff starter looks better (I doubt that you killed it), but here's a tip for next time: When refreshing a stiff starter in the small amount that you say that you have, use the whole thing.  Whatever it weighs, use double that weight of flour and equal that weight of water (for example: if the starter is 100g, use 100g water and 200g flour).  It will rise at least somewhat within 24 hours unless your kitchen is very cold.  When it is ready, when you peel back the top layer it will look stringy kind of like melted mozarella cheese.  At this point you can use it.  Hope this helps.  I just don't think you used enough stiff starter for it to get going as quickly as you haad hoped.