The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New starter (about 3 hours old) already more than doubled!

WoofMeowOink's picture

New starter (about 3 hours old) already more than doubled!

Hello everyone,

I'm completely new to making sourdough (and a little less new to baking in general), so I need help (I think). About 3 hours ago today, I began developing a starter using a recipe from a baking book. This recipe calls for combining 1 package of active dry yeast with 2-1/2 cups lukewarm water, leaving it to dissolve for about 15 minutes, and then adding 1-1/2 cups flour. The mixture is supposed to be covered and left to rise in a warm place for at least 24 hours, but preferably 2-4 days before using, yielding 3 cups of starter.

As of right now, the starter is almost 8 cups and bubbly, and looks like it's continuing to rise. I had to transfer it from the original porcelain container in which I had it, to a much bigger (metal) container, as I don't know how much more it'll grow.

My question: Did I make some sort of mistake? It seems like the starter is growing too fast and too much....At least, I wasn't expecting it to grow so much, so quick. And the recipe did not call for mixing the ingredients in a large I'm thinking that the starter is not supposed to do that. If I made a mistake, how can I correct it?

I know that this starter is young enough that I could afford to throw it out if needed, without losing too much in terms of ingredients or time spent on it. However, I'd rather try to save it, if at all possible. Thanks for your help!

EDIT: Just wanted to let you all know that the poolish did stop growing the next day, and in fact I saw a little separation. I freaked out a bit, as I thought I had killed my little guys; but instead of bugging you guys right away with questions as to what to do, I decided to try to save it by feeding it some AP flour to see if it worked. It did, though the bubbly-ness and volume of the original didn't come back fully. The day after, I baked some very very good tasting white bread with pretty good texture, following the recipe in the same book for sourdough (I guess I should have expected that it would not taste like true sourdough, but the bread came out pretty tasty nonetheless; and as it's not true sourdough bread, I have decided to call it "white bread"). It was a little too crunchy at the top of the crust, but other than that, I was very pleased. Definitely the best loaves I've baked so far. I saved some of the poolish starter (can I call it that??) for later, so we'll see if it behaves next time I use it.

The very same day I baked the white bread, I also started a true sourdough starter following Gaaarp's recipe. Today it's day 4, I believe, but the starter has not doubled in volume...So I'm waiting to see how it develops before I feed it or do anything else to it. I bought some unsweetened pineapple juice just in case... :)

Thanks everyone for your comments. If you have any good recipes for breads that make use of poolish, please post them (or a link to them) here. Noobs: if you'd like to use this thread to ask questions about your own poolish or starter, please feel free to do so.

gavinc's picture


I suggest you check out Debra Winks posts on this web site.  Start with her reply found in this thread:

then if you want the detailed microbiology, search for her other posts (the pineapple juice solution parts 1 and 2).  It's fantastic and has quickly become the recognised authority.

Authentic sourdough starters don't use commercial yeasts, but other types of fermenters do.

Good luck and let us know how you progress.




pmccool's picture


I, too, have seen any number of "sourdough starter" recipes that begin with commercial yeast.  You can make good bread with them, but it won't be sourdough.  The more prevalent term among commercial bakers for a yeast-water-flour batter like you describe is "poolish".  It is a type of pre-ferment that can be used to build flavor in the finished bread.  Most of them are a bit thicker than your version; i.e., they have a higher flour to water ratio.  And most of them have a lower yeast content. 

Given that the formula called for an entire packet of yeast and only 1.5 cups of flour, it's no surprise that it ballooned up so quickly.  Some poolish formulas call for as little as a few grains of yeast, or perhaps 1/8 teaspoon.   Then it takes longer for the yeast to fully colonize the flour/water mixture, giving time for the enzymes in the flour, plus the fermentation products from the yeast, to work their chemical magic.

I'd say bake with it whenever you are ready to do so.  You don't need to leave it sit for 2 or 3 days; the yeast has probably consumed most of the available food, anyway.  Just toss it into the recipe of your choice and then adjust water or flour quantities to get the dough texture you want.  No additional yeast will be required. 



PaddyL's picture

Keep stirring it down; it will collapse in on itself eventually and will stop rising after awhile.  I have two starters I use, one which had some yeast to begin with, and another with no commercial yeast at all.  They both make extremely good SOURDOUGH bread, with all the good healthy properties of sourdough bread, though one is slightly less tangy than the other.  Your starter will have to be fed/refreshed from time to time, as does any other starter, but for the moment, it's young and the dry yeast is, obviously, still very active.

Wild-Yeast's picture

Ever see the movie "The Blob"?  Plan your escape route carefully!

TIC +Wild-Yeast

WoofMeowOink's picture

Dear everyoe,

Thanks very much for your comments! I was freaking out a bit, though overnight, the poolish (thanks for point out the term PMcCool!) stopped growin and bubbling as it got colder outside and insider my house.

Wild-Yeast's The Blob comment made me chuckle; I don't remember the Blob (though I know I saw it), but I was still remind of when I was a kid and would watch fom of those cheesy "scary" movies.

PaddyL, I think I will do what do are doing: Keeping some pooling and starting a real starter. Your comments made me curious as to the differences in taste. :) I'll check out Gavin's recommended blogs to make sure the authentic starter is well taken care of.

Thanks once again! :)

(Edit: I misspelled "poolish" :)  )

althetrainer's picture

I too, am very new to sourdought baking.  I also made my starter using active dry yeast.  I didn't know you could cultivate wild yeast then... anyway.  My first two loaves came out very much like yeast bread.  Then things became very "flat" two weeks later.  I knew the dry yeast must be working at first then it turned flat once all the food was gone.  Obviously, my starter was not strong enough after a few loaves of bread.

Now I am trying to cultivate wild yeast.  So far I don't have a wild yeast starter to use for bread so I continue to feed my dry yeast starter.  It has been two weeks since I started the yeast starter and today I looked at it and to my surprise, it looked very much alive!  I guess after two weeks of regular feeding I finally got my starter going. 

I would like to make true sourdough bread.  Since my wild yeast is not ready I will continue to use the starter I have.  My question is... is the bread I made from this back-from-the-dead starter consider true sourdough bread?

Soundman's picture

Hi althetrainer,

If you are new to sourdough, TFL has some really excellent tutorials on starting a starter. I have copied the simple method from Debra Wink's pineapple solution, which I used and lots of other bakers have used. Here is the method, and down toward the bottom is a link to the whole post, or the 2nd part of the whole post:

Day 1: mix...
2 tablespoons whole grain flour* (wheat or rye)
2 tablespoons pineapple juice, orange juice, or apple cider

Day 2: add...
2 tablespoons whole grain flour*
2 tablespoons juice or cider

Day 3: add...
2 tablespoons whole grain flour*
2 tablespoons juice or cider

Day 4: (and once daily until it starts to expand and smell yeasty), mix . . .
2 oz. of the starter (1/4 cup after stirring down-discard the rest)
1 oz. flour** (scant 1/4 cup)
1 oz. water (2 tablespoons)

* Organic is not a requirement, nor does it need to be freshly ground.

** You can feed the starter/seed culture whatever you would like at this point. White flour, either bread or a strong unbleached all-purpose like King Arthur or a Canadian brand will turn it into a general-purpose white sourdough starter. Feed it rye flour if you want a rye sour, or whole wheat, if you want to make 100% whole wheat breads. If you're new to sourdough, a white starter is probably the best place to start.

Good luck!


Wild-Yeast's picture

I also went through this phase.  It's funny how coercive and dedicated the brain's bread function is in human beings.  The thinking went something like this, "modern yeasts were derived from wild yeasts so if the modern yeast is left to ferment in a flour and water medium it would return, over time, to its more primitive state" or something like that (return to nature?).  It seems to work for awhile then something goes awry for one reason or another and the concoction goes its own way becoming an undependable leavening agent.

This was during a period of my fumbling around desparately attempting to discover the unknown secrets of sourdough bread. Cookbooks at the time contained recipes with vague instructions such as "open the windows and let the sourdough seed floating on the breeze infect your flour & water mixture. You will be rewarded with a wonderful sourdough starter".  It was like you needed the luck of the sourdough fairey to get the show on the road.

It wasn't till I read the following from Daniel Leader's "Bread Alone" that the road to enlightenment, as it were, began (pgs 119-120);

"Use fresh organic flour because it contains more wild yeast.  Like the almost translucent white film of the yeast culture you can see on fresh grapes, there is a thin film of wild yeast on whole grain berries.  The plentitude of these wild yeast cells in the flour will generate good fermentation.  A lesser quality flour that has been de-braned, bromated, enriched, and stripped of its orginal goodness will take a long, long time to produce the same results because the amount of wild yeast is much less.  A fresh whole-grain flour also provides an abundace of instant-ready sugars and starches for the yeast to feed upon, guaranteeing that fermentation will be steady and robust."   

The wheat berries come with their own natural levain (wild-yeast) was the revelation.  Just organic flour (whole wheat) and spring water will produce a natural sourdough ferment.

How can it be that it's as simple as that?


P.S.  Looking back I now believe that Leader has the better handle on pain au levain.  The message was not as clear as it is now.  A little practicum makes one appreciate the wabi sabi of sourdough. . . ,

althetrainer's picture

Thanks David!  I am actually  using the same method, got it from this site blogger Sourdolady, I suppose is Debra wink.  Today is day 7 and I still only see a bit bubbles here and there.  But I don't want to rush.  We live in a very cold area with very little moisture in the air so I won't be surprised if it takes longer for my wild yeast to become really active. 

Wild Yeast, I did start with freshly ground flour, from hard winter wheat berries, with pineapple juice.  Each day I follow the instructions and so far the little starter still smells like pineapple juice.  I suppose this mean it will take longer to develop before I will smell fermentation. 

I am still using my dry yeast sourdough starter because this is the only starter I have for now.  It has been very active since yesterday so I made a large sponge last night and today I made one loaf of sourdough wheat and one loaf of Russian Black bread.  I used regular recipes and substituted the active dry yeast with two cups of sourdough sponge.  I was very happy to see how well it rose after sitting in a warm spot for just two hours.  I am really looking forward to get the wild yeast going and will be proud to be able to call myself a true sourdough fan.

WoofMeowOink's picture

Just posted an update to my adventures with poolish and sourdough starter, as an edit to my original post. :) Feel free to read and make further comments.