The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I think I killed it!

  • Pin It
tickles's picture
tickles

I think I killed it!

About a week and a half to two weeks ago, I started up a starter using the fruit juice method (I used apple juice with a touch of added ascorbic acid, based on reading all the reasoning behind the method).  It didn't do anything for the first 4 or so days, then it slowly started to bubble a little bit more with each feeding (at which point I put it on water and rye flour, instead of my acidic juice and rye flour mix), until I finally, after a week and a bit, had what seemed to be a good, tasty starter.  It smelled yummy.  It rose well.  I made sourdough pretzels with it and they were TO DIE FOR.


 


Well, I was running low on rye flour but wanted to keep it going without refridgeration for another week or so to let it develop a bit more of the "sour" flavour.  So I fed it unbleached white yesterday.  It gave a half-hearted little bit of bubbling.  Even after carefully weighing the white flour and adding more than I should have needed, it went really watery.  Overnight, it seems to have developed a strange odour that reminds me of the ketone experiments I used to do in chemistry and biology class.  It's not rancidly nasty, but it's not the nice smell it had previously. 


 


Today, trying to salvage it, I added rye flour again.  So far, there hasn't been a SINGLE bubble  Did I kill my starter?

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

I have a saying that goes, "When lost, your passengers will always panic just before you get there". . . ,


A little skillful waiting will most probably qualm your fears and resurrect the non-performing biological asset. . . ,


+Wild-Yeast

tickles's picture
tickles

How long should I wait for before declaring it a lost cause and starting from scratch? 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Any signs of activity?


+Wild-Yeast

tickles's picture
tickles

I got home from a concert tonight and it had more than TRIPLED over the course of 12 hours , probably less (I use an elastic band on my jar to record the initial volume of the starter).  It also smells right again.


 


So apparently, my all purpose flour just made it go dormant or something? It's weird, cause we JUST bought this bag of all-purpose.  I literally opened it to put into my starter!  It's not organic, but it's unbleached and is preservative and other chemical-free (aside from possible trace amounts of pesticide).  It's "all natural."  So I'm confused.  I can't see why my flour would be such a huge problem!


 


I bought a bunch more rye flour today, so hopefully, that'll prevent this from happening again?


 


It's weird, my pretzels rose pretty well (not perfectly, but there were some nice sized bubbles in them and I was quite impressed, the rise was almost as high as when I use commercial yeast) and they were done with my rye starter and the rest of the flour (4 cups, I think) as white, so I dunno what's going on.  But then again, there was like, a tablespoon of sugar in the pretzels...


 


I'm so confused.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Glad to hear that it worked out!  You have a new starter that needs settling time.  This takes anywhere from 3-4 weeks to several months.  Sourdough cultures are fairly resistant to flour changes once they settle down (given that enough is used in feedings).  The final "settled in" starter may not generate CO2 at the same rate as the earlier version and may require longer rise times (this is offset by an improved taste imparted to the bread). Sourdough starter works just as well with white flour as it will with rye (but at different rates).  Rye flour produces a very sour starter that you may want to lighten up by adding  white flour. This is a piece of fine tuning that sourdough bakers fiddle with to attain just the right taste for a particular bread type.  


+Wild-Yeast

tickles's picture
tickles

Thank you for the advice!  I didn't know that rye would have a sourer flavour!  I actually haven't worked much with rye, sourdough or no.  I'm fairly new to bread making to begin with.  I've been making my own bread for over a year, but in a bread machine, so I haven't learned much about how the chemistry behind it works or what will and won't work outside the machine.  I bought the rye flour for the first time a few months ago to attempt a pumpernickel bread because it is the only "dark" coloured bread my younger sister will eat.  Which means the only way to get some whole grains into her.  Unfortunately, my pumpernickel recipes tasted NOTHING like the store recipes, so that was an aborted attempt. 


 


I'm baking sourdough things primarily for myself and my mother, who enjoy sourdough.  My stepfather is ambivelent. 


 


I REALLY wish I could find a good pumpernickel recipe, sourdough or not, that would taste enough like the storebought that my sister would eat it.  Unfortunately, I cannot eat pumpernickel (at least not the recipes that I have attempted), as it has both cocoa and coffee, which contain caffeine, an element I'm allergic to, and I haven't been able to find any evidence that the caffeine "bakes off" or anything, so I can't even taste my recipes to find out what comes close!