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First timer.. With not much luck asking for help :)

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Eran's picture
Eran

First timer.. With not much luck asking for help :)

Hi!


As part of my attempt to eat healthier foods, I decided to start the sourdough journey, especially after reading so many posts about this "romantic" connection between the baker and the starter! I love these sort of things..


I wanted a wholemeal spelt starter, so I followed this recipe. As they say, started small (a table spoon full flour), and built it up for a week instead of throwing starter away. At the end, it had bubbles, and smelled like ripe bananas and alcohol, so I assumed it was working.


Yesterday, I put a cup of water in a bowl, mixed in half a cup of my starter, and then gradually sprinkled in the wholemeal spelt flour (roughly 600 gr). I had to add more water, since the dough was way too hard. However, the recipe said that with spelt, let it be hard, cause after and hour or so it will be much more wet. So I did, and after an hour came back to add the salt, and the dough was as hard as before.. Added the soalt, and about 1/4 cup water, kneaded, and left for the night to rise in a towel covered bowl. All that was following (half the amount, and estimated, since I have no measuring gear) this recipe.


This morning, I checked the creation. It had a bit of a crust on it, and the size remained exactly the same. And although the buttom went a bit soggy and wet, the dough remained quite hard.


I should probably chuck it to the compost bin.. But before that, I thoght maybe I'll get some advice here. And hopefully next time it will come out better. It is my first bread ever, other than breads I used to make in a bread maker, which don't really count.


Thank you for reading!


Eran.


 


 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Eran.


Welcome to TFL!


I have used spelt flour in breads but have never made a 100% spelt loaf, so take my advice with 5 gms of salt.


I looked at the recipe you used, and, although you did not really measure your ingredients precisely, the recipe you used has the lowest percent hydration of any I've ever seen for a bread. Spelt absorbs much less water than wheat flour, from what I've read. Still, I would expect this recipe to result in an extremely dense bread.


I'd be looking for another recipe. Look at this one for comparison:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/5136/success-jmokney039s-formula-100-whole-grain-sourdough-hearth-breads#comments


David

Eran's picture
Eran

I appreciate, the comment, and I checked out the recipe, and gonna make it in the next few days.


I have one more question though. How can I make sure my starter is good?


I just put it in the fridge yesterday, in a little plastic container, with a lid on, though I didn't seal the lid, just sort of put it on the container. Is there any way I can make sure it's good before mixing it with all the flour? A certain amount of activity I'll be able to see?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Simple... take out a scant tablespoon and put into a cup, add two tablespoons water and blend then slowly add up to one heaping tablespoon of flour, stir around and make a smooth paste.  Mark the height with a rubber band and then cover and sit in a warm (74°F-84°F) place.  Time it while you're at it. (You might have to pack this small amount into a small glass to observe it.) Note what it does over the next 12 hours.   If it does nothing, then it is very week and this needs to be left for another 12 hours before giving it any more food.    If it starts rising, then you're in business!


Mini

Eran's picture
Eran

Thank you for that mini!


I did as you said, and here are the results:


I took a table spoon of the starter, let it thaw for a couple of hours, and fed it with roughly the same amount. After that it was at the "After feed" line.


After about 11 hours it went up to the "Peak" line, and an hour later it went back down, but looked very bubbly, as you can see in the second pic, and had an amazing banana smoothie smell.


Any further guidlines?



 



Cheers!


Eran.


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

But it is rather weak.  I would not refrigerate it and leave it out on the counter to strengthen.  It will need to be fed too.  As it needs 11 hours to peak,  I would give it twice as much  flour and feed only once a day for the next few days. Each time reduce to just a tablespoon and then feed.  Keep covered and stir once in a while, like 3 times over the day.  On the third or forth day, time it again like you just did and see if your starter has changed.


Mini

Eran's picture
Eran

First of all, Mini, you are great! Thank you for all the guidelines!


I have been following your instructions but my starter has less action than even before..


I marked 2 lines. One for the reducing level, and one for the filling level. Every morning I reduce and feed, what I hope to be about twice as much.


I also started to put the cup in a plastic container, which is not air tight, but sealed better than the cloth I used to use. I got rid of the cloth, since I've been told it was the reason for the crust.. Both on the starter and on the dough I created, and apparently no rising can occur with a crust.


Anyhow, my starter seems to have stopped rising.. I get some bubbles, and a tiny bit of rise.. But nothing to brag about..


I put flour and water to make a thick paste. Should I make it thinner? More liquidy perhaps? Feed it with more flour water mix?


Cheers!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

make it wetter, that should help speed things up.  Take note if it gets foamy while you add the water.   Stick to feeding once a day until it shows signs of maturing within 12 hours.   I was unaware that your starter wasn't covered.  I like to cover with a little plastic and a loose rubber band at this stage so I can check on it often to stir.  It will still be able to breath not to worry.  I am not too concerned about the rising yet,  we haven't given it enough flour to head for the moon.   A better rising test would be to add a teaspoon of your starter to 1/4 cup water and about two heaping tablespoons regular all purpose flour to knead a little dough ball, cover, and see if you get a rise out of it.  


I need some more information before we switch gears on our approach.


1) How warm is the starter? 


2) Tell me about your spelt flour. 


3) Taste your spelt flour and see if it is still good. 


4) Tell me about the water you are using.


 

Eran's picture
Eran

Ok.



  1. The day I took the pictures, was the last proper warm day. I mean, it's still nice and warmish, but much colder than before. I live in western Australia, and we are slowly approaching winter.

  2. The spelt flour is and organic wholemeal spelt flour, bought on bulk from a local shop. They just got that bag about a week ago.

  3. I wouldn't know really about the taste.. But it smells nice :)

  4. The water is tap.. Unfortunately.. We used to have a filter, but no more. I am leaving in a few week, and I don't wanna invest in anything really. However, these water are sprouting my beans, nuts, and lentils with no dramas


I'll go and add a bit of water right away!


Currently my starter is still in the same little cup, inside a scuba diving mask's plastic box, that can be shut quite well.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

According to Sourdough Baker. com,  Spelt takes a long time so maybe you should just wait and see what it does.  I suspect he made a organic whole wheat starter and switched to spelt.  You got 2 things slowing you, temperature and spelt's protein nature.  See if you can get a hold of some rye flour or switch to organic whole wheat.  According to him, we are rushing the spelt.  I also have a spelt starter but it started out as a rye starter first.


So lets do this:   The spelt starter that you thinned, how is it doing?  If nothing dramatic is going on see if you can find a warmer place to stand it.  Wait 12 hours then reduce it to a tablespoon starter, add about 3 tablespoons unsweetened orange or pineapple juice and whip it up to dissolve, then add one level tablespoon rye flour and two level tablespoons spelt.  If you have organic whole wheat, use it instead.


You will have to play it by sight and smell when it's time to feed or not.  If activity is low and it smells like freshly mixed orange juice and flour, don't feed. If starter activity  speeds up and starts smelling fruity like it's fermenting and tasting sour (you can always spit it out) then maybe you can feed every 12 hours.  Watch the rising carefully.  It is easier to watch rising in a glass or mug than in a flatter type dish.   The consistancy of your mixed starter should be that of melted ice cream for now and should be stirred several times a day.   If you have to stay with spelt, expect longer pauses between feedings (24hrs) but stick with the juice, it will lower the pH and encourage yeast development.  Once the activity kicks in and the starter is doubling itself in volume,  go back to water and see if you can feed every 12 hours and maintain activity. 


Mini 


 


 

Eran's picture
Eran

I've been feeding it every day at about 10am. At about 7-8pm it is the bubbliest and highest it gets.


Should I maybe try re-feed at that point?


I've seen the juice thing in several recipes, but something's holding me back from it :) I guess I just want the existing bacterias on my flour to start it. However, if there won't be any other choice, I'll obviously do that. And same goes for whole wheat and rye?


You basically wrote tripling the strter, didn't you? 1 table spoong starter and 3 TS flour? Should I try and do that with the spelt first?


Mini, you are amazing :)


 


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven


I've been feeding it every day at about 10am. At about 7-8pm it is the bubbliest and highest it gets.


Should I maybe try re-feed at that point?



Yes!  by all means!  try it.



...something's holding me back from it :) I guess I just want the existing bacteria on my flour to start it.



Don't worry, they will.  It is all about pH.  Getting pH low enough to kick start the flour's existing beasty spores, helping them set themselves up in your starter so they can pop into action.  Here is a super link written by Debra Wink:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2


I hope you enjoy it.  It helps to understand what is going on when a starter is starting. :)



You basically wrote tripling the starter, didn't you?



Yes, well, depends on how one looks at it.  Since we aren't using weights and ratios I won't get too detailed with math.  We did increase the starter from one tablespoon to about 6 tablespoons.  If your starter is getting active then it is time to feed more often.


Mini


 

Eran's picture
Eran

Thanks for that brilliant link! It was quite a fascinating read!


I think my main mistake here was that I was feeding too small amounts. Every day I was taking half of the starter, and doubling it, where I should have put the same quantity of the starter in both water and flour (maybe a bit more water, since I am using spelt), which would result in much more feed.


At this point, are I beyond the juice stage? And if not, should I not consider starting over, with my apple sider vinegar?


Cheers!


Eran.

Eran's picture
Eran

I have been feeding my starter more than before (followoing the guidlines in your link), and I think it's happening! I'm gonna give it another day of bubbling, and gonna make the attempt!


By the way, should I make the bread in the same day of a feed or the following?


Cheers!


Eran.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

the starter, take some out to keep the starter going (don't forget to feed it) and use the rest into a recipe.


If you don't have enough starter for a recipe,  you will have to make more.  You still want to reduce and feed it so mix your starter with bigger ratios.   Use more of each starter/water/flour so that when it peaks it is the amount you need plus a little bit to keep your starter going.    Careful!!!   When ready to mix up your dough:   1) always set aside a little bit to maintain the starter first,  2) then add the bulk of the starter to a recipe.  


(Big oops!)  Should it ever happen that you accidentally use all your starter in a recipe,  you can still use the dirty starter jar to get the starter going again.   Just use smaller amounts of water and flour to feed it, try not to dilute it too much and for the first feeding, just add to the starter don't "reduce & feed."   That is why you should never never never wash a dirty starter jar until you are done mixing up your dough and know that your starter has been fed for the next loaf.  Stick to the above  1 & 2  order and this may never happen.  It helps to kick the helpful eager person who likes to wash up while you work out of your work area.  If the jar has been cleaned and it looks like you might have to start a starter again, don't panic!  Just pinch off a piece of your mixed up dough for a starter,  don't feed it and let it just rise in your starter jar.  Then reduce and feed when it has peaked. 


Good luck, 


Mini

Eran's picture
Eran

Thanks for the good advice! I'll definitely use them..


Unfortunately, since that great day of bubbling starter.. my starter seemed to go to sleep... At that good day, I tried to refeed after 12 hours and since then it seemed like I sort of lost it.. Yesterday I fed it at 12:00 pm, and decided to wait for more than 24 hours this time. It is now 7:30 pm, and two hours ago I finally wittnessed some bubbling action. I will feed it tonight, and see how it goes.


Any extra advices would be more than welcome!


Have a great day,


Eran.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Don't feed if it isn't sour.  If not sour, feed to it and keep it loose and stir often.   It should be working by now.


Mini


 

Eran's picture
Eran

Instead of 24 hours feeds, I waited about 36, after the peak, when it's as acid as it gets and that seemed to have done the trick. It is now more active than ever. I'm gonna try and get it bigger, so I can try and bake a loaf in the next couple of days.


I want to use this recipe.


Do you know by any chance how much (in cups) is 50 grams starter 100% hydration? I think mine is 100% hydration (100% volume that is).


A 100 gram started should be good for me right?


And one last question. Should I use the starter about 24 hours after the feed?


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven


Do you know by any chance how much (in cups) is 50 grams starter 100% hydration? I think mine is 100% hydration (100% volume that is).


A 100 gram starter should be good for me right?



Cups or volume is funny business with starter when the recipe asks for weight.  If it is foamy, half the space is CO2 gas so I would at least double it like to 100 gm  as you suggest.  Let's see.... if 1/4 cup is 60ml  then I'm betting 1/2 cup will be more than enough.



And one last question. Should I use the starter about 24 hours after the feed? 



Use the starter as it peaks.  Remember your bread will also take it's time to rise  (just like the starter) so be patient don't make your dough too stiff and plan for it to also take a long time to rise.  You will be rewarded with a flavorful loaf. 


Mini :)

Eran's picture
Eran


Cups or volume is funny business with starter when the recipe asks for weight. If it is foamy, half the space is CO2 gas so I would at least double it like to 100 gm as you suggest. Let's see.... if 1/4 cup is 60ml then I'm betting 1/2 cup will be more than enough.



What happens if I put too much starter? Can that happen?



Use the starter as it peaks. Remember your bread will also take it's time to rise (just like the starter) so be patient don't make your dough too stiff and plan for it to also take a long time to rise. You will be rewarded with a flavorful loaf.



Until now, I always waited until just after the peak, since it's quite hard to know when the peak is without the after peak. Should that be the bread mixing time or should I try and get it properly timed with the actual peak?


According to all this, would getting the starter to a cup size would be the right amount to have?


Cheers,


Eran.



 


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Because your starter is slow, putting a little extra starter into a recipe won't hurt the dough.  


Yes, you can wait until it starts to fall from the peak, but I think you can pretty well guess when that may happen.  You are used to watching it.


Cup sizes.... I'm not quite sure what you're asking but it might be too early to tell how much starter you use regularly.  Let's see if it can raise a loaf.   Then we can move from a trainer size to a bigger cup.  When conditions are right, this stuff can overflow at any time so it is wise to give it plenty of room and keep the waste small.


Mini

Eran's picture
Eran

Mini! Thank you for all the great help!


I used somewhere between a 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of the starter and started creating my first bread ever! Sourdough or not sourdough!


I didn't think it rose enough.. And then the oven turned off in the middle of the baking.. For about 30 minutes without me noticing..


But hey! Here are the pictures!



Thanks for the never ending support!


Eran.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You've made a great start with your starter!  Good work and thank you for the pictures!  Looks like you cut into it while it was still hot.   I would have too.  How does it taste? 


Now you can get ready for the next bake!   Save the parchment!  The halo is a tender touch. :)


Mini

Eran's picture
Eran

I didn't cut it when it was hot, purely because of the failing oven incident. After I realized the oven was off for the last 30 minutes, and I had to go to work, I left the bread with a friend and told her to turn off the oven when the bread makes a hollow sound... I came back a few hours after the bread was done.


The taste is amazing! It tastes like real proper bread! And I think the 100% whole spelt gives it a very unique flavor. Quite hard to get things like that here in Perth.


Since I found myself adding more and more flour, I ended up not having much for the starter. So I kept 1/4 cup flour, and mixed it with 1/4 cup starter and a bit less water and put it all in the fridge. I hope that it will stay nice and vivid.


Anyhow, I'm leaving the country in 2 weeks, so I won't have many more uses of the starter. I enjoyed the learning process though, and will make a new starter when I finally settle down.


I'm thinking of trying to make another one in a week, and maybe have a go with sourdough pancakes as well while I'm at it. Should I take it out of the fridge a day before and double it up?

Ford's picture
Ford

No, after all that work, do NOT through out the starter and start over.  The starter will keep in the refrigerator.  When you come back, bring it up to room temperature, add flour and water, whisk it, and let it stand.  Repeat after about 8-12 hours.  Repeat after another 8-12 hours, and the starter should be ready to go for a new batch of bread!


Ford

Eran's picture
Eran

Believe me, I wish I could keep it! But I'm not Australian, and this time I probably won't come back :)


So if I'll find anyone who will be interested in taking care of my pet, they'll have it! Otherwise, I'll conduct a proper funeral ceremony and chuck it in the sink!


Cheers!


Eran.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

All you have to do is change your feeding habit.   After reducing, dilute with a few tablespoons of water and add enough spelt flour to make moist crumbs not dough.   Squeeze it into a tennis ball shape and then roll into more flour to coat.  We are talking hard dry ball here.  Put into a zip bag press the air out and throw it into your suitcase.   I think you will find it can stay like this for about a month.  If cooler up to 4 months easy!  When ready to revive, discart the outside and use the very center.   Add a little water to it, test for sour (if not sour let it mature) and feed accordingly.


Mini