The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough newbie (first attempt) question

venkitac's picture

Sourdough newbie (first attempt) question

I'm trying to make my first sourdough starter, and I have a question. I'm using the method in Charles Van Over's "best bread ever" but I got a bit cofused and messed it up slightly. I mixed flour:water in a 1:2 weight ratio, spiked it with a bit of yeast and orange juice. Recipe calls for 1/8 tsp yeast, but I'm pretty sure I added 1/4 or perhaps even more. 24 hours later, I opened the container to feed the dough, it was very bubbly, Itasted it, and it tastes ever so slightly of alcohol, with a very mild alcohol smell too. Is this normal, or should I throw the whole thing away and start over? (The last thing I want is to spend 3 days making the starter, bake with it, and find out that the bread is bad:)).


Thanks much!

sphealey's picture

=== Itasted it, and it tastes ever so slightly of alcohol, with a very mild alcohol smell too. Is this normal, or should I throw the whole thing away and start over? ===

Totally normal.  I am not familiar with that particular method, but typically you would now start the "discard half and feed" cycle at least once per day for 3-5 days.

Generally I have found it takes about 7-10 days to get a new starter to the point where it works for baking and tastes OK.



Ford's picture

Everything sounds normal.  Next time, forget the commercial yeast.  It will take a while for the comercial yeast to be eliminated, but with time, it will.  It will take about a month fot the lactobacilli to take hold and the starter to become really acid.  Be sure you are using unbleached flour.  At the hydration you are using, 200%, you can expect the "hooch" to separate, but don't worry, just stir it back in and proceed.  I, too, have high hydration starers -- they are milder than the starters of 80 - 100% hydration.


davidg618's picture

The three biproducts you can expect from a sourdough starter are carbon dioxide, alcohol and acids: lactic and acetic. The first two come from yeast, and you've got both of them. Wet environments--your's is superwet--promote yeast growth. Firmer starters promote bacterial growth, and it's bacteria that give you the acids, which contirbute the sour flavor. That is not to say yours doesn't contain bacteria; it likely does, but bacterial growth is slower, and, as I said, your wet environment favors yeast growth.

I suggest, you stay with the wet hydration, bake your first bread with your well-fed bubbly starter, and enjoy the results.

Over time, I also suggest you decrease the hydration to somewhere between 67% and 125%. That's the range most bakers keep their starters. If you want to increase the sourness, take a small amount of your starter--say 30g to 50g, and feed it flour and water to obtain a 60% hydration. Then continue to feed it about every 12 hours for three days, and keep it in a cool, but not cold, location (50°F to 65°F) if you can. This should yield a distinctive sourness.

Welcome to the world of obsessive, complulsive sourdough bakers;-)

David G.

venkitac's picture

Thanks a *lot*, all. I just formed my first loaf, it's proofing in the refrigerator for tomorrow, I hope it comes out well!