The Fresh Loaf

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Should a rye starter have a dry surface skin and cheesy smell after feeding?

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Dragonbones's picture
Dragonbones

Should a rye starter have a dry surface skin and cheesy smell after feeding?

I took a good, active sourdough starter, put some in another container, and fed it whole rye flour every day for a few days at RT, refrigerated it for 4-5 days, pulled it out and fed it again for a few days at RT, but unlike my regular white sourdough starter, which turns bubbly and has a shiny, wet surface appearance with a pungent, alcohol and paint thinner nose (and which has rising power), the rye starter has a dusty, dry surface, like a dry skin atop it 8-12 hours after feeding and a faint stinky cheese smell. Both are a like thick pancake syrup tending toward molasses in consistency.


Is the rye starter infected or dead? I'm brand new to this so I have nothing to compare it to, but it doesn't look right to me. Thanks in advance for your diagnosis! :)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

With the cheesy smell.  Matt surface sounds also normal.  It does have a cover... I hope.


Mixing it thick is not a problem because it seems to get wetter as it matures.  It will also not rise much but when the "skin" is scratched with a spoon or fork, the bubbly structure is visable underneath.  Remove some of the broken bubble goo and add water to feed again.  Go for it!


I am worried your rye starter may be very hungry.  When I plan on putting it into the fridge, I let it stand out maybe an hour and then refrigerate.  Then it can go 4-5  days before I start taking small amouts out of it to build for a recipe.


Mini

Dragonbones's picture
Dragonbones

Thanks so much, Mini! That's very reassuring. I'll be sure to dump half, and stick to a good feeding schedule. Yes, it's covered. Oh, I forgot to mention that when I started it I added a little orange juice and a touch of vinegar, hoping that the acidity would ward off bad bugs and commercial yeast.


Thanks again for your guidance! :)

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Er, uhhhh.... Orange juice and vinegar?  I'd keep the "additives" out of it.  If you want to produce a rye starter, then one good way to do it is to start with a small amount of regular wheat starter and double the volume with each feeding, and only feed with rye.  For example, you might start with 1 tablespoon wheat starter plus a tablespoon of rye flour and 1/2+ tablespoon water (small bowl, covered w/plastic, vent hole).  Let that run at room temperature for 12  hours, then repeat ...only use the entire proceeds from the first run (about 2 tablespoons of starter) and add 2 tablespoons of rye flour and about a tablespoon of water.  In 12 hours, repeat.  In 2 days, or about 4 feedings, you should have about 1-1/2 cups rye starter ...with a tiny percentage of wheat left in it that will continue to dilute away with time.  By starting with an established starter, you have the original starter's natural defense against mold and other infections, yet didn't have to add other things to 'help out.'


If you are on a no-wheat diet, you can still do this, but continue to feed it over several additional cycles to further dilute the small percentage of wheat flour out of it.  You can probably calculate the percent wheat in it since it cuts in half with each feeding.  For example, the procedure above results in 50% then 25% then 12.5% then 6.25% wheat at the end of 2 days, then 4 more feedings and you're down to 0.39% wheat ...less than the 1/2 of one percent the law allows for calling something 'free' of something.  In less than a week, you can have a 'wheat-free' rye starter.  Anyway, this is the best way to convert a healthy starter into another kind of (still healthy) starter.  All the best and good luck to you.  Post pictures of your efforts ...the good to eat stuff that is.


Brian


 

Gabriellem01's picture
Gabriellem01

I stumbled on to this site just days ago, and am quite intrigued by it all! I am wheat intolerant and have dabbled in trying to make a sourdough loaf with Spelt flour alone, with minimal success in flavor as well as bulk. I have bad reactions from even something like a small amount of wheat-based soy sauce in foods, so I am not sure making a starter with wheat flour and then depleting it by adding just a rye or another flour to feed it, working out the wheat would work well for me, but am willing to give it a try. My husband could use it for breads until we think we have worked out the wheat. In attempts to bake breads with whole spelt flour I come sadly short of the height seen in commercial loaves, and a boring flavor just like most commercial versions. Can anyone offer me suggestions? The recipes for Vollkornbrot look yummy, so that will be a good start!


Thanks for any help for this 'newby'!

bpezzell's picture
bpezzell

The sourdough spelt sandwhich loaf in Dan Leder's Local Breads is pretty good. Uses a German rye starter if I remember correctly, has a nice rise to it, decent crumb, and interesting taste. Some (read: a lot!) of Leder's formulas in that book have some screwy math, but that one worked well.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I just did.  Nothing fancy.   You can get one going with just rye alone, it is the easiest way.  Just put 30g of water with 20g (or a little bit more) of rye flour at noon.  Cover and let it sit 20 hours at room temp of 75°F (24°c) or a little warmer.    Rye is sourdough's perfect food.


Next morning stir & remove 10g and mix with 30g water and 20g rye flour and let it stand out until evening, put into warmer part of the refrigerator and go to bed. 


Next morning stir & remove 10g (about a heaping teaspoon) mix again with 30g water and 20g rye, cover and leave out until 8pm.  Stir, remove 10g and repeat.  Cover and let stand overnight (onto 12 hour feeding schedule)


In the morning, try into a small recipe to test: first remove 10g and feed.


The rest 50g of starter mix with 150g water, 30g rye and enough spelt to make a ball.  Let rest for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle with a little salt and knead until smooth with wet fingers.  Place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise.   In about 2 hours tuck the top of the ball under itself to tighten up the "skin" and let it continue to rise.  Depending on the temperature and rate of rising, fold the dough under about every hour and reshape until you feel you want to bake it soon.  Then let it finally proof.  A total from mixing to baking anywhere from 6 to 8 hours.   Preheat the oven and pop it in at 210°c or  400°F.  Let cool.   Cut open and check the crumb.


I hope that works for you.  If not, feed it 2 times a day for the next few days each time removing 10g and discarding the extra.  Discards can also be used in a loaf with a little added yeast.


Mini

Gabriellem01's picture
Gabriellem01

Thanks, Mini!  Appreciate the help!  I will work on that today and let you know how I do.  We're at 6500 ft. above sea level so I have challenges with high altitudes as well as thunder and lightening storms that continue to hit us here in Idaho, despite it being 'summer'.  Heaviest wet June since 1944 - good and bad for our farmers!


Gabby's Grandma

Dragonbones's picture
Dragonbones

Thanks Brian -- I did start with a healthy wheat starter, but I was worried about infections anyway due to the temperatures here (in the 90's F, with no cool cellar for refuge) so I added a bit of acid. I had read that adding a bit of pineapple or orange juice (or vinegar, in a pinch) when starting a new starter could help prevent a certain kind of infection so I figured it couldn't hurt.

I'll try to start a baking blog soon to post pics; I've had a few nice looking and yummy results so far.

Cheers,
Kent in Taibei

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I think Brian is trying to say that the starter was already started.  All you did was change the flour.   Adding acid wasn't really needed but (to change the subject)...you might think about adding some salt to your starter if it is 90°F all the time to slow down starter activity.  Salt.... have to check on the % to add.  I hope one of our experts has some advice.


I might also try making the starter into a very dry dense dough ball to stretch out the time between feedings.   Wrapping a wet cloth around the starter jar will also reduce the temperature or cool down the jar while the moisture is evaporating.  Sort of the same principle as a wet cover on a canteen.  (A clean wet sock maybe?) 


Mini

Dragonbones's picture
Dragonbones

So that's what people are doing to get that gym sock smell?

I'll try it, thanks!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

But seriously, a clay pot that has been fired once is not glazed and still porous (bisque ware) can be submerged or filled will water and allowed to get water logged.  Pour off the water and put the starter jar inside.  I have a ceramic wine cooler sleeve baised on this.  It has a small plate that goes underneath to keep the water from flowing down and away.   I've also used clay pots in this manner to store vegitables in Indonesia and keep them fresh.


Mini

Dragonbones's picture
Dragonbones

Good suggestions, thanks!  I wonder how the starter would do with another option, pulling it out of the frig at bedtime, feeding it, wrapping it in your wet cloth, and leaving it out overnight, then putting it back in the frig in the morning. It drops to the mid 80's F at night, and it would take a couple hours to dechill. Hmmm...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

than just a temperature rise in summer, even in a cooler room, the dough seems to react like it knows it warmer outside.  Could it be the effect of sun, as in the sun is closer to the poles than in the cooler times of the year and this has some subtle effects on the organisms?  Sort of the way tides and full moons affect sea creatures?   Maybe air pressure or changes in weather patterns have something to do with it.  Do you seem to notice changes as the sun moves between the tropics (of Cancer and Capricorn)? 


I thought you didn't have a fridge?  Sounds like a worthy try.  Or how about a styrofoam box with or without ice?


I had suspected the salt % would be up to 2% of the flour weight to slow down the starter.  What I would do is when preparing the starter for a recipe, also prepare the salt for that recipe and remove just a tiny amount for the overnight starter.  


Mini


 

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Funny you should bring up Mother Nature's (possible) effect on yeasties, Mini. Two weeks ago, I watched a Danish television program about baking, and the hostess (who was very cool by the way) said that there was absolutely no way that her sourdoughs would rise when there are thunderstorms close by. It didn't sound like she was telling a joke, but she didn't spill more details either.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

are also affected by air pressure.  Slamming doors and windows also falls in this catagory. 

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

I wonder if the local barometric pressure is dropping when a storm is approaching, and the CO2 from the yeast just isn't expanding as much?  Or maybe they do like me and hold their breath after a flash of lightning and wait for the boom?  :)


 


Brian


 

Dragonbones's picture
Dragonbones

Well, I do have a frig; I just thought that you're supposed to bring it out for a day or two when feeding or building it.