The Fresh Loaf

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Whole wheat sourdough starter not doubling after 4 days

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andrewedmondson's picture
andrewedmondson

Whole wheat sourdough starter not doubling after 4 days

I've followed Reinhart's instructions to create a soourdough starter using rye to start with followed by whole wheat (stoneground).


 


The batch rises from 14 fl oz to 25 fl oz, but never doubles. I have the feeling I could go on forever like this.


 


It is a hot summer here in the UK, around 85F. Could this be the reason?


 


Can I use the starter to make a barm, even though it is not doubling in size yet?


 


Thanks from a newbie

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

Is this a brand new starter?  If so, four days isn't nearly long enough for the starter to be fully established.  Continue the feedings (twice daily, 1:1:1 ratio is best at the outset) for the next 3-4 days and see how it goes.


As an aside, though, depending on how hydrated your starter is, it simply might not double.  A 125% hydration starter, for example, is more likely to get frothy than to really increase in volume.  So if, after a few more days of babying, the starter still isn't doubling as you'd expect it to, I'd try it in a recipe, just to see how it fares.



Finally, I'd go back to incorporating rye into the feedings.  Rye is like a supercharger for a starter, so if it's not performing as you'd like, that might help.

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

"Doubling" may not be something you should insist on.  But first, are you measuring a doubling of a starter?  Or dough?  Either way, if your whole wheat (or rye) is not really ground finely, then the bran may not be allowing your starter to completely double.  It both interrupts the gluten structure itself (use a strong magnifying glass on baked bread and you will see what I mean) and its sharpness punctures the gluten structure as well.  If you are talking about a starter rather than a finished dough, these problems will be worse ...but not to worry.  Go bake bread and enjoy the results.  Or try to find a whole wheat flour that is ground more finely.  I don"t remember which brand it was now, but there was one particular "stone ground" whole wheat flour that I tried that was terrible ...I couldn"t get bread to rise worth a darn with it, but upon switching to a better brand (Gold Medal or King Arthur for me), my problems went away.  Still, getting 25 ounces of volume from your original 14 ounces is entirely respectable if you ask me ...that last 3 ounces may remain an illusive dream, but a fun one to follow up on.  Good luck.


 


Brian


 

andrewedmondson's picture
andrewedmondson

Thanks very much for the advice folks. I'll give your suggestions a try and let you know the outcome.

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

And post pix of your results!


 


Brian


 

andrewedmondson's picture
andrewedmondson

Success! After a weekend in the fridge (away sailing), I repeated the usual replenishment of the starter. Same rise of 24oz.


Then I divided the starter into two parts. One I used to start a barm (a la Reinhart). The other I replaced 1oz of whole wheat flour with 1oz of wholemeal rye.


The barm seems to have risen, so it's in the fridge, to make some dough tomorrow.


The new starter (with the rye) has rien to 30oz, 2oz more than double. So I shall make a second barm tomorrow and compare the results with the first.


Getting there, I think.


 

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Congrats!  I'm not sure how only 1 ounce of rye could've made a big difference in the amount of bran or fineness of grind, but maybe the difference was a minor nutritional one?  Did it also rise faster?  Maybe your starter is just a bit more mature and has a bit more viable yeast?  But who cares ...it works!  My wife and I have decided that we like virtually all breads better when they have a touch of rye in them.  Not so much to make it obvious, but to just add 'that something' that makes it better.  Like french country breads or Vermont Sourdough ...we love a bit of rye in our breads. (But no caraway!)


 


Brian


 


 

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I agree. Even a small amount of rye does seem to improve most breads IMHO.


--Pamela

andrewedmondson's picture
andrewedmondson

Yes, it did rise faster.


I baked the first loaf in a fan-assisted electric oven. I used a separate oven thermometer and found the maximum temperature was only 425F. I used the dough hook on my KitchenAid mixer. The bread rose a but but was very dense. Taste was quite good.


I refreshed the starter a couple of times then used my mother's gas oven that reached 475F. I used a more refined 100% wholemeal flour and the dough was quite stiff, partly because of adding flour during hand kneading. It didn't rise. There was no point baking it, but my mother wanted too. I left her with two lumps of concrete cooling on a wire.


Then a couple more refreshements of the starter. I used a different stoneground 100% wholemeal flour and made the flour wetter. I used the mixer again. The loaves rose. I put them in a freind's oven that reached 500F. After 10 minutes, the top one had burned (I forgot to lower the temperature to 425F). I swapped the loaves around and gave them another 10 minutes. The burned loaf crust separated from the bread in the middle. The other loaf was perfect. Here's a photo (a bit blurred I'm afraid):


First successful sourdough loaf


It was incredibly light and had a slight tang. We ate half of it immediately.


I'm going back to my original oven tomorrow and trying the same. I'll gradually find out what works. But at least I know I can bake bread better than any baker within 20 miles of my home.


Thanks for the encouragement to continue. It's so easy to get demoralised. Until you knock out a great loaf, you wonder whether it can be done at home.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Looks like things are gong well for you. I've forgotten to turn my oven down too. It is easy to get distracted when loading a loaf into the oven and steaming it.


--Pamela