The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help! First time Seed Culture/Barm went horribly awry!

JT's picture

Help! First time Seed Culture/Barm went horribly awry!

"Hi all,

So this week I tried to make my first sourdough, and seeming as how I live in San Francisco I was pretty excited about this! I have been thoroughly enjoying "The Bread Baker's Apprentice," so I figured I'd use Reinhart's formula for Seed Culture, Barm and Starter.

From Day One, starting the Seed Culture, it looked like something was wrong. First off, my dough was quite wet - almost the consistency of pancake batter, while Reinhart's instructions said the Day One mixture should be a "ball" and to be careful to make sure all the flour was hydrated. I double checked my measurements, and still I had the pancake batter consistency.

Moving on to Day Two, Reinhart said to expect ver little if no rise. My Day One mixture bubbled like a jaccuzi and grew to twice its size in 24 hours. None the less, I soldiered on. At the end of Day Three, after having thrown out half the Day One/Two mixture as per the instructions and added the new ingredients, everything just stopped. In the next 24 hours, the Culture showed no activity at all. I let it sit another 24 hours, and this morning what I saw was this unrisen goo with a film of vinegar-smelling ooze on top. Terrific.

So today I'm starting over...and looking for help. I started again with the Day One formula, and again, it was the consistency of batter (4.25 oz. rye flour to six ounces water). So I added more flour until it truly was a ball and had the consistency of a regular dough.

Any other suggestions? Any assitance would be greatly appreciated!

LeadDog's picture

Vinegar is one of the products of sourdough fermentation.  You need to keep feeding your starter for another week or more before you give up on it.

JT's picture

Thanks for the input...should I keep feeding it even if I'm only in the Seed Culture phase?

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

From Peter Reinhart's blog, July 15, 2006:

I have been receiving e-mails from readers of the "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" (the BBA for short) about a problem that our recipe testers have already faced--sourdough (i.e., wild yeast) starters that bubble away early and then go dormant. I have addressed this in American Pie and will do so with more detail in the upcoming whole grains book, but this is for those new folks who are writing to me, so I can refer them to this site for a quick explanation and solution.

     ...Many folks have assumed they killed their starter when it did not seem to respond to a Day 3 or Day 4 feeding, and threw it out. Others waited and saw mold form on the top of the starter and, of course, they too threw it out. That's about the time I start getting their e-mails. So here are two solutions to the problem:

    First, if you are starting from scratch, use canned pineapple juice instead of water during the first two days of feeding. The starter should then work as written. You should then switch back to water from Day Three onward, and slowly the pineapple juice will dilute out as you feed and refresh your starter over time.

    If you are already into the process of beginning a seed culture but did not know about the "pineapple juice solution," fret not. Just...

[this is me talking now] Just continue to feed once a day, per the day 3 instruction. It may take a few extra days, but it will perk up again if you keep with it :-)


gaaarp's picture

JT, a lot of people, including me, have been where you are. Which is why I created a thread titled Sourdough 101. It starts with Reinhart's BBA recipe, so it should look familiar to you. So far, everyone who has tried it has succeeded.

Good luck.


JT's picture

Hi Phyl!

Yes, I saw your awesome thread when I was doing further research. It looks really comprehensive and I can't wait to give it a try! Thanks!