The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Went to Sleep and Won't Wake Up

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pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

Sourdough Went to Sleep and Won't Wake Up

I was so proud to be baking good sourdough bread here in Italy, having figured out the flour, made a starter from local flour, and gotten the steaming and baking up to snuff. (Well, I had baked three days in a row successfully after 5 days of making my starter.) Then my starter started looking dead. Not grey, just white and lying there like a slug. Asleep. I put it in a warmer place, as it's been very cold here. No luck. I found a Peter Reinhart link that said to add pineapple juice if you had used pineapple to start the starter. I hadn't, but I did it anyway (to half the starter). The other half, I have been stirring a lot, another of his suggestions.



It seems that a rogue bacteria can get in that makes bubbles but suppresses the natural yeasts. I suppose that's what I've got. Can anyone help?


Thanks!


Patricia

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

at his site, SourDoughHome, at http://www.sourdoughhome.com/revivingastarter.html that I read through before I discovered this TFL resource.  I am too inexperienced at all this myself to give you any advice, other than to say that I had success by following his advice.  I'm still baking with the starter his site helped me revive.  I wish you the same results!


OldWoodenSpoon

Ambimom's picture
Ambimom

If your starter was bubbling and your bread rose high then your starter sounds like it is very very hungry now. Is the container in which you are keeping your starter clean? (I use a glass jar but ceramic works too).  When I bake,  I use about 10 to 11 ounces of active starter at a time.  It gets fed 5 ounces at a time.  


 If I were you, I'd feed it every four hours until it starts to get active again.  My starter is just water and flour.  I typically measure by weight on a scale not by volume.


1.  First I'd remove 5 ounces (by weight on a scale) [or any amount you decide but make sure it is consistent] of starter from the container in which you store it.  Dump that into the garbage.


2.  Then add to the container 5 ounces of water [by weight on a scale] and 5 ounces of flour [by weight on a scale] and stir that into the starter.


The idea is to replace the same amount of flour and water that you removed.


Cover the container with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and leave out on counter.  Four hours later, repeat steps 1 and 2 above.  You should see the starter start to exhibit activity.  It should start to bubble.  After 2 or 3 feedings, in addition to bubbles, you should also notice it rising.  Once active and bubbling, it also has a wonderful sour aroma that people liken to beer.


But after doing this 3 or 4 times, if the starter shows no signs of life.....your starter is dead.


When the starter is activated again, you can store the starter in the  refrigerator and feed it once a week or every other week.


You will find what routine works best for you.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

If you have access to rye, use rye flour for a few refreshments.  If you can get organic rye, that's even better.

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

Ambimom, I have successfully maintained a starter at home, so I know that this starter isn't hungry. It is the opposite. It doesn't show much life at all. This morning, after the aerating of half of it and the pineapple juice, there are some small bubbles.


Signs that my starter is hungry would be a lot of activity then greyness or a rise then collapse. I don't have anything like that.


Lindy, I go to Florence today, and I may be able to find rye there. I had a hard time just finding bread flour where I am! Everyone in this town buys bread from the bakery.


I'll keep you posted.


Patricia

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If you are using tap water and your area's water supply has had an increase of antibacterial treatments done to the water or the pH has jumped up.  (a lot of "ifs")  This in turn could affect the starter.  Ask the local baker if he's had problems lately with the water affecting his dough.  You might not have to ask if a lot of loud language is coming from the bakery at 4am.  Has your laundry shown signs of bleaching from the washing machine?


Your starter might also for some (life threatening) reason go dormant to protect itself... revert to spore form.  The pH treatment of unsweetened pineapple juice just might be the answer.  Check the bottled water's pH too, that it's not too high.  What happens to just a little instant yeast mixed with small amounts of water and flour?


I love to investigate stuff...  A quick pH test would be to take two teaspoons of your starter, one in each teaspoon.  Sprinkle soda on one, slowly drip vinegar on the other.  Which one foams from the chemical reaction?   If soda foams then we know the pH is low or acid.  If the vinegar foams, then the pH is too high and your starter is too base and needs acid.  This is only a crude test but sometimes helpful.


Mini


 

JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

I would be happy to share with you some of my pasta madre.


Rye is usually available at health-food stores, but is expensive.


Jeremy

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

But I'm in Florence now, and just found a source for rye...Pasta madre seem, do to be functioning now...had some small bubbles tonight and made the 123 bread. I'll keep you posted. BTW,do you use the Manitoba flour?


Patricia

JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

Glad to hear that it seems to be working again, but I wqould caution against rushing into bread again until the starter is good and lively.


I did use Manitoba in the summer, when I was having real trouble getting my dough to stop being a super-sticky mess. Lately I've switched to a softer but organic and stoneground grano tenero, and it seems to be working well. I'm still looking for a source of stronger stoneground flour in 5 kg bags, without much luck.


Jeremy

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

Some people who live here in Italy have said that the way to get the bulk and type of flour that you want is to cultivate a relationship with a baker...: )


Thanks for the warning.


Patricia