The Fresh Loaf

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Starter seems to be doing nothing...

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rossmac's picture
rossmac

Starter seems to be doing nothing...

Hi all,


Thought I would make the foray into creating my own starter and armed with Reinhart's BBA book, some coarse rye flour and pineapple juice I started on day one and left it at room temperature (around 20˚c).


On Day Two, 24hrs later, I checked and nothing had happened. Fair enough, the book said that might be the case. So I added the next lot of flour and juice and left it.


Day Three and a little frustrated to find it's not grown a millimetre. The book suggests it might have grown 50% so I thought mine might have grown at least a little. Anyway, it said to proceed regardless so I discarded half and added the water and flour. Left for another 24 hours.


Now... It's Day Four and once again it's not moved. No growth, no swelling, nothing. Ok, maybe a couple of air bubbles have appeared on the surface but that's it. BBA says if it's not doubled to leave it for another 12 -24 hours, but I'm a little worried- is another 12 -24 going to make a difference if nothing at all has yet happened?


Maybe I'm being impatient, but it is frustrating when I'm not seeing any activity at all. Plus, I'm not sure what to do if after this 24hrs it's still not done anything as the book gives no info for this kind of situation... Do I keep waiting, do I do another feeding? Do I discard any before I feed? Should I still be using the pineapple juice.... etc etc


If anyone could offer some advice it would be greatly appreciated!


Kind Regards,


Ross

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Can you find a warmer place for it?  Don't give up.  Yes, discard and give another feeding.  Keep using the unsweetened pineapple juice.  Stir and cover everytime you check on it.  Something is bound to happen soon.


Mini

JoeVa's picture
JoeVa

You said "... a couple of bubble have appeared on the surface ...", this is often sign that there is yeast activity. I suggest you to keep it in a warmer place, between 24°C and 28°C. You can leave it even more than 24h, just wait.


Many people think is really hard to start a wild yeast levain. I thought it was hard, but if you understand "why and what" it is really easy. In one year a successfully started 3 started from scratch.


Giovanni


 


Here is a reference photo for you:


Starter from scratch


and this was day 3 (a couple of bubble):


                       

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

I love your step-by-step photo collage. It is very clear and to the point of what to expect it to look like at the various stages. To anyone starting a new starter--yours might not look exactly like these pictures on that specific day, but the sequence of progress will be like this. Sometimes it will take more days to get the result, and a lot depends on how warm the area is in which the starter is kept. Patience is the key!!

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama


Because this is a process involving variable live cultures, I think it may be better to outline the phases of development, rather than to give a timetable. It’s a natural succession that will progress at its own speed. You can influence it, but you can’t control it–not an easy concept for a baker  :-) “Relax. Be patient.” You’ll hear that a lot in regard to sourdough.



Source: Debra Wink’s Pineapple Starter Process post here on TFL.
Don't rush, don't expect "instant" results. Be patient. Your starter doesn't give a hoot about your clock or the schedule in the book. It will do it's thing on it's own time. It will start bubbling when it's ready to bubble.
Just keep feeding it and react to your starter's current state, not what it says in the BBA (which is decidedly not the 'Final Word' on building a starter by any stretch).
And just for more encouragement, look over my own try at the Pineapple Starter, Step-by-Step with lots of photos over a week's time.
But probably the biggest, most important step and challenging part in this process: BE PATIENT
Ambimom's picture
Ambimom

rossmac, my first foray into sourdough sounds exactly like yours.  Don't give up.  My problem was that I didn't know anyone with an active starter from which I could begin my own.  I soldiered in vane with a concoction recipe for starter that I gleaned from some website.


I won't bore you by relating my disastrous results.  Trust me, disaster doesn't begin to describe it.


Bottom line, I finally broke down and bought an active starter from King Arthur for $6.  I followed the instructions to the letter.


 Once I actually saw what an active starter is supposed to look and act like, I finally realized what I had been doing wrong.  That was over a year ago and my sourdough today is fantastically buoyant, deliciously sour and has a lovely fragrance.  I use it for bread, muffins, pancakes, waffles, and all manner of baked goods.  It is fed once-a-week or whenever I bake, and kept in the refrigerator until needed.


There are lots of sites that will send you free starters or you can buy one for a few dollars like I did.


That's my advice.


 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

... Relax. Be patient :-)  You're almost there. Really.


This time of year, it usually takes 4 to 6 days to start expanding, because of the lower room temperatures. And no apparent activity until then is perfect. You don't need to use pineapple juice anymore, but if it doesn't do anything on day 4, feed it with your whole rye on day 5. That will nudge it along :-)


-dw

rossmac's picture
rossmac

Wow, thanks for all the replies! Looks like the general consensus is to have it in a sightly warmer place and to be patient!


Ok, easily done, I'll try both! Just wondering though, when do I next feed it, and how much do I do? Should I discard half and build it back to the same size? At the moment I'm just leaving it to see what happens, but don't want to leave it too long before I feed it.


Thanks again!


Regards,
Ross

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

For the BBA procedure, you can stay on a 24-hour feeding schedule, repeating the day 3/4 amounts. It won't hurt anything to give it extra time at this point (since it has been quiet from the get-go), as long as you at least stir it and scrape down the sides at 24 hours, because if you let it sit for 36 hours or more, it may get moldy on you. And that would be a shame after all the time you've put into it. Next time you feed, use the whole grain for all or part of the flour.


You're almost over the hump :-)
-dw

rossmac's picture
rossmac

Well, I got up this morning to check on  it and was pleased to see it had actually grown noticably. Less than a cm but still more than before. Proudly I showed it to my wife who was pleased for me, then said "It's growing hair". Argh! I knew I should have been more proactive and done something earlier! Indeed the surface was hairly and obviously mouldy- unfortunately I didn't get your message till after that!


Thanks for your info- I'll keep it in mind when I get to this stage of my new batch- I'm guessing that there is no way of saving the mouldy batch now,  so I'll start on a new one and with the info gleaned here, should have more success.


Ah well, live and learn! I'll keep you informed how the next one goes!


Regards,


Ross

rossmac's picture
rossmac

I just read on another site that I should be able to scrape the mould off and take a bit of the non-mouldy starter from below, feed it and it should be OK.... So i'm going to try that.


We'll see how it goes!


Ross

Davo's picture
Davo

I'd err on the side of feeding rather than leaving. If it's out on the bench, keep feeding it once or twice a day regardless of whether you think it's active or not.


Certainly I've heard that a well established starter with mould on the outside can be resurrected by just scraping off the outer gunk and using some from the middle to feed up some new food. So keep on trying.


I certainly wouldn't let it go as long as 24 hours without a feed, at room temp...

rossmac's picture
rossmac

I'm back again with another update!


As I said I was going to, I scraped off the skin of mould and discarded the top half of the starter and fed it with a half cup of rye flour and half of whole wheat with half a cup of water. That was at 10am this morning. By 4pm (or earlier) it looked like this...



 


At last, I can see a real rise (the bottom of the tape marks the point it was at at 10am)


Now, my question is this... Should I now move on to the 'Barm' stage as listed in the BBA or is there a different path I should go on. My aim is to have a starter that I can use perhaps once a week or so (maybe less) and the rest of the time it will sit in the fridge. Each time I hope to use about half the starter then store in the fridge till next time when I'll feed it again the day before... and so on....


I'm open to suggestions however as the 'Barm' method does seem different to what I'm hearing on here and want to make sure I'm doing the right thing.


Regardless, tomorrow morning I think I'll either be feeding or moving on to the Barm stage (which is essentially feeding it also) as I don't want it going to mould again!


Regards,


Ross

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Yes, you are ready to move on to the "barm" stage, if that's what you'd like to do, but I'd advise scaling back on the amounts, so you're not using up so much flour and throwing away starter. You can also feed it per instructions of any other trusted sourdough baker or bread book---It's your choice.


Welcome to sourdough,
-dw

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

See?  Good things come to he who waits!  :)   That's a pretty high rise and it's looking good!