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Switching to white AP flour has put my starter to sleep

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Edith Pilaf's picture
Edith Pilaf

Switching to white AP flour has put my starter to sleep

Hello, I need some advice on my new starter.  2 weeks ago I started with organic dark rye and bottled spring water.  I was pretty stumped by the "false rise" then nothing for 4 days, until I came accross this forum and Debra Wink's post, so I stuck with it, and in a week the starter was doing very well.  I gradually replaced some of the rye with KA bread flour, and soon it was doubling in 8 hours.  I decided to eliminate the rye altogether, and switched to unbleached AP as I was out of bread flour.  Well, after 2 feedings of the AP flour, the starter barely bubbles, and hardly rises 25% in 24 hours.  Plus it gets thin and watery, with a bit of clear liquid forming at the edge.  Worried, I then added a couple tablespoons of rye to the next feeding, and it seems to have perked up a little.


Did I switch too soon, or did I wait too long?  Wanting a white starter, should I just make the switch and keep feeding it AP, and will it eventually get to the point where it likes it?  With the rye, it was most active at 82 degrees.  It's at 100% hydration and I feed at 2:1:1.  Does the white flour need more or less heat?  Frankly, I don't think a bit of rye in the starter would affect the taste of the bread all that much, but I feel like my starter is not very strong if it needs the rye as a crutch. I'd appreciate any help on where I go next with this.  Thanks so much.


 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Try weaning the starter of the rye over a series of feedings reducing it 10% per feeding. 


o Sourdough likes rye flour


o Temperature around 77 dF (82 is fine) 


o Switching white flour base probably isn't a good idea.  It's best to establish a starter that is both healthy and robust before developing variants


o Try to keep change variables to only one item 


o Starters tend to be fragile early on.  Developing a robust and stable culture can take several weeks depending on conditions


o I've never experienced any problems using organic white or whole wheat flours. They come pre-infected with the right stuff


+Wild-Yeast

Edith Pilaf's picture
Edith Pilaf

Yes, I have been weaning the last 10 days, and got down to 10% rye, then eliminated it altogether, and that's when the started slowed down.  I kick-started again with 10% rye and will just wait awhile before going to all AP again.  It seems to be back to where it was with the 10% rye, i.e., doubling in 8 hours. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Explain   2:1:1  feeding please.


Is it two parts starter to one part water and one part flour?  If so, then you are starving your starter.  You put your starter to sleep.  It went into "shut down mode"  and if you want to use it you will have to wake it up.  Feed it more flour.   Try one part starter to 5 parts water and 5 parts flour.  Use just a small amount of starter, say a tablespoon and then feed it.


Mini 


(It is not 100% hydration if you are using cups or volume measurements.  In fact, if you are saving a lot of starter, it is getting thinner.)

Edith Pilaf's picture
Edith Pilaf

I'm referring to weight -- 2 oz water to 2 oz flour per feeding of 4 oz of starter.  It's worked out well until the switch to AP flour.  It's now back to bubbling and expanding happily with the addition of rye, so it's not dead yet.  It is a little thinner, so I will add some more flour.  I think the AP flour takes less water than the rye did to reach the same consistency.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

But you need to feed your starter more food, in this case flour.  Very good observation, rye flour absorbs more water than AP.  You will find many flours absorb differently.


Back to the ratios of feeding.  The starter is full of micro organisms that are constantly multiplying and increasing in numbers.  They are not only feeding and multiplying, they are also dying out and using up the food we mix into the starter.  By under feeding them you feed only part of them, they cannot all eat and your starter will get weeker within a very short time. 


You must give them more to eat reguardless of which flour you use.  When they are thriving, you will see bubbles as they release gas.   You should not be having water or clear liquid collecting around the top or edges of your container and the starter should be active throughout.  When you feed 4oz of starter, then please give them at least 4oz of flour (and naturally 4oz water for 100%.)  


If you are afraid of making too much starter then just say so.  There are lots of ways to avoid that problem.


Mini

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Edith,


Mini is correct, you have been feeding your starter insufficiently to keep it healthy. Also, while 82F will work, in my opinion, the activity will be so high at that warm temperature that the culture will rise and fall too quickly. It will consume the available food and collapse in 12-14 hours. If you have a way to find a spot in your home that is in the mid 70's you will have better control of the activity.


There is no need to wean off rye. The feeding schedule Mini describes will solve most of your issues. If you are feeding once a day at 1:3:3 or 1:5:5 and the starter is flat and expended after 24 hours, then you should add more flour to make a firm starter. You could try feeding 1:3:4 or even 1:3:5. The later is a 60% hydration starter and feels like dough and can be kneaded when fed. A firm starter is preferred by many here for how healthy it is after 12 hours.


When I first started using a natural culture I too thought feeding meant adding a small amount of flour to the master culture. That was a natural mistake. These starter cultures are very stable after a short time. If you are afraid of loosing your culture by not keeping a larger quantity from the last days feed, I assure you it will be fine. I have experimented using a 1:20:20 ratio and in 24 hours it is very healthy. Hope this helps.


Eric

copyu's picture
copyu

I think we've all been there. Mini and Eric are completely correct. You've been starving the little beasties that you want to reproduce.


In Japan, even AP flour isn't that cheap—when you get into "exotic" stuff, such as whole wheat, fine rye, etc, the price goes WAY up. I was always reluctant to throw away good, useful (and relatively expensive) stuff down the drain and I got all kinds of bad smells, weak action and near-stagnation by under-feeding.


It took me quite a while to work out what I was doing wrong. Finally, I threw out everything that didn't stick to the inside of the large mayo jar I was using and fed that. Voila!


My starter's 'first birthday' is coming up soon [tho' I can't remember the actual date.] I'm going to make something extra-special with it next month, to celebrate. Guppies, goldfish and starters can take a fair bit of abuse, but starters almost never go completely belly-up. That's the good news. Happy baking!

alsek's picture
alsek

Hello: I am going out of the country next month and will be unable to feed my starter for 11 days. Does anyone know if this is too long a period of time to go without a feeding ? It will be kept in the fridge the entire time. Should I freeze it ? Thank you in advance for any suggestions.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

All you need to do is feed it firm and park it in a closed container in the fridge. I suggest a feeding ratio of at least 1:4:6 which is 66% hydration and even drier isn't bad. It will last a couple weeks easily and be ready to use when you get home.


Eric

marieJ's picture
marieJ

 


Hi Eric!


Have you had much experience with freezing a portion of your starter as a back up measure?


3 weeks ago I wrapped a piece about half the size of a tennis ball and stored it in the freezer.  2 days ago I removed it from the freezer and fed it fresh flour and water.  Nothing!


The was no activity at all.  Oh yes there was!  The mix turned grey!


I fed the starter 4 hours before freezing it. 


I understand freezing would be detrimental to some of the bugs, but not the entire culture.


Any thoughts on what the 'norm' is for this process.  Should I not have expected too much activity to begin with??


Mini any thoughts?


Cheers


Marie

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

As a general rule, I don't freeze my starters.  I found the best way to store them is to simply take a teaspoon of starter, combine it with another teaspoon or two of water and then add as much flour (slowly) as I can to make a dough ball that can still hold itself together.  Then roll it in flour and tuck it into a container or zip bag removing almost all of the air and refrigerate.  Avoid freezing. 


If you must freeze (like you are turning off the heat and water and leaving) Dry the starter first.  This lets your beasties know times ahead will be tough and they should not "eat drink & be merry" but "pack up your bags and make spores!"   "it's now survival time!"    The beasties will then make things easier when you want to wet them and get them going again, it will be like starting a starter but quicker.   In a few days of feeds, the old starter is back! 


Now if you are wondering if your dough ball has beasties...  Hmmm


I would guess that those in the middle might have the best chance of survival because they had a short but limited time to protect themselves.  Your dough ball may have the right pH (color change?) and enough food for at least the first 12 thawed hours.   Or the cells are distroyed (could also be color change) and only spores are left,  discard and feed 1:2:2  every 12 hours.  Use some whole flour to beef up the beastie numbers.  You will go thru the steps of starting a starter but hopefully there will be a larger number of spores of the preferred beasts.  Two days ago.... discard and feed and keep in the mid 70's°F. 


Hope that helps,  it is more wait and see that just takes patience.


Mini


 

marieJ's picture
marieJ

Thank you Mini.  This was the first time I had attempted to freeze a portion of my starter as a 'back-up' plan.  Judging from your information, I over fed and created too much activity before freezing and upon defrosting and refreshing, I expected a little too much from my awakening culture.  Thanks.  I may try this again just as an exercise and employ the 'famine approach'.


As always, stirling advice.


Thanks to all.


Regards


marie

CanuckJim's picture
CanuckJim

Edith,


Curious to know why you would want to switch to AP flour.  In my experience, it simply does not have sufficient protein, gluten to produce a vibrant culture.  Suggest you go back to bread flour at about 13 per cent protein.  Always at least doubling by weight is the way to go.  My starter is six years old now, and I've successfully left it in the fridge for almost three weeks while I was in Spain.  Came back just fine.


CJ

Edith Pilaf's picture
Edith Pilaf

Only reason I used AP is I ran out of bread flour over the weekend.  I'm now re-supplied.  Regardless of any other reasons for bread flour, I just like the look and feel of it over the AP.  Still, it's slower and less active than the rye mix, but it's not as watery and anemic as the batch made with AP.

copyu's picture
copyu

Yeast isn't that fussed about 'protein' in its diet...anything with a bit of starch or sugar will give it a great feed. That's all that it needs to reproduce—and to make CO2 and ethanol...AP flour is almost the perfect food for yeast


Keeping a starter thick will give it a longer "shelf-life" though.


I even recovered my 'wet' starter after 14 days out of town. There was mold growing on the top of the jar, but it was as hard as a rock—I stirred and decanted half of the starter into a spare jar and fed it, after letting it warm up in the kitchen. It took a day and a half to recover, but it's in the best of health.


Cheers,


copyu

Edith Pilaf's picture
Edith Pilaf

to everyone.  Since I have quite a bit of starter to work with, this morning I put all of your advice to work, splitting it up and feeding some at higher ratios, etc.  I think, perhaps the spot I keep it in is a bit warm.  So I put some in cooler (72%).  I did buy some bread flour and am not using AP, simply because I like the thicker consistency of the bread flour and want to keep the 100% hydration because it's easier to remember.


So far, after 8 hours, the one with 10% rye has already doubled in volume.  There is some activity in the others with white flour, but they are slower.  At least they're all active, so I'll quit worrying about it.