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Sourdough starter problem

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Thaichef's picture
Thaichef

Sourdough starter problem

Hello Everyone.


I am starting a sourdough starter again since my old one "die" due to several problems.  Anyway, I choose the "pineapple juice "formular of the "sourdo lady".  It is now on it 8 days and doing poorly.  On the 4 days it double and I was very excited that it is on its way to maturity.  After that day it went down hill and now appear "puffy" but never rise!  I religiously follow the instructions.  What is wrong?  I use rye flour which I just bought from the Natural foods store .  Please, please help.


mantana

MC's picture
MC

Are you using the fresh kind or the pasteurized kind? I was taught last summer at SFBI that fresh pineapple juice will kill the levain.


I have never used anything but flour and water to start a levain. Maybe you could start over and skip the juice. Do a wheat starter first (but with some whole spelt and rye flour at the beginning to help the fermentation take off) and then switch to all rye if that's your ultimate goal.


Are we talking about a firm starter or a liquid one?

Ford's picture
Ford

Pineapple juice is used only during the first three days and then only three ounces total.  On the fourth day half of the mixture is discarded and water is the only liquis used.  By time the active starter is ready, any protease remaining is greatly diluted.


However, canned pineapple juice is the most readily available and that is the one that most people use.


Ford

Thaichef's picture
Thaichef

Hello mr. Ford:


Thank you. Yes, I used the can pineapple juice and follow the instructions to the "t" which means I used water on the fourth day , save 1/4 cup and discard the rest of the starter.  I will continue the feeding and hope that something positive occure within the next week.


mantana

Thaichef's picture
Thaichef

Hello MC:


  Thank you. I used the can pineapple juice. I am making the liquid starter. I will wait for one more week and start over if nothing happen soon.


mantana

MC's picture
MC

...if it isn't moving now, it's no use waiting an extra week! I'd just start over and forget the pineapple juice. In any case it only provides added sugar to the yeast but the sugars that the yeast really needs are the ones present in the grain. So, yes, it can have a boosting effect at the beginning but it isn't really essential.

sphealey's picture
sphealey

=== ..if it isn't moving now, it's no use waiting an extra week! I'd just start over and forget the pineapple juice. In any case it only provides added sugar to the yeast but the sugars that the yeast really needs are the ones present in the grain. ===


My best starter took 2-1/2 weeks to get going.  I was just going to throw it out when it started rising higher each day...


Also, the purpose of the pineapple juice is to provide just the right amount of acid to create the right balance of yeast and bacteria from the start.  This reduces the number of new starters that go in a wrong direction with unpleasant bacteria and have to be discarded.  Read the full write-up for details - it is based on extensive research by sourdolady and several other microbiologists.


sPh

Ford's picture
Ford

You are correct.  Sourdough takes patience!!!!!


Ford

MC's picture
MC

Notes on Sourdough (p. 353-354)


"Occasionally grapes, potato water, grated onions, honey and so on are added to flour and water during the initial phases of culture development. While these can provide an additional nutritional boost, they are not required for success. Good-quality flour will be sufficient to supply the needed nutrients in the culture.


...


All or part rye flour is often used in the beginning stage of developing a culture that will eventually become all white. Rye is quite high in nutrients and fermentable sugars, and can help get the culture off to a good start. Similarly, some bakers soak bran in water overnight before commencing their culture; the drained water is mixed with the flour, as it is nutrient rich from the bran".


I am not disparaging the use of pineapple juice, only saying that I have never needed anything besides flour and water to start a starter and that in my experience, using only these two ingredients, it takes about 5 days to get an active culture (although it gets more flavorful later on as it ages a bit).


Happy rising to all, whatever the method!


MC

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

sPh, you are exactly right in that the pineapple juice is there to control the pH (which it does very well), rather than for its sugar content (which seems to have no real effect in this application).


Something else I'd like to clarify is where the research comes from, and give you a little background on the people I feel deserve a lot of credit. Pat Doucette (homemaker), Gary Wray (electrical engineer) and Evan Shack (physician) are the three home bakers who teamed up to test my 'mad scientist' theories. And together we came up with the pineapple juice solution, as Peter Reinhart dubbed it, to help those who were having difficulties in getting their BBA starters going. I met these three on King Arthur's Baking Circle message board in 2002, however none of us has any affiliation with KA, other than being customers and members of the forum, and as far as I know, I'm the only microbiologist involved.


In 2004, it was my privilege to coach a group of women on Cooks Talk, Fine Cooking Magazine's online forum. I knew there had to be a simpler, more efficient and less wasteful method than the formulas that were out there, and so with the great patience and adventurous spirit of DJ Anderson, Karen Rolfe, Deanna Schneider, and 'lorian,' I made it up as we went along and they gave me feedback. That was how the two-tablespoon (i.e., 2 T whole grain flour + 2 T pineapple juice for the first 3 days) formula was born :-)

MC's picture
MC

Interesting story! Thanks for sharing. I wonder why it is so easy in some cases to start a starter with flour and water and so difficult in others...


Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

The answer to that is a multifaceted one:


1.  Statistical variation and luck of the draw play a part. The organism profile is a little different from flour to flour and year to year. Flour has somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000-6,000,000 bacteria, yeasts and fungi per gram. A wide variety of species are represented---some are sourdough microorganisms, and some are not. A lot depends on which organisms take off first. If the bactera produce enough acid and the pH drops quickly on its own (without the help of pineapple juice), then the leuconostocs are inhibited and things run smoothly. But the majority of people at home---not all---do grow the leucs with flour and water. That can be very frustrating, because it often delays progress, sometimes by several days. It just sits there, looking dead after an initial flourish of activity. Pineapple juice ensures that doesn't happen and for many, it reduces the number of days it takes to get the starter up and running. Bakers like to see results :-)


2.  Temperament of the baker. Some bakers don't think twice about their culture not coming around in the time and the way a procedure says it should. They just keep feeding, and all is well in the end. They may say something like, it took longer, but it worked just fine. They don't see different growth patterns or an extra few days as a problem. But some bakers expect to see something happening every day, or exactly as described, and when it doesn't go that way, they get frustrated and quit. Or anxious and panicky to the point that they start doctoring instead of staying the course. Doctoring sometimes makes things worse. Easy or difficult, success or failure, is all in perception. The pineapple juice solution was designed especially for the second group, and anyone who wants a quicker, more predictable (and less smelly) method. The end result is the same. The choice is entirely yours.


3.  Location is a factor as well---whether at home or in a bakery setting. As it turns out, Saccharomyces cerevisiae is frequently found in 'spontaneous' fermentations such as these new starters, even though Candida humilis is the one most likely to become dominant with time. I mention this, because S. cerevisiae, aka bakers' yeast has no special activation requirements, and will start growing rather quickly in a flour-water mixture, producing alcohol, which will also inhibit leuconostocs and keep them from growing.



S. cerevisiae is not found in the raw materials; its occurrence in sourdough may be explained by the application of baker's yeast in most daily bakery practice (Corsetti et al., 2001; Galli, Franzetti, & Fortina, 1987).


--Luc De Vuyst and Patricia Neysens. 2005. The sourdough microflora: biodiversity and metabolic interactions. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 16:43-56.



This is most likely why people make starters quite quickly and easily, even with only white flour while away at a baking school such as SFBI, but the procedure they used in class often doesn't work the same way at home. The environment is so rich in baker's yeast that it makes for relatively quick success :-)


Compare and contrast these two:


Click here: Artisan II course - day one freedom, day five miche | The Fresh Loaf  


Click here: Sourdough Starter, Step-by-Step & Side-by-Side: Intro | The Yumarama Artisan Bread Blog

Doughman's picture
Doughman


This is most likely why people make starters quite quickly and easily, even with only white flour while away at a baking school such as SFBI, but the procedure they used in class often doesn't work the same way at home. The environment is so rich in baker's yeast that it makes for relatively quick success :-)



 


Well, bread baking books have a similar situation as well.  Bread baking books give the image that one can create a starter easily just by following the simple steps.  That's not always the case.  I once asked a baker who came out with a baking book if he has ever tried to create a starter in his home kitchen instead of his bakery or baking school.  The reason I asked that question is because I suspect that the environment in his bakery or school is probably rich in baker's yeast.  He never replied back to my answer.  I have never seen a bread baking book that gives the reader an advisory or warning that the success rate is 50-50 when creating a starter...that things might not always work out as stated in the book.  There are alot of factors that can come into play as to why a starter is not working the way it should be.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink


In my bakery in the Catskills... All I have to do is mix up some flour and water, and the brew attracts these wild cultures, fermenting without the addition of commercial yeast.


Try as I might, I could not predictably catch wild yeasts in home kitchens however... my chefs remained stubbornly sullen and refused to ferment. Even professional bakers have this problem occasionally, and will add a pinch of yeast (just the tiniest amount) to their sourdough chefs and doughs to ensure success.


--from Bread Alone


flournwater's picture
flournwater

Well, Thaichef, if you're following the instructions to the letter you should really have no trouble.  I've know some folks to make the mistake of covering the brew too tightly, others who haven't ensured good temperature control, and a few who cross contaminated the mixture in the initial phases of its development and a couple who had an almost sterile environment from which they failed to collect enough spores to get things going.  IMO, the pineapple juice formula is perhaps the easiest and most successful method currently in use for preparing a starter.  Mine is now over six months old and probably in it's hundredth generation.  One change I made is to ignore the "throw out half the batch" portion of the instructions.  I just used a larger container to that I had the first two weeks of the preparation (from which I used about 90% to make a couple of loaves of bread after that phase) to build future generations with.


How does this compare with the procedure you're following:


http://www.breadtopia.com/make-your-own-sourdough-starter/


Stick with it ... it's worth the effort.

Thaichef's picture
Thaichef

Hello  Everyone. Thank you for many suggestions. I learn a lot from this site and will  not give up trying.


To:Flournwater:


  Thanks for your comment. One of your paragraph " I 've know some folks to make the mistake of covering the brew too tightly" may be my answer after all.  I do cover the container tightly.  I will try your approach and see what happen.


 


To: Debra Wink:


   Thank you very much and I will continue trying until I get it right.


 


To: MC:


 Thanks, I think that I may be the one who is trying too hard. Perhaps, I should do it the way Flournwater did. We shall see.  I will not give up becasue this site show me so many great baking that I also want to do it.


mantana


 


 


 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hello, you said in your original post:



On the 4 days it double and I was very excited that it is on its way to maturity.  After that day it went down hill and now appear "puffy" but never rise!  I religiously follow the instructions.



I'm not familiar with SourdoLady's maintenance instructions, but it sounds like you aren't feeding your starter enough, or maybe you didn't move on to maintenance when it was time to do so. If you post what you are doing now, she or someone else will surely give you some guidance.

MC's picture
MC

...to see how we all have our own methods and solutions. It truly makes for a richer world of learning.  Over the past 15 years, I have made starters in many different environments , including at SFBI, and they all behaved as expected. But if I ever run into a problem in the future, now I know where to find a solution. Thanks, everyone!


Thaichef's picture
Thaichef

Hello Debra Wink and everyone:


Debra: This is how I maintain my starter on my now 13 days: I took out 1/4 cup and discard the rest and add 1/4 c. filter water and 1/4 c. whole wheat flour, stir it and put it in my kitchen area with the lid partialy open.  The starter is puffy, with small bubles but never rise. My kitchen temp. is about 70-72 degree Farenheit.  


So After religiously follow the instructions, and nothing happen, I abandon the ship, today! 


I am starting another one (sourdough starter tutorial from TFL.) Wish me luck. I need it badly.


Two things that may be a problem come to mind:


1.Previously I cover the plastic container tightly until I read the comment from "flournwater" above. So now I let the top open a little bit.


2. There may not be any wild yeast in my kitchen since I haven't bake any bread for months!


Last night when I try desperately to increase the wild yeast in my kitchen, I went and get my regular yeast into another bowl, add warm water and sugar, stir it up and put the bowl next to my sourdough starter in hope that it will create some wild yeast in the air.


First thins this morning,evern before I brush my teeth, I checked my sourdough starter and hope for miracle but my heart sank, nothing happen. So this morning I abandon ship! 


I am desparately want it to work since I am planning a Chrismas trip to Fl. I want to bake a wonderful sourdough bread and take it to Fl. to brag to my doughter in law. She bake a lot of cookies and cakes.


I will keep my fingers, and toe cross  this time!


mantana

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Mantana, I think you aren't giving it enough flour. Equal parts flour and water by volume can give you a mixture too thin to rise very much (because it can't hold in the CO2 gas), or not enough fresh food to envigorate it. Once a day for a liquid whole wheat starter is just not enough. But it may be okay otherwise. If you haven't thrown it out, try mixing 1/4 cup starter with 1/4 to 1/3 cup water and 1/2 cup bread flour, and see what happens. That will tell us if your starter is viable :-)

Thaichef's picture
Thaichef

Hello Debra:


  I follow your instruction since I haven't throw my old starter away yet but it didn't work so I throw it away and started a new one.  This one seems to be working since on its third days it was bubling madly. So....I may get lucky after all.


  Thanks.


mantana

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

I'm sure you'll do fine :-)

mysteryshrimp's picture
mysteryshrimp

I very nearly gave up on my sourdough starter several times while it was in infancy. One thing that I wasn't prepared for was that the starter would go from very active one day to far less active the next. After thinking that I had killed it about three or four times over a period of two weeks, It was ready to use, doubling in a matter of hours. It has since calmed down. As long as you feed it equal parts by weight (If you don't have a scale, get one), your starter is hard to kill, unless you give up. I did have to scrape mold off the surface a few times, but once it got acidic enough, the mold problem disappeared.


 


Starting it with rye flour the first few days does seem to help, but once the yeast has a foothold, you can use any flour.


 


Sourdough is much more art than science, so don't think that your starter is going to grow exactly as instructed.

Thaichef's picture
Thaichef

Hello Everyone: Just want to let everyone know of what happen with my 2nd try on sourdough starter using "Starting a starter-sourdough tutorial 101 by Gaaarp from the TFL site". 


I am very sad to report that my starter was  never work! Again!  I am very down hearted since it seems like everyone could do it but I could not!  Same problems. On the 4th days  the starter was full of life, it was bubling and active but now on it 10 days, it has never rise to double, ever!  



I went ahead and bake with it using "no knead- minimalist bread" recipe from this site.  The bread was hard, no airhole, and totally terrible.  This was my second try using 1 c. of the starter and 1/4 tsp. yeast.  I feel like my future in sourdough baking had come to an end!  It is a very, very sad day!


To think that my previous sourdough experience during the summer was so satisfying and now nothing.I am going to close and have a good cry.


mantana


 

lindasbread's picture
lindasbread

I made my sourdough with equal parts of flour / finley ground/ and water / filtered water.


Use a sterliced glas jar / I use a big peanut butter jar, the organic kid. It has a big opening.


Mix the flour and water, add only so much water that you end up with a consistency of peanut butter. It looks like, the more watery the flour gets, the more difficult it is to create sourdough. If should be a really thick pancake batter like consistency.


Cover the jar with a cloth with little holes / I used a chear curtain. Hold it in place with a rubber band.


the 2nd day, add flour again and water, stir and add only so much water that you end up with a peanutbutter consicency again.


Cover the the jar again. Keep it in a warm place. I put mine in the cold oven with the light on. It creates enough warmth to keep the dough going.


3rd day repeat the procedure. By now you should have (if you got the right bacteria) some bubbles forming.


Keep it warm. On the 4th day you should be able to see more bubbles and it should smell sour.


My first 2 attempt to create sourdough didn't work out. Once the water was collecting underneith the flour and it smell terrible.


the other time it looked good, lots of bubbles but it smelled terrible again.


I started over and the 3rd time I had luck. Ever since, my sourdough lives in my fridge. I keep it in a glas jar, with the lid / but not closed all the way, so the gases can get out.


I tried some and froze some. Just to be on the save side. I never will run out of my original sourdough again.


Every other sourdough, with pinapple juice, yeast or othe stuff will eventually die. I don't want to start over, I bake too often. Also, the older the sourdough gets, the better it becomes.


You can do it also,


good luck 

VA Susan's picture
VA Susan

Thaichef,


I've had many failed attempts with making my own starter but it finally worked after many tries. I got some starter from Carl's friends and used that until I was able to make my own.


http://home.att.net/~carlsfriends/


Many places sell it. 


http://www.breadtopia.com/store/live-sourdough-starter.html


http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/ingredients/yeasts-sourdough-and-starters


 


I've heard good things about the pineapple juice method, but since I  had ripe grapes on our vines I used grape juice instead. Unfortunately, I had no success.  The next time I used just flour and water, a couple TBSPs of whole wheat flour combined with flaxseed meal I had on hand and equal amounts of water. I began to see a small bit of activity soon after that. I fed it the combined flaxseed meal and whole wheat flour and water for three days. Joy of Cooking gives a recipe for catching wild yeast using sugar, milk and white flour, similar to the Amish sourdough recipe but with half the sugar (called a Herman Starter),  so on day 4, I started feeding 1 part starter with 1 part milk, 1/2 part sugar and 1 part flour. It began to look and act more like a starter each day. I kept feeding it the sugar and flour and milk daily and I made a loaf of bread with it by day 14. I turned some of it back into a flour/ water starter and now keep both of them going.