The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Yet another starter Q.

kay-hh's picture

Yet another starter Q.

Hi all!  I have been enjoying all the information on the sight and look forward to trying some recipes soon.  In the mean time, I am baffled by my starter.  You know, years ago, before it occurred to me to do a web search, this sourdough stuff was easy.  I even kept one starter going for almost 2 years before going on a misguided low carb kick.   Anyway, with the idea of baking up some sourdough rolls for Thanksgiving dinner I did a ton of reading to "remind" myself how to do this.  And frankly, I think I got too much information and am either missing something simple or just spazzing about nothing.  

I mixed up my starter 11 days ago using the instructions in the 101 thread, except with white flour as I had no rye on hand.  Within 24 hours the mix was doubled and bubbly as all get out, but remembering that I read that it would take at least 4 days, I continue on with my mixes.  I was using the measuring cup method in the 101 post on this sight.   After day 2, I am getting a half inch of hooch on top each day.  I either mix it in or pour it off depending on my mood, and continue on.  Although I do get some bubbles, nothing like that first day.  So I do more reading and by day 7 switch to using weight (1:1:1) for my daily mixes.    No more hooch, and steady bubbles, but nothing significant.  Certainly only a very little bit of growth. 

One thing that may be a factor is my home temperature.  We heat with a wood stove and this time of year, we are only building a fire at night.  It can get quite hot at night, maybe into the 90's, and perhaps as cool as 55 during the day.  I have been keeping my starter in the microwave because it maintains a more steady temperature. 

I wonder if I blew it after that first flush of bubbly action.  I wonder if I need to better control the temperature.   I wonder if I should try making a sponge and see if it works.  I wonder if I wonder about it too much.  Any advise is appreciated............Kay.

Yumarama's picture

55º during the day is really cool. You're nearly at the "hybernation" point so it's not going to be doing much at that temperature.  

If you have any machinery or electronics on premanently, like a television, your computer or top of the fridge, set the starter next to that so it stays consistently nice and cozy. ~75ºF is a good goal. Even a table lamp left on will keep it's area a bit warmer.

And yes, it's also very very easy to over-worry. 

As you likely know, that first bubble-up is very typical and is not the desired yeasties but one of the numerous other critters in your flour. They come and go (thankfully adjusting the pH level of your flour soup in the process) then days of not much. This is where most new folk think they killed eveything and want to dump and start over (I did that three times).

But don't give up. Just keep going at it and wait it out. It's not impossible your starter is a dud but it's very very unlikely. It's probably much more an issue of too cool and slowed down. 

Give your baby starter a warmer place and more consistent warmth and it should pick up the pace.

Good luck!

kay-hh's picture

Thanks Rainbowz.  That is a good idea about the lamp.  Considering the fact that I have one in my well house and use one for my baby chicks in the spring, I feel kind of silly for not thinking of it myself.  I'll see what I can rig up.

And no, I did not know that the initial bubbly madness was not my yeast at work.  I really don't remember the details of past starters.  They were no-brainers and now I feel like I need a PhD.  A little knowledge can be dangerous.  Kay.