The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

BBA Firm Starter for sourdough

KathyHo's picture

BBA Firm Starter for sourdough

I have made the BBA Sourdough starter and I thought it looked okay but when I mixed the firm starter and let it stand at room temperature for 4 hours, it only rose slightly.  Granted, my house is 100+ years old and is cool in the winter, it is certainly warmer than the fridge so I'm wondering what I've done wrong.

Any suggestions?

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Kathy.

How fast a starter will grow depends on the number and health of the yeast in it and, very highly, on the ambient temperature.

How old is your starter? Have you successfully made bread with it yet? How did you feed your firm starter (proportions of starter to water to flour)?

A very active starter will double in 4-6 hours in a warmish room (over 72ºF). This time of year, at 65-68ºF in my kitchen, I expect it to take at least 8 hours, and most often I give it 12 or more hours to mature.


KathyHo's picture

Thanks, David for your comments.

No, I have not used it yet - it is a fairly young starter - around 2 weeks old.  I read the sourdough 101 post and fed it on Wed based on the instructions in that post.  It has been sitting around 8 hours and nothing much is happening.  I'll leave it overnight and decide in the morning if I'll chuck it in the garbage. No point in wasting yet more four.

I don't understand why the firm starter is a "non-starter" as it looked really good and bubbly and smelled great up to now.


Yumarama's picture

If your house or kitchen is cool, that will undoubtedly slow your starter's process considerably. Fortunately, it's not too difficult to adjust the starter's immediate environment so it's in a warmer spot.

Places to place your starter: on top of the fridge where the heat off the coils in back will keep the temps a little closer to the mid 70's (~24ºC).

Next to a small appliance that's always on (like those new coffee makers with always ready hot water).

In a microwave along with a cup of just boiled water - stick a post-it note on the dial so people know not to turn it on! Replace the hot water every now and again. The microwave is simply a handy "proofing box" most people have - you could use any other well insulated small box. Like a camping cooler, for example.

In the oven with the oven light on. Again, a post-it note next to the dial reminding yourself/warning others to not turn it on is important. Do check your oven's temp when just the oven light is on for an extended time, if it's well insulated and the bulb is exposed, it can get well above 90ºF in there, hot enough to start cooking your starter. If so, just leave the oven door open a crack with a towel or spoon. Keeping to ~80ºF (~26ºC) will help to get your yeasties good and active.

Don't limit yourself to the kitchen, either. If the most logical place that stays warm is next to, say, the computer or TV in the lounge, then put your starter next to it. Or near a small table lamp that will help keep the immediate area a few degrees warmer.

Scan your house for a warm spot and park your starter there. Preferably, you're aiming for mid to high 70's or a little better. If your kitchen is under 70, you're quite likely slowing things down. Bump it up a bit and you should improve the activity level considerably.

soleilnyc's picture

My starter takes 12-18 hours to double, and that's in the oven with the light on.  Accordingly, proofing a loaf of bread takes forever, so much so that it starts to break down and spread upon baking.  My starter is about 5 months old and has made some bread that is denser than I would like, but has great flavor. 

What can I do to give it a jumpstart?

Also, slightly highjacking, when exactly is the optimal time to make the sponge or dough?  I've looked all over and I can't figure out whether it's when the starter is at it's peak, just before the peak, just after when it's hungry, or whenever you want because the yeast is alive in there anyway. I'd love to finally figure that one out!

KathyHo's picture

Thanks alot for the comments.  I chucked yesterday's experiment and I'll wait until Thursday evening to make the firm starter again.  It will have to live in my oven overnight with the light on overnight and hopefully, it will grow this time.  I guess this house is just too cool.

I have about 1 1/2 to 2 cups left of my original starter, which I've yet to use successfully in a loaf of bread. It is bubbly and has a sharp, yeasty smell.  It lives in the fridge so should it grow at all?  It hasn't really.

My question is:  when should I feed it?  Wednesday evening if I plan to use the starter Thursday evening to make the firm starter?  At a 1:1:1 ratio by weight or by volume?  I'm thinking that this shouldn't be that difficult...

PeteInAz's picture

I usually take my starter out of the fridg on Thursday night, feed it Friday morning, then again Friday night, once more Saturday morning, bake Saturday and Sunday then feed it Sunday night and put it back in the fridg.

If I need a warm place to rise dough (or start seeds) I find the top of the water heater works well.