The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello from CA/pics of attempt SD #2

JLatimer's picture

Hello from CA/pics of attempt SD #2

Hi everyone.

I discovered this site about a month ago and have really enjoyed it. Ya'll have inspired me to get into artisanal bread baking. I've been baking since I was a little kid (everything from brownies to sandwich bread), but until recently I haven't tried making sourdough. I recently made my first starter and have now made two attempts at sourdough bread braking. I've attached a few photos from my second attempt (this afternoon).

I'm interested in pretty much anything fermented: thus far, I've tried my hand at sourdough bread, cider, and kombucha. I love microorganisms!

These were based on 50% Spelt Sourdough Batards (which has been on the home page here for a while). They were a little misshapen, but hey, I'm still learning (and having lots of fun!).

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, JLatimer.

Welcome to TFL!

It's definitely a place to learn and have fun. It sounds like you're in the right place.


flournwater's picture

"They were a little misshapen, but hey, I'm still learning"

Looks good to me and, let us not forget, taste is the more important virtue.

jncameron's picture

Hi, me again...(jncameron)

I'm having a lot of problems with my sourdough starter.

Recommendations are to leave the first starter in a warm place...

hence my problem. I live in a small apartment, and do not have

any 'warm' areas, i.e. on top of the fridge, etc. So I'm thinking...

"Would this be my main problem with lousy starter?"

However, I'm still hangin' in there...hoping that the simplest

of recipes might pop up on the Internet and I'll be able to adjust it

sensibly and correctly to create my first decent attempt at baking a loaf of sourdough.

I'm enjoying the daily emails....interesting to hear from other folks...




Dorians mom's picture
Dorians mom

jncameron - what kinds of problems are you having w/your starter?  I live at 5500' elevation and my house is on the cool side, but all that does is slow down the feeding rate of my starter.  I'm proud to say that I had this starter going some 3 weeks now and have made several loaves of bread from it.  They all taste great but look like cra-a-a-a-ap because I haven't been baking them correctly.  Too low oven temp, things like that.

The only thing you really don't want to do is overheat the starter.  I think that's about the only thing that will kill it. 

Also, if my starter looks like it's a bit dormant, I don't feed it every day, but every other, and then I use 1/2 cup flour (rye seems to be ideal) and 1/2 cup water.  If I plan to make bread, then I take out one to two cups of starter but if not, I just give the starter a good stir, add the flour and water, and stir again, cover and leave it be.  I have a 1/2 gallon jar that I use, so more or less is not an issue for me.  I'm one of those people who starts to panic if I have a cup or less of starter in the jar. 

Good luck!


JLatimer's picture

How cold is your apartment? I got my flour-and-water starter going during a cold spell here. It just took a while. Everyone seemed to be telling me patience is the key, and that advice turned out to be quite true, having gone through the process now once.

If you're willing to spend some money, you might consider buying the kind heating mat used for seed germination, that keeps whatever you're heating approx. 10 degrees F above the ambient temperature.

ananda's picture


It is certainly very difficult to get a natural leaven going properly in a cold environment.

If you could mix the flour and water at 32*C, cover it and wrap in a blanket, what would be the warmest you could hope to maintain it at?

If you drop below 20*C I'd say you'll not make it; otherwise you stand a fair chance.

Best wishes


blaargh's picture

I successfully made a starter a couple years ago in the middle of winter in a cold apartment. I put hot water in an igloo cooler and floated the starter jar in the middle. It would keep warm enough to get the starter pretty active, just had to change the water a couple times a day.

I read about someone else using an electric heating blanket under your jar (set to pretty low I would imagine, or insulated from direct heat with a towel or something - I don't know what the best technique would be, but it sounds like it would work pretty well).

I made my most recent one a couple months ago in the same cold apartment without the use of a heating element, but at this point I know what to look for and how to be patient with it... the cold just makes everything slower - it took a couple weeks, but it's pretty much perfect now. Feeding at the correct times is important, even if it looks like nothing is going on just stay with it.

Good luck, hope this helps!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Don't forget your body is a source of heat.  Keeping the young starter inside a sweatshirt pocker or carnigan will keep it warm.  A freezer zip bag or two would work well burping often to exchange the air.  (And you might have thought it was granny's sagging girls she kept behind her tight apron strings!)

If this is the only warmth you can find... leave it out at night and feed in the morning to then carry around.  I hate to see a starter get squished at night.


Yumarama's picture

Don't forget that there's also warm spots outside of the kitchen, your starter isn't restricted to just that one room.

Many modern TVs are always a little bit "on" even when shut off, so they emit a little heat. Check around the sides and back of yours to see if it's a bit warmer there. A shelf right above the TV would then be a great spot.

Got a table lamp on a desk? Turn it on and set your starter nearby - though not so close it will bake. The space around the lamp will be warm.

I'll bet you have a computer (lol) and if it's a tower and not a laptop, and you keep yours on constantly, it will be generating a bit of heat too. Again, nearby may be a couple of degrees warmer, so that's a possible spot to park the starter.

I was able to put together a makeshift warming box with a small cooler (but really, any kind of box would do), a light socket (small lamp would work too) and a little 15 watt bulb that got barely too hot to touch. I dangled the bulb inside the cooler, covered the top about halfway - took a little testing with a thermometer in there to find the right size opening - and had a box that stayed ~78º - 80º F. Want it cooler or warmer? Make the opening larger or smaller to let more or less heat out. 

So there may be a few spots in your house that would work if you look outside the kitchen or you can rig up something with a few extra bits from the local Big Box hardware store. For example:


$12 at HomeDepot.

Bonus: also handy for lighting your area when taking pictures of bread.

A Hamelman BREAD baking group


SylviaH's picture

I've used a plant light with a dimmer switch to control the exact temperature I needed to keep a baby bird alive and growing..would work in a proofing box I'm pretty sure though I have not made one.