The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough starter

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kap's picture
kap

Sourdough starter

I use starter recipe of 1 cup warm water, 1 pkg yeast, 3 T potato flakes, 3/4 c sugar and feed every 3 to 5 days with 1 c warm water, 3 T potato flakes, 3/4 c sugar. but it produces bread that is dense and heavy on the bottom. What am I doing wrong.

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JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Yes, some older cookbooks and Internet sources recommend making "sourdough" starters in this fashion. Not to say that they don't work -- occassionally, they may produce a true sourdough starter -- but you'll have MUCH more luck following a simpler recipe like SourdoLady's. It's just about as foolproof as one can get. To get the full recipe, click through the link above, but making sourdough starter really only requires the following:

  • Flour (you'll have an easier time with whole grain flours)
  • Water (Filtered, bottled, or allowed to stand overnight to get rid of the chlorine)
  • Time (usually a week or two) and
  • Preferably a temperature that's a little warmer than room temperature, but that's optional.

    A bit of acidity and a bit of sugar in the beginning can also help get things moving -- pineapple juice or OJ will do the trick on both counts.

    If you decide you'd rather jumpstart the process a bit, you can always get a really good dried starter in the mail for the price of a stamp and an envelope. Just contact Carl's Friends.
  • jm_chng's picture
    jm_chng

    Hi Jeff,

    I asked Ed Wood about the sugar thing, since he's a pathologist I figured he should know what he was talking about, but did some tests just to confirm what he told me. Sugar is a preservative if the concentration is high enough. There's no need to add sugar anyway, and I found that even a small amount of sugar was detrimental to growth. The nasties like it too don't forget. The acidity is good though. But again isn't all that important as long as you get the temperature right. 
    Jim

    JMonkey's picture
    JMonkey

    I'm sure you don't need molasses, though I added just a dab in my starter for the very first day when I made mine. It worked like a charm, though whether the molasses was key, I doubt. I also made a rye starter using OJ the first day -- it took off too. But I know lots of people made starters without it. Heck, I didn't even put my ye starter in a warm place, just at room temp.

    I also made a desem starter once, per Laurel's instructions. That starter was just whole wheat flour and water in a stiff dough kept cold (55-65 degrees F). It too became a starter, amazingly enough. I didn't keep that one going, since I already had a rye and a whole wheat. So, though there seem to be ways to help move the starter along (~85 degrees F, acidity in the beginning, maybe a little sugar), all you really need is water and flour and time. Amazing stuff.

    jm_chng's picture
    jm_chng

    Don't add sugar, too much sugar will kill the yeast. ( don't add potato flakes.) Flour, salt and water is what traditional bread is made from. Keep it simple.
    Jim