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News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Babysitting infant starter

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dvuong's picture
dvuong

Babysitting infant starter

Hello everyone,


A little background first... I am new to TFL (LOVE this site) and am a newbie to bread baking and sourdough starters.  I started my first batch of sourdough per PR's BBA's forumla using water (didn't have pineapple juice on hand) and noticed explosive growth by day 2, then it went pretty stagnant with bubble formation but no growth.  I am now on Day 6, without much activity still.  I know this is a very common occurance.  Out of curiosity, I decided to start a second starter using Debrah Wink's pineapple juice method yesterday evening.  I was feeding PR's starter bread flour after day one but have switched back to rye at the reading the forums, suggesting that you should keep feeding it rye until it takes off. I also feed every 24 hours. At this point, I think I've deviated a bit from PR's forumla and am using a combination of DB's and PR's methods for my first starter.


 


Now, for my questions.  Ambient temperature at my house is very cool, maintained at 68 degrees F.  I live in the San Francisco/Daly City area where there's lots of fog!  Today, I decided to take both starters with me to work where it is room temp is warmer.  I also turn on the space heater so it can get some additional heat, upper 70s. Does moving it back and forth from different locations and different temperatures affect the starters negatively?  Also, should I start feeding my first starter (PR's) twice daily until it starts to bubble up aggressively?


 


Thanks a bunch for all your help.  I'm sorry if this was long winded and/or confusing!  I look forward to hearing all of your insightful responses!

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I've just been through the pineapple juice w/rye method for getting a new starter up and running here in South Africa where it is still winter.  My house temperatures have been running in the high 50's and low 60's and the starter took off just fine.  After the first week, it was doubling or more in volume in 12 hours at those temperatures, which was a pleasant surprise.  I really didn't expect that kind of activity in that temperature range.  You might very well see similar results with your starter #2.


You probably aren't hurting a thing by providing warmer temperatures for part of the day but you may see that it doubles more rapidly and needs to be fed 2-3 times a day.  Just keep an eye on it and give it what it needs based on its level of activity.


Regarding keeping two starters going: that's entirely up to you.  I've puttered with that on a couple of occasions but always wind up going back to a single stiff-textured starter that I adjust for a particular bread's needs.  For me, it's a matter of simplicity and low maintenance requirements.


Have fun with your new pets.


Paul

dvuong's picture
dvuong

Hi Paul,


 


Thanks for your response.  How many days did it take for your starter to rise/double?  It's been sitting next to the space heater for about 6 hours now and there's been maybe 2 mm rise in Starter #1 "Bud", so still not a whole lot of activity.  I'm beginning to notice some miniscule bubbles form at the bottom and sides of the container though.  As for Starter #2 "Buddy", I haven't noticed any change as it's only Day 2.  Still looks like oatmeal to me. 


 


They certainly are like pets!  By gosh, I'm even taking it to work with me! Perhaps they should have "bring your starter to work day."

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

That was when I started seeing tiny bubbles forming.  By the end of Day 4 or 5, it was doubling in a 24-hour period.  Since pineapple juice isn't as common here (my first attempt ended about 3 days in when I noticed that the bottle labeled "Pure Pineapple Juice" also contained preservatives) as it is in the U.S., I was using juice from a fresh pineapple.  That, and stoneground whole rye, gave me the best launch for a starter that I have experienced.


Your Starter #1 is behaving very typically for a flour and water starter.  Keep feeding it at regular intervals and it should turn out fine.  The main thing is to feed it well; say 2-3 times as much flour by weight as is in the starter being fed.


Starter #2 will do it's thing, too, given time and feedings. 


You may want to put a thermometer next to your starters when they sit by the space heater.  The concern would be overheating, not that they are too cold.  If their temps don't get above 80F, you shouldn't have any problems with them.


Paul

dvuong's picture
dvuong

Hi Paul,


 


I'm on Day 3 with Starter #2 right now and haven't noticed any signs of life yet... Perhaps a tiny bubble formation at the bottom of the container, but I'm not sure if it was there before. 


 


Looks like Starter #1 is finally beginning to expand a little bit.  There is definitely some sourness and tang in flavor. It's interesting though because PR's books will tell you to let it rise until doubled, possibly going 48 hours without feeding but other sources tell you to feed daily.  Some contraditing information going on here...  Both methods should work though, correct?

southern grits girl's picture
southern grits girl

Day  before yesterday my son and I decided to try a new starter. We put 1 cup AP flour and 1 cup water, left it alone. Next morning poured out 1/2 and added 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. It bubbles, looks beautiful, but excuse me, it smells like someone puked in the container, its really quite offensive, is this normal? Help!!

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

However, this isn't "starter" yet, you've simply got one bubbly bacteria activated which will die off and is a typical step as your starter base goes through it's normal steps. This bacteria will die, pretty fast too, then you'll see nothing for several days. Stuff IS happening, however, you just won't see any evidence of it. Other critters will take over the soup and die, each one lowering the pH level of the mix as it does so. Eventually, the pH will be low enough to be the right level for the yeast you're looking for and it will wake up. 


This will take a few more days and this is the place where people typically think "I had active starter for a day and now it's dead" and throw it out. Or they hit this stinky spot and think it's gone rotten and throw it away... just as things actually are getting ready to start happening. Don't do that, just give it time.


Follow this photo blog, it looks like you're at "Day Two" for Walter. Persevere and you'll get there. You may also want to cut back on the amount of starter you're working with so you're not tossing out so much flour. You won't want to keep any of this very early stage stuff even for pancakes for another week or two so keep it small.