The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter alive but not very active (First Timer with this stuff)

rachellegreen's picture

Starter alive but not very active (First Timer with this stuff)

Hello I created a starter through a 6 day period. It was a recipe a friend gave me the recipe is also available at Shaboom bread box online. Anyways the starter was doubling in size up until day 5 I added day 5 ingredients and I was suppose to leave and cover for 6 hours or until doubles. Well I only read the 6-8 hours and assumed I was supposed to put it in the fridge. In six hours it climbed about a half inch (probably not enough). And in the fridge it went.

   So with the intention of making bread on day 7  I took some out and mixed some with flour and water and it was supposed to double within 3-5 hours.Needless to say it is day 3 of no rising on my counter. I realized that my started was not active as it should be and I wanted to aviod going through another 6 days of waiting.

 My starter is still alive and as of yesterday I started feeding it every 12 hours discard half and refresh. It smells and tastes like I think it should sour and looks like the gooey innards of marshmellow. The bubbles are still minimal and it is not climbing with the feeds. Now to the question how often can I feed my starter to get that climb that I need before I use it?

SourdoLady's picture

Give it some more time. Six days is very young to expect much. Most starters need about 10 days. Don't refrigerate it. Watch it and after feeding, when you see it is starting to recede, that is when you need to feed it again--always discarding some first. Adding a spoonful or two of rye flour to your feeding will give it a boost. You don't say what the hydration level is (liquid, firm, etc.) but if you keep it at a thicker consistency it will rise higher (and need fed less often). Keep the starter warm--around 78 to 80 degrees is ideal. Once it really wakes up then you don't need to keep it warm.

rachellegreen's picture

So I should add 1-2 tablespoons of rye flour to my cup measurement of flour needed to feed. My starter is "firm"(at least it started that way). I have been refreshing it every 12 hours, should I refresh it more often? To refresh I add equal parts flour and water. I also have it in a plastic container with an air tight lid is this good or should I use plastic wrap?

coffeetester's picture

I have tried to store my new starter in the oven (Wife cant see it and hides the little stink coming off it). How important is the 78F temperature. My oven holds a really nice 71 but with the light on it goes to 95. Should I look for a new place or mess with the lights to try and get a temp closer to 80.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

That is a good sign. 

I checked the Shaboom site, and I have to smile to myself.  They also call a starter a barm (incorrect) but I have to smile and fondly think about Peter Reinhard.  Anyway, the recipe calls for water, fine and good, and as suspected, makes a big jar of the stuff.  What a waste for the first week!  So much discard!  It can really be reduced to 1/4 cup measurements...  1/4c water plus enough flour (2-3 heaping tablespoon) to make the same consistancy, like toothpaste.  That way you have less stress with waste and tend not to rush the starter to be economical.  Enough said.

The stint in the fridge set your starter back a little and then before the yeasts could increase 3 to 4 fold, it got whammied with being diluted into dough.  Not a big deal if you know what is going on.  So it sat there for 3 days, diluted and covered.  What a great dough it could be now if the gluten hasn't broken down!  First a few questions.  How does it smell?  (wet flour is at one end... and beerish the other end of the scale)  What you now have is a long preferment and I'm not sure if you can save it.  If it is still holding together and not ripping apart as you try to gently stir it or fold it over onto itself, then it might just make a loaf. 

THE SAVE:  Sprinkle dough with two to three teaspoons of instant yeast, give it just one spray of water from a mister, and using your fingers poke the yeast into the dough all over making a mess of things.  Then fold the dough over onto itself as many times as you can without ripping the dough and let it sit 10 minutes.  Fold it again and again to incorporate the yeast.  When the dough resists, rest 30 minutes and fold again.  Meanwhile turn on the oven and grease a loaf pan.  After a 30 min. rest and the dough is relaxed, try to spread into a rectangle and gently pop any large bubbles, roll up the dough tightly from one end so that it easily fits into the loaf pan.  Cover or lightly oil the surface and let rise until just about double.   The dough should fill half the loaf pan before rising.  Bake when ready according to your directions.

Back to the starter:  If you want to refresh it more than every 12 hours, it has to be doubling within that 12 hour time and smelling stronger than wet flour, closer to over-ripe fruit or grain.  If you are not sure about how it smells, then it hasn't fermented enough.  If you taste it, and it is indeed sour, then discard and feed.  Listen to what your starter tells you.