The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello from the Bay Area

stephen.m's picture

Hello from the Bay Area

Hi all,

I've been lurking for a while but decided to finally post. I guess you could say I'm a prospective bread baker, as I haven't actually baked a loaf since my interest has risen (hehehe. anybody? ok, sorry), but I did bake a single loaf a few years ago. Anyway, I have started a starter, which I am sincerely hoping will be ready to use some time soon. It's on day 4 and seems pretty active (no pictures right now, sorry), but I feel like I've made some mistakes. I'm also worried about the Leuconostoc spp. bacteria because I used filtered tap water. I own BBA and Tartine Bread and ended up deciding to sort of mash together the starter techniques.

I started with 4.25 oz. whole wheat/all-purpose flour (50/50) and 4 oz. room temperature water. The next day I mixed it but didn't add or discard anything. On day 3, I discarded about half and added 4.5 oz ww/ap flour and 4 oz. water. Today I discarded probably more than half and then added 4 oz. each of the ww/ap flour mix and water.

So now my question to all of you: Do you see any problems and if so, what should I do to correct them? Can I turn my creation into a viable starter?

Also, can I store the starter in an airtight container in the fridge? somewhere I read not to store it in something airtight container.

That's all I have for now. Hope to become an active member of this amazing community.

ehanner's picture

Welcome to TFL.

You should continue feeding your new culture at room temperature and watching for signs of growth. Generally it would be better to not refrigerate a culture (starter) until it is well established and stable. 2 or 3 weeks usually if things go well. You are encouraging bacteria and yeast to grow which will be evidenced by the gas they produce when they consume the food in the flour. Eventually they will become abundant and healthy producing enough gas to double and triple in a 8-12 hour time frame. At that point, you can make bread. Be patient and regardless of what happens, don't toss it if you think it's not working before posting about what's happening.


noonesperfect's picture


It is common to warn against airtight containers since the fermentation process creates gasses that could overwhenlm the airtight container and lead to failure of the container.

However, I've been using airtight containers for years (much larger than needed, although that is probably irrelevant) with no problems.  If you are worried, either use plastic wrap, or simply lay the cover over the top of the container instead of sealing it.

I am also in the Bay area (Santa Clara).  If you just want to jump start your process with some already active starter, you are welcome to some of mine.  Of course, I am assuming you meant the SF Bay area, not the east coast version <g>.



stephen.m's picture


Thanks for the replies. Appreciate the offer Brad, if I can't seem to get mine going, I may consider. So it's 2 days later and my culture hasn't risen since then. I discarded some yesterday then added equal amounts of flour and water and didn't notice any rising today or at any time between. I even let it sit out for longer than usual because it's been a little cool lately, although the weather is ridiculously nice in the Bay. I'm noticing bubbles on top, but very few bubbles on the sides. It doubled a few days ago and now I'm not sure what is the problem.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


coffeemachine's picture

hi stephen.m,


welcome aboard! i'm in the bay area too (stanford area). the weather has been beautiful, hasn't it? if i were you, i would keep feeding the starter unless something has clearly gone south (if it's pink, or green, or hairy, or really really foul smelling). yours sound like it's on track, just taking its time i suppose.

RikkiMama's picture

One of the most common responses that I've seen to similar questions is to be patient.  Stick with your feeding schedule. 

I've also got a well established starter that I got going last spring and would be more than happy to share with you to help you jump starter yours if you'd like.  (I'm in Sunnyvale).


Yumarama's picture

One of the most important ingredients in sourdough and particularly when starting a starter and one that tends to be rather scarce: patience.

Keep going on your feeding cycle, have patience, try to keep your starter in a nice warm area (and it doesn't have to be in the kitchen if next to the TV or computer is warmer). Mid 70's is good. 

Give it time and it will get there.

I'd also suggest cutting back on the amounts you use, you can do fine with 2 tablespoons of starter and equal weights of water and flour, or about 1/2 oz each starter/flour/water which should give you about 1/4 cup total. A cup of flour each feed is gonna start getting expensive after a couple of weeks. 

So, persevere and you'll have a fine starter soon. Which will, of course, need a name.

Yumarama & MellowBakers


breadforbunny's picture

Another one from the SF Bay Area(Santa Clara), started baking last Sep but haven't tried sourdough yet, not a big fan of it, but curious about if I can actually build a starter.  So I mixed one Tbs of KA WW flour and one Tbs of water last night, added the same amount of water and flour(KA light WW flour) tonight, as I am prepared for the worst-throw everything away, so I minimized the amount of flour to waste.  My kitchen is a bit cold(low 60s during the night). I keep it in the oven(might be a bit warmer there). Hoping for the best.

RikkiMama's picture

Debra Wink developed the pineapple juice method which is the one Peter Reinhart uses in ABED.

By using the pineapple juice, you are creating a better environment that will help promote the right yeasties and beasties that you want for your starter.  So, if you aren't seeing the right progress and are impatient, try Debra's method.

breadforbunny's picture

Oops, deleted, posted in a wrong spot:P

yy's picture

I'm also in the bay area (redwood city), and I also combined the tartine method and the pineapple juice version of the BBA method (printed in newer versions, I believe). It worked really well, and I never went through a foul-smelling stage. However, it did take me an extra two or three days beyond what the books prescribed to get any visible activity going, possibly because of the lower temperatures lately. I wasn't sure if my starter wasn't getting off the ground, or if things were just going very slowly, but sure enough after about a week, it started rising and falling like a healthy starter. I throw my weight behind the advice to just "keep feeding."

RikkiMama's picture

This is so nice to find local fellow bread bakers.  Some of you might be interested in upcoming local workshops:

SFBI recently published their 2011 weekend workshop schedule.  They'll have two sourdough workshops, one in June and one in October.

I attended their Specialty Breads workshop last December.  It was well worth the money and time commitment.  The workshops are two full days of lecture and hands on experience.  You leave the workshop with knowledge, formulas, and bigs bags of the bread you made.  I'm planning to attend the June sourdough workshop.

Draeger's in San Mateo will have two bread workshops with Chef Michael Kalanty - Soft Doughs in March and flat breads in April.

Chef Mike teaches at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and is the author of book, "How to Bake Bread: The Five Families of Bread".  His book won the 2009 Gourmand World Cookbook award for best bread cookbook.  Classes with Chef Mike are always a lot of fun and it's easy to get caught up in his passion for bread baking. 

Maybe our paths will cross at a future workshop.

coffeemachine's picture

I've been eyeing the SFBI workshops for 2 years. Might finally cough up some money to do it.