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Newbie 4th time trying to get a starter going

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tomcatsgirl's picture
tomcatsgirl

Newbie 4th time trying to get a starter going

I am brand new to the site, just found it a few days ago and I think I am on sourdough OVERLOAD! For the past two months I have been trying to get a starter going. I have never done this before I am pretty new to the world of bread baking. I love to bake and decorate cakes but I am ready to move onto a new adventure and push myself to learn the art of baking great wholesome breads. I have been baking alot of french baguette's using a poolish the flavor is great nice holes some large some small but not a real good rise. Practice makes perfect. My husband loves it though. Okay onto the starter...


I live in the Pacific NorthWest and it is cool this time a year. My avg temp in the house is between 68-70. We have old windows so the temp is not real steady. My first two attemps were with water and flour and left on the counter. The first batch I think I had going now that I have researched it more but thought it was not doing well and started over. Second attempt kinda got set in the back of the kitchen and forgot about it darn Holiday's. Third attempt well it was tossed this morning. I was pretty sure last night that nothing was gonna happen so I started another jar last night with Rye flour 2 tablespoons and pineapple juice 2 Tablespoons. I currently have it in my oven covered with cheesecloth with a thermometer and I am turning the light on and off to keep the temp steady. It was at 69 this am when I got up. I will continue with the rye and pj for 2 more days and then move onto water and flour ( wheat or white or bread flour?)


With my third attempt I did not use rye flour I used 100% whole wheat. Today would have been day 6 but I didn't get one single rise out of it that's why I threw it out. Bubbles but no rise. Somewhat of a sour smell. I had been moving it all over the house to try and find a warm spot. On day four I cleaned the jar and saved 1/4 cup and added 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water. I never really saw a change. A bit of hooch and a few bubbles. I had in a square jar with the type of lid that clamps down. I had alot of condinsation in the jar. Is this normal? I bought a scale yesterday ( I am REALLY serious about this :) )I feel like an obssesed mother of a newborn that is failing!!! Can anybody offer me some advice? It seems that there is a million different ways to get this going and I am on overload. I will try growing  this new starter in a regular mason jar with cheesecloth this time around. I will call this starter Monique because she will be living in an old Monique's Marinera Sauce jar!

tomcatsgirl's picture
tomcatsgirl

Just an update just peeked in at my starter 12hrs after start and I have more action in this first start already than I did in all 3 of my previous attempts. Keeping my fingers crossed that it will catch on! Oh I baked some french bread yesterday so I know I have some things floating around in the air!

tomcatsgirl's picture
tomcatsgirl

tomcatsgirl's picture
tomcatsgirl

day 3 before last feed of pj and Rye I am so excited this one is seems to be taking off!

tomcatsgirl's picture
tomcatsgirl

so I added my last 2 tablespoons each rye flour and pj and it's now been 4 hrs and it has already doubled in size. Should I wait until tomorow to start with water and flour or today if it starts to deflate? I put in a larger jar as well.

subrosa's picture
subrosa

Deleted...my attempt at humor just wasn't working...sorry.

Jo_Jo_'s picture
Jo_Jo_

Here are two links to blog posts that might help.  The first is complete with pictures.


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10251/starting-starter-sourdough-101-tutorial


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10856/pineapple-juice-solution-part-1


 


Just as a note though, when I start a new starter I use the discard from the starter to make bread and I always add yeast to the dough for the first month or so, not to the starter but to the bread dough I am making.  This is just until my starter is really going well (lots of bubbles) and has an awesome smell to it.  The scale you purchased is a really good start to making awesome bread.


Don't worry, be patient and Monique will be with you for a very long time!


Joanne


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

...And you threw it out.  Sounds like you "threw out the baby with the bath water."



A bit of hooch and a few bubbles



Sign of not enough flour.  Hooch is a waste product and the yeasts have eaten all the food. Equal weights of flour and water means that if using volume measures, 1/4 cup of flour is too little and should be twice as much.  Feed with 1/2 cup flour to 1/4 cup water.  The acid levels in the starter were too high and this kept the yeasts from showing you they were there.  Repeat what you did only use more flour to feed.


Drop the cheese cloth and use plastic and a rubber band to prevent the starter from drying out.  No tightly sealed jars and stir it a few times a day.  Go back to using rye flour and carry a small portion around with you in your pocket, your body temp will keep it warm if you can't find a warm spot.

tomcatsgirl's picture
tomcatsgirl

I have noticed today that it seemed a bit dry I will cover with saran.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Your new starter looks great! Just follow mini's advice and be patient. It's cold here (zero F) and I use the small cabinet above the refrigerator for a stable 78F this time of year. The fridge creates heat which is kicked out the back side.


Eric

Jo_Jo_'s picture
Jo_Jo_

Most people, but not all, feed their starter twice a day.  I have found that feeding it twice a day and leaving it out of the fridge for at least a month will help strengthen your starter and bring out the flavor. I usually watch for the starter to fall in the jar and then feed it, whether that is 4 hours or twelve.


I have pictures of feeding my starter here:


http://picasaweb.google.com/JoJos.amazing.circus/FeedingStarter#


I also, for the first month or so and only if my starter doesn't seem strong enough, will use a little yeast in my bread recipes making sure that I keep it far away from my new starter.


I won't say it's the best way of taking care of a starter, or that you have to do it that way, just that it is the way I do it.  There are many people here with vast experience and lots of really good tips.


Joanne


Update/edited:  Just realized, what I meant to say is for the first month most people feed twice a day.  Now that my starter is established I feed once to twice a week, sometimes one feeding if it perks up and immediately responds, or two feedings if it seems rather week.  I have forgotten my starter for several weeks and it only took a few feeding to get it back on track.  But mine is an established starter, not brand new.

tomcatsgirl's picture
tomcatsgirl

Thanks Joane! Great photo's. I am currently on day 4 which should be the first  feed of water and flour. Well last night is was defalting a bit so I went ahead and reduced the starter to 2oz and water/wheat flour 1oz each. It had doubled in size during the night and looked as though it was coming down and I had to work so I went ahead and reduced it again as mentioned. That was at 5 am it is now almost 130 and looks as though it may even be just under triple size.  I will continue to feed it twice a day. I'm just wondering if it delveloped to fast? It smells VERY VERY strongly of beer. Also should I change to white flour? I like the idea of a whole wheat starter but have read white is easier to start/maintain. Thanks again for your info.

Jo_Jo_'s picture
Jo_Jo_

I would follow what the pineapple starter formula suggests for flour while you are in the incubation period.  It seems to have worked well for most people.  When I make bread I use some white flour in it anyway, so using a starter made from all purpose white flour makes sense to me and it's cheaper.  If I wanted to use it in a recipe that calls for more wheat, or a levain with whole wheat in it then I pull some off and work on getting it used to some whole wheat for a few days before using it. This simply means that I have two starters for a week or two, since I rarely use sourdough with whole wheat breads.  My husband has a sensitivity to sourdough, really strange, but it makes him sick.


I do know there are people here who use strictly whole wheat in their starters, so hopefully one of them will chime in with some tips for that.  I just simply don't make 100% whole wheat breads, usually more like 50% to 70% whole wheat and then bread flour.


Most of my sourdough breads are made with unbleached bread flour, making 100% whole wheat is a lot harder to do and takes a lot of practice.


Joanne

tomcatsgirl's picture
tomcatsgirl

so the top pic is at 8:00 am two hours after feed Wowzers!


 


So far so good I think..Still a very very strong smell of beer and it seems to be doubling almost tripling in a 12 hour period. I am feeding twice a day every 12 hours or so I am mixing 4oz starter to 2oz each white flour and water as of today! I can't wait to bake something... Soon very ...very soon....few weeks I will wait!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

It should be able to lift dough now!  Good work!



I am mixing 4oz starter to 2oz each white flour and water as of today! I can't wait to bake something...



If you take 4oz and feed 2oz of flour to it, it is not enough.  You could smell beer?  Alcohol formation is a sign of underfeeding.   Take 2oz of starter and give it 2oz  (or more) of flour.  The amount of water is up to you (equal weights for 100% hydration) but keep in mind water is not food.

tomcatsgirl's picture
tomcatsgirl

Thanks so much for the info I have found that with amount of flour I am putting in I am having to refresh it almost 3 times per day. With the extra flour I hope to reduce the beer smell as it is very strong and hope to have only feed it twice a day. I will continue this for 1 more week before I put it in the fridge. With such a strong aroma of beer i'm kinda afraid to bake with just yet. But this all VERY new to me so I just thought I should wait for the aroma to be a bit nicer. I refreshed it at 230pm and it's now over double.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to let the starter stand 10 out of the 12 hours.  Or reduce the starter to a smaller amount until you want to build a larger amount for a recipe.  Save on flour that way.


Sounds like you could reduce to just a tablespoon of starter, give it 1 oz water and 2oz flour which is 50% hydration.  Thickening up will slow down fermentation and take the starter culture longer to eat thru and maybe it will hold out for a once a day feeding.  I would suggest finding a cooler room first before opting for the fridge with its almost freezing temperatures.  Something around 55°F - 65°F.


I think you can use your starter in a bread recipe.  Make a small loaf and see what happens.

Jo_Jo_'s picture
Jo_Jo_

Mini's advice is excellent, and I will add that if you keep the hydration at more than 1 part starter, 1 part water, and 1 part flour, the starter will grow more quickly and need to be fed more often, and will be more likely to grow hooch in it.  Like, 1 oz of starter, 1 oz of water, and 1 oz of flour, which is the 100% hydration that Mini is talking about.  I currently feed mine at 150 grams of each and it's simply easier to maintain. 


Another tip is to give your starter about a month before putting it into the fridge, it will help strengthen it.  It's just my opinion, but I really think it helps to keep it going strong in the future.  Other than that, your starter is looking really nice, congratulations!


Joanne

K.C.'s picture
K.C.

Creating a healthy starter is easier with AP flour because you simply have more starch for the volume of flour. Yeast can't eat the bran so it just gets in the way.


Once you've got a healthy starter cultured then it's easy to create a WW derivative. Simply save what you would normally toss from one of the feedings and mix it 1:1:1 with WW flour and water. Voilá, you have your WW starter.


If your original starter was 100% hydration then your WW starter will be dryer because the WW flour absorbs more water. That's actually a good thing if you're going to let it develop for a couple of days before you use it. The dryer starter will create a more sour flavor which will balance out the sweeter nature a WW starter typically has.


It also may not have quite the leavening strength so many bakers create their WW derivative to the volume they need, culture for 24-48 hours and then use the entire starter.


 


 

tomcatsgirl's picture
tomcatsgirl

So here we are on day 8. I am currently refreshing @ 20oz starter 40oz water and 40 oz flour. I decided to go with all white flour for my starter if I want ww I will just use ww when buliding up my starter for a recipe. I am now noticeing some "froth" I refreshed at 4pm yesterday and again this morning about 645am The first line was right after refresh second line is it's highest point at what ever time that was I have no idea as I was alsleep :) anyway here is what I found this am... oh and the really heavy beer smell is gone and it has a nice mild beer smell...


I am still storing in the oven with the door slightly ajar with a wooden spoon at a  avg temp of 75.