The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter Help!!!

Dough-No's picture
Dough-No

Starter Help!!!

Hey Guys...


 


   I am still trying to get my first starter off the ground.  I have made many mistakes so far. I was using Chlorinated water, I was useing bleached flour.  I have fixed those errors but I am still have a problem.


 


 This time I starter using purified water and rye flour.  Feeding twice a day, usually keeping 2 tbls of starter, adding 4 tbls of rye flour and 3 tbls water.


 By the ennd of day 2 I was starting to get some expansion from the bacteria.  Within 4 days I was getting LOTS of expansion from bacteria and it smelled REALLY bad.


  After a week and a half the expansion slowed down and the smell was going away.  So I switched to useing unbleached bread flour.  It was rising a bit for a few days but now it seems completely inactive.  It is getting a large amount of hooch on it, but no expansion. 


  Did I rush on the bread flour?  Is this just a dormant stage before yeast grows?  Should I be using AP flour and not bread flour?  I just tasted it and it sorta tastes like yogurt, not sure if that is important.


  And ideas would be greatly appreciated.


 


  -D

cranbo's picture
cranbo

if it tastes like yogurt, it means it's working. Just be patient. 


if you're getting hooch (not just liquid separation), it means it's working, and possibly very quickly. How closely are you monitoring it? Does it grow to double yet? If so, how long does it take to double. 


You may want to start feeding it 5 tbsp flour, 3 tbsp water, 1 tbsp starter. This thicker mixture will reduce the hoochiness, and provide enough food (and slightly slower growth). Keep feeding it twice a day.


Don't be surprised if it takes 10 days for your sourdough culture to stabilize. 


BTW, what's your room temperature? 


 

Dough-No's picture
Dough-No

The thing is I am getting no expansion at al.  There are many tiny bubbles on the surface.  I am not really sure of my room temp.  I am in Toronto Canada so it may be on the cooler side.


  It is the lack of expansion that is worrying me. 


   -D

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

If you see a lot of bubbles on the surface but not so many in the main mass of the starter, it means that the starter is too thin to trap the bubbles.  If the bubbles aren't retained in the starter, it won't expand.  You may have a very active starter but it won't display any significant expansion.


If you convert your tablespoon measurements to weights, it's easier to understand why.  If a cup of flour weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 4.5 to 5 ounces, then 4 tablespoons works out to about 1.2 ounces.  The 3 tablespoons of water weighs closer to 1.5 ounces.  In bakers math, this equates to a hydration of 125%.  With most flours, that's a soupy batter.


If you want to continue to feed with 4 tablespoons of flour, try cutting back to 2 tablespoons of water.  That will give you a very soft dough with a hydration of 80-85%.  It have enough strength to trap the bubbles and expand in volume as they develop.  It's effectively the same thing that cranbo recommended, just slightly different proportions.  And cranbo's suggestion to retain just 1 tablespoon of starter for feeding is a good one, too.


Paul

Dough-No's picture
Dough-No

ok, On this mornings feeding I will try to make it lower hydration.  I would be using a scale, but I am waiting for a replacement from breadtopia at the moment.


  I will report back.


 


    -D

cranbo's picture
cranbo

D, be sure to check the room temp, that is very important. There are several people on TFL I've seen of late that are trying to build a sourdough in too cold an environment, and are struggling with their results. 


Did you know that old timers (and old miners) used to pack the sourdough next to their bodies under their coat when travelling place to place? It's really important to keep it warm, otherwise it will not be sufficiently active. 


If your room temp is colder than 68-72F, consider putting your starter in your oven and leaving the oven light on for warmth. This will help get it going considerably faster. 


 

Dough-No's picture
Dough-No

UPDATE!


 


  So today when I fed my starter I decided to do a little test.  I actually made 2 starters from it.  each had 1 tbl of old starter, 4 tbl flour and 2 tbl water. The difference is one was rye flour and the other was unbleached bread flour.


 


  Her we are 6 hours later, and the rye flour has doubled and the bread flour has done nothing as far as I can see. So what is the problem with my flour? Is it just REALLY slow? The starter had been only that flour for 3 days and was still able to rise the rye flour.

Thoughts?

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Strange problem. Could it be your bread flour is somehow bad? Is it old or really damp? 


You might want to try a different, fresh bag of unbleached bread flour and try the same test. 


Seems like with the same base starter you would get the same (approximate) rise times, so I can only suspect the flour. 

placebo's picture
placebo

It could also be that you just switched to bread flour too early. From what you wrote in your initial post, it sounds like you switched flours when the activity level of your starter was on the decline. 


With my starter, I used whole wheat flour initially and let the starter get to the point where it was doubling reliably after each feeding. I only switched to all-purpose flour after I knew it was healthy and active. There seemed to be a bit of a slowdown right after the switch, but it regained its vigor after a couple of feedings.

Dough-No's picture
Dough-No

I will feed the bread flour starter a few times and see what happens.  The rye flour is already going strong..