The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter Problems

South African Sourdougbaker's picture
South African S...

Starter Problems

Hey Guys,

I am from South Africa and new to sourdough. I have a lot of experience with yeast but none with sourdough. Taking baby steps and learning as I go.
I started my starter 10 days ago. I followed the recipe found on sourdoughbaker.au.com. I keep the starter on my counter (18-26 degrees Celcius)

Quick Summary of the 7 Day Sourdough Starter Recipe

Fresh Flour
Day 1:
25 mls warm water, or warm unsweetend pineapple juice
25 gms fresh flour,
Mix to a paste.

Day 2:
To your mixture, which will have 'softened' overnight, add
25 mls warm water, or warm unsweetend pineapple juice
25 gms fresh flour,
Mix to a paste again.

Day 3:
Add to the mixture
50 mls warm water, or warm unsweetend pineapple juice
50 gms fresh flour
and whisk together.

Day 4:
Add to the mixture
100 mls warm water, or warm unsweetend pineapple juice
100 gms flour
and whisk it all together again.
Day 5:
Rest, (you and the starter) observe,
take notes. Activity? Bubbles? Smell? Times? You want Details! This procedure can really make the difference between many griefs and few. It also lets any delicate fermentation processes get a foothold.

Day 6:
Add to the mixture
100 mls warm water, or warm unsweetend pineapple juice
100 gms flour
and whisk it all together again.

Day 7:
Use, if you have observed that it's ripe!

So on day seven I could see a lot of bubbles but a thick layer of hooch has formed on top. And no rising.

The following morning I continued with a feed the same as day 6. No rising and an even thicker layer of hooch!

So on day 9 I poured of the hooch. Used 50g of starter with 100g of water and 150g of flour. A little rising and a thin layer of hooch.

This morning I figured that I did something right and poured of the hooch again. Used 50g of starter with 100g of water and 150g of flour. Now 12hours later the starter have doubled and no hooch so far! Problem is the starter is now more of a dough than a liquid!

How will this effect my bread and why does it rise now and not with equal parts water and flour? Can I get it back to a liquid but keep the rising abillity?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

unless it smelled more like beer.  Good sign that it is no longer separating.  Thickening it up is also not a bad idea.  When the starter is too thin, it will not rise much as the gas just pops on the surface.  A thicker dough like starter will rise more because it can trap gas bubbles causing lift.   With the next feed, after a 12 hour feeding, you can add more water if you like it thinner.  This will cause it to ferment a little bit faster.  Your yeasts are building now so you don't need to make it thick to see it rise. 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

While I live in Pretoria instead of in the Free State, I imagine that we are both experiencing similar winter temperatures.  And, if the interior of your house is as chilly as mine (12-15C), your new starter will take longer than 7 days to launch.  It will eventually take off, if you are patient.  I started one about this time last year, too.  If you want to go this route, I'd suggest scaling everything back so that you aren't dealing with increasingly larger quantities of flour and starter.  Maybe feed 25g starter, throwing the rest away, with 50g each of flour and water/juice.  Or you can find somewhere in the house (above the refrigerator?  near the geyser?  on a heating pad?) that provides a consistently warmer (somewhere in the 22-28C range) environment that the organisms in your starter enjoy.  Then you will see activity occurring at a faster pace, even if it doesn't exactly match the instructions given to you.

The other thing to watch out for is the pineapple juice.  I had purchased a bottle and was using the juice faithfully, watching for activity and seeing absolutely nothing happening.  One day, a bit of very small print on the label caught my eye.  It turned out to be a mention of the preservatives in the juice.  No wonder nothing was happening; I was killing, not nurturing, my starter!  I purchased one of the little Queenie pineapples that day, cut it up, and used the juice for the starter.  Voila!  Bubbles started showing up just a day or two later.

Mini's comments about the behavior of thicker/thinner starters is spot on.

Lots of luck with your new pets.

Paul