The Fresh Loaf

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First time starter troubles

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ngolovin's picture
ngolovin

First time starter troubles

I tried my first starter this week.  I used Peter Reinhart's Seed Culture recipe in The Bread Baker's Apprentice (seep p.229).  After 3 days, following the feeding directions exactly (even weighing out the water), my starter has not shown the slightest life, and a gray-ish surface has formed.  There is no evidence of any growth, even when I let the 3rd day sit an extra night, as the instructions say.  I used a disposable plastic container (Glad brand).  I will try again (probably a different recipe), but I am looking for opinion on what sort of issues might cause an unsuccessful attempt like this and advice on what are the pitfalls in starting a culture.  Thank you to all, in advance, for any input and help.

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

Hi there

Many TFlers have had success using the method outlined by Debra Wink. Reading her contributions in these two posts will also help you understand what is going on:

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

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2

 Paul (rainbowz on TFL) has posted photos on his blog of a side by side over 15 days as he established a starter using the above PJ method and compared it with water alone, take a look:

http://yumarama.com/blog/968/starter-from-scratch-intro/

You could probably 'save' the one you have commenced but as it is early days, you might find it just as easy to go back and start again.

GermanFoodie's picture
GermanFoodie

I have successfully tried Reinhart's sponge recipe from Crust & Crumb, but the one you're mentioning didn't work for me, either. I you'd like, I can dig it up and post it.

ngolovin's picture
ngolovin

I took Crust and Crumb out of the library last week.  I'll check out the recipe.  Thanks! :)

 

tomsgirl's picture
tomsgirl

Hi there! So I am still pretty new into bread baking about a year now. The sourdough bug hit me and now I can't stop! Anyway my first three yes three did not work out for me. I was using just flour and water with no luck. I then came across this site http://yumarama.com/1124/starter-day-one/ and oh my gosh my starter was alive. It worked. It was happy day in my house. I baked some really good breads with it and then disaster hit and I killed it. No way to save it mold and bugs. I had just plain forgot about it. I cried. I did start a new one and so far so good its about a 2 months old now. I used this method http://www.northwestsourdough.com/index.php?cID=100 they are pretty close. I wish I could give advice on why things work or don't work all I know is the that the pineapple juice worked for me. I am not a math whiz nor a scientice so I get a bit confused at times. I just love baking never thought of it as a "hobby" until I started with my starter. Not only is it a hobby but a great stress relief for me not to mention the gratifacation one feels when a beautiful loaf of bread emerges from the oven. Try the one of these methods I am sure you won't be disapointed. Happy Baking!!

Maverick's picture
Maverick

First of all, 3 days of inactivity is fine. You could keep going or start over... your choice. I have made several starters over the years (including Reinhart's method) and have to say that I like the Pineapple Juice method (Debra Wink) the best. The yumarama link does a pretty good job of showing this method if you need more visuals.

Here are my thoughts. First, all of my starters that used just water went through the stinky phase that took a while to get rid of. Using Pineapple Juice for the first 3 days skips this for me and I am very happy with that. Second, I have noticed that for me I needed to make one change. On day 4 it says to use the flour you plan to maintain it with. However, if I have not seen a rise by then and follow the instructions to use my normal white flour, it stays flat for several more days until I give it another single dose of Rye Flour. So I have adopted the practice of using Rye until I see a doubling. Once I see the doubling, then I start with the white flour. I still follow the proportions and timeline as outlined by Debra which are very easy to do.

If you need any help along the way, please just post what you have done and what you have observed (pictures are nice too). Since this is your first starter I would suggest starting over with Debra's method as it works for everyone I have talked to.

ngolovin's picture
ngolovin

There seems to be a consensus about the pineapple juice.  Checked out the yumarama site, read Deborah Wink's blog, and decided to try it.  Wish me luck. 

If anyone has an idea about why my failed starter got a gray film on top, I'ld be curious.  Could it be mold?  In 3 days?  If anyone has an insite, it would be interesting.

Thankyou to all!

Maverick's picture
Maverick

The grey was just the beginnings of hooch. You had the beginnings of a starter and could have kept going if you wanted to. But I think it wise to start with the pineapple juice version. Don't get discouraged if you don't see the rapid growth others have. Sometimes it just takes longer. Keep us informed.