The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Please Help Save My Sticky Mother Starter

lagoldberg8397's picture

Please Help Save My Sticky Mother Starter

Using Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day and King Arthur bread flour, I went from seed culture to pain au levain a few weeks ago.  

The first time I got to the Mother Starter phase I had a lovely soft ball of dough.  Following Reinhart's instructions, I refreshed the starter after 5 days, using weights not volume, and the result was a much stickier dough.  I refreshed after another 5 days and the dough was even stickier. It rose perfectly but flattened out and didn't have the structural integrity of a ball of dough.  

It's time to refresh again and I'm not sure how to proceed.  I've read a lot about hydration on this board but am still puzzled.  Should I cut back on the water I add to the flour and starter mixture?  If I do that, how will it affect the resulting sourdough starter and pain au levain?  I don't want a dry, crumbly bread.  

Or, is it possible to use this sticky goo to build the sourdough starter and adjust the hydration as necesssary at that stage to create a tacky dough?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to what ever consistancy you prefer.   What is the temperature of the mother?  

It is natural for a sourdough culture to rise and then as the food declines, degrade the integrity of a ball of dough causing it to flatten a little.   This happens naturally as the gluten in the dough breaks down thru fermentation.  If the temperatures are warm, it could be that you need to refresh it sooner.

lagoldberg8397's picture

I let the mother rise at room temp, which is about 65 degrees., and then store it in the refrigerator.  

So you are saying that I could use the amounts of starter and flour called for in the recipe and then just add water until the dough is at my preferred consistency? 

The recipe for refreshing the starter is 340 g flour, 227 g water and 113 g. mother starter.



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and how does it smell?  

I think we are dealing with a different problem here if you went from a seed culture (understanding sourdough culture) to firm starter (s:w:f/1:2:3) with cool temperatures.

Please define : Sticky goo     

I suspect that with 65°F temps that you might have an "invasion" to deal with.  Don't worry we got cure notes here on TFL.  :)

Do you have any back up seed starter, dried or liquid or old?  

Yerffej's picture

I suspect that with 65°F temps that you might have an "invasion" to deal with.


Which invasion are you referencing here?


alpenrose's picture

oh, oh,  I just read your last entry here and am trying to dodge the next bullet.  I was able to get my pineapple seed starter to where I am at now because I was keeping it in a very small guest bathroom, heated to about 72 + degrees.  I was planning to expand the amount of my starter to get a bigger batch and slow down the time by leaving it in a cooler kitchen. At night my kitchen gets down to about 60. Or should I just feed my starter the larger amounts and then leave it on the counter until I see it double and then put in the fridge?  Now, I am really confused about time/temp!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I was just wondering about your description of the starter getting wetter with each feed and that you called it sticky goo.  This could be serious, and then again, just too wet.   If it smells and tastes fine then it is most likely alright.  When it starts rising, it can go into the refrigerator if it has been warmed up in the guest room first.  I would refrigerate before it doubles.  

Now if your firm starter is turning into a puddle of goo, that would be serious.  

It is important to discard or reduce the amount of starter before feeding it.  It is also important to keep the starter  warm so it can get a good start at multiplying before cooling it down.  The by products of fermentation help the starter ward off invasions from many other bacteria and molds that would love to feast on your starter when it can't defend itself.  It is most vulnerable just after being fed.

toddvp's picture

Even with weight measures and percents, there is still some unpredictability in terms of final dough texture due to things like protein content and humidity and stuff I don't understand super well. I think to some degree you can use your own judgment as to the consistency/stickiness of your dough. I'd say if you want a less sticky dough, just add a little more flour until it's closer to what you want.

Thoughts from others?

Gene's picture

Lots of info in here:

including how to save a faltering starter.

Good luck!