The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Experiencing a Plateau...

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R.Acosta's picture
R.Acosta

Experiencing a Plateau...

Everything seemed to be going fine! I got my starter started via Susan's website http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/07/13/raising-a-starter/ (she's awesome :))  and experienced the stages she predicted: 1) the false miracle starter...where it doubles on the first day 2) the foul stench and recently, 3) the seemingly dead but probably still alive phase.  Now here I am on day 7 with a bubbly starter that smells sour and yeasty but doesn't double...so I'm wondering, is my starter viable and just has trouble rising? Do I need to change his diet? Do I need to *gulp* start over??  I'm still plodding along with it because I'm stubborn, so any advice or thoughts would be helpful! :)

I'm following her recipe exactly, except I'm using whole wheat instead of rye, so every feeding is:

1/3 cup starter
1/3 cup filtered water at 85F
1/3 cup bread flour
5 teaspoons whole wheat flour

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

but stick to the same feed schedule.  It needs more food so discard more before feeding.  Save a tablespoon of starter and feed again.  How wet is it?  Is it more like batter or dough?  Batter will not rise as high as dough consistancy.  No big deal, you should just be aware that wetter starters don't rise as high, that does not mean that they are not good starters.  But I think your starter is hungry.

Put it this way... if you weighed the starter and the flour, you will find out that the flour weighs a lot less.  So how can the starter double if it doesn't get enough food to double?  :)

R.Acosta's picture
R.Acosta

It's a 100% hydration starter....the consistency right after I feed it is like a wet sticky dough, but by the time 12 hours is up, it's like melted marshmallow....

Would increasing the amount I feed it achieve the same results? I was wondering if I should feed it more, but it didn't have that acetone smell that I've read about starving starters having.

placebo's picture
placebo

Your ingredient amounts don't sound like a 100%-hydration starter. You probably don't see a rise simply because the starter is too wet. Try cutting back on the amount of water. Ideally, if you have a scale, weigh the flour and then add the same weight in water.

R.Acosta's picture
R.Acosta

I am working on getting a scale (my husband and I have been looking at many this past week mainly because of this new endeavor), but for now all I got is volumetric measurements. What consistency should my starter be?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

alcohol or beer smell would be closer.  

Melted marshmallows is a nice consistency for a wet starter maybe 150%???  Cold marshmallow cream closer to 100%.

You can easily increase the flour amounts.  Either way.  Do you need that much starter?  Keeping it small in the beginning keeps the waste level down.  Then you want to feed it consistently for while every 12 hours until it is very predictable.

R.Acosta's picture
R.Acosta

okedoke! I imagine my main problem then, is lack of a scale :( I'll increase the flour and see what happens. thanks for the help!

placebo's picture
placebo

Roughly speaking, water is about twice as dense as flour, so to get 100% hydration, if you feed the starter 1 cup of flour, for instance, you'd add 1/2 cup of water. Of course, this assumes you're measuring the flour correctly, which means not packing it in the cup, etc. That said, it's not terribly important to get the hydration exactly right when you're just trying to get the starter going. You can just adjust the amounts to get the consistency you want. You just want it thick enough so it traps the bubbles of gas and inflates instead of letting the bubbles rise through the mixture and escape.

I'm glad you're looking at scales. It's the probably most important gadget for bread-making you'll have.

R.Acosta's picture
R.Acosta

Oops, guess this already answers my question down below...ha thanks!

tfranko29's picture
tfranko29

Hi Gang,

I totally agree on the scale being important.  I got mine at Target in America.  It's made by Oxo and cost around $35.

Frank

R.Acosta's picture
R.Acosta

My starter rose just a little last night, but sadly more than it has thus far (like a centimeter or two haha). Anyways, it's now about the consistency of cold marshmallow cream which is what you said, Mini Oven, is about the right consistency.  I ended up trying to use my hands as scales, Lady Justice style lol. And decided that 1/3 cup flour to 1/4 cup water might be a little more similar in weight.  I guess my question now is, should I continue with the every 12 hour feeding? Or should I give my starter a 24 hour rest? Thanks guys!

R.Acosta's picture
R.Acosta

How exciting when it finally doubles!! I'm so much more encouraged now, I thought it would be weeks or months before I would see any sign of life. "Herschel" doubled in ten hours.  That's the most activity I've seen since the 2nd day and I'm on day nine.  Thank you guys for alerting me to his needs :).

-Rachel

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

for another week.  It is still sorting itself out.  

jwt's picture
jwt

If your water is treated with clorine you should consider getting bottled spring water.  Home water filters will not remove clorine and clorine kills the stuff you're trying to grow.