The Fresh Loaf

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starter turned orange-ish

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phoxphyre's picture
phoxphyre

starter turned orange-ish

I am on starter #2 now, and it's going the same way as starter #1 :( It's starting to turn orange and smell sickly sweet like non-acetone nail polish remover :( It's the end of summer here, and temperatures are between 12C and 22C. I don't think it's to cold :(

Am I doing anything wrong?

I'm following the method outlined in Peter Rienhart's Artisan Breads Fast. I am adding white flour  to pineapple juice (I can't find a link for it, but it's made from concentrate with no added sugar). I stir it with a fork 3 times daily.

  • Day 1/2: next to nothing happens. Mixture separates between stirs.
  • Day 3: feed, get home to minor bubbles. Some separation.
  • Day 4/5: sweet smell gets stronger, some separation, mixture colour turns from light yellow to light orange/tan.

I'll have pics when I get them off my phone...

phoxphyre's picture
phoxphyre

 

It used to be a pale yellow. As you can see, it's slowly turning peach :(

Franko's picture
Franko

Whenever I see a culture taking on a colour in the red spectrum it's a sign that unwanted bacteria have found their way in. Chuck it and start over, it's not worth feeding , like throwing good money after bad, and it is just flour and water after all. Robin's links will give you all the info you need to make a healthy starter. All the best to you in your endeavours to make naturally yeasted breads!

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

While I have no helpful insight, I will say that this is most definitely way outside of the norm.  Something is not right.  Hopefully those with far more starter experience than I have will comment.  I am quite curious as to what is happening here.

Jeff

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

G'day phoxphyre

Your starter looks fine. Good to see those bubbles.  Keep feeding it as recommended.   In the establishment phase it is pretty important to stick to the recommended feeding regime to ensure you favour the bugs you are trying to get dominant in the culture. Once you have it to the stage it's ready to bake with, you will be able to work out a maintenance feeding programme that suits your baking schedule and the environment in which you are keeping the starter.

Your mention of nail polish odour indicates that the bugs are eating all the available food, it might be that during the day they are getting a bit hot and things are speeding up. Rather than feed them more/more often (as you will once you get to the maintenance stage) I think you would be wise to find a spot where the mix will have a fairly stable temp throughout the day (not too hot, not too cold, just right.......18-20°Cish perhaps.....)

The colour does puzzle me a little, but I think you should perservere for bit longer. Once you get a stable bug community going you should be fine. 

 I assume you have taken a cover off to take the photo. 

I got my starter going by the same method - I came across it in Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread book, but confused I googled Debra Wink who Reinhart credited for the process, in the hope of learning more, and lo and behold I found TFL! Debra has made wonderful contributions to this site. To learn about what's going on in your starter take a read of her "PJ" articles:

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

 

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

 Another TFL contributor (rainbowz) made a series of posts on his own blog comparing starting with PJ or just water, the photo series is worth checking out:

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

I'm on Waiheke it's 25°C inside at present, but feels very autumnal now. Won't be long til I start adjusting the feeding regime for my starter, which I have had going for about 2 and a half years now, in line with the dropping temperatures.

Patience is truely a virtue when it comes to sourdough, it starts with developing your starter! Hang in there.

Cheers, Robyn

phoxphyre's picture
phoxphyre

Thanks a lot Robyn. Those links are really helpful. There are a couple of differences between Peter Reinhart and Debra -- mostly around feeding. I haven't feed my little starter since day #2 (I've been following the ABF book). Should I feed it / switch methods?

(Yes, I did take off the glad wrap to take the photo. )

I made both starters with the same flour/pineapple juice (Edmonds BF and Keri Premium juice). If I have to make a third starter, should I change either of those? I have some (oldish) Healtheries Stone-ground whole wheat which I didn't use -- would that have been the better choice?

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

Hello again

While I have had the Reinhart Artisan Bread Everyday Book out from the library, as I already had a successful starter at that stage I didn't pay much heed to his method for establishing a new starter, so don't know his feeding regime,  sorry. But in this warm weather it would seem that your starter is indeed hungry.

Meantime Debra Wink has responded to my request for help. She too is puzzled by the colour , but said without seeing and importantly smelling your starter it was hard to comment. She suggests you abandon Reinhart's instructions and pick up from her day 4 instructions and if not successful you can always start again from the beginning with her instructions.

Actually I'm inclined to suggest that you do both. That is try and revive your starter #2 using Debra's day 4 onwards instructions, and at the same time commence starter #3, using Debra's method, as set out at the end of the second PJ article.

I tried unsuccessfully looking on line to find out what Keri Premium pineapple juice contains. As you will understand from the articles of Debra's you have read today, pineapple juice provides a suitable acidic environment to encourage yeast and discourage unwanted bugs, I have assumed unadulterated PJ would be best . When I made my starter at our limited supermarket here there were no pure pineapple juices on sale, so I purchased some canned pineapple 'in its own juices' (or whatever the label said!) and drained the juice from that to use for the first few days. You will need to use your judgement whether you want to drink the juice and buy a can of pineapple in juice or use the Keri product for #3!

You will note that Debra starts off with wholegrain flour, and says that it need not be organic or freshly ground. While you mention that the whole grain you have is oldish, if you are willing to eat it, it will be OK for a starter too. If you aren't willing to eat it, time it went in the compost to feed some other bugs! If you decide to get fresh flour Edmonds/Champion etc wholemeal from the supermarket will be fine. 

Edmonds etc hi-grade flour will be fine for ongoing feeding,  it's just that with the bug population density being greater on wholegrain flour and the composition of wholegrain flour being to the bugs liking, you get a bit of head start those first few days.

Keep us posted on how things progress, I'll do my best to assist.

Regards, Robyn

phoxphyre's picture
phoxphyre

Update:

When I got home I poured off the liquid top, and mixed in 2T of flour/juice. I thought it smelt okay -- like yeast (and my husband thought it smelt like bread :P). I had some bubbles overnight, but no rising (I'm basing my "normal behavior" on the photos in Paul's Yumarama blog). But I followed Debra's Day#4 instructions in a clean jar this morning. More to follow on this one ;)

And I have started a third starter with wholemeal flour and  Dole pineapple juice from the can (yum, now I have pineapple pieces to snack on. Happy!)

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

What is happening with the orange color?  That is the aspect that I find most perplexing.

Jeff

phoxphyre's picture
phoxphyre

Update on odd starter:

I came home to lots of tiny bubbles. I'd scooped out 1/4C, and followed Debra's Day #4 instructions. It smelt sweet, and is still a pale peach :(

The following is a phone-pic first thing this morning (before the feeding).

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

Hi Phoxphyre

Several days have now past since you got starter #3 underway. What do you have to report now? Has starter #2 been happier with regular feeds? How's the colour? I wondered if there might have been some colour contribution from the Keri juice, but have found none here on Waiheke to be able to check the label. I would say the last photo isn't too different from the colour of my white starter, but with the peachey colour on the TFL pages, I'm not sure......

Anyway would like to hear how you are getting on, with a more regular feeding regime.

Cheers, Robyn

phoxphyre's picture
phoxphyre

Hi Robyn,

Meant to get a picture this morning, but I was running late. Will post one tonight :)

Starter #2 is bubbling. There is still clear liquid (which I think is evidence that the yeast is feeding?), but now it lives at the bottom of the jar with the bubbly starter on top. The colour seems to be reducing -- maybe it was the pineapple juice

Have started feeding starter #3 with water/flour now. It has the same sweet/acetone smell as the other two. There are some (3 or 4) small bubbles and about 5mm of clear fluid on top -- should I mix that in before taking out 1/4C or pour it off?

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

Hi Phoxphyre

I don't get clear liquid on my starter, and don't recall that happening when I started mine off,  but I did it in spring, so room temperatures were cooler than they are at present. I have seen people here recommending both things, ie tip it off or stir it in. I think I'd be inclined to tip it off, it's a by-product of the fermentation process.  Think of it like cleaning out the tray of a birdcage. For now you are just wanting to get your bug culture established and then stable. 

Once you reach the maintenance stage, this layer of alcohol (you'll see it referred to as hooch here on TFL) is an indication that your starter is hungry. Figuring out how much to feed your established starter and how often, will depend on your baking schedule and how hungry your starter gets, and whether you wish to store it in the fridge etc. Right now though sticking to the feeding regime Debra has suggested will help ensure  conditions which favour the desired yeasts and bacteria.

Once #2 & #3 are both on white flour,  and 10 days or so have past they'll probably behave quite similarly and you'll be able to choose which one you'd like to keep going with. Is #3 on white flour now? If so, is it a similar colour to #2?

Night, Robyn

phoxphyre's picture
phoxphyre

Hi Robyn, when I got home last night I got a surprise -- starter #2 had expanded! And it had expanded a *lot*.

This is the first large indication I've had that this starter is going okay (to my novice eyes!) As you can see below, its size tripled :D And its colour seems alright too! It still smells sweet, but now there is vinegar-smell and a something-else-smell (a bit funky to be honest).

If this is all as expected, then I think I'll start increasing the food I'm giving it. I've been doing a bit of reading, and noticed that people are feeding there starter in a 1:1:1 ratio (starter:flour:water).

Starter #3 hasn't expanded, but has started to get little bubbles and an uneven top (like there is some small expansion going on). It's on day #8 now. 


phoxphyre's picture
phoxphyre

When I got home this evening, I had a bit of a surprise clean-up. Starter #3 decided to explore! It had jumped out of its jar, woo! Starter #2 had expanded (nearly doubled in volume). They might both be alright :)

Should a starter consistently expand, or is starter #2 behaving in anexpected manner?

Thanks for all the help by the way! I really appreciate it :)

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

Sounds like you need a bigger jar! Actually, you will now be safe to keep less starter. Do you have some scales? The feeding ratios people use are weight based. So 1:1:1 could be 100g:100g:100g or 1oz:1oz:1oz etc etc. When fed the same amount of flour and water on the basis of weight, the starter is what is called 100% hydration. ( So a 1:2:2 or a 1:5:5 etc feeding regime also creates a 100% hydration starter). As you move to feed your starter in a 1:1:1 ratio, figure out what would be a good weight so that the starter stays within the jar when it peaks. Maybe 35g:35g:35g......giving you a just over 100g.

Sorry I don't understand what your question about #2 refers to....... The starter will expand to what is known as peak,  as the food supply is exhausted, the bugs don't produce any more gas, and so the starter volume will collapse. Do you think it dropped down while you were out?

I suggest you decide which starter you want to keep going. And then maybe this weekend (or when it suits you after that) you could give one of the recipes in Reinharts book a go. I'm assuming he calls for a 100% hydration starter.....  Can you figure out what to do next? Don't hesitate to ask more questions if you need to. When it came to  figuring out how to maintain the starter and use it in making bread, it took me quite a while to really find out what was going to work for me. Now it is easy and I can make adjustments as needed to suit my conditions, but I was pretty bewildered for a while.

btw I have been meaning to ask how tightly you are covering the starter, you need to leave a jar lid loose or the gladwrap loose, so that the gas the bugs are producing have a means of escape. Once it comes to breadmaking, this of course is the gas that's going to leaven your loaves.

Cheers, Robyn

phoxphyre's picture
phoxphyre

Heya, decided this morning to use starter #3. The other starter stank :( Despite both jars having loose rattly lids, #2 was on the edge of cough/gagging. It had also turned all watery (comparing this  against #3 which was nice, bubbly, and thick).

I'm putting Keri Premium Pineapple juice on the 'not good for novice sourdough starter' list.

Here's hoping that #3 continues on happily. Thanks for explaining 100% hydration -- I had thought that '100%' also included starter weight :)

Doing a little bit of reading around, it seems that I'd should find a nice simple recipe and learn that :) People in TFL mention Norwhich Sourdough a bit, but I'll see if Reinhart has a nice simple one first (mainly because I don't have any fancy rye flour :P)

If I can't bake this weekend, I'll give #3 a generous feed, leave it for the day, and put it in the fridge until Thursday. If I was going to bake, I'd do the above minus refridgeration and split off some starter for the levain (or what Rienhart calls the mother starter?). 

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

So that wasn't a hard decision then!

I like Susan's method for making an everyday sourdough, and often recommend it to newcomers. Her directions are clear as she explains basic techniques, (make sure you follow all the links, dough temperature, water temperature, gluten development, folds, steam etc etc). As she explains she adapted Jeffrey Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough to use 100% hydration starter (he uses 125%). Well, in his book he also has a formula for Vermont Sourdough with Whole Wheat and the only difference is he swaps wholemeal (he calls it whole wheat) for rye. Your wholemeal got your starter going well so you could use it instead of rye in Susan's formula. She uses a mixer, but don't worry working by hand and following her mixing instructions you'll be fine.

Susan doesn't explain how to prepare the levain. Her formula yields 2kg of dough. I think that is too big for a beginner and suggest that you consider halving everything to make up 1kg. In which case, you would need 180g of ripe starter.

Following the method in the book  ('Bread' by Jeffrey Hamelman) from which Susan has adapted her formula and using a 100% starter, 12-16 hours before you plan to mix the dough, you need to take 18 grams of your starter, when it has reached 'peak' and mix it with 90g of flour and 90g of water, and leave it covered at approx 21°C. The first time you make the levain it is a bit hard to decide when it is ready to use (i.e. 'ripe' in Susan's words), keep an eye out for the first signs of the tide going out, you'll also notice a kind of folding, in the centre. Next time you'll have a better idea. Use 180 grams of this mix, called levain, to make the bread. (Hamelman instructs to feed the rest as starter, but I find that I prefer to feed my storage starter at the same time as I make the levain and keep the storage starter on its own schedule, independent of the levain, and with no chance of accidently using it all in breadmaking.) 

I think you will also find David's tutorials useful:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/19346/shaping-boule-tutorial-pictures

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10121/bread-scoring-tutorial-updated-122009

My choice for steaming is to cover the loaves for about the first 20 minutes with the lid of a very large roasting tin (probably meant for turkey) which I bought very cheaply at The Warehouse (although I trawled through op shops never did find anything suitable). I have not wanted huge gushes  of steam in my old reliable oven. Well, as it turns out when I went to bake some bread yesterday I discovered that the bottom element is not working. The repairman is busy and can't be here til Thursday of next week. boohoo! I've also got a kiln shelf in my oven, if you have a pizza stone or similar, put that in when you are preheating the oven to act as a heat sink. You could use a stainless steel bowl, or a flowerpot as Susan illustrates for the steam. Other people on TFL have a range of steaming methods - Sylvia's towel method is popular too, use the search box to learn more.

It sounds like you have it worked out how to look after the starter. So good to hear that #3 has developed well. I'll send a note to Debra, she asked me how you were getting on.

If you don't know the finger poke test to determine when your bread is ready for the oven, then I suggest you use the search box.

Remember your starter is young, it will get stronger with time, and you will get more skillful technically too, nevertheless good luck with that first loaf.

Perhaps you could start a new thread relating to your first loaf. As always, don't hesitate with questions. 

Cheers, Robyn

PS it is hard not to get too carried away buying equipment, ingredients etc, but a probe thermometer is a pretty good investment. You will see people say 'watch the dough not the clock' and this is competely true but when you have a handle on temperatures, it gives you a better idea of about how long things will take. Makes planning a whole lot easier. I bought mine (a Salter) on sale (everything in store 30% off) at Briscoes, but doing a quick search of their online site I can't find it. 

 

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

I suspected that the orange color you described was the kiss of death for starter #2.  In my experience, anything orange or pinkish in color is a sign of trouble.  I have no scientific data to back this statement, just my own hands on experience.

Jeff