The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The basic problem with my sourdough

badmajon's picture
badmajon

The basic problem with my sourdough

My main problem with my sourdough efforts is that the dough rises too slowly which means I can't get any oven spring.

When using instant yeast, I make a simple 75% hydration French bread dough which I put in the oven at about 75% of a full rise at 500 degrees. I get great oven spring and a good crumb. I'm really happy with it.

However, my wild sourdough culture seems to be so slow that after extending the rise times 400%, when I put it in the oven, I get almost no oven spring. The crust sets before the yeast can give the final push. I love the flavor of this bread, but the lack of oven spring is killing me.

The only thing I can think of is putting the loaf into the oven fully proofed. However that seems like the wrong way of doing things for obvious reasons.

Or maybe my starter is weak? I double it the day before. I.e., 200g starter, I add 100g of flour, 100g water. Should be ready to go right?

wayne on FLUKE's picture
wayne on FLUKE

I wonder if your starter ran out of food and is past its prime.

You fed 200 gr starter with only 100 gr flour "the day before".

To bake the next morning I feed 1 part starter with 3 parts flour and 3 parts water in the early morning. In the evening I discard and feed 1:3:3 again. I am pretty sure others feed even 4 or 5 times new flour to old starter. I think the Tartine leaven is more like 1:10:10

For example, if I need 200 gr of leaven to bake with I will feed 15 gr starter with 45 gr flour and 45 gr water in the morning. In the evening I will feed 30 gr of the starter (which has almost tripled in volume) with 90 gr flour and 90 gram water. I'll feed 15 gr of the discard to get ready to go back in the fridge for next time.

let us know if this helps

wayne

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

instead of watching the dough:

after extending the rise times 400%

Wild yeasts play by different rules than commercial yeasts: everything is s-l-o-w-e-r.  A sourdough that takes only 4x the time to reach the same expansion as a commercially-yeasted dough would be a very vigorous sourdough, indeed.  You mention that you watch your commercially-yeasted dough's expansion (good!).  Do the same thing for the wild-yeast doughs. 

My experience has been that my sourdoughs seem to exhibit greater oven spring than my commercial yeast breads.  I try to get them into the oven when they are about 180% of their orginal volume. 

Paul

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I concur it sounds like starter activity is possibly involved. You may have great yeast and lift power but just not enough population of yeast to get the big job done. You may need to put more workers on the job.

Tell us about your starter. (Great pickup line for a breadie, don't you think?) Young,old,kept in the refrig or counter,how active when fed? How much starter in the bread recipe? How much flour? Many variables.

I use instant yeast to decrease my production time. I know it is not being a purist but sometimes I need to sleep. Usually all I need is about 1/4-1/2 tsp to get the bread made in a day.

Grenage's picture
Grenage

If you're only feeding the starter a little before using it, you'll most likely not have the activity you could do with.  I will generally work at a ratio of at least 1:2:2, but used closer to 1:4:4 the other day.  When I say 'next day', I will generally feed, wait for it to start bulking up, then refridgerate it.  That's the only time I refridgerate my starter, to keep it on hold overnight.  An active culture is impressively fast at replicating.

On the plus side, it was probably quite a developed sour taste?

longhorn's picture
longhorn

While oven spring is to some extent impacted by the speed of yeast activity, there are a variety of factors involved in that and if you have an active sourdough starter can be quite easy to make explosive loaves by simply underproofing so there is plenty of dissolved CO2 and alcohol in the dough (which undissolve from the dough and evaporate to contribute substantially to oven spring.

As others have indicated, your starter is almost certainly improperly fed and below optimum activity. There seems to be a common thread among newbies to sourdough to not energize their starters before they begin a batch of bread. I only feed my starter by doubling it (100 grams of starter to 50 of water and 50 of flour. That feeding ratio is, over time, inadquate to keep the starter at its peak. It will slowly lose activity. So, when one of my starters hasn't been used for a while (just fed) I know it will be slow so I feed it at least once and preferably twice beginning the day before I plan to make my levain. (Sometimes even three times - morning day before, evening day before, morning day of, and finally make my levain the night before, allowing nominally 12 hours between feedings. By the second or third feeding my starter is supercharged!) If your starter is seriously slow, feed it every twelve hours at a 3 or 4 to one ratio ( 50 plus 75 and 75 water/flour or 50 plus 100 and 100 water flour) until it is fully active - it should be peaking (near peak to over) when held at room for 12 hours after a 4 to one feeding. Then you can go to a maintance/baking program like I follow - provided you bake with it every few weeks to reenergize it. (I typically let my starter go at room temp for about an hour before I refrigerate it as I typically bake once a week. You will find other feeding strategies for more frequent baking schedules).

The other factor which may be involved include hydration, dough development, and loaf formation. Really wet doughs, poorly developed doughs, and poorly formed loaves will tend to spread more than spring. I have some 72% AP boules proofing right now that are made with a really low strength dough. They are going to spread a bit and be relatively flat due to the combo of hydration and weak flour. But the dough is reasonably developed and I should get some to reasonable oven spring. I will have to see what I get. A well developed dough will not leak gas as fast as a poorly developed dough - and therefore have more gas to give spring. Well tensioned loaves will hold shape better and that will also help the loaf lift with heat. 

Hope that is useful!

Good luck!

Jay

 

badmajon's picture
badmajon

Wow great information here. Thank you all very much. I hope to get this sourdough thing down eventually. It took me about 30 batches to finally feel somewhat confident with a french/lean bread and commercial yeast, so we'll see how many times this takes. :)

Anyway, here is what I do for my starter. I keep my starter in a tub in the fridge and I feed it once a week, doubling it. It's a 100% hydration starter. I weigh it, then double it. So if I have 400 grams of starter, I put in 200g water and 200g flour.

The day before I want to bake, I take 200g of it (I apologize for the metric, but it makes things easier in my mind) and add 100g flour, 100g water. Then the next morning, I bake with this. My recipe is:

200g starter (made from above recipe)
200g water
350 g flour

I think my problem is both impatience (I thought 4x was a long wait!) and yes, I'm not really energizing my starter enough. I had no idea this stuff (yeast, bugs etc) ate as fast as they do. Is the 1:1 ratio only for maintaining it in the fridge?

What about this plan:

Morning day before

100g starter, + 100g flour, 100g water (200g new stuff, 1:2 ratio right?)

Evening day before

Throw away half, add another 100g flour, 100g water (1:2:2)

Is this 1:2 ratio good or should I do a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio?

Thanks a ton. I'm learning so much here.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

You seem somewhat confused.

You mention "doubling it" - but, after some de-cyphering, I realise you mean, doubling the total quantity of ingredients. Doubling, tripling, quadrupling typically refers to letting the culture rise in volume by these measures. It's by measuring this change in volume against time taken and at what temperature that will allow you to determine how active the starter is. You should have done this when you first began the stater, did you? It's not until the starter is of certain maturity that you can then use it to make bread.

Example. When starting a culture you'll feed it every 24 hours at room temp until it quadruples in volume in 8hrs. When the starter has reached this level of maturity you take less of it and feed it more flour and water (larger feeds) and also at this point it is viable for retardation (refridgeration).  I'm not convinced you did something like this. Or did you?

Michael

longhorn's picture
longhorn

As DABrownman suggests, you are keeping way more starter than you need. I know it is easy to be scared of small amounts but...you are being forced to throw away a lot of starter. I have toyed with keeping less but since I use my main starter weekly I find it is usually robust enough that I can simply pull 100 grams of starter, feed the other 100, and begin making my levain. Technically DAB is right, it is arguably better to have, say 50 grams of starter and feed it (4x, 50 plus 100 flour plus 100 water), then after an hour or so pull 40 to refrigerate and you would have 200 grams to use as levain. Very efficient that way. And next morning you will have 200 grams of ripe starter to make your bread with.

While I have never kept small (5 to 10 gram starters) some do. 25 to 50 makes more sense to me for small starter keepers - big enough to be pretty robust but small enough to store well and not waste too much flour when you have to feed to simply keep your starter going!

Your first expansion is too low. I understand the impatience, but what is happening is that the yeast doesn't have enough food to realy get going great so it peaks too early and is therefore not at full throttle, ready to give your bread a great fermentation. Go to 4 to 1 (100 plus 200 plus 200). It should just about peak in 12 to 14 hours depending mainly on the temperature. I usually make mine about 6 pm and next morning at 7 it is usually peaking (relatively flat on top) or slightly over (concave top to the foam). In either case it is well populated and not so over as to have lost much oomph. 

A 1 to 1 feeding (100 plus 50 plus 50 or your 200 plus 100 plus 100) is technically too little for all wild starters I know of. They will gradually lose oomph. Staying alive, but decline in raising power. So periodically you need an extra feeding to get the yeast and bacteria happy and in balance. When the starter loses oomph it also becomes more vulnerable to infestation by other yeast and bacteria. The declining oomph also results in erratic baking results. If you really want to be consistent it is better to add a second expansion, say the morning the day before baking. Take 25 grams to 125 (25 plus 50 plus 50). That evening you could then pull 25 or 50 and feed it, and put it in the refrigerator an hour later. And, take a portion of the remainder (or all) to make your levain for the next day. The double feeding will almost guarantee your starter will be really happy and robust and your results much more consistent.

On ratios...1:4 is a good norm. I go 1:3 (100 grams plus 150 plus 150) in the winter when it is cold and my yeast is slower and I sometimes go 1:5 (100 plus 250 plus 250) in the summer when it is hot and my yeast is faster. You have to ultimately find what works best for you and your starter (they are all a bit different!) and your baking practices. You apparently only make one loaf at a time. I almost never make less than 2.5 kg of bread for it takes almost no more effort and IMO flavor is negatively impacted bulk ferments that are much smaller.

Try a double feed at 1:4 for two weeks and a final feed at 1:1 for the retained starter and see if you don't get much happier loaves and oven spring. 

As an aside, I baked my loaves and though they held form fairly well out of the banneton, when I slashed them they spread to a pancake about 2 inches thick. However they approximately doubled in height when placed in the oven! They are rather pretty. I won't get to cut them until Sunday but I will try to get some photos to upload!

Good luck!

Jay

 

 

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

a lot of starter even for someone who bakes every day.  I keep about 60 -80 grams max in the fridge.  Your starter does sound drastically under fed and under refreshed before using.  You would normally begin with 10 or 15 g of starter and feed it at least twice before baking.   If using 10g g of 100 % hydration starter I would feed it 20 g flour and 20 g water making 50 grams total.  After 6 hours it would double and I would toss half (or bake something else with the tossed ) getting back to 25 g.  I would feed the 25 g of refreshed starter, 60 g flour and 40 g water making it 125 g (which is usually enough to bake with at the the 72% hydration the starter has become) and let it sit 6 hours.  This should really be a powerful levain at this point.  I bake a lot so my starter is never more than 3 days in the fridge and in top notch shape.

Hope this helps

badmajon's picture
badmajon

Uh oh... as mwilson suggested, I seem to have a faulty understanding of what "doubling", "tripling" etc means. I thought "doubling" meant that for 50g of starter, you put in 50g of flour and 50g of water.

Now we're talking about needing it to rise 2x, 4x etc. So yes, I am a little confused.

So let me get this straight- you know the starter is ready, in peak physical condition, when it will quadruple in physical size in 8 hours.

So, let's say I take 25g of starter (smallest I can really read on my less than ideal scale) and put in 50g of flour, 50g water. I wait 12 hours. Now I have 125g of starter. I throw away all but 50g, then add 100g flour, 100g water. I basically keep repeating this process of throwing away and adding fresh flour and water until my starter will quadruple in size in 8 hours. That's how I know it's really powerful, and will be able to do the job at hand.

Ok... things are getting a bit clearer. That does answer a big gap in my knowledge- how will I know the starter is ready?

Also, is there a rule of thumb for determining the ratio of ready-to-go starter to flour when its time to make bread? For example, 1/4 ratio (100g of starter, 400g of flour) etc? I think that's what I'm using now.

Maverick's picture
Maverick

Actually, 50g starter with 50g flour and 50g water will triple the amount of starter, not double it. After all, you started with 50g of starter and you end up with 150g of starter. Many people share your confusion, this is why we often speak of ratios rather than saying "I double or triple my starter." So rather than say "triple", we will give the 1:1:1 ratio. The 200g starter to 100g flour and 100g water you mentioned originally is a 2:1:1 ratio and will double the amount of starter. Most decent starters will use up this amount of flour in about 4 hours.

Can you tell us how old your starter is? Also, what temperature is your kitchen? You mention feeding 200g starter with 100g flour and 100g water. This feeding works okay for a new starter but will quickly become too little food. By feeding less, the yeasts are at a disadvantage and will not be as abundant as you would like.

Your idea of feeding your starter every 12 hours is a good one. However, I don't know why you would keep 50g of starter each time instead of 25g. Plus you seem to be thinking about the time more than watching your starter. In order to maximize the yeast (and leavening power) of the starter, you want to feed just after the peak. If you really want to learn about your starter, check it every 4-6 hours during the day. But reality is that the 12 hour thing works best for most of us.

This is how I would start... Take 25g of starter, add 25g of flour and 25g of water (a 1:1:1 ratio). After 12 hours, see if the starter has begun to fall (I am guessing that it will have fallen considerably). If it has barely begun to fall, then throw out all but 25g of starter and feed 1:1:1 again (25g starter, 25g flour, 25g flour). If it looks like it has gone down a bit, throw out all but 25g of starter and add 50g of flour and 50g of water (a 1:2:2 ratio). Check again 12 hours later. Again, if it fell a good amount (look for the "high tide mark") then throw out all but 25g of starter and add 75g of flour and 75g of water (a 1:3:3 ratio). Repeat this until you know the correct feeding ratio for your starter and environment. By the way, in my old house I found I had to feed less at night because my kitchen would be colder than it was during the day. Now that I have A/C and decent heat, the temperature doesn't fluxuate as much.

For your final question about amount of starter compared to flour in final dough, it really depends on what you are going for. You will find that results can change quite a bit based on the amount of starter used. Final doughs can have a large range of hydration levels which will change thing as well. Really what you are comparing is the amount of flour in your starter to that of the final dough. You kind of have to experiment and try some recipes from the experts.

Maverick's picture
Maverick

One more thing I noticed... you didn't list salt in your final dough. Was this just because you are more worried about the flour and water, or do you not add salt. Salt is important, so I hope you add it.

edit to add: Your formula ends up with a 67% hydration final dough in case you were wondering. You are also using a lot of starter, so it should proof relatively fast. What is your procedure for making the dough? Do you retard? Thanks for the details.

longhorn's picture
longhorn

There are no consistent terms for the expansion ratio. I personally refer to the amount added so 4X is adding 4 times the original amount of the starter. There are others who call my 4X expansion a 5X expansion because the final amount is five times the original. I include an example when I use an expansion ratio to avoid ambiguity. Convert it to whatever terminology you want!.

I personally use a 100 % starter for convenience. I can do 100 % hydration expansions at any scale. Even though I am good at mental math, expansions of a stiff starter are a bit more complex and tend to need a calculator - especially when the needed starter for the desired final dough is 42 grams. 

Keeping smaller amounts of starter has the advantage of pretty much requiring you to build the starter for the levain which should ensure it is robust when you mix the dough.  Going to a 25 gram starter is smart. 10 feels too small for it requires measuring amounts that are too small to be consistent. I tend to keep a bigger amount but...I rarely throw away starter for I make relatively big batches of bread. 

Quadrupling in 8 hours is pretty amazing for a sourdough. You apparently have a super robust strain. About the best mine does is double in about eight to ten. But there are many variables to that! And every starter is different and has its own personality anyway.

Hope that helps!

Jay

mwilson's picture
mwilson

I don't mind giving advice, help and tips but I'm not prepared to explain every aspect of how to start, maintain and use sourdough. Please buy a book. It will be less confusing.

I purposely didn't mention feeding quantities for the above reason. The idea of quadrupling in 8hrs comes from Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking Across America which was the first book that taught me how to make and use sourdough. I can't recommend it enough!

Good Luck with your baking,

Michael

afrika's picture
afrika

I wonder what a baker in 1700s America would think if he read this post, with all its mathmatical gymnastics! Why is something relatively straight forward made to sound so complex.  BIGA, POOLISH, LEVAIN,GEEZ. Sorry for the sarcasm just baked another doorstop ( kidding  )

longhorn's picture
longhorn

Good comment!  I think a baker in 1700 would probably learned how to do it while a toddler or soon thereafter and would have had the touch without all the baggage!

Grin!
Jay 

Maverick's picture
Maverick

One thing to think about is that a firm starter might expand more than a liquid starter only because of the surface tension holding in the gas. So when Maggie Glezer says a starter should quadruple in 8 hours, she is using a firmer starter and not one kept at 100% hydration.

badmajon's picture
badmajon

Hello all,

Well, I think I have gotten somewhere! I did a 1:4:4 build using a 25g starter 4 times over 1-1/2 days. By the 4th refresh, the starter doubled in less than 4 hours. I pitched it (125g starter) into my flour, salt and water, kneaded etc, and within about 4 hours, it has more than doubled. I made a bit of a mistake when weighing the water and then had to add flour bit by bit so all I can say is it feels like a 75-78% dough. This is far better than the slow results I was getting before.

The way I am seeing it now, is that when you first take your starter out of the fridge, you don't know how viable it is. Lets say its only 10% viable in terms of how many living yeast cells/bacteria it could possibly have. Every time you bulk it up, and add new yeast, you're ensuring maximum viability of the starter. Makes sense now.

I've done this first rise at room temperature, I was going to do a second rise in the fridge overnight, then in the morning shape them into mini single serving boules, pop them back in the fridge and let them rise while I work tomorrow. Should a good levain/starter have enough oomph to do two bulk rises and a final cold proof?

Sorry for asking everyone to explain something like this. I am in New Zealand on business and books here are very hard to find and also 3-4 times more expensive. A cheap paperback costing $10 in the USA will sell here for $30-40 USD. I'm not exaggerating. I was in the *used* bookshop looking at a penguin philosophy paperback, said $8 on the back and they scratched that out and put $25 over it.

longhorn's picture
longhorn

Getting your yeast up to speed is very helpful in making good bread  - reliably. Glad your feedings are illustrating how much more robust the starter can be. 

Your use of the word "bulk" invites confusion however.  The first expansion to create the batch of yeasted dough that will go into your final dough is a preferment. Bulk fermentation begins when you expand that to make the final dough and ends when you form the loaves. The rise after the loaf formation is the proof. Your asking about two "bulk rises" and a "final cold proof" leads to questions as to what you are calling two bulk rises. The ultimate answer even if you are using the term bulk properly is yes, for an overproofed dough can be kneaded which will reactivate the yeast to some extent and provide a second rise. Loaf formation also encourages rise by moving the starch and sugars and yeast around in the dough and reactivating the yeast.

While what you propose can certainly work, I think you will learn more if you stick to room temperature bulk fermentation and proofing until it is familiar and you are comfortable with knowing when the dough is ready to form into loaves and ready to bake. In my opinion, cold fermentation and retards (which are wonderful for flavor) add a variable that can complicate learning. Put simply, I think it is easier to learn when you keep variables to a minimum.

Good luck! Hope your loaves turn out GREAT!

Jay 

badmajon's picture
badmajon

Hi Jay,

I actually did a 100% "preferment" akin to Peter Reinhart's "Pain Ancienne". AFAIK, the "preferment" is the amount of dough you, well, preferment, for a little while before adding that to your final dough- is that correct? For example, Reinhart's french bread does that, 50% of the dough is fermented overnight in the fridge, then added to more fresh dough which is handled in the regular way to make a loaf.

You're probably right that it would be best to do everything at room temperature until I get the process down. However, given the 4 hour (ish) long rise times needed, I'd only be able to do it that way once a week, on the weekend. So with this refrigerator method, I make each rise take 8-10 hours so I can tend do it in the morning, and after work.

longhorn's picture
longhorn

Pain l'Ancienne (from Reinhart's BBA) has no preferment. You make the final dough at the beginning and retard the dough to extend the bulk fermentation.  Peter's pizza doughs use the same/similar method with his Neopolitan dough receiving a mostly refrigerated bulk fermentation followed by loaf formation and room temp proof. His NeoNeopolitan dough recieves a 15 minute bulk fermentation and is formed into balls and receives a retarded proof. One of the goals of this approach is to slow down the yeast (which is more cold sensitive than the enzymes) so that the enzymes in the flour can break starch into sugars faster than the yeast can consume them, thus creating a dough when removed from the refrigerator has extra sugar (and flavor compounds)  and one gets a fast rise in the final room temperature phase of the proof.  Once you understand Peter's logic in these doughs his subsequent use of soakers and such makes even more sense for the soakers avoid the yeast totally. In a number of his newer recipes he has a preferement (effectively dough with yeast) and one or more soakers (no yeast) which are combined the next moring to make the final dough. In addition to more flavor, the method does have appeal to those who must bake on a work schedule and need extended proofing times.

You are right that the "dough made early" is preferment - but to be a preferment it must not be the final dough - additonal flour would be introduced to make the final dough. The preferment may be dough (as in old dough from the previous batch (usually the day before), or a commercial yeast biga (like dough in hydration and character)), a poolish (typically 100% hydration), or even soupier wet levains (such as 137% hydration) and sourdough can be used in place of commercial yeast for any of these. (Different hydrations are  used on sourdough preferments to get different flavor profiles.) The preferment is the source of yeast for the bread (or at least a source since some recipes add commercial yeast to the final dough to supercharge the preferment. This seems to be most common in commercial doughs where the proofing time needs to be limited. Usually preferments do not include salt (or only a bit to slow the yeast)

Reinhart's BBA French bread is very similar to many better recipes. As you say, he makes a preferment (in this case a pate fermente which is the equivalent of old dough.  He allows the pate fermente to warm up, mixes the final dough, ADDING MORE YEAST!, and bulk ferments for two hours. Forms loaves and proofs for about an hour. And bakes.

Pain l'ancienne is a nice bread. One can also make it as a sourdough which I personally prefer. I am personally not a fan of pate fermente (I prefer wetter preferments) but it is certainly superior to "one batch bread". 

If you want to retard your sourdough bulk ferment you will benefit from having your preferment really rocking when you mix the preferment. A good schedule could be to expand your starter in the morning of Day 1 and let it ferment all day at room temp. Mix the preferment in the evening of Day 1. Probably give it a half hour to work before retarding it in the refrigerator (if the preferment doesn't expand much you can extend the time before putting it in the fridge. Then on Day 2, pull the preferment out of the fridge and mix your final dough when you get home and follow the recipe! With experience you should find a combination that is reliable for you! Oh...and if you find your preferment is past peak when you get home on Day 1 you can increase the expansion ratio or if it hasn't peaked yet you can reduce the expansion ratio. It is all about finding what works for you!

Good Luck!

Jay 

badmajon's picture
badmajon

Following all the advice I received on this thread, I managed to make something which although imperfect, is my first half decent result with sourdough. I've still got a long way to go with my fermentation method, but the big victory here for me is that my bread actually rose and I got substantial oven spring when I put it in the oven, about 100% from the flat pancake it ended up falling to once I slashed it.

I actually underestimated how fast this dough would rise. The starter was rebuilt until it doubled in 4 hours and I ended up making a 750g loaf, probably about 80% hydration (which was too wet and made handling a nightmare but live & learn) out of 125g of starter. It rose so fast on the final proof, that I actually overproofed the dough, and had to reknead it and it still soldiered on and gave me a good oven spring!

Thanks to everyone, I finally feel like I'm at a decent starting point here.

jamesjr54's picture
jamesjr54

After a year-plus of really trying, and with some really nice successes, I read this post and realize I'm doing a lot of things wrong: basically keeping way too much starter and feeding it way too little before baking. I had the same basic problem as badmajon: slow rise and little spring. So I started yesterday with a 1:2:2 starting with 25g. Refreshed it 1:3:3 last night. 1:3:3 this morning. While it was in the 80s here (Boston area) last week my kitchen this morning when I refreshed was 61F. So things are slow.  Aiming to bake on Wednesday - 2 days hence. Not sure how I missed this over the past 18 months or so. As they say around here, dawn breaks on Marblehead.

 

longhorn's picture
longhorn

...to get bad feeding habits. Doubling the starter (say 50 grams plus 25 plus 25) works for a while but it will in my experience (and I think most) result in a slowly declining starter that loses robustness. But it "used to work" so one doesn't question the feeding and thinks something else is wrong. It is always good to have lively starter and keeping small amounts pretty much forces you to have lively starter when you mix your preferment.

While a 25 gram starter is plenty big enough to be robust, it may be a bit more vulnerable to bad handling (feeding, contamination, etc.) so it would be wise to dry some to store in your pantry as backup in case something happens to it. Note: this is wise no matter how big your starter is but...

While 61 is low (and slow) your starter should be fine - just take a couple of extra hours to peak!

Bake On!
Jay 

jamesjr54's picture
jamesjr54

Thanks Jay!

So last night I fed 50g with 150 AP and 150 h2o. Set it next to the pellet stove, where temp was 71F. And this morning, I got bubbles and about 1/4" rise. This was after 11 hours. This morning I discarded all but 50g, and fed with 100g AP and 100g H2O. Temp was 67F. Am I doing it wrong? I probably should be consistent, but duh, I misunderstood the math! LOL! (man is this humbling. Like golf!). 

longhorn's picture
longhorn

Just sounds sluggish... Given the temp it should have done more... BUT... it is important to note that 100% starters will definitely rise and fall. While rising the top will be bulging upward a bit and after the peak it will typically show a "ring" around the bowl/container and the top will usually be depressed a bit (convex) in the center. 

Given the activity you describe I am pretty confident it is yeast working. Not very robust yeast, but yeast... and over a couple more feedings the starter should rapidly get more active. Assuming the starter has not peaked in 11 hours or so you could extend the fermentation before feeding if it is convenient and the starter will get healthy faster but...not critical.

WRT ratios... the key IMO is to get away from feeding by doubling. (50 starter plus 25 water plus 25 flour or equivalent). That simply won't keep most starters healthy - at least not if stored in the fridge and used weekly. Tripling (50 plus 50 plus 50) is probably adequate as maintenance feeding to keep the starter reasonably robust - assuming done nominally weekly along with refrigerator storage. I use higher ratios (such as 50 plus 75 plus 75 or 50 plus 100 plus 100 or even 50 plus 125 plus 125) to expand my starter for baking and for making a levain to begin the breadmaking process. I select the ratio based on the overnight kitchen temp (say 65 oF for 50 plus 75 plus 75, 82 oF for 50 plus 125 plus 125, and 50 plus 100 plus 100 in between. At the same temp the higher ratios simply take longer to peak. By varying the ratio with the temp I keep peaking time more constant. For feeding - or even for bread making the ratio is not very significant in my experience.

Hope that helps!

Jay

jamesjr54's picture
jamesjr54

And helps. Thanks Jay. We'll seee what awaits when I get home. I marked the container last night, so I know it hadn't peaked and fallen. I agree too that the yeast is active. And sluggish!

jamesjr54's picture
jamesjr54

Sluggish is right. After a week of 1:2:2 feedings, my starter is finally 2-2.5x at peak. But it's taking still almost 14 hours. I guess you go to the bread wars with the starter you have. I'll bake with it Wednesday and we'll see what's what.

longhorn's picture
longhorn

The amount your starter will rise is a fxn of hydration, the flour you use, your specific yeast strain and bateria, and more. Yours is about on schedule with mine. It is almost certainly happy and healthy now and ready to rumble!

Bake On!

Jay

badmajon's picture
badmajon

Try upping it to 1:4:4... Since learning from this thread thats what I did and now my bread rises great! I bake every other day, so I also stopped keeping massive amounts of starter. What I do is the night before, I take 25g of starter, throw the remainder away, and add 50g water 50g flour. Next morning I take 25g of that and repeat the feeding but instead of throwing away the rest of my first build starter, I put it in the fridge for my next batch. This ensures my fridge starter is always fresh.

By the end of day 2, my starter is ready to go after two feeds. Right now I'm putting the 125g starter into 400g of flour, which works well for me although I would not be surprised if that is overkill.