The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sizzling Starter

  • Pin It
Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Sizzling Starter

I wasn't working on anything esoteric, just doing a two stage build of a rye starter.  A formula for "Abfrisch" from Plotzblog's post on the Wild Yeast site stirred my imagination into working on a sourdough version instead of the preferment version offered. I didn't think it could be that difficult since it was similar to a Pain de Meteil in Clayton's "Breads of France".

Here's what happened.

1130PM, 18 MAY 2012

18g of 66% hydration starter

24g water at room temperature

36g Hodgson Mills Rye Flour

Dissolve starter seed in water, mix in rye flour, cover and rest at room temperature, 72F.

8AM 19 MAY 2012

82g water at room temperature

123g HM rye flour.

Stir water into first stage then stir in rye flour. Cover and leave at room temperature, 74F.

4PM 19 MAY 2012

So far, nothing complicated or exotic had been done during the two build stages. The room temperature had gone up to 82F over the day. Typical of my experiences with rye starters, relatively little growth in the starter had occurred. I had deliberately aimed for around 66% hydration so I expected a more or less damp lump. The best way to check on progress, I thought, was to try a sniff test to verify activity.

This is where the strangeness started. When I opened the container, I actually heard a sound like sizzling bacon or perhaps a very fizzy carbonated drink. I've never had anything like this happen before nor have I read about something similar here on TFL. The starter that I built appears to have been correctly since it did a good job with the loaf I've been working on this evening.

I suspect that what happened was only the CO2 escaping out of the starter through areas where there was water on the surface. Has anyone else observed such a phenomenon? Are there any other possible explanations?


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

But maybe you have read "cover the starter loosely"  or "do not seal air tight"  because of what the build up of CO2 gasses can do.  This is very powerful pressure and can break glass jars and pop plastic lids  across the room.  That's why I like a simple plastic sandwich bag and a rubber band to cover, to let gasses escape.  

Search under:  airtight containers for a "look see" 


Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Thanks for the reply Mini. It was just a plastic food container for some  frozen dinner entree that I washed out and started using while prepping my breads because of its convenient size. The top has popped off before during other starter building stages, I just wasn't around to hear the sizzling sound when the top popped.

No damage was done and the starter was indeed healthy. The loaf is in the oven right now and should be done in 12-15 minutes.Pictures and analysis to be posted later.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And I'm surprised what all can be heard when the mind stops blocking out "normal activity."  

Because all is well,  we tend to listen more to the more uncommon "alarm sounds" to prevent accidents or injury.   Close your eyes for a minute and just listen.  Don't be afraid to move around and hear the creaking of your chair, the air coming under the door, the whoosh of wind when the refrigerator door closes or the ticking of a clock.  Pour yourself a drink or ask someone else to do it and simply listen to it.  (more sounds with ice cubes)  

When taking out hot bread, hear the creaking of the oven door and listen to your loaf as it reacts to your oven mitts pressing it together and the reaction as it hits the cooler air outside the oven.


Dragonbones's picture

I'm guessing that the tight seal of the container meant that the gas pressure built up in the air (empty) part of the container, and this pressure kept carbon dioxide IN the starter which would normally have been released. Upon opening it, the pressure was reduced, leading to a more sudden than normal bubbling of the starter. Does that make sense?