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My starters has surface bubbles, is it ready yet?

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Tam1024's picture
Tam1024

My starters has surface bubbles, is it ready yet?

I recently began to revive what looked like a dead started that i had started about 2 weeks ago and had left in my fridge.  I took two tbsp. of starter and mixed in 1/2 c. of flour and a little less than 1/2 c. of water, I covered it loosely and let it sit out on the counter for about 24 hours.  Each day for the last 4 days I have thrown out all but 1/4 c. of starter and mixed 1/2 c. of flour and a little less than 1/2 c. of water in.  I then cover it loosely and let it sit out.  Now the starter has bubbles forming on the surface about 4 or 5 hours after feeding but it never seems to rise up or show bubbles throughout the starter.  It is the consistency of pancake flour and smells slightly sour.  Is it ready to bake with yet or should I keep feeding as I am or step up or change the feeding?  Exactly what am I looking for?  Will it rise up and have bubbles all throughout? Am I doing right by leaving it on the counter if I feed it every day?   

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Tam1024 commented:

Each day for the last 4 days I have thrown out all but 1/4 c. of starter and mixed 1/2 c. of flour and a little less than 1/2 c. of water in. I then cover it loosely and let it sit out. Now the starter has bubbles forming on the surface about 4 or 5 hours after feeding but it never seems to rise up or show bubbles throughout the starter.

In a word, no.

The guideline I stress on sourdoughhome.com is that if a starter can't raise itself, it can't raise bread.

So, how do we get from where you are to where you need to be? A starter is a living thing, and living things need to be fed. Regularly. And enough to survive.

 

The least I recomend feeding a starter at room temperature is twice a day, and each feeding should be enough to double the size of your starter. Also, 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water is a bit thin a mixture. I prefer to weigh ingredients, and would feed 2 parts of starter 1 part of flour and 1 part of water. When measuring by volume, something like 2 parts of starter to 2 parts of water to 3 parts of flour is closer to the mark.

I would add 1/2 cup of water and 3/4 cup of flour to 1/2 cup of starter.

With the more liquid feeding you are using, things happen too quickly. The starter will run through the food very quickly and then slow down again very quickly. A thicker starter slows things down. More advanced sourdough practitioners often use much thicker starters, more like glazing putty than heavy cream.

With any starter, it can be tricky to see if it rose. A common complaint is "it didn't rise" when in actuality, it did rise. What happens is someone feeds the starter and goes to work or school. The starter, rises, peaks, and collapses before the person gets back home. The answer is to put the freshly fed starter into a clean container and look for residue on the sides of the container when you get home. The top of the residue is as high as the starter rose.

A final comment. For as starter that is in a weakened state, I suggest feeding the starter three times a day, enough to triple it in size with each feeding. Or, by weight, I would use 1 part of starter to 1 part of flour to 1 part of water. Or about 1/2 cup of starter to 1 cup of water to 1 1/2 cups of flour.

When a starter is underfed for a long period of time, it can develop unpleasant habits. Some of them can not be corrected. If your starter begins to smell like fingenail polish remover or acetone (the same thing really), discard your starter.

 

Good luck,

Mike

 

Tam1024's picture
Tam1024

Thanks Mike, I will start to feed my starter 3 times each day with 1/4 cup of starter to 1/2 cup of water to 3/4 cup of flour.  Is it OK to leave it out on the counter, loosely covered as I have been doing? 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

For the first 9,900 years we used sourdough, it was kept out at room temperature.  I think it was happier then.  The healthiest sourdough cultures are the ones used daily and fed several times a day.  Sadly, most of us don't have the time to bake daily and have a monk-like dedication to the starter.  (Monk like in the monk in a monastery sense, not in the Adrian Monk sense.  I wonder how he would cope with sourdough....)

Covering it helps keep it from drying out, which is a good thing,

If it doesn't take off in two days, I'd suggest starting over.  And if it starts smelling like fingernail polish remover or acetone, I'd also suggest starting over.

 

Good luck,

Mike

 

Tam1024's picture
Tam1024

I just fed it with the new proportions and checked for scent.  It still smell slightly sour and not like fingernail polish remover or acetone so I will feed it 3 times a day for the next 2 days and see what happens.  Thanks again for your help.Tam