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PLEASE HELP. ON THRID ATTEMPT. Questions about Beth Hensperger's Classic Sourdough Starter

Shutzie27's picture

PLEASE HELP. ON THRID ATTEMPT. Questions about Beth Hensperger's Classic Sourdough Starter

Hi All, 

I'm having a series of issues with Hensperger's Classic Sourdough Starter, found on pg. 120 of "The Bread Bible." 

First, I've let the starter stand for four days, stirring twice a day. It seemed fine; lots of alcohol on top, clean, sharp smell, good color, etc. 

The instructions say on the fourth day to feed with 1/4 c of water and 1/2 c of flour, let stand overnight then store in the fridge. 

Do I do this BEFORE I take out what I need to make the sourdough bread....? That is, can I not bake until the fifth day? 

Also, it says to remove the starter needed (in this case, 1 cup) and then add a cup of flour and 1/2 cup of nonfat milk. Last week I used the dry nonfat milk because that's what's in the ingredients list but it became super lumpy glop. Is that OK or I am supposed to used LIQUID nonfat milk after removing what I need....? 

It also says to feed it every two weeks; is that with the 1 c of flour and 1/2 c nonfat milk, or with the 1/4 c of water and 1/3 c flour listed in the first step? 

Finally, it seems like a A LOT of starter, more than can fit in a quart mason jar. Do you really need to have that much around? Is there a way to reduce the recipe or maybe just not store all of it? And, if one does that, does it change the amount the starter needs to be fed? 

I realize these questions may make it seem as though I'm illiterate, but I'm honestly finding the instructions to be (for me) rather poorly written. Any help would be greatly appreciated. 


clazar123's picture

Welcome ! There is so much information available on this forum! The "search" box works really well and the Handbook is also a great help.

There are so many ways to make and maintain a starter. Some people keep bulky amounts. Some keep as little as 50grams (about a tablespoon). The most I have on hand is a pint jar about 1/4-1/3 filled. I try to keep as little as possible since you will have to feed that pet about an equal amount of flour at least weekly.

I do have her book and after reading her method, I don't know if this "Classic starter" will be a long term starter since it is made with commercial yeast. Commercial yeast is not necessarily a long-term organism. An authentic classic starter is just unbleached flour and water. The yeast that is naturally present on the flour grows and is cultivated by maintaining room temp,, stirring and going through a discard (cleaning the cage) and feed cycle.  Over time (7-10 days) it goes through phases of development and is barely ready to bake its first loaf at about 2 weeks after starting. This kind of starter will mature, the organisms will balance out and learn to live with each other ( or not) and eventually become a workhorse leavener for you for generations, if kept properly.

There are a lot of different ways to use a sourdough starter, also. It is all about finding a method that works for you-timewise-ingredients wise and tastewise. Do some experiments and see what you think. For myself- I bake once a week. I use 2 tbsp. starter per 2 loaves every week. So I might take the jar out of the refrig on Thursday night, discard half (a few tablespoons),feed every 12 hours to build up its activity and then use it on Saturday for my bake. It gets  a final discard ( see below) and feed, sits for a few hours and then goes back in the refrig for the week.

It looks like Beth Hensperger uses a large amount of the starter in her sourdough bread recipe but I'm not sure why since she adds a full packet of yeast to it also. I don't think she is experienced in sourdough. At least not in this book.

So experiment-read-learn and figure out how YOU want to be baking.

**A discard is just removing some of the starter from the jar-it doesn't matter what you do with it. Some people bake with it, some people make pancakes or other small items with it (adds great flavor) and some put it on the compost heap.

108 breads's picture
108 breads

The instructions you described seem rather complicated. I agree with the previous comment; you only need unbleached flour of some kind and water. I am not sure why you would use milk or commercial yeast.

So relax and take a deep breathe.

There are many paths to creating and maintaining a healthy starter.

For what it's worth, here is my advice and I just began my starter this last winter. I use my starter without any commercial yeast and the doughs rise amazingly well. To me, it feels like a miracle. A year ago, I had no idea one could even grow one's own yeast source and I had never heard of a sourdough starter.

Remember that you are experimenting and growing. With good luck and learning, you will enjoy success, with some failures along the way. The failures make good funny stories. (I can never forget the time I used peanut oil in a pie crust for a peach pie. Terrible.)