The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

It's not a failure if I learn from my mistakes, right?

Maeve's picture

It's not a failure if I learn from my mistakes, right?

Third attempt at sourdough starter produced a happy camper that will bubble and double and so I thought it was all ready to go.  I've been reading posts here and elsewhere and all my books (Reinhart, RLB) and a few from the library (Reinhart, Leader) the starter is fine.  It's what to do with it afterwards - how much to feed it, when to put it in the fridge, how much to put in the fridge.


I settled on the 123 method, since that seems pretty straight forward.  I wanted to stay with mostly whole wheat (white whole wheat ground in my Nutrimill) and I think that was my first problem.

Then it was far too chilly in my house to get the dough to rise.  Hours later, after consulting this forum and finding a solution (my microwaveable neck warmer thingy, heated up a bit, left in the microwave, pop the loaf pan in there and it was a lovely 79F.  The dough rose after that, but only a bit.  It rose a bit above the lip and that's when I usually bake the bread, so I popped it in the oven.  After it cooled a bit I just couldn't wait to try it, even though it felt really heavy.  There was a blob of unbaked dough in the centre!  So I turned the oven back on and baked it a bit more and bits of it are edible...

So, I shall try again, this time mixing up the dough tonight and letting the loaf rise overnight and use the King Arthur bread flour.

I'm not discouraged though!

isand66's picture

There are so many variations of starters and methods it is hard to help you without more specifics.  If you give us more details on your starter such as amount of water to flour and also your formula and procedure you are following to bake your bread I can help you avoid some of the pitfalls you are having.

It is important that you get a feel for when to bake the dough and when it is fully cooked.  Some people say you don't need to take the temperature and should be able to tell from the look and feel and sound of the finished bread, but I also like to use an instant read thermometer and make sure it reaches 205-210 degrees F.

Give me some more info and I will be glad to help you.

Feel free to read some of my posts here or on my blog at as my recipes usually have detailed directions which may help you as well.



Nickisafoodie's picture

try building your starter so it peaks before bed (feed at least twice discarding half each time before making your final for the bread).  Target about 200 grams at the end.  That should work.

Also try a sponge method.  search 123 method in the search box.

Maeve's picture

My starter is equal amounts of white whole wheat flour and tap water from my well.  42 grams of each.  The first day had pineapple juice, but after that it's been water.  And it's a happy camper and about a week old.  After folding the dough last night I put it in the fridge, this morning it had doubled.  The dough?  It lurked.  It rose maybe 1/8 of an inch in the loaf pan.

So I'm back to baking regular bread with instant yeast, so I can have toast tomorrow morning.  After my success with consistently baking good bread with instant yeast I had high hopes for sourdough, but it doesn't seem to like me.  There's about 200 grams in a jar in the fridge.  It's in a time-out until I research some more.

aptk's picture

My starter is fed equal amounts of flour and water and I too use well water. It's a very wet starter, looks like the flour and water paste we used to make as children. Feed your starter half a cup of flour and half a cup of water each day and if you want a more sour taste, leave in out, less sour, put it in the fridge. Add those amounts until you have three cups of starter. But on to a combo bread recipe that works for me.

On the day you plan to bake, pour 2 cups of starter into your mixing bowl. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in one cup of warm water, sprinkle it with one teaspoon of instant yeast, let it sit for 15 minutes. Pour over your starter in the bowl, sprinkle 1 or 2 teaspoons of salt and one cup of flour over that. Beat with a fork and then beat some more til it's smooth. Add flour one cup at a time, work up your dough as usual. Let raise for 45 minutes to an hour. Punch down, shape, and let rise again. Then bake. (should make one decent sized loaf)

You should get a loaf with a mild sourdough flavor (thanks to the starter), and a decent raise (thanks to the yeast).

I keep my starter in an old coffee carafe, it stays in the fridge primarily. I take it out and feed it the night before I plan to bake. If I'm using it frequently and the sour taste seems to go away, then I sit it back out on the counter top to let it ferment some more. On the counter I feed it with half cup water, half cup flour every day. Then when I think it's sour enough, I dump all of it out except for 1 cup. To that I add one cup flour, one cup water and back in the fridge it goes.

I think that living with sourdough is like living with a toddler. Some days they are good, some days they are not, and most days I'm just really not sure what they are going to do. Keep trying, and anything that's not edible to me, I feed to the birds!!



chris319's picture

If you're going to use packaged yeast then what's the point of bothering with starter? Seriously.

You don't need packaged yeast if there's enough yeast in your starter.

aptk's picture

I do it for the flavor. Why add the yeast then? Because for nine months out of the year, it's cold where I live and it's cold in my kitchen. And sometimes when I want bread, I don't want to wait three days for it to rise. There are thousands of combinations that will work, and this is one that works for me. It may not be right for you, you may be looking for something different.

I'm not mass producing loaves that need to be the same every time to sell to customers, I'm feeding me family things that they like. Most of my bread recipes are pretty flexible.