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starter not "doubling in size"

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quinoanut's picture
quinoanut

starter not "doubling in size"

I am new to all of this, having only made waffles and pancakes from my extra starter so far. My plan was to bake bread today but as it turns out I realize I have ignored something really important.

I have been reading as much as I can but don't understand it all, and I suppose some things don't register right away. Over and over I have read that the starter will "double in size" and somehow I managed to ignore that. My starter (which is gluten free) has been bubbly and has a wonderful yeasty somewhat sour smell but it only increases in size a little bit, maybe 10% which looks like foam that goes back down when I stir and feed. On and off it gets that black liquid on top so I know it's eating, though I don't think I ever starved it. My house is around 65 degrees, I don't have a consistently warm spot.

So my question is, do you think this is usable for bread if it is not doubling in size? Perhaps that is a dumb question.

I read that making the loaves smaller helps it rise, given that I thought about dinner rolls instead. 

I was also wondering, is cross posting okay on this site?  I know there is a forum for special needs baking but it is the sourdough starter that is the main question here so I thought most appropriate here.

Thank you!

Heath's picture
Heath

I don't know anything about gluten free starters, but I do know that not all starters double in size.  For instance, the consistency of the starter plays a part in whether it grows in size or not - a thin one can't trap the air bubbles the yeast produces.

Since your starter is producing bubbles and has a yeasty smell I'd give it a go baking with it.

I've never heard that baking smaller loaves helps with the rise - though that doesn't mean it's not true :)

quinoanut's picture
quinoanut

Thank you!

Well I decided to go ahead with it but in the interest of not throwing good after bad I halved the recipe and only made a 7 inch loaf. I refrigerated the remainder of the starter in case I want to continue.

The night before mixing the bread dough I got the bright idea to put the starter in a warmer room with a heater, maybe about 70-75 degrees. That was just enough for the sweet yeasty smell to be overpowered by a sour vinegar like smell. I almost didn't want to go through with baking it as I am not a fan of sour and was simply pursuing the challenge of the task as well as the potential nutrition benefits from sourdough. The loaf did raise but took 8 hours to get about a 30% increase in size.

The loaf is edible but sour comes through. I had to put some agave on it to make it enjoyable, unusual for me. The loaf is dense but most of the bread I make using psyllium and chia seed as binders are dense (binders are essential to GF bread - they do what gluten does in standard breads, more commonly people use xanthan gum). The crust burnt quickly in the toaster, I don't know if that is a characteristic of sourdough bread or not.

I cannot say the loaf will disappear quickly but it will get eaten and I will continue to work on the starter. I am going to go back to the cool house method and hope my starter converts back to the mild smell and flavor I had about 24hrs prior to mixing up the dough.

Here are the pics:

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Heath's picture
Heath

Putting the starter in a warm environment would have meant that the yeast reproduced more quickly and so ran out of food sooner - it may have been starved when you used it.  I know that my discard (which I keep to use in other bakes) becomes very sour as it starves.  If you do this again, just feed the starter more at the outset or don't leave it for so long.

8 hours for a 30% rise is very slow even for sourdough - mine usually takes anywhere between four and six hours depending on room temperature to double in size.  Is your starter very young?  It's usually advised to wait at least two weeks before baking with a new starter so that it has matured enough.

Definitely continue to experiment with your starter as I'm sure you won't be sorry when you achieve the results you want.

quinoanut's picture
quinoanut

My starter was 16 days old when I made the bread. I had fed it 5 hours before mixing dough. I figured 8 hours was long time but the recipe I used said it may take as long. Don't worry, I'm no where near giving up ;-)

Heath's picture
Heath

That's good :)

Hopefully a GF expert will chime in and give you some advice.

Jé's picture

I have had success with gluten-free starter and bread making.  It is still experimental, but here it is...

My GF starter doesn't double (100% rise), but gets about a 75-80% rise.  When I keep it on the countertop (68-73 °F), I feed 10g of starter with 26g of flour and 23g of water. My flour is organic and I blend 33% brown rice, 33% buckwheat, 33% sorghum.  The feeding has to be twice daily.

This is 113% hydration.  I used to feed a bigger quantity of starter with 80g water, 70g flour (which is 114% hydration) but I reduced the quantities to have less "reject" ( aka "future base for pancakes" :).

I use the starter in baking (mixing for bread making) only after it has risen about 70%, or is starting to recede.  Typically I take it out from the fridge the evening before, feed it; feed it again in the morning; then again in the afternoon, then I mix it in the recipe in the evening and feed it again before putting it back in the fridge.

I still have to keep a starter from dying after 3 weeks (turning way sour, can't even stand the smell), but each time I lost a starter, I think I missed a feeding or I didn't feed it a big enough meal.

Would you mind sharing the feeding regimen you use for your starter?  What ratio and frequency you use?

quinoanut's picture
quinoanut

Hi J'e!

I am glad to hear it has been working for you, I will press on.

When you refer to the gram weights are you actually weighing the flour and the water or is there some sort of conversion table that could be used for that?

I am completely with you in trying to reduce the reject...I have a freezer full of waffles and still have four pint size or larger jars in the fridge.

The recipe I started out with is in Nourishing Meals cookbook which is a wonderful GF cookbook, however I have a tendency to not follow things exactly, especially after a period of time and so I think what I did is a compilation of a lot of what I read there and online. What I did as best as I can recall is start with 1 cup teff and 1 cup of water. After 24hrs I fed 1/2 cup teff and 1/2 cup water every 24hrs for next 2 or three days. I think after that I fed (same amounts) every 12hrs for a day or so but did not stick with that as my house is 65 degrees and I was not seeing a ton of activity though it smelled nice and a bit yeasty. Somewhere along the line I ran out of teff and started using sorghum, then to brown rice flour when I ran out of that. I was using distilled water until about day 4 when I read about it needing the minerals so then I dug my Brita filter out and definitely saw more activity the next day after that. I may have gone back to 2x/day feeding closer to the 14 day mark. Also somewhere along the way I poured a bunch off for waffles when  started reading how you need to feed it proportionate to the size of your starter though I don't think I ever really did exactly equal proportions. Honestly toward the end I wasn't even measuring that well. The day or so prior to baking I moved my starter in to a room that was warm (~75 degrees) as I thought that would make it rise better but all it did was change it so it was more acidic. I baked my bread around day 16 or 17.  I think that it is amazing that I achieved a slightly edible product after my haphazard method of following instructions.
Perhaps I should try and keep a diary so I know what I actually did when it finally comes out right.