The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Another Starter Question

kensbread01's picture

Another Starter Question

So my starter won't start...  and my wife said to let it sit for a few days, which I did.  Last night I noticed it very smelly and bubbly.  So, I decided to feed it and will see if I can make bread again tomorrow using it.  This morning it looked very bubbly on top and had a nice vinegary smell.  I think it is working now, I gave it another feeding.

I'm wondering about starter, mine has only been fed 50/50 blend of flour and water.  It is about 2 weeks old and I had been feeding it daily at the same time each day.  Question:  If you let it sit for a few days at room temperature, can that cause it to develop toxic or something harmful?  I would guess that the baking process would kill any harmful bacteria, but that worries me to some extent.



golgi70's picture

Would take a long time.  Think of it as a child.  it needs to be fed and use it's energy before feeding again.  But if it's hungry and doesn't get fed for a long time it gets weak and cranky and won't perform as you'd wish.  When a starter peaks you either make bread with it or feed it to peak again.  There are numerous variations in feeding from types of flour, hydration %, number of feedings per day, and temperatures to hold them at.  All of these play a roll in its character.and role. 

A good test is to feed your starter at a ratio of 1:2:2 (starter:water:flour) all by weight and see how long it takes to peak.  Peak is when it maxes out in rise and just starts to fall.  This is the ideal time to use it when making bread as the yeast colony is at its peak.  Every moment afterwards the colony slowly begins to die.  

Using an over ripe starter will lead to poor taste and rising qualities.  In fact if its been there too long it quite possible won't raise your loaf at all.  I suggest using the search feature above and typing in starter maintenance.  There is oodles of good information regarding the topic.  

Hope this is helpful and good luck 


Xenophon's picture

...when I built mine it sat on my countertop in New Delhi (India) at room temperature (at the time about 35 centigrade) for over 2 weeks unrefrigerated and it went just fine.  Sometimes (especially in the very early phase) you can get the development of mould (easily visible) and then you toss it and start over.  During the establishment of the yeast/bacterial colonies a brutal darwinian selection takes place.  Once it's developed and smells/tastes sour you're basically golden as the very low pH will inhibit the growth of most other bacteria/yeasts (those that are established obviously don't like competitors setting up shop).  Don't forget that bakers have been doing this for millennia so -leaving the science aside for a moment- if it were to go disastrously and perilously wrong on a regular basis these cases would be amply documented.


I've only been doping this (baking with exclusively sourdough cultures) for a couple of months myself but although it takes some effort in the beginning, the results are really worth it.