The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Uncooperative leaven - cold temps & slow going

tundrah's picture

Uncooperative leaven - cold temps & slow going


I've been getting reasonably successful with my Tartine starter and breads, but now that the temps have dropped I am facing new challenges.

I mixed my 1tbsp starter with 200g flour and 200g water last night. As of this AM, it was no where near ready, so I put it aside and hoped it would warm up. No such luck as our house is chilly and it didnt come anywhere close to being ready until I tested it about an hour ago at 6pm. There's no way I am staying up til 1am to make a few loaves of bread, so, my question is...

Can I either just stick with this batch and test it again in the morning? Or, should I throw out the leaven and start again just with a bit to regenerate the starter? I abandoned my original starter so this is what I have to work with. Would love to be able to make bread at some point tomorrow, but not sure how to reboot this time around without just reverting back to starter and hoping for warmer temps.

Thanks in advance!!!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

you do have to shift your feeding tactics.  Either find a warm place to mature the starter or use a larger portion of starter in the next build.  

You can easily double or triple the starter amount to get the same times as before.  The starter is slow, find a warm spot so it can peak so you can feed it or use it.    I guess you were using a 1:10:10 ratio to feed,  and now as temps drop, a 1:4:4 may work out better.  

If the starter still seems slow, drop to a 1:2:2  or even a 1:1:1 but do remember that when more people are together and the kitchen is warm, the starter will speed up again and require more food for the same time slot. You have to be flexible with your feeding and take your cues from the starter.  

There must be somewhere in the house that is warmer, close to the water heater perhaps.  Run a site search:  How to keep my sourdough starter warm.   List of warm spots.  Check the cupboard above the refrigerator, above floor heat vents, or near the house chimney.  If you are the only warm spot in your house, put your starter inside your pocket in a couple of zipper bags to keep warm.  (Burp them on occasion so they don't split in your pocket and make a mess.)

My husband showed me a new product, stays warm for 10 hours, Hothands hand warmers.  Strap one of these to your starter jar and wrap to insulate with newspaper or some kind of insulating material.  

tundrah's picture

thanks to you both. It smells just fine--fruity--and is nice and bubbly. I guess my question should have been more in the vein of, can I "overnight" it and use it as leaven in the AM, or should I abandon that and just go back to starter?

then again I guess I can leave it overnight and see how it looks in the AM and go from there... Sometimes I need help in working these things out when I should have come to this conclusion on my own. :P

Mini you are right in that I do need to scout the warmest place in the house. I have to sheepishly admit--we live in Southern California so it is hardly "cold". That said, we leave the doors open even in this type of weather so our house never really warms up. I did make a fire tonight though--maybe I'll overnight it on the far end of the hearth for an expirment and see what happens. :)

LindyD's picture

Another option, given the holidays are approaching, is this absolutely marvelous folding proofer discussed here:

Sold at Amazon, King Arthur, and other sites, it's a terrific tool for the serious baker and one I can't imagine doing without.  I'd give up my mixer before I'd give up my proofer.