The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter

jafwiz's picture
jafwiz

Starter

I am not having any luck making my own starter.I tryed the Peter Reinhart method which was 1/4 cup whole wheat and 1/4 cup pinapple juice? I  have been stiring and after 4 days still no movement. I added another 1/4 cup plus 1/4 cup of pinappple juice after that. Is there another recipe i should try that might work or any help with this one?

Ford's picture
Ford

  Have patience.  The little beasties need time to wake up after their long sleep.  The preferred method of measurement is by weight -- it is more accurate.  Use equal weights of flour, water, and starter.  A cup of flour weighs about 4.25 oz. and a cup of water weighs about 8.3 oz.  Check out Debra Winks' pineapple solution in the search box, above right of this page.

Ford

Ford's picture
Ford

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Ford's picture
Ford

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Ford's picture
Ford

Have patience.  The little beasties need time to wake up.  Use equal weights of starter, water, and flour.  A cup of water weighs about 8.3 oz. and a cup of flour weighs about 4.25 oz.  Check out Debra Winks' "pineapple solution" in the search box above right.

Ford

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Ideal is between 79-82F but anything between68-80F works quite well. I find that in my winter kitchen, the top of the refrigerator is the most consistently warm place for a culture. I have cooked too many starters to use the oven with the light on. Do a search for "proofing box" and you will find all sorts of ingenious methods for keeping a warm spot for dough to rise. Dough has the same temperature requirements.

dosco's picture
dosco

Warmest room in my house during the winter is the utility closet (where the furnace "lives). I've been letting my starter sit on top of the water heater in there ... I measured the temp yesterday ... sits between 78F and 82F. Starter easily doubles, not sure how long it takes but it is between 4 to 8 hours to double.

-Dave

clazar123's picture
clazar123

When you have a pet, you need to provide a healthy environment-the right temperature and moisture, food on a consistent basis and a clean cage.

Temperature and moisture: If it is too warm, they live and eat very quickly in fast motion requiring more food and water, rising and falling (and dying) quickly.If it is too cool, they get sleepy,live in slow motion and don't eat much (or work much) Water can't be chlorinated or contaminated.

Food on a consistent basis-  If they gobble up all their food and starve, they start eating up their internal reserves and produce a liquid called "hootch" as a top layer in the jar. Feed them! Like any population-when there is enough food and water, they will reproduce and be a great work force for you.

Clean cage-when you discard, you are essentially "cleaning their cage" of all debris and waste and refreshing their environment. That is why we discard. With a smaller amount of starter, there is not much discard and also not much flour is used for replacement. I save my discard in a covered container in the refrigerator and when there is enough, we have pancakes!

If you keep a small but healthy starter, you will need to use recipes that take a small amount of starter a day or so before you are planning to bake and "build" the amount you need in the form of a "preferment". Sometimes you do sequential feedings without discarding,and use the amount you need in the recipe or sometimes you do a single stage preferment. This is what I do. I take 1 cup flour,1 cup water and a few tablespoons of a starter that I have fed about 12 hours ago. I let this sit overnight on the kitchen counter and when it is nice and foamy, I make bread! Sourdough takes a little more planning than regular bread.

So start experimenting and see what works for you!

jafwiz's picture
jafwiz

so i am trying to understand. If i bake once a week i have to plan that for how much starter i need? why can't i just keep a bigger jar in the frig and feed it once a week.If a recipie takes 1 cup of starter i don't want to use it all i want to keep it going.Also can this be frozen?

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Before you figure out how to put a starter into long term storage, you should figure out how to use it.

It would be good to get the starter to the point that it consistently rises when fed. That can take a few weeks and it is more economical to do with a small amount of flour. Once you have a starter that behaves consistently, then you can start making a larger amount and possibly refrigerating it in between uses.

Here is what I do:

I bake every weekend.

My starter stays in the refrigerator Sunday, Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs.

Friday AM I discard and feed.

If my starter is very active, I may make a preferment that evening (remember the preferment takes just a few tablespoons of starter),the preferment sits all night and then I mix my dough Saturday AM and bake by the evening.

If my starter seems sluggish, I may feed Friday PM as well (2 feedings) and make my preferment Saturday AM and mix dough and bake Saturday PM.

After I take out enough starter for the pre-ferment, I feed the starter again, let it rise a few hours and then put it back in the refrigerator until next weekend. I always send it to bed with a full "stomach". I know these analogies sound odd but it helps to put it into the proper context. Starter is a living thing-like a pet.

This is just one way of using starter. A starter has to be active to raise a loaf of bread. When it is in the refrigerator it is very sleepy and not very active. That is why recipes will tell you to use "active" starter. That means it is fed, awake and working-not cold, sleepy and not working.

Read the handbook-the link is  at the top of the screen. Use the search box-there is a LOT of info here. And most importantly-start baking or start stirring and feeding

 

jafwiz's picture
jafwiz

what type of flour do you recomend i feed to my starter? What i mean is what will give me the best taste in the final bread. I started this with rye and whole wheat should i start switching to bread flour?

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Pick whatever is most available and reasonably priced for you but be consistent. And it should be Unbleached flour.  Don't switch around.

 

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

jafwiz,

You should give your starter at least another week or two before refrigerating. And even then, expect inconsistency on rise times and such for a while. Just give yourself a little extra time when you make bread with your starter that has been refrigerated. Part of the process of making starter is also learning what your particular starter is like. It won't behave exactly like anyone else's starter, so study it until you're comfortable that you can get consistent results from it. When you do put it in the fridge, it can go a very long time between feedings. Most comments I've seen from people suggest once a week. It can actually live a lot longer than that, but once again, the way it behaves will be your determining factor. You will like your bread one way. Once you learn your starter, you'll decide for yourself how often to feed it, in order to get the exact results you want in your bread. Once firmly established, the culture is not easy to kill accidentally. It can stand some experimentation as you learn how it behaves, and start to decide how you want it to behave, and then learn how to get it that way consistently.

It is quite possible, once you get a mature starter, to never have to throw away any "discard" again. You can learn how much to feed it, such that you are always using the amount of starter you have, and never have excess. The reason you discard now, is that every time you feed it, it needs to have a certain amount of food compared to the amount of starter. You take some starter out, so you can give less food to what remains. That unfed starter is your "discard". If you didn't do that, the amount of your starter would continue to grow, and the amount you would have to feed it would grow as well. Before long, one of three things would happen, either you'd run out of money, or you'd run out of room in your house, or you'd throw some away, so that it stays manageable.

But, it will be easy to keep it just right, once you get it into the fridge. You keep just the amount you want to bake with, plus a little more for seed. Say you're going to use 300g a week. So, you'd take (maybe) 100g starter and feed it with 150g flour and 150g water. When you bake, you take out the 300g to bake with, and you are left with 100g again, to feed for the next week. The exact amounts, you will work out for yourself, but you can see in this example that your starter stays fed, yet you never have excess to throw away.

You don't need to worry about Malted Barley flour. If you want it in your flour, look for it on the ingredients label of your flour bag. Commercial flour usually has Malted Barley flour in it. It isn't actually necessary, but it's an additive that is supposed to improve your baking.

What chris means about using some of his starter to bake and replenishing with flour and water, is just what I said above, about keeping it in the fridge, and not discarding. Some people will take some out, and feed it for a day or two outside the fridge before using it to bake. It is possible to bake with it directly out of the fridge, if you give it some time after you feed it to become very active, before you put it back in the fridge. You don't need to feed the starter you're baking with, unless the recipe specifically tells you to. The dough will be its feed. You would feed the part that is left, before putting it away again.

The amount of starter to use depends on several factors, but most recipes will tell you exactly how much to use. The starter is best used when it is most hungry, to say it simply. While you have it out of the fridge, it is a good time to observe its behavior. It will rise, after feeding, for several hours, and if you watch it long enough, it will start to fall back down. Just when it starts to fall is the best time to use it for baking, as well as the best time to feed it. For maximum activity, feed it right when it gets to that point. The feeding ratio of starter:flour:water will determine how often that happens. You can experiment with feeding it less, or more, to get it onto a schedule that fits your life best. Outside the fridge, most people will try to get it on a schedule of feeding either once every 12 hours, or once every 24 hours. You control the schedule. Heat, humidity, and types of flour all affect that schedule, but with some diligence, you can set the pace by the way you feed it.

jafwiz's picture
jafwiz

Dave i guess what is confusing me is if i need to let this starter mature for say 3 weeks before it is good an ready to refrigerate and i take 300grams out to bake with and i have 100grams left as you call it seed does it not take another 3 weeks to mature again as most of what i will add will be new flour.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

jafwiz,

Okay, I've got you now. No, it doesn't need to mature again. It just needs to be fed. The way it matures is that the beneficial yeasts and lactobacilli multiply to the point that they become dominant, and anything undesirable basically gets either killed by the acidic environment, or somehow dissipated and choked out. Once that occurs, the amount you feed is not enough to reverse it, generally speaking. So, it stays mature after feeding. Of course, there is a technical statistical chance that it might happen, but it is such a small chance as to be statistically insignificant. However, until all of this takes place, there can be many upsets if things aren't handled delicately. That's one reason why it might not be a good idea to refrigerate it. It may actually work okay. There isn't any definite danger, just a possibility that the starter isn't ready yet. If you wanted to try, you could take some of your starter and go ahead and refrigerate it, while you keep the other outside the fridge. If the one you keep in the fridge does okay, then you can begin to use it, and do away with the other. Once your starter is mature, you can even freeze some, for several months of storage - without having to feed it, or you could even dry some of it, and keep it stored for years that way.

edit: Even though it doesn't need to mature again after feeding, it will need to have time to eat, multiply, and grow. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a day, depending on how much you feed to it. As I said before, it is most active, and ready to bake or feed again, when it has eaten all of its food.

Hope this helps!

jafwiz's picture
jafwiz

My starter has been going for about 8 days I made one with just bread flour and one that is just rye. I notice that when I feed it stir it first then discard some then feed it I think that's what I should be doing. It needs to be I a very warm place to see real activity I see more with the bread flour oneit has lots of little bubbles the rye seams thicker so i only see it expand a little but there are some bubbles under the top from the side. Do you think it's ready to refrigerate and also to use for some bread. what recipie do you recomend for a first time sourdough loaf.

Antilope's picture
Antilope

I had used Carl's Oregon Trail starter for over 5-years, it worked great, but I wanted to make my own starter.
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I tried several times with either whole wheat or bread flour without much success, using water or pineapple juice. The starter attempt would go nowhere, only making a few feeble bubbles, or nothing.

Then, this summer, I decided to throw everything at the attempt, here's what finally worked for me: (all of these flours were just from the local supermarket) one of these flours had the "magic wild yeast" ;-)
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I call it - Kitchen Sink Sourdough Starter
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1 Tbsp Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour
1 Tbsp Unbleached Bread Flour
1 Tbsp Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp Hodgson Mill Organic Rye Flour
3 or 4 Tbsp Pineapple Juice (unsweetened juice from canned Pineapple packed in its own juice)

Mix ingredients well. The mixture should look like a thick pancake batter..

The pineapple juice encourages growth of the desired sourdough cultures - wild yeast spores and Lactobacillus (which are naturally in the wheat fields and are in the whole wheat, rye and unbleached flour) because it is slightly acidic, and sourdough cultures like a slightly acidic environment. The slightly acidic environment discourages unwanted bacteria cultures, that don't like an acidic environment. Once the sourdough cultures are established for a few days, the pineapple juice feedings can be replaced with tap water. The established sourdough cultures will discourage other bacterial growth in the sourdough starter.
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Day 1 -
Mixed all the ingredients in a Gladware container. Put on the lid loosely. Left out on the kitchen counter (in summertime, with air conditioning) at about 78-F. Stirred twice a day.

Day 2 -
Stirred mixture twice a day, once in the morning, once at night.

Day 3 -
A few bubbles appeared. Stirred mixture twice a day, once in the morning, once at night.

Day 4 -
More bubbles appeared. Added an additional Tablespoon each Whole Wheat, Bread, All-Purpose, Rye Flours and some pineapple juice to moisten. Stirred mixture twice a day, once in the morning, once at night.

Day 5 -
Even more bubbles appearing. Added a Tablespoon each Whole Wheat, Bread, All-Purpose, Rye Flours and pineapple juice. Stirred mixture twice a day, once in the morning, once at night.

Day 6 -
Quite bubbly, fruity, yeasty smell. Added a couple of Tablespoons of only Bread Flour and tap water. Stirred mixture twice a day, once in the morning, once at night.

Day 7 -
Very bubbly, fruity, yeasty smell. Added a couple of Tablespoons of only Bread Flour and tap water. Stirred mixture twice a day, once in the morning, once at night.

Day 8 -
Very bubbly, fruity, yeasty smell. Added a couple of Tablespoons of only Bread Flour and tap water. Stirred mixture twice a day, once in the morning, once at night.
Used some of starter to make bread. It rose quite well and made good bread, but of couse it wasn't sour, because the starter was so new. But I now had my own homemade starter.

I stored the bubbly starter in the fridge and baked bread once or twice a week. I take out the starter, feed it and get it bubbly before using for a recipe.

After a few months it is now developing a nice, sour taste and smell. I usually feed it bread flour and water, but once every two or three weeks, I feed some whole wheat flour and a tablespoon or two of rye flour.


I've kept my sourdough starters at different degrees of thickness, from pancake batter/pourable, to spoonable/taffy like all the way to kneadable dough.

The main effect of thicker starters is they can go longer in the fridge between feedings. Thin pancake batter like starters will develop an alcohol scented liquid on the top called "hooch", if not fed for a week or so.

Just stir the liquid back in an feed the starter as normal. A starter kept as a kneadable dough will not usually develop "hooch".

After keeping sourdough for over 5 years, I prefer to keep my starter on the thicker side, either spoonable/taffy like or even dough like.