The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough starter

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Tiffany's picture
Tiffany

Sourdough starter

Okay this is my first time making a starter and I must admit I haven't been precisely measuring. I'm not a precise kind of person. ;) Anyways, I'm on day 7 and my starter is quite active almost tripling in 3-4 hours. The problem? is it still smells pretty strongly of alcohol. I keep it on the counter and was feeding just once a day and have bumped it up to twice a day. I've also not been throwing out my starter, just putting it into another bowl and feeding them all. I plan on doing a lot of baking once I know it has been established. I do not know how much starter I have currently, but I add about 1/2c rye/1/2c ap to about 1/2 c water to each bowl. It is a pretty thick starter.  I did make pancakes last night with it and it came out fine. what should I do about the alcohol smell? And how soon can I attempt to make some bread?

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

First, you should probably be discarding at every feeding by now. If not, you will soon find that your yeasties eat more than you do, and if you continue past that, you will soon find you have nowhere to sleep. Alternatively, you can find a use for the discard, as you've done in making pancakes. But, you should be doing that probably at every feeding.

Second, your feeding ratio may be off. If it always smells of alcohol, it may be that you are keeping too much starter in the bowl compared to how much you are feeding to it. Especially since you said your starter can triple in 3-4 hours, yet you only feed it twice a day, which would be every 12 hours. You should feed it every time it peaks, or rather, shortly after it peaks and begins to settle back down. If you want to feed it every 12 hours, you should give it enough food such that it peaks during the 11th hour. with a smaller amount of starter, it won't be an issue, but if you have a cup or two in the bowl, it can become several cups quickly, then quarts, gallons, etc.

Third, about using the starter. The primary issue is maturity of the starter. If your starter is highly active, and you want to use it you can. If you haven't gotten sick from eating the pancakes, it can generally be considered safe to use for bread. Usually, it is recommended to wait a couple weeks to give it time to develop a dominant culture of yeasts and lactobacilli. This is for several reasons. The sourdough cultures create an acidic environment that bad bacteria can't live in. Also, the stability of the culture levels out after a while and then your sourdough can be counted on to raise bread predictably and reliably. The time of waiting and patiently feeding gives you a chance to get to know your culture, too. You can learn how it works, how quickly it will eat its food and produce the carbon dioxide needed to raise bread. You learn how to manipulate feeding schedules, ambient temperatures, hydration level, and other factors to get the level of sourness you want in the finished product. Of course these are things you continue to learn as you begin to bake and use your sourdough, but it begins during the first couple weeks of your starters life.

Ford's picture
Ford

Ethyl alcohol is a natural product of the fermentation process caused by the metabolic process of the yeast, just as is the carbon dioxide that does the dough rising.  You cannot avoid this in yeast breads!  You will also find that acetic acid and lactic acid are metabolic products of the bacteria that work in the sourdough.  These are all good things that contribute to the flavors that you like in sourdough bread.

Ford

Tiffany's picture
Tiffany

Could I put the excess starter that I discard in the fridge so I only have to feed that once a week? And can I keep adding the discard to the starter in the fridge? I really have an issue just throwing stuff away unless it is bad. So if I majorly reduce the amount of starter and increase the amount of flour I feed it, the wine smell will go away?

chris319's picture
chris319

Try leaving it alone for a few days except for a daily stirring. No refreshments, no feeding, no discarding, just stir it once per day. In my experience the alcohol flavor will be replaced by a yeasty aroma.

Tiffany's picture
Tiffany

Thanks I will try that!

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Hi Tiffany, I hate throwing away the discard too, especially as I buy beautiful flour. I try to keep the amount of starter I refresh very small and build it to the amount I want in the two or three feeds before baking. I save any discard I do get in a jar and make an ordinary commercially yeasted loaf with it, adjusting the recipe to take account of the flour and water in my starter. This adds flavour to what would otherwise be a fairly bland loaf. I tend to give these loaves away to friends and neighbours. Here in the UK a lot of people are not too used to the taste of sourdough and prefer a yeasted loaf. They just love a gift of home baked bread. But they are good for toasting or for bread and butter pudding etc. At least the discard is being used. It feels so, so wrong to throw it away. If you do a few google searches you will find that aside from pancakes there are a number of recipes for using discard, including cakes etc.