The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

temperatures

  • Pin It
christinepi's picture
christinepi

temperatures

I keep my starter on top of the fridge. At night, the temperature goes down to 62, and during the day it's more like 72. I've read that starter likes temps from 78-85 best. Am I going to mess with my starter's health with the temps I can provide?

And just in general, what on earth do recipes have in mind when they say "let rise AT ROOM TEMPERATURE for x hours"--surely that could mean a range of 10-15 degrees! Or is there a universally agreed upon temperature when talking about room temp? I'm a beginner and I can't gauge proof times yet by feeling/looking at the dough.

BobS's picture
BobS

Once a starter has been going for a while it's really hard to kill it. So don't worry about that.

As you note, 'room temperature' is a misnomer. Whose room? Active starters like the 70-80F range. When it cools off in the evening on top of your fridge, your starter, just like you, nods off for a while, returning to activity as it gets warmer. No damage done.

Some people, myself included, keep their starters in the fridge all the time, bringing them out and building them up into a levain when its time to bake. Here's how I do it: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/32136/life-fred-maintaining-starter-pictures.  But that's just the way I do it. If your starter is happy on top of your fridge, leave it there.

Bread, like starter, typically likes somewhere in the 75F range for rising. So this is 'room temperature'. My room is 75F for only a little part of the year, so I use a proofing box to control the temperature  in the winter (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/31997/simple-baker-trick-proofing-box) and might move the rising bread to the basement in the summer. But that's just the way I do it. You might want to rise your bread in the oven with just the light on on a cold day, or on top of your dryer while doing a load of laundry.

Some recipes actually specify the temperatures rather than state 'room temperature'. My experience is that those recipes are often more carefully written and more likely to 'come out' than the more vaguely worded ones.

christinepi's picture
christinepi

I'm not sure my starter is happy. It was given to me four days ago, several weeks after my other (first) one died. I keep feeding it 1:1:1 every 24 hours, but it sure smelled better the first few days. Hence my question. Anyway, I'll try keeping it in my oven with the light on, to see whether it prefers that. Thanks!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

or during the day?  If your days are warmer, might be better to feed during the day or in the morning and let the starter grow during the day slowing down at night.  

Oven lights tend to get too hot so be careful and monitor the temp in the oven.  72°F should be fine.  If you increase the temp, you may have to increase the food for the starter.  A 1:1:1 may not be enough.  Many starters will go thru that amount of flour at 75°F in 4 hrs.  (to give some idea)  

adri's picture
adri

Over here, the roomtemperature for residential buildings is standardised to 19°C to 22°C.

Usually 20°C is assumed for "best before" dates; heating costs, ...

20°C is about 68° F.

BobS's picture
BobS

As usual.

A starter on the counter could go through a 1:1:1 feeding fairly quickly. Try feeding it more, say 1:2:2. (To be clear that's one part starter, two parts water, two parts flour). You are discarding when you feed, right? By that I mean removing  a portion of the starter, then adding water and flour. So, for example, if  you had 2.5 ounces of starter, removing 2 ounces and adding 1 ounce of water, 1 ounce flour to the remaining 0.5 ounce, stirring vigorously. Aeration is good.

(By 'discard' I don't mean 'throw away'. That discarded starter is still pretty tasty, and can be used to flavor pancakes, waffles, and baked goods. I accumulate my discard in the freezer until I have enough.)

My oven light comment was in response to your question on rising bread at 'room temperature'. Don't think I'd keep my starter in there.

Because a starter kept on the counter can go through a lot of flour and need regular care, many people opt to keep their starters in the fridge once they are strong enough. That's the approach I use and described in the link in my first response.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

I know this is pretty much a 'ditto' post, but I couldn't resist. The temperature range of your house is well within the livable range of your starter. But, the starter will be less active at the cooler end of that, and more active at the warmer end. You really don't have to worry about the temps at all.

If your starter seems unhealthy, you should really consider your feeding schedule. I'd say, since you just got this starter from someone else, you should take some time to get to know the starter a little. What I mean by that is that you should watch your starter after feeding. You could just check it every hour or so, to see when it rises, and when it falls. You should feed it again in the time frame between when it rises to its highest peak and when it begins to fall. After you know what that time frame is, you can adjust it up or down by feeding it more at a time, or less, respectively. When you feed it the right amounts at the right times, it will be very healthy and active, and do well in your breads.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

with your starter.  What I don't know is if it is underfed or overfed.  I am helping several members with their starters at present and most of the problems come from feeding too soon before the wee beasties have built up their numbers.  Then with rushed next feeding(s), the starters are progressively slower and weaker.  There are several ways to go about and solve this problem.  

First evaluate: taste, rise, temp, flour and water quality.  

Taste the "ripe" ready to feed starter, it should taste strong, perhaps tart or sour.  And it should smell beery or yeasty.  The starter should rise starting several hours after feeding depending on the temperature (warmer faster, cooler slower) and the concentration of food reaching maximum peak before adding more flour and water (boil and cool, stand overnight in glass to use if not sure of water quality.)  The starter should show signs of fermentation and should feel wetter or less doughy than when it was last fed.  Feed part or all of the hungry starter depending on your individual feeding plan.  

If you find the starter culture bland and/or lacking in yeast activity, let it stand.  Just leave it alone, covered with some warmth 23°C or 75°F.   This may take a day or as long as 10 days to recover from overfeeding.  Put a bowl or container under the starter as you wait for it might choose to suddenly rise over the container when you're not watching.  Cover but do allow for gasses to escape.  If your starter is low gluten or thin (and doesn't rise) cover with a collapsed small plastic bag and bind with several rubber bands, trap the gas, filling the bag to observe increasing gas activity.

Last night I sat watching a movie with my just fed AP wheat starter in my hands, holding the cold jar so the glass could warm up the dough inside and get a jump on rising for an overnight rise.  That's all it took, this morning it had risen to the top, about 4x volume for a 1:3:5 feeding (s:w:f) at 72°F.  

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

by weight. and nit by volume.  50 g of starter 100 g of flour and 100 g of water by weight is the proper is 1:2;:2 and not 1/2 cup of starter, 1 cup of flour and 1 C of water.    This also seems to be a common problem for the wee beasties.

Happy SD culturing

Xenophon's picture
Xenophon

Imo most people smother their starters with love and frequent feedings, certainly in the beginning.  They benefit from a certain benign negligence and as was said, once they're fully established they're really very hard to kill.  Mine has survived days and nights standing out in my kitchen in the summer, when it was 40 centigrade there (forgot to put it back in refrigeration after a feeding and rise), it survived 9 weeks in the refrigerator at 4 centigrade, without food while I was out (ok, it DID take a couple of feedings to bounce back from that stint).  They're quite strong

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

today, the Q popped up...  What is room temperature?   survey said...  most common answer was 70°F   

My starters all frowned and shivered. (but they're in the fridge...)  

I think if that were so (70°F) I'd keep a big jar of liquid starter brewing in the corner.  

I had the dopiest loaf turn out today.  It just didn't want to be a loaf pan loaf.  Rose up and then out sideways in the middle of the pan.   So it is round on top and squarish on the bottom.  Like setting a risen boule on a open loaf pan to bake.  Strangest thing.

christinepi's picture
christinepi

I'm still confused, however. So what I did was feed my starter 1:2:2 yesterday morning (by weight). Then I created a home for it in the microwave with the lamp on, which lets it luxuriate at ca 76 degrees. Nothing happened at all for ca 6 hours. Then it started coming up, getting bubbly, smelling quite good, nothing too vigorous, though. At ca 7 pm last night I stirred it. This morning, it was bubbly-ish again, with a stinging smell (at first whiff) when I took the lid off to check on it. Soooo .... since I don't want to make the mistake to overfeed it, which I think I had been doing, what's next? Some benign neglect? Or feed it now? If so, how much and at what ratio? If neglect, for how long? Like I said, I'm confused...

On the note of overfeeding: I've noticed that the starter peaks after ca 12 hours and then starts deflating. From what everyone seems to be saying this is the time when the starter should be fed. But I've been feeding mine every 24 hours. Is there still danger of my OVERfeeding it? That's what I really don't get. Maybe it's not getting enough?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

but do feed it then about every 12 hrs.  If you can't get to it for 24 hrs, feed it twice as much (2 x 1:2:2) flour to starter, a 1:4:4 feeding.  You certainly want it to peak before feeding it more flour.  If you can handle it at about 12 hours on a 1:2:2 it should build more yeast with each feeding.  When peaks at about 8hrs (on a 12 hrs schedule) feed it then at 8 hrs.  Then plan (next feeding) to give the starter a 1:6:6 (a 1:2:2 x 3)  feeding for 24 hrs. if that is your preferred feeding schedule (to feed once every 24 hrs.)  If it is still rising at 24 hrs, wait for it to peak then cut back the feeding so that it peaks before 24hrs.  A little adjustment for temps and seasons has to be made every so often. 

christinepi's picture
christinepi

and the starter had peaked by 5.5 hours later. I fed it again 1:2:2 yesterday, and it peaked 8 hours later. Today I fed it 1:4:4 and it peaked 5 hours later. How do I get it to peak at 12 hours?? I don't want to feed it every 5-8 hours! Do I lower the temperature (it is kept at 76-78)? Different ratio?

I'm not even sure it's actually "peaked". It doubles ca 2 hours before the times I give as "peaked". But I don't really know when it starts its descent exactly, because I feed it ca 2 hours after it doubled, when it's still bubbly and smells very yeasty. For how long do starters "peak"?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

it is the maximum rise.  just watch it dome and rise.  it will then flatten out and dimple as it starts to fall.  

Yes, lower the temp to 74 or 75°F.  Doubling is only an archaic guide but the starter can and will rise more if you let it.  I advise to let it.  Peak varies with the starter and the amount of food, temp. hydration, etc.  If you get it to peak at 8 hrs, wait until 12 hrs to feed it.  So now try 1:5:5 or 1:3:5 (s:w:f) at 74°F and see how long it takes to peak (not just double).  

christinepi's picture
christinepi

I never noticed a dome before. It's always flat. What I've noticed today is that it had doubled after five hours, but kept going until it was more than doubled after another 4.5 hours, at which point I fed it. At any rate, I'll play around with other ratios and temps, thanks!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

fits into a 12 hr feeding schedule.  5 + 4.5 is almost 9 or 10 so that ought to work with a one to four, starter to flour ratio (weight) and add enough water to make a soft dough.  Then you should see some doming.  Maybe the starter was too runny?

christinepi's picture
christinepi

it is too runny, that would make sense. I'll use less water next time I feed it, and see.

christinepi's picture
christinepi

I tried achieving a dome by feeding at 1:3.3:4, to no avail. In every other way, though, it smells good and is more active than ever, and seems to like the very 12 hours feeding schedule now. How hung up should I be on that doming thing? Give even less water? It's very stiff right after feeding right now.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

that lets you know that you've built up enough yeast in the starter for the starter to keep out invading organisms between uses and to give you some way to predict your starter behavior with the next feed or usage.   

If you plan on storing your starter for weeks on end in the fridge, then I would not let it rise to peak but refrigerate when it is at least 1/3 risen (to peak) and give it at least 3-4 days cold storage before using or removing any to inoculate more starter.  

If your starter is starting out very stiff and then gets very runny, as in puddle runny from a stiff dough, then it has a different problem.  Do tell if this is happening.

christinepi's picture
christinepi

 that lets you know that you've built up enough yeast in the starter for the starter to keep out invading organisms between uses and to give you some way to predict your starter behavior with the next feed or usage.   

It reaches that point after ca 7 hours. What should I do then, if I don't want to stick it in the fridge?

It starts out stiff and turns pretty soft, though I wouldn't describe it as puddle runny. The starter I took care of last year never turned quite this soft (though I don't think it was ever in any peak condition), but after ca 12 hours it had lots and lots of nice, gooey, airy strands that clung to the spoon when stirred. My current starter hardly does that at all when I stir it after 12 hours--it'll be gooey/airy for 1 second and then turn into an even, soft batter like mass. What does that indicate?

----

In the meantime since writing the above 9 hours or so have passed. I fed my starter at 9am today, and this time, for the first time, I put it in a glass jar with straight walls (no idea whether this has anything to do with what happened next), as opposed to plastic containers with slightly slanted walls. At first it had a shaggy "top", because it was rather stiff. Over the course of the next few hours (ca 5), as it started rising, the top became smooth and domed, actually. It remained domed for several hours as it kept rising, until it flattened the top and stopped rising. The flattening happened ca 8 hours after feeding. Is this what you were talking about, Mini? Does a dome normally last for hours?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Sounds like you got a 12 hr feeding schedule.  Congratulations!

Nothing wrong in waiting 4 hrs after the 8 hours rise to feed. It won't starve as there is still a little food left in the starter mix.

If you want to use the starter for bread, work a portion of the starter into the recipe just as it starts to loose the dome or flatten out.  Set the starter jar aside to feed when you get time after mixing up your dough.  I love to stir the starter when it peaks, there is a great release of aroma and the texture reminds me of marshmallow cream with bubbles.  :)

BobS's picture
BobS

I don't think you were overfeeding it.

Sounds like you have something that is more liquid than when you started, bubbly, and a bit of a bite to the smell. That all sounds good to me. I'd feed it again a little after it has started to deflate. It should continue to get stronger.  Don't worry if it does not rise to x% in y hours.  Also note that we have changed two variables - its warmer, so it will peak faster, and it's fed at a higher ratio so it has some more food. But they don't necessarily cancel each other out. Keep an eye on it, per Mini's instructions, and see how it behaves for you in your kitchen.

chris319's picture
chris319

To add my contrarian 2 cents worth: I never "feed" a starter that isn't mature. Not enough yeast has developed to warrant "feeding". You're adding fresh flour to the mixture when the yeast has barely gotten a foothold and this accomplishes nothing, in my experience.

If you're worried about the temperature, put it under a desk lamp or something similar.