The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie Help

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Photogirl's picture
Photogirl

Newbie Help

Hi!

I received 1/4 cup of sourdough starter.  I was told to feed 4 oz. of water, 4 oz. of white flour on the first and second day.  The starter really doesn't smell like sourdough...not sour at all.  It sort of smells like paint!  What did I do wrong?

 

Thanks!

Photogirl!

WoodenSpoon's picture
WoodenSpoon

to me like it was under fed, no worries though, I would separate off 5 of it and feed it with 20g water and 20 flour, let that ferment at room temp for eight or so hours, then take 15g out of that and feed it 50g flour and 50g water, after eight or so hours I would think it should be smelling better and hopefully ready to make some bread with... also do you know what type of shape it was in when you got it, was the previous owner able to bake with it? was it brand new? 

Photogirl's picture
Photogirl

Thanks so much!

The starter was given to me from a class that was teaching a class on sourdough bread.  

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And can you be more specific on "paint?"   Is that all the instruction to the starter?  Anything about where the starter should stand and any temperature guides?  Discarding?  Was the starter frozen before getting it home or exposed to heat?  Any extra information like temperature, type of flour and water might also be helpful.  Also how did the starter react to the first feeding?  How long was the pause from receiving the starter to when it was first fed?  Did the starter have aroma when you first smelled it, before feeding, and what did it smell like?

Photogirl's picture
Photogirl

Thanks so much for your help!  The instructors were to feed 4 oz. water and 4 oz. white flour.  I live in the South and White Lilly is the preferred brand, although I use King Arthur as well.  I am not 100% sure which brand was in my flour bin when I made this.  I used filtered water from the fridge, so chlorine was most likely not filtered out.  Told to feed the day I got the starter, sit on counter overnight, give a stir, then feed again.  At that point, either put in fridge for a week or if ready to use move forward on making a sponge.  The starter did react on first feeding, although only evidenced by bubbling, the volume change was marginal.  Second day feeding, got uniform bubbles across top, but still no doubling of volume.  When I got the starter, I don't recall it having a super sour smell.  As for the paint smell, this morning I checked and the smell is a tad stronger, no bubbles, a thin layer of clear liquid on top.  The smell is faintly of paint, sort of yeasty but not a strong scent of yeast.  I like a house on the cool side and wonder if that might be an issue, perhaps my kitchen wasn't warm enough for everything to work?  I didn't taste it.  The lady that taught the class said not to do that....not sure why.  :)  

Thank you so very much for all your help!

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

See if you can raise the temperature of the starter to 75°F and then wait it out to see it rise.  Put it into a container that you can see thru, especially the bottom and sides to judge the bubbles forming.  Could be that the starter was freshly fed when you got it, that and cool temps might create a very long lag time for the starter to catch up to full activity. 

You need to recognise when a starter is ready to be fed.  Usually it has a rather strong fermenting aroma.  Adding water and flour will at first smell like wet flour and then aromas build as fermenting progresses.  First the bacteria get busy so the starter will take on cheesy smells, then advance to fruity beery ones that are yeasty and nutty in nature.  Once the starter peaks (if thick or glutenous enough to trap gas) trapped gasses are released and with it aroma galore.  Compacting the starter, there is still food available and yeast will continue to multiply a bit slower but enough gas will be released for a second lower peak.

I think any separation of water and flour at this time is evident that the starter is stressed with too much food to deal with. Adding more flour will only stress it further.  The bacteria will go into overdrive to produce acids making a nice nest for the yeast to get to work.  All you have to do is give them a temperature to do so.  I would not go warmer than 78°F.  75°F Should give you the right amount of bacterial and yeast growth.  It may help to stir the starter a few times during the day to circulate food and encourage them.  And it gives you something to do and a chance to take a whiff of the aromas coming off the starter.  

So another observation.  The bubbles in the starter, if they were only on the top 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the starter, I tend to suspect chlorine might be in the water.  If no activity is seen in the lower layers, bubbles clinging to the container all the way down and including the bottom,  it stands to reason that where the chlorine has evaporated off the starter (the top) there will be the most activity.  Boil up some water and set aside to cool and stand overnight to use with the starter when it is eventually ready to feed again.  Pour the starter into a flat dish so that any chlorine can evaporate easier. Don't stir it first just sort of pour it so the top is at one end and the bottom starter at the other end of the dish.  Cover with a cloth so gasses can escape.  You can hit two birds with one stone by heating some water in the microwave (coffee cup) 1min 50sec high, shove it to the back corner or let it stand in there a few minutes to warm things up (& make yourself a drink) then set the flat soup bowl of starter (no cover) into the warm oven.  Do not turn on oven.  The warm humid MW will vent and slowly cool down and you can move the starter to a wide mouth jar when you start to see bubbles forming in the no activity part of the starter.   

You can easily taste the starter and spit it out, then you will know if there is anything sour in it.  Compare to a mixture of flour and water just mixed together.  

I think this will sort itself out with time.  Not to worry.  

Photogirl's picture
Photogirl

Thank you SO much for such detailed information!!!  I am going to try to raise the temp and see how that works!!  Keeping my fingers crossed!!

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

What kind of water are you giving it? If you are using tap water that hasn't been dechlorinated some way, that chlorine may be causing problems. Also, if your "white flour" is the el cheapo bleached All Purpose flour that you can get at any grocery store, it may be affecting the smell of the starter. I find that cheap, bleached AP flour smells a little like paint itself when mixed with water. If your starter is otherwise well maintained, the cheap AP is ok to feed to it. But, let's see if we can get a known good starter first by answering Mini's post above.

Also, you mention that you received 1/4 cup of starter to which you were supposed to add 4oz flour and 4oz water. Are we talking about ounces by volume, as in 1/2 cup? If so, your starter is very wet. Usually, around here we recommend equal parts flour and water by weight. An equal amount of water by weight will be a smaller volume amount.

Photogirl's picture
Photogirl

Yes...the starter is thinner than the original starter.  I am using chlorinated water....from a fridge filter...which I am guessing isn't filtering out the chlorine.  I can buy King Arthur flour and also use White Lilly which is a southern made flour.  Thanks so much for your info!!!