The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

texture of starter

yeastArt's picture

texture of starter

This is day 5 of my first starter using recipe from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking.  It is made with flour and water only.  I have been reading comments on this site and I am SO confused.  My starter bubbled right from the beginning, which I thought was great until I read the first bubbling isn't real yeast and it should go flat then rebubble  for the real thing.  But the starter has never gone flat.  Also, my kitchen is way warmer than the 65 degrees recommended for rising, so I'm not sure how often I should be feeding starter.  It's quadrupling in size after 8 hours.  Then there's the consistency issue.  It's rather thick, like old oatmeal but aerated. Should I use more water?  I've been throwing out all but 4oz of starter then adding 4oz spring water and 4 oz rye flour. Should I put the starter in the fridge?  How will I know when it's ready to use in baking?  Thanks for this great site.


SourdoLady's picture

Most of the time the yeast doesn't take off and grow that fast, but it is possible. The fact that you used rye flour and the warmer temps could have jump-started it. Does it smell yeasty or winey? Rye flour absorbs more water so that is probably why you have the thick texture. You can thin it down with more water if you want.

If it is real yeast then it should rise up to a maximum over a period of a few hours and then collapse until you feed it again. You can put the starter in the fridge when you are sure it is mature, for long term storage between bakings. For now I would continue to leave it out for another week and feed it every 12 hours or so. It is very young and will benefit from the frequent feedings.

Try mixing up a simple dough for one loaf and see how it performs. It will not be as flavorful as an aged starter, but if it is rising well with every feeding it should be capable of rising a loaf of bread. Let us know how it goes!

Rosalie's picture

Color me not the expert, but I just made a starter (from rye flour) that I used successfully in English muffins.  I was misled in the first couple days by its rising like yeasted dough.  But I hung in, feeding every 24 hours per the instructions in the book I was using.  I would imagine 12 hours better, but I don't know.

Anyway, the smell was my guiding factor.  After a few days, it smelled like bacon cooking (or maybe a strong cheese), but it eventually settled into a wonderfully intoxicating wine.  It didn't seem vigorous enough to me, so I held on until day 7 when I finally decided it must be ready.  I figured I couldn't lose by taking the discard and trying it in a recipe.  I was right.


rcornwall's picture

I would probably thin it down a bit only because it is easier to work with, measure etc.. when it is more thin, however it is not a problem If you read The Bread Bible, Beran baum prefers a thicker starter. As far as your yeast question, five days could be plenty of time. Remeber there is a natural yeast content in flour, especially whole wheat and rye. And there could be a high concentration of yeast cells in your air. I would try to bake with it and see what happens. Proofs in the pudding, or in this case bread. No pun intended.


ChefRon's picture

You're doing fine. A starter can take off almost immediately sometimes, depending upon the atmosphere, the baking history in your kitchen, etc.. It won't be mature for a few more days yet, so keep going with what you were doing. I'd refrigerate after about 12 days. In the interim, just feed it every day. The aroma will sour, then sweeten.



yeastArt's picture

On the last rise of the sourdough rye recipe the bread has pulled apart in sharp chunks as it rises.  The outside of the circle has a skin and the inside doesn't spring back when touched; it's sticky.  Can this bread be saved?  Should I let it rise more (it's been 3 1/2 hours.)  Bummer, Lynne

sphealey's picture

=== On the last rise of the sourdough rye recipe the bread has pulled apart in sharp chunks as it rises. The outside of the circle has a skin and the inside doesn't spring back when touched; it's sticky. Can this bread be saved? Should I let it rise more (it's been 3 1/2 hours.) Bummer, Lynne ===

That has happened to me sometimes too. Not sure why - my first thought is not enough water in the dough but sometimes it happens in wetter doughs. What is your fraction of wheat/white flour in this dough?

It will bake pretty much the way it looks. If you have enough gluten in the dough (via white flour or vital wheat gluten) to get substantial oven spring it will rise through and around the chunks but there will still be large valleys and chunks in the finished bread. One loaf that did this badly had to be sliced horzontally; the center slices had very little crust and were a bit bland but the top and bottom slices were essentially all crust and tasted great!

You can also try spraying the inside of the open areas with a mister and pinching it back together, but the caverns usually just open back up during baking.

I usually proof my sourdough ryes 1 to 1-1/2 hours at room temperature. Any reason why you have chosen the very long proof time?


yeastArt's picture

Thanks so much. I let it rise that long because rose's book said 3-4 hours, but it's been really hot here, and the first rise happened right away. Her recipe didn't use ww flour, but I did add about 1/4 c anyway.  my dough was definitely on the wet side; i kept adding more and more flour to absorb the stickiness then just stopped.  Also, I don't quite understand the technique of forming a boule, you turn the dough clockwise and rock at the same time?  i would like to put it in a loaf pan and see what happens.  Lynne