The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter troubleshooting...

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largeneal's picture
largeneal

Starter troubleshooting...

Attempting to get some sourdough coming out of my kitchen, so I went ahead and started a starter 5 days ago using instructions from King Arthur page (1 C whole wheat flour & 1/2 C bottled water).  After a day, discarded 1/2 starter, added 1 C AP flour & 1/2 C bottled water...only water I'm using in this process).  On the following 3 days, did this - discarded 2/3 starter (leaving behind ~3/4 C), and added 1 C AP flour & 1/2 C water).  Temperature has been relatively constant around mid 70s.

My issue is the starter is failing to rise...it did the first day, but since, it has not.  HOWEVER, there are lots of bubbles on top.  Also, on day 3 a touch of alcohol formed on top (apparently normal, just means feed starter, which I did).  Lastly, the smell, while still unpleasant, has improved (leuconostoc bacteria effects, I assume?).  

Question - is the failure to rise a sign of some kind of overall failure?  I KNOW it's alive, but given the fact it's not rising & just bubbling doesn't seem right.  Any recommendations are much appreciated :)

Slainte's picture
Slainte

... If there is enough water in your starter. Many instructions call for a 1:1 ratio, and you are using a 2:1. Would the extra water make the starter less dense and thus easier to expand and rise a bit?

I am by no means an expert -- no doubt you will get many more informed people chiming in!

largeneal's picture
largeneal

By mass the flour:water ratio is 1:1 (approximately both weigh ~125 grams).  KA instructions did specify 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup of water (which by volume IS 2:1, but mass 1:1).  Was this instruction incorrect?  Also, it seems pretty soupy.  When I'm getting rid of old starter I just pour it out.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

1 cup of whole wheat flour weighs 4 ounces, approximately.  A little soupy is just what you are after.  When you stir it it should be stringy but easily stirred at room temperature.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Your starter sounds fine. I followed the same method, but used the scale to measure 4 ounces of flour and 4 ounces of water. 

Starter gets bubbles and rises early on due to bacterial activity. The yeast caused rising happens a bit later in the process. 

Follow the instructions for at least 10 days before worrying. Although I was advised not to feed twice a day until it started doubling again. 

largeneal's picture
largeneal

Thanks for the reassurance.  I hope I don't have to post anything else on this matter (i.e. in 10 days and still be worrying :) ).

I did read a lot about feeding twice a day, but I also read that the starter only needs more flour/water if the alcohol layer begins to form.  I just hate being so wasteful with virtually a whole bag of flour (granted I know it's an investment, it's the poor college student in me that has trouble buying food just to throw away!)

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

You can find recipes for pancakes and other things which you can use the discard for.

largeneal's picture
largeneal

...this stuff doesn't exactly smell like something I'd want to eat (in fact, I wish I would have had some for April Fool's :) ).  It's gotten a better, but still...use it even if it has a kind of unpleasant smell?

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

But I was making pancakes with mine from day one. I think some folks would say to trust your nose.  But, here is what I would do... take the discard and put it aside. Feed your starter. After feeding, does it still smell bad?  If not, then you can feed the discard, turn it into a batter and make a good pancake batter out of it.

 

 

 

Ford's picture
Ford

It takes a while for the yeast and the lactobacteria to get healthy colonies going.  The "pineapple solution" speeds things up by providing an acidic environment.  By now you probably have an acidic condition and you should soon see more activity.  You will not get a usable starter until after two weeks and your starter will not be really mature until after a month.

Patience is the key!

Ford

largeneal's picture
largeneal

I appreciate the info.  On that note, what is your opinion on age of starter?  For example, if I bake two identical loaves, one of them using a 1 month old starter, the other using a 1 year old starter from the same stock, would there be a noticeable difference?  Thanks for your knowledge!

Ford's picture
Ford

I doubt that I would notice the difference between those two starters.

When you do get your starter active and refreshed, dry some as a back-up.  Spread some active starter on a sheet of parchment paper ( or some other clean, dry surface) and allow it to dry at room temperature.  When the paste has dried then remove it, crush it, and store in in a cool, dry area.  This will come in handy in an emergency, should you lose your starter.  It is also handy for sharing with friends.

Mike Avery has a great website on sourdough and other bread items; see:  http://www.sourdoughhome.com.

Ford