The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why on earth is this working so well?

One Handed Toast's picture
One Handed Toast

Why on earth is this working so well?

By accident, I recently left my very healthy starter out of the fridge when I went away for almost a week. When I got back it needed quite a lot of TLC to bring it back to health. But then something wonderful happened! I'd really like to draw on the forum's expertise to try and understand why ...

After resuscitating my starter, the next loaf I baked was my best ever. It was incredible! Great spring and a soft chewy crumb that stayed light and fluffy for a good few days. When I first took it out of the oven I thought it had a giant hole in it because it was domed, without any natural spread where the scoring lines had been. But the loaf was amazing!

my subsequent loaf was excellent too.

Now I had a good starter before this - and was really happy with my bread - but Now it seems superhuman! I'd just like to know why. It seems like the process of rebuilding its natural yeast has given the starter a lease of life. I'd be tempted to do this again if the bread returns to its previous and very acceptable state. Perhaps this is a good idea periodically.

Any thoughts, explanations or experience of this? 



DavidEF's picture

I don't have any experience with anything like what you describe, so this is just my best guess. Hopefully, someone will come along with a better answer. But, I would speculate that the starter somehow purified itself by a process of survival of the fittest, when it was left languishing on your countertop. You say you had to give it a lot of TLC to bring it back to health. Unless that TLC itself introduced a new, stronger culture, I'd say that the few (as in few billion) yeasts and LABs that had survived the week were just the best and strongest in the culture, and when they replenished the starter, all their descendants were equally strong and viable. Your culture may have at first contained dozens of competing organisms, whereas now there may be far fewer. So, there may have in effect been a purification that occurred.

One Handed Toast's picture
One Handed Toast

Thanks, David - I loved your answer. Rather poetic and sounds very sensible. I think you're right.

But does this mean I've carried out the bread version of ethnic cleansing? 



cerevisiae's picture

No, just evolutionary fitness and natural selection. After all, it was a response to an environmental shift and unintentional on your part.

Baking might be a better contender for the title of "Microbial Genocide".

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

My guess is you are simply seeing the difference between using a starter that is ready and one that is not, either because the  old starter was neglected in the fridge or because it was simply never given time to become fully active. 

adri's picture

How did you handle your starter before?

- How did you feed it?

- How did you use it? Directly out of the fridge, one refreshment, 3 step built?

One Handed Toast's picture
One Handed Toast

Prior to the recent bread phenomenon, I would keep the starter in the fridge and bake every week to ten days. But I would always take my starter out well in advance and feed it three times at twelve hourly intervals to get it ready. I realise it's better not to keep it in the fridge but it was well looked after. I don't think my starter had ever spent more than ten days without  being used.  And the bread was good! In fact, you can have a look at it on this pinterest board: These are all pics of loaves 'before' it's new lease of life. The new loaves actually look less interesting (without the rips) but the texture and spring feels bionic and beautiful!

Thanks the two David's and Adri for trying to help me work out why ...


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

or what didn't happen during regular (fridge) starter maintenance.  

It is always good to let the refrigerator starter go thru a few cycles of getting very ripe and feeding. About once a month. Not always keeping it on one continuous feed and fridge plan.  Letting it peak out and fall back (in this case really falling flat) and running the acids up is good for your starter.  I'm with both Davids. 

Oops, I can see how that might get misinterpreted.  I don't recommend letting it flat line for a week.  One extra day is enough.

One Handed Toast's picture
One Handed Toast

I really appreciate your answer. That makes a lot of sense. Too much regularity and routine is hardly good for any of us.



dosco's picture

Since the outdoor weather has been warming, my "proofing cabinet" (in reality my utility closet where the HVAC furnace is located as well as the hot water heater) has cooled significantly.


I have been feeding my starter fairly aggressively in order to "revitalize" it ... I haven't been baking much lately, and my last bakes were pretty weak as evidenced by slow rising and lame oven spring.


At one point my starter would easily and rapidly double in the refrigerator, now it won't rise or double at "room temperature" a relatively cold 65 - 67 degrees F.


My point being a nice 80dF proofing container IMO is very important to developing a robust and vital yeast population.