The Fresh Loaf

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Rehydrated starter not behaving!

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biondanonima's picture
biondanonima

Rehydrated starter not behaving!

So, I rehydrated some Oregon Trail starter a few days ago - I added about a teaspoon of flakes to 1 oz of room temp water, gave it a few minutes to soak and then added half an ounce of flour.  After 12 hours at room temp (around 75), I added another half ounce of flour, and I seemed to be in business!  I gave it one more 1:1:1 feeding and it doubled after 12 hours, so I split it and planned to feed the two halves at room temp for a couple more days before storing in the fridge (I was planning to keep half at 100% and reduce half to 50% over a couple of days).  Anyway, since the split, I have had NO more doubling!  Both halves bubble a bit, but neither rises at all.  I put one jar in the oven with the light on (raising the temp to almost 90 degrees) to see if that would help, and nada.  Is this to be expected, or do I have a problem?  

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Don't feed anymore flour and just let it sit 24 hrs.   Don't discard any of the starter yet or risk loosing what little base starter you have.  I've never seen a dried starter respond in the first 12 hrs.  Bacteria on the other hand can react in that amount of time.  Waiting would be my suggestion.  Let the starter sort itself out and get more yeasty smelling before feeding more flour.  If the flour is separating to the bottom, and water is layering on top, that would be another sign to just stir and let it sour itself out for now.  

biondanonima's picture
biondanonima

Thanks Mini.  The flour did separate to the bottom and water on top in the first 12 hours, at which point I just stirred and waited.  However, after another 12 it was super bubbly, yeasty-smelling and had doubled in size.  At that point I figured I could go ahead and get it on a regular feeding schedule, but perhaps it wasn't quite ready yet.  I'm just concerned that perhaps when I did the split, I somehow killed off some of my yeasty beasties (perhaps my water was too warm or something, no idea).  Right now I have it in two halves, one at 100% and one at 75ish%, and both of them are bubbling a little bit but not rising at all, and I haven't fed either of them in 24 hours.  They both smell fairly yeasty, and there's no separation or anything - hopefully there are still enough beasts in there to get things going again.

biondanonima's picture
biondanonima

I let it sit for 72 hours at room temp without feeding - a few bubbles and a lot of dirty foot smell, but nothing much else.  I decided to go ahead and feed it this morning and see if that does anything - if not, I'll toss it and start over.  Luckily I still have my own wild starter, and it's easy to get more from the Carl's Friends folks.  I just wish I knew what I had done to make it freak out.  I'm guessing I added water that was too warm at some point, or that it got overheated sitting in the oven with the light on.

biondanonima's picture
biondanonima

Well, by some miracle, the feeding worked!  Both the 50% and 100% starter had doubled by the time I got home from work yesterday, so I fed them again last night.  The 100% had doubled and the 50% had tripled this morning!  I'll see how they do with bread this weekend!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

peak on the starter (and let it start to fall back) before feeding again.  Feeding too early, while it is rising and not yet peaked tends to dilute the starter and slow fermentation considerably.   Keep reducing and feeding and compare your daily results as yeasts build in the starter.  Good luck on the weekend.

biondanonima's picture
biondanonima

Thanks!  I'm rarely around to watch it do it's thing so I'm not really sure when it peaks, but this morning the 100% looked as though it had domed and fallen just a bit, while the 50% looked like it might keep going if I let it.  I'll try to be a bit more observant over the weekend.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

tends to speed up fermentation.  Something to play with if you need a starter in a hurry, add some extra recipe water to speed it up!  Thicken the starter to slow it down.  

If left alone, there are two peaks, the first one falls and the gas is released, the gluten strands then fold onto themselves making them stronger and can now trap gas again rising to a second yet lower peak to exhaust the remaining food after the first peak.  Feeding to maintain and/or build yeast should be done between the first and second peaks.  

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Mini,

The Oregon Trail starter does, in fact revive very quickly. The starter I use all the time began life in my kitchen as an Oregon Trail starter. I can't remember exactly how long it took to activate, but it was pretty quick. The instructions from the website for reviving the starter say this:

"Get a small container.  Begin with one tablespoon of lukewarm water, stir
in 1/2 teaspoon of your starter and let stand for a few minutes to soften
the start granules. Then mix in one tablespoon of flour. Depending on the
flour, you may need to add an additional teaspoon or two of water. You want
the mixture to be like a thin pancake batter.  When the mixture gets
bubbly, put it in a little larger container.  Then stir in 1/4 cup of water
and 1/4 cup of flour.  When that mix rises up add 1/2 cup of water and 1/2
cup of flour.  When this bubbles up, you will have about one cup of very
active starter that is ready for use or storage in your refrigerator.

The time between refreshments will depend mainly on temperature. You can
expect the first sign of starter activity to take from four to 12 hours."

With this method, the dried starter is given just enough food to gain energy without being overwhelmed by having too much. It is also a very wet starter this way, over 100% hydration. And the starter is so strong when it is received, that there is almost no chance of failure, except for user error. I actually killed mine off at a young age because my tap water, although it tasted fine to me, had too much chlorine in it.

I had used up my dried starter ration, which was actually enough to try twice (have I mentioned I'm slow sometimes?). In a final act of desperation, I grabbed some bottled water and poured a little in the now-empty baggie the starter had been sent to me in. I added a little flour and smushed it together. After a little while, I scraped out as much as I could into a container, covered it and waited. It actually worked! And I've had a viable starter ever since! That is some awesome starter! No wonder it has survived all those years, including a trip on the Oregon Trail. It would probably stand my tap water now, but bottled water is cheap enough.

biondanonima's picture
biondanonima

That is funny - I wish I had saved the baggie, LOL!  I had the same experience as you, with lots of bubbles and a double within the first day, but now things have slowed down A LOT.  Hopefully I didn't kill everything off and it will come back - but if not, it's easy enough to get more of their starter. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You might want to take a small whisk to it and give it lots of air for yeast growth.  I let my tap water stand for at least a day, the first half day open and then covered.  David knows this starter better than I do.  Splitting would not kill it either but give you the opportunity to feed two starters.  Just keep track of what you're doing.   If it smells yeasty, feed it.

biondanonima's picture
biondanonima

Sounds good.  I'll give them both a good whip when I get home from work and see if that helps. 

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Sometimes a good whippin' is all the little'uns need in order to get excited about doin' what they're supposed to do.

biondanonima's picture
biondanonima

Well, I still have a few bubbles but not much else, despite a couple of good whippings (last night and this morning).  I have a severely impaired sense of smell myself, but DH says the start smells sour and "like dirty feet," LOL.  It's not separating, molding or anything else bad, though, so I'm hoping it's still ok.  I took its temperature this morning and it's around 74 degrees, which should be a reasonable temp.  I'll keep stirring and hoping for the best!

mixinator's picture
mixinator

I'm not sure the microbes are starved for air, but agitating the starter will distribute them throughout the mixture.