The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Totally overwhelmed noob!

  • Pin It
4deegees's picture
4deegees

Totally overwhelmed noob!

Wow! There is SO much to learn on this website and my brain cannot absorb it all!  I recently came across a recipe for sour dough starter and though, "Hey, I can do this."  I started following the recipe, which read as follows: 

Day 1:  Combine 4 ounces flour and 4 ounces water in a 2-quart container (glass or plastic), stir vigorously with wooden spoon, scrape down sides of bowl, cover loosely, let sit for 24 hours. 

Day 2, 3, and 4:  Feed the starter.  Add 4 oz flour and 4 oz water, stir vigorously, cover and sit for 24 hours. 

Today, day 4, it was longer than 24 hours from last feeding and there was this icky brown liquid on top.  I stirred it in and fed as described above.  Is that okay or did I ruin it? 

Day 5:  Starter is ready to use. 

Maintenance:  To maintain your starter you should discard half and feed as above once a week.

Should I have been discarding any during the first four days?  I am now thinking that the directions above can't really be that good after reading everything on this forum.  Should I keep going?  Will it really be ready tomorrow for baking or am I dreaming?  

Again, I have SO much to learn!!  Thanks for any advice you can offer. 

 

isand66's picture
isand66

Have you noticed any bubbles or life from your starter?  To see if it is ready to use you try refreshing it by keeping a small amount and mixing it with twice the amount of flour and water.  Let it sit overnight and it should double.

If your starter shows no signs of life you may need to start over again.  If this is the case let us know and we can suggest some easier and more full-proof ways of making a starter.

BetsyMePoocho's picture
BetsyMePoocho

4deegees,

Take a look at the attachment.  It will give you some good direction.  Also, I hope that you will keep your culture in the fridge after the feedings and in-between  using…….

Sorry that it is hard to read.

Have fun!!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

but I might have started out with just an one oz. instead of 4 oz.   How does it smell?  

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Instructions look dodgey to me.  If you are just adding the same 4oz of flour and water day by day then you are gradually starving the starter.  The brown liquid on top is known as "Hooch" and is a classic sign of a starter that has not been given enough food.  Your "recipe" must either be wrong or you have mis-interpreted it.   Every time you added more flour and water the total volume of starter increased and thus the total number of wild yeasts increased.  So if you never discarded any, you needed to give it more and more flour/water to feed it.

Normally you would make an initial mix of flour and water and leave it for 24/48 hrs.  Then you would discard 1/2 of it and feed it and repeat that process twice a day depending on temperature.  Search the forum here for more comprehensive instructions on creating starters.  The process should be easy and if you use rye flour, is pretty infallible.

 

 

PetraR's picture
PetraR

I agree with all said above, I get the * hooch * when my starter is to long in the fridge, a sign that the starter is starving and needs feeding.

I find it strange that it says the starter is ready to use on day 5, usually it would be day 10 or even a bit longer * that is what I experienced *

 

AZ Chuck's picture
AZ Chuck

Why would you want to keep it in the refrigerator? Mine lives on the counter and has for 6 mounts and I live in AZ. I understand you only put it in the refrigerator if you are not going to use it for a while. It is not going to develop right in the refrigerator.

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

"Why would you want to keep it in the refrigerator?"

Because leaving a starter out at room temps or higher results in the starter requiring more frequent feeding otherwise, just like the OP here, starvation occurs, hooch appears and the starter loses its viability.   You can of course keep feeding a starter once or twice daily if it is left out but you will have to constantly discard (unless you are a production baker) and that is horribly wasteful.   Putting it in the fridge results in the need to only feed it once per week.  If you maintain the right amount of starter relative to how much and how often you bake, then you can avoid all discard and waste absolutely nothing.

PetraR's picture
PetraR

In the fridge the Starter will go into hybernation and slows down, it still develops just fine, only slow.

Important is to pull the Starter out so that you can give it 2-3 good feeds before baking.

 

 

sphealey's picture
sphealey

When you refer to "4 ounces of flour and 4 ounces of water", do you mean by weight or by volume?

It is very difficult to manage starters by volume.  Suggest getting an inexpensive digital scale and using it to measure quantities of discarded starter and fresh ingredients.  Starter formulas are typically written in percentages or ratios (e.g. 1:1:1) which assume you are working with weights.

Here's the second-most-foolproof method for getting a new starter:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10856/pineapple-juice-solution-part-1

[the most foolproof method is to order a starter starter from King Arthur ;-) ]

sPh

 

4deegees's picture
4deegees

Okay, looks like the recipe I found on the web was the wrong one!  Glad I found this site.  I think I will start over with the pineapple juice starter.  In the meantime, I might try the suggestion from King Arthur Flour tomorrow, saving one cup of my starter and feeding it to see if it is still alive.  

@sphealey - by weight, not volume. 

I will let you know how it goes!  

Thanks, 

Cathy

BetsyMePoocho's picture
BetsyMePoocho

Cathy,

It is easy to become lost in all the "detail".  The process is actually quite simple if you don't over complicate it.

I have attached three links that are good reading and they give sound advise.  

I'd suggest buying a culture from KA's vender and use it to get your feet on the ground with growing and maintaining a culture.  You will probably spend as much if not more buying all the juice and "stuff" to make your own.  Then as you develop your skills you can branch out and try one of your own.

I've been using the KA culture for going on three years now and I am very happy with it.  Before getting it I had one that I developed, but I was not happy, and before that I had one from Ed Wood that died.

Actually mine has, as Mini Oven posted, has developed it's own personallaty from my enviornment where I live.  

Anyway, the last link is for Ed Wood's very good book with all the info you will ever need about cultures, history of them, and lots of good recipes.  It is not expensive.

Keep it simple,,, and you don't have to buy King Author flour,,,, use whatever you want, but the culture they offer is "killer".

Keep us posted….

 http://www.kingarthurflour.com/tips/sourdough-starter.html?utm_source=kaf&utm_medium=redirect

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/classic-fresh-sourdough-starter-1-oz

http://www.amazon.com/Classic-Sourdoughs-Home-Bakers-Handbook/dp/1580083447/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1405433352&sr=8-2&keywords=classic+sourdoughs

clazar123's picture
clazar123

King Arthur likes to sell flour. If you are starting with 1 cup of flour, discarding (eventually) once or twice daily and feeding 1 cup flour/day.....whew! That is a LOT of starter. Remember you are growing a culture and it only takes small amounts to  become a bread-raising, natural leavening agent.

So start with a few tablespoons of flour and water. Use the pineapple juice method, if you want. All flour has some yeast in it naturally. What you are doing is just creating an environment the first few days to encourage a lot more yeast to grow and eat. When you start seeing bubbles forming, you know you have a lot of yeast eating at your flour restaurant. There are lactobacillus there, too, which make bubbles and sometimes smelly guys try to get a seat at your table but they don't like an acid environment. That is why pineapple juice is used. The lactos and yeasts would naturally make the environment acid but maybe not in time to prevent the smelly guys from coming in droves. There are generally a LOT of them in our environment.

So stir for a few days until the bubbles form. Then the lactos and yeasts start eating you out of house and home so you have to provide more food. Discarding is like taking out the trash. So you discard and feed. Lactos are more prevalent than yeast and will reproduce faster-esp if it is a little cooler. Yeast will eventually catch up and they are the real workhorses of the bread raising world. Lactos are gassy but generally fizzle out before they raise the loaf fully so don't be fooled when your starter starts taking off at first-doubling and tripling wildly.It can be used for pancakes but won't work well for bread. When it settles down to a more stately rise and fall after a feeding, and smells yeasty, it is ready to use in bread. This can take 5 days or 15 days or more. A lot depends on your room temp, water, chlorine content of water and flour (always unbleached). If hootch forms on top of the starter during the day any time during this process, that means they need more food. Once you are able to use it as a bread leavener, you can build the amount of starter up with a few, successive, larger feedings. I keep mine in a widemouthed pint jar and it is about half full for rising room. If a recipe calls for more starter than I have, I build up the amount I need a few days before I bake. Sourdough breadmaking can take more planning for the weekend/occasional baker. It was a system generally designed (by necessity) for a daily baker.

Once you have a starter going, you can go into maintenance mode. You will hear all kinds of do's and don'ts, just like this time. I discard (or use) my starter once a week, feed, let rise and then put back in the refrigerator. If I keep it out, I have to feed twice a day-I just don't have time.

Figure out the concept, get the info so you can figure out what to do  and go from there. Always have delicious fun!

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11

with no success. Then I had a brainwave. Why feed loads and discard loads when all you need is to start smaller then feed everyday same amount ratio flour to water and by the time it's ready you have a good amount with little or no discarding.

I started from scratch with 10g flour and 10g pineapple juice.

Day two: 10g flour + 10g Pineapple Juice

Day three: 20g flour + 20g Pineapple Juice

By beginning of day 4 it was almost done with no discarding and I hadn't created a barrel full.

Day Four : 40g flour + 40g WATER!

We now have 160g which isn't too much.

Day Five : Discard half and feed again 40g flour + 40g water

A starter is born! And there was no feeding twice a day either. Just every 24 hours.

Simple.

sphealey's picture
sphealey

I agree that the instructions that come with the King Arthur starter culture call for too much flour; after the first two feedings I stir it up thoroughly and reduce the total to a more reasonable amount [1].  

That said, for me the question is the one posed by Alan Scott:  do you want to get started with sourdough bread baking or with managing sourdough starters?  Both can be fun.  But if the goal is to learn how to bake bread with sourdough the beginner is generally better off taking on only one new thing at a time and obtaining a working culture from another source.  You can always go back and create your own later.  And the King Arthur Vermont sourdough culture is quite good, producing a tangy flavor that you can make as sour as you want (up to very sour).

sPh

[1] I maintain a total culture of 300g, meaning I use about 90 g of flour for each full refresh of the base culture.  Since I generally bake on the weekends I only need to do one full refresh per week.

AZ Chuck's picture
AZ Chuck

clazar123 has given you the best down to earth advice. Read it twice. Make some bread with yeast to get the other steps down while you are building the sourdough. . And do have fun!   

4deegees's picture
4deegees

Wow!  Lots and lots of advice!  No instant gratification to be had with sourdough starter!  I am going to read a lot, try another few bread and read some more before working with sourdough starter!  

@betsymepoo - YES!  I am lost, but I will be found!  Once again there is the paradox of choice!  Too many options and ways of doing things!  

@clazar123 - I think you have the best idea ever!  I will get some KA starter!  :)

Thanks everyone for the great advice!  I WILL conquer and I WILL have fun with whatever I make (and even eat it as long as it is edible!)

isand66's picture
isand66

You can also see if anyone in your area has a starter they would be willing to share.  Where do you live?  I'm in NY and would be happy to give you some of my starter.

Ian

4deegees's picture
4deegees

Funny you should say that Ian!  I live in Colorado and our neighborhood has a Google group that I posted to this morning.  A neighbor has some starter and will have some for me by the weekend!  

isand66's picture
isand66

Cool!  Good luck.  Now you can experiment with the seed starter they give you.  What is nice is once you have a mother starter you can convert part of it into different hydration starters and different flour starters. When you are ready let me know and I will be happy to give you some advise on how best to accomplish it.

Ian