The Fresh Loaf

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Reviving an old starter

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Hanzosbm's picture
Hanzosbm

Reviving an old starter

About 5 and a half weeks ago I made my first loaf of sourdough using a homemade starter.  At that time, I put the remaining starter in the refrigerator and, sadly, neglected it.  Part of the reason is because it is a rye starter and I have to go quite a ways out of my way to get rye flour that doesn't keep very long.  At the time of my original creation, it did very well and bubbled and doubled after the first feeding.  

So, this morning, I pulled it out to begin to make a new loaf.  The starter was dark in color on the surface and had some liquid (which I've read is normal).  Under the surface, the starter was the normal tan color, but the top was somewhat grey in color.  I added 50g of starter to 200g of rye flour and 200g of water per the recipe I used previously.  It's a relatively dense mixture, but it worked fine before.  My concern is that after 8 hours, I'm not seeing any change.  It doesn't appear to have risen and I don't see any bubbles.  I understand it'll take a bit longer due to it being dormant and refrigerated, but I'm wondering if this will be good by morning.  

I only have so much rye flour and I'll need almost all of what is left for the dough, so I'd rather not have to do a second feeding.  I thought I'd get the input of the experts here.

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

You might need to do another feeding or a few more feedings to get it nice and vivacious again. That said, you can probably do smaller amounts overall and go through less of your rye flour in the process.

Right now, you're doing a 100% hydration starter with 25% starter, or a 1:4:4 feeding (starter:water:flour). You could scale it down for a feeding or two, doing, for example, 40g rye, 40g water, 10g starter. I don't know how much starter you need for your recipe, but once your starter seems active enough, you can feed it a bit more to build it up to the amount you need.

You could also look at dabrownman's pages; he does a three stage build for his starter that is a lot less wasteful than continual refreshments. He's got a handy chart for it and everything that you may find to be a useful reference point.

Hanzosbm's picture
Hanzosbm

Hi Cerevisiae,

First of all, thank you for the response.  So there's a few things going on here...

To start, I went out to get some dinner and when I got back, it has doubled in volume and has become good and gassy, so it MIGHT be a non issue.

Second, I've got some time here to work with, whether that's good or bad is a different story.  The recipe says to add the starter (or Anstellgut) to rye and water and let it sit for 16 hours.  Due to my bad math and a hangover this morning, I started it at the wrong time.  So, I could probably either do another feeding now, though it wouldn't be the full amount of flour the recipe calls for, or I give it till the morning (more like 24 hours) and hope that the extra hours will make up for the hindered starter.

Third, the measurements for how much of this starter I really need is a bit tricky.  So, again, the recipe says 50g of Anstellgut, 200g rye flour and 200g of water.  Then, after 16 hours (normally) you remove 50g of the new mixture.  So...assuming that the loss of water due to evaporation over the 16-24 hours is negligible, that means that I ultimately need 400g of this starter.  I guess I could just weigh it out.  

What do you think?

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

First of all, good to hear that your starter is showing more signs of activity. However, that also indicates that given another 8 hours, it might be past its prime and hungry and overly acidic. So I think just waiting might be more detrimental than helpful. If you give it another feeding now, then it might even be ready to use in less than 16 hours.

If you need 400 grams of starter, you should probably just mix up another feeding using the amounts described above. To save a small amount of flour, you could just mix up 400g instead of the 450g the recipe instructs. Remove the needed amount from the starter you have now, and then put the rest of the current starter in the fridge. This will take the place of the 50g you would remove later.

Feed a new, slightly smaller amount of starter and then use that entirely. To have the same proportions, use 178g rye, 178g water, and 44g starter. This will give you 400g exactly.

Hanzosbm's picture
Hanzosbm

Thank you, Cerevisiae!  That is an excellent idea.  I'll technically be 30g shy of the amount of rye flour I'm supposed to use.  Do you think that's enough to worry about?  I was also thinking of doing more like 150g rye flour, 150g of water and 100g of starter.  The starter has the same ratio of water to flour, so it's just a matter of giving the starter more food to keep the yeast active, correct?

Hanzosbm's picture
Hanzosbm

Okay, I decided to just bite the bullet and give it a try.  I split the difference and did 160g of rye flour and 160g water and then rounded it out with the starter.  I might get it going after 12 hours instead of 16 since it has less food, but this way I've still got enough flour for the rest of the dough.  I'll let you know how it goes.

People baked bread for thousands of years without perfect ingredients or scales, I'm sure it'll turn out okay.