The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Forkish starter showing no life on Day 5

SeattleStarter's picture
SeattleStarter

Forkish starter showing no life on Day 5

Hello all,

Please forgive me (and point me in the right direction) if this has been covered previously.

I'm making (trying to make) a starter according to the directions in "Flour Water Salt Yeast".

The starter went as described at first, but now is showing no signs of life. On day 2 it was bubbly up over the 2 liter mark. On day 3, still active, but didn't make it to the 2 liter mark. Day 4, just a few small bubbles (perhaps from mixing?) and no change in height. Now on day 5, still seems like nothing is going on, mixture just looks like flour water slurry. But it does still have a bit of a sour smell.

I could go into more detail, but perhaps that is enough to determine if I'm on the right track or it's time to start over?

Thanks for any help you care to offer.

HansB's picture
HansB

Be patient.

SeattleStarter's picture
SeattleStarter

With so little activity, it seems unlikely that yesterday's 500 g of flour have been used up. Yesterday was the same and I'm wondering if I should have left for a while before feeding again.

According to FWSY, I'm supposed to dispose all but 150 g and feed again now... (and that it will be ready to use in the afternoon).

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

If you see no action, don’t feed, just give it a stir. Be prepared to give it a few more days.

And you truly do not need the huge wasteful quantities he uses. Cut way way back, it will still work fine and your pocketbook will thank you. 

 

SeattleStarter's picture
SeattleStarter

Thank you. That's what I suspected after perusing some other threads.

Forkish does seem to have his peculiarities (there's a whole lot of extra room in that 12 qt tub), but he's got me baking!

WatertownNewbie's picture
WatertownNewbie

"Forkish does seem to have his peculiarities (there's a whole lot of extra room in that 12 qt tub), but he's got me baking!"

This is not meant to be a thread hi-jack; merely a response to your side comment. I agree that in retrospect the thought of getting a 6 qt tub has crossed my mind, but the width of the 12 qt Cambro allows for some nice kneading in the initial mix and that has helped my gluten development.  Take a look at some of Trevor J. Wilson's videos on YouTube for a nice example of how to mix by hand.  In a smaller tub, I could not do quite the same motion.

On a slightly related topic (i.e., still the 12 qt tub, but now something other than the extra room), it occurred to me that a 6 qt tub would result in a different shape to the fermenting dough.  Rather than being so squat, it would be more compact and a bit taller.  That might hold the dough temperature more easily.  But for now I am sticking with the 12 qt tub.

Happy baking, and yes, be patient with the starter.

 

 

SeattleStarter's picture
SeattleStarter

Thanks for the tips.

I like the 12 qt tub, lots of room to play. Just thought it was funny when compared to the tubs/pics in the Tartine book. (Fyi, these are the only books I have, both from the library.)

But based on all the extra room, I did feel comfortable going with "only" a 4 qt tub for the starter instead of the 6 qt FWSY recommends ;)

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Reminds me of the story "the magic porridge pot". 

SeattleStarter's picture
SeattleStarter

https://photos.app.goo.gl/sVrzbXAl2YvRMnMJ3

Smells like something, but I don't have the olfactory talent to describe it.

There is really no sign of life at all, but I stirred it up and am being patient.

Although while I am being patient, I think I'll start another batch according the suggestions on this site ;)

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

It worked for me the one and only time I tried making a starter. I am still using that starter mixed in with others that were given to me. 

phaz's picture
phaz

And start with a lot less. To much in the beginning will only make things take a lot longer. Or friends need to create an environment that suits them (pineapple juice method helps to create that environment sooner). The larger the medium they are in, the longer it'll take to create that environment. Once things get established, you can build up to the amounts you'll need. The important thing at this stage is letting the bugs make a comfortable home for themselves. Once done, they will be happy, and will grow like crazy.

SeattleStarter's picture
SeattleStarter

Ok! Thanks for the tips. Looks like most recipes have much smaller investment, so can do a few like a science experiment, meanwhile letting the original have a chance to prove itself.

SeattleStarter's picture
SeattleStarter

Thanks again for all the feedback. I just thought I'd share my experience on the off chance somebody in a position like mine finds this thread.

Based on the tips above I found Wink's excellent experiment-article, then ended up using this day-to-day guide. And just for kicks, I also did Sourdough 101.

Long story short, I would definitely recommend the juice method (I used OJ) for anybody making starter for the first time. It was the only one that behaved as described/expected, with the added benefit of no super-stinky stage.

But the other two eventually came around and the stink finally got diluted away. Just for kicks I mixed all three and have a thriving starter now. Just made my first loafs with it using Forkish's pain de campagne recipe.

Two final thoughts:

First, what an awesome site this is. Thank you for the replies to help out a newbie. I'm so impressed with the long, thoughtful posts in response to the questions people post.

Second, is Forkish crazy? ;)  To call his starter recipe optimistic seems a bit of an understatement. Five days to a 3:10:10 feed and a bake in the afternoon? Even if the yeast were active enough, mine needed another week before it smelled like anything I would want to use as food. And mine was nowhere near active enough.

Please take these for what they are, rambling thoughts of an enthusiastic beginner. I love Forkish for keeping things simple and making artisanal bread approachable. If it weren't for Flour Water Salt Yeast, I'd still be making the NYT's simple crust bread in my mixer.

Anyway, thanks again. Happy baking.

WatertownNewbie's picture
WatertownNewbie

Looks like you are onto something.  Great progress!  Now, you need to put the proofed loaves into the bannetons in a vertical direction and not let them go in lopsided (don't worry -- been there done that too).  And it appears that there might have been some shaping issues too (hard to tell whether the leaning is a result of the way the loaves sat in the bannetons or how they were shaped before entering that stage).  All in all, however, you must be ecstatic.

Lastly, please post crumb shots when you slice these open.

 

SeattleStarter's picture
SeattleStarter

Lol. Multiple issues, but I only have one dutch oven, and it's oval ;)

I did have shaping problems though. For one thing, my dough was very wet (probably due to some winging it with the levain). Next, after dividing and 20 minutes bench rest, it was not relaxed and very resistant to the Tartine style shaping I tried (and failed) to give it. But it still looked about right when it came out of the fridge this morning. Here's a pic of the crumb.

As far as that loaf's ugly cousin goes, it was cooked on the stone, and it did not want to come off the heavily floured peel.

 

WatertownNewbie's picture
WatertownNewbie

Well. Not bad for someone who was about to discard his starter a few days ago. That crumb looks pretty tasty.  Nice distribution of holes and no huge caverns.

For my loaves that go onto a baking stone, I always use a sheet of parchment paper between the loaf and the peel and slide the whole thing onto the stone.  If you want to use flour, try semolina.  I also put semolina into the bottom of the Dutch oven before inserting a loaf (mine is a round 4-quart model from Lodge).

 

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

I'm also new to starters and wanted to try the Forkish method, which I am following from his book.

I am well aware of the criticism of this method, but would like to try it straight before I make any changes, despite the waste.

The issue is I don't completely understand the instructions he is giving. He states in his recipe that on Day 5 you discard and feed the starter and then it is ready to use in dough in the AFTERNOON.

Yet in the recipes themselves, you seem to have a redundant instruction at the beginning of each recipe that replicates a similar instruction as what is indicated for Day 5 in the levain section. For example, in Field Blend 2, it tells you to discard a portion of the starter and feed it 24 HOURS AFTER LAST FEEDING, and then use it that afternoon. So it seems to replicate the instructions used in the Day 5 Levain schedule section.

Given that Forkish claims that a starter begun on Tuesday morning will be ready to bake Sunday morning, I am inferring that the Day 5 instruction in his levain section is redundant, that it should be ignored in favour of the initial feeding shown in the actual recipes themselves.

I am sorry I am being so confusing - but here's what I mean:

Day 1: As per levain section

Day 2: As per levain section

Day 3: As per levain section

Day 4: As per levain section

Day 5: IGNORE INSTRUCTION IN LEVAIN SECTION - proceed to initial instruction in RECIPE section, which involves feeding starter in the morning, waiting 6-8 hours, then proceeding with mixing of dough, shaping, proofing overnight and baking the next morning.

So doing it this way means a starter begun Tuesday morning will be bakes Sunday morning.

I sincerely hope I am correctly interpreting this. Forkish is so clear in every other respect, but this one niggling detail is just killing me. 

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

see below

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

"The issue is I don't completely understand the instructions he is giving. He states in his recipe that on Day 5 you discard and feed the starter and then it is ready to use in dough in the AFTERNOON".

Wrong! Your starter is ready when your starter is ready! One persons starter may be ready on day 5. Another persons starter may be ready on day 14. It is perfectly plausible for starters to be ready on day five, I have made some myself in this time period, but only if the conditions are right. And I mean everything falling into place in an ideal situation.

"...Yet in the recipes themselves, you seem to have a redundant instruction at the beginning of each recipe that replicates a similar instruction as what is indicated for Day 5 in the levain section".

I think each recipe is done along the lines of using the starter when it ripens, i.e. from scratch, as supposed to having an on-going starter you are maintaining and need to prep before using. If you do have an on-going starter then Ignore instructions on day five and go onto the levain section.

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

I get that the starter may not be ready despite what Forkish says. 

But it is more my issue understanding his instructions as they are intended.

What I don't understand is am I to follow both the Day 5 feeding AND the initial feeding instruction on the recipe? If I did this then my bread would be baked on Mon not Sunday as the levain schedule indicates should be the case.

I am assuming that the initial feeding i n the bread recipes (24 h after last feeding) is a substitute for the Day 5 feeding in the levain section.

Is this correct?

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Day 1: As per levain section (Tuesday)

Day 2: As per levain section (Wednesday)

Day 3: As per levain section (Thursday)

Day 4: As per levain section (Friday)

Day 5: IGNORE INSTRUCTION IN LEVAIN SECTION (Saturday - feed, which is basically the levain build, and make the dough)

Sunday - Bake.

From what you have told me it makes sense. I understand it as you do. I think it's just another feed as in the previous days. If done so in the morning it should be ready by early evening as long as the starter is ready! If your starter is already made and is sitting in the fridge then the day 5 would simply be a feeding or a levain build before going onto the recipe. So basically it's start the recipe on day five. If it's not ready then continue the feeds as you have been doing. But if you're following the instructions you will be building a heck of a lot of starter. If going down this route then do your best to keep it at 78°F to try and keep it on target.

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

Thanks Lechem. I am not crazy about the waste and the schedule isn't great for me, but I wanted to try following his instructions at least once before I changed anything.

I don't really understand starters and how they work so I am scared to go outside of his instructions yet.

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

Out of curiosity, can you recommend an alternative starter method? In a perfect world, I'd like to be able to bake bread in the late afternoon, just before dinner. All of Forkish's schedules assume you want to bake bread in the morning.

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

so many ways and ideas depending on what recipe you're following or if it's your own recipe.

However it's difficult to explain or understand unless you've baked with starter before.

You can feed the starter in the evening, start the bread in the morning, skip refrigeration time and bake that evening. If you wish to bake in the evening and get refrigeration time then you can refrigerate the dough after the last stretch and fold, but before that last two-three hours of bench rest, at the bulk ferment stage then take out early afternoon to shape and final proof at room temperature.

But until you've started baking it's all theory and might not make too much sense.

WatertownNewbie's picture
WatertownNewbie

There are two different things that occur on your Day 5:  (1) building and maintaining a starter, and (2) using some starter to get a batch of dough going.  Here is an example, which may help illustrate what I am talking about, and I often bake Forkish recipes, so this applies to your situation.

On a day when I am going to mix some dough, I (a) use about 40 g of my existing starter to begin the process of making the dough and (b) take about 30 g of the remaining starter and combine with with some fresh flour and water to refresh my starter.  The 40 g goes in with whatever flour and water the recipe calls for and becomes my levain for that bake.  The 30 g goes back into my starter bowl (after being rinsed out) along with 60 g of 50/50 mix of AP and whole wheat flour as well as 60 g of water and gets stirred up and covered.

Hence, there are two events on Day 5 (using your timeline).  Let me know if this clears up your confusion.

Happy Baking.

Ted

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

Oh wait a second. So "levain" does NOT equal "starter"?

Damn, I wish I had the book in front of me, because I'm starting to think I get what is going on.

You create a "starter", and then on the morning of the recipe you are adding it to a set amount of flour and water, to create "levain" for use in the recipe.

Okay, so Ted, I think this may become clear when I get a chance to look at my book again, but does Forkish actually specify how much "starter" you need for his recipe? Where did you get that 40 gram amount? Is that what Forkish tells you to use, or are you coming up with that yourself?

alfanso's picture
alfanso

There are numerous identifying terms for the same darned things in baking.  Perhaps to get you a bit less confused, take a gander at this comment from a few months ago.  For further clarity (or further confusion!) also read this longer comment.  There's more there than you want to "get" at this point in time, but the general concept should hold.

You are far from alone in the TFL world of confused bakers when it comes to terminology.  So see if these help to clarify things.  They do from where I sit (but then again, I wrote them up...).

alan

HansB's picture
HansB

The only standard when it comes to baking terms is that there is no standard...

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Forkishs starter is not very different, if at all, from his levain. 

We build a levain when we treat a starter as seed only which enables us to keep smaller amounts and build a starter to a different hydration or flour. 

One could just as easily feed a starter and take some off to use in the dough. Providing it's built to requirements of the recipe.  

When the starter matures and is ready to use why not make a load from the discard instead of, well... discarding it?

Then you will have a manageable amount of starter ti refrigerate instead of keeping up the weird feedings. 

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

Forkish says in the levain section of the recipe, 100g mature starter then he builds a levain of 1000g.  you can scale this so you don’t have so much leftover levain, so make only 400 g (40 g mature starter+160g bread flour+40 g wholewheat flour+160 g water). 

in the final dough section you see levain 360g.   

I think most of us have fallen into this trap. 

To repeat what others have said, once you have an active starter that you maintain, all you would do is build the required amount of levain for your recipe (formula) using a small amount of starter and whatever flours you wish.

  in this recipe you would start at 1b for the dough, 1a gives a method for the levain build but you would scale the amounts to suit.

hope i haven’t added to the confusion

Leslie

WatertownNewbie's picture
WatertownNewbie

This explanation shows where I got my 40 g from.  Rather than create a lot of levain that goes to waste, I opt to scale down and create 400 g of levain (of which 360 g will be used).  I also make mine in a Pyrex quart thing and then pour it into the Cambro tub, which sits on a scale, until I have 360 g of my levain in the tub.  I do not do the procedure that Forkish describes of putting water in a container and then dumping levain into the water and pulling out the levain.  Simply pouring the levain straight in from the Pyrex works perfectly well, and the amount sticking to the side of the Pyrex accounts for the unused levain (from the 400 g).

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

Okay, so I'm pleased to say that my levain seems to be coming along perfectly, just as Forkish describes in his instructions. I am coming upon Day 4 and so far it is behaving like clockwork according to his descriptions. It looks as he says it should, has the volume he says it should, and smells as he says it should. 

I'm optimistic that I'll have a working levain by Saturday morning, which I'll use for my Field Blend #2 bake on Sunday morning.

I'm going to scale the recipe down by 1/2 so I can make one loaf instead of two, but otherwise I am following Forkish's instructions to the letter.

However, it occurred to me that I should probably keep a portion of the levain in the fridge for later to use. His instructions to just keep feeding it 500 grams of flour a day seems insane to me - that's alot of wasted flour!

Forkish recommends taking 300 grams of it, placing it in a plastic bag and in the fridge for storage up to a month. If I understand him correctly, I am supposed to use this 300 grams from the final levain mix I use for my recipe, AFTER it has sit out for 6-8 hours, but before it is mixed into the dough. Is that a correct reading?

I suppose I should follow Forkish, since he hasn't seemed to lead me astray yet, but I take it others find his approach idiosyncratic and wasteful? When is the optimal time (according to others here) to place levain in the fridge? Is it after feeding? Before feeding? I got a jam jar that I can use if need be. Would just throwing 50 grams of levain in the jar and refrigerating work just as well? And when would I want to do this??

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

but he is wasteful when it comes to Levain. Grab about a half cupful when your Levain has risen about 25% and refrigerate that. You can refresh that and build your next week’s Levain from it. 

There are a million ways of keeping a starter and you will find most of them here on TFL. Just know that you only need a bit to build up tons if need be. 

Once it is well established, I suggest you spread some on parchment paper and dry it as a backup. If anything happens to the one you keep in the fridge (unaware people have thrown starters out thinking it was some kind of science experiment or people have washed the jar out), you have something to fall back on. 

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Everyone who tries this recipe isn't sorry. Just so you know that even if you half everything the levain build is still wasteful. He builds a lot extra so you will be building extra even by halving just in the same proportion.

You have had a lot of advice here and don't wish to further confuse you. As it's your first bake, you've followed Forkish exactly so far and you wish to see it through then proceed as planned.

What I will explain is my own starter maintenance...

I keep a small amount of starter in the fridge as seed only. It's not built according to a particular recipe. It's just a medium to store the yeasts and bacteria. FYI it's a 100% hydration wholegrain rye starter and I never keep more than about 80g at any one time.

When it comes to a recipe, for example Forkish, then i'll take some starter off and build a levain to use in the recipe. I build up and not extra. So whatever I build goes into the dough with no waste.

When my starter runs low i'll take it out, give it some TLC and return it to the fridge.

So my starter and levain are separate!

But to answer your question about what stage I return my starter to the fridge after it's been fed...?

If it's going to be a long time before it's next feed then it might be a good idea to only allow it to rise by half so it's got a lot of food left to keep it happy between feeds.

Because my starter is fed weekly it does fine by being put back in the fridge once it has peaked. I actually find this beneficial in a way as allowing it to peak builds up the yeast population which diminished at one point because I went through a phase of never allowing it to peak and it was always refrigerated after it had half fed. It just tipped the starter in favour of bacteria.

So your answer is dependant on what your baking schedule is going to be like. How you wish to maintain a starter. Is it going to be used as a production levain or as a seed only? These are the things you wish to consider.

You have asked a good question but you're going to get many answers as everyone has their own way.

WatertownNewbie's picture
WatertownNewbie

"I'm optimistic that I'll have a working levain by Saturday morning, which I'll use for my Field Blend #2 bake on Sunday morning."

Be aware that almost no one follows the timelines for (i) bulk fermentation and (ii) proofing that Forkish provides.  Unless your home is very cold, you will find that an overnight bulk fermentation is likely to result in a completely unusable slurry the next morning when your dough has broken down.  (I encourage you to do a search of other posts at this site to see what others have said about Forkish recipes.)

Field Blend #2 is probably my favorite bread to make (and eat).  In general, my bulk fermentation period lasts about four to four-and-a-half hours.  After dividing the dough and then another twenty to thirty miniute bench rest, I do the final shaping, put the dough in bannetons, and place the bannetons in plastic bags and put them into the refrigerator for an overnight proofing.  Somewhere around ten or twelve hours later (i.e., the next morning) I take the bannetons out of the fridge and bake (I use one Dutch oven and one baking stone).

Lastly, the title of this post is important for any bake.  Watch the dough, not the clock.  When the dough is ready to be divided, you need to be ready to divide it.  Not way before and not way after.  With experience and after handling enough dough, you will begin to get the feel (literally) of when the dough is ready.  It will feel billowy (like an inflated pillow), and there will be nice little bubbles along the sides and bottom of your Cambro tub (one advantage of a clear container). That process can be estimated in terms of time, but you must allow the dough to dictate your steps and not rigidly adhere to a clock or timeline.

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

Hi Watertown, my kitchen tends to be pretty warm, and I have noticed with the straight dough and poolish recipes I used from FWSY that it rose faster than Forkish stated. But isn't that the point of using the 12 quart cambro? Can't I just eyeball it by volume to tell if it has risen enough?

Also, you mention proofing overnight, but I don't think that is what the recipe calls for. Once shaped it goes in a banneton overnight for 11-12 hours, but the proofing I thought was only for around 4-6 hours or thereabouts, but I am going by memory here.

Just a few follow-up questions: Forkish says to make your levain 24 hours after last feeding, then you wait about 6-8 hours until you do your mixing with it. Then you mix and proof and then it goes in the banneton overnight, 11-12 hours, then you bake right out of the fridge the next morning.

My issue is that I feed my levain at 5:00 a.m. each morning during the week, but I do not want to get up at 5 on Saturday! I presume it is not a big deal to wait until 8 or even 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning to do the final feeding? 

I understand from your post that proofing is very sensitive and should be exact - okay. But what about the fridge rise at the end in the banneton? Forkish says 11-12 hours. On my schedule I figure I'll be ready to bake by 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning. But is there a way to delay this further?? In a perfect world, I'd be baking in the early to mid afternoon, to have fresh bread in time for dinner. I really don't want to bake in the morning at all.

Is it feasible to delay that final fridge rise or am I stuck with Forkish's timeline? I tried to tweak his schedule but every time I did the math, I ended up havong to mix dough at 2:00 or some such nonsense. I am an early riser but not THAT early!

WatertownNewbie's picture
WatertownNewbie

Here is your last post and my thoughts:

"Hi Watertown, my kitchen tends to be pretty warm, and I have noticed with the straight dough and poolish recipes I used from FWSY that it rose faster than Forkish stated. But isn't that the point of using the 12 quart cambro? Can't I just eyeball it by volume to tell if it has risen enough?"

The clear Cambro tub certainly helps to gauge the progress of the dough, but volume is not the only determiner. The dough will change in its texture as the bulk fermentation goes on, and the surface will also begin to exhibit bubbles underneath.  With each stretch and fold, you should notice how much the dough tends to retain its shape during the minute or two thereafter, whether it seems to be sticking to the sides of the container a little less, and whether the dough has taken on the overall structure of a uniform mass.  There is more than simply focusing on volume.

"Also, you mention proofing overnight, but I don't think that is what the recipe calls for. Once shaped it goes in a banneton overnight for 11-12 hours, but the proofing I thought was only for around 4-6 hours or thereabouts, but I am going by memory here."

You are correct that for the Field Blend #2 recipe the bulk fermentation occurs during the day and the proofing occurs overnight.  I was thinking of the Overnight Country Brown (which is a pure sourdough with no commercial yeast) and for which Forkish prescribes an overnight bulk fermentation. As for the Field Blend #2, my loaves sit in the fridge overnight and proof for between eight-and-a-half to nine-and-a-half hours (with nine hours being fairly typical). One advantage of an overnight retarding proof is that things occur much more slowly, and you have greater flexibility in actually putting the loaves into the oven.

"Just a few follow-up questions: Forkish says to make your levain 24 hours after last feeding, then you wait about 6-8 hours until you do your mixing with it. Then you mix and proof and then it goes in the banneton overnight, 11-12 hours, then you bake right out of the fridge the next morning."

The idea behind the 6-8 hours is to have a starter that has been freshly fed and is still hungry by the time you introduce it into the mix.  (Also, you wrote "mix and proof" whereas that stage is really mix and bulk ferment. The proofing occurs after the dough is divided and shaped.) After the initial autolyse and combining of the levain with the flour, there is a series of stretch-and-fold sessions before shaping occurs.

"My issue is that I feed my levain at 5:00 a.m. each morning during the week, but I do not want to get up at 5 on Saturday! I presume it is not a big deal to wait until 8 or even 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning to do the final feeding?"

Yes, you can feed your starter a little later on Saturday morning.  Remember that "final feeding" is actually two things.  On Saturday morning you will use some of your starter to make the levain, and you will feed another portion of your starter to keep it going. 

"I understand from your post that proofing is very sensitive and should be exact - okay. But what about the fridge rise at the end in the banneton? Forkish says 11-12 hours. On my schedule I figure I'll be ready to bake by 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning. But is there a way to delay this further?? In a perfect world, I'd be baking in the early to mid afternoon, to have fresh bread in time for dinner. I really don't want to bake in the morning at all."

If your refrigerator is nice and cold, then the proofing can go awhile and does not need to end in mid-morning.  Some persons proof in the fridge for sixteen hours.  Keep in mind too that after removing them from the oven you need to let your loaves cool.  Otherwise the crumb can be gummy.  I usually allow at least three or four hours for the bread to cool.  If you bake on Sunday morning, your bread will still be fine for dinner Sunday evening.  In fact, your bread will likely be good for Tuesday dinner if not Wednesday or Thursday. You will find that sourdough bread lasts much longer than the stuff you buy in the grocery store in the plastic bags.

"Is it feasible to delay that final fridge rise or am I stuck with Forkish's timeline? I tried to tweak his schedule but every time I did the math, I ended up having to mix dough at 2:00 or some such nonsense. I am an early riser but not THAT early!"

You can delay by starting later. Or by extending the time the loaves remain in the fridge.  If you need to play around with the timeline, consider the temperature of the water that you use.  If your dough after mixing is not 78 degrees but rather 70 degrees, then the entire bulk fermentation will go more slowly, and your loaves will enter the fridge later.

Keep asking questions.  Hope your bake goes well.

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

Thanks Watertown for the tips. Regarding the retarding in the fridge, you say that you leave it for up to 9 1/2 hours, while some you know go as high as 16?! Whereas Forkish says 11-12.

That seems like a HUGE variance, especially considering refrigerators are alot more controllable and consistent than room temperature.

Obviously I much prefer 16 hours if I can get away with it. But can I? How does your friend find the results at 16h?

And how do you know? Are you sitting there pulling it out of the fridge and poking it with your finger every 60 minutes?

I know if I bake at 9:00 a.m. the bread will still be fresh for a 6:00 p.m. dinner, but psychologically, I just hate the idea of baking early in the morning and just having it sit all day. 3 hour rest is fine but 7 hours just rubs me the wrong way.

HansB's picture
HansB

I have gone as long as 36 hours cold ferment with no adverse effects.

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

proofing is to make sure your fridge is really cold. I keep mine at 37-38 F and I haven’t had any issues with overproofing since I have done that. Before, it was at 40-42F and my loaves often overproofed if I went longer than 10-12 hours. I used to go crazy trying to make sure I got up in time to stick to that time frame. Now, I am much more relaxed about the whole thing. I bake when I get up. 

ETA: Be aware that your loaves may not look like they are ready to go in the oven. Just put them in there straight from the fridge. They will bloom beautifully. 

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

Okay so it is Day 5 and I have lots of little bubbles but no significant activity since yesterday. I am at the 1 quart mark. I assume this is not ready? Or is it? 

Do I just plough ahead and use it? If not, I am supposed to just stir abd wait some more days?

HansB's picture
HansB

Did it rise and about double since the last feeding? If not, press on. A quart? How many loaves are you going to bake? I bake a lot of bread and have never had more than 100g of starter...

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

Hi Hans, no it did not double I think. It probably rose a bit but not by alot. Definitely zero activity since yesterday afternoon. 

I only mentioned the 1 quart as a frame of reference in the 6 quart tub. There is clearly enough of it to make the recipe but obviously if it's just dead slurry then I won't proceed.

Should I roll the dice or just proceed with a poolish recipe as plan B and give the starter a couple more days?

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

You know it may not have risen as much as I expected, but it doesn't seem dead. It has a pretty strong alcohol like smell, lots of bubbles and a webby consistency. I am going to roll the dice with it and see what happens.

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

No no - it is not webby. More like slurry, damn. But after stirring bubbles start popping up immediately.

I am torn - Yay or Nay???

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

I don’t think it’s ready after 5 days. Often initial activity is due to bacterial activity rather than yeast growing. The medium needs to become acidic enough for the yeast to grow (at least this is what I have read), and that can take some time. 

Keep stirring it and no more feeding until you see way more activity. There is enough food in your jar right now to keep it going for several days if not a week. 

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

I threw out all but about 100 grams which I put in a jar. I will follow your advice and wait and see over the next couple days.

Guess I am going to plan B for tomorrow's meal - poolish white bread.

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

So after about 2 days, the starter began bubbling, but not expanding much in the jar. I took 25 grams of it and fed it 25 grams whole wheat flour, 100 grams of white flour and 200 grams of warm water (basically using Forkish's feeding ratio).

As of this morning, it had expanded to at least triple in volume and seemed quite active.

I take it this is a good thing? This is basically a mature starter?

If so, let's say I want to store it in the fridge. 

I am thinking I would take 25 grams, give it the same amount of flour and water, and then put it in the fridge immediately?

What would be a good method?

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

 I took 25 grams of it and fed it 25 grams whole wheat flour, 100 grams of white flour and 200 grams of warm water

Are you sure? you fed 25g of starter with 125g of flour and 200g water!

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

I am going by memory as I don't have the book in front of me. I took Forkish's small feeding recipe and cut that in half. The starter was definitely more dough like than liquid this time but it rose quite nicely. I will be out of town this weekend so no bread baking. I thought I would keep feeding it over the next couple days using Forkish's ratio and then refrigerate starting Sat morning before I leave. That would be about 12-14 hours after last feeding. Then I could attempt to wake it up, say around Wednesday the next week to get it going again in time for baking the folliwing weekend?

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Continue with the scheduled feedings but with the last feed before you go away only allow it bench time for 6-7 hours then refrigerate. This way it's got plenty of reserves to slowly feed off. When you get back, bring it to room temperature, if it shows signs of continuing to mature then allow it to rise and peak, then carry on with what you've been doing.

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

Okay, I will try that. Thanks

jrabin22's picture
jrabin22

What a disaster. The levain has gone perfectly. I even brought it to work this morning so I could feed it. Then I was mixing just now and forgot my scale only goes up to 2000 grams. So as I was adding the water it goes "E". No idea how much I added. Tried to improv it but.... ugggh I am done with this. Into the garbage. 1,000 grams of flour trashed. So upsetting.

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

But you shouldn't have thrown it in the garbage. Slowly add water till it feels right. Go for tacky but not sticky. You don't want it too dry that it's stiff nor too wet that it comes off on your hands but somewhere inbetween - tacky! Then proceed with the recipe and watch the dough, not the clock.