Here is the latest documentary in the mysterious saga of my bread.
It's the perfect date movie. You'll laugh. You'll cry....uh...no, you probably won't. But I did.
Alternatively, here's the quick, no nonsense version. https://youtu.be/ilslZBc-77Y
Starter rises but dough does not. What is rising this starter but won't leaven the dough?
In the 50% hydration starter are there any bubble when you break it open? Are you still feeding it as discussed every 24 hours?
What does the very active bubbly (but highly confusing) starter smell like?
Don't give up!
Amy, not to be rude. But the video could have been dramatically shorter. You’ve spoiled us with the first one ;-)
Thought; why not try again with yeast? If it rises or doesn’t rise we could rule some things out.
It's the last one. A few minutes longer in length I suppose as it is also therapy for me , I guess. Sorry. You're dealing with someone on the edge of sanity.
Would you believe I watched the entire video the first time with no sound? Yep, all 12 minutes and 48 seconds of it. You can imagine my surprise when I went back to take a second look at something and there was sound. Yesterday I installed a set of wireless ear buds on my iPad. When I viewed your video the first time I failed to turn off the ear buds and since I wasnt wearing them I couldn’t hear a thing. Getting old is a trip.
Amy, I can’t believe it is your starter. Yours looks more active than mine. I’m going to stay tuned. I’m curious to know the solution.
Run a quick test. Take some water and your flour and add a little yeast. Set it in the proofer At 76 and watch it. If that doesn’t rise it’s not the starter. i know it sounds crazy, but this whole thing makes no sense.
I think most of us would love to have a starter as active as yours.
I can't believe you watched over ten minutes of nothing but image...and stuck with it. You're an angel.
The great and powerful Debra Wink is the person who rescued me six months ago from my original starter woes. I do believe I have read every single post she's ever written...or at least I had at the time.
I'm going to gather up all the suggestions and see what tests are feasible. But one thing is pretty clear, I'm going to start using different flour...at least different brands if not different types.
When all the feedback is in, let's look over the options for next steps.
Dan... that's a hoot! Sounds like something I'd do.
The youngsters don’t have a clue.
The stiff one is maybe a tiny bit holy, but you really have to look for it.
The liquid one smells like fermented fruit.
Perhaps it's time to start a new starter. I also think that in order to grow the yeasts that are strong enough to rise bread it might be worth keeping the 50% hydration starter and feeding 20g starter with 25g water + 50g flour every 24 hours. See if you can wake up the right bugs at it were.
P.s. I loved the video. Informative, entertaining and we're here to help you vent :) I wouldn't be watched it even if it's 30 minutes long. Keep the videos coming as they are helpful.
Search the forum using the advanced feature, the choose the “Users” and enter, “Debra Wink”. Send her a PM. I think she is an authority (chemist and accomplished baker) on starters.
Ask her to take a look.
(Did I miss that email from you? Never got one.)
Please check your email
"Whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."
You have done some wonderful problem solving and included pictures. You are coming to the realization as to what the problem is and have now asked a telling question. "Is there a microorganism that can raise a liquid levain but not a bread dough ?" You already know the answer to this question as you have been seeing it before your eyes. But because you can't name it and it isn't typical with everything you have read here, you can't believe it. Well, it does exist. That is exactly what you have.Early on I cultured a starter I called "Wild CHild". This starter would rise wildly the first couple hours and then fizzle out. It could raise bread but only partway. Very frustrating and no one could help as they had never seen it. Wild Child went down the drain and I then grew my next starter and never had that experience again. It was a roller coaster ride that about did me in.
I still say that the starter you have does not have enough YEAST population or it is not enough of a strong yeast. 12 hours to raise a liquid starter in a jar is NOT a good starter.
SO here is my suggestion. I would get some whole wheat berries at a bulk food bin (just about a cup), grind a few tablespoons in a coffee grinder and start culturing a very small,liquid starter (100-125%)with the flour-I'm talking tablespoons in a pint jar. Either make it a new starter or use a small amount of your current starter as "seed"(tho this might engender issues later). When it is starting to actively bubble, start discarding and feed it twice a day with the fresh ground flour and bottled spring water. Keep it at 80F and keep it in small amounts! Scale accuracy is not as important as consistent follow through on discard and feedings ONCE IT IS BUBBLY. Do this for at least 5 days after it starts to actively bubble. You really want to grow the yeast population. It should rise double or triple after 3-4 hours or even sooner at the end of this. THEN start building your levain as you have in the past with multiple flours- but be aware that , like little people(kids), it takes them a while to adapt to change.
Take your time growing this starter-it may take 3-4 days before the flour/water becomes bubbly and it will take at least a week for the starter to mature. Then it may take a week for you to build a stable levain for use in baking but it will come!
Where are you located on the planet? Any SD bakers nearby to give you seed starter?
EDIT: I just saw you live in the San Francisco Bay area. Go to one of the SD bakeries and ask for a small hunk of dough. They may charge you for it. OR you can try just soaking and crumbling a slice of their bread into your starter to seed it with their starter. If they still sell Sourdough Jack packets in SF tourist areas (and it really is Jack-not some commercial yeast) I would buy that in a heartbeat. I found a 40 yr old dried packet at a flea market in Wisconsin and revived him. Best starter on the planet-that was 10 yrs ago and he is still going strong. I would be happy to send you a dried smear.
I would name your organism Peter Pan-never wants to grow up!
I'm actually closer to Napa...so that would be a trek. But totally possible in my neck of the woods. Certainly Napa must have a few with owners who may be sympathetic to my plight.
So this is very helpful information. But help me understand something...
When you say it's a long time to raise starter, do you mean to peak and fall? Isn't that a function of the size of the feeding, too? My starter doubles much quicker than it peaks. So, is 3-4 hours still the expectation at room temp with a 1:4:4 feeding? So many things are relative and I'm just trying to sort it out.
I was going to mention something about the LAB:Yeast imbalance, too...but I forgot. While that makes sense (the breads are indeed sour) I guess I don't have a lot of confidence that trying again would have a different result (which means I'm also lacking the courage). I feed it at peak every time...I have thought that this should favor the yeast.
Help me understand something. I garnered this information from your second video:
Levain build is 75 g. flour, 94 g. water and 15 g. seed. If that is correct your seed represents about 8% of the levain build which, from my point of view, is very low - less than half of what I'd expect. I would be shooting for a seed value between 15 - 20%. Yes, you might be showing good growth in your levain but when the levain hits the final mix it may be under-powered.
In case I missed it, would you please provide times and temps on your levain build.
In deference to other posters, some of us do view this for entertainment as well as bread science exercises and your content is both informative and entertaining.
So the levain build was doubled as well.
You're very kind...thanks. Now there's a second option for others who have less time/interest in my emotional woes. So, something for everyone! I do ramble on a bit, so I totally understand. The last three minutes are mostly emotional overflow. But thanks for the nice words.
The starter was kept at 80F when peaked, it was used. The levain was built at 70F for 14 hours, which is what Hamelman suggests.
> So the levain build was doubled as well.
But... is the percentage of seed to build really at 8%? Seems really low to me.
I know the build in my head. It should be 20%.
I didn't label that note very clearly.
It's 20 percent. 15/75 flour. You doing math over the weight of flour and water.
Note to self: Engage brain...
You are correct and I defer to your better understanding. Sigh.
One other thing, is it true that you are feeding your starter twice a day? Personally I'd stop the feedings, take a breath, and let the starter stabilize for a few days.With the constant introduction of new flour the dominant LAB and yeast might be having trouble keeping their populations strong. Let the LAB build up some acid so that they can fend-off intruders. You can do that by slowing down the feedings.
I might also suggest you pull a portion of that starter and use it as the seed for a 1:2:4 - probably similar to what others have suggested. Sprinkle in a few grams of rye for an amylase bump. This is the mother (seed) I use for a week's time without additional feedings (thanks Trevor!). I refresh the mother once a week and pinch-off portions all week long to use in refreshers and levains.
I do my refreshes, starter and levain builds around 74 - 76 degrees, and usually shoot for a finish at around 12 hours. I find that they are quite unproductive in cooler temperatures and run way too hot (fast) at higher temperatures.
I know I sound like a broken record on the temperature issue but temperature stability has played one of the most important roles in the success of my baking.
From this seemingly active starter try a Levain build as follows...
10g starter + 100g water + 100g flour + (no I haven't gone mad) 2g salt
I think I would feed it, throw it into the fridge and leave it there alone!!! for a couple of weeks and see what happens. I forget, did you use pineapple juice in the starter? I struggled initially and my sucessful starter is a 60% hydration one that lives in the fridge. I had a family emergency when my starter was just pretty new and not used and I had to leave it. After about 3-4 weeks of neglect, I remembered it and fed it again and it has been going well since. I wonder like clarzar123 if you don't have a strong enough yeast population. jimbtv and Abe make a lot of sense too.
stick with it! love the video :)
Yes, seeing those results I would begin a new starter. Clazar (could be a distant cousin of mine with that name) recognizes a critical imbalance, which I suspected but don't have the experience to diagnose. I saw Bob's post here ("Is Fred dead?") pretty early on in the process and I was delighted to learn that I could store my starter in the fridge and didn't need to waste flour either. That has lead to a kind of imbalance that I haven't fixed which prevents my bread from having as much sourness as I would like, but I can live with it for now.
Many successful bakers keep their starters fed on the counter, so it's not an answer in itself, if it even is the explanation for your results. While you're at it you might think of taking a stab at dabrownman's no muss no fuss (NMNF) fridge kept starter.
I don't recall how you began your starter, but I used the Yumarama method, and it worked quite well (http://yumarama.com/968/starter-from-scratch-intro/).
A lot of people are using yeast water in place of flour starter, which I haven't tried, but the results look good.
I am going to start over. I'm going to give the existing starter a few more feedings, then park it in the fridge....give myself some time to center and regain the courage to visit it again.
A year ago, when I first started baking, I thought the whole business of starting up a new starter sounded way too involved, so I sent away to carlsfreinds.net for some free, dried starter. It took longer to arrive than I anticipated, so in the mean time, due to my impatience and the loveliness of that Tartine loaf calling my name, I did make my own starter. When the starter finally arrived in the mail I no longer needed it and I parked it in the cupboard. It's been sitting there since.
So, with this dried seed, I will make a new starter using white flour (most importantly different and new flour). Then I will try baking again. If it works and I'm wildly successful, then after the infusion of confidence, I'll bust out the old starter, take up some of the folks suggestions on maintenance, and see how it behaves by comparison. If it doesn't work with the old starter, then I'll contact the various microbiologists across the country and ask them if they would like me to dry and ship them this bermuda-triangle of starters for scientific study.
(And I also have another starter coming from Cultures for Health thanks to an act of great mercy and charity from a Fresh Loafer.)
The very first starter I ever used was started in the traditional water/flour way. Honestly, I experienced a lot of problems with this starter. It was 100% rye until I introduced other flours. When I introduced other flours and started getting more regimented in my feeding schedule, it produced good bread.
This time, I thought I'd skip a few days and use the Pineapple Juice method. I used the exact same blend (the exact same flours even, which I still had mixed up in a big jar) and that's where I am today.
you had problems with the first starter, and you are using the same flour and are having problems again. Just a thought, maybe you need to use some totally new flour and see how that goes. Is there something in that lot of flour?
look forward to others thoughts, I am out for the day so will look again when home again.
I absolutely think you're onto something there.
But even if that's the case, it's still kinda hard to understand why it would raise a levain and not the bread. Am I totally making this up or do I remember that you're from New Zealand? If so, then you use the British term "prove" vs "proof" yes? I always thought that was clearer. I mean the whole point of the levain is to "proooooove" that the thing is reliable and works (well, that in addition to adjusting the flours for a particular bake).
familiar with american, canadian or british flours :(. Funny about the "proof". I would say probably (but hadnt thought about it before) I would prove the yeast (if I was doing that), but I say "final proof". sooo, I am not sure that I look on the the levain as "proving" but rather as a way to increase yeast and lab nos so that there is enough to leaven the dough - is this "proooooving" I guess it is.
fascinating... great thread
Well, I'm a Brit, and tend to think of proof as being the noun, eg "final proof" and prove as the verb "prove the loaves" and adjectival as in "proving box" - I think!
... e.g. a brewer proofs alcohol content of beer with a hydrometer. Albeit a long shot, makes me wonder if "proofing" is part derived from the fact that yeast produces ethanol during fermentation, hence low % proof hooch such as "pruno" or "prison hooch"?
Just get yourself a new starter off Ebay if you can't get one locally. That's where my last one came from about 2 years ago and it's worked perfectly ever since.
Much less hassle than making your own and it will help track down your problem by process of elimination.
I've got a couple of options for that and that's the short-term plan.
Amy, I did some starter testing myself. I think the starter on the right side of this image (see link http://www.thefreshloaf.com/comment/394378#comment-394378 ) is Abe’s suggestion. 10g starter + 25g water + 50g flour (40g bread flour, 10g whole rye).
I ran this same test and it over-doubled in 8 hours.
I ran 4 starter test. They can be seen here. http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/54588/how-can-i-increase-time-between-feeding-starter
Since your starter is agressively raising the higher hydration (lighter starter) and unable to move the lower hydration (lighter) starter maybe it is that you Lab has taken over and displaced the yeast. I didn’t think that was possible. But what do I know? So I did some research. And I ended up at the ”Winkster”. But it ain’t easy reading.
Here is a condensed version (believe it or not)
Here is Debra’s explanation
How I wish I was born with the intelligence to digest it all. But I be doing my best.
I'm actually super familiar with all the referencing material you sent. That's what so bizarre to me. I have been maintaining the starter at each stage such that it should favor the yeast over LAB (or really have at least a very good symbiosis with it). This is the lesson that I learned from her 6 months ago when I had a similar (although now it seems somewhat different problem). I also have reviewed some posts dabrownman has shared, which show Ganzle's work and the temperatures that favor yeast over LAB. By all intents and purposes...my maintenance should favor yeast.
But even so, you're right. That doesn't seem to be happening. And I've suspected that the LAB are really what's raising the high hydration starter, not the yeast. But I don't know what else to do to change the equation. I'm keeping it at temperatures that should favor yeast and I'm feeding the very moment that peak is evident. I'm also giving it smaller feeds (although I did try the larger feed per Mini Oven's suggestion), but before that I was feeding smaller...again...in order to favor the yeast.
What's a girl to do except try a different a starter I guess.
I have mild burns on my hands...this isn't from working with the starter (I don't really touch that)...this is from stretching and folding the dough. The dough is also quite sour and therefore, I suppose highly acidic.
There must be some properties in my flour that just give those LAB the edge, no matter what I do or how I maintain them.
This is my short term conclusion.
I'm going to ask Floyd if he thinks it is a good idea to post a subject about free starters to anyone.
If he likes the idea and foresees no problems, Those that wanted participate in the give-away (donors) could submit themselves to the post.Recipients would choose the donor they want and send them a Private Message.The donor could reply to that message with his/her mailing addressThe recipient would send a self address envelope with the proper postage to the donor's addressThe donor would put a small amount of dried started into the envelope and mail it back.
If any donor decided to not participate in the future they could edit their post and remove their name.
What do ya'll think? Is this a good idea? Do you see any drawbacks to this?
If anyone wants to coordinate sharing their starter with others on TFL, be it through the mail or in person, be my guest.
I think it would be great to get a starter exchange going somehow.
I've said many times this is the nicest place on the internet, but if I were Floyd, I'd probably avoid facilitating address exchanges on the internet. In fact, I used to be the marketing digital manager for a pretty large company and we were very legally conservative. So, I suppose that has stayed with me.
I think probably the best thing to do is what we've got going on here. We build relationships, make friends, and send each other private messages as our relationships grow. I've already exchanged email address and probably will exchange my physical address with some of the folks here who have offered to send starter.
Since this is all our own choice, Floyd has no liability. Once it becomes institutionalized on the site, however, that equation will change.
P.S. That being said, nothing is stopping anyone from posting about starter exchange. Getting his "permission" actually puts him more in the cross hairs of liability.
Obviously I can't guarantee the provenance or purity of any gifted starters other than my own, which has been sadly neglected recently. Standard precautions when sharing personal information on the internet apply. I can't say I've heard of any "sourdough starter scams" recently though, and all of the TFLers I've met in real life have been kind and generous people.
I brought a rye starter home with me from Europe a couple of months ago (from a niece). one day it had a beige spot, size of a coin, and it definitely looked fuzzy and smelt yeasty. why I don't know. I rebuilt with a little from underneath and filled the old jar with water planning to throw it out. changed my mind and rescued the very diluted stirred up remains, drained off the water and put it back in the fridge and left it. just looked at it. starter looks fine and healthy but now has a definite grey fuzzy crust and it still smells yeasty, not normal starter smell. this is not being used. it is an experiment I suppose. what would happen if you took some of your errant starter and gave it some yeast? most would die off probably, but maybe it would help the low yeast population get going?. is it worth a shot?
There will be yeast within Amy's starter. Conditions just have to be adjusted to encourage them.
Low hydration @ 75-78F fed 1:1:2 every 24 hours.
Once this stiff starter begins to strengthen it'll push up a dough.
I agree with you Abe, but the starter just seems unbelievably reluctant to grow the yeast proportion of the population.
As far as I can tell only one feed at this lower hydration was done. Nothing "happened". Perhaps two, three or even four days is needed.
More concentration has been done on the higher hydration then onto the recipe only to find it hasn't helped.
I think either take the lower hydration route, and follow it through, or start again.
I think Leslie is referring to the maintenance of my original starter (not the stiffer one you suggested). I've been waxing on and on about how I followed all the rules to favor the yeast population in the original starter. Now, the one thing I didn't do, is keep a stiff starter. I am contemplating my next move with the existing starter. With so many suggestions, there's a ton to think about. Definitely high on the list is cultivating your suggestion beyond just a couple of days. Abe-the-Starter is patiently waiting in my fridge waiting for me to figure it out.
I will tell you 100% I'm not concerned about getting the right "flavor" right now. I am a "sour-seeker" but I don't care one iota about that at the moment. I just want a bread to rise. So, yeast, yeast, yeast, yeast.
But take a break first. Sometimes you just have to admit the starter is going nowhere and set in its ways. Easier to start anew than try to make the game go backwards.
To improve on the batting average, this time pick two different methods (with fresh flour) for starting and later take the one that proovfilizes itself after a bake or two. (new word with an "f" and a "v" and american "z" for fun.) Then you are better insured for a home run.
If you like the flavours coming off the present inadequate starter culture, use a good helping of it for flavouring a dough combined with instant yeast to raise the loaf. Otherwise get rid of it. Use up the old flours and clean out the cupboard. Keep this older culture away from the new developing ones.
What do you see as the Pros and Cons of Starter Exchange? We should all be cautious on the Internet that's for sure.
Is we don't know where it's coming from. We don't have health inspections in our homes.
to try to understand what can happen if someone incorrectly dries it or unintentionally starts with a bad starter. There will always be the sinister folks out there who do something bad intentionally, though I'd be more worried about the unintentional. I think it goes without saying that nobody should be "tasting" raw starter that came from someone on the internet. Bake it to 210F. Get to know it. Make it earn your trust. Then, I suppose, if it's your standard practice to taste a starter for whatever reason, do so at your own peril.
what have you decided to do - we have all given you heaps of "advice", now it is up to you for the next step. looking forward to hearing what you decided to do
This a taken from a blog posting by Peter Reinhart.
I have been receiving e-mails from readers of the "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" (the BBA for short) about a problem that our recipe testers have already faced--sourdough (i.e., wild yeast) starters that bubble away early and then go dormant. I have addressed this in American Pie and will do so with more detail in the upcoming whole grains book, but this is for those new folks who are writing to me, so I can refer them to this site for a quick explanation and solution.
Through the work of a diligent group of home bakers at the King Arthur Baking Circle (www.kingarthurflour.com), led by one of our current testers, Debbie Wink, it was discovered that a strain of bacteria called leuconostoc exists in a lot of flour (moreso now, it seems than a few years ago). This bacteria masquerades as yeast in the early stage of a seed culture starter, in that it generates a lot of carbon dioxide making it appear that the wid yeast cells are growing rapidly. However, the wild yeast really needs a more acidic environment than exists during the first few days of the starter's existence and, unfortunately, the leuconostoc interferes with yeast growth during this grand masquerade. At a certain point, as the bacteria causes the dough to become more acidic, the acid actually de-activates the leuconostoc (it actually contributes to its own demise), but the wild yeast have not had a chance to propogate and grow in numbers, so there is a domancy period in which nothing seems to be happening. Many folks have assumed they killed their starter when it did not seem to respond to a Day 3 or Day 4 feeding, and threw it out. Others waited and saw mold form on the top of the starter and, of course, they too threw it out. That's about the time I start getting their e-mails. So here are two solutions to the problem:
First, if you are starting from scratch, use canned pineapple juice instead of water during the first two days of feeding. The acid in the juice is just at the right ph level to acidify the dough to the yeast's liking but not to the leuconostoc. The starter should then work as written. You should then switch to back to water from Day Three onward, and slowly the pineapple juice will dilute out as you feed and refresh your starter over time.
Second, and this is a big breakthrough I think, you should stir your seed culture starter two or three times a day, for about one minute each time, to aerate it. Yeast loves oxygen and multiplies faster when you stimulate the mixture with air. In addition, the stirring evens out the hydration of the dough and exposes any surface organisms that may have drifted onto the starter to the acidic environment within, and thus deactivates them while the yeast and the good lactobacillus organisms continue to grow. I've lost count of how many people solved their starter problem simply by this aeration technique. Once your starter is fully established it will be healthy enough to not need this added process, but it would be wise, I think, to continue the aeration throughout the seed culture phase.
If you are already into the process of beginning a seed culture but did not know about the "pineapple juice solution," fret not. Just begin the frequent aeration and see what happens. Most likely, your starter will come to life and when it does, it will probably stay on the schedule as written in the book.
Thanks, Dan. Debra has written extensively about leuconostocs here on TFL. It's really only a problem before the culture gets going. My particular culture was made using pineapple juice, so I should have skipped that stage altogether. In fact, I used the Pineapple Juice Method purposefully to skip that stage.
I don't think that was my problem. But this is really great information to have on this thread in case others read it and have that problem.
Thanks for posting.
I know it is the holiday season and you are probably real busy but hey, where's the next installment in this series?