The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Frustrated

etp71426's picture
etp71426

Frustrated

I have I have been trying this sourdough thing for a few weeks now. I am starting to get frustrated because I can't seem to get it right. I have a loaf last night that had way too much Tang and would not brown. Prior to that I had loves that look great on the outside and had no sour to them. I've had Lowe's that are just completely Bland. And I don't understand what I'm doing wrong. I'm following the King Arthur recipe. It doesn't ask for much salt, do I need to add way more salt to get flavor. And last night the Lo-Fi baked that was way too sour would not brown. I left it in the refrigerator overnight and followed their recipe to a tee. It still came out wrong. Now I've used up all my starter and I'm trying to build a new one and I'm on the second day and it's not doing anything. So I'm running into all kinds of issues and just generally about to give up. I can always bake yeast breads LOL

etp71426's picture
etp71426

I used talk to text. I forgot to edit it for punctuation and spelling LOL

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Not sure if you know, but you can edit any post you’ve ever made. Just look for the “edit” tab or link.

The better you document the procedures you used, the more help we can provide. Maybe you have a link to the KA recipe you are following. Pictures, videos (great) are huge helps.

By-the-way; if you are following the recipe don’t add more salt. That would be a big mistake.  King Arthur is a very reputable source for recipes and information. If you are having a problem with their recipes, the culprit is almost always going to be you. They do extensive testing and it is a great source for information. IMO...

Don’t Give Up! The only problems you mentioned dealt with flavor. If that is your only problem (I expect not) you are in good shape. How is the rise? What about the crumb? How is the crust?

If you are not using any store bought yeast and your loaves are rising well, even though the taste is off, you are well on your way.

It is not normal to have 1 bake too tangy, the next too bland. Extreme fluctuations in flavor is not the norm. Baking with sourdough starters have a learning curve. But, boy is it worth it!

Give us as much detail as you can. We’re here to help.

Dan

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

If its under a month old it can take time before the flavours balance themselves.  

HansB's picture
HansB

First of all, don't use all of your starter! Always keep some back so you can feed it and have it forever. 

If you want to try a really good bread, this one is good: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/44111/easy-sourdough-part-1

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Used up all the starter? Sounds like a batch was made and then recipes were tried till non were left. Tells me it was a very young starter and not maintained well. Not too mention all has been used. 

That's a big shame.

syros's picture
syros

because it took me two months to get my starter working. I almost gave up until I finally tried the starter from King’s Roost. From my very little experience at this I have to agree with more knowledgeable bakers here - your starter was young and depending on how long you have had it and been feeding it, also impacts the flavor. Were you keeping it out and feeding it daily or did you put it in the fridge and then build the levain. It’s a process. Don’t get discouraged. Also what type of flour are you using in your starter? I found using a 50/50 rye/all purpose mix worked the best for me to get the starter going and to keep it going. When I went to make my first loaf, my levain build was with all purpose. Just keep asking questions here and you’ll have success.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Once you get your new starter going, try again. Share the recipe with us, document exactly what you're doing. Then tell us the results.  We can help you tweak your recipe, one adjustment at a time. Little by little, you will get there. You're not the only one to start out frustrated. This community is the best for taking that frustration and turning into friendship and camaraderie. 

You will likely get a lot of different suggestions when you do this, responses as to what you can change to make a difference. But pick one thing at a time to change and go with it from there.

Recently, I learned that making a starter at home is dicey, even if you follow all the rules. It works a lot...but sometimes, you just get stuck with a weird set of microbes that don't behave as nicely or as predictably as other people's starters. When that happens, you can always order a dried starter and reactive it.  That only takes a couple of days and remove a lot of the variables.  THat's the path I took recently thanks to everyone's help here.

One of the most difficult things as a beginner in any craft is learning what you have to stay strict about and where you can be flexible. You might be doing things you had no idea were making a difference in your bread. That's where the wizened folks here can help you. THat's also why it helps to document everything.

We are here for you.  Carry on.  You're not alone in your initial frustration.

etp71426's picture
etp71426

Thank you all for offering some help. My new starter is starting to Bubble a little bit. It's kind of really cold here at the moment so I'm assuming the temperature in my house could have something to do with it. Once I turn the heat up it started to work but slowly. The recipes I followed on King Arthur flour website was the extra Tangy sourdough and The Rustic sourdough. I believe The Rustic sourdough has added yeast. The Rustic sourdough came out okay but not a lot of sourdough flavor. The extra Tangy recipe I tried had good rise decent Crum pale and way too Tangy. Like I said I'll follow their recipes to a tee. If I knew how to link I would link them to you all here. Sorry I'm not very tech-savvy LOL. Last night I fed my starter some King Arthur AP and it's starting to work now slowly but surely. I have confidence in that as the starter I had before that I made myself was very vigorous. On this last loaf I baked which was the extra Tangy recipe from King Arthur, I turned my starter into a stiff starter. The reason being is that I had read that that would impart more sour flavor. I let the dough sit overnight in the refrigerator as the recipe had stated. This is the recipe that would not brown for some reason. It also was way too Tangy. Thanks again for any input. If anyone needs any new information let me know

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

At what stage did you begin using your starter last time? I ask because sometimes the first bubbling up is a "false" start and you have to continue to feed it till it's strong, predictable and smells good.

In the winter it can take a lot longer than the summer.

etp71426's picture
etp71426

Starer still isn't doing anything.i just gave it the second feeding just about 2 hours ago. It is right by the oven my wife is cooking so there's quite a bit of heat there. I will see in a few if it is starting to do anything.

syros's picture
syros

and you could put your starter in the oven with the light on if you feel it’s too cool in your house. That will give it the boost it needs. Also, make sure your water is filtered. When you make the levain, the water needs to be warm to get things going. Making a starter and keeping it alive is a learning curve. It’s not easy - like I said, two months and ten pounds of flour later before anything got going. 

 

jimbtv's picture
jimbtv

After several failed attempts at building my first starter, I had great success by coincidence.

I am also a gardener so in early April I began my plant seedlings, or starters. A consistently warm (around 80 F) environment is needed until the first shoots appear which takes about 7 days. I took this opportunity to make another attempt at a bread starter since I knew I would have a consistently warm temperature for days and days.

What a difference! The bread starter performed just like in all the articles and postings, and I have been running that starter for about 2 years now.

In my opinion, temperature control will have a profound effect on your efforts.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

A few ideas for possible warm places. I’m no authority, but I’m thinking you wouldn’t want to go warmer than 78 - 80F. (Others may suggest a different max temp) As others have stated temperature has a major affect on your starter.

On top of water heater

Top of refrigerator

Heating pad - this can work very well, but monitor the temperature for over heating

Mentioned earlier - oven with light on 

You could try putting another light in the oven to supplement the oven light

Small light bulb or heating pad in ice chest

Check to make sure it doesn’t get too hot.

- a few thoughts

Dan

etp71426's picture
etp71426

My starter is showing signs of life finally. It's not real vigorous yet but at least I know it's finally starting to grow. It will be awhile before I can use it so I'm using yeast for now. I'm currently waiting for a loaf of white bread to do it's first rise. Hopefully in about 2 weeks it will be strong enough to use. I want to wait as long as it takes for the starter to not only give rise to my bread but also impart the right taste. Is 2 weeks long enough as far as flavor goes?

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

But over a month or so is needed for a starter to really mature into a well balanced flavour. 

etp71426's picture
etp71426

Puzzling is that the starter I used up got real vigorous very quickly. Why did this new one not do the same?

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Living things are unpredictable. You're just there to feed it and keep it warm. The yeasts and bacteria do the rest. 

Quite often a quick bubbling up doesn't come from the same bugs found in an established sourdough starter. 

etp71426's picture
etp71426

Like that could be potentially yucky...lol

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

These quick bacteria give off carbon dioxide which turns the starter acidic and actually kills themselves off. Making way for the good yeasts and bacteria. It's fascinating. And yes, the smells a starter can go through in the beginning can be kind of yucky. This makes many believe the starter has gone off. Not so! Just carry on and as it matures it'll begin to smell nice. 

etp71426's picture
etp71426

Seems I've stumbled onto a great community here. Thanks so much for the advice and help!------

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Glad we found you too :) 

etp71426's picture
etp71426

Keeping it on a whole wheat diet for now for good measure.

etp71426's picture
etp71426

Keeping it on a whole wheat diet for now for good measure. Its almost tripled since I last fed it. Im still going to wait till it matures more before I make another attempt at a bake.

carlosnyb's picture
carlosnyb

My first month with my starter resulted in a variety of mild shades of flavor, I tried toward the end to get something sour and it didn't work, I figure that first month if it tastes good (whether mild or somewhat tangy) and it's rising bread, that's a lot of progress!  I'm happy with good mild bread as well as good sour bread, so I figure it's just an adventure maybe I'll stumble upon some knack or understanding.

Happy baking!

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Carlos, although I haven't proven it yet, I have an idea to take a mild starter and have it produce sour bread.

Since I've been catering my starter to increase the yeast population my starter has become very mild. It used to produce very tangy (sour) bread. But a starter that caters to sour will not be maximized for yeast, aka lifting power.

So I plan to use my mild starter and build the sour into the levain and/or the final dough. Either while fermenting the levain or during the bulk ferment I plan to either increase the time of fermentation (via room temperature or cold retard) in order to give the LAB (sour microbes) to or I may increase the temperature into the high 80's to 92 in order to stimulate the LAB's growth.

Like I said, at this time it is a theory only. I've not tried to implement this yet. But others have claimed the same methods with success.

HTH, Dan

carlosnyb's picture
carlosnyb

more time, either colder or hotter, apparently, odd and fascinating, and tasty experimentation awaits!

alfanso's picture
alfanso

how about cultivating one mild and one sour. Use them both in the same mix. I haven’t yet seen a rule against it. In fact Mr. Hamelman has at least one example of using mixed starters. 

I’ve done it and so can you. 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I thought about that. Have you used a sweet and sour starter together in a single recipe? If so, how did it perform?

Hey Alan, I spent some time today scoring some home made play dough that I made. I’m still tweaking the play dough consistency but it is working out amazingly well. It is also very good for practicing shaping.

Dan

alfanso's picture
alfanso

I doubt that my mix introduced any sour notes (rather sweet like those of Stan Getz!)  If it had, I would have taken note of that as I really don't like sour beyond a mild tang in my bread.  In fact, in the comments to my post, I did:

This bread has a nice bright flavor, not too "earthy", and enhanced by the combination of the two levains.  And a wonderful crustiness to the bite.  And I do love crust! I will guess that the two levains contribute to a slightly more sour taste, something that we both detected.  Neither of us goes for the true sour of a strong levain, and this is certainly within our enjoyable zone as well.

Here is the post.