The Fresh Loaf

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Several-Week-Old Sourdough Starter Smells Right, But Barely Bubbling?

Washburnt's picture
Washburnt

Several-Week-Old Sourdough Starter Smells Right, But Barely Bubbling?

Like the title says, I began a starter about three weeks ago using a recipe found on YouTube from John Kirkwood. I thought it had reached maturity after about a week, because it smelled correct and had *some* bubbling (I'm new at this, so I thought it was good enough); so, I popped it in the fridge and I've been giving it a hefty feed every week since. However, yesterday I tried making my first loaf of bread with it, and found myself very confused. Like I said, it smelled right, has the right consistency, etc. But the dough barely rose after a very long bulk fermentation (all while I kept an eye on it, and so I know it didn't rise and then deflate. It just didn't really move much at all). The bread tasted fine and all: sour-ness was correct and everything, but there was almost no oven spring and no crumb-holes inside. The boule just kind of turned into a big dense pancake, even though I formed some nice surface tenseion over the top during pre-shaping. The density even prevented the bread from cooking correctly, because it was somewhat gummy inside despite being REALLY crusty in the outside. I'm at a loss. I don't think my recipe was off, and maybe I should have given the dough more time; but I thought a day-long retardation would be enough. My suspicion really is coming down to my starter, which is too bad because I thought I *had* it. Any help would be appreciated - I'm at the point where I'm not sure if I should throw it away or if I should try and supplement with just a FEW particles of active dry yeast to get some activity started. Would this be a viable option, considering I've gotten the bacteria and sour-ness correct?

Thanks a bunch!!

pcake's picture
pcake

how often were/are you feeding your starter, and what percentage of your starter's overall weight are/were you feeding it?  also what temperatures do you keep it at?

you don't want to refrigerate it till it regularly rises and gets nice and bubbly, and if you're growing your starter in a cool location, it's going to take longer to reach maturity.  btw, if it doesn't rise, it won't be able to lift your bread.

Washburnt's picture
Washburnt

Like I said in the post, I'm feeding it once a week now in the refrigerator. I'm discarding half and feeding it half again at 100% hydration. I now know after more research that it hasn't reached maturity and that it won't lift my bread until then, thank you. I started it at room temp for a week, and that's why I thought it was go to go: like I said. It smelled right and had a few bubbles, so being new to using a starter I thought I could put it in the fridge.  I'm happy to take it out of the refridgerator to get it going again, I just want to know if it's even salvagable first . Any ideas for solutions?

Washburnt's picture
Washburnt

I forgot to mention, I was also feeding it much more often during the first week of actually "starting" it. See John Kirkwoods recipe in YouTube if you want to know exactly how I made it. 

pcake's picture
pcake

when it wasn't refrigerated, how often were you feeding it and how much?  

and again, what temperature was it kept at before you stuck it in the fridge?  mine was slower to develop at 72 degrees f, and would not have been ready at a week.

the water where i am has LOTS of chlorine, which kept my first starter from thriving.  when i started using filtered water, i got much faster development.

it's not ready to be refrigerated till it's actively rising and falling.  a few bubbles won't be enough to lift your bread.  it needs lots of carbon dioxide.  at very least, it needs to be very bubbly and frothy.

Washburnt's picture
Washburnt

If you look up the video on YouTube by John Kirkwood, it'll tell you my original feeding schedule. 75 degrees, and sometimes on near the stove after it had been used, so warmer at thise times. And I have been using bottled water, so no chlorine .

And thank you, as I said in a previous comment I understand now that it's not ready to make my bread rise. I'm sorry that I was apparently stupid enough to think that a starter that smelled right was ready to use. Again, I'm new and just trying to ask for some help on solutions. I understand that if I were still in the first phase of making the starter that feeding times and temperature would be important, but it's been three weeks, so that's not what I'm trying to solve now. I'm asking if can add some active dry yeast without harming the already-correct bacteria that are already thriving in the starter. Otherwise, I'll just start over. 

hreik's picture
hreik

Just take it out and feed it on a regular schedule at room temp for a while.  Do not add any commercial yeast.  That would throw things off.

It sounds like your only error was trying too soon to bake.  My starter took weeks and weeks and a ton of advice from people here b/f it could lift any dough.

Just persevere.  You'll have this down in no time at all.

hester

Washburnt's picture
Washburnt

Thank you much! That's what I needed .How often do you mean when you say regular schedule? 

hreik's picture
hreik

starter guru.  Lechem knows a ton.  Here are 2 very long posts (comments included) on the care and feeding of starters.

The first is starting a starter:  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10251/starting-starter-sourdough-101-tutorial

The next is care and feeding:  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/1959/care-and-feeding-sourdough-starter

Reading them will likely answer some of your questions and raise new ones.

Good luck and don't give up or start over.

hester

Washburnt's picture
Washburnt

Fantastic. I'll give those a look. Thanks!!

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

 And you refrigerated it too early. I agree with Hester. Just take it out of the fridge and begin some regular feedings at room temperature. When it bubbles up on cue it's ready. Here's what I would do. 

Feed 50g of starter with 25g water which has been boiled and cooled and 25g flour. Any will do but wholegrain works best and wholegrain rye works best of all. 

Keep it warm and wait! Don't feed again till you see some activity. Till then give it a good stir every 12 hours. Patience. 

When you next see activity then take off 50g and feed the remaining 50g as above. Then do the same! Wait until you see activity etc. 

Once your starter begins to show signs of strength, predictably and bubbles up on cue then you can feed it larger amounts and twice a day. For example...

Keep 20g starter and feed it 40g water + 40g flour. Follow the same rule. If it bubbles up on cue and within 12 hours then feed again at the 12 hour mark. If it slows down then slow down your feeds. 

Eventually you should find it'll be strong and bubble up on cue with big feeds then you know it's ready.