The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

After less than 24 hours, new levain starter more than doubled

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

After less than 24 hours, new levain starter more than doubled

I'm using 100% whole wheat flour from HEB that's supposedly organic.

 

It was very bubbly and had an unpleasant odor. I was expecting this on maybe, MAYBE the second day, possibly third day. 

 

 

While I did not make sure the water added was 90 degrees, the ambient temperature of the kitchen varies from 75 at night to 80s in the morning to maybe 92 peak during the afternoon in the summer. It may have been in the low 100s outside and the kitchen is just in the worst area of the house as far as AC coverage.

I used a just-emptied ice cream container. I used hot water to melt any visible ice cream, then went after it with a soapy sponge. While it was "clean" it did(and still sorta does) smell like ice cream. However, Ken Forkish says how a levain begins isn't important to long-term performance or flavor, just how it's maintained. So I'm not worried(yet) about what it'll taste like in 5 or 6 days in bread, just wondering if that might've had an effect. 

 

Abe's picture
Abe

The initial bubbling up can happen quickly and the smell confirms it is leuconostoc in nature. So far all very normal and expected. 

Carry on. 

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

That's good to know. I'd looked at a few different starter guides and I didn't see too much about day-1 action. More like troubleshooting after 14 or 7 days and it's still not bubbly kind of thing. So after seeing that, and FWSY mentions doubling on the third day, first day action was surprising.

Now in FWSY, Ken mentions day-3 levain's has a leathery alcohol smell, and this certainly was not leathery in the slightest. It smelled bad, but I didn't quite know what to call it. ...until I read someone else's post on here where they thought their starter smelled like vomit. If I walked into a room and smelled this starter and someone told me it was vomit, I would believe it. 

So what am I looking for with a levain that's ready to use?

Ken Forkish says it should have "medium-ripe pungency." I'm not sure I'm familiar with low and full-ripe pungencies. lol

Another guide I read says, "a healthy sourdough starter usually has a fresh yeasty smell with, perhaps, a bit of an astringent note to it."

I think I know what active dry yeast mixed with water smells like, so I don't know if that's what is meant, there.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

dead.  As the acid level goes higher and the pH drops the bad wee beasties like these will die off likely before the the less active acid tolerant ones take over.  The lag may be a day or two after it goes dead before it perks up again with the good stuff..

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

Yeah it wasn't doubled, or indicative of having doubled, this morning. There were bubbles, though. The smell was definitely less offensive, however. I moved the container to an area that's around 75-80 peak rather than 80-90s. 

Yesterday, the first discard, I accidentally over-discarded. I forgot to account for the container and I discarded 85% rather than the 75% FWSY calls for. Whoops. 

One weird thing, the vomit-ish odor from yesterday's discard was so bad that I sealed up the trash bag I put it in and took it outside. Smell gone. Last night I went for a walk and didn't smell it at all when I walked by the trash can. As I got further away I would pick up whiffs of a strikingly similar smell. I thought I could smell it up to a quarter mile away. On the way back I didn't smell it at all.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

that what forkish calls for.  His starter and levain builds are insane

grainofstrength's picture
grainofstrength

Mine smelled like vomit for 2-3 days. Then started to smell like overripe fruit and yeasty. It still isn’t strong enough to rise a dough (Day 14 here), but hopefully soon. 

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

You're on day 14? What starter/levain plan are you using? I'm using the Flour Water Salt Yeast thing which everyone says is insane and wasteful. However, the author seems to be confidant I'll be making bread on day 5(monday) so we'll see I guess. I did goof yesterday with over-discarding so I don't know what that'll do to me.

grainofstrength's picture
grainofstrength

I am also using Ken Forkish’s method for Levain. I was confident on day 5 and was wrong. 

Mine is currently taking about 24 hours to double in size, a lot different than Ken’s which triples or more in 24 hours. I think it may have to do that I live in a desert with 0% humidity, so I’m playing with hydration levels in case that may be it. My house has no humidity. 

But ya, won’t rise a dough yet. I did also start a rye starter from The Perfect Loaf website, which is already showing more activity on Day 4 than the Levain from FWSY on Day 14. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

I certainly don't have a lack of humidity. Do you use a humidifier? If so, some people use some seriously crazy chemicals in the humidifier to curb mold growth.

Does yours ever have a thin layer of liquid on the top? I've read this is alcohol called "hooch" and indicative of a hungry starter. Mine had a thin layer today about 6 hours after I fed it!? I thought that was supposed to show up if I hadn't fed it in a day or so. I was under the impression that a 75% discard was essentially "super feeding" it.

A possible cause I came across was a container that's too well sealed. I could be guilty of this because I'm using one of those gallon+1pint ice cream jugs with a tight lid. 

Another possibility is too much heat. I did use 90.1 degree water today when feeding because I was putting it in the "cool" spot in the living room. Yet it got up to 103 outside, so it was no less than 85 all day, so the temp-boosted feed water was likely totally unnecessary. I read somewhere else it's best to keep starter below 78 degrees, so I'm utterly failing on that front. 

grainofstrength's picture
grainofstrength

The humidity will probably help a little bit. I fed mine a little extra water, 85% instead of 80% after day 5, and it’s been thriving with that. 

Mine did have what seemed to be a layer of hooch on it the first few days. It’s likely that the had bacteria that’s causing the vomit smell, as well as everything else going on in that ecosystem, is feeding on everything quickly. I wouldn’t worry about it just yet. Just keep discarding and feeding and eventually the good bacteria and yeast will take over. 

I stopped sealing it tight. I drape a piece of cling film over it, not sealing it, but just keeping stuff from falling into it by accident. I would give it a little chance to breath. I also would stir it at night (given I fed it in the morning, 12 hours later I would stir it, just to introduce some more oxygen and mix in that “hooch” or whatever the thin layer was).

I would actually disagree on the temperature. You’re probably fine. Once again, just going off my personal experience in this process, mine thrived in 80º - 85º temps. I keep my house cold, 65º - 70º max. This worked well in a lot of regards for Forkish’s book because he operates in a similar environment (albeit, humid). But, I didn’t have a warm spot in the house. The AC makes almost every area cool. So, I put it in the oven with the light on. Once doing this, I get a lot more activity. Just in the past 2 days since doing this I have seen a “rise & fall” in my rye starter, which is a great sign. And my Forkish levin has now tripled in 24 hours due to this (and a little extra hydration). I don’t think I’ll go past 90º, but I don’t think where you’re at is going to hurt it. Totally not scientific, just a curious guess, normal yeast is bloomed in 100º - 110º water, so I think you’re okay. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Lastly, i’ll leave with you two things about Forkish’s levain that has been a struggle and things i’ve learned in the process:

1. Switch to organic flours (whole wheat and all purpose), even if just for the levain. It did provide a boost in activity when I did this.

2. Go buy a few gallon jugs of spring water. The water in my tap and filter contained too much chlorine / chloranine, which never allowed my first levain (this is actually my second attempt), to thrive after even 7 days.

3. Please pair down Forkish’s recommended levain amount. Unless you too are running a bakery, or baking 6-8 loaves of levain risen bread every day. He even says in the book that you can do this. I did the 50g Levain, 200g Whole Wheat, 200g water for the first 7 days. These are the exact ratios that he uses, just paired down by half. I saw the highest amount of levain he uses is 360g for one recipe. So, now that i’m on a regular feeding schedule, I paired it down to 40g Levain, 40g Whole Wheat, 160 All Purpose, 160g of water (well, 170g for me due to needing a slighter higher hydration for the dryness of the environment). This gives me a total of 400g of levain -- 360g to use at max for a recipe, and 40g left over for feeding and maintaining. 

Anyway, hope this helps. I found time to type this this morning as my oven is currently preheating to try and bake my first levain risen bread with the Forkish levain. I’ve seen a lot of activity the past 2 days, it’s been tripling in volume, so I figured why the hell not try it. So far, my dough almost doubled, but never close to tripled, in the bulk fermentation. Hoping it will have a nice oven spring because even after the proof it’s not really doing too much. I actually modified the Overnight Country Blonde recipe to work on my schedule, so it’s really a crap shot as I didn’t follow the recipe as intended, haha.

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

I hope your loaf works! I wish I was about to bake.

 

I do use organic whole wheat. I didn't buy organic white flour since I didn't plan on using it long.

 

I do have a 3-stage filter setup with a carbon block filter that makes local water tolerable, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to get some spring water next shopping trip. 

 

Vomit smell is gone, but I still can't call this "good-smelling." 

 

Day 4 before the feed, it did basically what it did yesterday which was about nothing. *oh and I'm not sealing it, now, I'm just covering it with the lid slightly to the side.

Still bubbly and puddle-like, however.

 

I repeated day-3 instructions by leaving 250 grams in the mix rather than 200 since it's just not as active as day-4 is indicated in the book to be. I went ahead and used 90.6 degree water since it's supposed to be a tad cooler today.

 

I sorta wish I'd started a second starter with the lower amounts to see if that would've been any different than the kilogram per day mix. 

grainofstrength's picture
grainofstrength

Loaf came out alright, didn’t rise much but had plenty of gaseous holes. Tasted so great. But, need to figure out if it’s still not strong enough or if I need to ferment even longer. 

Judging by the look of it, it does seem to be running out of food quick, which could be due to leaving 250g instead of 200g of Levain and having the environment be warmer. I would keep feeding it and see if it subsides. The smell should be pleasant within the next 2-3 days, if not, might be something else going on. Also, maybe try feeding (without removing) again this evening. So, this:

1. Feed in the morning the normal way Forkish says too. 200g Levain, 400g flour, 400g water. 

2. Stir it down mid day to introduce some oxygen. 

3. Feed it in the evening (do not discard), 100g flour 100g water. 

You will have more to discard but it will have fresh food to make it to the next day without getting a lot of hooch and allowing the yeast to flourish. 

Hope it all works out for you!

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

Glad it was delicious! You should post a crum shot. Lets see those gass holes. Wait, that doesn't sound right. 

 

Mine has almost doubled in 12 hours. I didn't see any hooch tonight so I left it alone.

I really should clean the sides of the container to make it easier to see, but I lifted the lid and double looked to be correct. The sides also appeared to be tapered downward at the edges. So it was like an upward push, possibly indicating that it hadn't fallen too much, if at all, yet.

I think I'll pretend tomorrow is day 4 again and actually discard all but 200 grams. Maybe Tuesday I can make a proper loaf. If not it'll be an edible failure. 

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

Looks about the same as yesterday. Should I leave the lid off after feeding to capture more yeasty beasties?

 

Fiddled around with the color and contrast settings to maybe get the bubbles to show up better. 

Abe's picture
Abe

have all come from the flour itself then there's no need to try and capture anything else. Keep the lid on, but not too tight so the gas can escape, so it doesn't dry out.

Looks good to me. What does it smell like?

What day are you up to and what is a typical feed?

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

Smells like liquid bread. Not offensive at all, it's just not quite doubling, and it's taking its time to do it.

I guess this is the 6th day.

It's been up to this point always a 100% hydration feed of HEB branded organic 100% whole wheat.

Day 2 accidentally discarded 85% - foul smell, more than doubled, evidence of possible tripling before collapsing

Day 3 and 4 I discarded 75% - day 3 not much expansion day 4 almost double after 8-12 hours - decreasing unpleasant odor

Day 5 I discarded 80% - mild odor

Day 6(today) I haven't decided what to do - probably the mildest odor yet

 

I did read this on King Arthur's site: "One of our readers offers the following thoughts about the duration of everyday feeding, which we think is great advice: "Conditions vary so widely that 7 days can be far too little. I've learned the key is to watch for a dramatic and consistent rise in the jar — at least doubling between 1 and 4 hours after feeding. This could be 7 days or less after you begin, or it could be three weeks (for me it was 12 to 14 days)"

Mine is almost doubling, but it sure isn't doing it in 1 to 4 hours. 

Abe's picture
Abe

Put 20g of discard into the jar and feed it 80g water + 90g bread flour + 10g wholegrain flour. 

See what happens. 

Treat this as a side experiment while maintaining your main starter. If it reacts well then concentrate on this off shoot starter following the same feed as above.  Don't feed till it peaks and keep warm. 

grainofstrength's picture
grainofstrength

I would say just keep it going. If it smells like liquid bread, it’s starting to develop the wild yeast. I kept going with mine, and after day 17 / 18 (lost count) was able to bake a loaf of bread. And pair it down! I’m feeding mine a lot less and I feel I’m going through way too much flour haha. 

Anyway, like I said, keep going. This was my result (Overnight Country Blonde with different bulk fermentation / proofing times) after it finally matured:


Good luck!

Abe's picture
Abe

Lovely looking loaf. Looks delicious. Yes it can take some time to mature into a starter to make a loaf like that. Keep going is the best advice. I also wanted to get it down to manageable levels with building no more than 200g worth while making it a good feed which will build up yeast levels. But time, warmth and food is what it needs. I see nothing wrong so far. All looks on schedule.  

grainofstrength's picture
grainofstrength

Thank you! It was pretty dang good. I agree with time, warmth, and food! I had to move mine to the oven with the light on before it started to kick in. Definitely on schedule!

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

That is dang gorgeous. I know mine won't look that good since it's 100% whole wheat, but maybe I'll make a loaf like that with AP flour once I get a starter worth a crap.

grainofstrength's picture
grainofstrength

Forkish does switch to this on day 5:

150g levain
100g whole wheat
400g all purpose
400g water

So yours should look just like mine! Once matured the standard feeding is:

100g levain
100g whole wheat
400g all purpose
400g water

I am using the FWSY levain build as well, just paired down the amount so I wasn’t making so much. Once again, I do:

40g levain
40g whole wheat
160g all purpose
175g water (had to add more water to get mine to activate since i’m in a desert)

It’s working so well now. By the time I get home from work after feeding in the morning it’s tripled. At the end of the evening it is almost 4 times the amount. It’s so great. Need to just bake more bread with it!

treesparrow's picture
treesparrow

Hi Robin, when I first followed a starter recipe I found mine had easily tripled after 28 hours, and it went apparently dead the third day. It sat there for days, sulking, doing nothing -- not at all behaving like the recipe said it would -- and so I went to ask the internet about it. That's how I landed here ;-)

I found this post by Debra Wink tremendously helpful. If you don't feel like reading the whole post, just scroll down to almost the end of the post (not the page) where you'll find a recipe that works beautifully.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2

and here is a printer friendly, short-ish summary of the whole process

http://forums.finecooking.com/print/node/63318?page=2&comment=737624

By the way, I work with really small amounts. Once it's really up and running, I'll feed 20 or 25 grams of starter with twice the amount of water and twice the amount of flour. At room temperature, that mixture will double in about eight hours. No need to discard lots of flour. That way, I can also keep several starters in the fridge quite easily, one wheat-based, one rye-based, for example, and keep experimenting.

Good luck with yours! Be patient, it'll be grown up after two weeks and then be your friend for years.
Tsp

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

Sweet! I'll pick up some pineapple juice tomorrow!

 

I went ahead and pulled all but 200 grams grams of the starter out and fed it. 

 

I'm trying to make dough from the discard, but it's way too goopy even after folding. 

What I had was about 980 grams of discard. Theoretically 490 flour and 490 water. Probably more flour and less water. But I put that in the big dough tub along with 510 grams flour and 340 grams water. So I should have around 1000 grams of flour and 830 grams of water. 1% more water than the 75% WW hybrid levain receipe in FWSY.

I let that sit 30 minutes then added 22 grams salt and 2 grams commercial yeast. Mixed that up 20 minutes ago and just got done attempting to fold it. It immediately returns to almost puddle form. I wouldn't be able to pick up the dough "ball" to invert it. It's not soup but damn near. 

Abe's picture
Abe

Is only for the first feed. This is to lower the PH level which is what your starter has done already. 

Hi need for pineapple juice as you're past that stage. Just carry on with what you're doing. 

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

I was going to just start a new parallel starter with that since it's only tablespoons of everything. But it does appear to be pure pineapple the first 3 days of feeding, then on the 4th day water. If it works and Ken's way didn't work, then...

 

I added 40 more grams of flour and it had no effect. Still immediate soup after folding. Going to add 80 more grams and see what happens. That'll be an effective 74.1% hydration so...

Abe's picture
Abe

If you wish then start an off shoot starter with the recommended feeding I gave you above. You are building hundreds of grams more than you need to. With 20g of starter + 80g water + 100g flour, keeping it warm and only feeding when peaked you'll be building up the yeast population with the healthy feeds and not building too much either. No need to start again. 6 days is still very young. 

"What I had was about 980 grams of discard. Theoretically 490 flour and 490 water. Probably more flour and less water. But I put that in the big dough tub along with 510 grams flour and 340 grams water. So I should have around 1000 grams of flour and 830 grams of water. 1% more water than the 75% WW hybrid levain receipe in FWSY".

 Well of course it's soup. Where did you come up with this recipe? 

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

Why is it of course soup? 

It's a fabrication by someone who doesn't know what's going on, but wants to do something with almost a kilo of starter that doesn't rise as much as it should, yet doesn't smell bad.

Abe's picture
Abe

Cut down on this crazy Forkish starter recipe. It's like the magic porridge pot. It's going to take over your house. When it comes to the next feed cut back like my suggestion. At any one time you will have no more than 200g starter. And when that's done you'll only keep 80-100g at any one time, keep it in the fridge and it only gets fed when you need it. But that's for later. From here on in carry on with your feeds but cut right down. All you'll need is a jam sized jar. 

The amount of highly fermented starter in your recipe is 192%. A regular amount is often (but not always) around about 10-30%. There are exceptions but 192% is a crazy amount. That is why you'll only get soup. You'll probably only get a semblance of a dough when that 980g of discard gets to be around 50% starter in a recipe (give or take). 

*there are exceptions, which I've done myself, but these are an idea on percentages.

First things first... stop! 

I'm not sure what you have now or how much has been wasted but starter discard can be used up in pancakes, waffles etc. But the amount you're building you will be able to feed an army. 

So cut your losses and put a little discard in the fridge as back up (60-100g?). Take 20g starter and build a new one from it. Follow the instructions and in a few days try a recipe but with guidance. I know it's daunting at first but unfortunately you used Forkish as a recipe to make your starter which will only add to the confusion.

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

Ok ok, I'll lower the amounts. 

 

I figure the discard percentage is a bit different. Still way more than 30%, but not 192%. I'm no mathmagician, but here is where I think I am:

The total discard weight is 101% of the fresh total. There is 128.6% as much fresh flour as fermented.

 

It resembles dough at this time. For better or worse, it's gunna get baked as some kind of bread loaves in the morning. If they're dense, sour, little bricks, it'll be far from the worst thing I've ever done in a kitchen. 

Abe's picture
Abe

I give in TFL has gone haywire. 

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

From your other messages:

"Flour is always 100% in bakers' maths."

"Flour is always 100% and everything else is a percentage to the fresh flour."

 

That's what I thought, but I'm terrible at math. If we're saying that 100% of the discard(including water) is compared to just the fresh flour and not the fresh water, then we're talking about 980(discard) compared to 630fresh flour)(155%). Or before I added the extra 40, then 80 grams, 980 would have been 192% of 510 grams. Ok. I still think that's wrong.

 

In flour water salt yeast, a recipe with a poolish has 1000 of poolish(500 water, 500 flour) and 500 fresh flour, so you would call that a 200% pre-ferment? The author refers to that as 50% bakers percentage. I assume because it contains 50% of all flour called for in the recipe. By that formulation, my 980 grams of discard would only count as 490 towards the total flour in the recipe. I would have a 43% preferment considering I have 1120 total grams of flour. When you were factoring in 510 as the fresh amount, it would have been a 49% preferment. Still higher than 30, sure, but never 192. That indeed would have been crazy. Maybe. I dunno. I'm new to all this.

 

 

Abe's picture
Abe

"That's what I thought, but I'm terrible at math. If we're saying that 100% of the discard(including water) is compared to just the fresh flour and not the fresh water, then we're talking about 980(discard) compared to 630fresh flour)(155%). Or before I added the extra 40, then 80 grams, 980 would have been 192% of 510 grams".

All that is correct. Your maths is spot on. Your starter was 192% before you added in the extra flour after which it was 155%.

"In flour water salt yeast, a recipe with a poolish has 1000 of poolish(500 water, 500 flour) and 500 fresh flour, so you would call that a 200% pre-ferment? The author refers to that as 50% bakers percentage. I assume because it contains 50% of all flour called for in the recipe. By that formulation, my 980 grams of discard would only count as 490 towards the total flour in the recipe. I would have a 43% preferment considering I have 1120 total grams of flour. When you were factoring in 510 as the fresh amount, it would have been a 49% preferment. Still higher than 30, sure, but never 192".

I don't have the poolish recipe in front of me but a poolish is often thought about as how much flour is pre-fermented. So pre-fermenting 50% of the flour will in fact give you a higher percentage of preferment to fresh flour.

And you are correct again... the flour in 980g starter at 100% hydration is 490g and if you add an extra 510g flour then you can think of it as 49% pre-fermented flour and if you add an extra 120g of flour on top of that to get 630g then the pre-fermented flour will now be 43.75% pre-fermented flour. However in a normal range of 30% starter, for example, which is 100% hydration you will have half of that as flour. You have correctly thought of the poolish as how much pre-fermented flour but you haven't done the same to the starter which is flour and water. So when a starter is 30% of a formula the flour within the starter is half that @ 100% hydration.

Secondly, a poolish and a sourdough starter are different. You add a drop of yeast to the poolish and you're careful not to over ferment it. A starter is your yeast made up of flour and water and as discard has probably been taken to a point where it's been fermented past that of a poolish with the gluten and flour being compromised. If you had a young starter, we're talking about a viable starter fed just 3-4 hours previously, and you attempted the same thing you might get different results. But the percentages of your recipe are way out.

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

In FWSY, one recipe where it calls for 750 of fresh flour and 425 of 70% hydration levain. The baker's percentage is just 25%. So we have the levain with 250 flour and 175 water, then the 750 fresh flour for a total of 1000 flour. 250 is 25% of 1000. But I have found examples in other places of recipes calculating the entire starter(flour and water) compared to just the fresh flour. So again something designed to make things easier... is also confusing.

 

Again, in no way was I arguing what I came up with was, even in my own mind, a good recipe. It was just a thing to not toss 980 grams of under-performing levain starter. 

Abe's picture
Abe

Might be easier to just remember that starter is flour and water so if it says such a % of starter it means flour + water.

If the formula says % of pre-fermented flour! then it's talking about amount of pre-fermented flour from the total within the starter.

For example I adjust formula's to take into account that my starter is 70% hydration and many recipes are for starters that are 100% hydration.

If we have a recipe like so...

  • Flour 500g (100%)
  • Water 350g (70%)
  • Salt 10g (2%)
  • Starter @ 100% hydration 20g (4%)

Then the starter will be 10g water + 10g flour. The flour within the starter is 2% in bakers' percentages and it's 10g of a total 510g flour = 1.96% pre-fermented flour.

(this is a long ferment no-knead formula I often do that's is why the starter % is low)

But my starter is 70% hydration! And I want to use my starter for this formula. So I do is keep the same amount of pre-fermented flour and use 17g of my starter.

17g starter @ 70% hydration is 7g water + 10g flour. I have kept the same amount of pre-fermented flour. Since the starter % is so small I don't adjust the final hydration. It's just 3g less water. If it was more then I'd put the water back into the final dough.

New Formula for my starter:

  • Flour 500g (100%)
  • Water 350g (70%) [+ 3g if particular]
  • Salt 10g (2%)
  • Starter @ 70% hydration 17g (3.4%)

Now since starter flour and hydration makes an impact on the final loaf then once the starter percentage is significant I will take a little starter and make a levain building it up to the correct requirements. But for this no-knead I keep it simple. So here is a good example of thinking about the same formula two different ways.

How's your off-shoot starter doing? And how did your bread turn out?

P.s. I know you weren't arguing. We're having a discussion to get around this confusing part to bread baking where everyone has their own unique way of understanding things.

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

The problem, and why I'll never remember any of this, is it seems we have 4 ways to calculate baker's percentage of starter/levain.

 

Starter/levain flour only: total flour including starter (how FWSY does it)

Starter/levain w/water : fresh flour only (how you got 192%)

Starter/levain w/water : total flour including starter (how some other recipes I've seen do it)

Starter/levain flour only : fresh flour only (haven't seen this yet but I'm new)

 

The only way to know what the fark to do is to know the starter recipe and the other recipe in grams.

 

reclaimed discard bread turned out horrific. Tart. Flat-ish. Rock hard crust. Moist, uncooked crumb. Terror to slice. Acceptable only as toast. I'll post a pic later.

 

Going to the store in a bit to get pineapple juice. I'll start the offshoot and new starter at some point when I get back. 

Abe's picture
Abe

It's all theory. Only way to learn is to bake. 

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

Wayyyyyy too zingy discard failure bread:

 

Abe's picture
Abe

Not too bad. I think you could make a decent loaf with your starter. Everything that is off about the bread is down to the recipe. But in truth your starter actually works! 

Drink the pineapple juice, for the next two to three days start a more normal regime for starter feeds and maintenance and then plan a recipe that has been tried and tested. You'll be surprised. 

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

Remember I added 2 grams of commercial yeast 30 minutes or so after I mixed the starter and fresh flour and water. I would have thought it would go to town based on what I've read about the vociferousness of saccharomyces cerevisiae, but I was genuinely surprised that's all the raise I got. I have three nearly identical jars, so I thought it would be a neat experiment to try the pineapple thing along with another experiment with just enriched bleached white flour. I almost wanted to do an additional experiment with bromated flour, but there's no way I would ever eat that, so I didn't. 

 

But yeah my next loaves will be straight dough with commercial yeast and white flour because I need to make something that is almost guaranteed to not suck. 

Abe's picture
Abe

By all means do one pineapple (although not necessary) and the other what we discussed but just concentrate on those two. I'm curious how a feed of 20g starter + 80g water + 100g flour will go. 

As for a yeasted bread try a poolish recipe as although different it'll get you used to the idea of a preferment style loaf. 

It's late here so I'm clocking off (I'm in London, where are you) so looking forward to results tomorrow and we will take it from there. 

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

I'm in the US near Dallas/Ft Worth. It's about 2:40AM here and I should have been asleep long ago. Looks like it's 9:40AM where you are.

 

I did a bad. I neglected the starter for 9 hours longer than usual, so I don't know what that'll do. Put 20g in a jar with 80 water, 90 white unbleached and 10 whole wheat. I saw a post by another user suggesting building exactly what's needed in any FWSY recipe. I upped it by 10 grams and dubbed it Mother Forker.

This was 6 hours ago and I'm not seeing a lot of activity. But like I said I may have forked it up by neglecting it. 

Abe's picture
Abe

Two very manageable starters built to reasonable proportions. No more starter discard that's almost 1kg.

While the rise is not great the bubbles are present. There's life in them. We will work to bring them to good health.

While they are like this then continue with the same feeds every 24 hours. That's it. Otherwise let them do their own thing while you work on yeasted poolish recipes.

Send me a photo when it gets to the 18 hour mark. I might say skip a feed depending but we'll cross that bridge later. But we'll probably keep the 24 hour schedule.

Once they show signs of speeding up and rising more you can switch to a feed every 12 hours. But no hurry. Keep warm at around 78°F and there's no harm in putting that lid on a bit more so it doesn't dry out. What I do is turn it slightly so it can't come off but it's not tight so air can escape.

I love the name :)

It's 8:55am here. We're six hours ahead I believe.

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

This was around 18 hours, but they'd looked like that for hours before. Seem to be falling now.

 

Abe's picture
Abe

Feed again, same as last time. Once they look like this within 12 hours then switch to feeds every 12 hours. 

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

Does this make more sense?

41 levain starter

41 whole wheat

164 all purpose

164 water

remove 360 (+9 to use as hair gel, or just smear all over random objects like I've been doing)

have exactly 41 left 

I like your plan with the 20 grams starter. Remove 180 and it's as much as any single loaf would need. But I don't see myself doing a single loaf. Its about as much work to do two loaves and this whole process is such a pain in the crumb bubble. I guess I'm a lazy millennial. 

If I keep this up I'll have to go back to a bucket, a tiny one maybe. Jars, even wide-mouth are almost as annoying as I am. I was at the hardware store a few weeks back and noticed they have 2.5 quart(2.36L) HDPE buckets for two dollars and a quarter. I read that HDPE is even better than polycarbonate(what Forkish recommends) at storing things with acid.

 

Abe's picture
Abe

as I can see from the markings. That's good! Starter loses weight when fermenting so this makes it easier to keep 20g by knowing the difference in weight rather than weighing the discard as you will have less than you think. It's good to weigh at this stage but once your starter is viable and your method of maintenance will change then eyeballing will be fine. This stage builds in excess and can be wasteful. But when this stage is over you'll keep a little starter in the fridge - e.g. 80-100g - then when you want to bake you can take a little off and build up to the exact amount you'll need for the recipe with no excess. Then when your starter in the fridge runs low just take it out give it a feed (I weigh the feed but not what's left - just as long as it's getting a healthy amount of fresh flour), allow it to activate then put it back into the fridge. Where the process will start again. Voila, no complicated maintenance and you aren't slave to your starter.

Yes! that feed looks just fine and is the same as the one I've given you. Same ratio! 1:4:5 with the fresh flour being 10% wholegrain. TBH you only need one which will make things easier for a start.

Now while using it for hair gel is fine :) how about making recipes from the discard?

https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/sourdough-banana-bread/

https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/sourdough-pancakes/

https://www.theperfectloaf.com/my-top-3-leftover-sourdough-starter-recipes/

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

Yeah Ken Forkish recommends weighing the containers in his book. I thought it was a good idea, but I think what I may do is have more containers and use a fresh container each feed. I absolutely hate having messy container sides. Ken says the flora that build up are beneficial, but I don't know about that. I'm the farthest thing from a clean freak, but the dried gross starter on the sides not only looks terrible, but makes it difficult to see where it is. It also is technically part of the total weight and could throw off measurements. When I need to feed I can put the required water in the fresh container first, then the fresh flour(s), followed by the reserve amount of mature starter/levain. If I mix carefully I should have a clean-ish situation.

 

I like the idea of being able to eyeball an amount. When it works it's great. Sometimes I can't. I made the Saturday 75% whole wheat from FWSY yesterday and I eyeballed within 10 grams the two loaves when I divided them. I feel like I just got lucky. 

treesparrow's picture
treesparrow

So how did these loaves turn out? Edible this time ;-) ?

As I work with fairly small amounts of starter, I do my feedings this way: in a small plastic bowl, I weigh out the starter, e.g. 20g. Then I add the water, like e.g. 40g. I dissolve the starter in that so that all the folks in there are evenly distributed. Then I add the food, i.e. 40g flour. I end up with 100g of newly fed starter at 100% hydration.

I take the remaining 80g of unfed starter out of its jar and put it in another bowl to bake something with (crumpets! I can hear crumpets calling!). I clean the starter jar and put the freshly fed starter in. The jar has two rubber bands around it. The first I adjust to present starter height. The second I adjust after some time to mark how far it has risen. That way I can see at one glance whether it is still rising (past the second marking ring) or has come to a halt, or even whether it has started to fall (which I try to avoid). If I don't want to bake again any time soon, I put the jar in the fridge one hour after feeding, after the beasties have adjusted to their new environment.

If I wanted large amounts of starter, I'd just feed those leftover 80g from the beginning at the same ratio: 160g water, 160g flour. Makes 400g *starter* in about 8 hours while the little jar slumbers away in the fridge till next week. All from an original 20 grams! Now unless you run a commercial bakery, 400 grams of starter should be plenty to build any amount of levain from ;-)

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

The loaves were edible, but the rise was not good. 

From FWSY

Mine: 

Blended and aligned, it's easier to tell mine are pathetic. Maybe I dunno..

I may have let the bulk fermentation go on too long, then over-proofed once in bowls. It was really hot that day and I should have been watching the dough more carefully. 

My beasties are dead, practically. They bubble, but I see no expansion happening. We still have a much looser mixture than when first mixed, and the sourdough smell is sorta still there. I switched to little rubbermaid containers so it's easier to get at them and do the stuff. Easy enough to get a spatula in there and push the sides down. 

 

Do you stir yours during the day? I just started reading Whole Grain Breads and Mr Reinhart was saying how stirring them during the day was making all the difference. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Good uplift on the shoulders. Crust browning very even all around.  Crumb looks good.  SD starter only?  ...then you've got a viable starter!

Now, what do you mean by the "the beasties are dead practically?"  I get the feeling you're looking for info on the basic behavior of a wheat starter.  Now that the starter is viable, you can touch your finger into it and taste it during the whole process of fermentation: feeding, gas making, peaking of activity, and decline into what appears as non activity.  Taste for blandness, sourness, sweetness, etc.  compare to aromas coming off the starter as well as the changing texture and stickiness.  Colour may also change often becoming brighter as acid builds.

Take this opportunity to get to know your starter as it goes through feeding and growing cycles. You can nudge it into a pattern that fits your routine.  As yeast number build in the starter, the timing will speed up slightly with each feeding (all things being equal.). And you can slow down the time between feeding using temp or the amount of flour or water.  The starter is very susceptible to falling into a routine right now so take advantage.

A starter will leak gas as it ages, esp as the gluten matrix within breaks down from acid and enzyme attack from fermentation by-products.  Now to feed it one switches from "starting a starter" to "maintaining a starter."  Non gluten starters or starters with broken down gluten bonds will show little rise but that doesn't mean the fermentation process has stopped or the starter has "died."  

You may have to give the starter more food to maintain it.  That is why reducing the size is so important before feeding.  

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

No the "Saturday" breads from Flour Water Salt Yeast are using commercial yeast. I used active dry yeast to get those little shortstacks. Nothing to be proud of, there.

The starters didn't do much yesterday or the day before. Abe's starter did something, but I suspect it has to do with a mistake I made. I accidentally added 80 whole wheat instead of 10, so I added more water. 80 I think. But it's the only one showing signs of life right now. Pineapple was on the first day of just water and flour. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You can still be proud of your loaf, it came out well!

Back to the starters...

The new one with the unsweetened pineapple juice, set to the side.  

I want to know how the two older starters are doing right now.  It's been 10 or 11 days since starting.   How are they looking today?  Before feeding them, how do they taste? (Spit out and rinse after tasting).  

Liquid starters will not rise much especially if the good bacteria count is too high.  After tasting, if very sour, reduce to 20g (save rest) and feed as you have been doing.  If temperature are above 80°F feed with less water so that the starter is thicker, this may also trap more gas.

Optional idea: Make a firm starter    (You may find this technique easier than maintaining a liquid starter in warm weather.)

Take 20g from each starter rest and dilute with equal weights of water then slowly add enough flour mixture (45 to 60g) to make a soft dough.  With a little kneading it should be stiff enough to make a ball. It should taste like wet flour.  Roll into flour to dust the surface and set into the bottom of a starter container, cover.  

Watch it for however long it takes, 4 to 18 hrs..  Record the ambient temp.  It should first start to slump and crack the floured surface.  Then slump more as it expands and ferments.  When loose enough to tear apart easily (bubbles will be rising thru the cracks, open to observe the inner matrix and take in the aroma.  Immediately use this mature starter matrix to build a levain and/or feed it repeating the same technique to further strengthen as a firm mother starter.  

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

No expansion. I didn't taste them, but 12 hours after reserve and feed they smell what I would describe as rancid. Definitely a departure from the liquid bread smell. Pineapple beginnings doesn't smell bad, but it still vaguely smells like pineapple. However, zero activity there, too. I'm 99.9% sure neither the whole or white flour is rancid. The store I shop is in a well populated area and the flour moves pretty quickly. Plus I made the Saturday 75% whole wheat loaves and they tasted ok.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Now what?  I wonder why?  Give them a little flour to thicken them up and just watch them.   The time to feed would be at maximum expansion or just after the starter deflates.   

Need update on temperatures, feeding routine and where the starters are located, please.

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

They're in the kitchen where temps vary from 78 at night to 90 during the day. I would say they peak at 12 hours, but I have no idea now. I tried to feed them essentially every 24 hours, but that has varied from 22 to 26. If that's untenable then I'll just go back to commercial yeast and stop wasting flour. 

I put them back in jars, even though I hate jars for this. I wonder if them being basically two-dimensional had anything to do with the performance. In the jars they're a little more together. 

I made the Abe one 100% whole wheat. The last time I got any expansion was when I did 50/50 whole/white on accident. When I went back to mostly white is when both non-pineapple starters failed. 

Although, the pineapple one has always been all whole wheat and I've never seen any indication of activity out of it. I'm using Dole pineapple juice not from concentrate. https://www.heb.com/product-detail/dole-pineapple-juice-6-ct/119394

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

i would expect rapid fermentation.  When the yeast show up, they are hungry and feeding every 24 hours is a long time between feeds for a viable starter.  One has to change gears from making a starter to actually feeding a hungry one.  Does the starter smell like alcohol?   

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

I guess maybe a little. I asked a couple of people to sniff them and one person couldn't smell much of anything and the other was getting a wood putty vibe. When I mentioned I thought the starters might have gone rancid, they did agree that rancid was a good word for the faint odor. 6 hours ago after I fed them they smelled like dough.

 

Back in the jars they are all somewhat bubbly. I don't remember seeing bubbles in the pineapple one before today. There are not a lot, but there are some. 

treesparrow's picture
treesparrow

a bit flat but looks totally edible to me! (you said you wanted to do a 100% wholemeal loaf IIRC so you didn't expect a miracle of lightness). Nice even crumb, I actually like that. My first loaf looked a lot worse (and was still delicious, rewarding enough to continue) so congrats! Onwards and upwards!

Abe's picture
Abe

I was expecting a frankenloaf but was quite surprised. Taste is down to it being, practically, baked starter but it certainly looks like the starter performs well. I believe this starter can produce a nice loaf. 

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

Looks can be deceiving, it's terrible. Smelled good out of the oven, smells good even cool, from a distance. The crumb smells ungood. Tastes absolutely bonkers. I did eat some as toast with a massive amount of margarine, but I'm just going to toss both loaves. Good learning experience or whatever.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Never mind.  Better to toss it at this early stage of sourdough culture development.  Later on, with an occasional sour loaf, try a slice (use a sharp straight knife) with some cream cheese and slice of tomato salt and black pepper.  Think of the bread as having the sour of salad dressing and pair with fresh salad type veggies and herbs as toppings.  

The other thing you can do is cut into cubes or sticks and dry it for dog treats.  But... this is too young a starter and until the bacteria and yeasts sorts themselves out it is better to feed the compost or add water and pour down the toilet with a good flushing. 

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

Someone was wanting to use it for chicken feed. I know they say bread is bad for ducks, but I wonder about low-ph over-sour bread with a rock-hard crust. It would have to be broken up and soaked in water, which seems like a bit of work to utilize a couple bucks worth of flour.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Actually, that's what is done with some of the old bread.  Trade for eggs.  The dried bread is thrown into buckets of water and then after a while it breaks apart easily.  Toss the wet lumps to the chickens and they take it apart.  Fish will do the same but more fun to watch as the bread floats and gets pushed all over the surface in a feeding frenzy.  The chickens are easier to see.  

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

I guess it's less work than actually went into baking it! You don't think the acid will hurt their tummies?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:)

treesparrow's picture
treesparrow

I'm in awe, and your math is over my head! (but only completely)

I'm really sorry that building your first starter is such a frustrating experience! When it can be so much fun. I am just building another one from a very exciting, fairly new variety of rye, and I did something I saw on another page:  two versions side by side, one with water and one with pineapple juice. Here's that page:

http://yumarama.com/1141/starter-final-thoughts/

you can see what both versions looked like, every day until both were really active. Really great!

I agree with Abe, your starter is well past that age where pineapple would have made sense: it's only to prevent that first smelly stage from occurring. The "leuconostoc" bacteria of that first stage produce the stuff that makes the starter appear dead for a while, and it takes longer for the "goodies" to establish the more active the first little stinkers have been.

I posted the link to Debra Wink's post mainly because I found it so helpful for understanding what is actually going on in that flour-water-mix in the jar. We only see the substrate, not the micro-organisms in there. If we could, we would see when they still swim in plenty of food, when food is running low, when their "droppings" pile up and need mucking out etc. All much easier to observe in a chicken coop :-)

But with Debra's explanations, I could somehow begin to envision these things. One takeaway I got from them was: building and maintaining a starter are two entirely different things. The big takeaway I remember is "Before yeast, don't feed too much/often, after yeast, don't feed too little/seldom", meaning that until the starter is really active, feeding too big amounts or too often will only dilute the acidity that needs to build up -- and feed and encourage the "stinkers" for longer than necessary.

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

It's just percentages and I used an online calculator. That's how bad I am! 

 

I just skimmed the article, but I'll read it in more detail later.

grainofstrength's picture
grainofstrength

From what I gather, it seems like you’re trying to use the discard from your starter to bake a loaf of bread. So, when you’re doing this:

980g discard levain (50/50 water/flour)

490g flour
490g water

To this you are adding:

510g fresh flour
340g water

This brings your total amount to:

1000g flour
830g water

This has a hydration level of 83%, which is quite a lot, but definitely manageable. The only reason I can think that you still have “soup” after folding is that the discarded starter still has too much acid, and, since using so much of it, is destroying the gluten in your flour. This is what will happen if the levain isn’t fed fresh for 24 hours (like Forkish recommends, one feeding every day, 24 hours in between). 

This is just my guess. Your math is right, your dough is 83% hydration, but I think the pH in your discarded starter is too high and wreaking havoc. I would cut your losses and just continue on with the build of the levain. I know it sucks to waste all that flour, but you’re on the right path by pairing it down.

Abe's picture
Abe

Agree with your comment. I was caught up on the starter %, didn't think about the hydration of the dough.

Flour also degrades over time just by adding water even if there isn't any starter added. So using a 100% hydrated flour that has been fermenting in the warmth for 24 hours will further be compromised.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

like you just described,  stir or work a teaspoon or two of baking soda into the dough to neutralize the acid.  Dump immediately into high sided baking pans and bake in a hot oven.  :)    I wouldn't be trying to save the discard starter for baking in the first week of making a new starter from scratch.  Especially when this is your first experience with the stuff.  

If you skip a feeding or think you failed because you didn't feed it enough in the first four days, this couldn't be further from the truth.  The beasties actually do better when left alone or ignored for a while.  It's our nurturing instinct and impatient nature that gets us people into trouble with starters thinking we are feeding something that doesn't exist yet.  The culture will go through different stages with slightly different demands as it changes.    It doesn't really need us but we want to be part of the process.  So try not to worry about it too much.

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

Oh I wish I'd known the thing about the baking soda. Might have been edible loaves without the extreme tang.

Abe's picture
Abe

It was healthy and active. Good starters don't go rancid. 

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

Best I can tell online is it must have been contaminated at some point. Probably have to start over.

 

**edit: or stick with the pineapple one when is now starting to bubble slightly. No bad odor, yet.

Abe's picture
Abe

Putting the starter in a new jar with each feed like you said you planned on doing? This risks contamination. This doesn't need to be done with every feed.

If you do start again don't go down the Forkish route again.

Robin Dobbie's picture
Robin Dobbie

No, I stuck with the same rubbermaid containers for the last few days. 

So you're saying I shouldn't double his recommended levain size? lol