The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Need help!

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

Need help!

hello every one. I need some help And getting somewhat frustrated. 

I started a starter using Rogers unbleach white flour. After feeding it for a good couple of weeks I learned that it takes a good 12+hours or so for it to double in size and show lots of bubbles on the sides due to winter and being a bit colder inside. 

Everytime I use the starter I wait for it to double and it passes the float test. 

I have tried making bread with you it a few times using different recipes and everytime it is an epic failure. The dough doesn’t rise at all during the bulk rise, stick to the bowl even if I use oil and is super sticky. 

I tried recipes that say to just mix the starter with the ingredients, some to disolve it in water. To knead until smooth, not knead the dough but mix it until all ingreadients are well mixed together. I have let it rest After mixing ingredients and knead it for a few min before bulk rise. I have left it on it’s own seeing if more time was needed. At one point 24h and absolutely nothing. No point in baking as it will just turn into a dense doughy brick. 

I started a whole wheat starter in the past and did a few loaves with it and was quite successful but this white flour start is very discouraging. 

 

Any recommendation tips or help would be hugely appreciated as I love home made bread and especially sourdough bread. 

Thanks for your help. 

Ford's picture
Ford

I t sounds as though the white bread starter might not be active.  Try using the whole wheat starter to make your white bread.  If this works, then if you want two different starters then refresh some of your whole wheat starter with white flour. and discard your present white starter.  You really can use the same starter for all your bread.

Ford

hreik's picture
hreik

upload a pic of your starter after feeding?  And tell us if it''s 100% hydration?

Thanks

hester

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and the place where you like to keep it?  

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

Sorry for not getting back sooner. 

How do you use your starter? Do you dissolve it in the water first or just mix it as is with the rest of the ingredients?

I store it in the kitchen. With temp around 20-22c and it is 100% hydration

I took a picture of it before and after feeding on January 13th at around 4pm since then rose up to about double the size in about 24 hours it collapsed to just over original size. After a while I noticed it started growing back again and went over double the size. It hasn't been fed in about 3 days. 

Here are photos in order. Before feeding after feeding 1st double size. And second double size after roughly 3 days.

Abe's picture
Abe

But that looks good to me. Have you tried baking with it? 

Edit... Just took a quick look at the original question. Try a test dough. 

  • 100g bread flour
  • 60g - 65g water
  • 2g salt
  • 10g starter

Nothing fancy. Mix the salt into the flour make a well. Add the starter and water. Mix till a dough is formed. Kneaded till full gluten formation then leave overnight. 

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

I was thinking about trying it again. Seems like the starter is still growing. 

3 days after being fed to use it seems extreme unless it just was ready yet. 

Abe's picture
Abe

When you say three days after being fed and it's still growing please explain. 

What is your maintenance schedule like and what is a typical feed? 

Can you taste a little (but spit it out). 

EDIT... Bear with me as I'm catching up. You say it hasn't been fed in three days. How did you store it in those three days! 

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

The smell is very sweet just like a fresh loaf of sourdough, no smell of alcohol what so ever. It tasted very sour but still pleasant. No taste of alcohol or anything like that. When dropping some in a glass of water it immediately bounced back from the bottom.

Just finished making the dough kneaded it till I could stretch it without tearing apart and see through it. I will leave it on the counter overnight or should I put it in the fridge? 

 

For the feeding. I was feeding it every 24 hours. After the last failed attempt at making bread I fed it and decided to study it more closely and see what it would do. In about  20 hours or so the starter doubled at hour 28 I could see it start to collapse and go down. The next morning it was almost all the way down to it's original size. Out of lazyness and curiosity I didnt feed it at all that day. The next morning I saw that it started rising again and this time much stronger with lots of bubbles everywhere and on top it also spilled out of the jar. And that's when I did the water test and used some for my baking. 

I was quite shocked and surprised to see it rise up again as I though the yeast would have eaten through all flour.

I have fed it again and will monitor what happens  

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

Also when do you use your starter after feeding to make bread? 

Abe's picture
Abe

Fed and catching your starter at it's peak.

You can play around with times within reason. Catching it a bit earlier while it's young will produce a sweeter starter and a bit more mature after it's peak a more acidic one. But In all cases it should be active and bubbly within the range of young to mature.

If you have prepped your starter but can't bake with it then keeping it in the fridge and using it within a few days is also fine.

You can also treat your starter as seed to build a levain. This involves taking starter off and building off-shoot starters for your recipe. This allows you to keep your starter to non specific specifications and then building your levain according to the bread you are making. So your starter will suit all recipes. It also allows you to keep a small amount of starter at any one time.

I wouldn't use a starter that hasn't been in the fridge and not fed in a few days. Not good practice for keeping a starter healthy.

Abe's picture
Abe

That is interesting! I would have thought the same thing.

Your dough isn't rising and your starter is behaving suspiciously. It's slow but there seems to be some delayed activity and with a weird stronger second bubbling up. Your dough also turns to mush. I'm inclined to believe that something is inhabiting your starter (obviously) but I'm not quite sure what!

What is your starter to water and flour ratio?

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

My starter is 100% hydration and white flour. 

The test dough has doubled in size if not more. 

Also the starter is now super active. After feeding it yesterday it doubled in about 4 hours and exploded out of its container. I think it has finally developed a strong yeast culture. It has been a very interesting process for sure and very curious as to why the delay and second rise of the starter. But I think I am now on the right track. 

I'll keep updating with my bread. Will make a test with this starter. 

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

Duplicate

Abe's picture
Abe

Well, if it can leaven the test dough it can leaven a normal dough.

Now why is your starter like a volcano? Are you over filling the jar and sealing it so it's airtight?

Looks impressive though.

Why don't you try making a bread with the test dough as the starter? Shame to waste it.

What is your jar size and typical feed?

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

My starter never acted like this before so it is a factor of me putting it in a jar too small for the expansion. 

You can see the rubber band where it was after feeding  barely enough room to expand beyond double its size. 

I will be baking it for sure.  I have to fold it and shape it and in the oven it goes I want to see what it looks like and the taste.

Now that it very active I will keep it in the fridge and feed it once a week. 

If it is on the counter I was doing once a day but not sure if it should be more seeing the activity. 

Abe's picture
Abe

Half is too full. How about 1/4 or maximum 1/3.

Don't make an airtight seal either. Air needs to escape. I have a screw top jar that I don't tighten. So it's covered but not airtight.

Feeding ratio?

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

I have now learned that lesson hehe. 

Feeding ration 1:1:1 50g starter 50g flour 50g water

Abe's picture
Abe

So let's tweak this... 150g is clearly too much. And while 1:1:1 is fine let's make it 1:2:2 but building 90g.

1:2:2 or 1+2+2 = 5

90/5 = 18g. So 1=18g and 2=36g

Your new build is 18g starter + 36g water + 36g flour. Give this a feed, allow it to activate and bubble up and refrigerate just before it peaks. It'll now last in the fridge for about a week.

When it comes to baking make a levain. Take off a little starter and build a preferment, allow this to fully peak and mature before using in a recipe.

Take a look at this recipe:  https://www.weekendbakery.com/posts/sourdough-pain-naturel/

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

Thanks a lot! Will try that.

Why I was keeping so much was to make 2-3 loads at a time. (Give one away to the inlaws) 

What will happen If I put the starter into the fridge right after feeding it? Will it still develop ok? 

 

So the levain is pretty much the starter but you set it up for the type of bread you want to make and quantity? 

Abe's picture
Abe

I have found it loses strength. Giving the yeasts time to build up at room temperature keeps the numbers high. But the longer you keep it to mature the less time it can last in the fridge between feeds. So you want to find a balance. If you're prepared to feed it weekly then don't be too concerned. Active and bubbly but before peaking is fine. Mine is a low hydration rye starter and I find peaked before refrigerating still lasts a long time. Wheat starters and bread flour to-boot do need more TLC. If you find when it comes to re-feeding it needs strengthening then give it two feeds and then catching the second feed just before peak. Maintaining a starter and using it is the only way to learn how it behaves and you'll get into the rhythm that suits your starter for your needs.

Think of your starter as the petri dish where your store all the beasties and the levain as a designer starter for the bread you're making. There are so many ways and lot's of terminology I find that's a good way of thinking about the procedure.

EDIT: If you find your starter has developed hooch then it needs re-feeding. You might wish to keep a lower hydration starter so it lasts longer. I tried many ways till I found 70% hydration whole rye starter that is fed 1:3.5:5 and allowed to double before refrigeration allows it to last for weeks between feeds. An all bread flour starter at 100% hydration will need more care.

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

One more question is there a big difference between regular flour and bread flour? 

Abe's picture
Abe

Bread flour is white wheat flour (wheat with bran removed) that has high protein -13% and higher. Good for bread.

AP flour is the same thing just with a more medium % of protein, about 11-12%, and can lend itself to bread or cake. In other words it lies in-between aka all purpose.

Anything less then that is flour for cakes, pastries etc.

Different countries have their own grades, terminology etc. Can be very confusing.

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

Thank you so much for all your help and insight Abe. You have helped me a lot. I was pretty much ready to give up on it until I didnt feed it for 3 days and started to act normally and with your help. 

Abe's picture
Abe

Looking forward to seeing your bread.

How about shaping the test dough, allowing it to prove and then baking a small bun?

See if you like the taste. It won't be perfect as you haven't been timing it more carefully but you'll get something nice out of it.

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

It is currently shaping and proving  will  treate a Dutch oven for baking it. 

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

And you thought you had an explosion with Basil! That looks extremely challenging: think of all the starter in and under the hardware!

Abe's picture
Abe

Mine WAS only 1/4 full :) and the lid wasn't on tightly to prevent an explosion.

My starter is now 65% hydration and the wild initial burst of activity is calming down now to more predictable rhythm.

Think it will be ready to bake with come the weekend.

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

 Here is the final product. Cooked it for 1hour at 450F 

The bread is very dense and heavy and a bit doughy, it has a mild sour taste. I guess I should have let it proof longer. Still happy with it.

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

I have also refreshed the starter  i mixed it and went with a 1:1:1 ratio again to see what would happen.

The starter has fallen back to it's old trick where it is not very active  I see some small bubbles forming but compared to yesterday where it just exploded and easily doubled in about 5-6 hours. 

Who knows what going on with this thing. It's got a mind of it's own. Wait and see. 

Abe's picture
Abe

Feed to the rhythm of your starter. Let it do its thing and only feed again when it's peaked. Hopefully it'll calm down and become predictable. 

Abe's picture
Abe

Looks good! Now it's just a learning curve and getting to know your starter. A big step in the right direction. 

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

I have completed my second batch of bread and it's a success.  They are fairly small should have let them flatten out more to make it a bit wider. 

Learning more about my starter which is very strong and peaks in 12 hours. 

Time to start experimenting with different ingredient.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

sounds much stronger and loaves are looking good.  Soon you'll be down to around 8 hours, maybe. :)

The skin on the right loaf looks like it may have dried quite a bit before baking or set in the oven soon after starting the bake.  

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

things are progressing just fine.  Is Abe great?  He's doing an excellent job of keeping up and explaining.  You've got great instinct not giving up too soon.  I think the first rising was gas from the good bacteria then the yeast was feeling all cozy and given the time, burst into activity.  Remember the sour taste and see how long it takes to show up again after feeding.  

Cooler temps take longer especially when starting a starter then once it settles into a pattern and sorts itself out, the lag time it takes after feeding to ferment and rise will start to speed up or shorten.  Not by a lot but if you take notes, all things equal, you will find it goes thru flour faster with each feeding.  

Because of the cool temps, Don't rush feeding with the first peak and wait until it starts falling to feed. Can even wait a little longer if sleeping or working.  About 4 to 5 times the starter amount for "head space" in the jar.   ...and a bowl underneath. :)  I wouldn't be in a big hurry to chill the starter in the fridge, not just yet.  Thickening with more flour will also slow fermentation but give a longer interval between feeds that will shorten with each feeding until the starter becomes predictable.  It goes to reason that if the room temps and starter temps rise, the starter will also ferment faster.

 

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

Thanks a lot. I think I have a good grasp of what's going now. And the fact that I actually have a strong yeast culture makes me very happy. In 24 hours it probably triple or quadruple in size. Will put it in a bigger jar so it doesn't over flow all the time and can keep better track of when it peaks. I believe it happens around the 20-24 hour mark  hard to tell. 

I assume using it before it peaked is fine as well as long as there is a strong yeast culture developed.  

Also do using more starter in a recipe have any impact ei faster bulk rise or larger bread? 

Thanks.

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Yet, but yeast exist in it.  

Using the starter before it peaks...interesting debates going on about that.  The closer one comes to using the starter before it peaks, the better, but one doesn't know how high the peak will be if the starter is not allowed to peak.  This can also vary with the type and mixtures of flour.  Some hold gas longer than others so judging a starter on peaking is only one way to judge readiness for use.  I tend to involve aroma and consistency of the starter also, it changes with time and so does th flavour.

If a starter is used too soon, the next phase of yeast growing will take longer, the lag phase longer.  Depends on what you are after. 

Does more starter have an impact?  Yes indeed!  Not only does having a larger amount of starter speed up fermentation, it also aggressively attacks the gluten matrix quicker.  Then the next question is the differences in starters and how they affect the dough, more mature starters being more aggressive than young starters, for starters and then there are a variety of flours and colonies in starters too.  Get to know your starter on a personal level!  

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1
Abe's picture
Abe

No turning back now. They look great. What was the recipe? 

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

It was a basic one recipe: 1kg of flour 100g starter 700g water 18g salt. 

I am really excited at making more with different flavour profiles. 

Edit: I have also used your recommendation for the starter using a 1:2:2 ratio to see how long it will take to peak.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

(1:7:10) (s:w:f)  starter to flour. which is a small amount of starter with a long lag time( not much visibly happens the first 5 hrs or so.)    A more common starter to flour ratio is one to three or one to four.  Which translates to 250g starter for 1k flour.  A one to 10 will certainly boost yeast activity.

How long did it take to bulk rise to "double?"

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

Awesome thanks a lot for the tip.

It took about 12 hours which is perfect for overnight. But definitely will be playing with it to get it going faster. 

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

What do you mean by an1 to 10 boosting yeast activity? Since it is what I used there will be more yeast than a 1 to 4 ratio? 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Yes definitely but the 1:10 takes longer.  The big difference is the growing yeast pop. don't have to wait for food.  I wouldn't do it twice in a row though without letting the peak fall and waiting say a few hours for the bacterial numbers to come up before adding more flour in a large ratio.  The idea being that the bacteria and low pH will help the starter defend itself from invasion of bacteria and fungi which thrive in low acid conditions.  The same conditions that arise when the culture is being fed.  The fresh flour is full of a variety of organisms waiting to grow when they hydrate.

That also means that if you want to save some of the dough or starter from a 1:10 ratio feeding, chill it right away at peak or, if a small quantity,  let it get a bit more fermented than the first peak before feeding and storing for regular maintenance what ever method you choose.

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

I see said the blind man. Hehe. 

All this information is very interesting and fascinating love all the knowledge being shared. thank you so much. 

I think I will be using a lower ration of starter to flour when baking. For my starter it will stay very low as well, if I dont use it to bake I usually wait until after it has collapsed to feed it. When I decide to store it I will make sure it the yeast culture has developed before putting it in the fridge. 

 

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

Congratulations!

Well done, and keep on baking!

Carole

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

After making the loafs I found the bread quite dense and heavy. How would I go about making it less dense and heavy? Letting it sit longer on its second proof?

I dont want a large crumb or wholes in the bread. 

 

Second question. I love using my starter and love the sour taste of the bread. How would I go about making it less sour and more sour?

Thanks 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If still using only bread flour in the dough try half all purpose (AP) whisked together with the bread flour.  Also stick to AP as a bench flour.  Finer crumb? Degas more efficiently before shaping and when folding the dough being careful not to trap bubbles.  An efficient bulking with folds followed by a short final proof should get you fine crumb and good spring.  

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

Thanks  

Another batch of  loaves made. Another successful learning experience 

As recommended I used approximately 300g of starter for 1kg of flour. I let it do a bulk rise in 4 hours I think it was ok after 4 hours. There were some bubbles showing but anyways. I also didnt want to bulk overnight and the yeast eat all the protein. So I shaped it into two loaves. One I let do its second rise out on the counter over night and the other one I put in the fridge and let out a couple hours before baking. So the dough was doing its thing for about 12 or so hours before cooking.

Here are the results. The cut up one is the one that was left on the counter. 

How long does your whole process last from making the dough to baking. I was reading on some recipes that the bulk for about 4 hours proof for an hour or so and bake. I know temperature has a big impact on the whole process  it is about 20 to 21 Celsius at my place. 

Ps should have followed the recipe for the amount of cinnamon to put it. Still super tasty. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

There is a lot going on but nothing that can't be fixed With the next loaf.  Four hours isn't long enough for a bulk rise, it was just getting started.  When the dough rises about 1.3 or a third, start to fold the dough, tuck under the corners and round up into a firm dough ball.  Cover with a glass or transparent bowl so you can watch it rise.  

When you see your loaf rising more out (spreading) than up, flip the dough upside down and do another folding to tighten up the form.  Return dough right side up and cover.  Repeat until the dough is almost doubled in bulk, still has a taught skin and you have had to correct for spreading dough roughly every 40 minutes. On the last rise, slide it into the oven to bake.  I'm guessing it would take you about 8 to 12 hours until it can be baked, less if the dough is slightly warmer.  If you want to drop the dough into a baking pan, you can do that too. Just don't let the dough rise to double.  The wetter the dough, the more folds are required to maintain shape.  As the dough ferments, it will feel wetter.  

Next, the crust on the sides and underneath the loaf looks pretty pale.  See if you can get more heat under the loaf. Perhaps moving the loaf down a shelf in the oven and bake a bit longer.  You may have to cover the loaf to prevent it from over browning on top.  What is the oven set up?

Patrick1's picture
Patrick1

I set the oven at 400 I should have gone to 450. It is baking in the middle rack.

For the dough I knead it until I could stretch it without tearing it apart which was roughly 10 min and then I just let it do it thing. (The dough is cold to the touch) I then split it in two shaped it and put it in the loaf pans for the second rise

With kneading should I also do folds? Do you knead your dough at all? 

Since the process is taking so long I don't really want to baby sit it and having to stay here all day. I ultimately want to be able to get the levain ready overnight, mix it all in the morning and let it bulk rise while I am out, shape it, second rise and bake towards the end of the day. 

 

You mentioned not letting the dough rise to double when using a bread pan why us that? So it doesn't mushroom? 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I set the oven at 400 I should have gone to 450. It is baking in the middle rack.  More heat would help.  Try to position the rack so that the top of the baking pan, or in the case of shiny pans, top of the imaginary baked loaf is center in the oven.  You may have to still adjust after carefully looking at the baked loaf but it's a good place to start.  If you tip out a loaf to cool and see a big difference between top, sides and bottom of the crust, there will have to be some playing around.  Sometimes flip the loaf upside down and stick back into the oven, naked on the rack to finish baking.  Switching to a darker, less reflective pan helps.

For the dough I knead it until I could stretch it without tearing it apart which was roughly 10 min and then I just let it do it thing. (The dough is cold to the touch) I then split it in two shaped it and put it in the loaf pans for the second rise  tearing sounds a little dry to me.  I let the just moistened flour sit for at least 10 min before kneading letting the flour hydrate, makes kneading so much easier and less bench flour is required, if at all.  Measure the amount of bench flour you use for kneading and add it to your recipe figures.  See what it does to the overall dough hydration.   I see you 're scheduling around a work day.    

With kneading should I also do folds? Do you knead your dough at all?  It depends on the hydration of what I'm baking, but yes, I knead sometimes.  What I'm seeing in the heavy loaves is not enough gas within the crumb, this means the yeast needs more time to populate and expand the crumb.  There are several ways to fit bread making into a work week and the posts can be found under just such titles.  Unfortunately for you, I'm a stay-at-home-body so I'm hoping someone can jump in here with good suggestions for you.

Since the process is taking so long I don't really want to baby sit it and having to stay here all day. I ultimately want to be able to get the levain ready overnight, mix it all in the morning and let it bulk rise while I am out, shape it, second rise and bake towards the end of the day.  See if you can raise the temp of the dough a little bit while mixing before chilling it.  A little kick (in the pants of the yeasties) in the bigginning of the bulking goes a long way during the process.  On another bake, try mixing earlier letting the dough sit perhaps an hour before chilling, that would get at least one reproductive cycle in before slowing the yeast down.  

Another approach might be to start making the levain in the morning, mix up the dough in the evening, let it have a little rise time, chill, shape the dough in the morning, chill and bake in the evening the following day.

 You mentioned not letting the dough rise to double when using a bread pan why us that? So it doesn't mushroom?  Sourdoughs tend to be overproofed if allowed to double in the final proof/rise.  I think that when the loaf has had enough bulk rise and then allowed to proof, your loaves will also tend to overproof if allowed to double.  There are differences between doughs made with commercial yeast and sourdoughs.  Anyway, oven spring increases if you let the oven help you get that final "spring" during baking when the trapped water in the loaf turns into steam and lifts the crumb.     If the loaf "mushrooms" more likely than not it overproofed from too long a proof and/or shaped too early into the fermenting process and/or too much dough in the pan.