The Fresh Loaf

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Help this Beginner with His Sourdough Starter! (On Day 8)

El Novato's picture
El Novato

Help this Beginner with His Sourdough Starter! (On Day 8)

Dear Fresh Loaf Folk,

   I began to-make a sourdough starter on 1/23. Tomorrow, 1/31, will be day-9. For day-1, my recipe instructed me to mix 100g of filtered, room-temp water and 100g of AP flour. For day-2, the recipe said to "discard all but 100g of starter," and then to-add 100g of water and 100g of flour, and mix, again. The recipe encouraged me to stir the starter from time-to-time each day. Days 3-6 were the same as day 2. The recipe said that the starter might be ready by day-7. My starter seemed ready, but I did not understand the instructions for the next stage, and, I was busy this week, so I decided to-continue the pattern from days 2-6 until Friday, 2/1, when I have time to-learn what to-do next.

   Here is my first problem: instead-of discarding all-but-100g of my starter for days 2-8, I discarded 100g of the starter each day. That worked on day-2, but not on the following days. My starter grew in mass by 100g each day, instead-of being reduced to 100g after the-discard, and bolstered back-up to 300g after the addition of flour and water. So, now, I must-have about 900g of starter, instead-of 300g. I wonder, will the starter be less-potent because I did not reduce it down to 100g each day before adding flour and water? How should I proceed? If the starter is fine, I want to-divide it into three-jars and refrigerate them all to reduce the speed of fermentation. Then, in the future, I could use starter from jar-1 to-bake on week-1, starter from jar-2 to-bake on week-2, and so-forth. I also hope to-introduce rye into jar-2 and some other flour into jar-3, so that each different starter produces a bread unique in-comparison with the others. I like this method,, because I do not want to-waste starter.

   I ask for more help, though. I do not understand how to-feed a starter after it matures and I move it from the countertop to the fridge. What does it mean that I feed the starter with "seed, flour, and water," as in DaBrownMan's method? Does the seed/levain come from another mature starter? That confuses me. Before, I only added flour and water when I fed the mixture. It seemed to me that it was becoming seed/levain. Now I am supposed to-feed it seed, flour, and water? I do not understand that. I will appreciate any help you can offer this hatchling of a baker.

   So you know, I live in the northern U.S. It is dry and cold. On days that I did not stir the starter enough, a leather like disc formed on-top. After I addressed that, it seems to behave as it ought-to. It bubbles, rises, and falls. It is light and whippy when I begin to-stir it. It produces a familiar smell, like mayonnaise. I will do the water test on Friday, 2/1, when I feel that the starter is at its peak to-see if the starter floats.


Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

In fact it might have been beneficial for helping the PH level of the starter to become acidic. Better than the common mistake of over feeding in the vain attempt of speeding things up.

If your starter is showing activity then now might be the time to change your procedure. In order to strengthen your starter you'll need to increase the feed but you don't want 100's of grams of starter. Find yourself a small jar, clean it well, weigh it empty (so you'll always know how much starter there is) and transfer 30g of starter. Now begin feeds of 30g water + 30g whole rye flour. This is a feed of 1:1:1. Keep up this feed for now and see how your starter behaves. Every time it comes to the next feed keep 30g of starter and repeat. Keep this going till it's strong and predictable. Then switch to 20g starter + 40g + 40g whole rye flour. Once it bubbles up on cue every time and within 12 hours it's ready. Then begin to think of a maintenance schedule.

As for the rest of the starter take off a little and keep it in the fridge as back up. Just in case. If the starter smells ok and looks healthy then use it up in other recipes. If it doesn't seem quite ok just yet then discard.

The best way IMO, but not the only way, is to keep only a little starter at any one time. This is the seed from which you build levains to go into your bread. This way you can keep your starter in the fridge and build more purposeful off-shoot starters for the recipe you are doing. When your starter runs low then take it out of the fridge, give it some TLC and then return it to the fridge.

pintolaranja's picture

Been where you are, totally normal. I had loads of starter and took me time to adjust.

Nowadays I keep only 100g of it. My feedings are 1:2:2 (20g starter:40g water: 40g flour). I let it rise a bit, then put it in the fridge and feed it only once a week (take it out of the fridge, let it come to room temperature and then feed).

If I want to bake I take some of my starter and make a levain (basically the same thing, it is a starter offshoot for the single purpose of baking). This levain will be made to match the amount I need for my bread.

The simpler you can keep it the better, in my opinion.

Hope this helps!

El Novato's picture
El Novato

Abe, pintolaranja,

   I appreciate your advice! I feel confident to-proceed now with the understanding you fostered within me. I will follow your instructions and begin to-make the rye starter from the AP-flour Mother I created. With material from that AP-flour Mother, I will begin to make levains tomorrow morning with a few, different-types of flour. I will bake on Saturday, 2/2. I will freeze some-of the bread, eat-some, and give-some-away. The remainder of the AP Mother will go into the fridge as back-up, as you recommend. I will report back when the new, small mother is ready. I will follow the advice you gave me for feeding, and I will ask any questions that remain about a maintenance schedule when I come to that stage.

I thank you for your help. I was not ready to-experiment on my own, yet,

El Novato