The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Rye starter questions

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Rye starter questions

How do I know if I have the correct beasties in my rye starter? I couldn't keep the temp at 74°F. It varied from 70-88°F with the oven light on.

It has never been refrigerated, is 100% hydration, and was fed dark rye flour once per day. 

I had used the NMNF recipe at 62% hydration, but after 2 weeks of feeding, it was doing nothing so I switched it to 100% hydration. 

Now it has been 4 weeks, and I think I might be ready to switch it  back to a stiff starter. Then it will be a NMNF starter in the refrigerator. 

Do I have the right beasties? 

How do I know if it is strong enough to turn into a NMNF refrigerated starter? At 100% hydration, it doubles within 2-3 hours.

What is my next step? Thanks!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

the amount of rye starter you have and how much flour is being fed? 

Any aroma, density or flour color changes?

100% hydration only means equal weights of flour and water but does not describe the weight of starter culture being elaborated.  Is the starter culture equal in weight to the flour?

"Do I have the right beasties?"  

 Does it raise bread dough?  Have you made bread with it and does the bread smell and taste good to you? 

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Oh, thank you! I don't know enough about starters to even answer coherently, but I will do my best. I seem to be confused because of the many different ways to create and maintain a starter.

 I think I am under feeding the starters, because the recipe said "feed equal parts water and flour", but I did not know how much starter to use. I just picked a small amount and discarded the rest. I thought I had to make the water and flour weights equal the weight of the starter. (50g starter was fed with 25g water and 25g rye flour. Now I understand that is just about hydration.) I have no idea where I came up with that, but I am sure people gave me great information that I didn't remember. Totally my fault!

I have 2 starters: or wanna be...might be...starters. Might just be jars of bacteria.

1. Dark rye starter: 4 weeks old.  Has lived in the oven with the light on. Temps not kept at 74°F. But, now I have a folding proofing box that is set at 74°F. It has been in the proofing box for 2 days. When feeding, I keep 68g of starter and mix it with 34g dark rye flour and 34g filtered water (cold water out of my filtered faucet...not warmed...should I warm it? )  I feed once per day at 9:00 a.m.. The photo shows how little it rose from 9:00 a.m. to when I took the picture at 3:15 p.m. The top of the tape is the top of the starter after I fed it. It was doubling within 3-4 hours when it was in the oven, but now it is in the proofing box. I am guessing too much warmth made the starter double too quickly in the oven.

 

2.  A bread flour starter (Rose L B), also 4 weeks old, which was fed with dark rye for 2 days, then switched to bread flour by her recipe.  I think I was under feeding it because it said "feed equal parts water and flour", but I did not know (or didn't remember) how much starter to use. I just picked an amount and discarded the rest. I thought I had to make the water and flour weights equal the weight of the starter.  80g starter which gets fed 40g bread flour and 40g filtered cold water. This one has been kept in the refrigerator for 3 weeks. The first 2 weeks of refrigeration, I fed the 80g starter with 40g flour and 40g water 3 times per week and let it sit on the counter for 2 hours before refrigerating it. On the 3rd and 4th week, I fed it only once per week the exact same amounts.  The top of the tape shows where the top of the starter was after it was fed last Saturday, so you can see it does rise. Tomorrow is feeding day for this one.

 

So, have I been under feeding both starters? There has never been streaks of color or any bad smells. No dark liquid on top. No color changes. Just some slight sour smells and some floury smells. I don't know if it has smelled like acetone or not. I may have to buy a bottle of nail polish remover to know what that smells like. The rye starter is very thick, but not dough like. The bread flour starter is very white, and is very stretchy when it first comes out of the refrigerator. I am holding up the dough with a spatula and it drops very slowly. 

 

Can either one be saved?

Should I start over and use the pineapple juice starter recipe? ! A different starter recipe?

I made Pumpernickel bread with some of the rye starter discard after feeding it 3 times in 2 days. It has a strong sour taste...a little too strong. It hasn't killed me yet, but there might be some bad beasties in my stomach now. 

 

Thanks, mini oven!

David R's picture
David R

... like sourdough bread that's ridiculously too sour? Or like something truly evil?

If you used too much starter, and allowed it to work for far too long - perhaps because you're unsure, and trying too hard, doing every step up real good - then it's easily possible that you have a very good starter that's doing fine and growing like crazy, and the whole thing over-fermented. Pumpernickel has lots of rye, and over-fermented rye is known for getting too sour.

I expect that the worst thing your stomach got was "You want sourdough? I'll show you sourdough, you little whippersnapper!" 😁

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

At first bite, my husband said, "Well that's really sour". Ok, so I over fermented it. I had an upset stomach for 3 days after eating it, but I am still alive! 

David R's picture
David R

Acetone is (to be wildly imprecise but hopefully helpful) a very "chemical-y" smell (to make you say "This smells like fumes from a paint factory or something!"). If you are not noticing any obvious chemical-y smells, then you don't have acetone.

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Good to know! The only smells I had were slight sour smells and flour smells.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I think you've been blessed with cool temps.  The starters are most likely good bacteria lopsided and a change in the feeding amounts and slight rise in temp to 78° to 80°F would help get those yeast numbers up.  When ready, feed 20g starter 40g flour and 40g water. Place in the proofer and start checking on them in about 4 hours. When they peak, and start to level off, reduce to 20g and repeat the 40g each flour and water feeding.  They may peak at different times.   

The starter that has been refrigerated, take it out and let it warm up first.  Taste it and if sour, go ahead reduce and feed it.  If it tastes like wet flour, don't feed and put it into the warm proofer along with the other just fed starter.  Keep separate notes on each starter.

Have a recipe ready to use the discard from the third feeding if it is showing promise and rising quickly.   Yes, you can combine two peaking starter discards to make up the amount needed.  

One sign of low yeast in the starter culture is a sourdough loaf that turns out very sour tasting.  Once the yeast numbers are up, you may be able to return to 74°F and maintain a good yeast population feeding twice a day.  Or be able to store the starter in the refrigerator after letting it start to rise after a feeding.  Then the starter holds out easily for one or two weeks before feeding it again.  But that is a few days away.  Let's get those yeasts working in the starter first.

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Thank goodness! I really didn't want to start over, if possible. So this morning,  I will change the proofer to 79°F, reduce the 100% rye starter to 20g, and feed it 40g water and 40g rye flour.  Then I will wait until it rises and begins to level off before discarding and feeding again. Always with a 1:2:2 ratio. (About every 4 hours.)

 

On the refrigerated bread flour starter, is it normal for it to be so stretchy? 

Bread flour starter- if it tastes sour, reduce and feed it. Then, let it sit on the counter and keep notes. Do not refrigerate it yet? Feed it every time it has risen and begun to level off? The sour taste means it is doing well?

 

If it only tastes like flour, put it in the proofer at 79°F, then just watch it. Pay attention to rising and falling? Then I feed it at 1:2:2 ratio?  Do not refrigerate yet. Keep notes.

Ok, starting new feeds this morning. 

Will good beasties take over and kill any bad beasties as long as I feed 1:2:2 on time?

Does the baking process kill any bad beasties?

Now to find a recipe with soft crust that I can use my discard with (after 3 feedings). I have discovered I can't eat the crisp crusts because of my jaw...TMJ.

Thanks for your expertise. 

Ok, I tasted the refrigerated starter. Tasted would not actually be the right word...I just touched some to my tongue, and it had a tang. A sharp taste.  Not sure I would call it sour like a lemon, but I have never tasted sourdough before so the tang might be considered sour.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You can up the flour to 1:4:4. Might even use less water (1:3:4) so the flour can thicken them up a bit.  They rise nicer that way. And then feed again about an hour or more after the peak falls.  Don't feed closer than 6 hours apart.  

Both starters look low in the yeast department.  Would be good to get them more vigorous before chilling them.  Bread flour has a fair amount of gluten so yes, it will be stretching nicely but as it ferments more, with more yeast, that texture may change.

Baking kills just about everything.   :)

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

The bread flour starter doubles within 3.5 hours, but I wait until the surface levels out before I feed it. The rye starter doesn't double at 3.5 hours. It can't keep up with the bread flour starter yet.

I will continue to feed 1:2:2 for now. Hopefully the rye starter will get stronger soon.

Thanks.

 

 

 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

if the rye hasn't risen much, let it ferment until you can get lots of fermented aromas before feeding.  It should get softer and keep you coming back to take in its aromas when you lightly stir it.  As long as the starter is not collapsing or falling apart, it is still rising.  Leave the ss spoon in the starter and just cover.

Sorry (edit) Raise the feeding amounts as long as you are keeping it warm. The next round and consecutive feeding rounds will take longer but speed up as yeast populations increase and build.  

Rye is heavy and all things equal, will never rise as high as wheat.    Rye is more brittle in dough texture and actually stiffens as temps drop, temperatures that don't influence wheat dough temps.  

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Bread flour starter is tripling! It has a strong smell to it, almost like a chemical smell. Hopefully, that is a good thing. Is it time to start feeding it more?

The rye starter  still isn't rising much, but it is starting to have a stronger smell.  Keep feeding the 20g with 40g rye and 40g water?

Thanks, mini oven.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:). Try reducing the rye starter to 10:40:50.  If good, see Dab's link below to save starter.

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Is that 10 starter : 40 rye : 50 water?  I will reduce the rye starter at the next feed. It gets really thick and gets lots of holes on the sides, but no holes on the top, and not much height. 

 

I feel like the engine that "can". I think IT  can....grow good beasties!

I think my bread flour starter is ready to bake with. Maybe?

When can I convert it to a refrigerator starter? 

When can I change part of the bread flour starter to a whole wheat starter? After about 5 feeds with WW flour? 

 

I am getting somewhere, thanks to everyone here! No backsliding allowed! I have used 4 bags of 5 lbs rye flour so far and not made any bread, but I am getting strong starters!

Abe's picture
Abe

For a starter/levain feed or recipe, i.e. 1:2:3, it's always...

Starter : Water : Flour

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Thanks, Abe. I had it wrong again! So much to learn and remember!

David R's picture
David R

Technically, every smell in the world is a chemical smell. 🙂

But yes, it is supposed to smell, for sure. If it didn't smell, it would be a sign that the process wasn't working.

Accurately describing an unfamiliar smell (unfamiliar to either the speaker or the listener) is a very difficult trick.

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Well, you are so right about smells. I have never thought about it!

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

a sourdough culture that his fed and the pH drips to under 4.  I;m sure that your starter can be stiffened up according to the NMNF chart to 66^ hydration any time you want to do it b-never have ti do any of this feeding wastefulness  ever again except twice a year if you make loaf of bread every week like I do.

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Ok, that's a new one I haven't read about yet. Wow!

I will probably bake once every 2 weeks.

 

I have saved the chart!