The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Reviving my starter from the fridge

FrancoisCoppens's picture
FrancoisCoppens

Reviving my starter from the fridge

Hi everybody,

I've been having some problems with my previously thriving sourdough starter after I got it out of the fridge (on Tuesday morning) after a week or two. It doesn't double in volume anymore, even after 3 days feeding it APF two times a day. 

Yesterday morning, after feeding it, I put it in the oven at the keep warm setting (25C-35C) since it is a bit chilly in the apartment lately and when I got home from work I expected to see my starter doubled or tripled in volume. I was a little bit disappointed it only increased about 1.25x. 

I thought, maybe it went so fast it was already on the decline since the little gluten it contained were already dissolved into glue. So I fed it again. This morning no rise. Well, slightly as before but certainly not doubled or tripled, like it was before I stored it in the fridge.

It seems there is bacterial activity since there are bubbles and the proteins are dissolved, but no yeast activity. The oven might have been warmer. Could the oven session have killed the yeast? 

Also, before I put the starter in the fridge I was transitioning from a 11.3% protein flour (Gruau d'Or bio T65) to a 11% protein T55 flour (see image). Since bleaching flour is not a thing here in the EU I assume it is not due to that. Might the protein content be too low? 

I always maintained my starter at 100% hydration following a 1:1:1 feeding ratio, feeding it once or twice a day. Sometimes once, sometimes twice. It didn't seem to bother the starter too much. Then again, I have the feeling that once you have a healthy active starter it can take a beating.

Could this be a particularly bad flour? I live in France. Does anybody recognise or has experience with this brand (see attached image)? It is the store brand from Casino.

Lot's of thanks in advance,

François

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

Sorry to hear that your starter is ailing. I'm far from expert, really, but your starter might need a different diet. Do you have a bulk store where you can just buy a few hundred grams of whole rye (T130 or 150), or whole wheat (T150). Starters love whole grains, and for some reason, rye seems to be particularly starter-friendly.

Biocoop have a good T130 rye for less than €3 the kilo, which will keep your starter happy, and you can add some to your white loaves for a flavor boost. There's a wonderful bulk shop in Gaillac called Bioazur (I don't know how mobile you are) that had all kinds of flours in bulk bins.

It may be that your starter is having a tantrum after its cold sleep. Once it's back to good health, you can arrange your feeding schedule so that you don't ever have any discard. Use the search bar to check out dabrownman's NMNF starter, for instance.

Hope this helps.

Carole

PS my Intermarché carries Francine brand T150 non-organic wheat flour which wasn't expensive, as I recall; and some supermarkets, Leclerc comes to mind, do have organic whole-grain flours also. But Bioazur is a great place.

FrancoisCoppens's picture
FrancoisCoppens

Hi Carole,

I do indeed add 5% rye flour to my bread, so I could consider mixing it in my starter, even though I had no problems with the wheat flour before. You might be right that it is the diet. I did create the starter with a semi-complet T160 from Carrefour (might have been even the Francine brand you mentioned). That worked well. Then I converted to the T65 and that worked fine too. Maybe converting it again to a low grade flour and simultaneously putting it in the fridge was a bit too much for it to handle. 

Since I work and live on practically opposite end of the métro, I don't own a car so I am not too mobile, so I don't venture much outside of Toulouse apart from a hike every now and then in the mountains. I tried  my local Biocoop though but unfortunately they didn't carry any rye flour. I had to get that from the bio section at my local Intermarché.

I think I will try to move back to that nice Gruau d'Or T65 I had before and see what happens. If it still doesn't work, I'll try some rye.

Thanks for the suggestions,
François

 

 

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

to provide any nutrition for your beasties, especially if they've gone for awhile without a feed. If the T65 worked, then give it another go. If not, it seems there are a number of bulk shops in Toulouse that may carry whole wheat or whole rye, so you can just buy a couple hundred grams for €0.60 and keep your starter fat and happy.

My starter is a little over a year old, and has been fed almost exclusively on the T130 rye from Biocoop. I only keep between 30 and 50g of starter in the fridge and bake once or twice a week. When I'm ready to bake, I take out, say 10g and use that to build the levain for whatever recipe I'm using. Every once in a while, especially when I'm down to the last 15g or so, I'll give it a 1:2:2 feed. Once I see some signs of activity, like bubbles on the bottom and sides, I'll once again refrigerate about 30g and use the rest to build a levain (or even a dough). No discard :).

And if you ever get a chance to go and explore the wine country around Gaillac, do stop in at Bioazur -- it's in a horrible zone commerciale, but they've got great stuff at reasonable prices. Wish we had one like that here!

Bonne chance, bon courage.

Carole

Oh, and once your guy is happy and healthy again, you might want to give it a good feed and then, rather than discard, take off half and dry it. Keeps forever. That way, you'll have a backup of healthy starter that would be up and running within 24 hours. (I take mine when we go on holiday in Gaillac.)

FrancoisCoppens's picture
FrancoisCoppens

Hi again Carole,

I have fed it with the gruau d'or T65 bio last night, but sadly not a millimetre of growth this morning. I want to try just one last time by feeding it rye before I toss it out and start a new healthy starter. I have the feeling this will be quicker than trying to figure out what is wrong with this one. 

I will go to the city centre this afternoon and try and see if they have it at the Biocoop, Ceci et Cela or Bio C Bon. They don't at the biocoop here. It is nice weather and Toulouse is getting prettier by the day now. I miss having a beer at Quai de la Daurade in the warm sun. 

I would like to have a baking schedule like yours but sadly that is what got me into this starter mess. Once this one or the new starter is healthy again and I'm back at normal 'production' I might get back to that. Now I just want good bread again as fast as possible. 

Thanks again for your advice.

Bon weekend!

PS. Haven't been in Gaillac yet but I love the wines from there very much. I also like the reds from Cahors. In any case there are too many good things in this region anyway. Don't get me started on the duck... And those zones commercials are horrible indeed but they tend to have everything you need on one convenient place.

msneuropil's picture
msneuropil

I'm no expert...but I was wondering how much did you discard before feeding and how old is your starter??

Have you used it before for a bake?

 

FrancoisCoppens's picture
FrancoisCoppens

Hi msneuropil,

I think I had about 150 grams of starter in the fridge. Then I discarded 100 grams, kept 50 grams and fed it with 50 grams of T55 flour and 50 grams of water.

I didn't bake with it though, so it could be perfectly fine. It's just that I read on the fora that one needs to wait until the starter has doubled in volume for optimal yeast activity. I might try a small test bread and see how it goes.

Thanks!

alfanso's picture
alfanso

suggestion: never discard all of your remaining starter until you can prove that your refreshed starter is active and productive.  Place it aside until then.  If the refresh has an issue then you've just blown all of your foundational starter.

Agree that a feed with flour higher than T55 should be used.

David R's picture
David R

I'm not familiar with how flour is sold in France, but what you have looks very normal, and normal should be a good thing.

Is there anything else that has changed? Is your fridge working the same as before? Does your starter smell different or look different?

Some ovens show the wrong temperature, or have an inaccurate controller - is it possible that your starter has been cooked a little?

FrancoisCoppens's picture
FrancoisCoppens

Hi David,

I like normal. I like abnormal too, but not while baking bread.

As far as I know nothing more changed. The fridge still works as good or as bad as it did before. I think the temperature is somewhere between 4.5C and 6.5C. This might be a very big margin for yeast. I have to take new measurements to see how stable the temperature is.

And yes, I might have cooked my starter a little. It still looks like a starter though. It also smells normal to me. Normal in the sense that it smells like it did before when it was producing nice fluffy loaves.

David R's picture
David R

This means I can say with great certainty that I don't know. ☺️

FrancoisCoppens's picture
FrancoisCoppens

Haha, that makes two!

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

Were you using maybe using bottled or filtered water before, and then forgot and used tap water by mistake? Just a thought.

FrancoisCoppens's picture
FrancoisCoppens

Nope, just good old Toulousian tap water. 

msneuropil's picture
msneuropil

So this is a fairly new starter and you are trying to get it to the point you can start baking with it??  

IF that is the case...did the recipe indicate when you should be able to start using it for the first time IF everything went according to plan??

I too was wondering about the water as another poster mentioned. 

After decades of being stubborn...and using tap water that I let sit over night cause I thought it was silly to buy bottled water...AND having my starter (white flour only) just go dead...I started using bottled water OR bringing well water home from my parents cabin.  Never had issues again. That said...I don't use bottled water for the final mix of dough...just for starter.  I also did as others have suggested here and use rye or whole wheat as a portion of my starter...or in the case of rye...I just went to a 100% rye starter.  

 

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Rising is not necessarily "the be all, to end all" indicator of yeast activity. You need structural integrity to allow for the trapping of gasses to see rising. If the gluten is dissolved as you have observed then how will it rise?

Weaker flours will lose their consistency more quickly.

I would bet that your starter is simply "off-kilter". I'm sure the yeast is all well an good. You just need to adjust your feed ratio to deter the proteolytic nature of what is a hungry/unattended starter.

Go for a large feed and a pinch of salt.

You can safely ignore the warnings of using very refined flour.

But consistency, and a lack thereof will potentially upset your starter.

BreadLee's picture
BreadLee

I just awoke my weak starter with some rye.  It loves rye and doubled that night.  

Good luck! 

phaz's picture
phaz

Sounds like an issue of dilution (I speak of that often). After a time in could storage, the starter would be in a weakened state. Removing 2/3 rd of it may have been to much. Don't discard and reduce the feed amount for a few days.

I just revived my starter after about a year and a half in the fridge. Amount I fed it was minimal until I saw some activity and no discarding. It was back in shape in about a week - using 10% protein bleached flour. 

David R's picture
David R

François:

I thought about it a bit. There are only two possibilities.

  1. Something has changed.
  2. You are crazy.

I really hope that the first option is the correct one. 😁

It IS possible that the change was not something that you did. But clearly, there was an unusual event. Otherwise, you wouldn't be asking a question.

FrancoisCoppens's picture
FrancoisCoppens

In the end I went with Mwilson's and Carole's advice. I split the starter in two. Gave one a 1:2:2 wheat T65 feed like mwilson suggested, and the other one a 1:1:1 rye T110 feed like Carole suggested. And made a new rye starter on the side for if these two would fail.

This morning it looked like the one I fed with rye is back to life again! Volume increased and big bubbles! The other one was still as flat as a crêpe with just tiny tiny frothy bubbles. So I tossed that one out and made pancakes with it. 

I just fed the awakening one a mixture of 50-50 wheat T65 and rye T110. I hope one time 100% rye and the 50% rye this time is enough to revive it permanently. My goal is to slowly convert it back to a 100% white wheat starter because I find it easier to control the amount of rye in my final dough when it is added during mixing instead of having it in my starter.

I will let you know how the starter progresses, but already happy that it doesn't seem like a lost cause!

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

This probably means your starter was fine, it was just unhappy with the T55. But rye does make starters very happy, they party like mad!

I don't know T110 rye: the T110 I have is wheat flour and rye comes in T70, T130, 150 (hard to find) and T170 (impossible to find; I'll have to order that online). But I'm glad you found something that works for you. 

If you maintain your starter at 100%, it's easy to figure out the rye in your recipe, and you would just subtract the amount of rye in your starter from the rye in the dough, replacing it with your white flour. 

Good work, and keep on baking. 

Carole 

FrancoisCoppens's picture
FrancoisCoppens

Hi Carole,

If you want to try it. It's the one from Monfournil. They sell it here at the Intermarché: https://www.monfournil.fr/produits/farine-de-seigle/

My starter has tripled this morning after another 50-50 feed yesterday evening. I fed it again and will bake today. Finally!

I will take better care of my starter from now on and only feed it good quality flour. Yes I know, that should always be the case. I learned my lesson ;)

Thanks everybody for all the great advice!

Bon journée à tous,
François

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

Thanks for the link to the Monfournil flour; I have seen that at Monoprix, but found it quite pricey. Will try to PM you later on with some shopping ideas…

Looking forward to seeing your next loaf!

Keep on baking,

Carole