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Forkish ELEMENTS OF PIZZA starter questions

martino's picture

Forkish ELEMENTS OF PIZZA starter questions

I have followed Forkish’s levain/starter process to the letter. 

What I have at day seven is a slurry with a few bubbles in it. I went ahead and made the starter for the pizza dough. Again, I have a sort of slurry with a few bubbles. 

The culture doesn’t smell bad, but it also has never risen. It’s “light” and “goopy” but it’s not rising.

I made and kept Reinhart’s starter from THE BREAD BAKER’S APPRENTICE several years ago, and I had a similar problem. I thought it had utterly failed. I left it sitting on the counter for another day and...wham! I had a working starter.

Should I start over? Should I feed the seven-day slurry, or just leave it till it does something? If your answer is “feed,” then what should I feed it?

pdx_prof's picture

If it's goopy, you may have too much liquid -- my starter has the texture of wet clay. 

I wouldn't start over. If there is some yeasty smell and some bubbles, it means you are probably OK. I'd remove all the starter except for 2 tablespoons, then add 30g. flour mix (1/2 wheat 1/2 white) and 30g water. 

In about 8 hours, you should have some bubbles and smell a bit sweet, 24 hours, it should have risen and fallen and have a distinctly sour smell. 

Repeat each morning. Should be going good in 2 days maybe sooner. 

phaz's picture

I'm afraid I'd disagree with removing a lot and adding fresh flour/water. Is a young starter, you want things to happen and it seems they are (slowly yes, but that's how it goes with a new starter). Removing a lot of what already has happened and adding a lot more food would only server to dilute things down (a lot). Kinda like 2 steps forward and 3 (or 4) steps backwards. Give it food, yes, but don't get rid of what you've been working for thus far. Things tend to go a lot quicker that way. Also, don't be afraid to thicken it up a bit. Doesn't hurt anything, and makes seeing the rise and fall much easier.

martino's picture

Okay, so first, an update:

I threw that batch out. I made another.

I (think that I) successfully made Forkish's levain, then the starter for the levain pizza dough.

But I didn't get to make the pizza dough, and instead I made Alexandra Stafford's Peasant Bread (that's a very nice recipe) and substituted the starter for the corresponding amounts of flour and water. I decreased the instant yeast from 2 1/4 tsp to 1, and used said starter.

I got a very nice loaf of bread with a crumb that seemed more active than what I'm used to. It was quite airy. Here's a pic:

Alexandra bread with sourdough

Thing is:

I've never once seen the starter rise, nor the levain it came from. This morning, I took 200 g of the levain from the fridge, and added 100g of water (85 degrees) and 100 g of gold medal unbleached all-purpose flour to the starter and put it in mo oven with the light on (It's cool is my house, between 68-70 degrees).

It's been about eight hours... the levain now looks like this:

Bubbly levain

Is this an active levain? I'm asking because it is refusing to double, or even move, really. There's gluten in it; it's stringy. And it bubbles like that. Those bubbles were not there this morning.

Am I on the right track with the oven light or not?

My inclination is to let this levain that I fed this morning sit there, either on the counter or in the oven, until it doubles.


martino's picture

So I took that levain out of the oven, and left it sitting on the counter for two days. I noticed at some point the bubbles changed from the larger ones shown in the picture above to smaller, more thoroughgoing bubbles. The whole thing seemed lighter somehow, but it never rose. 

Since it looked different, I fed it. 100 g starter, 50 g wheat flour, 50 g unbleached AP, 100 g water.

And lo and behold, it doubled in a few hours.

So I discarded and fed it again with white flour per Forkish's book, and it rose too.

So I have a refrigerated starter that appears to be working well.

Thanks for everyone's help.

Question: what are your favorite sourdoughs? Been thinking about angel biscuits maybe, or a yeasted pancake, but I'm looking for favorites and recommendations.

There's a pizza shop here (Garibaldi's, in Memphis) that makes its own sandwich bread. It's the most glorious ever. It's light and soft inside, with a bit of a crusty exterior. Not too sweet. Am pretty sure they're not using sourdough, and am pretty sure it's heavily enriched. Would also bet it comes from their pizza dough recipe.

Anybody know something similar?