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Oh please, Grow for me! The saga of Audrey 2, the little starter that wouldn't

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Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

Oh please, Grow for me! The saga of Audrey 2, the little starter that wouldn't

Well, I'm on attempt #3 and into month three of trying to start a starter. Almost 8 kilos of flour into it and still nothing to show for it. Ignoring the two previous attempts here's what I've been doing:

Day 1: Start with organic, stone ground rye, 60g and bottled spring water, 60g. Wait 24 hrs as it sits atop the fridge.

Day 2: Add 60g water, 60g rye, place on fridge, wait 24 hrs

Day 3: Discard all but 120g, add 60g water and rye, place on fridge, wait 12 hrs

Day 3.5: Discard all but 120g, add 60g water and 60g unbleached all purpose.

Day 4: Bubbles and slight foaminess, but I'm suspecting this is unwanted gas this early in the game. Smells like flour and water, no alcohol. Feed normal 120/60/60 ratio (half old, half new). Oh, I wash the container every time I feed it, too.

Day 4.5 and onwards: repeat cycle. Bubbling subsides, eventually begin to get alcohol smell, very minor bubbles in batter could just as easily be from mixing in air. Occasional SLIGHT growth, at most just under 1/4" on about an inch of mix. This eventually subsides and hootch shows up. Alcohol smell gets REALLY strong, little to no activity yeast wise.

I'm now on week three, as noted and thinking this is going nowhere fast. Or slow, actually.

What should my next step be to try and get this thing to grow? Does it make sense to thicken 'er up at this point (1:1:2 perhaps?) to try and stave off excess hootchiness?

And I'm calling it Audrey 2.

I've given you sunshine
I've given you rain
You've given me nuthin'
But heartache and pain
I'm begging you sweetly
I'm down on my knees
Oh please... grow for me!

(seriously botched lyrics from the musical
Little Shop of Horrors (1982))

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Odd. It should work. Whose organic rye are you using? Whose bottled water?

 

I'd try using tap water rather than bottled.

 

If it isn't working in a week, you should start over. Also, don't wash the container. There's nothing pathenogeic in the container and you may be killing the critters you want to save.

 

If that doesn't get it, try the Professor Calvel strategy I outline athttp://www.sourdoughhome.com/professorcalvelsstarter.html At times, it works for people who have trouble with other techniques.

 

Again, don't get too carried away with cleaning everything in sight.  Sourdough is not a sterile process.

 

Mike

 

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

Well, it's all Canadian so I'm not sure this will be helpful to you down in Texas but the rye flour is by Oak Manor Farms in Tavistock, Ontario (est. 1975). Tavistock is small town country. The ingredients list says "Organic Rye" and "100% natural and no conditioners".

Water is Kirkland (Costco house brand) spring water, bottled in Puslinch, Ontario. Ingredients: Spring water, Ozone.

And the reason I'm cleaning the container is simply to keep it from getting drippy and grotty and I want a clean view. And by cleaning, I really mean just rinsing. So if it's OK to use tap water (I have no idea if it's chlorine or chloramine here) I would guess it's OK to rinse. But you're the expert, I'm just mucking about here so I'll follow your suggestions.

Just a week, hunh? Well, that'll teach me to look at various starter recipes on the intarweb. I'd seen some that described finally getting somewhere 10 or more days after first mixing.

OK, just checked out the Perfessor's reicpe and I see salt getting added in the mix. Isn't salt BAD for yeast growth? More confusion... Now I can't start up until I get meself some malt so off I'll go to hunt up a local health food emporium and get me some. Don't suppose a few dashes of Glenfiddich would do, hm? It was worth a shot.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Cleaning means different things to different people.  Rinsing out is OK, I was worried you were washing the jar.  Still, at this stage, it's OK if it's grungy.

 

As to the salt, it controls the speed of enzymatic reactions and doesn't seem to harm the yeast and bacterial development.  His technique works quite well.

 

Mike

 

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

Excellent. Now I'm out the door to go fetch me some malt and more organic rye from a health food store as I've pretty much used up what was left of my little bag making a tennis ball. Or perhaps they'll have plain rye berries and I'll crunch up a couple cups.

I shall document the process and post it with illustrations so others can see how one seriously n00bish person's try at the Perfesser's technique goes, with the caveat that "YMMV".

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Sounds to me like death cries of a starter. Hungry Rye, thy name is Audrey. She was begging on day 5.

If she has hootch at the moment, dig into her middle with a spoon (I know, take a swig of that Glenfiddich and be brave) save about 30g, then mix in 50g water and stirring in enough rye to make a tennis ball....

If you just fed her:

Try stirring in enough rye flour into your existing blob (pour off any hootch) to make a tennis ball (firm starter). Roll it lightly in flour to dust the outside so you can see the expansion cracks. Rye doesn't rise much. Cover and now watch it. Tell me what it looks like in 3 hours, 6 hours. Cracks are good, smell it. By room temp of 75°F 8-14 hours is about right to peak, normally. Peak is not double although it can happen, it is smells good and sour, full of cracks, no longer a ball but a relaxed blob and if cut open, has an obvious loosened interior from gas and activity.

Feed: Remove 30g and repeat feeding with 50g water and enough flour to make a tennis ball. Roll into flour and let sit. The rest can be used to build up to a rye recipe or discarded.

She has a good chance of recovery. Very good chance. Don't give up, she just has a bad hangover.

Mini O

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

Hi Mini,

Well, what's to lose, I'll give your process a shot too since Audrey2 is about to go into the recycle bin anyway.

So here's a shot of her: 30g original starter that wouldn't, 50g spring water and 88g of organic rye added to make a tennis ball.

 Turning cranky batter starter into a stiff ball

Now we set her aside and wait...

Updates at 2 and 5 p.m.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and you crack me up!  She does look beautiful, and I think she's actually smiling! Why not with those great graphics! 

Mini O

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

Here it is...

2 p.m. update 

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

 

This just in! Massive earthquakes shake Planet Audrey!
All resident beasties are advised to burrow deep! Stay tuned for further reports!

Carnage and destruction on the surface!

 

I'm a bit frustrated from my attempt at finding Malt extract. I hit four health food stores and one bulk bin store and two of them had jars of Malt Barley (looks like dark honey) for a mere $9.00 for a 600g jar. Since I only need 5g in total, this seems somewhat excessive. The label indicated it could be used as a honey substitute (I don't get that, isn't honey considered a sugar substitute already?) so now I'm wondering if it's added (3g to 300g flour, 300g water and 3g salt) simply as a sugar source for the beasties, can honey be substituted for the honey substitute? Or are there specific properties to the malt extract that are needed in the starter? Guess I'm tossing that question to Mike but if anyone knows..

I've also looked up malt extract in reference to beer making and it seems to be sold in either large sizes or very large sizes. Maybe if I was a bakery (or beer maker) I'd use the remaining 595g of the stuff for something but this would seem like a waste of malt and/or cash to go this route for just 5g. Maybe I can just ask the do-it-yourself beer place if I can get the scrapings out of a 2-quart tin they're about to toss out...

So until I can find either a smaller quantity or hear I can just use honey (that, I have) the Perfesser's Starter is gona have to be shelved. Or made sans malt extract.

I'm happy to report, however, at the bulk food store I found organic stone ground rye flour for a mere 59 cents a pound where the bulk unbleached white was $1.59. Compared to 2 lb bag of organic rye I bought for $3 at the grocery store (I am getting the impression there's an automatic crazy markup on anything labeled "organic") this is a steal!

 

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

Here we are another few hours later, definitely deep cracks so we have clear expansion.

End of cycle one, big cracks showing 

Although the outside of our ball is still a little moist to the touch, I'm thinking I may have added too much rye to make the ball. When I slice it, there's not "soft gooey center" and the ball is still pretty much all stiff, it hasn't relaxed as Mini suggested it might.

Sliced ball shows no softening in the center 

Since I'm not going to be up too late, we're gonna call this cycle done and go ahead and feed our little ball of dough. This time, because we're starting with drier starter (30g) we won't put in as much rye flour and we also want to keep the ball a bit softer. So we'll add 50g water and 50g flour.

Audrey fed again and made a little softer

Here it is, now it rests.

Good night, Audrey! 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Rainbowz,

This looks very much like a procedure that I followed from Tom Jaine's directions for growing a starter, as recorded in my blog.  The resulting starter (my second attempt, that is) turned out to have both a good flavor and good leavening capacity.  Sadly, it expired from neglect a few months later, due to my travel schedule that kept me away from home for long stretches.  I just couldn't keep up with the travel, chores at home on random weekends and more than one starter to remember to refresh.

Looks like Audrey is doing just fine.  I hope you enjoy the resulting bread.

Paul

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

Hey Paul,

Thanks for the post and the link to the blog entry, interesting reading. Also some helpful tips for what I will need to do with Audrey from here on. Did you continue with WW or did you happen to switch to UAP for the ball at any point?

--------
Paul

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

My computer keeps going down.

It is noon here and by the time you get up, we will see what the new starter has done.

I hope you hung on to the old one from yesterday, If the starter was overfed as you suspect, it might do it some good to pop it into the fridge for a couple of days. Anyway, there were some very good signs: the obvious cracks, and the moisture on the surface. How did it smell? Like wet flour or was it getting sour? Let this new ball of Audrey stand until you smell a definite sour.

So she won't be lonely, I also refreshed my Austrian firm rye starter standing for about 2 weeks now in the fridge. Broke and cut it open and took a picture (not so pretty as Audrey's) and took 30g starter and mixed with 50g water and 70g Rye flour, He weighed in at 150g. So we can compare notes.... I didn't mention gooey but that is what he is inside, I did notice that when breaking in comparing to cutting it open, the structure looks a little different but still gooey.

 Firm starter gone soft after 2 weeks

Austrian Firm Rye Sourdough Starter

 

 Audrey!  Wanna play ball?

Austrian in form, ready to play ball. 11:35 am

After 2 1/2 hours... cracks forming!: Action starting to loose shapeAfter 2 1/2 hours... cracks forming!

 

 Those are actually holes in the cracks...After 7 hours....

Smelling sour and not so firm ...gasses escaping from collapsing planetoid.

And then to tear it open.... spilling guts! Don't look Audrey if you can't handle it...

 It is gooey if I touch it, see the broken bubbles?

Ripe Firm Sourdough Starter

"So much for playing ball, what do you say...are you still cranky?"

Mini O

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

What fun, sister starters across the globe!

I've made up a third feed ball and adjusted the flour to match your 70g. I've also fired up a blog and posted some updates as well ass detailed the first parts again. Of course, the blog adds stuff backwards so the starting post is at the bottom, there's only three posts so far, one for each feed and it's pics.

But to recap today's Audrey Report:

She went flat with the 50g water and 50g flour, that may have been too soft (70g flour will likely be just right then) and had a nice bunch of bubbles all inside. Didn't notice if she's expanded a whole lot, definitely didn't double but may have increased 1/4, it's very hard to tell. She did develop some crack but I don't know if that's from squishing down or stretching via gas bubbles. Either way, I've now mixed up a third ball with the 30:50:70 ratio and she's resting in her little house at about 81F (27.2C).

Photos are in the blog (so this thread doesn't go crazy with too many pics - is that even an issue? Ive not seen pic heavy forum threads here yet so i thought that might be unusual)

I should also like to note your rye flour is a whole lot less "chunky" than mine. It looks extremely fine in fact where mine has visible little pieces of grain/shell. Does this make much difference, you think? Is the available food easier/faster for the critters to munch on if it's ground finer?

I'm excited to keep these two starters going side by side (with a few thousand KMs between them) and see how they progress or differ.

Thanks for doing this!

BTW, what will you name yours?

- Paul 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

cause she wants to be in bread! Give the poor girl a chance and bake with her, she's ready! Going flat is a sigh with a firm rye that it matured, don't worry about doubling in rising! She is a full fledged firm starter! (I know, hard to believe.) Now use her! That's an order! Your next tennis ball can go into the fridge to store while you bake with parts from all these balls. You've waited long enough. Find a recipe! Read up on Bill's directions for maintaining firm starters.  It is really quite easy.  They are excellent.

Mini O

cordel's picture
cordel

I can't see the pictures in your last post. Perhaps more than one picture just takes too long to download?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Looks like a traffic jam.  It should be better now.  I now see what Audrey's been up to.  Looks like she's ready to go make bread.  Got a recipe?

Mini O

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Now I will have to make another tennis ball for my fridge (to be used in the next week or two),  But 30g for me is too much, 15g or 20g will do just fine.  Add water 50g and flour 70g-80g  and tuck planetoid away in the fridge.   The rest (130g) will now get increased for a recipe or two.  I'd like some muffins so I will put about half, say 80g into a measure cup and add water & flour to make one cup goo.  Let it sit out two hours and put away in the fridge overnight for morning.  Must decide on the bread and go from there.  

Waiting to hear about Audrey 2 too. 

Mini O

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

Really? She's ready already? Wow, after waiting almost 2 weeks to see not much action on the other starters, I'm a little shocked this one's ready in such short time. I guess the other ones really were OK just fighting bad environmental issues.

Okey-doke then, I've updated the blog  with the latest pic of our young gal, all ready to move on. When I have a bit of time this week, I'll work up the first/test batch of bread and report back with the results.

Now I presume there's no funny steps to watch out for switching this ball over to unbleached AP, right? It's just gradually feeding it until the rye is pretty much ratio'd out, correct? Or is using the rye version nearly imperceptible if I'm going to do my pre-bread feed with AP? (Gah, I'm sure there's a specific term for this first step of the actual bread making... is this what's called "pre-ferment"?) Gadzooks, I'm such a n00b...

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

then you should really use it within 24 hours otherwise make another tennis ball.   You can leave it rye if you like, keep it in the fridge and remove what you need until it gets down to 20g to make another tennis ball. 

Try removing 50g  of Audrey, stir in 100g water and 100g wheat flour and whip it up real good!  Mark the container with tape at the level it will reach when double.  Now cover and time it.  How long does it take?  Anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.  When it has expanded to double and tastes tangy use it into a bread recipe.  If you do not use it within 24 hours, park it in the fridge.

You can start with this right away or before falling into bed (refrigerate in the morning,) then she is ready to go.  I don't know your schedule.  Have fun!

Mini O

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Rainbowz commented:

Really? She's ready already? Wow, after waiting almost 2 weeks to see not much action on the other starters, I'm a little shocked this one's ready in such short time. I guess the other ones really were OK just fighting bad environmental issues.

It's never taken me more than a week to have a starter ready to go.  The keys seem to be starting with organic whole grain water ground flour and regular feedings, whether or not you think the starter is doing anything.  After all, you wouldn't tell your infant, "no food until you're on the A honor roll in the first grade" would you? Living organisms need to be fed.

 

Mike

 

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

That's understood but I'd been doing 12 and 8 hr feeds on these guys and was actually wondering if I was feeding them too often (wondering, mind you, not stopping) and each time I was dumping half out perchance diminishing an already weak colony, then doing it again in 8 hours... if they weren't sprightly enough to repopulate (and cause activity) I'd be constantly diminishing their numbers until there were practically none.

In any case, I still want to give that Prof. Clavel's recipe a crack, Mike. Do you know if the malt extract is mandatory due to it's particular properties or is it more a sugar source for the yeast and can be replaced by honey/molasses/something? If it IS mandatory (since many starters don't use it, I'm thinking perhaps not 100%) then I'll wait until I locate a brew-yer-own place and see if I can't pilfer a used can of the stuff and scrape out the 5g I need.

Thanks for the help!

- Paul

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I usually have malt around for making Kaiser rolls and bagels, so it wasn't usually a problem.  Once I didn't have it and made the start with just grain and water.  I even omitted the salt.

 

I really couldn't tell any difference.  However, if I had the malt, I'd use it.  Most brewing shops have pound baggies of malt extract, and many have bulk bins where you can scoop out what you want.

 

Mike

 

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

I will then make an effort to locate a local brewing emporium and check out their wares and see if I can nab me a small amount. Do it right so I have no unusual bits to interfere with the expected outcome. 

 

Well damn... I was hopping from health food store to health food store yesterday and they all seemed to be in the same neck of town. I had looked a couple up in the yellow pages and just went there figuring one of them would have it, but didn't bother looking up a brew-your-own. After hitting five shops with no real luck, I gave up (it was also cold and raining and NO phonebooth had a phone book). I just looked it up in the phone book here at home (tip: keep last year's in your car) and  wouldncha know, seems there is one literally around the corner from two of the shops I went to. Urgh.

Well, now I know where to hop to. 

I'll still play with the doughball first see how that goes. But I do want to make this other one as well.  Maybe I'll also hit Walmart (ugh) and get a bag of flour from them since it's likely they import theirs from far away lands and the yeast on that may be slightly different than the local suppliers'.

- Paul

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

The road to breaddom has hit a snag. A recalcitrant starter is threatening to delay our voyage to sourdough goodness. Your opinions on what can be done to nudge things back on track are appreciated.

--------
Paul