The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


bakerwendy's picture


Yesterday I started the starter from Bread Baker's Apprentice. Today when I added the second helping of water and flour I noticed some bubbles in the Day 1 mixture. I mixed in the new flour and water and marked on the side of the jar at the level of the dough. In the book Reinhart says it could maybe rise 50% by tomorrow. Well it has already risen that much in about 4 hours. I have only started a starter one other time and it seemed to take several days to do anything. Is everything alright? Thanks

update: now it has been about six hours and it is coming out the top of the 4c mason jar. I guess i am just going to divide it and add the 3rd day four and water.

Does anyone know how this could be happening so quickly? Or any advice on what i should do?  


fancypantalons's picture

You've probably cultured a very nice supply of bacteria. :)  Just keep it up.  After the next couple feedings, I bet you'll see it slow down for a little while, perhaps even come to a dead stop.  Then, after a little while longer, it'll pick up again, and this time it should smell nice and yeasty.

Incidentally, my starter took about 6 days to take hold, and AFAIK, that's pretty normal (about a week is average).

Tacomagic's picture

I agree with FP.  Most likely this early in the starter you have a rather large population of bacteria.  Having bacteria is normal in the course of the starter.  The first 2-3 days will be spent culturing the bacteria and allowing them to proliferate, create waste, and die.  In the course of this proliferation, their waste products will slowly lower the PH of the starter, to a point where the bacteria can no longer survive, and they will die.

A good bacteria check is to smell the starter.  If there is a sour odor that smells a bit like spoiled milk or vomit, then you've got your bacteria culture going.  Most likely if you keep feeding the starter, the odor will go away just before it starts to rise on its own.

This is good news for the little yeastie beasties, since they enjoy the lower PH and will start to proliferate at that point.

Between the end of the bacteria storm (day 2 or 3) and the first day of yeast rise (day 6ish) the starter will seem to "die".  Most of the time if you keep feeding the starter, it'll spring back into action after 3 or so days.  My very first starter I panicked when on day 4 it "died".  There was absolutely no action in the jar.  I kept feeding it though, and by day 6 is was happy, smelled yeasty, and rising like crazy (Little guy would tripple in 4 hours).

Similar to FP, my starters usually take about 6-8 days, depending on the flour used, to be able to double their bulk in 2-3 hours (and smell yeasty).  I had one starter that I fed potato water that made it to the rising point in 4 days, I'm hoping this acceleration was due to the potato water, but I can't scientifically rule it out as just a coincidence.


P.S. Don't taste your starter... and if you do, don't admit it.

Confusion is a state of mind... or is it?

shericyng's picture

  I would like to know how to convert a stiff start to a batter type when a recipe calls for a cup of starter I know they can't mean a stiff dough consistency! Also my starter has been in the fridge for a few months and I'm new at this.....can I get it active again? Advise greatly appreciated!!

Tacomagic's picture

That last question is a bit loaded, so I'll handle the first one first... as it's easiest.

Converting a recipe to accept a firm starter is actually fairly easy... provided you know (reasonably well) the moisture content of the starter.  Better accuracy is attained using mass/weight measurements, but it can be done with volumetric measures.  Provided you know the ending moisture you want the bread dough to be at, it's simple math from there. 

But lets break down how to do a simple conversion for a simple substitution:
You have a 50% hydration starter that weighs 30g, so it's therefore 20g of flour and 10g of water.  The recipe calls for 30g (convienent no?) of 100% hydration starter, or 15g flour and 15g water.  So, to use the firm starter instead of the "batter" one, you would simply increase the water in the recipe by 5g, and decrease the flour by 5g and use the same amount of starter.

However, if you don't care to be too exact, usually the starter is a very small percentage of the final dough weight... usually between 5% and 15%.  Because it is such a small part of the final dough weight, you can usually just substitute in your firm starter, and just adjust the flour and water content by feel... if you even need to.

Personally, I've worked my 55% hydration starter into recipies I used to use my 100% hydration starter in without any vast changes.  At most I've added an extra "splash" of water to get the final dough hydration up a bit... but I've not made any drastic changes.


Confusion is a state of mind... or is it?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

So I get a stab at the second Q.   Pull that starter out of the fridge and carefully try to get a teaspoon out of the middle of the starter.  You might have to cut it open first or pull it apart with two forks, but try to get a clean sample, no scuzz or slime please.  If the whole starter is too pathetic to get a clean sample then start a new one.  (then ignore the rest of the answer...)

If you can....Then put clean sample into a small clean dish and add about 50ml or 1/4 cup luke warm tap water to it and stir till dissolved, add just a little (1/2 tsp) honey, a tablespoon of rye if you have any and some wheat flour to make a soft dough ball. 

Let sit for 12 hours or overnight.  Remove foamy spongy sample (about a scant tablespoon) from inside (discard the rest) and add water, beating it up nice and foamy and add flour (it doesn't have to be much, say 1/4 cup water and flour to your favorite consistancy or soft dough). Cover and let ripen. Do this twice a day for a few days untill it's preforming well.  If you happen to get hootch, feed more often or add more flour.  Good luck!

Mini O