The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Wild Starter Help - Underfed, then died

panpan's picture
panpan

Wild Starter Help - Underfed, then died

 

I've made natural leaven once before, but never got around to baking much bread and ended up throwing it away.

 I'm trying to get a wild starter going again, but ended up killing it.

These are the steps I went through:

 1. I mixed fresh ground wheat (hard and soft spring from wheatmontana) with bottled water 50/50.

2. Left it out at room temp (around 65F) for about 3 days

3. It started bubbling on the third day and I started feeding it with store bought all-purpose flour (only once a day).

 It had a sour smell with a hint of odor (probably anaerobic bacteria)

4. By the 5th/6th day it started to have a pleasant sour/sweet smell, but wasn't bubbling very much. I placed it in the oven overnight (without the light on) and by the next day it started having this weird smell. The next day or two the smell intensified and it smelled like dirty feet.

 I think I killed the starter.

 

I dumped most of it out and am starting all over again (reusing a little bit). Right now its been 3 days since I started anew, but it doesnt seem to bubble at all. It kind of has a yeasty/dough like smell but no sign of life. It doesnt smell bad at all either.

Should I continue to feed it twice daily? Or should I wait till it starts bubbling and hooch forms?

 

 

Eli's picture
Eli

I would feed it for the next few days and watch it closely. What is the ambient temp that you are keeping it at?

panpan's picture
panpan

 

During the night time ambient temperature is around 65 - 70F

During the day - 70 - 80F

Eli's picture
Eli

If it is above 72 I would definitely feed twice a day. Try it for a few days and if it is closer to the 80 I would feed, let it sit for an hour and then place in the fridge. Next day take it out in the AM let come to room temp, feed, allow it to sit an hour or two and place back in the fridge.

Eli

panpan's picture
panpan

 

Thanks for the advice. I'll give it a go and report back.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I think your starter might show more signs of life if let to stand out in room.  Refrigeration slows down the process.  The temperature should be about right.  Remember when you feed, to remove a large portion and throw it away.  Keep a small bit, feed it and wait till lots of fine bubbles form.   

Mini o 

panpan's picture
panpan

 

Update:

I've been feeding the starter and keeping it in the oven without the lights on and it has started bubbling again.

It has a nice fragrant smell to it. 

 

Just another question:

I've read "The Bread Builders" and remember reading somewhere (don't remember which page) that a sweet tasting bread can be made with just salt, water, flour, and starter.

How is this done?

I've tried making bread with just those 4 ingredients in the past, but all that came out was bland tasting bread.

Eli's picture
Eli

If your starter is like mine when the temp is above 72 it seems to go up and then straight to hooch. I think a cooler temp keeps it balanced and that sweet liqour smell.  Keep feeding and I think you will be fine.

Eli

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Panpan, in answer your question:

I've read "The Bread Builders" and remember reading somewhere (don't remember which page) that a sweet tasting bread can be made with just salt, water, flour, and starter.

The answer involves a process called "retarding".  Simply, it involves placing the freshly prepared dough under refrigeration (~38 dF) for 12 to 24 hours.  The innoculated dough contains amalytic enzymes which are still active at the lower refregeration temperatures.  They breakdown the starch molecules in the flour into fermentable sugars which then feed the sourdough yeast to leven the bread when brought to the ideal leven temperataure of 77 dF.  This is one of the taste control parameters of sourdough.  The resulting bread is unbelievably good.  It actually tastes better the next day or two after it is baked.  

But first you must have a vigorous starter, so wait till you've got that established and then try retarding the dough....,

Wild-Yeast

panpan's picture
panpan

 

I'm curious, for those who have tried this process, how sweet can the bread turn out to be?