The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

WHOOHOO! Got some starter revived!

Atropine's picture
Atropine

WHOOHOO! Got some starter revived!

Hello everyone,

Last summer (or was it spring?) I was trying to get sourdough starter going. I ended up not starting from scratch (apparently I have mold, not yeast, in my air). I ordered at least one starter. I think it was from KA and it was not their liquid starter, but some tiny packet of yeast that I thought I might could make a starter out of. I also had gotten a starter from a friend, and then tried some touristy packet starters.

Long story short, I ended up with 2 jars and 1 plastic container of starter in my fridge. They sat there for months and months. I tossed the starter in the plastic container and was going to toss the other two, but thought I might as well try to revive them. Both the jars had dark grey hooch on them.

I also had another touristy packet of dried starter. So I put that in a jar to see if I could make it go too.

The results after about 5-7 days of babysitting these puppies (we will call them 1, 2, and "jack" which is the dried touristy starter). The feeding schedule is to pour out about half of what is in the jar, add back flour and water (sorry, I do not weigh the flour and water, I just have a cup that is handy for me to use) until the amount is doubled, then stir and let sit on the counter under the lights. I do this twice a day.

1) #2 looked like it was a definite winner. It sprung back more quickly and more vigorously than the other two UNTIL about day 3 or 4. When....

2) #1 took the lead and started making great strides. #2 stopped rising QUITE as much, but it still kept rising.

3) "Jack" took a long time to do much at all. However, he is slowly becoming more vigorous. He finally got that wonderful "sour" smell. Each starter has a different scent, but all are lovely.

Interestingly, #2 was doing GREAT until I changed flours. I think I was using a regular AP flour, but then ran out and used a bag of bread flour. That same feeding, #2 lost some of his umph. Maybe they are picky. So I oepened a bag of regular unbleached flour to see if they will get more bouncy.

I felt that #1 and #2 were established enough that I could use some of the cast off to make bread. FWIW, I do NOT like dumping sourdough down the sink as I am afraid that it will gum up the septic system. So I have been sticking the cups of cast offs outside to freeze to take to the dump. This time I took the cast offs to 1 and 2 and mixed in some flour and salt and made a nice little loaf. I just could not wait!

I let the dough rise some on the counter (maybe an hour?), then put it in one of those round ceramic dishes and let it rise a bit more. Put it in the fridge for about 12 hours. It was beautiful this morning--all puffy and smooth! I let it sit out for about 1/2 hour or so to warm up some...more because I was afraid of busting the dish than because of the bread needing it.

Baked at 375 for about 40 minutes in the ceramic dish, on top of an airbake pan (again, I was afraid the cold ceramic might break) . The texture was incredible--the crumb was slightly chewy and the outside was probably not the best crust ever, but I was very pleasantly surprised that where it had touched the bowl was crunchy, and the top was both crusty and chewy (if that makes sense?). Actually at first the top crust was HARD to cut (I was trying to snitch a bite right out of the oven)! But it relaxed a bit once I let it cool for a minute or two.

However, it stuck badly to the container and I ended up tearing the bottom of the bread. No biggie, this was just my test loaf, but I did learn a great lesson from this--use parchment!

The flavor was fine. Not the best bread I have ever tasted, but DEFINITELY edible. Not as sour as I would like, but it did have a hint of sour. Probably could have used a bit more time and salt. The starters are still gaining their strength back, so I am pretty pleased!

I plan to make a loaf out of each individual starter (as opposed to mixing the two like I did here). I also plan to make them EXACTLY the same to each other and see what the flavor differences are.

Now, I have a question or two (and none of them is "how do i make this more sour!!" lolol):

1) I have read mike's blog and agree that having a starter stowed in the fridge too soon will probably not allow all the flavors of the starter to develop to their fullest potential. So I think I will keep it out on the counter for at least a couple of months. Do I need to feed it twice a day still?

2) How stressed do I need to be that the starters are not rising FULLY double? I mean, they rose the bread probably triple AND did not seem overproofed in the least (no deflating, no irregularities). I am not sure why they rose better in the bread than they do in their jars. Maybe it was the combination of the two starters? And if it still bubbles and still rises the bread, then i probably do not need to worry about it, eh?

3) How long until I dry some to store "just in case"? I do not mind drying some now, and then again later when the flavors have fully developed. But i also do not want to dry some too early in the recuperation process while the yeast is still weak. I am pretty stressed about losing any of these, so I am trying to have back ups for back ups, just in case I mess something up.

4) Is replacing half by volume of the starter diluting the taste too much? It would seem that a long cool rise will allow flavors to develop, BUT it will not do the same thing as a mature starter, AND more mature starter would seem to be more potent in flavors (not necessarily sourness, but flavor) than a mature starter which has been diluted by half with a recent feeding.

Thanks for reading. I honestly have been searching and reading my heart out on this site and mike's so if I asked a dumb question, it was not for lack of effort, but because I must have missed it.

Davo's picture
Davo

My views, which are entirely subjective and others may have very different valid ones:

I don't think it needs two months on the counter - a few weeks should be fine. Once or twice a day ought to work OK.

If the starter isn't rising so much as the bread, it may be hydration (if the starter is wet) The bubbles can burst out rather than rise the starter. A lot of people talk about their bread dough doubling and tripling. Mine is always overproved if I leave it get that big. The advice I got is you want the greatest overall rise - including oven spring - not before the oven. If it's still bursting in the oven, fine, but don't push it too far in the ferment/prove - less can be more.

I haven't dried any. I've given some to others and got them going on baking SD. Now if I have a disaster, I can just get some back.

You have to dilute it to feed it, so it can work to rise your dough and give flavour. If you DON'T dilute enough, it won't work on either front.