The Fresh Loaf

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sourdough help!

Anonymous baker's picture
Anonymous baker (not verified)

sourdough help!

Hi all!

I'm new here and relatively new to bread baking. I started about 6 months ago with the formulas in the BBA, which have yet to let me down. Until now. I'm trying to start a sourdough starter using Reinhart's method. I started on day one with the proportions specified (I think it was 1 cup flour and 3/4 cup water). I had a little bit of movement on day 2, like the book said I would so I continued to follow the instructions, and then on day 3, I happily divided my very very risen starter into two. I threw half in one bowl and half in another and added bread flour to one and whole wheat to the other. (I had hoped to double the chance of success and maybe, luckily, end up with a white and whole wheat starter) Then, last night (day 4), nada. Nothing at all. Oh well, I went ahead and followed the instructions, hoping that today I'd see some action this morning. No movement, just a new layer of liquid covering the top of the starter. I'm about to give up and try the sourdoughlady's method that I found here. But if anyone has any ideas on how to save the current starter this late in the game, I'd love to hear them!


SourdoLady's picture

Don't give up the ship! You are expecting too much too fast. You can continue on as you have been and I'll bet in a few more days you will have an active starter. If you want to speed things up, go ahead and switch to the pineapple or orange juice with WW flour (or rye) for the feedings. You might even just want to take out a portion of the current mixture and make a third pot with the juice and then see which one takes off first. I'm guessing all three will eventually grow. You need to learn to be patient with sourdough.

By the way, I'm a test baker for Peter's newest book that he is working on and he now uses the pineapple juice method to build his starters also.

Good luck, and hang in there!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Don't give up. It's still alright. It takes time. Put it out of sight if you find you are checking it more than twice a day. Mini Oven

kategill0's picture
kategill0 (not verified)

for all the advice! I just fed both starters, slapped some tape on the beakers and called it day 5. If I don't see anything tomorrow, I'll probably run out to the store for the pineapple juice. I'll let you know how it goes.


kategill0's picture
kategill0 (not verified)

woo hoo! I just got home from work and my whole wheat starter had practically tripled! The white is still not doing quite as well but my hope is restored. Thanks for the encouragement. Now, I have another question. Reinhart says that you turn your starter culture into a barm, but it looks to me like all he does is add more flour and water, like I've been doing for all of the feedings. So, is this step necessary? How do I know when the starter is ready to throw in the fridge and store, or to bake with? Thanks.


JMonkey's picture

You're right. Reinhart likes to keep a mother starter at 100% hydration. When he wants to make bread, he takes a relatively small bit of mother starter and uses it to seed a stiffer, larger build. That stiff build then gets incorporated into the final dough.

I just make my bread from the mother starter, myself, but I know others who say that a series of builds with different hydrations produces a better tasting bread.

If it tripled in volume, it's ready for baking and storage! Good luck!

kategill0's picture
kategill0 (not verified)

I refreshed my whole wheat starter yesterday and am planning on mixing up the dough when I get home from work today. I'd like to get the loaves shaped tonight so I can proof them in the fridge and then bake tomorrow morning. I'm not planning on following Reinhart's 3-build system mostly because I don't have enough time in the next couple days. I was thinking that I would just wing it and follow my instincts but I'd be interested to hear if anyone has any go-to recipes for a mostly whole wheat sourdough. JMonkey, would you mind telling me what your ratio of starter to flour is? Also, I usually use vital wheat gluten when I'm making 100% whole wheat to help with the rise. Would it help to add that to sourdough too?

rmk129's picture

Hi kategill(),

I am very new to the whole sourdough thing, but I made this VERY simple 100% whole wheat sourdough loaf the other day (my first attempt ever) and it turned out great for me. I will probably be posting photos in my blog soon. I was quite shocked at how well it rose and the texture was great, even without vital wheat gluten! I have made it once more since and I added the VWG...another good loaf, so I think it would be fine if you added it (like an insurance policy, I guess?) Apparently it is from the Laurel's kitchen wholewheat cookbook (don't have it yet, but I just ordered it today!!!)

1 cup active wholewheat sourdough starter
3/4 cups water
2 1/8 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1.5 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp oil

-My starter was the consistency of an overly-thick pancake batter (almost like a well-creamed cookie batter).
-I used a 1-hour autolyze for the flour/water before adding all the other ingredients and "kneading" for 6 minutes with my mixmaster.
-After the first proof (about 2 1/2 hours), I shaped the dough, put it in baskets covered with well-floured teatowels, and put it in the fridge overnight.
-Next day I let it come to room temperature and rise (about 5-6 hours?),
-Preheated oven and baked for about 45 minutes.
(I added 2 Tbsp of sunflower seeds to my second batch, and it was yummy!)

Yum! Apparently if you want it to be more sour, you can do this with 2 doubling rises instead of one, and if you want the bread ready all in one day, you don't need to do the overnight retard in the refrigerator. Hope this helps! Even if it doesn't, I would love to hear how your loaves turn out and the recipe/techniques you used :)

kategill0's picture
kategill0 (not verified)

Thanks! I'll give it a try and let you know how it goes. Unfortunately, I still live in the dinosaur age of film cameras and scanners so there won't be pictures anytime soon. (I've been holding out for a digital SLR...)