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TattooedTonka and JMonkey's Epic Starter Catching Tandem Trial

JMonkey's picture

TattooedTonka and JMonkey's Epic Starter Catching Tandem Trial

Well, I said I'd make this later tonight, but I didn't exactly expect it to be this late. Ah well, it'll still be "later today" for about 20 minutes.

Anyway, here's what I propose, TT.

  1. Let's use SourdoLady's method, with just a few caveats.
  2. If you've got scales, I'd prefer to use equal weights of flour and liquid ... say 1 ounce flour and 1 ounce water instead of 2 Tbs.
  3. If you don't have scales, no biggie -- we'll just follow SourdoLady's measures.
  4. My grocery store doesn't have pineapple juice so far as I know, so would it be alright to go with orange juice?
  5. I'll use freshly ground flour, as that's all I've got. Hope you don't mind, but since I've got the grains here, I'd rather not go out an buy a bag. What brand will you be using? If you can find fresh-ground flour, that'd probably help, but it's not necessary. I didn't use fresh-ground for either of the starters I made. I've got a whole wheat starter that I began with rye for the first three days and then switched to white flour -- I converted to whole wheat a few months later. That's Arthur the Whole Wheat Starter. Rhonda Rye is a pure rye starter.
  6. How about we start Saturday morning and we'll just post our pictures and commentary here. Sound good?
  7. Would you rather start with rye, whole wheat or whole spelt? I can do any of the above, though my preference would be whole wheat.
  8. Let's stick with whole grains until we're sure we've got something going. I think we'll have an easier time of it and, once we're sure the culture is alive, we can convert to white flour.

Sound good? I'm rarin' to go!


tattooedtonka's picture

Ok JMonkey I will be trying two starters.  One will be using Hodgson Mills Organic Rye Flour

The other will be using KA Traditional Whole Wheat Flour

I do have a set of digital scales that can do ounce or grams.  Doesnt matter to me whichever you would like.  I will stop off tonight on my way home from work to get some OJ.  Do you have a preference? Or just get a regular unsweetened OJ.  I'll be home about 6-7pm est. I will come online to check in.  If you read this prior, do you want a specific starting time for morning and when do you want pictures posted, right after or wait a couple hours?  Im getting pumped (kinda goofy huh?). 

Thanks again for your help


JMonkey's picture

Awesome! I'll make two as well: one from whole spelt and another from whole wheat. And, just as a word of encouragement, I made my two existing starters from Hodgson Mill's organic whole rye flour.

So, to adapt from SourdoLady(changes in italics):

Day 1: mix...
1 ounce whole grain flour (rye and/or wheat)
1 ounce unsweetened pineapple juice or orange juice
Cover and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

Day 2: add...
1 ounce whole grain flour
1 ounce juice
Stir well, cover and let sit at room temperature 24 hours. At day 2 you may (or may not) start to see some small bubbles.

Day 3: add...
1 ounce whole grain flour
1 ounce juice
Stir well, cover and let sit at room temperature 24 hours.

Day 4:
Stir down, measure out 2 ounces and discard the rest.
To the 2 ounces of proto-starter add...
2 ounces whole grain flour
2 ounces filtered or spring water

Repeat Day 4:
Once daily until the mixture starts to expand and smell yeasty. It is not unusual for the mixture to get very bubbly around Day 3 or 4 and then go completely flat and appear dead. If the mixture does not start to grow again by Day 6, add 1/4 tsp. apple cider vinegar with the daily feeding. This will lower the pH level a bit more and it should wake up the yeast.

When the starter looks like it's going great guns, we'll switch off to white flour and see how that goes. We might also want to switch to a twice daily schedule once we see bubbles. One other note - my house is pretty chilly right now: about 68 degrees inside, and colder at night. What's your house like?

Woo-hoo! This will be fun!

tattooedtonka's picture

Okie Dokie, got my OJ and Im ready to roll.

I will be storing the starters in 1qt. Mason Jars.  With plastic wrap over lid with rubberband creating seal. 

My house temp currently is 71.2'F and humidity 42% are shown in the photo of what my setup will look like.  This temp./humidity gizmo is from one of my cigar humidors.  I figure that this way I can try to keep an accurate record of actual conditions.  My house is running bout same as yours, bit cooler at night.

Im wondering what time you are going to start yours.  I would like to try to begin at roughly same time, this way when I post photos we could be close in actual life time in comparison to feedings. 


JMonkey's picture

I'm not nearly as organized as you are, TT. I've still got to find some jars, but mason jars sounds like a great idea. I'll try to refresh every day at 7am EDT (I'm in Massachusetts). I'll also give it a stir with a plastic spoon when I get home, which is usually between 6pm and 6:30pm.

The temperature outside right now is, to use my wife's technical term, "Butt cold." For May, anyway. I think it might have broken 45 degrees F. Inside, however, we keep it to a toasty 68 degrees F, which dips down to about 62-64 overnight.

As for humidity, here's the best instrument I have for measuring:

As you can see, the moisture sensors on the unit are tightly curled, a clear indicator of high humidity.

It's also been raining non-stop since yesterday evening.

I've also made the decision to do not two, but THREE starters. What the heck:

  • Horace the Whole Wheat Starter: Yes, you will be my 100% pure starter, nourished on the whole ground berry from infancy. No rye, no white flour will ever touch your ... flagellum?
  • Reeba Rye: Proud cousin to Rhonda.
  • Sweet Spelty: Exotic and weak of gluten, ancient yet new. I look forward to meeting you.

Cripes, it's been a long week. I can't wait to merge water and flour tomorrow morning! Cheers TT!
tattooedtonka's picture

Im only a couple hours west of ya in central NY.  The weather has cooled off a bit since earlier this week.

Oh and my wife loves the curls, very clever


tattooedtonka's picture

I began my two starters this morning at 7am. 


Probly goes without saying but, left one is rye, right one is wheat.  I took these photos at about 7:30am  just before having to fly out the door for a weekend service call.  Still trying to come up with some clever names for these two.  I dont know why, they will probly just end up with plain ol' names like "Gus,Gus", and "Wrinkle".  Oh well, I got plenty of time to kick ideas around in my melon.


JMonkey's picture

This morning at 7:15 am (I was a little late) and 68 degrees F, I prepared my jars, with flour and OJ at the ready.

I could only find one Mason jar. The other two are cleaned out jelly jars and are clearly on the small side -- probably too small, once the starters get going, so I'll have to replace those later in the week.

Now, I know I said that this isn't a competition, and it's not. At least, not amongt the humans. But that doesn't mean that Horace, Reeba and Spelty don't have a competitive streak. They're vicious competitors! Heck yeah!

Reeba, being rye, clearly has the edge here, though according to the King Arthur Flour Whole Grains Baking book, spelt ferments very readily, so many observers here in the kitchen have laid bets on Sweet Spelty. Horace ... ah poor Horace. No one has great expectations for Horace to finish first, though there's a lot of hope amongst his fans that, in the final bake, he'll gain points on taste and rise.

Here's a mid-mix action shot. Can you taste the excitement?

By the luck of the draw, Horace gets a 2 minute 47 second lead on the others, while Sweet Spelty has a 57 second lead on Reeba. I'm not entirely certain of it myself, but the crowd seems to think that Reeba murmured something about the others "needing it." That's right, a little sourdough smacktalk before they even begin to ferment. Imagine what it'll be like once they really start churning out the acid!

OK, let's go to the Blimp Cam!

Hmmm. No activity yet, and they've already had 5 minutes! Guess we'll just have to tune back in with these slowpokes later tonight after the "Six O'Clock Stir"!

I'm having a ball, TT! This is fun. I've been baking weekly now for about 18 months, and it still bowls me over to see any dough, and especially sourdough, rise in a bowl. Starting a culture from scratch is especially fun.

I'm also always a bit shocked, too, to see how thick whole grains are at 100% hydration. More like a paste than a slurry.

I'll check back in later tonight to see how they've done under the Saran Wrap. Good luck!

tattooedtonka's picture

Alrighty then, I performed the 6pm stirring only to be met with hostility when trying to snap some photos of my newly named youngin's.  Vizzini the Rye, and Fezzik the Wheat...

I noticed that since the papparazzi have been getting a little too close, guards have been posted too keep pryin eyes away.

They seemed to be fairly calm, until I stepped in to get some close ups.

This one guard got a little carried away with his duties...

After being bludgeoned a bit, I managed to escape.  I am o.k., just a bit bruised about the head, neck, chest, waist and thigh area.

I went the safe route, and decided on an aerial photo.

Till morning, Im out.................


JMonkey's picture

The "Six O'Clock Stir" didn't actually occur until 9pm due to a dinner delay.

Man, did I catch it from Reeba.

"What are you doing, Ref? This in improper mixing foul if I've ever seen one! Just look at all that dry flour! You expect me to make frickin' bubbles in the middle of a stinkin' DESERT?!"

Spelty and Horace were feeling smug. They had a right to be -- check it out, folks! We've got ... is it? ... could it be? YES! We've got a bubble!
That'd be Horace the Whole Wheat Starter.

Those bubbles be Spelty's.

So, in the first half day, Horace, the underdog, has a clear lead in bubble production, with Spelty coming in a strong second. Reeba Rye, alas, was unfairly held back by an Improper Mixing Foul.

After inspection, I gave them all a good stir, using picnic plasticware.

TT, my wife and I were laughing out loud. Here's hoping you see tiny bubbles tomorrow morn!

tattooedtonka's picture

Alrighty here are my goods.......

Vizzini the Rye

Not much in the way of bubbles, I do not think bubbles could move in this dense mass, even if there were any.  He is kinda pasty, but he does smell nice.  Kinda like orange juice (go figure). He knows that I know that he knows that I know he needs to bubble, but hes just getting started.

Fezzik the Wheat

Much smoother than his sicilian counterpart, Fezzik just oozes coolness..  From his nice attitude, to his way with the ladies.  This bubbly personality giant has all the makings of a future "Superstar"

Morning stat's, 71'F, 46%Humidity

JMonkey's picture

When I visited the three competitors this morning, Reeba was clearly annoyed.

"Didn't I make it CLEAR last night that I've been HAMSTRUNG by IMPROPER MIXING?!!

What could I say? She was right.

What is it about rye? If the folks searching for super-absorbent gels want to learn a thing or two, I suggest they take a look at this hardy grain. I should have invested in one of these to push the flour and water around:

I did a quick inspection of the others. Horace was still in the lead, but seemed to have lost a bit of his mojo.

"I'm not really a starter," he mumbled, smugly. "I'm a closer."

"Whatever, Mariano," Reeba said.

Spelty was also seemingly falling back a bit.
And the pressure seems to be getting to Spelty. Was this proto-starter ... sweating? Sure looked like it.

"You getting a little nervous there, Spelty?" Reeba snickered. "Hey, don't break a sweat. Once I finally get my mix on, breaking a sweat will just be a waste of good hydration."

I'd read about that spelt absorbs a lot of water at first only to shed it later on. Interesting to see -- I wonder how it affects a fermenting and / or baking loaf?

In any case, after I fed them all (Sweet Spelty: "OJ?! Again? What's a body got to do around here to get a cool drink of water?"), I covered them back up with plastic, and gave myself a bit of rest.

tattooedtonka's picture

Well, well, well......After a very long time of non-compliance.  My starter "Squishy" finally decided to show some life.  I believe he only did it not to be outdone by the two new-comers.  He also had a request, and that is, a name change.  He wishes to be known as "Miracle Max".  If he's willing to be alive, I granted his name change.  He is a Wheat/Rye starter.  While all the appropriate name change paperwork is being completed I will show some photos.

The new and Improved Miracle Max

When asked why he delayed so, he stated,

 "You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles. "

Day three morning shots

Day three 6pm. shots

Fezzik the Wheat

Fezzik stated "I dont know what all the hoopla is about, he has been mostly-dead all day"

Vizzini the Rye

Okie Dokie, so we have our three, and all are showing signs of life.  Hopefully all will continue to do well.  The new two go off their OJ breakfast in the morn for plain ol' bottled water.  Miracle Max has been on water for quite some time now.  So far, so good.

JMonkey's picture

TT, congrats on your three lively (or, mostly lively) starters-to-be. Having invited you to embark on this tandem starter catching trial, I would have felt awful had you not ended up with at least one good starter. I mean, "I wasn't nervous. Maybe I was a little bit "concerned" but that's not the same thing."

7am - Monday morning:
Spelty's still looking like a champ.

And Horace is looking good in second.

Reeba on the other hand ....

"I don't understand," she whimpered. "I'm rye, I'm chock full of fermentable sugars, heck, I SPOIL easy. I don't understand how I can be in last place. It's inconceivable."

"It's going to be OK," said Horace. "You just ... er ... got your mix on yesterday."

That seemed to cheer her up. Until I fed them.

"Er, gettin' a little CROWDED in here, doncha' think, buddy?" Reeba said. "When I finally do take off, where exactly do you think I'm going to go?"

"Um, haven't you got a bigger jar somewhere?" Spelty added.

Relax, I said, it's only day three. I don't expect anyone to even come close to blowing their top.


Yeowza. Let's get a close-up of that rising action, shall we?

Reeba, resplendent, with her mix fully on:

And, Spelty is plenty bubbly, though just barely in second place now. It's hard to tell from the photos, but Reeba rose measurably higher than Spelty.

"Look, just because you put me in a less than flattering jar that doesn't show off my best features doesn't mean I deserve last place," Horace complained.

He may have a point.

In any case, it looks like we're well on our way to three starters. Tomorrow, I'll take 2 ounces of the starter and mix it with 2 ounces each of flour and water.


"You think water's going to push you over the hump, Spelty?" Reeba crowed. "I told you it was a waste of time trying to out rise me."

Amazingly, just 2 hours after the stir-down, Reeba was back to her former height. Gotta find new jars soon....

tattooedtonka's picture

Are your jars so full from all the additions or did they rise real fast?  My fellows are bubblin, but not rising. 

The 3some

Fezzik the Wheat

Vizzini the Rye

Miracle Max

Overall bubble production is going well, no rising, but bubbling.  I picked up a couple new storage containers today from one of my customers, so mornings photos will show my babies in their new homes.  Heres a couple photos of them, they are 1qt. with sealable lids. 


If you like them I would be more than happy to send you over a couple.  The least I could do for your help.

 They are hard plastic, he only had the white lids for the 1qt. So what the heck.  It didnt really matter to me.  I just like to see in the sides and watch for growth.

Anyways, let me know if you would like a couple 1qt. containers for your starters.  It would be my pleasure to send some to you.


JMonkey's picture

Hey, thanks for the offer! But I've actually already got some dough buckets that size, I believe. And the jelly jars are working fine, I just can't keep as much starter as I do in the Mason Jar.

When I store my starter in the fridge, I don't keep much -- usually 1 or 2 ounces at most. I used to refresh every week, but these days, I'll let it go as long as a month before refreshing. I use so little storage starter with each bake. For example, last weekend, I made 1 loaf of Desem, 2 loaves of sourdough sandwich bread and a batch of 1 dozen bagels. All told, I took less than 20 grams of starter from the fridge because I built each sponge up over 2-3 feedings. I used the leftover starter (I think I had 50 grams after all the bakes were done) to make sourdough waffles.

So, what I really want are three 4-oz glass jars. The two that I have now I got from a yogurt purchase.

JMonkey's picture

This will be a short entry, as I'm whupped this evening. TT, the jars were about 2/3 full after feeding, and then the starters rose to fill them. I'm lucky I didn't have an eruption.

As such, I decided that, instead of trying to find the appropriate jars at a junk shop (this week, I've no time, alas), I'll just cut the ratios down to 1 ounce starter, 1 ounce water and 1 ounce flour for Spelty and Reeba.

No smart alecky comments from any of the fermenting follies this evening. I'm too tired to transcript.

Anyways, here's what it looked like this morning at

7:00 A.M.

I'd stirred them all down pretty well, but as I said last night, Reeba in particular perked right back up. You can see how high she rose.

So, I fed them all (I'm still doing 2-2-2 for Horace -- he's a big fella) and left for work. When I returned around 6pm, they'd all risen, but, since I forgot to mark their position post-feed in the morning, I'm not sure by how much. I'll mark it tomorrow.

Until then, I remain, your tandem starter partner.

tattooedtonka's picture

Well bubbles are ok, Miracle Max is growing the most (he should hes a bit older), but still not doubling.  Probly growing by half his starting size.  Fezzik the wheat is growing about 1/4 his starting size.  Vizzini the Rye just sits there with some bubbles mumblin something in Italian that I can't understand.

The Three After Feeding

Next feeding I think I am going to double all the sizes from 2oz/2oz/2oz to 4oz/4oz/4oz (S/F/W). Maybe I could show more detail in my photos that way.  Im really keeping my fingers crossed.

I'll keep my eyes open for some 4oz. glass jars for ya J. 


JMonkey's picture

No doubt, Reeba and Horace are ready to get busy in a loaf of bread.

As you can see, they're both doubling. Spelty looks like he (she?) is doubling, but that's actually just smudged Spelty paste on the side. Spelty only rose about 50-75%, though I suppose it's possible that she (he?) doubled while I was away and collapsed.

"YEAH, that's it! I ran out of gas and pooped out. I'm HHHUUUUNNNGGRRRYYYY!"

"Spelty's right," Horace said. "I'm a growing boy. One meal a day isn't nearly enough."

Reeba just smirked, smugly. She knew she was the champ.

So, I listened and agreed. They did need more than one feeding a day now. So, this evening, after dinner (grilled salmon, assorted grilled veggies -- beets, zucchini, asparagus, celery root, red pepper -- and corn muffins. Mmmmmmm. Corn muffins.), I fed them all at a 1-1-1 ratio.

"Er, HEY!? Where did I go?!"

Whoops. Poor Horace was half the man he used to be. I forgot to reserve 2 ounces of him, and only kept 1. Ah well.

"It's only fair," Reeba said. "Just because he got a bigger jar doesn't mean he gets more of everything else."

So true. And, btw, thanks TT for looking out for some jars. I happened to come upon one just today cleaning out the fridge. Rotten mustard! In a 4 oz jar! Whoopie!



  • 2.5 cups cornmeal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 2 Tbs oil (I use canola because of its mild taste)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs

Mix the dry ingredients well. Do the same for the wet. Mix them together and then fill up a greased 12-cup muffin tray with the batter. Bake for 15-18 minutes at 425 degrees F. Especially if you've got a grinder, these are heavenly.
JMonkey's picture

"Call me Mariano," Horace said.

"Shut up," Reeba grumbled.

Indeed, it was a dark day for the two former contenders. Horace (NO ONE is going to take the moniker 'Mariano' in this Red Sox household) tripled in size overnight after an evening feeding. The other two, as you can see, barely rose to (maybe) 50%.

On another thread, mse1152 (Sue) asked what we'd be baking. As I said there, I'm not entirely sure, but I'm talking it over with the three contenders. Horace has his heart set on a lean whole-wheat sourdough loaf. Reeba? She wants a 40% Rye loaf with no carraway -- whole wheat or white, doesn't matter to her. As for Spelty, she (he?) is thinking about pizza with 30% spelt. So we'll see!

tattooedtonka's picture

Gather round, gather round, witness the amazing three, heh you on the end, what are you doing here?  I dont remember you being part of this experiment, stranger.  But since your here, say "Cheeeeesssee"

The line up from left to right is Fezzik the wheat, Vizzini the Rye, Miracle Max, and Stranger.  I just call him Strange for short...

Everyone is doing great and at least doubling, except Vizzini.

Vizzini "Inconceivable!!"

Heh J, my two on the left got a 1:1:1 ratio this morning (feeding once a day up till now).   My two on the right got a 1:2:2 ratio feeding last night, they doubled by morning, and got a 1:2:2 ratio feeding again this morning.  Im still pondering how I should treat my wheat on the left, I know I should feed him again tonight, but unsure as if I should go 1:1:1, or 1:2:2 ratio feeding.  And my second from left (Rye) still isnt doubling so he's waiting another day at least before going 2 a day feedings.

So nowwwwww, I have

  1. All Wheat Starter on far left
  2. All Rye Starter 2nd from left
  3. 1/2 Wheat, 1/2 White Starter 2nd from right
  4. All White Starter on right

I know overkill, but I figure if they all work out, I shall bake with them all.  Keeping maybe just the best 2.  At least thats what I tell myself.  Who knows, by morning I may end up with a Spelt starter roaming the mix.

Any thoughts?


JMonkey's picture

CONGRATULATIONS, YOU PROUD PAPA! May your starters produce many generations of tasty loaves.

About the rye. I’m not sure you should necessarily follow my advice, as I’ve got a sample size of exactly ONE, but when I started up Rhonda Rye, she never doubled, though she certainly did have some big holes throughout. The bread she makes rises well and tastes great. One way I think you could test it would be to take a bit of the rye and feed it with white flour. If the white flour doubles, I’d say it’s ready.

As for baking with these starters, I do intend to bake something with all of them to see if there are any differences with my current starters, but it probably won’t be this weekend, since my parents are up for the holiday from Atlanta. For those who don’t live in the U.S., Monday is Memorial Day, a national holiday that marks the unofficial start of summer in the States. I think the most I’ll be able to make will be some sourdough sandwich loaves and either a lean rye / wheat or a lean whole wheat sourdough. Maybe a pizza.

We’re planning to spend the long weekend tooling around New England. I’m hoping we’ll:

Sigh. I’m clearly missing New England already.

Anyway, to the starters. I thought about Spelty’s sluggish state, so we talked about it.

”I’m hungry. Really, really hungry. And all this acid’s really keeping me down.”

He’s (she’s?) a sweet kid (though a little nutty as well), so I decided to take her (him?) seriously. I reserved 1/2 an ounce of each starter and then added 1.5 ounces each of flour and water, for a ratio of 1:3:3.

What a difference!

I think I can safely say that I’ve got three living starters. So I think I’ll stop posting photos of them, as I think they’ll all look roughly the same. I will, however, post the results of the bake!

Looking forward to seeing your sourdough breads, TT!
tattooedtonka's picture

I know you are away this weekend, but Im sure you'll get to this when you get back. 

My starters are all doing well, and I am happy beyond belief.  I really cannot express enough how grateful I am.  I know that this was more of a fun type of thing than really a learning experience for anyone reading.  However, for me, there was a certain security feeling knowing that if I ran into issues again you were right there willing to lend your advise.  And for that I am extremely grateful.

It seems that in todays society there are fewer and fewer folks willing to lend a hand to a stranger.  Yet even with that being the norm overall, there are still people out there like yourself, and like many of the others here where it is all about helping your fellow man/woman out.

J thank you very much.  It was a pleasure for me, and feel free to call on me if there is anything I can ever do for you.

Now on for my very first SD attempt - Normandy Apple Bread


JMonkey's picture

... for starting up starters. I think we got 6 or 7 between us. Not bad! And I'm pleased as punch that you've got a starter of your own. I had a ball!

I think I may have undersold Spelty. Yesterday, she (he?) had doubled in less than 3 hours, but then collapsed quite a bit later in the day! She's a very, very fast riser. I'm really looking forward to seeing how she does in a bake ....

Cooky's picture

But I gotta say, TT, I am deeply impressed that you named your starters Fezzik and Vizzini. Brilliant! 



"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."

tattooedtonka's picture

Dont forget I also got a Miracle Max....."Good luck stormin the castle!!"