A starter from scratch

SourDom

Welcome to SourDom's beginners blog, the tutorials are:

How to make your own starter.
How to use short kneads to handle moist doughs and bake a loaf with a yeast-based preferment.
The subtleties of proving a loaf using a ‘biga’.
How to shape a loaf using a hybrid recipe.
The final crucial steps and putting it all together to bake a 100% sourdough loaf.

Contents:

  • What you will need
  • Background
  • Recipe
  • Troubleshooting
  • Looking after your starter
  • Glossary
  • References

What you will need:

  1. White flour (preferably organic)
  2. Rye flour (preferably organic)
  3. Water (preferably filtered)
  4. A large clean jar or container (ideally transparent so that you can see what is happening)
  5. A spoon (to stir with)
  6. a little patience…

Background

Sourdough is the oldest form of leavened (or ‘risen’) bread. Baking presumably existed for a long time before that, mixing a paste of dried ground grains with water, and then baking it. However at some point someone must have discovered that if the paste or dough was left overnight, or for a couple of days, it started to change in appearance and odour, and that the bread when baked was lighter in texture, easier to digest, and stronger in flavour.
The oldest form of leavening was almost certainly due to this sort of accidental development of a starter, with small amounts of dough/paste being kept aside from one batch to leaven the next. At some point residues from fermented grapes or hops were used to provide an alternative source of yeast. Of course nowadays most baking is done with commercially isolated yeast.

Sourdough baking uses a technique akin to that earliest form of baking leavened bread. In this tutorial we are going to try to do deliberately what the ancients did inadvertently - to create an environment in which flour and water will naturally ferment. Once that fermentation has established we can use that culture of microorganisms to make our bread indefinitely (at least as long as we look after it properly).

Established starters contain a mixture of yeast and bacteria. Don’t worry, these bacteria are quite friendly (they are the same ones that are present in yoghurt, or that people consume deliberately in preparations like ‘Yakult’). The yeast and bacteria live together in a special sort of cooperative existence, with the yeast eating and breaking down sugars from the flour, and the bacteria feeding off some of the breakdown products from the yeast. The yeast provides the leavening action for the bread, but the bacteria are responsible for much of the flavour.
There are lots of different ways of generating a successful starter. If you are interested I have previously compared a couple of different methods.
One question is where the yeast come from that populate the starter. One theory says that they come from the environment (the air). Adherents of that theory (eg the ’starter doctor’ Brian Dixon) suggest leaving the jar/bowl open to the air - even having a fan over the bowl so that airborne yeasts will land in it. An alternative theory argues that yeast spores can be found in the flour (particularly wholewheat flour?), or alternatively on the surface of grapes/sultanas (that’s why some starter ‘recipes’ suggest using organic grapes or sultanas to get things going). If that is the case, then you can cover your starter with plastic wrap. I confess that I have always covered the top of my starter jar, without discernible problems.
To start with (lots of unintended puns here), here are some general principles gleaned from different sources.

1. Make sure that your containers are clean before you start. (I poured some boiling water in my jars and left them for 10 minutes beforehand, then tipped the water out). The idea is to try to avoid contaminating your starter with unpleasant organisms (the starter is especially vulnerable early).

2. Use filtered or spring water where possible

3. Use organic ingredients where possible (to maximise the concentration of microorganisms in your ingredients, and to prevent any inhibitory effect from preservatives/fungicides etc)

4. The aim of the refreshing steps is to add extra food for the organisms that you are culturing. Each time you refresh you need to add extra flour and water. You will need to throw some starter out to make room for this - otherwise you will rapidly accumulate litres of the stuff…

5. If you read around a bit the instructions all seem to differ, but are all quite dogmatic - you must use this, you mustn’t use that, you should cover, you musn’t cover etc. I think that what this probably means is that actually creating a starter is not that hard - there are lots of different ways, all of which can work.

6. Use a glass jar/bowl - you can see what the starter is doing…

The technique that I am going to use in this blog is one of the simplest of all. I am going to use flour (a mixture of rye and white) and water only, and we will see how we go.

Starter Recipe

The flour that I have used here is a combination of

Kialla white unbleached organic flour and

Wholegrain Milling organic rye

I made this starter in the middle of a Melbourne winter, so it was reasonably slow to get going. You may find that your starter becomes active quicker than these photos would suggest. If so that is great. You would still do well to follow the schedule for refreshing the starter daily for 2 weeks (see below).

Day 1:

Clean your jar and stirring spoon with boiling water

Add to the jar:

  • 50g water
  • 35g white flour
  • 15g rye flour

Stir, and set aside for 24 hours.

Depending on the time of year and the ambient temperature, you may find it harder or easier to get a starter going. The best temperature for yeast activity (at least the sort that are found in sourdough) is about 30 degrees C (that’s 80F for any imperialists out there). If the weather is cool your starter may be slow to establish. If it is very warm there is a bigger chance of the starter getting contaminated with unpleasant bacteria. I have had most experience with getting starters going at about 20C.
Starter day 1Starter day 1 (from above)
Day 2

There won’t be much to see yet, but that’s OK.

Starter day 2

Add to the jar

  • 50g water
  • 35g white flour
  • 15g rye flour

Stir with a clean spoon, cover and set aside for 24 hours

Day 3

Still not much to see

Starter day 3

Add

  • 50g water
  • 35g white flour
  • 15g rye flour

Stir with a clean spoon and leave for 24 hours

Day 4

Starter day 4 (bubbles)

a few definite bubbles visible below the surface

Discard most of the starter (put it in the compost or the bin), leave about a tablespoon in the jar

Add 100g water, 70g white flour, 30g rye

stir and leave for 24 hours

Day 5

Starter day 5

More bubbles visible, but the starter hasn’t increased in volume perceptibly.

Discard most. Add 100g water, 70g white flour, 30g rye.

Day 6

Starter day 6

The starter has increased in volume (by a 1/3 perhaps), and has now lots of bubbles below the surface. It has a complex slightly fruity odour.

Discard most of the starter (leave a tablespoon at most in the bottom of the jar). Add 100g water, 70g white flour, 30g rye (getting the idea yet?).

Day 7 (onwards)

Using the above technique you will need to continue to refresh your starter daily for at least another week. Each time you will need to discard the majority of the starter, and add in new water and flour.

Your starter is ‘active’ when after 24 hours it has increased (doubled) in volume, has a thick layer of froth on the top, and a rich network of bubbles below the surface. It is now ready to use for baking.

Day 8 Starter

(this photo was taken on day 8 of the above starter. You can’t see from the photo, but overnight the starter had reached the top of the jar, and a little had escaped. It had subsided since then (ie it is past its peak) - but I wouldn’t have any qualms about using it.)

Troubleshooting

1. Timing of refreshment

After your starter is refreshed - if you watch closely over the next 24 hours or so you will see bubbles start to appear, and the starter expand in volume. It will reach its maximum volume (’peak’) at a variable time, depending on the activity of your starter, and the temperature of the room.In a warm environment this might be at 12 hours or earlier, while in a cold room it might take more than 24 hours.

Generally speaking we would aim to use the starter at or close to this ‘peak’ time, though it will probably still work fine if it is used a few hours either side of this.
2. Low starter activity

If there is no sign of activity despite following the above instructions there are a couple of options. It may be worth while persevering for another week, refreshing daily. Alternatively it may be worthwhile starting again. You could try a different flour for your refreshment. You could also try adding about 10g of organic sultanas with the flour and water on the first day. Yeasts on the surface of the fruit will help to seed your starter and get things going.
3. Contaminated starter

If your starter smells unpleasant - like rotten eggs, or vomit, or something equally disgusting it may have become contaminated with less friendly bacteria. Don’t give up - it is often possible to resuscitate your starter. Wash a clean jar, and add a teaspoon or so of starter from your smelly batch. Add 100g water and 100g flour. Stir and leave for 24 hours.

Brian Dixon suggests leaving your starter out for 12 hours, and then putting it in the fridge. This might be worthwhile if your starter becomes contaminated in warm weather.

Avoiding disasters

Once you have carefully nurtured and raised your starter, you don’t want to lose it. Make sure that you leave a little starter behind when you are making your dough - so that you have enough to make more. This is important - don’t forget!

If there is someone in your house who intermittently has a cleaning frenzy and empties the fridge of UFOs (unidentifiied fridge objects), make sure they know what your starter looks like. Strange smelling white slurries in unlabelled jars would be fair game otherwise!

Other troubleshooting - have a look at the starter doctor

Looking after your starter

Your starter is bit like a pet, it will respond best to a bit of regular attention and food. On the other hand starters are quite resilient, and will often survive a fair bit of neglect (it is a good thing that there is no such thing as a Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Starters…)

Starters will have most activity if they are fed every day. However unless you are baking every day this necessitates discarding a lot of starter, and many people find the waste of flour and starter distressing. An alternative is to put your starter in the fridge when you are not using it. It will happily sit in the fridge without feeding for days or even weeks, ready to come back to life when you need it. However it is probably worthwhile trying to refresh your starter at least once a week to keep it lively. Also if your starter hasn’t been refreshed for more than a few days it will probably benefit from 2 refreshes before baking with it. Make sure your starter is covered in the fridge or it will dry out.

Refreshing starter (recently used)

If your starter is active and has been used recently it will probably only need one refreshment before using it.

Pour all of the starter in your jar out (into the compost or bin). (Don’t worry - there will still be some left in the bottom of the jar - this will be enough to seed the next batch of starter). Add half the weight of starter that you need in flour (plus a little bit), and the same of water. For example for 200g of starter add 110g flour and 110g water to the little bit of starter left in the bottom of the jar. Stir well and leave covered in a warm place for 24 hours.

Pour your starter into the mixing bowl. Add 50g of flour and 50g of water to what is left in the jar (this will replenish your stock of starter), and leave for 24 hours before putting back in the fridge.

Refreshing starter (not used for a while)

This is Mick’s recipe for bringing a starter back to life. It uses 2 refreshes 12 hours apart (if the temperature is cold you may need to make this 24 hours apart). This has the advantage of minimising waste.

Divide the amount of starter that you need by fifteen.

To this amount of starter add twice the amount of flour and water (1:2:2). Leave for 12 hours. Add equal amounts of flour and water and leave for 12 hours (1:1:1).

It is less confusing to talk in real numbers. For example for 300g starter. 1/15 x 300 = 20g

Add 20g starter to 40g flour and 40g water (total 100g). Leave for 12 hours

Add 100g flour and 100g water (total 300g). Leave for 12 hours.

Don’t forget to leave a little bit of starter behind to replenish your stock.

Other types of starters

Some recipes call for rye or wholemeal starters. You don’t need to keep multiple different starters going (though some enthusiastic people do). You can convert your stock starter into a rye or wholemeal starter by simply refreshing it with that flour for a couple of days.

Note, that sometimes starters will go on strike when their usual food is changed. For example you might see a sudden drop in activity with the change to a different flour. If that happens you can either persist (the activity will often come back), or revert to your usual flour, and then add in the new flour more gradually. For example you could start with 30% rye, and then progressively increase the proportion of rye with each refreshment.

Glossary

Chef - see starter
Leaven - see starter
Levain - see starter
Mother - this is the starter that you keep aside to replenish your stock, and use to create enough starter for baking

Refresh - to add flour and water to a small amount of starter
Starter - this is a mixture of flour and water containing bacteria and yeast, that is used to leaven sourdough bread. (aka leaven, levain, chef)


References:

Sourdough starter experiment

the starter doctor (Brian Dixon’s FAQ from rec.food.sourdough)
Dan Lepard’s instructions for sourdough

Replies

Xigoong 2014 March 16

Continue to my previous post. I forgot to say that at 3pm  day2 I fed it the third time and at 9pm, it became loose with lots of bubbles again! Now the starter already fed with 150g flour. I' m wondering if i can use it to make pizza dough ( i am going to make only 1 pizza so need only 10-20g starter).

Can you please advise? Thousands thanks. 
farinam's picture
farinam 2014 March 16

Hi xigoong,

It is possibly a bit early in the process of developing a starter but at the sort of temperature that you have things do happen more quickly.

As a starter is being developed, it can go through stages where different yeasts and bacteria will thrive and predominate as conditions change.  Sometimes this results is short periods of time when the mix can give off unpleasant smells or appear to be quite inactive after a period of high activity.  This is why methods usually talk about ten to fourteen days of starter development to allow it to go through these transitional stages and get to a good stable culture that is then not going to give you any nasty surprises.

People do get worried about the amount of flour that they appear to be wasting but in the scheme of things it is not really very much and when the culture is stable it can be kept in the fridge and the wastage falls to zero.

If you like, you could try making the pizza.  There is a fair chance that it will turn out OK and some chance that it will not.  If it does not work out exactly as you hope, I am sure it will still be perfectly edible but if worst comes to worst, have a Plan B.

Good luck with your projects.

Farinam

Xigoong 2014 March 17

You're right that it may be highly active in the beginning but not mature enough. My starter has not been doubled yet. Will follow your tutorial. Thank you!

beginnerbaker 2014 March 27

Hi all

This is my second attempt at starter. I'm following the instructions and still no luck. I'm using a wooden spoon and filtered water.

I live on the coast in NSW and it's just coming in Autumn so temps can range from 19/20 over night up to 28 during day. As it's my second attempt I have gone through quite a lot of flour with no luck. Today is day 7 and still no action.

Day 2 and 3 look like there might be some action and then the mix just goes thin and fluidy. I have tried reducing the amount of liquid slightly but no luck.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

farinam's picture
farinam 2014 March 27

Hello beginner,

As far as temperature goes you should be in a pretty good place.

You mention a wooden spoon and filtered water, but not the type(s) of flour that you are using.  If you are not already, you should add some wholemeal flour and rye seems to be better from most experience.  The bran and so forth is more likely to retain yeasts than finely sifted flour and even more so if the flour has been bleached.  I use Four Leaf Rye and Wallaby bread flour with great success.

Other than that, all I can say is don't give up.  I am not aware of anybody who has persisted not succeeding.  And SourDoms 'method' has been as successful as any that I am aware of.  While some people swear by it, I would avoid things like adding pineapple juice and grape skins etc.  There should be more than enough of the right stuff in and on the flour and time will untimately get the acid balance right.

Perhaps if you can give a bit more detail of exactly what you are doing and how you are storing and handling your stuff it might give a bit more of a lead.

Good luck with your projects.

Farinam

kvanto 2014 March 27
Hello,Hi there,Thanks a lot for the great site.Today my seventh attempt on getting sourdough starter going ended with fiasco.Not that I am ready to give up though. I have the 3rd day problem of my starter going dormant after vigorous bubbling and growth in less than 36 hours. It does have more or less nice fruity smell and I keep on feeding it in the hope that it will revive, and I can persist on doing so, no issues with my patience.However, the thing is, whilst I am busy resuscitating the poor thing develops mould.My question is, since it more than doubles in two days, should I assume that it is ready to be used in baking and then kept in the fridge untill next baking?  I would rather follow the instructions and keep feeding it for the next 10 days but it kind of goes flat after initial doubling/tripling and does not really respond and the in the meantime catches mould.   I am in Australia. It is 24-25C this time around. I use organic rye flour (packed in plastic bag) and bottled water.Any ideas, please.
farinam's picture
farinam 2014 March 28

Hi kvanto,

For mould to develop, mould spores must be coming in from somewhere before the culture gets to be acid enough to prevent their growth.  So be sure that your container is kept covered.  I use a wide necked jar with a screw cap lid that I just engage a couple of turns (not tightened down).  Some people use those jars with the clamp down lids but don't engage the catch completely while others just use GladWrap but at the early stages i would use a clean sheet each time.  The other thing would be to make sure that your utensils (spoons, jugs, stirrers) are clean.

It is quite noemal for the starter to go through phases of activity early on as different species of yeasts and bacteria thrive and then die out as conditions change to be not to their liking.  You might even go through a day or so of the culture not smelling so good (acetone like - nail polish remover smell)  But eventually when the acid producing bacteria get going only the good guys will be able to thrive and things will stabilise and it will also be very mould resistant as well. 

The temperature that you are working at should be just about ideal and putting it in the fridge would only slow things down  for the yeast and bacteria to do their thing and would not necessarily stop the mould if you are getting contamination from somewhere.  Plenty of things have gone mouldy in our fridge if they languish on the back shelf for long enough.

So, if you have a mould infected culture, I thiink the thing to do is to dump the lot and give your jar a good dousing with boiling water or put it in the oven at 100C for a time to sterilise it.  Ditto with your utensils if you have a mind to, but just a thorough cleaning would be OK.  Put on your panic sensitive sun-glasses and start again.  Don't dspair, you will get there.

Good luck with your projects.

Farinam

kvanto 2014 March 28

Thank you farinam for your quick reply.  

Let me further increase the level of decontamination and see what happens. I am just thinking about dowsing my glass jar and other utensils in boiling water every time before using them. Although it seems strange that I have gone mouldy with every attempt, more so if I think about all the sourdough starter making videos that I have watched, where people seemed to be quite carefree with the process - keeping the containers uncovered, poking the mixture with their fingers, using tap water etc. - yet no problem with mould.

Anyways, enough of whinging.  I better get back to it.  Hope it will work out eventually.

Thanks again farinam for the advice.  

farinam's picture
farinam 2014 March 28

Hi kvanto,

Absolute sterility is not a must.  My jar hasn't been emptied for over two years, Spoons, ladels, jugs and stirrers come straight out of the drawers.  Wipe the surplus off with a finger.  Water straight from the tap.  I am just thinking that you must have a source of spores somewhere and a bit of extra care until the starter is stabilised wouldn't go astray.  I wouldn't be emptying your storage jar every feed though as that would likely increase the risk of contamination of the culture.

Let us know how you go.

Farinam

beginnerbaker 2014 March 28

Hi Fairnam

Thank you for your response. The flours I am using are Organic white spelt and organic rye. Last night I decided to add some extra Rye flour to the usual 70gms spelt and 30 gms rye. I made it 40 gms rye and kept the liquid at 100mls. It is now day 7 (for the second time) and this morning there were some bubbles through the mixture  but  no 'growth' in size of the starter?

Do I just keep refreshing at the same rate and hoping? I use a glass jar with glad wrap loosely over the top.

I look forward to your advice!

farinam's picture
farinam 2014 March 28

Hello beginnerbaker,

Yes!

Just keep following the procedure and all should come good.

On the subject of volume increase, that will come as the activity increases but the amounft that you get will depend to some extent on the shape of the container that you are using.  If you are keeping it in a tall narrow vessel then the walls of the container will give support to the structure of batter and bubbles and the increase in volume can be quite great (even over-flow depending on the free-board).  On the other hand a wide container might not give much increase at all because the batter cannot support itself, the bubbles break and some of the gas escapes.  However, there will still be gas bubbles through the batter and when you spoon some out it will have a mousse like consistency.

It might be a couple of more days yet before you start to get to that stage.

Good luck with your projects.

Farinam

beginnerbaker 2014 March 28

Hi Farinam

Thank you for your help! I posted a reply but it didn't come up?

I am using a glass jar with a diameter of approx 12.5-15cm which looks similar to the jar in the sourdough starter pictures and I cover loosely with glad wrap.

I don't clean jar when refreshing.

Should I continue to use 70mg spelt, 40gm rye and 100ml water?

I would have thought with the jar that I am using there should be growth...how do I know if starter is ready or even working if there is no growth in size?

Thanks again!

farinam's picture
farinam 2014 March 28

Hello beginnerbaker,

Really, you can feed it what you like.  Your hydration will be slightly under 100% if you keep that proportion but that doesn't matter. You might just have to adjust your recipes slightly depending on what hydration starter they call for but with such a small difference even that might not matter if they are calling for 100%.  Some people go only by look and feel but I think that it is worth being accurate when you first start off and are learning the ropes particularly with nobody by your side to guide you.

If your container is similar to the one shown then you should see a goodly volume increase in due course.  However if you were using, say, a flat bowl, then the volume increase would not be so noticeable.  However, the batter would still be filled with gas bubbles and have a consistency like a mousse.

In terms of when a culture is ready to use, you should get a repeatable response from feed to feed, it should smell pleasant and it should have quite a sour taste.  At this early stage, it could easily taste and smell like wet flour.

In a day or so it is possible that it might want to climb out of your container.  In another day or so it might look like it is not doing much at all.  Then it will come good again and stabilise.  This is one reason for continuing the development process for at least seven days or more so as to be sure that the right balance of yeast and bacteria has been achieved to give a stable, infection resistant culture that will give reliable results.

Once you get to this stage, you can start storing in the fridge and cut back on the need for feeding.  Depending on circumstances, I often only bake once a week and it sits happily untouched in the fridge.  Actually I have left it for a month while on holidays but a couple of feeds brings it back to life.  I take out an aliquot and feed that to make my loaf starter and replace the amount taken out with fresh flour and water and back into the fridge it goes.

Easy peasy.

Farinam

beginnerbaker 2014 April 8

Hi Fairinam

I have continued refreshing with 40g rye and 60g spelt white flour. Initially it seemed to be looking better ie no liquid on top and more bubbles however still no real growth.

I hadn't changed the jar in almost two weeks so I took some starter out, cleaned the jar and replaced about 2 tablespoons of starter in the jar and fed it with the above mentioned proportions and after this point everything slowed right down AGAIN.

It's between 19 degrees (at night) and 24 degrees (day). I am wondering if I should be feeding it twice a day and if I do that am I supposed to throw out most starter at both feeds or just one?

Not sure what to do as I have been having a go at this for nearly a month now and not much luck?

Look forward to your help.

farinam's picture
farinam 2014 April 9

Hello beginnerbaker,

You've got me a bit baffled at the moment.  Your temperatures should be just about ideal.

Tell me a bit more about the flour that you are using. Is one or the other wholemeal or are they sifted ( fine and white with no bran or germ)?  You say that they are 'organic' so I assume that they haven't been bleached.

Have you tasted the batter?  Is there any sign of sourness? Or does it taste like wet flour?

Have you watched the process on a regular basis after feeding to  see what (if anything) happens?  Does the volume change at all?  Does it rise and then collapse?  After several hours from feeding, if you dip a spoon in and lift some out, what does it look like?  Does it show any signs of bubbles?  Is it light and mousse like?  Or is it just like wet flour?

In terms of frequency of feeding, the fundamentals are that the yeasts and bacteria won't die from hunger (at least not immediately) if there is not enough food.  The activity just slows and they go into a state of dormancy and come back to activity when a new supply of food arrives.  If they have been dormant there is a bit of a delay but generally nothing of significance unless it has been for an extended period.  Then it might take a day or so and a couple of feeds.  You could try more frequent feeding but I would have expected that you would be reporting greater activity than you seem to be if that was needed

This blog of mine has some shots of what a loaf starter should look like at various stages though I expect that you have seen plenty of similar pics.

http://sourdough.com/blog/following-advice

Hang in there.  I haven't given up yet and neither should you.

Farinam

beginnerbaker 2014 April 9

Hi Farinam

 

Thank you again for your reply! I am using organic white spelt flour and rye flour and I suspect it is unbleached (bought from health food shop)

I have been watching closely (I even have my husband on the case when I'm not around).

Consistancy was like mouse before I  washed the jar (after that is when things seemed to slow right down) and there were quite a few bubble with not much growth maybe like 1-2cm.

Now there are fewer bubbles and no growth.

I fed it last night at 8.30pm and I just fed it again this morning (8.30am) hoping that the extra feeding will help?

I should add in that after changing the jar I missed one day of feeding due to it being weekend and I completely forgot. 

The smell has changed from sour/winey/cidery/acidic to quite a pungent almost peppery smell?

I haven't completely given up, just a little deflated by my month long attempt. I will keep going and hope that some of the info I have given you above helps :)

farinam's picture
farinam 2014 April 9

Hello again beginnerbaker,

Just following up on the rye flour that you have.  Is that wholemeal or sifted - possibly labeled dark rye or light rye?  In other words is it very fine like talcum powder or is it 'gritty' with bran and germ?  Preferably, it should be wholemeal.   This is more likely to provide a source of wild yeasts etc.

You mentioned smell but not taste.  I am trying to determine whether you have any acid production going on.

I also wouldn't get too tied up about the volume increase, as long as it is getting fluffy and mousse like and not staying like a wet flour batter.  You are using a fair proportion of rye flour in your mix that will lower the average gluten content and the strength of the spelt gluten which might impact on how much the volume will increase.  You could try cutting down the amount of rye to, say, 10-15% of the flour (7g rye + 43g spelt - or whatever) to see what happens.  This is the proportion that I use.

Good luck with your projects.

Farinam

beginnerbaker 2014 April 9

Thanks Farinam! The rye is wholemeal.

The recipe in the above blog suggests using 30gm rye and 70gm spelt...should I stop that and use 7g rye and 34gm spelt as you suggest?

Are you suggesting that once I see lots of bubbles regardless of growth I can assume that the starter is ready to use?

Your help with this is much appreciated.

PS should I go back to feeding once a day?

farinam's picture
farinam 2014 April 9

Hello beginnerbaker,

In SourDom's blog, he calls for 15g rye and 35g wheat flour with 50g of water as a building/feeding regime for a 100% hydration culture.  However, I have found that half the amount of rye is perfectly adequate.  And, as I said rye flour has a significant effect on the processing and handling qualities of dough due both to the low gluten content and the weaker nature of the gluten that is present plus it also seems to have an adverse effect on the wheat/spelt gluten..

As an experiment, take 100g of your culture (assuming that it has shown some signs of activity - bubblecontent if not volume increase - and that it is 100% hydration) and place it in a 500ml pyrex jug and feed it with 50g of flour (either wheat or spelt) and 50g of water.  Replace the 100g that you have taken from your culture with 7g rye, 43g spelt and 50g water.  Cover the jug with Gladwrap and see what happens over the next few hours.  Hopefully the stronger batter will show more signs of volume increase.  If it does double or thereabouts you could use it as a base for a loaf of bread or for crumpets (see my recent postings on that topic).  For bread, SourDom's Pane francesa is a simple recipe that is hard to go past for learning the tricks of the trade.

If there is still no sign of volume, continue with the discard 100g-feed 7/43/50 for a few more rounds to change the culture composition to the lower rye content and try the experiment again.

Have you gotten around to tasting it yet?  Also what is the quality of the water that you are using?  If it is heavily chlorinated, there are reports that this can cause some problems so boiled/bottled water could be something to try down the track.

It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.

Farinam

beginnerbaker 2014 April 11

Hello Farinam,

I've had tried the experiment you suggested and I have found that the results were quite similar after 24hours. There does see to be increased activity in both...what to do next?

I have been working on this starter for a good 2 weeks now I think. Do I keep refreshing until there is substantial growth and at what rate?

I am a little confused now since the experiment...actually more confused than I was.

I'm still keen and hopeful that this will work. I look forward to hearing back from you.

beginner

farinam's picture
farinam 2014 April 11

Hello beginner,

What exactly did you see?  I don't suppose you have a photo that you could post?  Did the cultures get lighter and mousse-like?  Was there a noticeable rise in the level in the jug?  If it did rise did it fall back down again?

If you think there was an increase in activity then it is worth pressing on with the feeding at the lower rye content for a few more cycles.  As I think I have said, the culture can go through phases of varying activity while it is stabilising and maybe yours is just a little slower off the mark.

I also wonder whether you should start a new blog rather than extending this already very long one - just a thought.

Good luck with your projects.

Farinam

 

beginnerbaker 2014 April 11

Hi Farinam

I'll post a new blog as suggested. Before I do just want to check what I should do if I see some mould growing on side of jar. I was going to refresh the starter and just as I was stirring all the flours that I had added I saw the mould. 

At this stage I have place the starter in a new jar...should I be concerned about the mould though?

In terms of activity there was no growth but the bubbles looked larger on top which has not happened before.

Many thanks!

farinam's picture
farinam 2014 April 11

Hi beginner,

Hopefully you did not transfer any mould or spores to your new jar.  For a well developed starter the acid present is an excellent mould inhibitor.  Hopefully by this stage you are getting some acid present so you might be safe.

Speaking of acid, have you tasted it yet to see if it is sour?

Farinam

beginnerbaker 2014 April 11

Oh no! All these weeks of work to develope mould!

Because I just refreshed it kind of taste like flour, there is small taste of acidity though so maybe it will develop?

How long should I persist with this before deeming it contaminated?

Thanks again Farinam...I would have given up by now I'm sure. I will get this to work just to thank you for all the time you've spent replying!

aungki 2014 March 30

Hi Sourdom,

I have tried followed others sourdough starter recipes/instructions and they didn't work quite well. Part of it is because, I later on realized, most of them are recipes for western climate which is cool and dry. I currently living in Singapore where humidity is about 80% everyday. Every time I leave the starter out of sight for 6-8 hours, it gets moldy (getting furry to be exact +_+).

After months of trying, I found this blog and follow the instruction. and IT WORKS!!!!!! I fed the starter around 9pm and leave it out overnight. In the morning before I go to work, I put it in the fridge. As soon as I come home in the evening I took it out and repeat for 7 days. I finally made sourdough from the starter yesterday and it came out fantastic !

Anyway, I just want to simply Thank You for sharing this blog.

Thank you very much,

A

carolemmett 2014 April 23

Hi,

I've signed up to the site (rather than continuing to lurk!) because I wanted to say thanks for the tutorial.

I got the bug for yeast bakery last year, and trying out sourdough is on my 'to do' list. The first couple of methods I tried WERE working, but I got a hooch layer within a few days - as they were so new I didn't try to save them. I then changed my flour variety (the old one was stoneground, etc, but I'm not sure about it being unbleached) and tried your method. No hooch layer and a decent start - I had an acetone smell build up, but a bit of searching simply suggested that's a sign of starving bacteria. A couple of extra feeds and the smell has changed completely.

It's now doubling/trebling in size reliably after feeding, so fingers crossed. The bubbles don't look quite as large as yours, but I think my jar is bigger so it could be a matter of scale, or the fact that UK wheat varieties aren't quite as 'strong' as those in some other parts of the world. I'm going to give it another couple of days and then try A LOAF :-)

I can't see me going totally sourdough, sometimes time contraints mean a conventional yeast loaf is the only option. But it's nice to have another option, when time allows. So thanks again for the help, and the great site - I suspect I'll be visiting for inspiration and help in future.

And my message for any other newbies is to persevere. People have been making these cultures for thousands of years, and the yeasts WANT to live, so keep trying and you WILL hit on just the right set up for you.

All the best.

Carol

 

Mountain Baker 2015 April 13

Thanks for the step by step process, I made my first sourdough loaf today using your starter and it was amazing! 

I'm in Perth (Autumn) and I only got to day 6 of my starter and then it exploded through the top of the jar, so I figured it must be okay to use by this point. I used a mixture of white bread flour, organic rye flour and filtered water.

 

Walther Champs 2015 May 15

Hi, I just read your article on refreshment and found it amazingly informative!! I have to be honest and say that I probably read it 10 times and will have to go through it a few more times to get a grasp of the process at the very least !! My question was will this starter work for a authentic Naan recipe or will there be a Sourdough taste? If so is there a starter that you would recommend for Naan?

Thanks

 

Jon Carr Westwood 2015 November 1

I read several recipes for making a sourdough starter and was dismayed by the waste , throwing out half each feeding time. So.. I used the discarded starter , add a measure of flour and  milk  beat   to a thin paste   and added an egg  and beat   to a smooth consistency  and made pancakes .. My  wife  loves them and it  became  a weekend  breakfast   treat  serve  with  fruit.. It also  made a rod for my  back  as now it is expected .

 

Rebecca 2017 January 27

Hello, thank you so much for this page - I started my starter a few weeks ago from the instructions on the KAF site and I am not sure how it's going. This has been really helpful.

I also read through most of the FAQ at http://www.faqs.org/faqs/food/sourdough/starters/, and my question is: how do people create an environment that is 80 - 85 degrees, or 72 - 77 degrees? In the wintertime I can barely get my apartment up to 70 using the thermostat, and I only heat the room I'm in because it's expensive!

I have a food thermometer and these heat-generating devices at my disposal:

  • breadmaker
  • oven which does have an internal light
  • microwave
  • slow cooker
  • hot water bottles
  • clothes dryer
  • hair dryer

Would any of those, or some combination, create the necessary setup?

Thanks in advance for your advice!

farinam's picture
farinam 2017 January 28

Hello Rebecca,

Low temperatures will just slow things down, it won't stop them from happening.  Even in the fridge your starter and dough will continue to ferment.  So at low temperature, allow more time.  This is why it is important to get to know the look and feel of doughs so that you can work by that rather than by the clock which is really only relevant if you are working under the same conditions as the recipe writer.

However if you do want things to move a little faster there are a few things that you can do.  A oven or microwave with the light on will get quite toasty.  A container with some water will give some humidity as well.  Or you can put hot water in your sink and place your container on a stand above the water and cover the top of the sink with towels.  This has the added advantage of adding some humidity to the environment.

I haven't used it but I imagine hotwater bottles could substitute for the free hot water in the sink.

Good luck with your projects.

Farinam

Jac 2017 March 7

I use 300g oats flour

50g sprouted blabck rice fl

50g topioca fl

100g millet starter

2TBLS psyllium husks

360ml water

I getfairly wet bread. Can you suggest changes in water content and/or baking method?

                                      Jacob

Rosie 2017 April 12

Hello Dom, 

I have tried a few times to make a starter with other recipes and none have worked.  I have high hopes with your method.  I was wondering, do I cover the starter on Day 1 or not?

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