Need STARTER help - had stroke & can't remember what I used to do!



Hello everyone,

I hope someone can give me some advice cause I sure need it!  In the 80s I had a wonderful starter and made sourdough French bread 2 or 3 times a week.  It was great!  Then I moved, lost my starter & had a new grandson living with me so didn't have much time for it anyway.  F/F to a 3 years ago.. I had a stroke that pretty much wiped out my memory capabilities, but cooking/baking is still a huge love.  A week ago while making bisquits it hit me... I wanted to make a new starter and start my bread again.  Made a starter from flour & water and hoped.  It worked and had a GREAT sourdough smell after 5 days, BUT I'd forgotten about feeding it for petes sake (I did stir it a couple of times, but that's it).  Although the bubble action had stopped I went ahead and fed it equal parts of flour and water last night and crossed my fingers.

And here my confusion starts (praying this all makes sense).  It was about 7pm when I did this last night, then I promptly forgot about it and didn't check it until a little while ago (noon today).  It had risen almost double but I could tell it had dropped back down.  Only guessing at what I'm doing, I stirred it & took a cup out, then added a cup of flour & a cup of water.  There were still lots of bubbles while stirring but I stirred so as to incorporate lots of oxygen and put it back in the oven (only half-way warm place... we have a big old farmhouse and keep our thermostat set at 57 to be able to also buy electricity & water.. sigh).

My questions - that I can remember, anyway - are:

1.  (if anyone sees this in time) What time do I check it this evening?

2.  If it's living good (or is it already & I just don't know it), what do I do then?

3.  Do I feed it again?  If so, how much?

4.  Do I leave it as-is?  Stir it down or not?

5.  If it has risen up then fell again, does that mean I should feed it (and hope)?

5.  I want to keep the starter in the fridge once I know it's alive and good because I'll only bake bread once a week or so - so when does it go in the fridge??  While it's still actively rising/bubbling?

6.  In the fridge, should it be covered air-tight or with a towel?  I've only used a towel so far, but using it in the fridge, what about odors?

7.  When first making the starter, I'd forgotten about using distilled water & used tap.  When feeding it last night I forgot again, but I'd say it's still working.  Today I used distilled and would like to know if my starter will ever have no chlorine in it?

8.  (and most importantly!)  When can I make my first bread from this starter?  How will I know it's really ready?

All of what I've read just has me so confused because there are SO many different directions everywhere.  Do this/don't do this, add this/don't add.... seems it would be confusing for anyone, but my brain just doesn't process information like it used to & it makes it's doubly confusing for me.  If I can just get a GOOD starter going, I know how to keep it going after I've used my first part of it, but I'm so stuck right now it's pathetic!(Please, if you have answers, make them so specific a 3 year old could understand?  I would TRULY appreciate it!)

Thanks in advance!!


59 users have voted.


cgrimando 2010 February 8

I am probably not systematic enough in my baking to be of very much help, but  I have reasonable amounts of success with my unsystematic ways. I think with a solid week+ of feeding, with signs of healthy life, put it in the fridge. Maybe 10 days of regular feedings would be best. It will continue to grow in strength once you put it in the refrigerator. In the beginning I would feed it more than once a week, and right before you are ready to bake, do it several days in a row. Once it is healthy and on its way, once a week feedings should be enough.

I leave it loosely covered when not in the refrigerator, but once it is I absolutely screw on a lid - what with odors and just potential for getting dry between feedings.

If it rose and fell, don't worry about the falling. The important thing is that it rose. Once it is fed again it will thrive.

Stirring, and feeding, will never hurt it, in my experience.

I have never had a problem using tap water, but of course that could vary with location. I suppose bottled is safer, but I would use tap until there's a problem!

Other comments you'll receive might be more helpful, but hopefully this will be of comfort in the meantime. In my experience, starters are a bit finicky, but they're also resilient. Good luck!




stickii 2010 February 8

 I think you are doing fine, for such a young starter I would feed it every 12 hours or so for several more days and then once a day to build strength. Everyone seems to have there own method but I feed mine once a day for a few days before I use it, I will feed it and then put it right into the fridge for storage for up to 2 months with out any problems. 


I feed mine with a 1 and 1/2 cups of flour and one cup of brita filtered water (though I live in NYC) I think Tap is fine for most places

I keep mine in a large sealed jar and try to keep it sealed in the fridge.

I bet it will be strong enough in a week or so.


I hope this helps a bit. Everyone has there own method and mine is not perfect but it works for my starter ( his name is Bruno, I find I name my starter and treat him like a pet so I won't forget him!)


Good luck,


emrose 2010 February 9

David and grimando, thank you both SO much for replying! 

Unfortunately, my starter had a little 'change of status' by the time I got around to checking it at midnight... up to that point it had given off the most fantastic smell, but it seems something went wrong after that last feeding yesterday (when I was admittedly just guessing). 

At midnight it had a bit of bubbly, foamy head.. a couple of bubbles rose & popped while I watched.. BUT it had a yucky, waxy, almost melted-plastic, and (barely) an 'old-flour' odor - a HUGE disappointment.  So I decided to take one last chance..  stirred it well, saved a tablespoon of the mix & dumped the rest, scrupulously cleaned out my jar & other instruments, and added back the tablespoon & a cup of flour & lukewarm water.

This morning (approx. 10 hours later) there was no indication of it having risen (probably too early, right?), but it had an almost-bubbly top (more round-bumps-like than active bubbles) - also a quarter inch head of hooch.  Should I now keep on with the tablespoon method each day (if so, for how long?), should I feed it the normal way (if so, each day?), or should I just start the heck over from the beginning??  Please advise?



emrose 2010 February 9

Well, it now has a quarter-inch of bubble action on top of that quarter-inch of hootch.  Still has much of the waxy smell but it almost smells as if a sour odor is coming.  The bubble action means something is going to town, right?  I guess I'll wait and see.  But advice still needed!  :-)



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