Sourdough Diary - Beginners please ask questions here

Graham's picture
Graham

Please feel free to ask questions or talk about your experiences making your first sourdough.

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Graham's picture
Graham 2006 April 26

Hi KazaKhan?®©, and thanks Bill44

[quote]
Is anyone going to attempt answering questions from beginners?
[/quote]

We are currently building our beginner resources. There is a lot of information out there and we are working on a way of presenting it in a focused way...which has inspired the upcoming group bake at [url]http://www.sourdough.com.au/beginners[/url]

Now, regarding your sour starter question, here are some points:

- when a starter is first developed, it takes 1-2 weeks to make an active, frothing brew with lots of healthy yeasts
- we call it a starter not only because it is how the culture began, but also because it is used to start further brews (leavens) that are fermented specifically to add to a final dough
- the initially developed starter, at 1-2 weeks, may not be sour because it has been consitently refreshed with new flour
- however as the weeks go on, and as the starter is often stored in the fridge, it may not be refreshed as much and can become more acidic, "sour".
- keeping your starter healthy is important, and preparing an active leaven...that may or may not be sour, is also important.
- a stage between the starter and the final leaven will help to recover your starter and can reduce acidity if that is the desired outcome
- the way your final dough is fermented will also influence how sour your bread is

You can see why we have decided just to start slowly and summarise as we go. My suggestion is to join in the group bake that starts April 30.

Graham

SourDom 2006 June 15

Nina,

I have no idea about the Danish flours that you are referring to. It is possible that their absorbency is quite different from those that I am used to, and Graham's suggestion of lowering the amount of water is probably a good idea. (For example you could try 180g starter (refreshed using equal weight flour and water), 300g water and 500g flour).
The spelt-like flour will probably give you quite a different bread - closer to a wholemeal loaf, more dense and with less rise. You could try mixing the flours 50/50.

You mention that the dough is difficult to handle after bulk fermentation.

My own experience with moist doughs is that they can be quite fragile after they have risen, and require sometimes a bit of a delicate touch. There are a couple of tricks to handle them. At this stage I wouldn't use extra oil - the real benefit of oil is in the mixing/kneading stages, when it allows you to handle dough without needing to add extra flour. After the dough has risen (I take it that it has risen?) I would lightly cover your bench surface in flour, and dust your hands with it. You should be able to scoop the dough out of the bowl and on to the work surface.
The flour on the work surface is to allow you to shape the dough without it sticking to your hands too much. You can add extra flour if you need to, though often I find that I only need a very light coating to allow me to handle the dough. If the dough sticks to the surface you might use a metal (or plastic scraper) to lift it off.
The dough can also benefit from folding during bulk fermentation (which you may already be doing). I often do these folds on a lightly floured surface, which will also tend to make the dough a little easier to handle at the end of bulk.

The critical thing with baskets or towels is to use lots of rye (or rice) flour to reduce sticking. Rub a good handful (or two) into the towel vigorously before using it to line the bowl. If the dough sticks to the towel it will tend to deflate when you try to tip it out, and then have little oven spring.

let us know how you get on
cheers
Dom

PS - Graham, the benefit of oil in mixing (as I understand it) is that it allows mixing/ kneading of high hydration doughs by hand (otherwise virtually impossible). Although it will make the dough somewhat smooth in external appearance, the dough develops from being given time resting, (in between short kneads).

Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 June 16

Welcome to the forum Nina.
I can't add anything to what Dom has said regarding handling high hydration dough, he is a master at it.
There is one thing I would like to comment on, you seem to consider that 11.5% protein white flour is "Low protein", it actually is a good protein level for baking with and quite a lot of the flour in Australia is at this level. If you have seen any of my white loaves, they have all been done with 11.5% flour.

Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 April 26

[quote="SourYumMum"]
Separated starter?

I made my current starter with 1 cup flour and 1 cup water ... and it has been fed and watered twice (refreshed with 1 cup starter, 1 cup water, 1 cup flour) and is due to be done again later this afternoon.

I now have a nice goo ... but it has a lot of 'liquor' on the top.

Is that OK? How much is OK? Do I pour it off, leave it, or mix it in?

Graham ... a glossary for the website?

Carol

[/quote]
The liquor on top is called "Hooch" at this stage just stir it in.

nina 2006 June 16

Thanks a lot for your advice!
The bread I baked today turned out good and not as flat as my previous attempts, but closer to a wholemeal loaf like you said. So not really what I was after...

After reading your posts I think my next attempt will be with regular wheat flour, less water and using flour on the table when turning and shaping the dough. When we finish eating the ones I've already baked that is
[quote]
After the dough has risen (I take it that it has risen?)
[/quote]
Yes, it rises fine both during bulk fermentation and final proofing. It just seems to get a lot more soft as it rises.

[quote]
The other angle I would take is to find a way to better assess how well mixed your dough is. My guess is that all your yeast dough experience would have given you a lot of knowledge about how a dough feels when it is fully developed.

I suggest you go back to the method used to mix those doughs...which I assume used flour rather than oil to stop the dough from sticking (?)
[/quote]
Yes, you're quite right - my usual approach was to use flour. But that was with firmer doughs. I usually never weighed the flour, I just used as much as needed to make a firm dough. Even though my yeast doughs were kept a bit on the sticky side they were nowhere near as sticky as the ones I'm attempting now. I have no idea of the hydration level, but my guess is a lot lower than what sourdough recipes call for in general.
Also, I used a longer period of kneading and no turning of the dough during bulk fermentation. So it's really two very different approaches and I guess that's why I'm struggling so much with this white sourdough...

[quote]
That rye smells absolutely gorgeous!

Do you use water (rather than flour or oil) to stop a wet rye from sticking to the bench when you do the final shaping?
[/quote]
Thanks
No, the dough for this bread is rather wet. It's not kneaded and never leaves the bowl, well except for when I put it into the baking tin. It's baked on a low temperature for 3 hours and stays good to eat for days (the loaf we're currently eating was baked a week ago and it's still not dry).

Edited to add: Thanks for the input Bill. I think the main problem is that the danish flour is not very strong. As I understand it the level of protein does not say everything about how strong the flour is...? But as it's the only info on the package it's kind of hard not to compare protein levels...
I've baked great breads with danish flour before, but not with wet doughs. So my theory is that is takes stronger flour to hold a wet dough togther. I might be completely wrong of course.
But anyway, I'm not giving up just yet

Graham's picture
Graham 2006 April 26

[quote]
I now have a nice goo ... but it has a lot of 'liquor' on the top.
[/quote]

Is your starter bubbling, or would you describe it as stagnant?

Graham

Graham's picture
Graham 2006 June 16

[quote]
So my theory is that is takes stronger flour to hold a wet dough togther. I might be completely wrong of course.
[/quote]

You do need a strong flour to hold a wet dough together. One reason is that an 'elastic crumb' is necessary to carry the larger amount of water. Inelastic crumb is indicated by 'water bands' in your loaf....where you have uneven distribution of water - including a moist, doughy band at the bottom of the loaf. It has happened to me in the past and is more likely to happen with rye, rather than wheat flours.

Interestingly, rye has a better water absorption capacity than wheat flour, but rye is not able to retain enough dough water during baking to form an elastic crumb. [i]Baking. The Art and Science, 1986[/i]

[quote]
Yes, you're quite right - my usual approach was to use flour. But that was with firmer doughs. I usually never weighed the flour, I just used as much as needed to make a firm dough. Even though my yeast doughs were kept a bit on the sticky side they were nowhere near as sticky as the ones I'm attempting now.
[/quote]

I haven't had Dan's book long, but I just had a quick look and see that the oil is mainly used to handle the [i]already developed [/i]dough. Any stickiness should be because it is a high hydration dough, rather than being sticky because the dough is not fully developed.

Using oil to handle dough is fine providing the oil does not hide a dough that is not developed enough for your needs (or the needs of the flour).

Dan does say somewhere (I forget exactly) that as bakers using oil become more experienced, they may wish to use flour (and movement) to handle the dough. Professional bakers will keep a wooden bench oiled, but do not use oil on their hands (or on a non-porous surface such as stainless steel or laminate). The dough is developed (during mixing) to a point where it is manageable using just a sprinkling of flour and by keeping the dough moving.

My point is, that a fully developed dough (even a wet one) feels less sticky than an underdeveloped dough. But they will both feel the same with a layer of oil on top (Nina, [i]you actually made me[/i] aware of this in your first post).

One of the indicators of a well developed dough is how it smoothes out during mixing. Professional bakers identify strongly with a wet dough 'coming together', and 'leaving the sides of the bowl' during the last stage of development. This is the stage when it finally feels smooth...as if it had oil on it

Graham

SourDom 2006 June 16

Nina,

one other thought.

What you describe - the dough becoming moister as it ferments - is exactly what happens during starter development.
When I make up a starter with equal weight flour and water (100% hydration) it is initially the consistency of thick mud. However by 12 or 24 hours it has becoming a liquidy gloop that I can pour out of the jar. NB the extent of this change does vary between flours, and I find it more likely at higher ambient temperature, or with starter that is left past its 'peak'.

So what I was wondering was whether your dough was over-proving during bulk fermentation. This might be particularly likely if you have a very active starter, or if the room is warm.

To know how long to prove your dough - this is what I have been doing (thanks to Dan).
Leave the dough for an hour. Scoop/tip it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface - before you poke or disturb the dough very much - slash the top rapidly with a very sharp knife. At this stage you will probably just see a few small bubbles below the surface.
Fold the dough on the floured surface (double fold), put back in the bowl.
Leave for an hour - repeat the above.
If it is not ready - repeat, folding at hourly intervals until you find the following:
What you will find is that when the dough is ready it will have a rich network of tiny bubbles honeycombed below the surface of the dough.
(You will also find that with each fold the dough is a little more resistant to the folding and stretching - it will be easier to shape at the end of this process).
I wonder if when you try this you find that your dough is actually ready to shape earlier than you are currently leaving it.

let us know

cheers
Dom

Graham's picture
Graham 2006 April 26

[quote]
I reckon it has occasional little bubbles
[/quote]

A couple of observations:

[i]If[/i] your 1 cup flour / 1 cup water mixture had been bubbling nicely (indicating yeast activity), then feeding it would be appropriate. Your mixture is not particularly active, so you are looking for a way to encourage activity, rather than feed existing activity.

The separated water, or hooch, is an unknown factor (until someone explains the science of hooch).

My 1st, sloppy starter has hooch. It is much younger than yours, only 24 hours old. I just smelt this mix and compared it to the smell of the thicker No.2 starter with no hooch (which is also about 8 hours younger than No.1)

No. 2 (thick) starter smells 'wheaty'. There is no sign of fermentation yet. No. 1 starter actually smells a little bit 'noble'. There is a character to the aroma distinct from the smell of flour mixed with water. I think fermentation is beginning.

With hooch, you can poor it off, mix it in or add more flour and pretend that it was never there. My only hesitation in mixing it back in is if it adds acidity to the mix (on overly acidic mix is not friendly to the micro-organisms we are trying to attract). You can often smell acidity as a fruity smell. Sometimes it is very noticeable. In my case there is the slightest whif of fruit, so I am going to poor most of it off, and mix a small amount in...just in case it contains the microbes I want!

SourYumMum in your case because you have so much mixture, you would probably throw most of it into the compost and add a very small amount (say 10ml) to 30ml water and 30 g flour. You don't want to end up with a 10 kg starter.

I am suggesting the above 'feeding' even though there is very little activity, only because your starter has been going for some time (2 days ?) and its condition is in an unknown state. Plus you urgently need to reduce its size unless you are baking for an army, or group of peace protesters.

After following Bill and SourDom's advice on avoiding water separation, I would then carefully sprinkle in additional flour to thicken your mix to a point where it just begins to "gather" or "clump". It is not thick enough to be a bread dough, but it is not a liquid or wet paste.

I have to rush off to Brisbane now (1.5 hours South). Let me know how it goes.
Graham

Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 June 16

I agree with what you are saying Graham, personally I'm a flour man . I have tried the oil method and found that I lost the "feel" that you get as the dough develops. I have refered in some of my posts to "kneading until you feel the dough come alive", this is the smooth silky feel you get in a lowish hydration dough or the lessening of stickiness that you get with a high hydration dough. This is the vital indicator that the dough has or is nearly developed.
I have found that, except for high hydration doughs, the dough that initially sticks to your hands at the start of kneading will transfer back to the dough as it develops.
One thing that will help, regardless of the hydration, is a thing called "Autolyse", which is just a fancy name for letting the dough rest so the flour can soak up some water after the initial mixing, I usually rest the dough for 10 minutes before I start kneading.
I have read somewhere that it takes about 20 minutes for wheat flour to completely soak up as much water as it can hold.

Graham's picture
Graham 2006 April 26

[quote]
No. 1 starter actually smells a little bit 'noble'. There is a character to the aroma distinct from the smell of flour mixed with water. I think fermentation is beginning.
[/quote]

...quickly. No.1 starter is definately starting. I just poured off the hooch and gave it a stir...fine bubbles and a beautifully warm, lactic smell. The warmer fermentation (23C - 27C) would have helped. SourYumMum, please do not get dis-heartened. I had ideal conditions here.

Graham

See: [url]http://www.sourdough.com.au/culturecam[/url]

(No.1 is on the bottom)

SourYumMum and SourDom....are these images showing for you yet?

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 April 26

I'm tuff.

Graham, I have been pouring off about half of the starter each time I feed it, so it was probably about two cups all up ... but still ... I've thrown a lot of each one out and thrown a little flour and water in, and poured off most of the 'hooch'.

I will try to pop them in a warmer place.

Safe trip! I'm just trying to find decent, budget accomm in Coffs Harbour in June so the boys can see their Pa for his birthday. Thank heavens for the internet.

KazaKhan®© 2006 April 26

[quote="Bill44"]
There are a lot of things that can effect the sour taste, but basically if you keep your starter well refreshed before baking, using only a little bit of the stock each time, you should only have a mild sour taste.
[/quote]
It varies but usually I take 100g of starter and add 100g each of flour and water to refresh. When the starter is ready to use there is a very subtle sour smell and it does not carry through to the end result. I've abused my poor starter the last few days and it hasn't suffered or developed any sourness.
[quote="Graham"]
- when a starter is first developed, it takes 1-2 weeks to make an active, frothing brew with lots of healthy yeasts
- we call it a starter not only because it is how the culture began, but also because it is used to start further brews (leavens) that are fermented specifically to add to a final dough
- keeping your starter healthy is important, and preparing an active leaven...that may or may not be sour, is also important.
- the way your final dough is fermented will also influence how sour your bread is
[/quote]
I'm not sure that any of those points specifically address my question. I was already well aware of why a starter is called a starter, I wanted to know if a 1:1 flour and water starter would eventually turn sour. From Bills answer and my own experience I believe now that it's not likely. Also I was wanting to know if the honey like aroma is normal? This aroma appears after baking with just flour, water, salt and starter.
[quote="Graham"]
You can see why we have decided just to start slowly and summarise as we go. My suggestion is to join in the group bake that starts April 30.
[/quote]
Group bake?

I started my starter on the 26/03/06 and it was used to make bread everyday from the 3/04/06 till just a few days ago when I started to get cynical about the whole sourdough thing. I seem to get the same result with a starter that I get from commercial yeast, the main difference being the starter results in some bigger holes in the crumb and a more leathery crust. And because I'm not wanting a sour flavour to my bread I'm wondering what's the point, maybe I've missed something or perhaps I'm doing it wrong? I retarded a dough in the fridge overnight a few days ago (about 24hrs from mixing to oven) and found the flavour to be pretty much the same as when I let the dough ferment for 6-8 hours. Perhaps the better flavour people speak of when retarding overnight is more related to the sourness of the starter used?
Also is there any harm to accelerating the starter by putting in a prover? And yes I've already done it a few times

Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 April 26

KazaKhan, some people like the flavour of sourdough and some people don't.
That pretty much sums it up.
I like broccoli and Brussel Sprouts, and hate boiled carrots, just about throw up when I smell Caramel.

KazaKhan®© 2006 April 26

[quote="Bill44"]
KazaKhan, some people like the flavour of sourdough and some people don't.
That pretty much sums it up.
I like broccoli and Brussel Sprouts, and hate boiled carrots, just about throw up when I smell Caramel.
[/quote]
Well of course, I don't eat fruit
But is sourness the point of using a starter, surely there are other reasons that I'm yet to understand?

northwestsourdough's picture
northwestsourdough 2006 April 26

[quote="KazaKhan?®©"]
Well of course, I don't eat fruit
But is sourness the point of using a starter, surely there are other reasons that I'm yet to understand?
[/quote]

I think there are a lot more reasons for liking sourdough than the sour. I like the texture, chewiness, the wonderful smell, how it has character, toothsomeness, the health and digestive benefits from the grains being fermented, the extra flavor for the same reason, the ability to work with the yeast to get it to reaveal its potential, like what it can do to certain grains when it proofs this long vs that long, in a poolish or a biga, longer fermentation vs one day fermentation, etc etc. The list is even longer and I like that it has so much potential. After having eaten sourdough for a while now, I almost cannot eat other kinds of breads, I find myself coming up with recipes even for muffins, rolls, pretzels,bagels, etc.
There is something wonderful and addictive about sourdough that almost defies description, why do you think so many become so passionate about it? I think you need to let yourself have more time and a few successful loaves behind you before you can answer your own question,
give it some time!
Teresa

nina 2006 June 20

Ah, now I get your point about the oil, Graham. I can see how the smoothness from the oil could trick me.

I just mixed 2 doughs; one at 64% and one at 60% hydration (I believe that is pretty close to the yeast breads I've made before).
I was very careful to add just a tiny bit of oil to the table and I'll be using flour to turn the doughs later on. And cutting into the dough to check it's not overproofing.
So far the 64% is sticky, but manageable (even without much oil) and the 60% is soft, smooth and very easy to handle.

I also did the autolyse (10 min) - accidentally I forgot to add salt to the 60% dough and had to work it in afterwards. I did seem to make the autolyse more effective though, the dough had really come nicely together.

Ok, I'm off to what I really ought to be doing: studying for my exam tomorrow.
Will keep you posted though

nina 2006 June 21

I had really good results with both doughs compared to my previous attempts. Thanks a bunch for all your helpful advice
Not only did neither turn more sticky during bulk fermentation, they also kept their shape when removed from the proofing basket. And I got my first oven spring, yay!

The 60% loaf turned out slightly better, I suspect partly because it had 30 min longer proofing time (while the 64% loaf was in the oven) and partly because I was able to handle it more carefully and shape it better because the dough was less sticky.
I also had a hard time slashing the 64% dough during bulk fermentation to see what was going on inside... the less sticky dough was a lot easier to slash. The 64% also stuck more to the bowl and was harder to scoop out for turning.

So... I think I'll stick to 60-64% hydration with my future sourdough attempts as my conclusion by now is the danish flour is not strong enough to handle 68% hydration. Hopefully I'll get better at handling the stickier dough though with time and practice.

And here's some image spam: first the 64% loaf (a tad under-baked I think)
[img]http://home20.inet.tele.dk/desdemona/misc/x060620_panefran1.jpg[/img][img]http://home20.inet.tele.dk/desdemona/misc/x060620_panefran2.jpg[/img]
And in a different shape, the 60% loaf:
[img]http://home20.inet.tele.dk/desdemona/misc/x060620_panefran4.jpg[/img][img]http://home20.inet.tele.dk/desdemona/misc/x060620_panefran3.jpg[/img]
I didn't slash the loafs... didn't want my poor slashing technique to deflate them. Taking it one step at a time...

chembake 2006 May 8

That is reasonable....wholegrains tend to have more fats than white flour so it will biochemcially produces more fatty acids contributing to the sour flavor. Another thing also the enriched culture of wholegrain starters promotes vigorous activity which contributes to more acidification.

donyeokl's picture
donyeokl 2006 May 9

[quote]
That is reasonable....wholegrains tend to have more fats than white flour so it will biochemcially produces more fatty acids contributing to the sour flavor. Another thing also the enriched culture of wholegrain starters promotes vigorous activity which contributes to more acidification.
[/quote]

Hi Chembake,

Thanks for the explaination. Now it clears up the air for me....

Cheers...

Don

KazaKhan®© 2006 April 27

[quote="northwestsourdough"]
I like the texture, chewiness, the wonderful smell, how it has character, toothsomeness, the health and digestive benefits from the grains being fermented...
[/quote]
What are the health and digestive benefits?
[quote="northwestsourdough"]
...why do you think so many become so passionate about it?
[/quote]
I of course do not know and I thought that I was trying to find out, why do you think I'm asking?
[quote="northwestsourdough"]
I think you need to let yourself have more time and a few successful loaves behind you before you can answer your own question...
[/quote]
So I've been unsuccessful to date?

chembake 2006 May 9

[quote]
Thanks for the explaination. Now it clears up the air for me....
[/quote]

No Worries mate....At least that its clearer than hooch

KazaKhan®© 2006 April 27

[quote="Bill44"]
What a nice reply to someone who was trying to help.
[/quote]
Sorry Bill, wasn't meant to be offensive. I'm just trying to get a definitve answer to my questions. I want to know what it is that I'm missing either in the process of making bread with a natural leaven or in the artisan culture. I'm beginning to think that perhaps I'm barking up the wrong tree...

SourDom 2006 June 22

Nina

great looking breads
well done!

slashing the moist dough to see what is going on is something that takes a while to get used to. I routinely slash every time I fold - it takes a little while to get a feel for what the bubbles look like, and how many you are expecting to see. Keep trying - you will get the hang of it. You do, however, need a really really sharp knife, and very fast slashing action. Spread the sides of the cut apart gently with your fingers to see the cut surface.

cheers
Dom

SourDom 2006 April 27

Kazakhan,

it sounds like you are wondering why your sourdough has a fairly mild flavour, but on the other hand you say that you don't particularly want a 'sour' flavour.

My own preference for sourdough is that I think that it makes bread with far more depth of flavour than yeasted breads, but there is quite a lot of variation between different sourdoughs that you can buy. Some 'sourdough' breads that I have tasted commercially have been fairly mild in flavour to say the least. (I wonder cynically whether they are trying to hook customers in by labelling the bread sourdough, but aim for a mild flavour to avoid scaring them off).

You may find that your starter has different characteristics if you feed it different flour. At the moment my starter seems to be most active if it is fed a little rye (1/3) mixed with strong white flour. This also gives it a very pleasant fruity aroma after 24 hours, whereas it is much sharper with only white.
When I refresh with wholemeal it has a more earthy smell.

Alternatively it might be interesting to see whether a new starter from scratch (you could try following Graham's blog) would have a different activity.

Making loaves with mixed flours (eg a pain de campagne mix of 60% white, 30% rye, 10% w/m) tends to bring out the flavour of sourdough more. I am addicted to a 50% wholemeal sourdough.

As you mention, retarding the dough is a great way to intensify the flavour, and you could try putting the dough in the fridge overnight. There are various stages that you could do this.

I sense that you have become frustrated with baking sourdough, but have patience - it is worth persisting with.
I have found it incredibly rewarding, and often feel that there is something missing when I go back to bake loaves using yeast.

cheers
Dom

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2006 April 27

Graham,
I can't see anything but black screen on the culture cam? I am a mac user and the java is the latest update, you sure you didn't drop some hooch on the works or what?
Jeremy

SourDom 2006 May 9

[quote]
Can you explain to me what you mean by the term hydration.
[/quote]

Grubdog - I will answer this for you in the 'glossary' post on this forum

cheers
Dom

northwestsourdough's picture
northwestsourdough 2006 April 28

[quote="KazaKhan?®©"]
[quote="northwestsourdough"]I like the texture, chewiness, the wonderful smell, how it has character, toothsomeness, the health and digestive benefits from the grains being fermented...
[/quote]
What are the health and digestive benefits?
[b]I would say the benefits come from mainly, the grain being predigested by the sourdough yeast so that it is easier for humans to digest. I also believe I read that they produce B vitamins as they do their work.[/b][quote="northwestsourdough"]
...why do you think so many become so passionate about it?
[/quote]
I of course do not know and I thought that I was trying to find out, why do you think I'm asking?
[b]The passionate and addictive elements are related to how great sourdough breads taste.[/b][quote="northwestsourdough"]
I think you need to let yourself have more time and a few successful loaves behind you before you can answer your own question...
[/quote]
So I've been unsuccessful to date?[/quote] [b]I can only guess so by your frustration and being unable to understand why the rest of us are passionate about sourdough. You are the only one who can really decide if you are successful or not. Perhaps sourdough just isn't to your liking, thats okay, I saw the pictures of the bread you posted and you look like a very capable baker. Have a great day! Teresa[/b]

grubdog 2006 May 12

Currently coming to the end of my second week of trials for my own starter. I had fairly big problems the first week trying to get one going, I was using ONLY white bread flour, tap water, raisins and trying a curious experiment with apples (which had an exposive reaction initially). But basically my jars were doing very little coming to the end of the week, just a few bubbles going through (so there was a suggestion that there was something there).

I got rid of two trials at this point (I had four) and started 2 new ones from here:

1st one was to ferment raisins for 6-7 days
2nd was with yogurt, raisins, rye flour and white flour.
3rd was from of the residue from my apple attempt
4th I think also had raisins at some poioint but I forget now.

Either way the big change I made for all these startes was to add rye flour, as soon as I did this - BANG - it worked. My personal preference if I had to start one again though, would be with fermenting raisins, as it has been working fantastically well since I added the flour (a mixture of rye and white). My other favorite is the apple starter, I think mainly because it does actually have a smell of apples and rises well also.

So anyway now I have my starter's to use what do i do now? how much do I take out when I want to bake bread? and do I keep feeding it like im doing now? pour out most and re-feed with 75ml water 75ml flour.

Graham's picture
Graham 2006 May 12

Hi grubdog

I am still getting my starter up to strength. Yesterday I also started to add rye and there was a noticeable difference the first time I used it. However I have been playing with the feed times and the ratio of water to flour (hydration) which is probably partly why the performance of my starter is erratic.

If you are game to use your starter to make a leaven, then I would look to the bakers in this forum who are baking regularly [i]from a starter[/i]
SourDom, Bill44, Jeremy, TeckPoh, bethesdabakers, northwestsourdough, etc

Use the 'Memberlist' link at the top of this page to locate the posts of these members (note: you now need to log in to be able to view the Memberlist).

For instance, SourDom demonstrates his way of using the starter in bread and maintaining it at the bottom of the following page:

[url]http://sourdough.com.au/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=1065&highlight=#1065[/url]

Then look at:

[url]http://www.sourdough.com.au/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=46[/url]

A complete beginner's page with the info you need is still a while away. I would like to have an active starter and be baking before completing the beginner's page and/or offering detailed advice about starters.

Hope this helps,
Graham

donyeokl's picture
donyeokl 2006 May 12

Hi Grubdog,

[quote]
So anyway now I have my starter's to use what do i do now? how much do I take out when I want to bake bread? and do I keep feeding it like im doing now? pour out most and re-feed with 75ml water 75ml flour.
[/quote]
You're ready to go with an active starter, the thread Graham pointed to with regards to the recipe by Sourdom is a good start... For the remaining starter, I will feed it with 50g bread flour and 50g water, leave covered for 12 to 18 hrs till its active then transfer it to a clean bottle with a screw top and into the fridge. The next time when I want to use it, I take about a tablespoon or 2 (scoop only the greyish paste and not the liquid) then add whatever the amount of flour and water required to make the starter for that recipe you're gonna be using. Mix it well and leave covered till its bubbly and active for use. I do this as I do not bake as much as the rest of the guys and I will be wasting lots of flour just feeding the starter to keep it active.

Just my two cents worth...

Cheers...

Don

P/S If the stock is getting low, make extra starter from your next bake and pour the extra into the bottle.

grubdog 2006 May 13

Many thanks that's exactly what I wanted to know! I think i'll only be baking once a week so this method sounds perfect.

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 April 29

My two starters are bubbling quite well now (at least they appear that way to me) but they smell a little like acetone/nail polish remover!

My hubby suggests this is because of the anaerobic activity of the culture ... but what is it and is it good or bad?

Carol

Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 April 29

Carol, I find that when my starters get this way it's time for a clean container. The residue on the sides can get quite old and acidic, giving the smell you describe. Just put a small amount of starter in a cup and wash your container thoroughly then put your starter back in and feed it.

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 April 29

They're in clean containers every day ... as I once grew a fabulous pink fungus I try to pop them into a new jar or whatever each day when I feed them.

But it's not toxic?

I'm pleased I have nice bubbles ... I've been using your starter instructions ... and I'm just BUSTING to make bread!

Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 April 29

Not toxic, just a good lactic acid buildup showing you have good lactobacillus activity. What stage are you at, assuming you are following the instructions I posted, it may be time for just the small amount of starter at feeding time, and feed with equal [b]weight[/b] flour and water.[/i]

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 April 29

That's the stage I'm at ... the equal weight of flour and water for another four days. I'm assuming it doesn't need to be 250gm of each? That's quite a lot! I will start that regime tomorrow afternoon - I've just given them a little feed and changed containers so it will be interesting to see how they behave over the next few hours! (But I can't miss Doc Martin!)

What specificically indicates that a starter is ready to use?

I will also follow Graham's beginner's bake with a new one altogether.

Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 April 29

You can cut it down to 100g of each if you like, but then cut down the amount of starter too, say 1/2 tablespoon. I prefer at least 200g of each myself, but that may be just habit. I just feel the bigger amount is more robust.
When your starter will double quite happily, you can think about baking. I'd say about 3 days minimum. If you start too soon the starter has no real strength and you may have a flop. Patience, you only have to go through this once, unless you are a masochist like me and try three or four new starters each year.
I may give up chasing starters now that I have the one from Northwest Sourdough in the US to go with my "Old Reliable". Two different tastes I can assure you.

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 April 29

Thanks Bill,

Once I get to that stage we can discuss 'maintenance' of my starter!!!

First I need to learn how to knead properly, etc ... all the steps you take before putting it in the oven!!

northwestsourdough's picture
northwestsourdough 2006 April 30

Hello Carol and everyone else,
I should remind people here since it has been a while since old timers started their own starters, that it is normal to have the sourdough go from sweet smelling, floury smell, to horribly stinky, yuck, what the heck is that? kind of smells during the first two weeks of the starters life. I learned that in Nancy Silverton's book, she said to expect it. I certainly remember my sourdough starter smelling aweful at one point during the first two weeks, but I didn't throw it out because of her instructions. Now, the starter is so good, I sell it ! So hang in there with those new starters and don't throw them out until two weeks is up and they still smell bad.
Teresa

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 April 30

Thanks Teresa,

One of them looks fabulous ... very bubbly ... the other is a little bubbly, not as exciting. But they both smell like nail artist's shop!

I think starter #1 might be let out for a run soon so I'll have to go read Dan's notes on kneading.

Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 April 30

Carol, what temperature are your starters. Higher temperatures seem to favour lactic and acetic acid buildup, maybe cool the starter down a bit?

SourDom 2006 April 30

Carol,

this was a reply that I wrote to a similar query in Dan Lepard's forum a month or so back

[quote]
Reading around a little, it seems as though the 'paint thinner' smell is described a bit by people who make sourdough at home. It is also sometimes described as 'nail thinner', 'paint' or 'acetone'.

I think that the most common experience of this odour associated with starters, is that it appears when starters are a little over-mature. For example I experienced this with one of three starters generated during a recent experiment that I documented in a blog at sourdough australia's forum. This smell was evident when the starter had been left at a warm temperature (about 25 to 30C) for 24 hours. When refreshed on shorter cycles it was not apparent.

I wonder if what is happening in this case is that the production of the 'acetone' (not sure if that really is what is being produced, but lets call it that for want of a better term) is a reflection of the lactobacilli running out of its usual food substrate, and shifting to produce slightly different by-products. (The aromatic smells from sourdough starters are usually a product of the bacteria, and not the yeast).
[The human body is a somewhat more complicated organism than a lactobacillus, but when it has run out of its usual fuels (eg glucose) it will shift metabolism to produce energy from breakdown of fatty acids - yielding as a by product keto-acids (including a form of acetone). That is the reason why if you haven't eaten for a prolonged period of time your breath will sometimes smell slightly sweet].
The answer to the above problem is to avoid letting the starter sit for too long in between refreshments, but also to make sure that there is plenty of 'fresh food' for it, which is done by making sure that the mother starter is diluted by a much larger quantity of flour and water (for example one tablespoon of starter to at least 150g each of flour and water).

The other phenomenon that andrew_l alludes to, is that some starter cultures seem more inclined to produce this odour than others. (Again I found it only with one of the three starters that I generated in the experiment that I talked about above). This presumably reflects the strains of bacteria that are growing in the culture. As long as the starter smells 'pleasant', and behaves well (in terms of making nice bread) it probably doesn't matter.
[/quote]

so perhaps
1. try 'diluting' the starter more (one tablespoon old starter, to at least 100-150g each of flour and water)
2. try refreshing on a slightly shorter cycle (18 rather than 24 hours, or 12 hours even if the temperature is warm?)

does this help at all?
cheers
DOm

Graham's picture
Graham 2006 April 30

Hi Carol

In leavens that are [i]already[/i] active, higher temperatures and wetter mixes favour lactic acid production, which is associated with broad, warm smells, rather than sharp, fruity smells of cool, stiff doughs (favour acetic acid).

However working with warmer brews means that fermentation reaches its peak sooner and passes its peak sooner. The window to use and/or feed (recover) it is smaller than a cool mix of the same stiffness.

Bakers have been known to miss the ideal time to harvest a warm leaven (and possibly this could apply to starter) and then blame the warm and/or sloppy mix for creating acidity and smells associated with acidity. However really it is the over-fermentation, not the warmth or sloppiness, that [i]probably[/i] caused the acid smells (my Baking. The Art and Science book has been lent out...I will check this on its return).

However I really can't speak much about starters because the problem with professional bakers and ex-professional bakers is that they are often not experienced with starters. Working with continually refreshed leaven means that starters are not a regular part of the process. You already have as much experience with starters as I do (possibly more).

I think I have smelt that acetone smell before in a leaven tub that had being sitting for several days with a small amount of leaven remaining. If it was the same smell, then the problem could be related to the culture running out of food, as Dom and others research has proposed.

Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 April 30

[quote="Graham"]
i If it was the same smell, then the problem could be related to the culture running out of food, as Dom and others research has proposed.
[/quote]
This is one of the reasons why I alway suggest refreshing with a minimum of 250g/250g.

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 April 30

Thanks fellas ... Dom, I agree with what you're suggesting ... I haven't been refreshing with a significantly larger quantity of flour/water to starter, so I'll do the next one as you have all suggested.

The starters are in the kitchen ... I wouldn't have thought they were getting much warmer than about 24C ... and a fair bit cooler overnight.

Graham ... my hubby is a physicist and he said, "Ketones produced by the anaerobic activity of the brew. Either that or your starters are diabetic!"

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