trouble starting

Can somebody please advise me? I have been working on a sourdough starter with all rye flour. It has been a week. I don't see any bubbles, but it sure smells good, with a nice combination of sour and sweet. Because our house is cold I place my bowl over the dehydrator which was going for the first few days, and since then it's been fairly cool in the kitchen. Neither temp seemed to make much of a difference. After a few days I added a cabbage leaf, which I read about somewhere, to ensure some of the right bacteria getting in there. I am on well water so I don't think the problem is chlorinated water. What could the trouble be? Or if if smells so good, could it be okay? It just doesn't have the light and airy quality I think it's supposed to, it's more like a heavy batter. Will it leaven my bread or do I have to start over?

1 comment

Hi maximezara,

Whatever you do, don't despair - you will get there.

I assume that you are following the getting a starter going guide that SourDom has posted on this site.  if not, you should.  I know there are a lot of methods out there that add grapes, pineapple juice, cabbage leaves(?) but it is not necessary.  Flour and water is enough.

One question, are you using wholemeal or sifted rye flour ie is it fine and talcum powder like or is it a bit coarse and gritty?  Wholemeal is to be preferred because of the presence of the meal and germ that have a greater chance of carrying the necessary wild yeasts and bacteria.

The fact that it doesn't smell bad (despite the cabbage) is a good start but if there are no signs of gas production it is unlikely that you would be able to leaven bread just yet.  A batter style starter should acquire a mousse like consistency with obvious bubbles through and at the top of the volume.

Temperature is important and things will happen more slowly at lower temperatures.  If your oven has a separately controlled light, turning that on will generally produce a warm enough environment and won't break the bank or over-heat the house.  Once you have your starter going and stabilised, you can quite happily keep it in the fridge between uses if you are not baking on a daily basis.

Good luck with your projects.

Farinam