One year old

Karniecoops's picture

Well my starter is 1 yr old now (8th Sept "Fritz" was born) and I so love making sourdough bread!  I can honestly say I haven't bought a loaf of bread since before Sept 2008!  My first few (well, perhaps a lot more than a few) loaves were complete rubbish, and would have made better walls than food, but eat them I did.

I had never made bread before I started making sourdough, and now I can't imagine not making it!  After having lived in Germany for a few years I really missed tucking into a nice Bauernbrot, semmel, Schwarz brot, Vollkorn, Sonnenblumenbrot, Kummellaib, und so weiter!  So I decided to try making my own natursauerteig (sourdough).  And thanks to all you good folk that contribute to I now have a couple of cracker starters quietly biding their time in my fridge.

I did have a couple of close calls, well actually my first attempt at starting a starter turned orange and smelt BAD.   But the 2nd one worked a treat.  More than once I have forgotten to save some before making the dough.  The first time I was rescued by getting some of its "brother" that I had given to a friend, and then 2nd time I thought, well I'll just nab a bit of dough, pop that in the fridge and see if it still "starts" next time around.  And sure enough it did just fine after a couple of feeds.

Being that I'm a microbiologist by trade, I couldn't help but take some of my starter to work to have a good look down the microscope at and grow it up on some agar to make sure it contained all the right things.  Ok, so some people thought me slightly weird (wouldn't have been the first time!), but at least I knew exactly what I was eating and getting my hands stuck into!!  Wish now I'd taken some photos down the microscope to share - maybe I still will.

All the recipes on this website,, the fresh loaf, theinversecook, stirthepots, the bread making babes, all the forum comments, helpful hints, people's successes and failures, the photos, are so fantastic, its just like having help in the kitchen.  I'm so in love with my new hobby that I have recently ordered my first 3 bread books - The Bread Makers Apprentice, The Art of Handmade Bread and Local Breads: Sourdough and Wholegrain recipes .....  Hopefully they will arrive soon as I can't wait to start looking through them.

So, thank you all very much for words of wisdom shared, inspiring photos, recipes and help given.  Now that I can make a loaf I'm proud to share with my friends, I can start to pay it forward and help others; but if its still ok, I'm keen to glean as much experience from all you great people that I can.




TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2009 November 6

Thanks for sharing your story, Karen! Sounds like we are a therapy group...some say cult. You've been very helpful and inspiring yourself! Right now, I am sitting at the edge of my seat at the thought of getting to see real closeups of the little beasties! Yeah!

Maedi's picture
Maedi 2009 November 6

Karen, thanks for giving us an insight into your baking journey. It's very special to hear about someone having such great success. The internet and online communities have changed the way we live... and now it's so simple to share with someone across the world.

I know myself and a few others would be very interested to see sourdough under the microscope!

If there's anything I can do to help, please just ask.

All the best,
Maedi - admin

Karniecoops's picture
Karniecoops 2009 November 7

Thanks TP, Maedi!  Happily I'm on holiday this week, so when I get back I'll so some "work" with my sourdough and try and get some photos down the microscope.


Karniecoops's picture
Karniecoops 2011 April 15

Well finally remembered to make some smears of my preferment before turning it into bread.  I even cultured it (onto agar plates) to make sure all the right things were there (once a bug girl always a bug girl!) - grew a fabulous sweet smelling yeast and a lovely lactobacilli ........... just like it ought!  So after forgetting a couple of times, finally remembered to take the smears to work and stain them up.

It was harder than I thought poking the lens of the camera into the eyepiece of the microscope to get a photo, but finally got one where you can see the yeast and bugs in one pic.  The yeast is slightly out of focus as must be sitting on a blob of flour, but its clear enough - hopefully to you all as well.

The two dark blue/black oval shaped structures slightly below centre, that almost look like they're joined are two yeast cells (they are budding/replicating); the much smaller dark blue/black rod shaped structures (a lot of them) are the lactobacilli; and the unstained/grey larger rounder "blobs" are just flour, the background is predominantly pink which is how it should be.  The smear is stained with Gram's stain, which is a standard microbiology stain for bacteria/yeast.  There were more bacilli than yeast, even though this shot shows only a couple of yeasts its not completely representative of the population.

I know LD takes his bread to work for his colleagues, this is just a slightly different take on that [email protected]!

The loaves turned out well too as it happens .....


rossnroller 2009 November 26

Well, that's the first time I have put a FACE - err, body? - to our beloved yeastie beasties. Thanks, Karniecoops (and nice bread, too).


PS: Did you happen to spend any time at the Max Plank Institute while in Germany? My girlfriend of the time when I was staying in Germany was a plant gene technician at the MPI (first Munich, then Cologne), and I got to know her boss and some work colleagues. A long shot - just thought there might be some overlap with your professional area.

Karniecoops's picture
Karniecoops 2009 November 27

Didn't work at Max Planck Inst., but walked past it about a million times!  Strangely enough I worked for an American custodian bank whilst in Munich, saved the bugs till I got back to NZ again.

Johnny's picture
Johnny 2009 November 28

 Soooo coool.. between Karen's pink microbeasties and TP's fantastic food shots our home page is awash with colour...festive like... :)

Karniecoops's picture
Karniecoops 2009 November 28

haven't studied their rate of replication TP, but next time (when I remember) I'll make a smear from the starter direct from the fridge before feeding, then once its active again, then after first ferment, then after proofing to see if there are different proportions of yeast and bugs at each stage.  By all accounts there should be, but it will remain to be seen if I can tell this from a Gram stain.  We'll see.

It's nice seeing that what is there is all that there should be, but all said and done, I'd just rather make the bread! :o)  And as it happens I've just made my first loaves from Dan Lepard's "Local Breads", and the bagette al'acienne have just been slid into the oven.  And I did steal a bit of dough off to have a look at down the scope!

nnua 2011 September 29

 I burst out laughing when you had a look at the culture under the microscope ^-^   I was trained and worked in biomedical research some years ago; my cooking interests only blossomed in recent years.  I was most trilled when I saw the stained slide of the wild yeast and lactobacili, thanks for posting it!!


Although it has been years since I did any lab work, whenever I weigh out ingredients for baking, I find myself wishing for the convenience of those flexible weighing boat trays... I even get frustrated with the gross inaccuracy of the measuring cups hehehe (yikes 50 ml graduations!?) 


Just goes to show you can't take the scientist entirely out of the equation LOL

Thanks for such a wonderful & useful post, you made my day ^-^

Karniecoops's picture
Karniecoops 2011 September 30

I guess I'm one of the lucky (?) ones that can to a certain degree apply my work practice at home!  Microbiology is great anywhere :)


Happiness is making bread!

Post Reply

Already a member? Login

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.