Help me bring back my George!


Hi all!


I only came across this site as I was looking about online, whilst at work (in fact, I have signed up and am typing this at work too! ;) ), as I am desperately searching for anwers why I cannot for the life of me get another successful sourdough starter going.


A couple of years ago I tried to make a sourdough starter, only to have one or two failures, then this beautiful creation, whom I named George, with nothing more than warm water and plain, cheap and nasty supermarket flour.  He made wonderful bread, I best enjoyed it toasted with butter and jam.... <drool>  I was ecstatic that I had mastered (or so I thought) Man's most primitive food, and taught my two young children, and we would often feed George together.  I even have photos of George, bubbling happily in his one litre jar.


However, I was the only one who would eat sourdough bread, and I made a loaf or two for a friend.  So George would largely sit idle behind our television, keeping warm, superbly rising to the occasion whenever he was fed.  In the end, I discarded George.


Biggest. Mistake. Ever.


We moved house.  An igloo would have been warmer.  I tried to make a new George, but failed countless times.  What was I doing wrong?  I thought, no I was positive, that I was doing all the same things.  I gave up at that house, because I thought it was just too cold to get my George back.


We have moved house again.  This time up the Murray in Victoria, where the weather is beautiful and warm.  Or hot if you're an ice cube like me.  Perfect for rearing George I thought!  But no, I have had at least three attempts at new Georges, and all have failed.  I think maybe the last could have been successful, I may have given up his twelve-hourly feeds too soon.


Was my successful George a fluke?  I told all my online friends about George.  He was wonderful.  And then I discarded him.  So sad.  I have read just about everything on sourdough, and thought I was doing it right.  I tried stirring him often, or not.  I've never used a sterilised container in my life!  Thin batters.  Thick batters.  Glass jars.  Glass mixing bowls.  Never quite covered.  Covered all the way (bad idea!).  And I mean this in the most light-hearted, humorous way possible, but is George just like a Man out to torment my life forever?  Tempting me, but never going to come back?


I have five days off work starting tonight, so am determined to get my George back!  I can feed him twice daily for the next five days.


Please help!

131 users have voted.


Old Possum's picture
Old Possum 2012 February 5

Hi Netix -

If you can lay your hands on some rye make the starter using at least some if not all rye flour instead of white. It seems to grow more readily. I just followed Sourdom's instructions when I made my starter with rye and it worked first time but remember it does take up to two weeks to become robust enough to bake with. Seems a shame to have to keep discarding instead of baking but once it was active I used it to innoculate a plain white starter and now I keep both starters going in the fridge and feed up my starter from one or the other depending on what I'm baking. The rye one still ferments and proofs more rapidly than the white.

Blue Northern 2012 February 7

 Try this. I find it works REALLY well. You need to find organic or non-chemically treated fruit but that's not too difficult and don't wash it. What you're looking for is that slightly hazy 'bloom' that adorns unwashed fruit. I have 2 starters going - 1 from an apple (with dark rye flour) and 1 from damsons (with strong white). Another point - you don't have to leave the starter 'behind the telly' - stick it in the fridge once you've got it going. That's where I keep mine and they only need feeding once a week (or less). Bring it out of the fridge the night before you need it and give it a feed to get it ready for bread making. This guidance refers to an apple but you could use damsons, plums etc.


Use an apple: preferably organic or biodynamic or from a tree which doesn't get sprayed

Crush the whole apple (skin, pips flesh - the lot) and put it in a Kilner-style jar with a teaspoonful of malt extract dissolved in a tablespoonful of water.Cover the jar with a cloth and put it in a warm placelike the airing cupboard,top of the fridge,AGA shelf etc.Keep an eye on it and after a day or two you should notice bubbles as it begins to ferment.At this point it will start to smell like cider.When it is bubbly add a teaspoon of organic white flour and a tablespoonful of water and stir.Leave it to ferment for 12 hours then repeat.After another 12 hours add a tablespoonful of flourand two of water.At this stage the fermentation should be vigorous and the jar should smell of alcohol.Continue to feed it once a day for two or three more days and then use two thirds ofthe mix to make up a dough with about 1 kg of flour.Don't worry if it takes ages to rise: it will be stronger next time.Feed the starter back to the original volume in two stages with 12 hoursbetween feeds.Use two thirds again to make a dough , which should be faster than the last one.


Urban Farmer 2012 February 8

I found it easier to kick off a starter by putting some grape peel + some tomato peel initially.

Works well. Persist!

Nanna Korobi yaoki ( Fall down seven times but get up eight)

Love that Japanese proverb

SlackerJohn 2012 February 9
Classic Starter500ml warm water1/3 cup plain yoghurt2 cups bread flour1/4 cup nonfat milk powderBlend until smooth. Put in a 1 litre glass, ceramic or plastic bowl.Cover loosely with plastic wrap or cheesecloth, stand at room temp for 48 hours, stirring twice/day with a whisk. Cover, place in fridge.To use: measure the amount required, let stand at room temp for 1 hour,or until it starts to bubble.To feed remaining starter: add 1 cup (155g) flour and 1 cup (250ml) water, stir, stand at room temp for 24-48 hours to begin fermenting again. Store in fridge. I was baking with this in a week. CheersJohn 
Lilith 2012 February 10

Adding a bit of water from yogurt (or indeed some yogurt) helps get the lactobacillus culture going.  Another tip I have seen on the Fresh Loaf, was to use supermarket carton pineapple juice instead of water for the first one or two feedings.  Sounds bizarre at first, but it creates an acidic environment right away so that the yeasts which prefer high acidity thrive and the rest get culled early.


Good luck!

Old Possum's picture
Old Possum 2012 February 11

Keep it simply stupid. You really don't need anything but flour (preferably rye) and water and patience. Read Sourdom and follow. Simple!

Auntie Maim 2012 May 14's really not that bad, and especially for this.  Then again, I live in the US -- maybe our stuff is quite different here??

Let's face it: the three basic ingredients for any sourdough are flour, water and patience.  In your case, it may not be a problem with flour at all, nor temperature.  How about your water?  I know some of the cities here in the US heavily treat their water with chlorine, etc., which can kill off the very yeasts you're trying to cultivate.  Is there somewhere you can get fresh spring- or untreated water?  Even a rainbarrel's not a bad idea.

Here's hoping George will rise again!

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