I'm a failure at making a starter :(

Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams

I mixed up a starter (1 cup flour, 1 cup water, and cheated by adding a pinch of yeast) last week.  The first day it got all bubbly and looked great.  I fed it after tossing out a cup as recommended on the second day, and have continued daily.  It is now day 7 and it looks dead, but still smells good.  So I started a new starter 3 days ago.  Same thing.  This is day 4 and I'm ready to feed again, but don't know why I can't get it to bubble.  Neither seem to be alive.  It's been in the high 60's here in So. Cal. but should be 70-ish today.  i've carefully keep on the counter in glass Pyrex bowls with loose lids with undercounter light on to keep it warm.  What the heck am I doing wrong?  Thanks, Janey

420 users have voted.


alexandra75 2011 April 27

Check out Sourdoms bog on here about making your own sourdough starter. This is what I followed and I have not had a problem. I don't think you should be putting any yeast in it, as it is all about the natural leaven, without the use of commercial yeast. It will take anywhere between 2-3 weeks until your culuture will be ready  to use. you have to feed it every day,. anyway check it out, I found it to be very helpful. I have had my starter culuture for over 6 months and keep  mine in the fridge when i am not baking. Let us know how you get on

Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 April 28

and off to the store to get more flour.  Made 4 loaves of bread already today.  I have company this week and we're huge homemade bread lovers.  Wish me luck with the new starter.  Tossing out the two that didn't cooperate.  It is in the mid 70's today, so hopefully luck will be with me.

Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 April 28

On finding Dom's recipe, I see it includes flour that I can't find in Southern California in the US.  I have all purpose, bread flour, rye, whole wheat.  Not sure how to proceed now.

alexandra75 2011 April 28

Hi Jane, I think the bread flour should be fine, and i also believe that Dom's recipe - adding the rye flour - is there to get it going better, ( not sure if that is expressed correctly). I have seen people just use water and white flour. Just make sure it is a good flour, not just the cheapest you can get. They say organic flour is very good, this is what I use, but when I first began my starter I only used bread flour, I don't see that you should have a problem. I live in australia and it took me a while to work out which flours were better than others. I now use organic flour for my starter and breadmaking but as mentioned before have used bread flour before with good result. the key with the starter i think is patience. What is the weather with you at the moment, you are getting into warmer weather aren't you? Tell me how you are doing the starte again..... If you dont mind, I do so wish you all the best as I think there is nothing better than all natural sourdough, the taste is so good.

I got a bit discouraged in the beginning as it took me 4-5 loaves to get a edible loaf, but now its great, i make a white sourdough and then a rye sourdough with lots of flavours, but find that one more difficult as the dough is so moist. anyway good luck


panfresca 2011 April 28

 You could use any combination of the flours you have - maybe 50% bread flour, 30% whole wheat and 20% rye, but really it doesn't matter much what combination and proportions you use. If you bake mostly whole wheat for example, I would make that the main flour. It's very flexible and hard to go wrong - it's the method that's important (and even that's adaptable), not the precise details and ingredients.

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 April 28

Hello Jane,

Dom named the brands of the flour that he was using because they are his preference and available to him.  If you have a good quality bread flour and rye flour (I think you say you have) then following Dom's method should give good results.  I did and if you look at some of my blogs you will be able to see the results going right back to creating the starter.

Keep on bakin'


panfresca 2011 April 27

 Commercial yeast is Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, but the yeast(s) you are after for sourdough fall under the generic Saccharomyces Exiguus - so adding commercial yeast does nothing for you, and probably gets in the way of the natural yeasts you want. 

I agree with alexandra75 that following SourDom's excellent blog on how to get a starter going is the easiest path. I found that during the first few days, the lack of action and sometimes strange smells make you wonder if it's all going horribly wrong, but it all settles down eventually with lovely fruity-smelling starter. It might seem a little daunting at first, but it's actually very simple if you have a little faith and patience!


Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 April 28

I agree SourDom's is an excellent blog, but I don't think it applies to Southern Califonia.  Our weather is very different and we have available to us at our grocery stores bread flour, all purpose flour, and whole wheat flour.  Anything other than that must be ordered and I'm not willing to go to that expense.  Someone must have a successful technique that is local to me.  I'll give it one more try without the yeast, but I live in a city and I'm not sure yeast can even survive in our smog.  Going to say a prayer now.  Thanks, Janey

panfresca 2011 April 28

Hi Jane

Not a failure at all! It's all part of the learning experience, and once you get over this small hurdle you'll love the results.

Southern California was really the birthplace of the resurgence in sourdough (and played a pretty important part in its older history too), and SourDom's technique, even though he hails from the same city as me, Melbourne, is universal all round the world.

If you can survive the smog, the natural yeasts on the flour can too - yeast is tougher than us! If you're really concerned, add a splash of pineapple juice to the initial mix - that will protect against some of the unwanted bacteria which can try to muscle in on the early stages (but disappear once the starter gets going).

It doesn't really matter what flours you use for the starter; the idea is just to provide as broad a menu as possible for the initial feeding. Although SourDom's method specifies bread flour and rye flour, you could just as well use bread flour and whole wheat flour. 

Good luck to you, Jane - and let's know how you're going!


davo 2011 April 28

Jane, on the contrary, Melbourne would have to have one of the closest climates in the world to southern california!  (Never snows at ground level, winter daily temps typically 3 to 6 celcius min overnight and daily max 12-15 Celcius, summer mins say 13-20 celcius overnight and max 22-45 celcius.)  And we have smoggy cities too (though not in California's league!)

Any of those flours will work, the thing is just keep feeding and don't give up. It's not like at an appointed number of feeds it will hey presto appear as a robust and stable starter. Just Keep Feeding. It will get there eventually, it's not a failed one, it's one that hasn;t got going just yet. If your wholemeal is organic, then that's great. Wholemeal rye even better. This is because they say the bugs you want are generally speaking on the grains and so in the flour rather than from any magical air-borne source as used commonly to be believed. But even if you are just using AP flour, it should work eventually. Even once it seems to be bubbling/rising, it is likely to take a number of weeks to be stable at the right "mix" of bugs to raise bread well. Mine took over a month until the raising power was up there, even though it made bread in just over  a week. If bad smells develop, one way to overcome this is to add some acid like pineapple juice, which will kill off the less desirable bacteria and favour the acid-forming lactobacilli, but you don;t have to do this.

The commercial yeast can only be a step backwards - unlike wild yeasts it feeds on maltose and so competes directly with the lacto bacilli and so is less prone to form a stable symbiosis than are the wild yeasts (which feed on the monosaccharides that the lacto bacilli make out of the disaccharide maltose). Just be patient, or find someone with a starter and ask for a little. There's no particular magic in using one you rather than someone else initiated. I've given mine away to others who have also passed in on and I figure there are at least 30 people using it, and probably more. Mine's about 3-4 years old now.

Don't give up.


Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 April 28

Ok, I'm going to start over tomorrow.  I have two starters just sitting there on the kitchen counter.  No bubbles or anything.  I feed them both every day, same time.  Weather is high 60s so I keep them next to the refrigerator where it is slightly warmer from the motor of the refrigerator.  It should get a bit warmer in the next week or so.  I'll just use flour and water.  no help from yeast.  Maybe I'll set it out on the patio table on the covered patio.  It's warmer outside, but still pretty cold at night.


I hate to throw out the old starter projects.  Maybe I'll continue to feed for another week and see if I can at least get some bubbles.  They smell good so they aren't going bad.  I bake bread about 3 times a week, and really really want to get some sourdough going.  In the meantime, I'll baby my new starter attempt, be patient, and try some biga recipes.


Thanks to all of you for your support.



panfresca 2011 April 28

Hi Janey

Hey, no need to worry - let's agree that you don't need to use the word "failure" again...! It will happen. 

How old are the two starters, and are you following SourDom's method? If it's still smelling good, and your temperature is around 60 - 70, then there's no reason to think it won't get going, just that the cooler temps are slowing it down.

The first few days are always fairly static, and then after that is when strange smells might develop and you think that your starter is a disaster - but push on through it all because it will happen, and you will end up with a vigorous, aromatic starter.


Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 April 29

You gals are amazing to help me like this.  Unbelievable. 

One starter if 9 days old and the other is 5 days old.  I didn't follow SourDom's method because I hadn't even heard of it when I started this journey.  Maybe it is the cooler weather.  I hae kept them as warm as I could.  We cook a lot and the kitchen is warmer than the rest of the house.  I moved them from plastic bowls into glass Pyrex bowls with covers which I left loose on top.  I had been using a baking cloth to cover them with because they developed a "skin" on top, probably due to our dry weather.  Today it is supposed to be 81 deg,

HopesHope 2011 April 29

How often are you feeding the dough.  I would suggest you feed your starter morning and night.


If you have a Safeway store, walk in and see if they have a "mixed grain" flour which will have rye in it already.  You can use that.   If you use A/P flour, it could have been you got a bad batch, try Bread Flour either white or wheat doesn't matter.


I wouldn't get rid of your starters I would give it them another 2 weeks to perk back up again.. Sometimes starters will start off with a big bang, then take a rest period, before coming alive again.  


just my 6 cents

Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 April 29

I started out with two cups of flour and 2 cups of water, with a pinch of yeast (because I didn't think think I could get wild yeast to and because I read instructions on a dozen internet sites to do so).  I have read so many different instructions that my head is spinning.

I have been feeding once a day by tossing out 1/2 cup starter then adding 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour.  The water I add is warm, about 100-110 deg.  I have also been stirring it up once a day.  One got a bunch of hooch on top that I stirred back in, which made it much thinner.  The other starter never developed any hooch and is nice and thick,  So one is thinner than pancake batter and one is thicker.

I used A/P flour, but I do have some rye flour that I ordered from King Arthur's website.  Maybe I can add some rye in lieu of A/P when I feed today.  I can feed twice as you suggest today 12 hours apart.  It is supposed to hit 77 deg. today, so maybe I should sit them outside on the patio.  Earlier the weatherman said 80 deg, but he has changed his forecast.  Naturally!  This is California where the weather changes every 15 minutes.

Both starters smell good, so that is encouraging.  But the "no bubbles" has been discouraging.  But I will keep feeding them and maybe burn some incense for them ... LOL.  I am so determined.  I even thought about buying some San Francisco starter that is like 300 years old.  I don't know anyone who bakes like I do so have no friends with active starter to share with me.

Blessings to you all for the help you have given me.


Hoping for success,  Janey


YosemiteZoo 2011 April 29

I was able to get a successful starter by using wheat flour, organic sugar, and distilled water.  My started lived on my kitchen counter for the first couple weeks (then it moved to the refridgerator and got weekly feedings).  Each day I would take out a cup of starter and throw the rest away.  I'd put the cup back in the bowl and add one cup of wheat flour, one cup of water, and a teaspoon of sugar.  If I was going to be baking soon, I would keep more starter, add equal parts of flour and water, and increase the sugar a bit.  I kept notes on what it looked/smelled like so that if something went wrong, I could try to pinpoint the problem. 

Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 April 29

Sugar.  I've never added sugar.  Maybe I'll try that.  I have several sticky notes attached to each glass bowl of starter with all my notes.  I just saved a cup of starter, tossed the rest, washed the bowl, and then put the saved cup back in bowl and fed it with 1 cup flour and 1 cup warm water.  I'll try a little bit of sugar in one of them.  Then I'm off to Sam's Club to get 50 lbs. of bread flour.  I usually only get 25 lbs. but I'm baking for the older retired couple next door also now.  They sure appreciate it.  Heck, making 2 loaves is easy.  My family wants lots of different breads.  White, whole wheat, rye, cheese, herb.  For breakfast they want Portugese sweet bread.  On weekends I make cinnamon rolls or sticky buns. 


I really love to make bread, and won't be satisfied until I can successfully bake sour dough.


HopesHope 2011 April 29

The way it sounds you will be baking with sourdough soon.   If you have a health food store near you, go and purchase some Spelt flour, it's known as "the other wheat flour"   This is sooo good.    I just made a millet and bukwheat bread, which is also very good.  


Pretty soon the word will be out in your neighbourhood and you will be baking for everyone.  lol

panfresca 2011 April 29

Sorry Janey, I had no idea you were still hanging onto that old muck with the commercial yeast in it! 

Putting commercial yeast into a "starter" is a bit like sending Donald Trump to a Democratic convention... it's just never going to work! Commercial yeast actually dies when a mixture gets sour (acid) enough to support the wild yeasts and lacobacilli of a sourdough starter - so the two are incompatible as far as getting a starter going.

I guess that means you're back to square one - but it also means you're about 5 or 6 days away from success. My suggestion now is to follow SourDom's method exactly (well, using your flours) - and within 3 or 4 days you will see bubbles. I think maybe you're over-thinking this. It does seem really daunting and complicated at the beginning, but it's really quite simple - the method is easy, just what's going on inside the flour is complicated but you don't have to worry too much about that because it all just happens anyway.

You can see we're all determined to get you going successfully with the best sourdough you ever tasted! 

(BTW, some of us are not gals...   )


Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 April 30

You can see we're all determined to get you going successfully with the best sourdough you ever tasted! 

(BTW, some of us are not gals...   )




Sorry Kym.  Correct to guys and gals <grin>


Millciti's picture
Millciti 2011 April 30

Check out LeadDog's Blog - He started out his sourdough using California's retail Flour, and has advanced to grinding his own California Flour.  Organic is important to start with - unbleached all purpose - although even Gold medal Unbleached all purpose will work.  If you can find it - Bob's Red Mill Organic Dark rye, for the rye.  Or just get some organic rye flakes from a health food store.  Look on the ingredients label - if bleach or bromated is mentioned do not use to start the starter.  This may be okay later if your starter is strong enough and you use small amounts.  But for now - No Bleach or Bromate.  Malt is fine.

Don't cheat - don't use commercial yeast, it is not designed to survive in the environment created by sourdough.  Read Dom's Starter Blogs - especially the one were he compares starter methods.  Also are you still using 1c flour to 1 c water.  This is very liquid and harder to see bubbles,  I would recommend 1c flour to 1/2 cup water and when discarding leave about 2 tablespoons in the jar.  Cover loosely - after 12-24 hours you will see lots of activity - but these are not the right microbes.  Day 2-6 or 10 may be very discouraging but there is a lot of unseen activity going on.  If you do see bubbles you might only see one or two - continue feeding as recommended by Dom.  Once bubbles return you will be very close.  When you feed the starter and within 4 hours your starter doubles - you will have arrived. 

If you fail this time you could try the Debra Wink's pineapple solution from the fresh loaf:)

Also - since LeadDog is close you there is always the other method of obtaining a sourdough starter - Ask a Friend!





Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 April 30

Ok, I tossed my two "dead" starters.  That was hard!!!

I started a new one with 1 cup bread flour and 1/2 cup warm water, but it was so thick I added another 1/4 cup to it.

I covered the glass bowl with plastic wrap loosely. 

Counting down the hours until tomorrow when I can feed it.   I am feeling much more confident with this.  I am so determined to make sourdough.  Would be nice to make it before my niece leaves, but since that is tomorrow, I doubt that will happen.  I've got cheese bread in the oven right now and heading off to get a bigger bucket for my flour.  I've been buying 25# bags and keeping in a small bucket.  But if I get a 5 gallon bucket, I would be able to get it all in the container at once.  Great to have a handle to cart it around since I keep it in the pantry which is across the hall from the kitchen.


I'll keep you all posted on my progress.  Also going to get a bottle of champagne to celebrate with in a few days.  Glass is half FULL kind of gal.


Regards, Janey

panfresca 2011 April 30

Hi Janey

I'm really chuffed to see you're steaming ahead now with such confidence!

That cheese bread sounds really good. I buy 10 kilo bags (22 pound) of flour when I can - sometimes tempted to go for the 25 kilo. I have large containers in the laundry next to the kitchen, but work with smaller 5 litre (about a gallon) containers in the kitchen for convenience. Have to be really careful about flour moths which will appear at the tiniest trace of loose flour.

Now that you're on the way, a couple of things which might be useful:

• You could add a teaspoon or so of your other flours to the starter mix now - every flour carries its own cultures of yeasts and other healthy organisms, so if your starter has more from the beginning it will be more robust.

• Don't be tempted to use the starter too early. It might really take off with really healthy bubbling after 3 to 5 days, which is good - but it's still not ready for prime time. Give it another few days to get properly into the swing of things.

• As I mentioned before, don't worry about unpleasant smells if they develop in the first few days - just keep feeding and they will be overcome by the good lactobacilli, resulting in a sweet fruity aroma.

I'll chill a bottle of sparkling wine ready to toast your success!


alexandra75 2011 April 30

Hi Jane, Good on you! Just keep going - I love reading all the responses that you got, Sourdough really is so worth it. I agree with Terri, sometimes it can take up to 7 days for you to see some really nice bubbles and trust me it will be all worth the wait.  I keep my 10kg flourbag in my pantry which is righ in the kitchen, very handy.  I got some spelt flour recently that I might use next week to bake some bread I have not tried before.

esbkk 2011 April 30

The best advice ever given to me, regarding a starter was, keep it soft and warm, and start only with

Dark Rye flour.

Keeping it soft ... 120gr of water fopr every 100gr of flour.

Keeping it warm ... around 30 to 33 degrees C.

The rye flour can be substituted once the starter is established.

It has never failed me ...

Good luck!

Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 May 1

Well, the starter is sitting on the kitchen counter in a glass bowl and plastic wrap on top loose.  I used 1 cup A/P flour and 1/2 cup water, but that was too thick so I added another 1/4 cup.  When I got home from a great dinner out last night, I ran for the kitchen to check on my little buddy (someone said to name your starter and it would be easier to take care of, so Buddy is my starter's name).  After 6 hours, no change, not that I expected any.  Didn't add sugar, just flour and water.  I just now stirred it up after sitting all night, and there was no change.  I am concerned that it is so thick.

Since temperature is so important, I worry about that.  I worry a lot, huh?  Anyway, it should be in the 80's in So. California for the next week, which is good.  But at night it gets down to the low 50's and that is freezing weather for a gal from Calif.  I have to put on a jacket to take the damn dawgs (meant in the most loving way) for their walks. Should I put it in the oven with the light on at night?  No pilot since I have a gas stove but the starter is an electronic igniter.  Guess I need an oven thermometer.  I'm going to try one of those breads that use biga.  Seems pretty simple from what I have read. 

Thank you all, gals and Kym, for all your informative posts.  I don't know why I am so intimidated by this sourdough starter.  It sure seems simple, but as you remember, I can't even get the starter to a happy place.  I'm almost tempted to just plunk down the money and buy some starter.  King Arthur Flour sells it and they are the king of flour and supplies here in the states.

I'll keep you posted on my success, or lack of <grin>.


Millciti's picture
Millciti 2011 May 1

 "Putting commercial yeast into a "starter" is a bit like sending Donald Trump to a Democratic convention... it's just never going to work!"  Boy are you right!


I'm Glad to hear you are going to try again - you will not be disappointed.  I realized that I didn't ask before about your "cups".  Most of the recipes here are by weight - also remember there is a difference between American and Imperial cups.   A standard american cup is around 237g/ml for liquid by weight.  An average American cup of unbleached  flour, filled by the bakers method*, is around 120-125g by weight.  So when I said one cup flour to 1/2 cup of water I was trying to give you about 100% hydration - or thick batter.  So if you have a scale, use it to weigh both the flour and water the next time you discard and add new flour.  If not use the baker's method to measure.  You want it to be relatively thick so that you can see the bubbles.  

Also, part of the reason for the smaller amount of flour in the begining is to keep waste down.  You will not want to use the discarded pre-starter from this process for anything.  It contains too many iffy varieties of microbes.  I just re-read Dom's instructions.  So maybe next feeding you may want to discard half, and add half the amount you started with - per Dom 50g h20, 50g flour to reach 300g by day 3... So if sticking to cups - 1/4 cup water to 1/2 cup flour.   Not that this is an exact science, as Dom says...  But when you meet failure, caution is indicated in order to advance your experiment!  Don't want to waste that 25 pounds of flour!

*bakers method - http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/measuring-flour.html


Maybe by the next time your Niece visits...!  You can serve her your own sourdough bread!


A little bread porn for inspiration... 


PS.... No Sugar!!  Sourdough is not commercial yeast, like others have said, but rather the natural wild yeast organisms and lactobacilli Microrganisms  that are inherent on the surface of the grain.  They are fed by the sourdough process.  Will post a link later.




Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 May 1

Just fed the day two starter.  I used 3/4 cup bread flour and and 1/4 cup medium rye flour.

Here in the US, we have two types of measuring cups...liquid and dry.  The liquid cup is clear Pyrex.  The dry cup is plastic or metal and you fill it up over the brim then use a knife to shave the excess of the rim.  That makes one cup non-liquid.  That's what I use for all my baking.  I put it in the oven covered with plastic wrap loosly and turned on the light because it's definitely not 80 degrees yet today.  Feels more like 68.  So much for trusting weather forecasters  I'll try to remember to get that oven thermometer when I run out to Bed, Bath and Beyond.

This is so exciting!!

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 May 1

Stick with it Jane, all will be revealed and it will be well worth it.

As Millciti said, if you have a scale accurate to 1g (digital) that is the best way to go but obviously not essential as people were successfully making sourdough long before such gadgetry was available.

At 100% hydration, which is a common target for the starter, it should be like a thick batter and just able to flow reasonably freely off a spoon by itself leaving a thick coating behind - 5-10mm thick.

Lower and higher hydration starters are possible, but 100% seems to be favoured because it will retain the gas and rise up in the container.  If you look at one of my early posts I show a sequence of photos of rising starter.  I'd put in the link but not sure how to get the URL now that I have started writing the post.

On the matter of temperature, generally time and temperature are interchangeable - lower temperature just means that things take longer to happen.  There is also the fact that different residents of your starter do better at different temperatures so that the outcome in terms of flavour etc will be different if the starter and dough are processed at different temperatures.

At the moment, however, we just want to get your starter alive and kicking and we can worry about the niceties later.

IMO, I'd resist the temptation to buy a starter.  And definitely, definitely no sugar!

Keep on bakin'


Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 May 1

Can someone explain what this means in regards to starter?  My starter is like thick pancake batter.  Should it be thinner so I can see the bubbles better?

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 May 1


Thick pancake batter sounds just about right.

Hydration is just a fancy name for the relative mass of flour and water.  100% hydration is, say, 50g water and 50g flour so that the amount of water expressed as a percentage of the amount of water is 100%.  80% hydration would be 40g water with 50g flour and that would be more dough like but still soft.  120% hydration would be 60g water with 50g flour and that would be quite liquid and runny.

As I said before 100% seems to be good because it will hold the gas and rise like a sponge - sponge is another name for starter.  If it is thinner, the gas is likely to escape and so it will not 'rise' though you will still see bubbles forming at the surface.

Stick with what you are doing and one day soon you will wonder what all the fuss was about /;-{)}

Hope this helps.


panfresca 2011 May 1

 Hi Janey

Don't worry - everything you are doing sounds right. I know the feeling when doing something new - you question and are unsure about everything. It will all become second nature soon enough.

Your "pancake batter" sounds about right. It's remarkably flexible anyway - a 100% hydration is good for starter, but it will work at greater or lesser hydrations, just slower at less than 100%. I really recommend getting accurate scales at some stage - flour is so compressible that it's very hard to get accurate hydration just by volume measure. Accurate scales are available for just a few dollars on eBay.

Don't worry about the temperatures either - even 50° at night. If you're getting up to 80° during the day that's all good.


Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 May 1

You'll never know how much you all have encouraged me in this journey and wouldn't let me give up.

I "created" the concoction yesterday morning using 1 cup flour and 3/4 cup water.  Nothing else.

I put it in a Pyrex bowl and covered loosely with plastic wrap.  Since it was cold, I put it in the oven with the light on to give it a little more heat.  I checked on it before I went to bed and it was still sitting there looking exactly as it did after I first stirred it together.  Sigh.

This morning I gave "Buddy" his first feeding using about 3/4 cup bread flour, 1/4 cup medium rye flour and a cup of warm water.  Put it back in the oven.  Good thing we had leftovers from last nights dinner out.  Huge note taped to oven controls "Don't Turn Oven On!  Buddy is Napping".

Niece and sister think I am bonkers but excited that I might be making sourdough bread in a month or so.

A few minutes ago (11 PM my time) I peeked in the oven door and the plastic wrap was stuck to the middle of the mixture so I pulled it out to tighten it so it didn't touch my little Buddy.

OMG!!!  I have liftoff...er, I have FOAM and BUBBLES!!!  Day 2!!!  I figured the So. California smog would kill all the wild yeast, but I harnessed some wild SoCal yeast!!!  But it is spring here, as my constant sneezing and poor tender nose told me.  Maybe yeast blew in from the north.  Hehe  Nothing but flour and water!  I did a bunny hop around the kitchen.  The bubbles don’t go all the way to the bottom, but they are more than half way there.  I have to put it in a larger glass bowl tomorrow or it will overflow.  I shoved a cookie sheet on the lower shelf just in case my Buddy gets feisty tonight.  I sure wouldn’t want to clean up that mess if it happened.

It was so dang easy.  I can’t figure out what I was in such a panic for.  I’ll be devastated if the bubbles are gone tomorrow.

So, I’ll feed it just like the directions say…1 cup (50 g according to the Internet) of flour (maybe some rye again) and ½ or ¾ cup of warm water, and stick it back in the oven.  OMG!  I am so excited.  Don’t know if I will have the heart to toss most of my Buddy out when I reach that day, which I think is day after tomorrow.  It’s kind of like tossing out half a batch of cookies.


So, I follow the directions to Day #7.  How many days after that should I go?  Guess I’ll just know. 

I’m obsessed now.  I ordered buckets and lids for storage, more yeast, a new bread knife.  I think I’ll even splurge on a baker’s apron because I want one and I need one.  I need to be a neater baker.  LOL. 

I have a glass candy jar, holds 4 cups…that is 200 g, I think.  Is that a good size to store it in the fridge in?


Thank you, thank you, thank you all!!

I’m going to have a glass of Cuervo now.  Tomorrow I must get a bottle of bubbly for when I make that very first loaf.  I will toast you all when I do.  I know I will have lots more questions. 

Funny, I did so much research on making a starter.  I’ve found a dozen or more forums offering help.  But the one that made it easy, simple, and were so patient with me is a group of really cool people in Melbourne.  Small world, huh?  I have a friend who lives in Melbourne.  She immigrated there from England as a child.  One of these days, I want to visit.

Again, THANKS!!


Regards, Janey





farinam's picture
farinam 2011 May 1


You sound even bubblier than Buddy.  Looking forward to further reports - and photos if you have the wherewithall.

Keep on bubblin'


alexandra75 2011 May 1

Good going Jane sounds like you are wll on your way, Keep us posted and as Farinam said maybe some pictures. Isn't it just the most amazing thing when you realise its alive and growing and doind what it is supposed to do? i love it too, I can not turn back now.


Millciti's picture
Millciti 2011 May 2

Many of us have been excited by the second day of growth but don't be fooled.  If you really want to bake with sourdough and not some Frankenstein Science experiment you will  have to wait about 5-8 days more.

Tell me what happens when you set dry food that has gotten moist on your counter for a few days?  Would you cook it and eat it?  What about setting other cooked foods out and then eating them or cooking with them... How safe is that?  What you see right now on your counter is the result of giving lots of different microbes (good and very bad) the proper food, oxygen, and water to grow.  How do I know this?  Because we cultured similar things in Microbiology Class. Sourdough has been around for thousands of years and there is much folklore on where the yeasts and lactobacillus come from but most science points to the grain. Not the air, and not a bunch of other extra added substances - which means that the smog shouldn't hold it back.  Traditional sourdough is a symbiotic culture that is safe, because the acidic environment that is created by the beneficial microbes does not support the wrong kind of microbes.  Just like in other fermented foods the process helps to preserve the food and make it safe to eat. Please read the following article  http://sourdough.com/blog/johnd/sourdough-bread%E2%80%A6-real-thing John D is very good at explaining what real sourdough is.

I have total confidence that you will achieve a sourdough starter following the path described by Dom but you are not there yet.  I so feel your pain, as do many others here.  You are growing a culture - like the fine wine you enjoy, it is a fermented product, and you must wait for the finished product.   Waiting just seems so unfair, but it really is worth it! 


Terri - 


panfresca 2011 May 2

Hey Janey

I just  went into the kitchen to see what a cup of flour would weigh - I knew it was going to be way more than 50g! A level standard cup of my bread flour weighs 144 grams - almost 3 times that figure you found.

A US cup is about 85% of the size of what we use in Australia (same as UK), which would still make it about 120 grams. The thing is that different flours weigh differently, and if you compress it, the weight is different again - but there's no way you could get anywhere near 50 grams. The starter process is flexible, but probably not by over 100%.

Millciti's advice above is important - Buddy's yeast has come from your flour, not from the air (that's why it was a good idea to use a variety of flours) - and it's vital to give it time to go through the whole process (usually at least 7 days, probably closer to 10) to overcome any nasties and get the starter operating at 100%.

I agree with you, that the community here on sourdough.com is something special. BTW though some of us in this thread are from Melbourne, members come from all over the world, and the whole thing is headquartered in a delightful small historic town in Tasmania.

Hey, now that you've named your starter Buddy, maybe you should give him his own Sourdough membership!


Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 May 3


Day 4 ==================

Another let down at feeding time this morning.  I really thought I was on the way to success, but I’m very impatient.  My little Buddy was just sitting there like no time had passed at all.  Fed 50 g of water, 35 g of bread flour and 15 g of medium rye after discarding all the starter except 1 tablespoon.  Yes, I invested in a scale.  I’ve needed one for awhile and it wasn’t expensive.  The clay baker I want is a much better investment, I think, but only time will tell.

So, no dancing in the kitchen over my starter.  Guess I’ll just wait a few more days.  Weather was in the mid-70s today with practically zero humidity.  Tomorrow it will be in the 90’s.  Yeah, I know.  Our weather changes on a whim.  Might be in the 40s by midnight tonight.  Yeah, great sleeping weather, especially if you have a snuggly little dog who is hot blooded who demands to sleep with you, snoring most of the night.

So, to make me feel better, I decided to bake some bread.  No Knead with cranberries and pecans (no raisins – my sister hates them.  I have no idea either… )

So tonight I feel much better since I have a tummy full of fabulous sweet bread. That no-knead bread is so amazingly easy.  Gotta make another loaf, maybe bacon and cheese next time.  Hmmm, and some chives.

BUT, it would be better if it was sourdough bread.  I “should” see bubbles tomorrow or the next day and will be disappointed if I don’t.

So, I’m feeling sad tonight.  Guess I’ll go read some more beginner’s forums and see if I can learn something!



panfresca 2011 May 3

Buddy's just snoozing, Janey. Just baby him along and he will soon wake up. My guess is you'll see just a few bubbles tomorrow, then it (sorry, he!) will become more and more active.

A thought occurred - if you're still putting it in the oven with the light on at night, check that it's not reaching 100°F... that would kill off your starter. 

SourDom's yardstick is that a starter is active when it has doubled in volume for the first time.

Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 May 4

Day #5 - I just fed my buddy with same 50g water, 35 g bread flour and 15 g medium rye.

When I took it out of the oven where I keep it for consistant temperatures, it had some bubbles and foam on the top.  It is in a clear glass bowl, but I had started using a larger one because I don't want it overflowing.  It rises only about one inch so it is difficult to see, but I don't think I have bubbles below the surface, just on the top.  And they were pretty small bubbles.

That's OK with me.  I'm being patient.  If I follow SourDom's formula, I won't be seeing many bubbles for a few more days.  I was planning on waiting a few weeks, but now I'm thinking I might bake my first SD on day #14, depending on the progress my buddy makes.

I've been watching lots of videos on bread baking which gives me encouragement and the itch to bake more.  But I have a loaf of cheese bread, the cranberry-pecan no-knead loaf, and some English muffin bread just sitting around.  They won't last much longer.  My sister has requested some Portugese sweet bread, so I will be doing that today.

Temps today should be in the low 90's.  Whew, and I have to work in the garden :/


Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 May 4

with the light on.  It is only in the high 70's.  So that means it is a perfect environment I think.  The thermometer is new and pretty accurage, I think.

panfresca 2011 May 4

 Hi Janey

That's good news about the bubbles - and also the oven temperature is perfect. Although the starter will have become more stable at 14 days, there's no reason you can't use it as soon as it really begins to take off (ie, when it has first doubled). That's probably only 2 or 3 days away. Can you email me a slice from the first loaf?  

Sounds like you could just about set up a bakery at your place!


davo 2011 May 4

Just keep feeding. It'll ge tthere eventually, and you are not in control of when. If it's bubbling, I suspect you have some bugs in there, just keep going and they will eventually reach the right balance and power.


At 100% you may not necessarily see a big rise - some wil depend on when you look - it can peak and fall between looks, and also at high hydration, the mix may not hold the bubbles for long or at all - if gas is simply escaping out the top, you don't see any "rise" in your starter mix materialising - but that doesn't mean it necessarily can't be active.

Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 May 4

Not sure I'm ready to make my first loaf in a few days.  Guess I should decide what recipe to make. WhooHooo!!  I'll try to figure out how to post a picture here when I get it done. 

Anyone got any suggestions?  I want big holes :)

I have to go figure out the steps.  I think I feed the starter before I use it, right?  Let it sit 12 hours then use whatever amount I need for the recipe.  Then feed again and let sit another 12 hours before I put it in the fridge.  I'll go look it up. 


Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 May 4

Thanks Mr. Kym...

I think I have 100% hydration.  I use equal water to flour, right?  I'm still not completely knowledgable on the SD terms.  It's nice and thick.

I bake my breads in pans, cast iron skillet, and in a Corning casserole covered pot.  I haven's had much luck with rolling up a ball (boule??) and baking it on a sheet pan.  They always go wide and flat.  But that is probably because it was too loose, tho I have tried it with dryer doughs and get the same effect.  I have to kiss a lot of frogs before I get a nice loaf of bread that isnt out of a pan.  Pans work extremely well for me, especially since we love roasted chicken sandwiches <g>.

I'll give Shiao-Ping's recipe a try.  Now I just have to be patient for the next few days for my little buddy to become super active.


I love the pictures of Shiao-Ping’s bread, and her (his??) instructions were pretty easy to understand.  I specifically like the 1-2-3 thing.  Easy to remember.  But then she (he?) started with the hydration formulas and I was completely lost for the remainder of the post.  I don’t want to have to do math when I want to bake some bread.  Is it possible to just keep feeding my 100% hydration starter, use the 1-2-3 method to mix it up and knead/fold and let it sit, rise and then bake?  Or double rise for more sour bread, right?  Suddenly this is getting really complicated for this simple old gal from So Cal.


panfresca 2011 May 5

Janey, don't worry too much about hydration formulas at this stage - they are not as daunting as they seem, and can be useful when you want to duplicate something you've done before, or adjust for different flours.

Covered pots are good for baking bread, because they keep the steam in for a good crust - you just remove the lid maybe half way through or a little earlier. Two things affect dough's ability to hold a shape - hydration and shaping. Proper shaping gives the dough "muscles".

Shiao-Ping is one of the legends of breadmaking, particularly on this site and The Fresh Loaf... I have learnt a lot from her posts, and her recipes are always reliable.



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