Sourdough starter consistency


Hi there.

i am a complete novice to the sourdough "club" and really want to get cracking on making a loaf of bread with my starter. However the problem I am having is knowing when I can start using it. I started (no pun intended) Ruby last Tuesday (4th June) using Dan Lepard's recipe. She seemed to be doing well, but now when I've fed her daily, she bubbles up quite a lot, though never upto the top of the jar then goes flat.  She smells quite strongly of beer (that is the best way I can describe it, alcoholic) but is quite liquid. Is this normal, should I persevere or throw her away. When I feed her I keep 100gm and give her 50g white and 50g rye flour along with 120g water. I realise that the joy of making your own starter is that there is no definite time line, but I would just really like to get a feel that I am on the right lines. Any advice would be gratefully received. I live in Spain where the temperature at the moment is between 28-30c so maybe Ruby is peaking sooner than I think. She is living in a 1.5litre kilner jar which is quite tall, so am not holding out much hope that she will explode out of the top.

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Electricboots 2013 June 14

Hi Andie,

I also live in a hot climate and it sounds to me as though Ruby is chewing through the flour too quickly and is giving you a proportion of hooch through starvation rather than going through to carbon dioxide. I had to stop using wheat flour in my keeping starter because all I was getting was runny slime. Now I only use rye at 100% hydration and keep it in the fridge except for the day I feed it for baking. To make white bread I do a single use wheat starter that is activated with 20 g of the rye to get it going.

Try putting your starter in the fridge after feeding to see how long it takes to rise and if it still cycles in 1-2 days it may well settle down to a fluffier consistency.

Andie 2013 June 14

Ok thanks will try that. I know to some degree it can be a bit of trial and error. I have been trying feeding 100g of starter with 50g rye flour and 50g white bread flour with 120g water. Seems to stay thicker, rise a lot then fall back to its original size. Am currently trying a loaf, but think it wil be a disaster as I think I left it too long in between folds, which meant that the dough was really, really sloppy.  In the oven now, smells like bread and looks like bread if a bit flat. Will update when it's done.

Andie 2013 June 15

Well as I suspected, smelt lovely but as flat as a pancake.  I did try it though and had a definite sour taste to it, which was good, very hard crust but the dough itself was very dense. The only way is up I say and I won't be defeated just yet. Might try another starter recipe but at the moment have had a bit of a sourdough reading overload experience. There is so much information to absorb,that I think I have got a little lost and made things to complicated for myself. Must keep it simple!

Merrid 2013 June 18

Try feeding it with only 100g water with the total 100g flour - that's 100% hydration. Too wet a starter and all the gases escape too soon - the same goes for the dough as well. That's quite a warm room you have it in, so it may need feeding more than once a day at that temperature.

Your "really, really sloppy" dough may just mean it was overproved, which also causes flat, dense bread - you get gluten formation with a good structure in the initial stages of proving and then later on, gluten breakdown letting the gases escape. You will probably need a shorter total proving time at those temperatures and with such an active starter, even if you do the final proof in the fridge, as it takes some time to cool to fridge temperature.

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