Starter Viability



I have a developing starter following the recipe from this site.  It is at day 11 and has doubled since its morning feed.  I saw on another site that Jacob Burton (Stella Culinary) demonstrated that a starter is ripe when a small amount, tspn, dropped into a container of room temp water, floats and does not sink to the bottom.  I have tried this earlier in my starter's development and it sank.  Tonight it floated straight away.  Has anyone ever used this test, and is it reliable?  I am not ready to bake, but just want to get the beast into the frig to hibernate, with weekly feeds, as I do with my established starter.  I am sick of wasting 100g of flour every day. My question is 'am I there yet?'.  Also, would this be considered a white starter with 70g white and 30g rye flour feeding?  Is it possible over time to gradually convert to a wholewheat starter, obviously gradually?  I cannot bake at the moment, as after an electrical brown out during our 43C day on Thursday, my oven packed it in!  BUT, my developing starter, with a little innovation, survived.


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farinam's picture
farinam 2013 January 19

Hi Sondra,

It is certainly true that a well aerated starter will float in water.  The gas bubbles lower the density sufficiently that the density of the sponge is lower than that of water.  However, if the sponge has risen and appears to be well shot through with bubbles that is probably good enough indication that all is well.

When I make my dough, I make a well in the flour and pour the sponge into the well and then add the water.  Most often the sponge will float to the top before I mix it into the water with a chopstick before gradually mixing in the flour from the sides and bottom of the bowl.  However the sponge sometimes does not float, possibly because it has stuck to the flour and can't get away but it is perfectly fine because of the rise and the bubble content.

By all means drop some into water if you wish but it strikes me as more pfaffing around that is not really necessary.

All in all, I would say that you are ready and rearing to go and what you have should be fine to go into slow down mode.  By and large it doesn't matter what you feed your starter and the fact that this one has a rye component matters for little.  You could change the feeding regime to whatever you like though it does seem that having some rye in the mix helps to maintain a more active culture.  However if you want a particularly 'white' loaf starter you can build one over a day starting with only a couple of grams of your stock and by the time you build it up to 180-200g the amount of rye present is negligible and would be unnoticeable in the finished product.

Keep on bakin' (when the oven is fixed).


shoshanna 2013 January 19


Thx for your.response.  I will now feed one more time let it rise and then frig it.  I now have 2 starters!  I just raised this one for the experience, as the established one was from a donated 100g.  This new one is my very own creation!  Hopefully my oven can be fixed early in the week, so I can bake the Pane Francesa you recommended and try out my new found knowledge.  I know it will take perseverance and patience.



farinam's picture
farinam 2013 January 20

Hi Sondra,

You can put your stock straight into the fridge after mixing in the flour and water.  It still keeps beavering away in the fridge and leaving it out only consumes food that would otherwise be available for a longer active stint in the fridge before it goes dormant from lack of food.

Good luck with your projects.


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