Help with week old starter.

Hey everyone I am new in the sourdough world and my husband and I are excited to jump in. I started a sourdough starter and it's a week old. I have been using a scale and feeding it everyday 4 Oz of water and 4 Oz of white all purpose flour. The last few days I have been getting a liquid layer on the top of the starter. It still smells like a sourdough starter. What is the reason for the liquid? Second question I tried to bake with the starter yesterday and my bread never rose. I tasted it after it baked and it was very doughy but tasted like sourdough. The recipe I used was 2&1/3 cup starter, 3&1/3 cup flour and 1 to 1&1/2 water, 1 tbsp of salt. Any advice would be greatly appreciated
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farinam's picture
farinam 2016 June 3

Hello anonymous,

The liquid layer that you can get on top of a starter is sometimes called 'hooch'.  It usually comes about with a starter that has exhausted its food supply so it is not producing any gas.  The gluten structure that helps to retain the gas bubbles and support the 'froth' has broken down and the gas has escaped and the solids and liquid can separate into layers.  The liquid is mostly water and some of the waste products from the fermentation which includes some alcohol and hence the name 'hooch'.  I doubt you would want to use it for your martini unless you were particularly desperate though.  Controlling the concentration of waste products (and volume of starter) is one of the reasons for the discard part of establishing a starter.

The separation is not a problem per se.  Some advocate pouring the hooch off while others just stir it back in with the next feed.  You can reduce the chance of it occurring by feeding more regularly or by keeping at a cooler temperature to slow down the activity.

In terms of general advice, I don't think you can go past the Beginners Blogs on this site (Home Page - right hand column) which give a great run down on getting and maintaining a starter, making and developing dough, loaf shaping, proving and baking.

Your recipe sounds about right but, as you obviously have access to scales, I would suggest that you make your recipes by weight rather than volume for the sake of greater consistency, at least until you feel more comfortable with the look and feel of the various stages in the process.  SourDom's recipe for Pane francesa in the blogs is a very good one to start with and you should practice with that while learning the ropes.

By all means get back to let us know how you go and to ask further advice.

Good luck with your projects.


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