Sourdough Starter

candeeh

Good day!

I've been trying to make a sourdough starter with Unbleached White Flour for about 3 weeks. I created 2 batches feeding in a 1:1:1 ratio by weight of Starter:Water(Carbon Filtered):Flour, every 24 hours. After about 12 days, I see less than 10 small bubbles at the end of the last 3 days, sometimes the starter smells creamy like cheese and other times a strong smell of nail polish. The only real activity I see is in the first 3 days where it rises up due to the bacteria and after that nothing. I started with 100g of flour and maintained 300g at the end of each feeding.

Right now I'm thinking the flour I'm using isn't very "natural" in that its processed beyond recovery. Should I swap it out for some Whole Wheat Flour instead? I hear they are much less predictable than that of White Flour. Also, my room temperature averages between 28-31 Degrees Celsius.

Here are my assumtions as to why it has not worked:

  • The temperature in my home is too high (I tried putting it in my airconditioned room but it formed a dry layer on top.
  • The Flour has barely any wild yeast due to it being super processed.
  • Contamination?
  • Water may not completely be filtered off chlorine and flourine

Just for reference, I stay in Singapore where the humidity is high and the sun always shines, a alot.

 

Hope someone out there could help a brother out.

 

-M

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25 users have voted.

Replies

Staff 2018 June 17

Hi Singaporean Anon,

Yes, swap out your flour for the most wholesome one you can find. Yeast and bacteria do generally come from the flour.

We recommend maintaining your starter with a wholegrain flour (wheat, rye or spelt) and preferably one that is organic or chemical free. This way it has not been denatured and contains the natural microbes which will allow it to ferment when mixed with water.  Starters seem to fizzle out when maintained with white flour, it's like feeding a child white sugar.

You are in a warm climate, that is good for fast fermentation, however the initial fermentation contains yeast and bacteria that are not all tolerant to acid environments...which you are creating.

Your current method of getting the starter going is okay, just use a better flour. If it starts to smell or look unhealthy, take a teaspoon of starter out and use this as part of a brand new starter, making the new starter a bit stiffer than the original one.

Ultimately in a warm climate it is easier to work with a stiff starter than a wet starter. However, to get the starter going in the first place it might be best to begin with a more liquid mix initially and then make it stiffer as you go.

 

There are more tips here from SourDom for making your starter:

https://sourdough.com/blog/sourdom/beginners-blog-starter-scratch

https://sourdough.com/forum/topic/54

 

Fiddlerkelly 2018 November 17

Hello I am fairly new to this also.  First time I tried it I used lain whit flour and tap water and it worked really well for about 3 -4 days and then it just seemed to quit. So I restarted Saturday past but am now using rye, initially I started with just rye and it seemed awful runny so after about 3 days I added aim flour an water kept it  thicker  and this helped it rise better . Now day 6 and lots of activity on top but not seeing much on the sides , is it still okay.

oldman 2018 November 17

One thing sourdough will teach you is patience. :-)

It can take as long as two weeks for the microorganisms in your starter to reach equilibrium when conditions are optimal.  Using dried starter culture can shorten the time some.  But using the "catch your own local starter" method or dealing with less than optimal conditions will extend the required time. 

Early "activity" on day two is likely bacterial.  The yeast cultures take longer than that to become established, even with a packaged starter.  As long as it doesn't smell horrible or turn weird colors just keep feeding it and keep it warm and undisturbed.  When the jar gets full enough that you need to remove starter before you feed the beast, use the extra starter to make a leavin.  If that works you can use the leavin to make bread. 

It your leavin doesn't look like it's rising well put it in a jar, stir in a little warm water and have a second starter going.  If you want to experiment with different flours I'd recommend just starting a second starter using rye, spelt, or whatever.  Not only does it give you a backup in case you contaminate your initial starter, it gives you a starter that's tweaked for the type of flour you'll want to use to bake with it.

Fiddlerkelly 2018 November 20

Well my starters are at day 7 now and double in size over last 24 hours . So I was going to take couple hundred grams off of one to make a loaf . Little things I want to make sure I am doing right like if I take the 200 gms  off do I mix up my starter before taking the 200 gms or just take it right from the top of the risen starter , and off course the starter that’s left do I just add back an equal portion of water and flour in this case 200 gms to my bottle with the starter in it and put it in fridge for next time I make bread . Any help would be greatly appreciated .

The picture is of my two lots of starter at present. The starter on left is a little more diluted than one on the right .

oldman 2018 November 25

Take it from the top of the risen starter.  You'll feed it in the mixing bowl when you create your leavin.

The remaining starter gets fed in the jar.  You don't need to refrigerate it if you plan on baking a few times a week. You can keep a small jar in the fridge as a backup though. Your starters look great.  But keeping a backup isn't a bad idea.  Especially since you'll probably have too much to use at least once or twice when you're too busy to find the time to make bread.

Fiddlerkelly 2018 November 27

Thanks, just trying another loaf I made and crust still hard and bread is dense could this problem be from the dough just not having enough of water when first mixing the ingredients as this dough when making it was elastic and would shrink back after stretching it out while kneeding it. 

Gee 2018 November 27

Hi,

On 100g of starter, I refresh with 140g of white, 8g rye, 16g wholemeal and 80-90g water

 

Fiddlerkelly 2018 November 27

Yeah I just made another loaf and improved on this one at least on the rise and the crust isn’t so hard, but still breaking away from the bottom and I put in my cuts on top before putting it in the oven . This time I baked it at 400 F instead of 425 . I kept a damp Scott towel on top of it while rising the first time and it prevented the dough from developing a crust .

stevegask 2018 July 1

Hi Guys

I am from Southwest Victoria (Australia) and have made one quite good loaf using a packet sourdough starter - but I noticed that as well as the different strains, the first ingredient was yeast. To me that seemed like cheating - so I'm trying the natural way now.

BUT - I too have been using an unbleached premium white flour - with not great results. Apart from the fact that it's winter here in July, with room temperatures a bit low - so I am warming my room.

And - after reading this post - I'm now wondering if it's the white flour? I will ditch half of mine and add whole grain, which is what we prefer anyway.

Cheers

Steve

Ludmilla 2018 July 7

Hi Steve, 

Fun to see someone else from Victoria! I'm in central Vic and finding fermenting a sourdough starter difficult because of the cold. I had a starter in Nthn NSW which I kept going for years but in Vic almost impossible this time of year. Rye starter has more depth of flavour in final product & I add half a teaspoon of Miso for even tastier! 

Packaged starter? The wonderful aspect of creating your own is that the ferment draws bacteria from your environment & then gives you immunity to bugs in your environment.. Magical.

Good luck & enjoy the staff of life.

oldman 2018 November 9

Packaged gives you experience working with starter, a known culture, and a better chance of avoiding the frustration that makes people give up on baking.  It's not a bad starting place.

One problem people have starting sourdough is that their environment is too clean.  Between food safety concerns, neurotic parenting, and HEPA filters their aren't as many wild yeasts or bacteria in the flour, the water, the air, or on your hands. Some people recommend adding organic fruit and honey to starters to try to introduce wild micrfauna that way.  If you're counting on something other than the air to give life to your starter it's not really 'local' and you might as well use a dried starter.

If you want a local starter and aren't having any luck indoors, try taking it outdoors.  Cover the top with a mesh screen if you're worried about bugs leaves or grass. It's not really necessary though, since foreign material you can see with the naked eye is easily removed with the tip of a knife ot spoon. Let it sit in the open in a spot where it's not in direct sunlight while you picnic, fish, or watch cricket.  One of my favorites started life on a golf cart.  When you get it home, feed it and cross your fingers. If it grows make a note about date and location of capture.  If it's a keeper you'll need that info to pick out a name and do its astrological charts. :-)

Lukas 2018 July 8

Hi Steve,

I am in VIC too, just keep going, feed it every day, halve when you have to much, it took 8 days for my starter to activate completely.

Lukas

oldman 2018 November 25

You won't be able to use it without feeding it a couple times.  Freezing will kill off most of the bacteria, the yeast will be fine.  But the bacteria will need a few days to reestablish themselves before you have starter again.

Fiddlerkelly 2018 November 21

Well I made my first loaf, didn’t seem to rise much till it went in the oven. Had difficulty browning the crust and I think that was because I had it on too big a cookie pan , will seen what it taste like tomorrow morning .

Well 12 hours later , bread feels heavy and when I cut it is very dense and center still a bit doughy , any suggestions to give me .

 

 

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