Sourdough starter advice please

beaker59, Jan 19, 9:05pm
Back when that thread was new I became interested in sourdough and baked quite allot of it successfully. However then the wrecking crew arrived and ruined it all I guess the fate of many long running successful threads when the petty people get involved. I still bake some sourdough bread though rarely now.

buzzy110, Jan 20, 12:28am
It all sounds terrific. Good luck with your breadmaking.

Just a note - I have mentioned before about the protective action of the acids in starters and dough making. The "acetone" smell is more than likely to be lactic and acetic acid rather than acetone. It is created by the acids produced in starters and which give your bread its distinctive 'sour' taste. You will smell it in the dough as it is proofing as well. I love the smell.

catsmeat1, Jan 21, 9:40pm
I baked my first sourdough loaf! Went reasonably well - could be better. My recipe has quite a bit of salt and because we were going out fishing I added the salt earlier than I should have. I think it slowed down proving. Will use less next time.

I also used my discarded starter for pancakes - they were absolutely delicious!

mjhdeal, Jan 21, 11:33pm
I agree, it was a real pity.
(Nonetheless, the buzzy10's info inspired me to try it. I eat very little bread, but as I love making sourdough and experimenting with it, I give most of my loaves away.)

buzzy110, Jan 21, 11:49pm
Excellent. As your starter gets stronger through repeated refreshing/feedings your bread will get better.

I use 2 teaspoons of salt and find that works out well. I add it to the flour, right at the very beginning and it doesn't have any negative affect such as slowing fermentation and proofing.

Length of proofing time is more important. First one takes about 4-5 hours but shouldn't be left too long. The second is shorter, taking only about 2-2½hrs on a good day. If it is a cold day then it may all take longer.

I usually allow 8 hours from the beginning of my first proof. The secret, imo, is leaving the dough to 'rest' under an inverted bowl between proofs.

Basically, I tip it out of its proofing bowl and gently flatten into a large rectangle then do the half folds to create a square, then turn the seam side down and using cupped hands, create a ball - just exactly the same as how formed for the first proof, to give an unbroken skin on the rounded part of the ball with the seam at the bottom. Then leave it on the bench for 30mins underneath the inverted proofing bowl. Then I form (or size and form if making smaller things like buns, rolls, sticks, etc) and leave it, once again, to proof.

Yeast in the rested dough becomes for active once again.

catsmeat1, Jan 8, 8:03pm
Hi. I am wanting to bake my own sourdough bread. As I live in a caravan traveling around NZ I would have issues getting fresh sourdough starter posted to me, so I have been trying to make my own. But I am having problems, so would appreciate help/suggestions.

I am using the recipe on I
I start with 50g whole meal flour and 50g water. After 36 hours it has doubled and is bubbly. I then stir, add 50g water, stir, and add 50g flour and stir. After 12 hours it has doubled and is very bubbly.

The recipe says discard half and add 50g each white flour and 50g water. But when I do this step the mix goes sloppy and does nothing, apart from a few small bubbles. After 48 hours it starts to smell of acetone so I throw it away and start again.

I do not think it is the flour as sometimes I do the first feed (the one where I do not discard) with white, sometimes wholemeal and it will double with either. The issue seems to be when I discard - I suspect I'm throwing out the good critters.

Am I doing something wrong? I slightly stir the bubbly mix and pour out till I get half net weight on scales. I have been wiping/discarding the stuff on the spoon - maybe that is where the good bugs are!

At this point I am on attempt 8! (Some earlier attempts did not even start at all). This one I have started with only 25g as I hope not to discard till maybe feed 4, will see what happens.

Any suggestions/advice/recipes that work most appreciated.

245sam, Jan 8, 8:46pm
catsmeat1, I can't personally help you but have you had a look at the earlier threads here on the Recipes MB? Try doing a search using the Keywords sour dough and Last year as the date posted.

Hope that helps. :-))

jag5, Jan 8, 11:27pm
Perhaps for travelling around. the Artisan Bread that I make would be easier. mix up the dough and just leave in a container. the longer it is left the tastier it becomes. When mix is finished. don't wash container and mix up the new mix. and so it goes. will find the recipe and post for you. only 4 ingredients too. nice and easy.

jag5, Jan 8, 11:32pm

Can't copy and paste the one I have for some reason. but this link will take you to a very similar one.

The mix makes us 4 loaves (2 of us). just take a chunk out of your container. shape it. (no kneading required for this by the way)

eljayv, Jan 9, 12:18am
Our starter is vigorous and trebles in a few hours, but when we started we went through problems until we started using rye flour and the same 50ml flour 50ml water as you do but after the second feed threw half out keeping 50ml and adding 50ml water 50ml rye to it etc etc. once it got going I slowly changed over to wholemeal flour. It makes a thick heavy vigorous starter.

buzzy110, Jan 9, 4:49am
catsmeat your original starter that bubbled and doubled in size was actually good to go. You could have made your dough from that. It does get stronger though the more feeds you do but as there was active yeast present then I would have just carried on from there. - Note: as an experiment I have done exactly that it worked out brilliantly.

Just remember to make up a mix of ½ water and ½ flour with a tspn of your old starter to store in the fridge with a lid that lets in some air, until you need it again.

We only have homemade sourdough. We eat very little bread so I only use my starter from anywhere from once a month to once every four months. It keeps OK in the fridge. Every month I just make up a new batch and innoculate with a tspn of the old starter and throw the rest away if storing for longer than a month.

If you are making it every couple of days, then just put the new starter (what you have made when you make your last lot of bread) in the fridge and bring it out 24 hours before you want to use it.

Sometimes I cheat and just add in another ½ cup of flour and leave on the bench till it starts to expand.

The second batch you made from the first would also have been a perfectly viable starter. Acetone is a good smell. It is what keeps your starter from going off. Or, in other words, it protects your starter by killing any opportunistic bacteria that may want to join your starter and is important. It may slow yeast growth and activity. That is good because if your dough works too fast (I have that problem these days) then your dough isn't properly fermenting.

I've just been using white flour and cooled boiled filtered water for my starter, since I started making sourdough over 5 years ago. Rye is fantastic for starters as well, especially if you are going to be using rye flour.

buzzy110, Jan 9, 4:54am
Just some information on timing.

I use the "sponge" method. This means that your starter is given another feed of 1 cup of flour, the evening before you make your dough. So here is my timetable:

1. Take starter out of fridge the night before
2. In the morning, after it has warmed up I add in a few tablespoons - ½cup of flour and leave on the bench.
3. In the evening, after dinner I make up the sponge using one cup on flour and all of the starter, less one tspn I use to innoculate the next starter.
4. Make the dough, etc.
5. Takes about 8 hours to make a loaf of bread using the sourdough method so am cooking around about 5 - 8pm depending on when I started and the ambient temperature (takes longer in the winter because I haven't got a temperature controlled space to leave my dough.

buzzy110, Jan 9, 4:56am
Another note: It takes a bit longer to achieve a nice elastic dough using sourdough so you have to knead longer. I find that kneading for 5mins, then resting it for a minute or two underneath an inverted bowl to allow the yeast to relax and start working is best. Repeat until dough is elastic - 20 - 30 mins.

catsmeat1, Jan 9, 7:21am
Thanks everyone for your replies. Some good news today. Rather than throw out the starter that went liquid and stopped 48 hours ago I gave it some flour and water this avo and there are 2 only bubbles on top, so it might grow tonight. And the new one I started yesterday morning has doubled so I am about to feed (but I will not discard any yet as that seems to be when I have issues). Fingers crossed goes OK tonight.

catsmeat1, Jan 11, 6:26am
Well. My starter is still flat as a pancake. But I think I have found out what is going on. Found this wwebpage explaining that a bug grows that looks like yeast, and that the pH is all out of whack. Will keep feeding this one, and try and get some pineapple juice and start a new one.

beaker59, Jan 11, 8:38pm
My starters were always liquid, at one stage I too thought they were inactive but as I suspect with yours they are actually superactive and were consuming all the food value of the flour quickly and then sitting waiting for the next feed this is most likely in summer when the temps are warm and perfect growing conditions for the yeast. best thing to test a starter is to make bread. The use of fruit juice is a common thing I have seen the Pineapple one and a rhubarb recipe but to me the just seem to be not sustainable as you would have to find those things all year round when a good flour and water one is so easy.

By the way a liquid starter which is what I use only bubbles, it rarely rises, as the gas escapes from the liquid too easily. The gas will be evidenced by a few bubbles on top.

buzzy110, Jan 11, 8:58pm
Exactly beaker. I have two sitting in my fridge. They are both two layers - bottom flour which has had all of the gluten eaten so it is quite liquid while the top layer is a blackish, acidic smelling liquid. That is perfect as far as I am concerned. I just let it get to room temperature (overnight), add up to ½ cup of flour and mix in and leave on the bench till that evening. It springs right back to life.

I don't bother with pineapple juice. I am looking for yeast that specifically feeds on flour and flour proteins, rather than random yeast that prefers fruit juice.

catsmeat1, Jan 12, 3:12am
Thought perhaps I should explain a bit more about why pineapple juice.

But firstly, I probably need to go back a step or two as to what happened with my starters. I have been wanting to make sourdough bread for sometime having read Dan Reid's article about the health benefits, and after some encouragement from another motor homer online who bakes sourdough in her van decided it was something worth trying out. And as I said in my first post because we have no fixed address it would be nigh impossible to post fresh starter to us. So I started investigating how to make your own starter - wow, there seems to be lots of different ways, different flours, different feeding regimes, different hydration rates. It appeared that it was quite easy to get a starter going. After looking at different ways I decided to go with - mostly because he used a 100% hydration rate and the recipe for bread given to me by my motorhoming acquaintance also used 100% hydration for the sponge.

My first mix was quite firm, almost like a soft biscuit mix, and after 36 hours it would soften and take off - doubling or more and be full of honeycomb bubbles, After the first feeding it would again double and be full of bubbles - there was no separation of layers - once you pulled back the top it looked like Hokey Pokey. After the second feeding, it was dead flat, the mix would soften further after 24 hours to a consistency of between pikelet and pancake mix and sometimes have one or two small bubbles on top. It seemed that I had yeast and it had gone.

After much searching around the net I have found that this has been happening in lots of other countries as well. On the FreshLoaf Debra Wink has written an excellent article about it. Debra is a microbiologist and initially she and the other bakers on the forum thought like me, that there had been a massive growth of yeast and then a sudden die off. However, her testing at the growth stage showed there was no yeast present, but there was an enzyme present that produced a lot of gas, so the bubbles caused bakers to think there was yeast growth. Debra has said that pH levels are having an effect on the starters. The unwanted enzyme thrives initially then dies off, in the meantime it has lifted the pH level which is not conducive to yeast and lactobacilli (the good enzyme that is wanted). Over time with subsequent feedings, the pH level does get to the right level and the starter gets going as it expected, but this is days longer than most instructions give.

Consequently, Debra and her fellow bakers worked out that by using Pineapple juice for the first three days in a new starter the mix has a pH that is suited to the production of lactobacilli and not the unwanted gassy enzyme, and when the lactobacilli get going so does the yeast - and in the time range that is given in the instructions.

When I was looking for a recipe for a starter I did see the ones with juice and had dismissed them as I thought it would not be "pure" or taint my starter - having read Debra's explanation about the pH I feel comfortable about trying a starter with juice. Wiil be interesting to see how it goes.

It does seem a bit weird though, some people can make a starter with no issues, others get this oddball enzyme . Here is the science for anyone who is interested or who has a similar problem.

buzzy110, Jan 12, 4:01am
Good explanation catsmeat1. I have never encountered any of the problems you have listed.I just trusted that it was yeast causing the expansion in both my starter and my bread. As I have said in an earlier post I have made bread successfully with a new starter once it had expanded and been able to keep that starter alive with subsequent breadmaking. Yeast is quite hard to kill off once it is present and I have sometimes only used the unwashed jug the held my starter after I had used a spatula to try and get the last dreg out and into my sponge to innoculate the next batch. I hope you get it all sorted.

catsmeat1, Apr 30, 6:57pm
Reporting in on my pineapple juice starter. Day 5 it separated into layers and was very runny. But I was away 2 nights and hubby fed it, not quite in the ratios I would have but it did get fed. So I stirred it up, discarded and added a bit more flour to thicken and this morning it has doubled - yippee. So I am now feeding every 12 hours, will bake in a couple of days when parked up. Don't think it will travel well in the caravan.
At the same time I kept two lots of the old starter, also gave them heaps of flour, they also doubled the same day (they are ten days old), but cannot stand over them for the acetone smell so have thrown them out.

The fluffy starter is a bit different to the earlier fluffy enzyme starter. The enzyme fluff when stirred collapsed very quickly and sounded like fizzy drink pops. This one ever nice and smooth, smells yeasty so I am very optimistic.

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