Follow-up Sourdough Question…
Posted: 20 July 2008 02:22 PM   [ Ignore ]
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It’s been two weeks since trying to activate my seed culture into a tripled active starter. For the past week, I’ve been discarding half of the 240g of the seed culture and mixing in 60g each of bread flour and spring water. The culture has a pancake batter consistency to it and small bubbles appear on its surface a few minutes after mixing in the flour and water, and remain there. I’ve been doing this every 24 hours, however, I can’t seem to get it to more than double its size. The room temperature it sits in is 72 degrees and it does have the aroma of fresh paint with an even, light-tan color to it.
I read in The Bread Bible that if a person wants to start their culture from scratch, but has too busy a schedule to be around it all the time during the first week, that they can feed it every 12 hours instead, and if it doubles in volume within 12 hours, it’s considered active.
I’d like to know if that’s ok to try, or is there something else I can do to get it activated, or should I keep doing what I’ve been doing and be more patient?
Maybe its pancake batter consistency is to loose for it to triple in volume?
Should it have more body to it to resemble a thicker batter consistency, (ie, one that pours out very slowly from the beaker, like oatmeal?
Perhaps, because it’s the middle of summer, the good bacteria in the air needs more time to over come the bad bacteria?

Thanks, again

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Posted: 21 July 2008 01:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Thanks to both of you for the advice, however, things weren’t as they seemed.

Since I’ve been trying to activate the starter in a 2 quart beaker (that’s the only size I had when I began a couple of weeks ago), I figured that doubling the starter would allow me to more easily monitor the volume increase in it. So instead of dumping out half of the 240g of starter, I kept it all in and added 120g, each, of King Arthur Bread Flour and spring water.

18 hours later I found it to have barely risen (not nearly doubling!!), even though it still retained a healthy-looking color and odor.
It then dawned of me that the bread flour I was using was purchased about 6 months ago.
I read through Rose’s forum again, and came across another member’s posting describing a similar problem . She said that she switched to Gold Medal Organic Flour and had success from there.
I’ll try that and will let you all know the results.

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Posted: 21 July 2008 09:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thank you, everyone, for your input.

What I did this afternoon , besides purchasing a 1 quart measuring cup, was to purchase a bag of King Arthur Bread Flour just to compare results over the next few days.
There was no ‘tide-mark’ on the beaker; the 25% increase in volume was indeed the total rise.
The starter does smell like ‘fresh paint’ as Rose described in The Bread Bible, the color is a light-tan with no streaks in it, and its consistency, when stirred, resembles a batter that has had whipped egg whites folded into it. It also has small bubbles scattered around its surface.
I’ve even been stirring it briskly a few times each day to incorporate more oxygen in order to invigorate the yeast.

Over the next few days, as I test out the starter’s reaction to the fresh flour I just purchased, I’ll remove a portion of it tonight and turn that into a stiff starter as recommended by a few of the people who responded to me.

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Posted: 21 July 2008 10:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Hi hectorwong,

When I did go to the market earlier today, I was going to pick up Gold Medal Organic Flour, however, they only carried the All Purpose variety of its organic version. From what I’ve read, bread flour or high gluten flour should only be used in feeding a starter, after the initial rye or whole wheat use on the first day, because their higher protein content can withstand the acid in the sourdough.
I agree with you, though, that the brand of flour doesn’t matter much as I had purchased the same brand of flour today that I’ve been using all along. I thought that maybe the original King Arthur Bread Flour that I was using might have been two old as I had opened it about 6 months ago.

I had gotten the idea of briskly stirring the starter from Peter Reinhart in his newly published ‘Whole Grain Breads’ book from the section on beginning a seed culture. Here is what he wrote -

“Aeration is very helpful in stimulating the growth of wild yeast, as yeast cells bud more rapidly in the presence of oxygen. Yeast companies actually pump air into their vats of yeast-inoculated liquid nutrients to rapidly stimulate budding for their commercial yeast. And during the testing phase for this book, it was discovered that slow-moving starters came to life much faster when they were stirred or kneaded (and thus aerated) two or three times each day. Aeration also minimizes the possibility of contamination by unwanted spores or molds”

So I figured that I’ll take any helpful advice I can get.

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Posted: 22 July 2008 06:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Mr. Reinhart would definitely agree with your assertion that once you get a starter going, it’s then quite hard to kill. He’s referring to the first stages of beginning a culture from scratch, from the point of mixing together the water with rye or whole wheat flour.
I only started to heed his advice after the first 10 days when I saw that the fed culture would no more than double in size. I figured that a meticulous baker like Rose had good reason to recommend allowing the starter to at least triple in volume in order to have the ‘oomph’ required to raise a dough sufficiently. I can only assume that since she does a ton of baking, her kitchen must contain a lot of yeast spores in the air; much more than the average person.
However, as recommended by most of the respondents to my forum question, I’m going to attempt a sourdough bread with the culture I have at this point and see what happens.

Will definitely keep everyone informed of my results.

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Posted: 23 July 2008 09:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I also recently began a sourdough starter and have been trying to get it to rise “double”....I started it on July 10th so it is 12 days old.  It is bubbily and smells like it should.  I am taking 1/2 c out every 12 hours and feeding it KA’s all purpose flour and pure water, stirring it well - it rises about 30% in 3 hours and starts to fall again.  I have tried baking bread with it twice….the bread doesn’t rise very well…..even after 8 hours in an oven (with just the light on).  Am I just being impatient and give my starter more time to develop or should be be rising bread well by now?

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Posted: 25 July 2008 10:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Well folks,

Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful this time around.
Yesterday, I converted 240g of the starter into a stiff sourdough starter, let it sit out for an hour, and then refrigerated it overnight.
This morning, I followed The Bread Bible’s recipe for Basic Sourdough Bread, however after doing the first expansion of the sourdough starter and letting it sit for 8 hours to double in size. it didn’t.
No problem though, I saved 240g of the original seed culture and will be feeding it daily with organic flour this time, until it at least triples in volume, and then take it from there.

Will keep you informed of my results!

Thanks again

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Posted: 26 July 2008 12:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Could your problem be with the water that you are using?  The tap water and bottled spring water that are available to me are too alkaline.  I have resorted to distilled water for my bread - not sour dough - and it works beautifully.

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Posted: 27 July 2008 12:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I haven’t tried to bake bread again….yet.  Have to wait until my next days off from work but I kept on with the 12 hour feedings using KA all-purpose flour and the bottled water and it finally not only doubled but actually ran out of the quart jar and onto the bottom of my oven (it took 14 days after beginning my starter).  So I would say - don’t give up!  I think some just take longer to reach their full potential.

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Posted: 28 July 2008 12:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Thanks, WM. Joiner

Actually, up to a few days ago, I’ve been using bottled spring water, and then switched to a Brita filter (with the counter-top container).
I’ll give the Brita a few more days along with the organic flour and will try the distilled water if there’s no progress.

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Posted: 28 July 2008 02:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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lesanne17,

I was tempted, a few times during the past week, to feed it every 12 hours instead of every 24 hours as I’ve been doing, however, thought it best to stay on The Bread Bible’s recommended 24 hour cycle.
But hearing of your spectacular results, I’ll definitely give the 12 hour feeding cycle a try if nothing happens by the end of this week.
Since it is the middle of the summer, the starter may have been over-fermenting between feedings.

Thanks a Bunch

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Posted: 02 August 2008 12:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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IT’S ALIVE!!!!

Finally!!!!

After changing over to organic bread flour and following lesanne17’s lead of feeding the culture every 12 hours, instead of every 24 hours over the past 5 days, it almost quadrupled in size.

Now, I can start baking!

Thanks again everyone!!

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Posted: 02 August 2008 01:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Yes! Congratulations!
I have baked bread twice since my last post….the first one was barely ok….it rose fair.  I don’t think I kneaded it enough -abt 10 min. Should I have kneaded it longer? (I don’t have a bread mixer so it’s by hand) Meanwhile my KA starter came so I got it going and tried a loaf with it…it rose quite a bit more than the one from the starter I began.  I baked it in my dutch oven after 2 rises. I think my dutch oven is a 7 qt -  is that too big? I did a cold start oven to 450 for 35 min.
I think I will try regular bread pans tomorrow. 
Thank you for any advice!

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Posted: 02 August 2008 01:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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PS: When I was researching sourdough on the internet to see what I could do to improve the “wild” yeast in my homemade starter I came across the advice that you can even feed the starter every 8 hours - I’ve done that a couple of times and it did in deed improve the rising ability of the starter (in the jar). 
I was also wondering since the homemade starter that I began (I call it Lulu) is so young (started 7/10) should I keep it out for several months before storing it in the frig?  I have seen varied tips regarding that. I’m also kind of confused as to when to actually make the bread when to starter is rising - after it doubles in size or after a certain set # of hours?  Thanks for all advice!

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Posted: 04 August 2008 03:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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lesanne17,

Since I lent my Bread Bible book to a relative until next week, I can only suggest that you refer to the book for your questions about rising times, baking in a
dutch oven, oven temperature, etc. It’s a fairly involved process from what I remember, but much simpler using the book’s concise instructions.
The only thing I can tell you about storing your homemade starter at room temp for several months is that you would have to feed it every day if you did that.
Of course, refer to the book to see if it’s necessary to keep it at room temp in the first place. I’m sure refrigeration with less feedings would be recommended.

I still can’t get over the beauty of having a fully active starter!
Next week, when I get my Bread Bible back, I’ll be referring to Rose’s instructions on expanding the starter in order to make sourdough pizza.

Best of luck and thanks again!

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