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?
Hi Pizcaj, If your starter is doubling in size, it is active. Don’t waste any more flour and start using it! You can use it either as a wet starter or make it into a stiff starter - your bread will rise. Good luck with your first loaf and welcome to the wonderful world of sourdough!
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.
And the other thing to watch out for - esp if you are leaving the starter for 18 hours - is that it may have risen and fallen back. So take note of the highest ‘tide-mark’ rather than the actual height when you look at it. If it smells good and has bubbles, then it’s most certainly alive.
Volume isn’t the best indicator. Does it bubble? Does it smell yeasty? Does it taste sour?
It doesn’t sound very active. You could try putting some grapes or other fruit in it for a couple of days. There is all kinds of great bacteria on fruit.
EVERYONE goes thru the same questioning. Consider your starter active, and start using it. I keep my starter as stiff in the refrigerator, feed once a week. My storage starter often never rises at all since my fridge is very cold. But when making bread, it always rises.
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.
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.
The type of flour you use to feed with is irrelevant as long as it is compatible with the type of bread you plan to bake.
I am willing to buy the oxygenation theory although I have never heard the recommendation before. The rationale concerns me a bit. The industrial guys no doubt filter and or sterilize the air that they are entraining in their culture. In the home I would think you would increase the introduction of more wild bacteria which might be good but you would also increase the possibility of introducing mold which would be a bad thing.
Everyone seems to have different recommendations. It can be confusing. I think we need to try to remember that in the final analysis keeping a starter should be a simple process. Our ancestors used these simple techniques for centuries. Feed it. Bake with it. Your starter sounds ready. Try a small loaf and see how it goes.
I’m with Gene on the simple message. Sourdough, once you get it going, is quite hard to kill - and it’s very little work or effort to keep it alive and happy. I’m a bit concerned that you are getting bogged down with the detail and ‘rules’. Go on, make a loaf, we’re all waiting to hear how it turns out!
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.
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?
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.
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.