Sourdough starter woes - Mothering Forums
Traditional Foods > Sourdough starter woes
captain optimism's Avatar captain optimism 02:46 AM 03-04-2005
Okay, this is the second time that I tried to start a sourdough starter. The first time the starter seemed to be doing okay for the first two days, and then it died on the third day when it was supposed to be strongest. A layer of hooch developed on top of the gloop and I was dismayed and threw it out. My first attempt was based on instructions in Bread Alone, a cookbook by Daniel Leader. Leader said to put in a few grains of commercial yeast, which was a mistake I now think. I got a book on sourdough by Dr. Ed Wood and HE says that commercial yeast will colonize a sourdough culture and crowd out all the wild yeast organisms which don't reproduce so fast.

This time I decided to follow the instructions in The Breadbaker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. i have baked many of the recipes in this book and they are invariably excellent, so I figured this was the right one to consult to start my starter. The first day, just rye flour and water, the starter grew, looked promising. The second day, added some white flour (I have TONS) and the starter took off and bubbled out of the container! I gleefully put it in a bowl and called my friend Dave and bragged that I had trapped the wild yeast!

The third day, Reinhart said to discard half the starter and add more white flour and water. So I did. So then my starter gasped and died, and now on the fourth I have a bowl of foul-smelling glutenous gloop.

What am I doing wrong? Why do these guys say to discard half the starter? Do I really have to feed it at this stage? Or is it the temperature, is the space too hot or too cold? I am willing to commit to the three-stage build that Reinhart advocates (first a seed culture, then a wet starter, then the sponge for each recipe) but not if every time I try it I get dead culture.

Phooey.

captain optimism's Avatar captain optimism 05:43 PM 03-04-2005
You don't know either, huh?
MamaE's Avatar MamaE 05:56 PM 03-04-2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by captain optimism
You don't know either, huh?
:LOL No, I really don't, but I did mine with just rye flour and water - equal amounts, I think and then kept feeding it every day - a cup of flour, cup of water. I fed it for 7 days, the amounts aren't too critical, I don't think - just keep it sort of soupy. Then, on the 8th day, I made bread. It was yummy! I didn't throw any of my starter out at any point, well except for that last leftover cup that I didn't know what to do with. When I made my bread, I had to let it rise for 12 hours, but it did eventually rise.
captain optimism's Avatar captain optimism 10:09 PM 03-05-2005
Thank you for answering my query! Very interesting that you had a starter that worked but took a long time to raise the bread. Did you get large, irregular holes in the crumb?

I am going to go with the rye flour only thing. I have a "recipe" from Dr. Ed Wood, the sourdough maven, for trapping the wild yeast. I am going to try it--leave the rye flour and water for 2-3 days, see if it bubbles and then feed it on the 3rd day. My problem has always been that I get all the signs that the starter is working, and then on the 3rd or 4th day, it gives up and dies. Not for lack of food, I'm still feeding it! I think either I'm not keeping at the right temp, or discarding some of the starter is a problem, or not discarding some is a problem... I want to get a starter going that I just use a little of and then feed and keep baking from it.

I will let you know if I succeed THIS TIME. It seems like everybody here has had good success just slappin' together flour and water without all these fancy acrobatics, so maybe mine aren't working because of the acrobatics. Or because my environment is too toxic and is killing off the friendly bacteria.
Hibou's Avatar Hibou 11:34 PM 03-05-2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by captain optimism
A layer of hooch developed on top of the gloop and I was dismayed and threw it out. .
nak
It this happens again, it's fine, don't throw it out!! just stir it back in to the starter.
MamaE's Avatar MamaE 12:46 AM 03-06-2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by captain optimism
Thank you for answering my query! Very interesting that you had a starter that worked but took a long time to raise the bread. Did you get large, irregular holes in the crumb? (
No, no irregular holes. The bread was more bricky, iykwim... It did rise, as I said, but it was rather heavy. I thought it was due to the whole-grain flour. I remember reading that 100% whole grain homemade bread usually turns out a bit on the heavy side. Still, it makes yummy grilled cheese sandwiches, great french toast, and a damn good doorstop, in a pinch. :LOL


Quote:
Originally Posted by captain optimism
I will let you know if I succeed THIS TIME. It seems like everybody here has had good success just slappin' together flour and water without all these fancy acrobatics, so maybe mine aren't working because of the acrobatics. Or because my environment is too toxic and is killing off the friendly bacteria.
Yeah, I did have success with the slappin' technique. Good luck this time! If not, try the haphazard approach. Or, didn't I see a bread thread around here? Ask them!
captain optimism's Avatar captain optimism 12:28 PM 03-09-2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaE
No, no irregular holes. The bread was more bricky, iykwim... It did rise, as I said, but it was rather heavy. I thought it was due to the whole-grain flour. I remember reading that 100% whole grain homemade bread usually turns out a bit on the heavy side. Still, it makes yummy grilled cheese sandwiches, great french toast, and a damn good doorstop, in a pinch. :LOL
Okay, this is pretty much why I was following directions, in order to get a starter that would make the big irregular holes and not be heavy. My regular, commercial-yeast raised 100% whole grain homemade bread is not heavy. (I got a lot of help from the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book and The Bread Baker's Apprentice.)

So I tried following a different set of directions to catch a starter. At exactly the same point, the starter started to smell terrible and stopped foaming and acting active.

I think the problem is the organisms in my kitchen.
Gemini's Avatar Gemini 01:42 PM 03-09-2005
I have a decent starter. I could dry some out and send you some flakes if you like.

The hooch you talked about, was it kinda black and liquidy? That's sourdough! Like Hibou said, just stir it back in.
spyiispy's Avatar spyiispy 04:29 PM 03-17-2005
Hey Capt........I got my starter from Carl Griffith (well...his friends, as Carl's dead now). His is the 1812 Oregon Trail starter. Its free...just send a SASE to..... http://home.att.net/~carlsfriends/source.html I've had it for many months now and it always gives a very good flavor and performs beautifully. It says it could take up to 6 weeks to get your starter, but I got mine in 2. The friends gather the envelopes from a post office box once a week or so.

Lisa
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