Sour Dough Starter Question

bigbabyJuly 25, 2012

I'm trying to make a sour dough starter. I have looked at several recipies and they are kind of confusing. I tried one that used flour, water, apple peals and a little sugar. It foamed up after a day or so and then it just died.

I started a second one with a different recipe that included a package of yeast. It foamed up really well within 12 hours and had doubled in size, but within 24 hours it just went flat, too. Is that what is supposed to happen?

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I will link to Susan's blog. She is the definitive person to go to for info on sourdough. I used her method over 4 yrs ago and my starter is still going strong. There are lots of great recipes on her blog also for when your starter is ready to be put to work.

You will also find a lot of good info on The Fresh Loaf after you get going with your new starter. Good Luck and please do follow everything Susan says and start with her recipes too before you branch out. They are fool proof and will give you good results. c

Here is a link that might be useful: Wild Yeast blog starter inst.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 5:31PM
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Thanks trailrunner! I'll try that.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 8:46PM
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Good Luck !! Let me know how it goes. I use clean qt Dannon yogurt containers. Leave the lid ajar. Never ever close up your starter. It needs the O2. Also make sure and give it plenty of air when you stir it...really beat it well. The more air the more healthy. I used bottled water to start but then switched to tap and have used tap ever since. I store mine in the fridge weeks at a time and then take it out and feed 2x and bake. Also after a while and you have a healthy stater you don't need to discard anymore. All you do is take it out...stir well and feed it. This is not the "prescribed" method but it works very well and it saves having to throw out starter or use it up in other ways. I have good recipes for using up extra starter so keep me posted and I will give them to you . c

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 8:53PM
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I checked out that website and, holey moley, there is so much information I'm not sure I can weed through it all and it's actually confusing me more!!! The recipe I'm using now just says to stir it once a day and leave it out on the counter 4-6 days. It's day two, like I said, and I'm not sure if it's just supposed to be sitting there? It did rise up about double, then it deflated. There are bubbles in it. Does this sound okay to you, TR? It smells good and sour!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 8:58PM
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It really is easy. You have to feed it though as she instructs. Every day you take out 1/2 of what you have in your container and replace it with the same amount. It is easiest if you have a scale but you can use a measuring cup instead.

If you don't throw out 1/2 when you are first starting to grow a starter you will promote bad bacterias . You want to prevent that. Also the good needs something to eat so it can grow. Thus you throw out 1/2 every AM and replace with new.

You always use rye to feed because it has more of the yeasts on its grain than other flour has. It really is very easy.

So take what you have now...I don't know what volume you have...and throw out 1/2. Now replace that volume with rye flour and water = parts of each . Do that every single day and at the end of a week you will have a very healthy and sweet smelling stater.

It has been a while since I read all that Susan has on her starter directions. This is really all you need to do. The Fresh Loaf has a "starter 101" on their site...they have a search on the top left of the page and it is written in a very simple way. I will link it below. read it and I am sure you will not feel overwhelmed. I will check back with you later today. c

Here is a link that might be useful: starter sourdough 101

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 3:41AM
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TR is right about beating lots of air into the starter. Also, you need to read up on feeding your starter. Starters aren't built in a day - it takes weeks to get one going strong enough to raise bread dough.

Consider purchasing a starter online. These are more of a sure thing to get a strong starter going that you can maintain to last a good long time.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 9:21AM
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Hey Teresa...I used the link from The Fresh Loaf for mine over 4 yrs ago. It worked like a charm the first time. You can actually use it after one week. It does get stronger as time goes on but is viable enough to raise good loaves after that one week.

I started with Susan's formulas and then branched out but have actually gone back to hers. She does use a larger amount of starter in her formulas than some folks. Some do use only 1 tsp or so and she uses 450 grams approx per batch. But it doesn't really affect the outcome at all , I have found. My starter is not very sour , which we like. It does depend on how you feed it and treat it. I keep mine in the fridge at all times and only take it out to use it . Mine now works almost as fast as regular yeast.

Bigbaby...I hope you will give the 101 recipe a try before you give up. Beat your starter well and toss 1/2 of it this AM...feed it back with the same amount of water/rye flour at = proportions and do this every day till early next week. Cover it lightly..either cheesecloth or the lid just put on sideways. Report back :) c

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 10:15AM
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Dan Lepard's site is great too.

It's really important to use or throw away most of the starter at every feeding. That's what gets rid of waste products. I actually dump the jar and use just what clings to the sides. If I'm not going to use it the next day, I just feed with 25 gm of flour. I also keep back up lumps of frozen starter. Yeast is tough, tough, tough and will survive easily for years dried or frozen.

I tried several methods to for my first starter. Some worked, some didn't. I thought the easiest was a chopped organic apple, a pinch of sugar and water in a Mason jar. You let it sit for a few days until you see very tiny bubbles form along the pieces of apple. You strain out the apple and discard it and use the water 50/50 by weight with rye flour. In a day or two when it starts to bubble you discard half and feed. After a few days of daily feedings you can proceed to more aggressive discarding of most of the starter.

I never use commercial yeast. I prefer the unpredictability of the wild yeast as well as the improved flavor and keeping quality of the bread.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dan Lepard's web site

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 12:17PM
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It's probably not good to know about this recipe!

Here is a link that might be useful: 1 Minute Chocolate Cake

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 12:20PM
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trailrunnerbiker WHY did you have to post that link for the chocolate cake ???? I am going to have to try that. I have a number of great recipes for discard and plan to have extra just so I can use them :)

As far as discarding once you have an old starter like I do , you don't have to. David Snyder on The Fresh Loaf was the first to post that he had stopped and then I tried it. It has been over a year since I discarded anything before feeding. My stater has never been stronger. I believe that it is most necessary while one is getting the original up to snuff but after that not so much. Will have to post back about the chocolate !! c

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 12:51PM
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I kept Carl Griffth's 1847 Oregon Trail starter alive and well for years and never discarded any of the starter, not even at the beginning. I honestly believe that established starters like the Carl Griffith's are better than trying to make your own starter - I believe this from my experience of many years of failures until I ordered some of the 1847 Oregon Trail starter free from Carl's Friends.

I have a sourdough info sheet of my own if anyone is interested.


Here is a link that might be useful: info on Carl's starter

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 3:15PM
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I got way-layed and wasn't able to check this site for a couple of days. By now I wonder if my starter is no good. I haven't fed it at all the whole 3 days. It smells good and sour! It's still got some bubbles. Do you think it's a done deal or should I try to feed it still?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 12:43AM
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BTW, I just didn't understand the whole throw away half concept!!! I think I have a better understanding now. Thanks everyone!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 12:46AM
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you HAVE to feed your starter...if you will follow the sourdough 101 inst. starting right now this AM you will be fine. Toss out 1/2 immediately and add back that amount using rye flour/water in = proportions. Cont to do this now for a week since you got off to a slow start. You will have a wonderfully healthy is calling to you :) Don't let it die..also did you give it a name yet ? You have to name it,,,mine are alto and sax :) :) Please post back with the results. c

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 9:09AM
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I'm just now getting back to this thread, so I didn't feed my starter again. It's weird that of probably 6 or 8 recipes I looked at none of them said to do that the first week. Anyway, in my ignorance I went ahead and made my first loaf of bread without feeding the started every day. Last night I made my first dough. When I checked this morning, IT ROSE!!! I just shaped my loaves and it should be due to bake in about 2-2 1/2 hours! If we survive, I'll let you know how they turn out!!!

Name my dough? Hmmm, that will take some thought!!

Last night I fed my started like the recipes said to do and this morning I had more bubbly sponge and stuck it in a mason jar with a lid and put it in the fridge. Woohoo!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 11:07AM
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don't close it up will promote anaerobic activity..that is why you only loosely set a lid on it and why you need to beat air in to it. At some point if you don't feed it on a regular basis you will not have anything for the yeast to eat and it will no longer grow. Good Luck and I look forward to pics of the bread. c

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 3:40PM
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I usually wind up forgetting about my starter for a few weeks and then finding it covered with fuzzy mold, that's why I keep back up starter in the freezer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dan Lepard's starter freezing article

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 6:13PM
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hm...just read back on your op...I was assuming that you wanted to do a true starter from gathering your own wild yeast...not one with commercial yeast. My misunderstanding. If you want to do a real wild yeast starter you can follow the links that I gave you . what you have will work but in no way resembles a real stater. it has commercial yeast where mine is from the natural wild yeast present on rye flour. Good Luck and sorry for the misunderstanding. It explains why your starter didn't need feeding. You were essentially making a poolish. c

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 8:30PM
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If you use a "modern" version of a starter that uses baker's yeast in the recipe, it will eventually die out due to the acidic environment, and if there has been sufficient inoculation of natural yeast from the flour, the baker's yeast will eventually be replaced with natural (aka wild) yeast. This method isn't right or wrong, just one of the endless choices for starter recipes.

When it comes to developing a starter with a strong colony of yeast, choose wholegrain flour for the first 2-3 feedings and then you can use whatever type of flour you wish. The outside of all whole grains are covered with yeast so that is your best source for yeast, more so than the air. If you want to mill small quantities of wholegrain flour yourself you can use a coffee/spice mill.

Rye flour ferments faster than wheat or spelt (and rye starter also smells pretty bad but works like a charm). Spelt flour has more carbohydrates and is a good choice. All flour, including bleached/unbleached flour, will work. You can even make gluten-free starter with rice flour.

There are recipes that use grapes in the mixture in the mixture as an additional source for yeast, and the gray sheen on grapes is naturally occuring yeast and the grape juice adds more sugars for the yeast to feed on (although there are more than enough "sugars" (carbohydrates) in flour for the yeast to feed on. Other sources for yeast in starter recipes can be found on cabbage leaves (the gray dusty sheen on the leaves is yeast; and I have recipes that use peach leaves in the starter as a source of yeast).

Starter is a study of contradictions. All you need to do is do a search on the "care and feeding of sourdough starters" to quickly see the contradictions. My best suggestion is to try a number of methods until you find one that works best for you. When one starter dies, there are plenty more recipes to choose from. I use a starter called "Everlasting Yeast" that was popular just over 100 years ago and is just a little different from traditional starter.

Helpful hints:
-If your starter doesn't double in bulk when fed, it probably won't double your bread dough.

-Until you know how your starter acts/reacts when resting in the refrigerator, you may want to place it on a deep-dish pie tin/dish. It's not completely unheard of for a starter to occasionally escape the confines of the jar/container while in the refrigerator. It's a lot easier to clean the pie dish than the entire refrigerator. I cover my pint jar with a small Quick Cover (looks like a tiny shower cap) with some holes poked in the cover for the fermenting gasses to escape.

-If you don't have all day to make sourdough bread and you need to speed things up a bit, add 1/8 t. of SAF-Instant Yeast to your dough.

-When I don't want to make bread and hate to waste 1-cup of starter to feed it, I make 8-crumpets per King Arthur Flour Recipe entitled "Sourdough Crumpets or How to Resurrect a Neglected Starter".

For each 1 cup of sourdough starter, sprinkle over the surface:
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda

[Grainlady note: I use a 4-cup measuring cup because this mixture foams-up quite a bit and it's easier to pour the batter from the measuring cup.]

Whisk these ingredients in thoroughly. Preheat your griddle and grease your crumpet rings. Place rings on the pre-heated griddle and add 1/4-inch of batter to the ring. Cook over low/medium heat until the tops are set and full of holes (the batter also looses its glossy sheen). Remove the rings (twist back and forth with a pair of tongs to loosen the crumpet and then lift the ring) and flip the crumpets over for a minute or two. [Grainlady note: if you only have 4 crumpet rings like I do, I flip the rings so the side that didn't have the baked crumpets on is now on the bottom. Now you don't have to clean and grease your rings for the second batch.] To serve crumpets you pop them in the toaster to brown and crisp. Top with butter and your favorite jam/marmalade/jelly....

I like to add flavorings to the crumpet batter, such as orange/coconut or King Arthur's Fiori di Sicilia. I sometimes add some herbs and finely chopped ham or sausage crumbles for something a little heartier for a brunch crumpet and toast them flat in the toaster oven.

Crumpets freeze well. Cool separately on a cooling rack, then quick freeze while laying flat. Separate the frozen crumpets with a square of parchment paper, stack and place in a freezer bag. Don't stack crumpets like you would pancakes off the griddle because they tend to stick together.


Here is a link that might be useful: Sourdough Primer - King Arthur Flour

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 10:20AM
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If you buy starter, it's eventually going to become colonized with the yeasts in your flour and in your atmosphere. Yeast spores are everywhere. Starting your own culture is really just finding enough yeast spores so that you can get it started growing and reproducing faster than the mold spores that are also present. Yeast and molds are both fungi, but molds are a little more complex and slower to grow (unless you forget the expensive raspberries in the refrigerator--then they grow like a damn rocket.)

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 12:06PM
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