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Sourdough starter

lorian's picture

Sourdough starter (post #63318)


Can anyone give me an easy recipe for sourdough starter.  I know this has been talked about before, and believe me, I've tried so many different methods unsuccessfully.  Here I am in the "Gold Country" where the stuff is rumored to be from and can't seem to get a recipe to work for me.  I'm pretty sure the gold miners of way back when didn't have to fuss as much as I have.  Thanks in advance.

"If at first you don't succeed, maybe failure is your thing!"   --bumper sticker
DeannaS's picture

(post #63318, reply #52 of 421)

I'm gonna live. :) Head still hurts, and I'm sore as all get out. But, I am venturing out of the house again today.

My dog is on prednisone. She'll eat anything that's not nailed down. Scratch that. If it's nailed down, she'll just gnaw around the nail. ;)

Actually, she didn't find the flour all that palatable. But, she did manage to scatter it all over the kitchen floor to the point that it was unsalvageable.

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #53 of 421)

I remember my dog being on pred from time to time. Her behavior changed too, but she got more clingy with me and more grouchy toward the cats.

I've been watching my starter all day, hoping it would do more and trying to decide what to recommend for the day 4 feeding. I think the safest thing at this point is to stir down the starter (if it has expanded--if it hasn't, that is still good), measure a scant 1/4 cup (2 oz.) and add 3 tablespoons bread flour (1 oz.) and 2 tablespoons water (1 oz.). This is about the point at which everyone's starters may start showing different patterns. Some will start to smell yeasty and some may take a few days longer. Let me know if it grows one day and then not the next, but don't give up and throw it away. Hang in there.

DeannaS's picture

(post #63318, reply #54 of 421)

I was hoping there were going to be some directions for today. :) Must keep the creature in the basement happy, you know. I'd hate for it to slink up the stairs all ticked off cause I didn't treat it right.

Mad sourdough starter on the loose! Eeek! The havoc! ;)

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #56 of 421)

Aw, I was really hoping this wouldn't happen. But it's okay, things always work out. Unless you could actually smell yeast, all the havoc is probably from a gas-producing bacteria. Not to worry, it is harmless. In fact it is a bacteria sometimes used in other food fermentations like cheese and vegetables, and it is everywhere in the environment, including wheat fields and flour.

It seems to be a widely held belief that if you add water to flour and catch some wild yeast and sourdough bacteria from the air, or from grape skins, etc., that they will grow and become starter, but it doesn't work quite like that. The "bugs" we're trying to cultivate will only become active when the environment is right -- like a seed won't germinate until certain conditions are met. When you mix flour and water together, you end up with a mixture that is close to neutral in pH, and our guys need it a bit more on the acid side. There are other microbes in the flour, however, that prefer a more neutral pH, and so they are the first to wake up and grow. Some will produce acids as by-products. That helps to lower the pH to the point they can no longer grow, but something else can, and so on until the environment is just right for wild yeast to activate. It is a succession that happens quicker for some than for others.

Many of us grow this gassy bacteria, which slows down the process. It does not grow at a pH less than 4.8, and I was hoping that the OJ would keep the pH low enough to by-pass it, but it only delayed its appearance for me by a day, and it grew less vigorous than usual.

Things will still progress just fine, but this is the point where people get frustrated and quit, because when the pH drops below 4.8 (and it will), the gassy bacteria stop growing. It will appear that the "yeast" died on you, when in fact, you haven't begun to grow yeast yet. But they will come -- really, they're already there. When the pH drops below 3.5-4 or so, the yeast will start to grow and the starter will expand again. We just have to keep it fed and cared for until then.

soccermom's picture

(post #63318, reply #57 of 421)

Mine is at day 4 and it really doesn't look like much; a bit more liquid with a crust that we discarded to get the 1/4 cup that we needed. My 11-year-old DD has adopted it and taken over; she is impressed that others around the world are doing this with her, and she always likes pioneer-type things.

Anyway, it is coddled on a box of CDs and a container of paperclips right in the middle of my desk, where it can bask in the heat of my desk lamp. I hope I don't come down to a lava flow of starter over my work tomorrow--I've seen your photo. I'll keep checking in.






macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #60 of 421)

Welcome DD--I guess that's what we'll call her. I split mine off today and fed half, and left the other to sit another 24 hours, to see which will get there the fastest. I won't know for another day or two, so in the meantime, keep feeding 1/4 cup once a day with the bread flour and water. She'll be so excited when it starts growing.

soccermom's picture

(post #63318, reply #62 of 421)

Just to clarify; do you mean take out 1/4 cup of the starter each day and feed it with the 3 tbsp bread flour and 2 tbsp water? Or something else?

Sorry to be so dense about this; amazing to me that this has worked for thousands of years and I need so much help.





macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #63 of 421)

Yes, that's it. What I wrote wasn't very clear, was it? I'm trying to get over a cold and I'm a bit fuzzy at times, just ask my husband.

Don't be hard on yourself--In a waste-not want-not world, people probably saved pieces of unbaked dough to recycle another day. The priority was to keep food on the table. I'm sure it just happened over time while people lived their lives and they noticed that the bread got lighter and better. I doubt our ancestors had to make sourdough from scratch very often. These things were passed down from mother to daughter or shared by a neighbor already in working condition.

macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #64 of 421)

How is everything today -- all quiet? Deejeh, I guess you are starting day 4 and Canuck and DeannaS are going on day 5 now. Mine sprouted yeast and turned into sourdough yesterday (day 6), both the half that got fed and the half that just got stirred. They both smell very nice--yeasty, doughy, beer-like. The half that was fed at least tripled in volume, so that is probably the best way to go. Keep feeding once a day with the bread flour and water, and it could happen any time now.

One thing I noticed is that the mixture liquified the day before it started to grow--like waffle batter. The dough had been getting a little softer and wetter each day, but up until then, the gluten was still very obvious.

soccermom's picture

(post #63318, reply #65 of 421)

Yes, I'm on day 5. Fed the little fella, but don't really see anything. However, I'm keeping the faith and will hope maybe tomorrow. Still smells whole-wheaty. I'll check in again tomorrow. :)






deejeh's picture

(post #63318, reply #66 of 421)

Yes, it's day 4 for me.  The mixture looked significantly less active this morning than it had looked yesterday morning.  I'm guessing there are 2 reasons - one is the gassy bacteria you mentioned, and the other is the temperature - with no-one home during the day, the house is very cool, and the hot-water heater is cool as well.

I measured 2 oz of the mixture, and fed it with 1 oz water and 1 oz bread flour.  I put it under a desk lamp, so I hope that solved the temperature thing.  The mixture was very stretchy, with a few bubbles, and smelled whole-wheaty/yeasty/appleish - quite a pleasant odour.


macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #68 of 421)

It sounds like you had the bacteria -- I don't think I've ever seen yeast show up until day 3 or after. If it's going to grow, the gassy bacteria usually shows up on day 2. That's okay, it's behind you now and the pH is dropping. So, things are progressing.

DeannaS's picture

(post #63318, reply #67 of 421)

Yep, Day 5 for me. Feeding time isn't until later afternoon, though. Yesterday, it was very gluten-y. It smelled faintly yeasty. It didn't smell bad, anyway. It wasn't doing much - maybe a tiny but puffed, but it certainly isn't doubling or anything like that. I'll have to report back after I get home from work as to how it's doing today.

Oh, and I fed it yesterday with the white whole wheat again, cause I somehow missed that you said to use bread flour now. So, white bread flour, or whole wheat bread flour?

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #69 of 421)

You can feed these things whatever you want at this point. White flour, either bread or a strong all-purpose like King Arthur, will turn it into a general-purpose white sourdough starter. Feed it rye flour if you want a rye sour, and whole wheat, if you want to make 100% whole wheat breads. A white starter is probably the best place to start.

DeannaS's picture

(post #63318, reply #70 of 421)

Okey doke. Thanks. That's easy enough.

I think if nothing is happening tonight, I might try sticking my guy under a desk lamp, or on top of the cupboards instead of on top of the water heater. (Not that I'm getting impatient. Oh no. I would never get impatient. ;) )

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #71 of 421)

"Not that I'm getting impatient. Oh no. I would never get impatient. ;)"

:-))) Just be careful not to cook it ;-)

DeannaS's picture

(post #63318, reply #72 of 421)

Yes yes. I'll be careful. I'll probably just put it up on the top of my cabinets (at about 8 feet in a 9 foot ceiling house).

Edited 11/30/2004 3:39 pm ET by DeannaS

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

lorian's picture

(post #63318, reply #73 of 421)

Uh oh, I started all of this and now I'm bringing up the rear!  In my defense, I did start on Friday, and then went about my business for the next few days forgetting about the whole thing!  What a dink I am, I put it in a safe, warm place, right there on the mantle so I wouldn't forget.  The poor thing was probably giving me the stink eye Saturday and Sunday and then gave up and grew some sort of mold by Monday.  I'll try it again and reference everybody's posts if I get stuck or it gets scary.  Thanks for all of the help!

"If at first you don't succeed, maybe failure is your thing!"   --bumper sticker
macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #74 of 421)

It's good to see you back. I thought maybe you fell ill with this dreadful cough too. If you are going to start this over, let's tweak the recipe once more to (hopefully) move yours along a little faster. For the first 3 days, use 2 tablespoons ww flour and 2 tablespoons oj as the mixing and feeding amounts. It will be batter-like. That should help get the pH a little lower. I just started a new one with those amounts earlier today myself. I'd really like to see us growing yeast by day 4, and I think we can do it :-)

Day 1, mix:


2 tablespoons whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons orange juice



Day 2, add:


2 tablespoons whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons orange juice



Day 3, add:


2 tablespoons whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons orange juice



Day 4, stir the starter down and measure a scant 1/4 cup. Add:


1/4 cup bread flour

2 tablespoons water.

Refer to message #128.

Edited 11/30/2004 9:18 pm ET by macy

Edited 12/5/2004 7:04 pm ET by macy

DeannaS's picture

(post #63318, reply #75 of 421)

Okay, so tonight there was no great volume expansion. But, it was runnier and less gluteny (good, right?) and it is beginning to smell more like the sourdough starters I've smelled before.

I moved it up from the basement and it's now perched on a high shelf, near, but not directly under the light over the sink. I think it'll be a little warmer there, though it'll be a more indirect heat.

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #76 of 421)

"it was runnier and less gluteny (good, right?)"

I think so, but you'll have to let me know. If yours starts to expand and smell yeasty in the next 24 hours, then maybe this is part of the pattern and could be used as a progress indicator. I hope so. Sourdough bacteria are pretty good at breaking down protein, so maybe this means they've arrived. If that's the case, the yeast should be right behind. This is getting interesting :-)

soccermom's picture

(post #63318, reply #77 of 421)

Day 6 for me; it does smell a little yeasty and some liquid has separated out. Thicker crust that I'll have to discard. It is still basking in the warmth of my desk lamp so I'll feed it now and leave it alone.





macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #79 of 421)

Hmm. I'm wondering about the crust that keeps forming on yours--I haven't had that with mine. Maybe your flour is higher in protein. Is it still forming a ball of dough when you feed it? It's okay, won't hurt a thing, but I'm curious.

UncleDunc's picture

(post #63318, reply #80 of 421)

Maybe the air is just a lot dryer in her house.

soccermom's picture

(post #63318, reply #82 of 421)

Well, it wouldn't hold a ball shape if I plopped it on the counter, but it is soft dough-ish when I add the flour and juice (and then turns more thick oatmeal-like). I have it in a small dish loosely covered with plastic wrap under my desk lamp. Should the plastic wrap be tighter, or on the surface perhaps? I just fed it about an hour ago and the crust is already starting. I don't consider it particularly dry in my office, but that would make sense.





macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #83 of 421)

Maybe it's a combination of things. Does the crust appear to be forming simply because it is drying out? If you have it in a shallow dish where the mixture is spread out with a wide surface area, and the cover is very loose, I guess that would explain it. It shouldn't hurt what's going on under the surface though. If you want to prevent it from forming, you can switch to a container that is taller than wide, or at least straight-sided, and fit the cover as snugly as possible without being so tight it will blow under pressure.

Edited 12/1/2004 12:05 pm ET by macy

soccermom's picture

(post #63318, reply #84 of 421)

Yes, it's probably too shallow. I'll move it into something narrower.





KyleW's picture

(post #63318, reply #85 of 421)

How do you cover your starter? If it's with a towel you will get a crust. My picture not withstanding, I grew, keep and feed my starter in Rubbermaid plastic containers. I have never had a crust.


There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness". D.Barry


At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals.

soccermom's picture

(post #63318, reply #86 of 421)

I thought someone said about 100 emails ago to cover it loosely with plastic wrap. I'm probably wrong though, so I'll stick in a Tupperware. Thanks.

If it's this much work making the starter, tell me that the bread is absolutely effortless :)





deejeh's picture

(post #63318, reply #87 of 421)

Ok, this is interesting - my bowl of starter, covered with plastic wrap, has been sitting under my halogen desk lamp all day.  I just got home and discovered that it had grown a crust.  Do you think it has something to do with the heat of the lamp, rather than the shape of the bowl?