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Sourdough Starter Problems - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community


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Sourdough Starter Problems

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  • Sourdough Starter Problems

    What a great forum!!! I have now been experimenting with the wfo for about 6 months and having a blast. Pizzas have been getting progressively better...to the point that I have decided to experiment with wild yeast cultures. I purchased a culture from International Sourdough. Fed the culture for about a week. Made the pies this weekend...TERRIBLE!!! FLAT CRUST, DOUGHY TASTE, MINIMAL PUFF!!!!

    I assume that the yeast was not fully activated, so here are my questions:

    1. How long does it take to fully activate a wild culture?
    2. When ready to use, do you feed the yeast, wait for it to expand (about 2" in a mason jar,or more?) and use it at its peak?
    3. Ive read conflicting posts about proofing the dough on the counter vs. in the fridge for a longer time. Whats best?

    Thanks for your patience...and thanks for your help!

  • #2
    Re: Sourdough Starter Problems

    Unfortunately your question is so open ended and you provide so little information that it is impossible to give a proper response without writing a book. Here are some brief responses. Oh, and since you have a starter with a known pedigree it would be helpful to know which of the starters you have for they definitely have different characteristics.

    First, use a scale to WEIGH your ingredients and feedings. Not mandatory for there are those who do well without but people with problems need to apply discipline to resolve the uncertainties.

    Second, feed the starter twice a day - taking say 50 grams of old starter and adding 100 grams of water and 100 of flour. A quart Mason jar works well. (You can use less say 25 plus 50 plus 50 but less is not particularly recommended and can invite problems) Within a few days to a week it should be roughly doubling in 12 hours. That doesn't mean it is particularly ready to use - probably okay but not optimal. It takes multiple weeks and time for the starter to reach its true peak performance. I bought a dehydrated starter from Sourdoughs International that evolved for at least 18 months before it stabilized. So, while it should be usable in a couple of weeks it will improve for some time.

    Once it has been reliably doubling in 12 hours for a week or two it should be ready to use. (but again, not necessarily at full power).

    At that point you can either continue to feed it twice a day and keep it on the counter or feed it, give it say an hour at room temp, and then refrigerate it. It will peak (at a lower level) in about a week and should be fed approximately weekly. It will lose power fed this way and should be refreshed before use. A good strategy would be to feed it at least once and preferably twice (on the counter) before mixing the preferment for your bread/pies.

    Good luck!


    • #3
      Re: Sourdough Starter Problems

      Thank you so much for your response. If there is more specific information that I can provide to you, please let me know. Again, thanks for your insight.


      • #4
        Re: Sourdough Starter Problems

        Knary, another great resource for information about sourdough is The Fresh Loaf | News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts there is a great group of people over there as well.


        • #5
          Re: Sourdough Starter Problems

          As Faith points out, Fresh Loaf is a great source for sourdough info. Be warned, sourdough is not industrialized, standardized stuff. It is alive and has a personality and to make the best of it you have to learn YOUR starter. It takes time and experience!

          To give you some idea of what it can be like, I will be baking tomorrow/ I fed my starter this morning as I described, 100 grams of starter, 100 of water and 100 of flour. It almost tripled in eight hours. It is obviously fired up and ready to work. Tonight I mixed my preferment (100/200/200 with the flour 50% whole wheat). Tomorrow morning around 7 am I will mix my final dough.

          It is definitely possible to bake with sourdough starters that are not this robust, but the less robust they are the more difficult the experience is likely to be. Aspiring to healthy robust starter is a big step toward great bread and pizza.

          Good Luck!


          • #6
            Re: Sourdough Starter Problems

            That is 1cup of APF (all purpose flour)
            1/2 cup lukewarm water
            Mix and let set on counter until bubbly

            My sourdough blow off the the cover