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    You are in: Home / Community Forums / Breads & Baking / Helpful Tips for Sourdough Baking
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    Helpful Tips for Sourdough Baking

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    Chef Tweaker
    Mon Sep 15, 2008 2:58 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    I have had mixed results with my sourdough so far. I noticed that the two that didn't raise were the ones that I used the bread machine for. Maybe it is over mixing? I think I will avoid it for a while.
    These were the recipes that didn't rise.

    Sourdough Oatmeal Potato Bread (but I don't think I proofed correctly)

    Olive and Garlic Sourdough (uses your bread machine!) (I had a good proof on this one... but I may have added too much flour because I lost count)
    Mrs_Kohls
    Sun Jan 04, 2009 4:40 pm
    Semi-Experienced "Sous Chef" Poster
    Is it normal to have to wait about 8 hours for the sourdough to rise each time? I've read that sourdough takes a while to rise, but this is nearly a 3 day process--is that normal? icon_question.gif icon_confused.gif I'm a little bit nervous there's something I'm missing.

    I proof my starter overnight and it's still foamy when I start mixing the dough, but I have to let it rise all day before it's even close to double, I shape it, then I have to let it rise all night after I shape it too, so that it's risen enough to be ready. (Nearly) all of the rising is done in my oven with an old-style dish-towel over it, to keep it warm, out of the way, and prevent drying. Is my problem that I'm using a commercial yeast(?) starter (one using yeast out of a bag, flour, & water), am I doing something else incorrectly, or missing a step altogether? Should I throw my starter out, and try again? icon_question.gif (If I do need to throw it out and decide to make a "wild yeast starter", can I use pineapple juice from cans of pineapple like my family eats regularly, or do I have to buy a special thing of juice, because I don't use pineapple juice for anything else and hate to make that purchase just for starter.)

    My bread comes out perfect--crusty with a soft, moist, and slightly chewy inside--well, after the first "flop" I made. It just takes forever, and I was hoping to start using this as my family's "sandwich/toast/dinner bread", but as slow as this is, it's not really working. icon_sad.gif
    Donna M.
    Sun Jan 04, 2009 9:02 pm
    Forum Host
    Something is not working for you, that's for sure. The first proof could take that long, especially if the room is very cool. Once it has proofed the first time, additional proofs should happen much quicker.

    I don't use commercial yeast starter at all and my experience with helping others who have tried it has not been very positive. Usually it will work well when it is young but as time goes by it starts giving lots of problems. It also does not have the same flavor nuances that wild yeast does.

    Yes, you can make the Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter with pineapple juice drained off of a can of pineapple (preferably unsweetened, but if it is sweetened it will still work). Give it a try. I promise you won't be disappointed! It will take about a week to get it active and then you should keep feeding it for another week before baking with it.
    Mrs_Kohls
    Sun Jan 04, 2009 9:45 pm
    Semi-Experienced "Sous Chef" Poster
    Donna M. wrote:
    Something is not working for you, that's for sure. The first proof could take that long, especially if the room is very cool. Once it has proofed the first time, additional proofs should happen much quicker.

    I don't use commercial yeast starter at all and my experience with helping others who have tried it has not been very positive. Usually it will work well when it is young but as time goes by it starts giving lots of problems. It also does not have the same flavor nuances that wild yeast does.

    Yes, you can make the Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter with pineapple juice drained off of a can of pineapple (preferably unsweetened, but if it is sweetened it will still work). Give it a try. I promise you won't be disappointed! It will take about a week to get it active and then you should keep feeding it for another week before baking with it.


    I'm curious now, how "cool" is a cool room? I keep my whole house between 70 & 72 degrees F, depending on the time of day (yeah, I'm a weanie about cold weather...icon_lol.gif). Is that too cold then? icon_question.gif

    Also, I made my last batch of sourdough using the starter I had (threw the rest out), and it is TOO sour...it's almost like skunky beer sour, is that normal (and safe to eat?) or should I throw it out? We personally aren't sure we like it, although we loved the last batch, which while sour wasn't quite like this. If it won't make us sick, we'll probably trudge through it, but my toddler is just getting over a cold, I am not keen on him getting sick from food if I can help it. It's probably silly to ask, but it's always better to just ask. icon_cool.gif
    Donna M.
    Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:18 pm
    Forum Host
    The fact that your starter is that sour tells me that you aren't feeding it properly. Are you discarding most of the old starter before feeding it? How much flour/water are you giving it, and how much starter do you have prior to stirring in the food? How long are you going between feedings?

    The problems you are experiencing may all be due to the fact that the starter was made with commercial yeast. As time goes by, the starter gets more acidic and commercial yeast cannot live for long in an acidic environment. It slowly starts to die off (hence, the poor rising). Sometimes, if you are lucky, wild yeast cells from the flour will take over as the commercial yeast dies off and the starter will flourish. Don't count on this happening, though, as it is just as likely that it won't.

    If I were you, I'd scrap this starter and begin a new Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter. Once you do it and bake your first loaf, you won't believe the difference!
    Mrs_Kohls
    Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:44 pm
    Semi-Experienced "Sous Chef" Poster
    Donna M. wrote:
    The fact that your starter is that sour tells me that you aren't feeding it properly. Are you discarding most of the old starter before feeding it? How much flour/water are you giving it, and how much starter do you have prior to stirring in the food? How long are you going between feedings?

    The problems you are experiencing may all be due to the fact that the starter was made with commercial yeast. As time goes by, the starter gets more acidic and commercial yeast cannot live for long in an acidic environment. It slowly starts to die off (hence, the poor rising). Sometimes, if you are lucky, wild yeast cells from the flour will take over as the commercial yeast dies off and the starter will flourish. Don't count on this happening, though, as it is just as likely that it won't.

    If I were you, I'd scrap this starter and begin a new Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter. Once you do it and bake your first loaf, you won't believe the difference!


    Hmmm...I thought I was feeding it correctly, but maybe not. I throw usually about 1 cup away when I feed it, then add about 1 cup of both flour and water back to the mixture. I store it in the fridge, and feed it about once a week. I didn't mix it every day though (I think I read you are supposed to somewhere, earlier today icon_redface.gif) Is it possible to leave it out on the counter for too long? Because it does seem to spend a fair amount of time sitting on my counter-top.

    I plan to try your recipe tomorrow--after reading it, I think I might be justified in the purchase of some pineapple juice, since it requires you to add more every day for several days. I had originally thought that it was just needed for the initial mixing, but after re-reading it, this isn't the case after all. Wish me luck! And thanks for being so informative and patient, this is a bit out of my realm. icon_smile.gif
    Donna M.
    Sun Jan 04, 2009 11:00 pm
    Forum Host
    When feeding a starter you should always feed it twice as much flour as you have old starter, as a bare minimum. For instance, if you save 1/4 cup of old starter after discarding then you would need to feed at least 1/2 cup of flour. The longer it stays out on the counter, the faster it will consume the food in the flour. If you aren't planning on baking with it the day you feed it, only leave it out for 1 hour and then put it back in the fridge.

    You don't need to buy pineapple juice just for the starter. It will be fine to drain the juice off of a can of pineapple and just keep it in a closed container in the fridge for the few days that you will be using it. It will not spoil in that length of time.

    Good luck!
    CarrolJ
    Mon Jan 05, 2009 1:46 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    Mrs._Kohls; I had a similar experience with sourdough starter made with commercial yeast. Like Donna described, my starter worked okay for a while. I also contacted Donna on this forum, many years ago now, with my questions about what was going wrong. Donna advised me wisely to just throw it out and wait for her to send me wild yeast starter flakes.

    I did so, and haven't regretted it one single day. BTW, the Red Sea Starter is the most mild of the starters which most of us use. Donna, Duonyte and I are all more than willing to send you wild yeast flakes for only the cost of the postage to you. It is super easy. You can indicate which of us you wish to send you flakes here. Then that person will send you a Zmail giving you the details and it won't be long you will have your very own in your snail mailbox.

    I currently have Red Sea, San Francisco, Bahrain, and Oregon Trail 1847 flakes ready for sharing. The others can tell you which ones they have.

    Also may I add a suggestion which will also help you when your get started with the wild yeast starters which have absolutely no commercial yeast in them?

    Post your comments, questions, successes, and problems on the top forum of the list. That's where most of us 'hang around' and everyone is most helpful.

    P.S. If a premier member, such as myself, Donna, or Duonyte send you a Zmail, then you can respond to us even if you aren't a premier member yourself.
    Mrs_Kohls
    Mon Jan 05, 2009 2:55 pm
    Semi-Experienced "Sous Chef" Poster
    Thanks to both of you for your suggestions and help. I'm going to try to make my starter using the recipe Donna provided (I have it mixed up, we'll see how it goes) but if it flops, I'll be sure to keep you guys in mind for the starter flakes. Also, thanks for the "heads up" on which thread to use. icon_redface.gif I'll be sure to post there from now on. icon_redface.gif

    I'm not sure how "fresh" my flour is, I just bought it a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't open it until this morning. I'm fortunate to have an amazing flour mill not terribly far away from me--Hudson Cream Whole Wheat is what I've been using. Donna, you might look into their products, they mill it the traditional way, and it might save you a step. icon_smile.gif They are also sometimes referred to as the Stafford Co. Flour Mill in Hudson, Kansas. Anyway, since I ordered it from them, surely that would be fresh enough to make it come out, right?
    CarrolJ
    Mon Jan 05, 2009 3:06 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    Mrs_Kohls wrote:
    Thanks to both of you for your suggestions and help. I'm going to try to make my starter using the recipe Donna provided (I have it mixed up, we'll see how it goes) but if it flops, I'll be sure to keep you guys in mind for the starter flakes. Also, thanks for the "heads up" on which thread to use. icon_redface.gif I'll be sure to post there from now on. icon_redface.gif

    I'm not sure how "fresh" my flour is, I just bought it a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't open it until this morning. I'm fortunate to have an amazing flour mill not terribly far away from me--Hudson Cream Whole Wheat is what I've been using. Donna, you might look into their products, they mill it the traditional way, and it might save you a step. icon_smile.gif They are also sometimes referred to as the Stafford Co. Flour Mill in Hudson, Kansas. Anyway, since I ordered it from them, surely that would be fresh enough to make it come out, right?


    We will look forward to hearing about your adventure! Did you know that Whole Wheat flour is harder to rise sometimes?
    Michael Boyd
    Thu Jan 08, 2009 6:21 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    I would love to get some sourdough starters icon_biggrin.gif

    I'll pay postage or whatever. Since I can only access a computer at my wife's office, (mine is in the shop and might be irreparable),it might take a while to respond to a Zmail. But, I will respond.

    Thank you so much, Michael
    Cherlyn3
    Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:17 pm
    Newbie "Fry Cook" Poster
    Donna M; I have been trying sourdough starters of and on for years. I would like some of your Red Sea starter if you will let me know how to receive. Also would you recomend a good book with recipes I have the World Sourdoughs from Antiquity by Ed Wood. I purchased it several years ago with a couple of his starters. Thanks Cherlyn
    Rachel Savage
    Sat May 16, 2009 5:19 pm
    Regular "Line Cook" Poster
    I have read through this thread but didn't see anything about the particular problems I've been having.

    I've made a wild yeast starter twice (last time with wheat flour, this time with rye). Both times the starters seem healthy: bubbly, smells sour etc. and I've had good results with sourdough pancakes, but when I got to make bread, it just doesn't rise. On Thursday I gave the bread 10+ hours before I baked it, but it was still very dense. Last time I made two "loaves" of bread, both of which basically turned out like flat bread because the recipes I used (Joy of Cooking and one from the San Francisco Exploratorium website) were too liquid-y and spread over the baking tray like cake dough. And that was with adding extra flour beyond what the recipe asked for.

    I have no problem baking commercial yeast breads and have been doing so for about 15 years, to the point where I'm now pretty approximate with measurements because I know what I'm looking for. Should the texture of the mixed dough be similar?

    I'm on the verge of giving up and trying to mix some commercial yeast in to get bread with some lift but a sourdough taste.

    Any tips on a good recipe for a sourdough newbie?
    CarrolJ
    Sat May 16, 2009 5:58 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    Rachel Savage wrote:
    I have read through this thread but didn't see anything about the particular problems I've been having.

    I've made a wild yeast starter twice (last time with wheat flour, this time with rye). Both times the starters seem healthy: bubbly, smells sour etc. and I've had good results with sourdough pancakes, but when I got to make bread, it just doesn't rise. On Thursday I gave the bread 10+ hours before I baked it, but it was still very dense. Last time I made two "loaves" of bread, both of which basically turned out like flat bread because the recipes I used (Joy of Cooking and one from the San Francisco Exploratorium website) were too liquid-y and spread over the baking tray like cake dough. And that was with adding extra flour beyond what the recipe asked for.

    I have no problem baking commercial yeast breads and have been doing so for about 15 years, to the point where I'm now pretty approximate with measurements because I know what I'm looking for. Should the texture of the mixed dough be similar?

    I'm on the verge of giving up and trying to mix some commercial yeast in to get bread with some lift but a sourdough taste.

    Any tips on a good recipe for a sourdough newbie?


    Please don't give up Rachel. I'm thinking that your starter and dough is too wet which is why it spread instead of rising. I also suspect that you are not letting it get proofed sufficiently. But Donna is definitely the expert here and I will wait and let her respond to you. I just don't want you to give up until we can determine that it is hopeless on the starter that you have made.

    I hope this encourages you. All of us have had our occasional failures while we were first starting...and sometimes we still have times when we try to cut corners only to find out it doesn't work well to do so.

    But when you get a good loaf of sourdough it will all be worth it BIGTIME.

    Welcome to the Wonderful World of Wild Yeast Baking
    Donna M.
    Mon May 18, 2009 12:32 am
    Forum Host
    Hi Rachel,
    How are you mixing your dough? Are you using a mixer or a bread machine? Tell me how you care for your starter. How often do you feed it, how much do you feed it, and how much old starter do you have before feeding? Do you discard most of the old starter before you feed? Are you using dechlorinated water? Are you proofing your starter (after a good feeding) before using it to mix your dough?

    If you can tell me, step-by-step, including time frames, how you are making your bread, maybe I can trouble shoot and figure out what is going wrong. Have you tried making a different recipe, or is it always the same one?
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