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Home Cooking

Sourdough Starter not rising and hardly any bubbles

jdauray | Apr 16, 202011:27 AM     4

I purchased a sourdough starter in 2019, which I never used, and was a month expired. The quarantine had just started so I thought I would still try it. I also figured I would try one from scratch using the method with rye flour and unsweetened pineapple juice. I put them in mason jars with cheesecloth on top, and then placed both in a bread proofing box at 74F. I followed the instructions for the purchased starter, which required a 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup of flour feeding, and I followed Peter Reinhardt's instruction for the rye starter from scratch (found in his book). Neither one did much of anything after 10 days, but they smelled good. They were both wet, almost like a cake batter. I had only fed them a few times, using half the amounts suggested, since nothing was happening. I also never discarded any of the starter. So, I decided to turn up the heat and set my proofing box at 82F. Six days went by and nothing happened. I even stirred the mixtures 4x/daily. On day six, in my frustration, I got out clean mason jars and divided the starters. Now I had two jars of sourdough from the purchased starter and four jars from the rye starter I had made from scratch. I fed the sourdough, decreasing the water to 1/3 of the suggested amount, fed the rye as instructed, and then began feeding two of the four rye jars with whole wheat. At this point I had read lots of hints to troubleshoot my starters and then I came across something about hot and cold affecting the flavor of your sourdough. So, even though we had snow on the ground, I took all six jars and placed them in the garage, and I did not touch them for four days. Then, on day five, I went out to the garage to check them. The two pre-purchased sourdough starter jars had bubbled up slightly and deflated. The other four looked about the same. I then changed things again, according to other comments I had read. I took each starter and added 2 1/2 tbsp of flour (2 1/2 white, 2 1/2 wheat, and 2 1/2 rye into each two jars respectively) and I only added 1 tbsp water. I stirred them to a thick paste. Within 20 minutes, before I even got the chance to return them to the garage the bubbles began forming for the first time throughout the entire jar (you know, those great pictures people have of their bubbly growing masterpieces). I returned it to the garage and a few hours later it was rising with even more bubbles. It happened! It happened when I REDUCED the temperature and THICKENED the mixture. In terms of the concern about "waste," I also NEVER discarded any of my starter. It took 21 days, three whole weeks! However, now I have about 2 1/2 cups each of a purchased white San Francisco sourdough, a whole wheat from scratch, and a rye from scratch. THREE WEEKS. I read too that the warm temps were a good way to start the process, so that probably benefitted me. However, my point in writing this is to share my experience, to show how forgiving these starters are, and how there is no single way by which this must be done. I figured that last part must be true, given I couldn't imagine my grandmother 100 years ago fussing with such detailed bullshit or wasting that much flour on their farm in North Dakota. I knew her well enough to know that much. So, good luck with your starters, be creative, be daring, and be forgiving, while using some common sense and a whole lot of patience.

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