Starter from Scratch, Day Four: Going on a New Diet

Paul, August 18, 2009

Intro • Day 1 • Day 2 • Day 3[Day 4] • Day 5 • Day 6 • Day 7 • Final Thoughts • Day 15

Starter from Scratch: Day 4:

(and once daily until it starts to expand and smell yeasty), mix . . .
2 oz. of the starter (1/4 c. after stirring down–discard the rest)
1 oz. flour** (scant 1/4 cup)
1 oz. water (2 tablespoons)

** You can feed the starter/seed culture whatever you would like at this point. White flour, either bread or a strong all-purpose like King Arthur or a Canadian brand will turn it into a general-purpose white sourdough starter. Feed it rye flour if you want a rye sour, or whole wheat, if you want to make 100% whole wheat breads. If you’re new to sourdough, a white starter is probably the best place to start.

Starter Day Four: an Overnight Jump

Yowza!! PJ has expanded a huge amount overnight!

When I pop open the lid, there is a distinct yeasty smell though still with a pineapple one. Wally , on the other hand, is still napping, doing what is needed to get the pH in his jar down. OK boys, time to wash up and get ready for your next phase.

Starter Day Four: Mis en Place

Here I’ve reduced the two starters to 1/4c  (2 oz or 58g) and put that in separate containers so I can wash out the jars and lids.

20090815_ScantI’ve also measured out 2 Tbsp (28g) water for each jar and a “scant” 1/4 cup (28g)  of UAP flour. I’m using separate utensils for each to avoid cross contamination or interference between the two starter. As you can see, the water and flour weights are equal (28g/28g) so we’re building a 100% hydration starter at this point.



The two lots get mixed up and we then have our first UAP feed.

And yes, Wally still stinks, just a little less so now.

Because this is a process involving variable live cultures, I think it may be better to outline the phases of development, rather than to give a timetable. It’s a natural succession that will progress at its own speed. You can influence it, but you can’t control it — not an easy concept for a baker  :-) “Relax. Be patient.” You’ll hear that a lot in regard to sourdough.

You don’t have to taste the [pineapple] mixture if the thought really bothers you, but it will tell you a lot about the progress at times when there may be no other outward signs. Lactic acid doesn’t really have an aroma, so you won’t be able to gauge just how sour it is by smell. Taste the initial mixture to get a point of reference and pay attention to the sourness level as you go. Taste it before you feed and decide if it is more sour or the same as after you fed it 24 hours previous. Taste it again after feeding the next addition to compare in the next 24 hours.

Intro • Day 1 • Day 2 • Day 3 • [Day 4] • Day 5 • Day 6 • Day 7 • Final Thoughts • Day 15


10 thoughts on “Starter from Scratch, Day Four: Going on a New Diet”

  1. Royall says:

    Aloha Paul,

    I’m on day 4 and you mention giving the “kids” an extra feeding when they use up the food in the jar. With this extra food, do you just add flour and water to the jar? Or do you reduce the amount of starter and use the 1:1:1 ratio? Sorry if this old man is a little dense here… comes with age!!



    1. Paul says:

      Hi Royall,

      Sorry about the very long delay in replying, I guess I missed your post.

      At this point, we’re reducing the starter to a small amount at each feed so in this case I discard all but 2 Tbsp of starter and feed as indicated.

      I’m guessing this is WAYYY late for you and you’re gone ahead with the starter. I’m sure it worked out in any case. The difference is that by reducing, I’m really cutting back on how many hungry yeasties there are so there’s more food available. Simply adding food without cutting back still gives them more food but it’s shared by a lot more critters. Still, either way means they get more food.

  2. Deka says:

    Well, here we are at day four and Mina did not have the massive expansion. Kind of expected that because of the cooler house temps. She did at least almost double. Maybe 1/8th short of doubling. I’m still pleased with her activity.
    Thank you Paul for suggesting some options to warm her up some. (Day three comments.) It would be nice if a person could buy a coffee cup warmer with a temp control! That would be soooo nice and easy. LOL
    Today is moving day to a different jar, discarding and feeding water and APF.
    I am concerned about under feeding her at this stage so I will be giving her extra APF and water so she will make it through 24 hours without going hungry. (1:1:1 by weight) I hope this is not a mistake on my part.
    I can say that I’m enjoying this adventure. :>)


  3. Gwyn says:

    Oh no…I forgot to do step 4 last night…is it too late to do it this am? Gah!

    1. Paul says:

      Hey Gwyn,

      No, it’s not too late. Starter is quite forgiving and can actually take a fair bit of abuse. Carry on and get back on schedule as best you can and it will work out fine!

  4. Gwyn says:

    phew! Thanks

  5. Sandie Matt says:

    Hi Paul! So I’ve separated my starter today and added white bread flour but am left with quite a bit of rye starter since I don’t have two experimental ones going. Should I do anything with this or just discard it? Also, on day 5 she talks about reducing to 1:1:1 but if I’ve discarded my original starter how can I reduce my ratio? Shouldn’t it be all my white sourdough starter:1:1? Know what I mean? Can offer some advice? Thanks!

  6. Sean says:

    In retrospect, I messed up at this point. I’m not measuring the amounts of stuff I add (as I don’t have a means of weighing things). I switched to the UAP, discarding all but a quarter cup of the starter before mixing it together with some water.

    Ultimately, I added too much water, making the starter a bit runny. I ran with it though, and over a couple of days felt like I just wasn’t making any progress (even in light of the “looks dead” period). I even thought for a second that it was regressing back into another “stinky” stage.

    I’ve gradually corrected the ratio issue by not discarding any starter, adding and mixing in the flour, and then after that adding water as needed just to be able to mix the flour. The result’s been pretty good. My starter may be a couple of days behind this experiment, but it’s getting bubbles throughout and is slowly migrating over to the proper smells.

    Hoping that tonight I’ll be able to get back on track with discarding a bunch of the starter and mixing with flour/water so it can start building its strength.

    1. Sean says:

      I meant to add that I think it had difficulty rising due to the disproportionate amount of water in it. It was too runny to hold itself up with bubbles in it. In that sense, I don’t think the good bacteria’s progress was hindered, only my ability to really measure it.

      1. Paul says:

        A general rule of thumb, if you are stuck with volume measures only, is that to get close-ish to 100% hydration (50% flour, 50% water by weight) you can use about twice the volume of flour as water. So to ½ cup of flour you’d use ¼ cup water. It would be, in actuality, about 63 g of flour to 60 g water (1 c of water is 237 g, 1 cup of bread flour is about 127 g) which would be “close enough” for feeding purposes.

        I have a volume-to-weight conversion chart here that may be useful as a reference until you can get a hold of a decent scale. I update it now and again as I get weights on new ingredients but it lists a lot of the more typical stuff you’d use making bread and pastries.

        Meanwhile, do keep an eye out for a good price on a digital kitchen scale. My recommendations for scales can be found in this post here. But to recap quickly: a small scale that uses AA batteries, not the lithium ones as they are short lived and pricey to replace. You want it to use both grams and ounces (which means they also will have kilos and pounds), max capacity of at least 5 kg (~11 lbs) and, if possible, a removable stainless platform so you can toss it in the wash. Amazon has lots of them and they start at around $15 US. I don’t have one particular scale to recommend as they’re US brands that I haven’t seen in person but it would be an easy place to start looking. And if someone is even semi serious about baking, a decent scale is a very important tool to have in your baking toolbox.

        I’m happy to see that you noted the issue was the water and didn’t let this stop your progress. Keep at it and you’ll soon have a decent starter to call your own!
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