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Ambient temperature and sourdough

 
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I will start by saying I am completely new to sourdough and have always been a little intimidated to start. A friend whose starter has been going for 2+ years gave me a starter.

Trouble is, our household temperature isn't very steady as we heat with a woodstove. I fed the starter equal parts water and flour this morning per the recipe I used and it has barely grown in the jar. The house has been between 65 to 72 deg today since I'm home. I moved the jar a bit closer to the stove an hour ago.

I know there are probably plenty of sourdough enthusiasts who heat with wood.

Any thoughts or advice welcome.
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Rye flour makes a more active starter than other flours.

The yeast element in the starter likes oxygen, so stir it every time you have a chance and it will be more active.

Feeding every 12 hours will help it too.

My kitchen gets cold overnight in winter, and I don't expect my bread and starter to rise as much as they do in summer. At 65f to 72f, it should probably be more active than it is in the picture though.

You can try wrapping it in a towel to insulate it from the temperature changes. My house temperature fluctuates a lot more than that and I don't do that though.

Do you know how often your friend was feeding it, and if their bread rose nicely?

The composition of culture in sourdough will change over time depending on the cultures in the air of your home and the way it is treated. Your sourdough might be in a period of adjusting to new conditions, it might be used to different temperatures and treatment and the cultures from your own home and flour might be starting to grow in it.

What kind of flour are you using?

How long ago before that photo did you feed the starter?
 
Noel Young
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His starter is very active per report but definitely under more steady temperature conditions. I am on well water and I'm not sure what he uses but I know they're on city water. I had one of his loaves last week and it was good. I think he bakes 1x weekly. I have been using unbleached bread flour.

Thanks for the suggestions. I just tried stirring.
 
Noel Young
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It appears stirring and placing closer to the stove has increased the activity...
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pollinator
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My own starter, several years old now, has been pretty sluggish this winter, but I find it's robust enough to make loaves anyway.  I usually make the dough in the evening, let it rise over night, shape into loaves in the morning and bake in late afternoon/evening.  If I can let the loaves rise in a warm place they are ready to bake in just a few hours, but unless I have the oven going, that's not likely this time of year.  They still rise, and they still taste good.

Incidently, I only feed mine a tablespoon or so of flour at a time, and not necessarily every day, unless I am planning on making a lot of bread, i.e. we have houseguests.  I find that even just a few tablespoons of starter is sufficient for two loaves, given a full 24 hours to rise/proof.  Try experimenting;  yours might behave in a similar way.
 
Kate Downham
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G Freden wrote:My own starter, several years old now, has been pretty sluggish this winter, but I find it's robust enough to make loaves anyway.  I usually make the dough in the evening, let it rise over night, shape into loaves in the morning and bake in late afternoon/evening.  If I can let the loaves rise in a warm place they are ready to bake in just a few hours, but unless I have the oven going, that's not likely this time of year.  They still rise, and they still taste good.

Incidently, I only feed mine a tablespoon or so of flour at a time, and not necessarily every day, unless I am planning on making a lot of bread, i.e. we have houseguests.  I find that even just a few tablespoons of starter is sufficient for two loaves, given a full 24 hours to rise/proof.  Try experimenting;  yours might behave in a similar way.



I use a similar method all through the year. For 2 loaves, at night I mix around 1/3 cup starter with 6 cups water, then I add enough flour to make a thick batter. In the morning I put 1/3 cup away for the next days starter, mix through the salt, then mix through as just much flour as I need to get it to hold it's shape rather than slump into a puddle. To get better texture and yeast activity I will leave it 10 minutes then fold it over itself a few times before putting into tins to rise, but sometimes I just put it in the tin right away.

I make doughs that are quite wet, I find sourdough responds better to a wet dough, especially in cold temperatures.

Also in winter I often make dense loaves of coursely ground flours, which are not supposed to rise as much.
 
pollinator
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This is looking good already, you are on the right way.
As others have said, the starter has to adjust to the water and flour it gets in the new home. I would also feed the starter quite often, with little amounts.
If you feel you have too much to use in your loaf, you can google for other uses of sourdough. I just bought myself a new book on sourdough (lovely, great expertise, lots of recipes, but all in German) and there are sourdough waffles, muffins, of course pizza, pasta, dried sourdough used instead of breadcrumbs for fried onions etc.

Regarding temperature:
I have been baking for years now, but only after thoroughly reading the book and following the temperature have I been able to get a really active starter - it even tried to escape the Weck jar I used!
You want your starter to be cozy for the initial rise, and then keep closely capped in the fridge.
You could use your oven (if the door shuts tightly) with a warm water bottle (and a towel) to keep the temp high.
Alternatively, if you have a nice quilt or duvet (here in Germany we often have down duvets) you can pack the sourdough in bed with a warm water bottle - that's how I make my yoghurt! Happy baking!

Noel Young wrote:It appears stirring and placing closer to the stove has increased the activity...

 
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I have an insulated lunch box I sometimes put the starter in, or in the microwave, oven, etc.
Currently we are also very unstable, going between 85 and 65 in my kitchen, and so the sourdough is living in the fridge and getting fed once a week. I give it a day to wake up before using it. Generally, even in the winter, my sourdough goes way too fast (probably requires feeding twice a day? which I can't keep up with ) so I think I will just keep it in the fridge year round. I bake a lot, but not enough to keep up with all that discard.
 
pollinator
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I was given a starter culture a few years ago by a friend and at the time they had two homes about six hours' drive apart. They would often alternate where they spent time, every few weeks to couple of months on average, so she always kept her starters in the fridge at each location. As a result, the bugs are quite happy and active at 5C, and her instructions to me were to keep it cool until baking day. It's been going great and I would recommend trying the fridge option to anyone who has a lot of variability to contend with.

I usually feed it with a blend of rye flour and freshly milled wheat. We used to sprout the wheat and dry it before milling and that really helped a lot with my wife's metabolism, but now she's gone off wheat altogether and I have been skipping the sprouting step. But that produced a really distinctive and delicate sourdough...when I've got more time to reincorporate the steps into my routine I'll return to this method.
 
Noel Young
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Loving the suggestions in these posts! Thanks for the input and sharing. Looking forward to experimenting with flours, temperature, proofing time ... so many variables to manipulate.

Update pictures of the bread. First (larger and sliced in pic) loaf was made with discard from the original that I decided to feed a bit without weighing and do a trial run (wetter and higher ratio of starter culture to flour/water in the starter). Bread worked great for adult grilled cheese. Second loaf from the above previously pictured jar at or close to peak ... I think I over proofed (maybe?) and it didn't rise as much (denser) but it is still decent tasting. The second was noticibly much more tense during folding...
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Looking very tasty Noel. You've got this!

Sourdough is forgiving & versatile once you get the hang of it. This thread shows how everyone does it a little different according to their needs & circumstances. My basic technique is simple. Dump some starter into a bowl then about the same amount of flour. Add some salt. Mix it & set aside to proof. Usually overnight. I cook it in a cast iron skillet. Yum.
 
Phil Stevens
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Noel, you are breading like a boss. No deficiencies noted in the visual layer!
 
Noel Young
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Week 2, proofed a shorter time. Wetter starter. Added herbs de province and wasn't shy about slashing.

Pleased with the outcome. Enjoying the process. Smells fabulous! Hope it tastes as good.

Haven't tried experimenting with flours yet but I'm curious to try the rye suggested in this thread.
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Kate Downham
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Another great looking loaf!

Rye is easiest to work with when it's mixed with other flours. I often do half rye half spelt in loaf tins, but for Dutch oven loaves I use around 30% rye.

I use all whole grain flours, this makes a denser bread with more flavor and nutrition, I like it a lot and so do my bread customers, but many people prefer some white flour mixed in to make it lighter.
 
pollinator
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Hi Noel,

Nice looking bread for a sour dough beginner.   I will pass on what my wife said was the secret of great sour dough is pineapple juice.  She heard about it way back online and tried it and her starter improved dramatically.  You simply add a little pineapple juice to the starter when it needs a boost and between the sugar and enzymes in the pineapple juice her starter started to grow more reliably.  If you are nervous about trying it, do an experiment.  Split your starter in half and add some pineapple juice to one and not the other.  Do everything else the same and compare the results.

Sincerely,

Ralph
 
Noel Young
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A few updated pictures of recent loaves. Starting to get a better feel for the timing aspect, the readiness of the starter, and what the dough should feel like.
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Anita Martin
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Noel, these look absolutely lovely!
I bet they are very tasty as well.

Sometimes in (international) forums I see pictures of sourdough loaves that have a very light crust. I am not sure if this is a cultural thing, but in my opinion a dark, hearty crust enhances both the flavour and the joy of eating.
 
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Noel, those look delicious!
Would you mind sharing the recipe, or the steps you take to mix the dough and bake it?

I have 2 starters going, one "traditional" (flour and water), and one that's sweeter (fed flour, milk, and white/brown sugar). My house stays around 75°, or higher when I have the oven going.
While I have kept both starters on the countertop, I'm still learning how to bake savory breads with the more traditional starter, so I've been keeping it in the refrigerator to keep it from needing to be fed so often until I can figure out how to use the discard more.
 
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