What are your helpful sourdough starter tips?

I just created my first sourdough starter. I'm still in the initial days of building the chef/mother. It's a rye sourdough starter and I need everyone's tips! I've been leaving it on the counter, loosely covered, between feedings. Is this right, or should it be in the fridge? Any other tips, pointers, or experiences you have to share are very welcome!



minibakersupreme September 6, 2012
Benny, that's an amazing article. Thanks so much- it's fascinating. In truth, the culture is alive- very alive. Smells just like sourdough, but it's not a true sourdough since I used yeast in the starter (according to the directions). Turns out the recipe I was using was less than 50% hydration and the seed mix should have been soaked before I added it (the recipe didn't specify...which is probably where the necessary water might have come from). However, I don't think I'm going to try that recipe again. I might just make a new one that's not rye, not yeasted, and therefore more versatile. Thanks for your help, everyone!
Sadassa_Ulna September 5, 2012
How is it smelly? In a good yeast-ey ripe fruit way or is it an alcohol-vapor kind of smell? Did the loaf you made have bread or all-purpose white flour in it?
I would think the starter could be used as long as the dough recipe is mostly unbleached wheat AP or bread flour and the starter hasn't turned.
Some people use pineapple juice and unbleached white wheat flour to get a starter going. The pineapple juice the formation of a certain kind of unwelcome bacteria.
Benny September 6, 2012
I started three worthless batches of sour dough starter before learning about the pineapple juice trick (That is about a month of wasted time). It's absolutely necessary if you want to be 100% sure your starter will work. You can also use Lemon juice, and neither will alter the flavor of the resulting starter or loafs. The strain of bacteria makes your starter LOOK like its growing properly, but ends up worthless. Here is a link for a great explanation.


minibakersupreme September 5, 2012
Thanks, everyone! My starter was all-rye. It is very active and smelly. However, the recipe for the loaf...total dud. I'm really disappointed. I bake bread on a regular basis, and this was not normal. Anyway, anyone know if I can use my rye starter in other recipes requiring a starter?
AntoniaJames September 5, 2012
If the starter is made with equal parts water and flour, you can use it with any of the three recipes posted by William Alexander on his 52 Loaves site. I'd use it in any artisanal bread, but since I'm not crazy about the flavor of rye (in its fermented state in breads or otherwise), I'd not use any additional rye. If your starter is not a 50-50 mix, figure out the number of grams each of liquid and flour in, e.g., a 250 gram portion of it, then work from there, to incorporate it into other recipes (adapting to make sure that the total liquid and flour add up properly). Also, you should consider doing the following, to adapt whatever artisanal loaf you find that works: substitute 85 grams of porter or similar dark beer for an equal amount of the water in your recipe, and add about a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary. I did this yesterday working from Mr. Alexander's baguette recipe; I also substituted 25 grams each of rye, barley and whole wheat flour for 75 grams of the A-P flour called for. (With the rye starter, I probably would not have added any rye, however.) The results were sensational. (I cooked it in a hot Dutch oven, making a boule using the James Lahey baking method.) The combination of rosemary + beer was inspired by ChezSuzanne's recipe for a Stout and Rosemary Ciabatta, which went head to head with my Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread recipe in the best savory yeast bread contest two years ago, and won. I added a good glug of olive oil to yesterday's dough, because I find that a touch of oil improves the structure of the crumb. ;o)
RobertaJ August 30, 2012
I refrigerate the starter in between feedings. I don't bake with it often, so its "sleeping" most of the time. I feed small amounts every 2 weeks (Outlook reminders are a wonderful thing). I pull it out the night before the feeding to sort of wake it up. Feed, and cover loosely on the counter overnight, then cap the jar and back into the fridge for the next round of suspended animation. When I am ready to bake with it, same routine. Pull, feed, rest, harvest, feed, rest and back to sleep.
boulangere August 30, 2012
There have been some interesting sourdough conversations here lately:

boulangere August 30, 2012
For the first 4 or 5 days of fermentation, it should be an room temp. After that, refrigerate it.
Sadassa_Ulna August 30, 2012
Is your starter all rye flour or is it a blend?
AntoniaJames August 30, 2012
I've seen so many different instructions on sourdough starters. If you are following written instructions, I suggest adhering to them for awhile, until you've settled in. I refrigerate my wild yeast levain most of the time (well, I have since day 4 or whenever I was instructed first to put it in the fridge), but take it out several hours before using; and when I feed it, I leave it out for at least 2 or 3 hours before putting it back in the fridge. Mine is generally very active, and produces the most beautiful, richly flavored bread. I use it in my old-fashioned Pullman loaves, too. I figure the total flour and liquid in those recipes, in grams, and then deduct, using about 200 grams of levain per loaf. My starter is equal parts water and flour, so it's easy to calculate! ;o)
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