sourdough starter not working

I made a sourdough starter using equal parts of unbleached whole wheat flour and water and switched to unbleached AP flour on fifth day. The starter was very active. After seven days I froze some starter. I never did a float test as The recipe I followed for starter didn’t say it and I had never read it until now on this website. I made the leaving using different feeding based on recipes I was going to follow (25 g starter, 25 g wheat flour, 100g AP flour, 100g water). The leavain rise to 2.5 times but every time I made bread or pizza, it was disaster as final dough too loose. After wasting so much effort, time and dough three times I got so frustrated and decided to trouble shoot. My finding that my leavain doesn’t float. Then I decided to thaw the starter and it is completely inactive. Help......please
Shall I start new starter? If yes, can I start Sarah Owens recipe of 60g each flour and water with whole wheat flour and when to switch to AP flour?

  • Posted by: pinky
  • October 7, 2020
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HalfPint October 7, 2020
Did you feed the thawed starter? Did it have not activity (e.g. gas bubbles or volume increase)? Or did it not pass the float test? King Arthur Baking (Flour) has some good articles on sourdough starters. They have concluded that the float test can be unreliable about the readiness of starters. Hence I never do the float test.

My suggestion is: thaw the starter (if you have any frozen starter left) and feed with either whole wheat or rye flour (equal weights flour and water is what I use since the math is easier later for the dough). These flours tend to have more wild yeast than white flour. It's like giving alcohol to teenagers ;). Since the starter has been dormant, it may take several hours for any activity to be apparent. Then I would do another feed/discard cycle, just to be on the safe side. If the starter is truly dead, like no increase in volume and/or gas bubbles, then make another starter.
pinky October 8, 2020
Thanks for your response. I did thaw the starter and then I fed it twice with 12 hrs in between feedings. Yes no volume increase it did have some bubbles but becomes liquidy and little foamy.
Also, I have been maintaining the levain I made using 25 g starter, 25 g wheat flour, 100g AP flour, 100g waterfront the starter before putting the starter in freezer. The leavain when fed triples in 8-9 hours but every time I try to make bread or pizza, the final dough is too loose and even after 4-5 folds it doesn’t take shape and can’t form boule. Three trials disaster.
That is why I think may be problem with starter possibly?
pinky October 8, 2020
How should I make new starter.
HalfPint October 9, 2020
Sounds like the amount of water is the problem. I would cut back on the water until you get a dough that is easier to shape. Sometimes, there is more humidity in the air, so the flour needs less water to hydrate.
HalfPint October 9, 2020
Try the starter recipe at King Arthur Baking website. They have plenty of articles on troubleshooting sourdough starters.
pinky October 9, 2020
Thanks. I should not have to cut down on water in recipes as these are tested isn’t it?
Also, if I use king Arthur’s starter recipe, can it be used on any recipes or only their recipes thanks for reply
HalfPint October 10, 2020
Their starter can be used in any recipe. Likewise their sourdough recipes can use any sourdough starter, as long as you know what the hydration of the starter is.
HalfPint October 10, 2020
A tested recipe may still need to be adjusted because ingredients, as well as equipment, can vary from One kitchen to the next. For instance, if you live in a humid climate, you might find that you need less water because the flour already has some moisture in it. Similarly, a higher protein flour, like bread flour, needs more water to hydrate than all purpose flour.
pinky October 10, 2020
So how do you adjust. If I use king Arthur’s sourdough starter recipe and I want to use it in a bread recipe which calls for Levi an fed differently then starter
HalfPint October 15, 2020
I think you would need to calculate the hydration percentage in the levain of the recipe. The KAB recipe makes a 100% hydration starter which means 1:1 weight ratio water to flour. This would allow you to know how to adjust the water and/or flour for the levain. I am not an expert but that is my understanding when trying to convert a recipe using a starter. Call the Hotline for KAB. They are helpful and responsive. Might be a bit of a wait. Since the pandemic started, their call volume has almost doubled (?) because everyone is baking and making starter. I remember that there is an article on converting recipes to starters in the KAB blog section. But give the Hotline a try.
pinky October 18, 2020
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