Actually, I had a free, tiny packet of starter from King Arthur. I printed out their directions for use and got the sponge started... after 24 hours, it's a failure. I generally make a sponge from the Tassajara bread book, which adds molasses; the KA did not ask for any sweet feed for the yeast.
I have a few bread books but now I want to start with first-hand tips from friends.
Dea, quite an interesting pictorial. I had read the HOW elsewhere, but the photos help. Thanks. I've also been reading Wild Fermentation (Sandor Katz) and have my very own copy coming in the mail. Of course, that read started by wanting to expand the use of my Harsch crock!
Was the KA starter a dried one? When you say it's a failure do you mean no activity?
If it's inactive (looks dead) one simple option is to really aerate the starter. In other words, stir it. Yeast loves air and sometimes if you do just that three or four times a day you'll see improvement quite quickly. With a really stubborn starter I've been known to feed pretty heavily with flour and then whisk the heck out of it.
Another option is to add something like a tablespoon or so of pineapple juice in lieu of some of the water when you refresh, but I'd try aeration first.
Also, how cold is it in your house? Sometimes you can increase activity by putting the starter on a heating pad set on low and wrapped in a towel. You don't want to overdo it.
Second on The Fresh Loaf. That is a wonderful site.
There's a plethora of other good bread sites, but another nice one is Breadtopia. They do sell products but they're very low-key about it and have great information. There's a method for a wild leaven using pineapple juice and a sourdough video on the site.
Carol, the yeast was dry. There was activity in the sponge; after the suggested 18 hours, it had not doubled but I went to the next step (3 cups flour, 3/4 cup 90º water, plus salt and 1/2 tsp. instant yeast). Kneaded, covered, and back into the oven which is about 87-88º with the light on. After 24 hours, it had a crust and was/is bubbly underneath but still the same volume as it had initially.
I'm wondering now if I can use a bit of it and do the wild yeast method on The Fresh Loaf?
For some reason I had a terrible time getting on the Forum this morning.
OK, I think we may have been talking at cross-purposes. I thought you were re-hydrating a dried starter, but were you using that KAF starter that goes directly into a sponge like commercial yeast? I saw that product and recipe at KAF.
I'm just guessing based on the information given, but my bet is the sponge got a little too warm. 86 degrees is about the maximum and ideally more in the 70's range. I'm not familiar with the characteristics of that starter, but I tend to err on the side of cool. A slow rise develops better flavor anyway. In fact, when it gets down around 45 in my garage, then I rise the bread out there. It's perfect for everything but a sweet dough and I don't care how long it takes.
I know KAF says a shorter rise develops more sour flavor, but I think that's an editing error. Unless there's something totally different about their product, longer+cooler=increased sour.
Assuming your sponge is essentially "dead" what can you do? I'd take the majority of the dough, bake it off and feed the birds. Not their most nutritious meal, but they'll be happy.
There's no reason why you couldn't take a portion of the sponge, hydrate and feed and see what you get. It only takes a few yeast spores and odds are some are still alive. Go for the highest-gluten highest ash flour you have around. Bread flour will work but if you have some KAF First Clear use that. Whole wheat is another option. A bit of honey or molasses won't hurt.
It will probably take several feedings to get a really active starter. You should see increased activity over a shorter span with each feeding.
I hope that helps. Some of this you probably already know but I wanted to cover the most bases.
Sour Dough Starter
1 pkg. yeast, 1 cup of warm water. 1 cup of all purpose flour. Dislove yeast in the water in a 2qt ceramic bowl. Stir in the Flour: mix well. Cover Tightly, let stand at room temperature, over night. Stir well before using, because mixture will have seperated somewhat-
In the morning; Combine 1 cup of the sour dough starter, 1 cup of warm water, 2 cups of all purpose flour.
At Noon or later, (note; if you want real sour dough, let stand over night.) Disolve 1 pkg of yeast in 1 cup of warm water, 1-2 tbs salt let stand for 5 min.(make sure it foams) stir this into the sponge. mix in 4 cups of all purpose flour. Transfer to a well floured board,countertop, knead for 10 minutes until nice and elastic and shiny. Place in an ungreased bowl, sprinkle with flour let rise in a cool place - 70 degrees, until doubled in volume 2-3 hrs.( needs longer because cool rise). Punch down, knead dough briefly on floured board. shape into long 2 loaves. Let rise for 1 hour, Heat oven to 450 degrees thus letting your tiles getting nice and hot. sprinkle baking sheet with cornmeal and let it rise on the sheet, another 1/2 hr. if using a baking surface sprinkle with corn meal transfor to surface, then let rise for 1/2 hour.
Slightly make 2 slices, diagonally into breads, turn oven down to 375 degrees, put breads into oven, splash the water into oven,after 15- 20 minutes a bit more water, bake for 40-45 minutes until breads sound hallow. Take breads out and brush with cold water for a little shine. Keep temps higher and let bake less for very crusty.
I keep a starter going. I got into it as a teen and had to inflict it upon my parents when I left for college.
What I really enjoy is using it in a pancake batter. You mix it up the night before and it's ready by morning. Try that if you haven't. There's a guy who has had one for years who will send you some for a SASE. Look him up.
My husband's the bread baker in the family now. I used to be, but about ten years ago someone gave him a start of the sponge they call 'friendship bread'--heard of it? It's a kind of sourdough, but tastes like that sweet eggy-looking hawaiian bread.
Man, he's kept that thing going for ages. Keeps it in the fridge most of the time, but takes it out and starts it up again wheneber he gets a yen for that sweet yummy bread and it always goes great. He's used it to make cinnamon rolls too once or twice, and it's mighty good that way too. The Amish Friendship Bread starter recipe's on the net somewhere, I'm sure if anybody's interested.
Since Don's a brewer too, there's lots of good yeasty-critters living in the air around here. He often uses champagne yeast when he wants to do something like make a sponge or pancakes.
I have seen the Friendship Bread recipe... I may have even copied it to my files, but haven't tried it. Right now I am almost through Day 3 on the starter recipe in the link Dea posted above. If I'm not cooking, my kitchen stays very cool, maybe mid-60's. I should put a thermometer in there and monitor it.
Hi Darius, I ordered King Aurther's sourdough starter, but was not impressed. I finished it up last year. The one I made with yeast tasted as good or better. I printed most of my recipes from the internet. DH kept and dated a small square of it. The cat found it, so it's scarred, but I could still eat it.
I also kept it in the fridge to slow it down. Then, when I had time, I took out what I needed, fed the dough, let it activate and put it back in the fridge. I've been thinking about starting some up again. Pancakes are delicious and so is the cheese bacon muffins!