I am trying to activate my new SF sourdough starter and am having some
trouble. I started yesterday morning and by evening, I only saw a few
small bubbles. Left it overnight and this morning I saw some liquid,
so followed your instructions and used one cup of the first batch +3
cups water & flour to start over again. Since I was not sure whether
the remainder of my first batch was bad, I fed it as well with equal
amounts of water/flour to starter. Had some bubbles, mainly small plus
a few larger ones in both batches and now they seem to have fizzled out
The activation process takes varying amounts of time because of temperatures
and other things. If you got some bubbles, then your San Fran starter
is definitely alive. Once you see thickening and bubbles, you know
that the starter is eating.
They have fizzled out because they have used up all the food that you
gave them and are beginning to go to sleep and then die if they aren’t
fed or refrigerated. When you see bubbles--large and small--and thickening,
you know that your starter is alive and well and is eating the food you
At no point did I see the amount of activity shown on your website.
[Linda] Don’t worry about the website. That shows starter at its
most active point. You just need it to wake up and start eating to activate
it before you put it in the fridge. You need to get the most active point
for your sponge.
What do I need to do now? I have used 8 cups of flour so far with the
two batches brewing, how much and how long does it take to get this going?
Is the starter bad and I need to start all over again?? If I have to
leave the house and it is still activating, should I refrigerate it in
[Linda] I would recommend that you take out your starter than has been
in the fridge overnight, reduce the volume down to ½ cup, and give it
a big feeding of two cups each of flour and water. You can do the same
thing with each of the two batches you have or you can mix them together.
Just be sure that you are feeding ½ cup of starter. You can discard
the rest or you can save it to make pancakes.
Linda, I got your letter. Now this Saturday I may not be
able to stay all day as I have to leave at 10:45 for one hour and half
and then at 6:00pm in the evening.
So I need to plan. Usually, when should I expect to see activity and put my starter in the
fridge.? Close to 4 , 6 or 8 hours after I made the mix ?
All of the above, depending on the temperature of the water you use and
the air in your kitchen. Often, much sooner than later, but I cannot
give you a good answer as to number of hours because of the variables.
If I start in the morning at 6:00 am and leave at 10:45 for an hour
and half, what are the chances I am going to miss it?
Probably slim to none. If you see some bubbles and thickening, you
can add another cup each of flour and water before you leave, just to
or should I start at 8:00am and when i'll be back at 12:15, I should
be good until I leave at 6:00 pm?
I think I would start earlier if you don’t mind getting up that
If not, I may have to do it Sunday when I will only be gone for church.
I’m a’wondering how old your starter is. I know they have
to be old for them to be able to sit in the fridge for long periods of
time. Yours is so vigorous it’s got me to wondering how old it
is. I love it, btw! This is my second go round with sourdough,
and I’ve been
quite prolific. I’ve even purchased the pasta maker I’ve been wanting
for awhile just so I can make sourdough pasta. We’re reducing gluten
around here, and have been insanely enjoying sourdough everything! I made a
sourdough cake a couple of weeks ago that was insanely amazing!! So glad
you’ve made your sourdough available. I can tell it’s
a labor of love for you. :) Thanks! S
Thank you so much for writing. I got the San Francisco
Sourdough Starter that I market from a baker in San Francisco who said
he and his family
had been using it for many years. I have only had it about 14 years
I am absolutely delighted that you love it—because I do too. I
got it for just my personal use, but when I realized how good and strong
it is, I just had to share.
And I love that you’re making sourdough pasta! That’s a
great idea. I used to make pasta and now that I’m retired from
my “day job” I might do it again. I would love to make it
with the SF starter.
Would you be willing to share your recipe with other breadmakers on
the Recipes page of my website? If so, I will not use your name unless
you OK it. And I would never share any other personal information.
I’m so glad that you’re finding the weakened gluten that
the SF starter produces helps you!
Subject: Sluggish Rise and Autolysis
I attempted my first sourdough bread last week. It didn't
rise properly but I will try again. My question is that instructions
said to let sponge with 1 1/2 cups of flour mixed in rest for 30 to 90
minutes (autolysis). I let it rest for 90 minutes but had no idea what
to be looking for. Why the time variation from 30 to 90 minutes? Is this
why it possibly didn't rise well? Thanks, Beth
If your bread dough doesn’t rise as quickly as you think it should,
don’t give up—just give it more time—up to 12 to 24
Your sponge probably didn’t have a dense enough population to
give you three predictable rises, but it will eventually rise—like
the “no-knead” bread that starts with a tiny amount of yeast
and takes 12 to 24 hours to rise.
Autolysis is done to allow the flour plenty of time to absorb the liquid
so that, when you add the remainder of the flour, you won’t add
too much. You get better holes and texture if you do that. So, you won’t
see any difference in your dough—nothing to look for. Its not rising
well didn’t have anything to do with autolysis.
Subject: Slow Starter
Hi Linda. Got your starter yesterday thru Amazon and started it last
night at 10 MDT. This morning I got up at 6AM and checked on it and there
was 1/4 inch
liquid on top. After reading your FAQs, I figured I missed the boat so I gave
it some more flour and water and I saw minimal bubbling. What am I doing wrong? Thanks,
I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you yesterday. I don’t know
how your starter is this morning, but the most likely answer is that you didn’t
do anything wrong. The bottom line is that the SF starter is so vigorous that
you just need to feed it more and more often. Please write again—even if it’s dead, which is highly unlikely—I’ll
send you a new one.
Linda--You are so right. I fed it 5x yesterday and one
big feeding before bed last night and it has gone wild. It is amazing
it is bubbling
Thanks for your help...gonna follow same procedure today before putting
in fridge. Want it to be real strong.
Thanks again, Jim
I just ordered the sourdough starter. I am excited to try it. My
question is flour? In the store there a several brands,,,, Pillsbury,
gold medal and unbleached, bread (type) etc. Is there any that
you like better than others. I also was told King Arthur is the best.
Please advise. Thanks! Bill M.
I don’t think the brand of flour makes any difference. I
have baked with all of them over the years and cannot taste, smell or see
changes in my breads. The type of flour is what is important to know about.
Bread flour has more protein than all purpose flour so the gluten can be
stronger. That’s good because the acidity of the sourdough weakens
the gluten. Soft southern flour like White Lily has even less protein than
all-purpose. But you can still use all three to make sourdough bread with
the SF starter. I think King Arthur is a rip-off. I buy my flour from Costco
or Sam’s and I get 25 pounds for about $8.
Since you’re in Sarasota, you’ll probably need to keep your
large amounts of flour in the freezer. I grew up in Tampa and reared
my children in Fort Myers, so I know how the heat and humidity seem to
foster bugs in flour. Oh, and I prefer unbleached white flour. I have
baked with Kamut and Spelt flours—both ancient flours that haven’t
been hybridized. Lots of my breadmakers use whole wheat and rye flours
for part of the flour in a recipe.
Hi Linda...sorry to be a bother. I was actually ready to
give up...but my husband wanted to give it another try, so I took 1/2
c out at about 11:00 Friday night. I gave it 3 cups of water and flour
and left it on the counter for the night. By 9:00 Sat morning, there
was a serious layer of houch, so I tossed it.
Why did you toss it? In a case like this, you would stir it well and
either reduce the volume and give it some more food or stir it and not
reduce it and give it more food. The hooch is the by-product of the metabolism
of the yeast—which means it is very much alive. All it needed was
I then took another 1/2 cup of starter out of my jar in the refrigerator,
added 3 cups flour and water and stirred and left it on the counter.
The temperature in the kitchen was 73 degrees. An hour later I was
seeing some bubbles coming up pretty regularly. 1/2 hour after that
there was a layer of liquid and no more bubbles coming up.
Did you stir it to see what was going on under the surface?
1. Is is OK to use whole wheat flour
instead of all-purpose unbleached flour? If so, how does it change
the outcome?[Linda] I would recommend using white flour for the activation
process because it will then be more predictable for you. Then you
can use part or all whole wheat for your baking. Whole wheat bread
made with the San Francisco Sourdough Starter never seems to have the
sour taste that is so addicting. It also doesn’t form gluten
as strong as white flour.
2. I have read some information about sourdough bread aiding in the
reduction of glucose (sugar) levels. Do you have any information on this
subject as it relates to diabetics?[Linda] I have been told that San
Francisco Sourdough bread has a lower glycemic index but I have no proof.
3. I live across the bay from San Francisco and was told
that the cool fog air here is just right for the sourdough starter.
Why do they call
it "San Francisco Sourdough" when it can be produced anywhere
with the right temperature?[Linda] I guess because it originated there
and the specific wild yeast and lactobacillus that make up the starter
cannot be captured from the air anywhere else.
4. Can I make pancakes with this mix?[Linda] Absolutely! There are recipes
on the recipes page of my website!
My new starter does not seem to be as active as the last
batch that I bought from you. Any suggestions?
Yes, give it more food! It is exactly the same as the
last one and should and will behave like it. But, your conditions might
quantities—or ?? The SF starter is incredibly vigorous and eats
up the food you give it very quickly. Actually, starter that
isn't active enough is the most common issue bakers new to sourdough face. And
it's because the San Fran Sourdough Starter is so strong and vigorous--and
needs so much food to keep it alive and multiplying.
Hi Linda! You
were right! I was not feeding it enough!
Check the pic that is attached!
Having great success with all my tools and the starter!
I've been through this process over and again. Your starter has been
great. Thanks!I don't
know if you have had this question but I cannot seem to get the sour
flavor I want and have experienced eating other sourdough. Is
this a matter of time? I can wait, but was wondering if I was doing something
wrong... Thanks! Allen
Hi Allen, To develop more sour flavor in the San Francisco Sourdough
Starter, leave a jar of stash in the fridge, undisturbed for about three
weeks before taking it out and making bread with it. If I want to bake
often, I just keep two or sometimes even three stash jars so that I can
use the oldest one if I want it really sour.
Hi Linda, Can you please tell me what type of mixer to get? I am sure
you have used several in your bread making travels. Also I would
like to know which of the kits to purchase from you. I am just getting
in bread making and will only be doing it maybe once a week at first.
I already have two of the bread pans that you recommend, they were
a birthday present. Thank you for all of the help.
I must apologize to you for the delay in getting back to you. I was
on a cruise for 9 days and just returned home on Sunday night.
Now for your questions. First, I would recommend nothing
other than a Kitchenaid stand mixer—the 6-quart 600 if you want to spend that
much or at least the 5 quart. Kitchenaid online has an outlet store that
sells refurbished mixers. I’ve bought three of them and have had
no trouble at all—they work great and the $ savings is wonderful.
Here’s a link:
Now for the kits. As you probably know, any job, fun
or not, is so much better with the right tools. Assuming that you have
mixing bowls and
spoons and other very basic kitchen equipment, the tools (they’re
all toys to me) I wouldn’t want to make bread without are: Instant-Read
Thermometer, very sharp Razor Knife, Dough Rising container with straight
sides, Dough Divider/Scraper, Timer, Cornmeal Shaker, Pastry Brush, Cotton
Tea Towels, the Chicago Metallic Double French Bread Pan, a loaf pan,
a good Bread Knife, Heavy Plastic Bags large enough to hold round loaves,
a jar with a tight-fitting lid for the starter stash in the fridge, and
a bowl scraper.
If you get the Breadmaker Basics Tool Kit, you’ll get most of
these. Or, you can cherry-pick and get the items you want or need, without
buying a kit, You’ll get charged more shipping initially by ‘making
your own kit’, but I’ll refund the excess to your credit
card or paypal account.
I started my starter Friday night and Saturday morning it already had
a layer of liquid on it. I concluded that overnight on the counter it
had gone past it's best. [Linda] You are most likely correct.
is right about 70 degrees. I mixed the liquid in (are you supposed
to mix it in or pour it off?),[Linda] Mix it in.
I took part of it out
tried to make pancakes with it, fed water and flour to the rest.
I did that a couple time through the day because I didn't feel like
looked alive. It would be a little bubbly when I first stirred
it up, but not like I expected it to be. [Linda]
It probably ran out of food
before it had time to reproduce a lot of new critters which would
make new bubbles as they metabolized. If you had given it a bigger
you would have seen much more activity.
I knew I would be gone
all day yesterday, so I put some in the refrigerator. [Linda] Good
at it this morning, there is a layer of liquid on top...1/4 inch
or so. I think that is a good sign and means it isn't dead, right?
that’s right. The layer of liquid is hooch and it is one of the
by-products of the metabolism of the yeast. I actually put some in two
different containers. One had more liquid than the other. Does that mean
anything?[Linda] No, not really.
Now what. Does that mean that in all my messing around, I did manage
to activate it properly and now I need to just let it sit in the refrigerator
a few weeks to develop flavor? [Linda] Yes.
Do I periodically stir the
liquid in, pour it off or just leave it?[Linda] You can just leave
I've really been enjoying the bread I've been making with your culture.
I would like to get bigger bubbles in the bread. How can I achieve
To get larger bubbles, your dough needs to be wetter
which causes it to need more support, like a loaf pan—or you
can let your loaves be flatter, like ciabatta. Longer proofings also
encourage larger bubbles,
as well as very careful handling of dough after the first rise so as
not to flatten the bubbles developed during the rise.
I have a quick question.....how long does the first rise take when making bread
recipe in your booklet?? It has been 3 hrs and bread has not risen much. It
is 69 degrees in my house. This is my first loaf....boo hoo!!
I’m glad that you wrote. If your sponge was VERY ACTIVE and bubbly
and viscous when you began your dough, then the problem is probably just
that 69º is on the cool side. But, even if it wasn’t at its
peak of activity, you can follow the same instructions, it will just
take longer. I’m assuming this is the first rise and your dough
is in a bowl with a nice oiled top and covered. If you still haven’t
seen substantial rising by bedtime, then just cover the bowl well with
plastic wrap or something that will keep the top of the dough from drying
out. You could add some more oil to the top too. Then, just leave it
on the counter overnight. When you get up tomorrow, you should see some
rather fluffy dough and you can proceed.
If you see great activity tonight before bedtime, then cover it well,
as above, but put the bowl into the fridge so that it will rise more
slowly overnight. Either way, you can shape, wait for the second rise
(warmed a little if necessary to jump-start it) and bake tomorrow. If
you refrigerate the dough, be sure to take it out of the fridge early
so that it can return to room temp before you begin shaping.
It turned out great and I have made a loaf since....that first rise takes
about 5 hrs here. Both loaves turned out great..beautiful rises. I think
instructions really help. I baked them right on a breadstone w/ cornflour (no
other pan. Thank you so much. Karen
My other (2 ½ years old) starter started growing a mold of some
sort, so I threw it out.
Any way to avoid this problem in the future?
You were right to throw out the starter with mold! It’s pretty
unusual for this San Francisco Sourdough Starter to get moldy. Sometimes
if there are drips of it inside the jar above the level of the starter
it can be more prone to contamination. Because of that, I empty and wash
my jar about every couple or three months. It seems that if the inside
of the jar is clean of small drips that mold won’t attack the large
quantity of starter itself because of the lactobacillus.
Hi Linda, Sorry it took me so long to follow up with
you. I have finally been able to get the starter active enough to rise
bread on its own.
My problem was not giving the starter enough time to fully grow between
feedings. I have used your starter to make bread several times now (delicious)
and thought you would appreciate hearing back that all is well after
my difficult beginning. I know time frames are somewhat unpredictable
and can vary a lot, but including some rough guesstimates in your instructions
might be helpful to novice beginners like me. Thank you for all your
assistance. I have shared your website with several friends. Appreciatively,
Dear Linda, Suddenly I am having a problem. During the process when
I get past the kneading and in the bucket for the rise nothing happens.
No rise at all. How do I tell, if after twelve hours, the activation
is right or gone past or short? Thanks, Al
The way to tell when you're at the max of activity is, on a day when
you can watch it for six to 12 hours, take 1/4 cup of your stash and
give it a feeding of two cups each of flour and water. Then be sure to
look at it every hour--and every half hour when you see the bubbles beginning.
You will see it get very bubbly and thicker and more glutenous. It will
stay that way for a while and then the vigorous activity will gradually
begin to subside. If you watch it long enough, you'll see the volume
shrink slightly and eventually you'll see the hooch liquid begin to form
on the top of the mixture.
Here's a photo of active starter:
Help! Help! Must have sourdough!
I've just discarded my second batch of sourdough, and after reading
all your FAQ's decided I need some help. I think I've followed your
directions, but obviously have missed something. Both times, things
seem to be going fine, but the first rise never happens -- the dough
just lays there in the bowl. Here's what's happenened both times:
-- Right before bed, I took the stash out of the fridge, gave it a good stir
to mix in the hooch, then put a half-cup in a bowl with 2 cups of water (70
degrees) and 2 cups of AP flour.
-- We tend to keep our house pretty cool (about 55-65 degrees), so I've been
careful that my proofing box (a draft-free cabinet) is 75-80 degrees.
-- This morning, there were tiny bubbles throughout the sponge and some hooch
on the top, and I could see that the volume had gone down slightly. I tossed
half of the sponge, gave it another 1.5 cups each of water and flour, and let
it rest in the proofing box for an hour. It wasn't as bubbly and active as
in your picture, so I think this is where things are possibly going wrong!
-- Ever the optimist, I decided to go forward anyway. After 5 minutes of mixing
in the KitchenAid and using your classic recipe, then 3 minutes of hand kneading,
the dough seemed just perfect. I lightly oiled my big bowl, lightly oiled the
top of the dough, put a tea towel over the top and returned it to the proofing
box with lots of good thoughts.
-- 3 hours later, and it has not risen one bit. Sigh.
Doctor, doctor, what's wrong and can my patient be cured? Thanks, Diane
I’m glad that you wrote. And yes, your babies are alive and can
be cured. Probably because you used the 78-80º proofing box, your
critters got busy and ate up all the food that you gave them overnight
and had already started to lose population (I do hate to say they began
to die!). The warmer the ambient temperatures, the faster the critters
metabolize and reproduce. So, the lack of rise is entirely due to starting
with a sponge that didn’t have a high enough population of yeast
organisms to make your bread rise fast. Actually, if you had left the
dough to rise for several more hours instead of discarding it, it would
have eventually risen to double and when you shaped it, it would have
risen a second time. The key is the density of the population of yeast.
Here’s what you should do next time, in order to get the timing
of each rise down to about two hours. The night before, get out your
half cup of stash, and feed it with 3 or 4 cups each of flour and water
before putting it to bed in its proofing box. The next morning, you should
have a very active, very bubbly and glutenous sponge and all will
I am eager to get started. I noticed that the
warming drawer in our newer house has a roofing setting. I plan to
use it. I will
thermometer to see that it is the right temperature. I
can't wait to give it a try! Any tips on making it sour are appreciated.
that you're excited, Rita! That's just about a guarantee of success.
I think you'll find the San Fran starter sour. After activation, especially
if you plan to bake every week, you might want to keep two stash jars
in the fridge. It seems that when the stash is left alone in the fridge
for two or three weeks, the bread made with it is more sour. So, with
two, you can alternate use.
My ovens have proofing settings as well, but I don't usually use them
for my sourdough because the longer, cooler rises develop better flavor.
You can experiment and see what you like. I definitely use the proofing
setting when I'm in a hurry and the house is cool and I'm using commercial
I did the unforgiveable and left my Sourdough Starter in the fridge for a long
time without feeding it. Is there a way to save it or do I have to throw
it out and
get a new starter? I have tried to feed it by reducing it to 1/2 cup and then
adding 1 cup flour and 1 cup warm water. It will thicken up and have a few
bubbles but it does
not get very active. I would appreciate your reply. Thanks, John K. P.
I’m glad that you wrote, John. All is probably not lost. Because
you saw bubbles, it’s likely that your starter is still alive.
Since it has been in the fridge for a long time without a feeding, the
population of yeast and bacteria organisms is much lower, so you need
to give the babies a boost. Do this: Take about ¼ cup of starter
(or less) and put it in a bowl with two or three cups each of flour and
water. Stir it and leave it at room temperature. Within a few hours,
you should see it beginning to get some bubbles. This means that the
small population of critters is beginning to eat, metabolize. Soon they
will be strong enough to reproduce. When you see the starter get really
active, then you can put it back in the fridge or reduce it one more
time to kick up the population one more notch.
This should resuscitate your starter.. Please let me
know if it doesn’t.
Hi Linda, I started the starter right after I
got it Friday, and it was working fine! Really sticky and gooy. Then
it at about noon, I got almost no action, and watery liquid came to the
top. The consistency was about the same as when I fed it. I gave a double
feeding over night, there is no smell, and almost no bubbles. I have
fed it again a few minutes ago, but I haven't much hope.The water that
I have been adding was measured with a thermometer. I used filtered well
water, unbleached all purpose flour. The temperature in the box where
am keeping it is at 75 degrees. Don't know what happened.This happened with my
first try also! Maybe I'm not destined to grow sourdough.Any ideas? Jan
You are NOT doomed to a life without sourdough. Believe
it or not, your starter is just hungry. Hooch is the result of the
metabolism of the
yeast and lactobacillus organisms. It doesn't look "very active" because
there isn't a high enough population of organisms in your starter. Here's
what to do: Reduce your starter down to one-half cup and give it a triple
feeding of flour and water--three cups of each--and watch what happens.
You should see it get lots more active, become more glutenous and bubbly
and then, after a while, if you don't reduce it down and feed it, you'll
see it settle down and form hooch again.
Hello from Madagascar, Linda.
An update from here and a call for advice! I have tried for 3 weekends
in a row to make a loaf and so far, not much action. Here's what I
have done: The starter is working perfectly. I
prepared for Saturday baking with the guideline for Friday night. Next
day, by 7am, the action had finished and not much life left in
the sponge. I noticed a lot of action on Friday night. This weekend,
I did the baking prep on Sat morning and watched the starter cranking
away and very active. I let it go ahead for several
hours, then completed the procedure for baking. Despite a very active
sponge, the first rising was ok, but not great. The second one has
really not done well at all.
I am using white flour, and when kneading, I added a little whole wheat
Do you have any suggestions? We are at 4000ft and I have sent an inquiry
to the high altitude baking website too.
Based on your well-detailed description of what you have
done (a huge help to me!) it appears that you are allowing your sponge
to go all the
way through its most active state and you don’t begin the dough
until the activity has slowed down or stopped. I don’t think that
the altitude has anything to do with the poor rises.
This is a very active, hungry starter, and when it runs
out of food, the organisms begin to die—and you don’t want
that. What I recommend is that you begin the dough when the recently-fed
(sponge) is at its most active so that you will have a dense enough population
of yeast and lactobacillus organisms to give your bread two good rises
and a nice spring in the oven. In other words, do whatever it takes to
get your starter to its most active state at the time you want to begin
the dough. If you need to, feed it double or triple the night before
so that the next morning it will be wildly active and ready to eat more
flour and water and metabolize when you begin the dough.
Please let me know if you have other questions. You can have great sourdough
The second rise was underwhelming, and my bread
was quite dense after it cooled off, but I really liked the taste.
Your dough isn't rising well because there isn't enough
food to allow enough yeast organisms to develop in your sponge. The San
Francisco sourdough starter is incredibly vigorous and when it is warmed
to room temperature, it goes crazy eating and making more babies. When
that happens, the new babies get busy and eat even more and make more
babies. Lots of food is required to feed all these 'generations' of yeast
organisms. It's important to keep the live yeast population dense enough
so that, when you proceed with making the dough, you'll have enough of
the critters to spread throughout the dough, feed on the flour in the
dough, and make your bread rise nicely. In order to get a high population
of yeast for your dough, you need to start with VERY VERY active sponge.
You should get two good rises from your
dough plus a nice oven spring, which is actually the third rise. Here’s what to do. The next time
you want to bake, take out ½ cup of stash and feed it with three
or four cups each of flour and water the night before. You’ll have
more than you need, but that should be enough to keep your critters very
well-fed until the next morning. What you should see in the morning is
a sponge that is full of large and small bubbles and that has a very
thick, glutenous texture. If you use that sponge to make your dough,
you will get two nice rises.
I am a new sourdough bread baker with a dilemma. About a month ago,
I activated my sourdough starter and baked my first batch of sourdough
loaves. The first batch came out wonderful, and I was excited to try
another batch. Unfortunately, I didn't get to try it again until this
last weekend. I took out another ½ cup of starter, fed it as the
recipe states, and left it overnight in the oven at room temp. The sponge
seemed very active, bubbling, and in the morning, had the 'hooch'. I
tried to make a batch of dough, but after the 10 min kneading in the
Kitchenaid and a half day of rising in the oven at room temp (!) no rising
actually occured. I read on your website's FAQ, that I might try feeding
another batch of starter with 4 cups of flour and water to jump-start
the hungry starter, letting it sit overnight. When I tried it, the sponge
seemed alive, bubbling again. Then I started to make the dough the second
time, but no rising occurred again.
Do you have any suggestions for me? Could I be kneading the dough too
rough in the kitchenaid? Am I forgetting to do something? I hope to make
the next batch work--I'm starting to get a little flustered!
Thanks for your advice,
Because the sponge bubbled when you fed it, then it
appears that the yeast is still alive and well. I’ll be glad to send you
a new starter if you want me to, but right now I don’t think that
will help. The only thing I can think of that could have stopped your
dough from rising is overkneading—and I know that can happen because
I have done it. In fact, just recently I changed my instructions to read ‘knead
no more than 5 minutes in the Kitchenaid.’
In addition, even if the kneading time isn’t excessive,
it appears that the gluten will also break down (which is what causes
not to rise if it's overkneaded) if the dough gets too warm while it
is being kneaded. So, the first thing I would try is to just knead 5
minutes, after making very sure that you are starting with a vigorously
active starter. And the second thing I would do is to keep the dough
a little cooler and perhaps add a handful of crushed ice to the dough
at the beginning of the actual kneading time.
Something else that strengthens the gluten is adding
ascorbic acid--either in the form of Fruit Fresh powder or crushed
Vitamin C tablets. If
you're using freshly milled flour, you must have the ascorbic acid so
that the gluten won't collapse.
I hope this helps! Let me hear.
Still having trouble with my starter. I tried to make bread again and
the dough barely rose. Earlier in the week I took the starter out after
work several times and gave it a good feeding by keeping one half cup
of starter and mixing in a cup of flour and water. It doesnt bubble up
like before and it seems like it makes alot of hooch very quickly. Last
night I took a half cup and added 2.5 cups of flour and water for the
sponge. This morning it had almost a half inch of hooch on top. What
is going on with my starter?
I’m glad that you wrote. Believe it or not, your starter is just
hungry. Hooch is the result of the metabolism of the yeast and lactobacillus
organisms. Your dough won’t rise because there are’t enough
yeast organisms in your sponge. Here’s what to do. Early on a morning
that you’ll be home for several hours, take ½ cup of your
starter and feed it with 2.5 cups of water and flour. Note what tiime
it is and then watch it. You should see it get more active, become more
glutinous and bubbly and then, if you don’t feed it, you’ll
see it settle down and form hooch.
It appears that your room temperature is warm enough and your starter
vigorous enough to completely use up all the food from a big feeding
in record time.
Here’s what to do. The next time you want to bake, take out ½ cup
of stash and feed it with four cups each of flour and water. That might
be enough to keep your critters fed until early the next morning.
Let me hear...I care!
I am in the process of activating my starter, and I have a couple of
questions. I have a 2 quart glass wire bail jar. Can I keep that much
starter in the refrigerator? The recipes for pancakes on your website
call for 1 cup of starter, well, when you have your son, daughter-in-law,
three hungry grandkids, your wife and yourself to feed, that 1 cup ain't
gonna cut it. I assume I just double or triple the recipe. You now see
the reason for question #1.
I have fed the starter for the first time. Do I dump out all but 1/2
cup the next time I feed or do I wait until after the 72 hours? Instead
of throwing it out, can I take another 1/2 cup and use it for another
batch? (For my daughter-in-law)(Not trying to take business from you,
but I know that she would never start it herself.)
Thanx in advance for your help. BTW, I won't forget to leave the EBAY
I’m glad that you wrote. You can keep as much starter as you want
in the fridge. But, go ahead and finish the activation because it’s
actually much easier to make huge amounts of starter with fully activated
Yes, you must reduce the volume before each feeding during the 72 hours
of activation. Throw it out! When activation is finished, then give your
daughter-in-law a cup of fully activated starter and she can use it right
Yes, just double any recipe you want. To get more starter
for pancakes in the morning, take out about half a cup of your stash
the night before
and add as much flour and water as you want, usually in equal proportions,
so that you’ll end up with enough batter for pancakes the next
morning. In other words, mix a half cup of your refrigerated stash with
three or four or even five or six cups of flour and water and you’ll
have fully active huge amounts of batter, ready to have your other ingredients
(eggs, salt, baking powder or soda, etc.) added for pancakes.
Please write again if you have other questions!
Good Afternoon Linda,
I’ve been reading your website FAQ. I’m interested in purchasing
your sour dough starter, but I can’t eat white flour. Do you sell
starter made with wheat flour?
When you order the San Francisco sourdough starter from me, you can
'activate' it (bring it out of hibernation) with the 100% whole wheat
flour of your choice.
I ship the starter dry, and you'll receive less than a tablespoon, so
that by the time you finish the activation process, there is virtually
no white flour left. You can read about the activation process in my
online Instruction Booklet at
The really important part of the starter is the two microscopic organisms
it contains—the reason for the small amount of dry starter you
receive. Even a teaspoon of dry starter contains thousands—maybe
millions, who knows??—of very much alive—but sleeping—wild
yeast and lactobacillus organisms. When you add water and wheat flour,
the tiny organisms wake up, begin eating and reproducing themselves,
and voila', you have very active starter to make your bread with.
If this doesn’t make sense, please let me know, and I’ll
give you more detail.
Hello Linda: I NEED HELP, please. I haven't used my
starter for a couple of months. It has been in the fridge, and got
that grey hootch on the
top, which I stirred back into my starter. Yesterday I took some of
my stash, fed my remaining stash, let it set out at room temp for an
hour & a
half, put the water and flour in the stash I took out. Last evening
I added 2 and a half cups of four and water covered it with a damp towel
and set in my microwave (no drafts) until this morning. It had kind
separated with some of the light looking hootch on top, and I stirred
it back in and added 2 cups of flour and water to start making my bread.
There were a few bubbles of activity when I took it out this am, but
I was worried that there were not enough. My bread is together now
in the oiled bowl, but is not showing any sign of raising. Do you think
my starter stash has died? Or what am I doing wrong. Thank you for
If you haven’t fed your starter in a couple of months, so many
organisms have died that you just don’t have a dense enough
population to make your dough rise.
Here’s what I recommend: Take
about a half cup of starter, put it in a bowl with 2 cups each of flour
and water. Cover it and let it ferment until you see some activity.
Then repeat the process—two or three times, each time, reducing
the volume to a half cup. This process will help your starter build up
its population of yeast and lactobacillus organisms. Each time you do
it, you should see it get active sooner and you should see more vigorous
activity as well.
Never try to make sourdough bread without a VERY active
sponge. If you’ll
feed your stash at least once a month, then you’ll always be able
to start with an active sponge.
Just finished the activation steps with your starter and ready to bake.
The recipe in the instructions calls for taking ½ cup starter,
adding 2.5 cups water and 2.5 cups flour – let sit overnight – this
is the sponge.
Then the next day, take 2.5 cups active starter (the
sponge) and ……..
My question is – do you mean the entire sponge
(which is more than 2.5 cups, or do you mean measure out 2.5 cups of
the sponge, and
do something else with the rest?
I’m glad that you wrote. I guess I’m a little extravagant
with flour and water. You can use ¼ cup of your starter and add
only 2 cups each of flour and water, and you’ll still have a little
more than 2.5 cups to bake with in the morning. Put what’s left
in your jar and put it in the fridge, since it’s been recently
I hope this helps! Have fun with your breadmaking!
I bought your sourdough starter in early 2006. I really enjoyed the bread.
I was deployed to Afghanistan last year and I recently returned to Virginia
Beach. I've tried (unsuccessfully) twice in the past month to bake loafs but
they haven't risen. The stash still has the sour smell when I leave it at room
temperature and it still has a lot of bubbles when I make the sponge, but when
I add flour to make the dough, it doesn't rise. I was away from home for about
11 months. I don't know if the culture died, or not. What do you think????
First, thanks for serving me and our country.
glad that you’re back safely.
Amazingly, it sounds like your starter is
still alive. So many organisms have died, however, the
you probably just
don’t have a dense enough population to make your dough
rise. Here’s what I recommend: Take about a half cup
of starter, put it in a bowl with 2 cups each of flour and
water. Cover it and let it ferment until you see lots of
good activity. Then repeat the process—two or three
times, each time, reducing the volume to a half cup. This
process will help your starter build up its population of
yeast. Each time you do it, you should see it get active
sooner and you should see more vigorous activity as well.
I hope this will help!
I have a question for you. I got my starter flakes in the mail Friday.
I have spent the whole weekend feeding them every 8 hours. I know the yeast
is alive because about an hour after I feed it there are lots of bubbles and
a froth on the top. It is even starting to have that old familiar smell to
it. Anyway, I used a cup of my starter to try to make some bread dough. I remember
when I had my old starter the dough would more than double in size overnight.
I would punch it down, form it into loaves, and 8 hours later the dough was
spilling over the edges of the loaf pans. Well, the dough I made last night
was only about 30% larger this morning. I punched it down and kneeded it again
and made loafs and just called my wife and she said the dough has not yet reached
the edges of the loaf pan.
Why do I have lazy yeast and how can I make them more energetic?
I'm glad you wrote. I think your lazy yeast is actually hungry
and part of the yeast population is dying in the 8 hours between each feeding.
On the second and third days of activation, you probably should be feeding
every 4 hours. Here's what to do: Take a cup of starter and feed it a cup
each of flour and water. As soon as you see it get active...probably in
an hour or two, reduce the volume and repeat or...don't reduce the volume,
if you want enough to make bread, and give a feeding of 2 1/2 cups each
of flour and water.
Starter that is this active should make dough that will give
two good rises and good oven spring as well. It may be quite different
from the starter you had before in terms of its appetite. When I make bread
with this starter, the first rise takes about 2 hours and the second rise
about the same. If you start with really active starter, I'd count on the
2 hour rises.
Yes, that fixed it. Thanks!
Hello again Linda
Yes I have previously ordered a couple of months ago I believe. Let
me tell you that a lot has happened since I received my starter from
you. Never before have I given such care and attention to a living thing
since my children were born. My starter is an absolute marvel to behold
and I usually have two or three different batches going at any given
the beginning, I simply used to toss any extra starter down the drain
feedings but now it has become so precious I can hardly stand
to waste it. As a result I believe I may have eaten about 1000 sourdough
pancakes as a result. I never even knew sourdough pancakes existed until
I started researching recipes. Now it’s very rare for any starter
to hit the drain. I have also made several loaves of the most awesome
bread in my bread machine (Thanks so very much to Joe Wagner for his
guess now would be a good time for a couple of questions. First, I’m
a little curious as to what the proper texture of the starter should
be. I consistently use the 1:1 ratio of flour to water and it seems a
little thin… about like pancake batter. Also, does it matter what
type of flour I use?? I started with Gold Medal all purpose but recently
switched to White Lily unbleached bread flour and my starter seems to
prefer the White Lily with better feeding action and a better aroma for
I use a large glass Pyrex bowl for my feedings and my question pertains
to the plastic wrap. Do you seal the top of the bowl air tight
or do you just drape it over?? I have been sealing mine air tight however
sometimes I’ll lift an edge of the wrap to let it “burp” a
Now for an observation/tip that may prove useful to us sourdough “newbies”.
I discovered that it is far easier to wash the starter off bowls and
utensils with cold water first and then follow with hot soapy water.
This makes a huge difference in the cleanup process and your drain will
thank you for it too!!
It’s obvious that sourdough cookery is more than a hobby
Linda… it’s an absolutely wonderful addiction!!
again Linda for your wonderful product and excellent website. I’ll be trying my hand at making loaves by hand soon and I’ll
let you know how it goes. O.K. I better get going as I just heard my
favorite sound… the bread machine is beeping!! Another loaf is
great info. I love it!!
makes sense about using bread flour as opposed to all purpose etc.
reason I asked is because my starter took on a whole new personality
when I switched from all purpose to bread flour…. It became A LOT
thicker and more glutenous (is that even a real word?). But of course
it makes sense as the bread flour has a higher protein content. Anyway,
long story short… my starter is very happy with the bread flour
and also my loaves are coming out better for sure!! I just got done snacking
on the “end” of a newly hatched loaf (bread machine). It
just doesn’t get any better than an “end” covered with
real butter while still warm. And the genuine San Francisco sourdough
taste… Linda there is no way to explain eating genuine SF sourdough
in my Kentucky kitchen… that I made myself!!
like the tea towel idea also. Plastic wrap just doesn’t look
right anyway. Also, I appreciate the tip about a little extra flour for
the free form loaves. Can you knead this dough too much?? I get a little
concerned about overworking the dough but like everything else… practice
makes perfect huh??
yes… please feel free to use any and/or all of my e-mails
on your website. What better way to learn than by the experiences of
others huh?? Actually, I can attribute some (most) of my success with
the bread machine to Joe Wagner’s e-mails.
I believe it’s time to go get another slice of that fresh
loaf so I’ll close for now.
Thanks again Linda
you so much for your great feedback. I just love people who are as
nuts about sourdough as I am…and it definitely sounds like you’re
May I have your permission to post some or all of your text on the FAQ
and Reviews pages of my web site? So much of what you say is not only
informative but also encouraging to newbies.
for your questions. After you have baked enough with sourdough starter
to understand what you’re doing and how it behaves, you can keep
your starter at any consistency that you want—from about like pancake
batter to very thick, but not quite dough, and it won’t matter
to your yeast and lactobacillus babies. The only difference will be that
you will adjust your amounts of ingredients as you make your sponge and
then your dough.
for flours, that’s a different story. You will get distinctly
different results with dough made from all different types of flours,
but all will be acceptable in my opinion. I buy bread flour by the 50
lb. ($9!!!) bag at Costco or Sam’s, so I tend to use it for just
about all steps. For free form loaves, bread flour, which is higher in
protein, will give you a better, more predictable shape than the all-purpose,
which has a lower protein content and doesn’t form gluten that
is as strong as that formed by the use of bread flour. That said, use
what you like!
too use a large glass bowl for my feedings and I used to use plastic
to cover it. I have now gone back to my grandma’s practice,
before plastic wrap existed, and I use a cotton tea towel to keep out
bugs and dirt. That’s why I started selling the tea towels on my
web site. The cotton towel is sooo much easier to handle than that *#$@$!!
plastic wrap and it looks much better too. When my sponge is in my mixer
bowl, the towel is large enough to cover the top of the KA mixer and
the bowl too! Plus, it’s reusable! With all that, the answer is,
leave it loose so it can breathe! ?
more comments—one you asked for and one you didn’t.
You’re absolutely right about the clean-up of sourdough stuff—I
always let everything soak in cold water and then it comes off easily.
But it is sticky stuff—much more so than ‘normal’ flour
and water. You’re also right that I should warn people about it!
you make your ‘free form’ loaves, be sure to add a
little extra flour for a slightly dryer dough—not sticky—and
knead very well. If you don’t, your free-form loaves are likely
to ‘rise sideways’—in other words, flatten out, instead
of rising up and making a nicely rounded loaf.
Let me hear! And thanks again for the great communication!
A suggestion for your proofing box..........I use my infinite adjustment
halogen task lamp
that I borrow from my office desk. The infinite adjustments allow me
to easily adjust the temperature inside my cooler to my desired temperature.
Linda. I've begun the sourdough starter process. I'm not much of
a baker so I'm having a bit of trouble with the instructions.
3 "Feeding Your Starter" is where I get confused. The terminology
about critters and metabolism mystify me. So, I'm not sure what I'm
looking for. Is there access to directions written a bit more like
I'd find in
a cookbook? Something like: after 4 hours add 1 cup of flour and 1
cup of water.
with sourdough baking, you can’t write instructions
like a ‘normal’ recipe, because everything depends on everything
else. What you’re doing is bringing two different one-celled organisms
out of hibernation with the moisture and feeding them with the flour
and water so that they can eat and reproduce. Once they start that process,
I think you’ll have a better idea of what you’re dealing
with and perhaps see why I wrote the instructions the way I did. The
one-celled organisms are the ‘critters’ and metabolism is
those critters eating and exhaling (which makes bread rise) and reproducing
and making more critters so that you’ll eventually have enough
yeast and lactobacillus organisms to make your bread rise and make
it taste good.
Since I'm not understanding "critters" and the activity I'm
supposed to observe, I guess I'm asking for something more traditional.
Also on page 3 it indicates that: "at about the peak of activity,
stir the mixture well and then pour out all but about a cup of the starter
and feed it." I'm sorry to be so dense, but am I throwing away
all but a cup?
that’s exactly what it means.
Throw out all but one cup of the starter.
I appreciate your help. Again, my apologies for all my questions. The
only time I make bread and rolls from scratch is when I use my bread
machine. So, I'm a real novice when it comes to the real deal. Thanks
don’t need to apologize. Tech support—unlimited—is
free...and I’m glad that you wrote. I want everyone who has my
starter to be successful at baking wonderful sourdough bread in their
own kitchen—and you can do it! I promise. Just write any time you
have a question.
I have been feeding my new pets and am ready to bake my
first loaf today but I have a question that I have wondered
a while. I have been making bread for about 5 years by grinding
my wheat fresh and have been quite successful. It really is
delicious and very healthy. My question is about the use
of a pizza
stone. Do you shape the loaf and let it rise on the stone and then
put the whole thing in the oven or let the dough rise on
a pan and
then transfer the loaf and how do you go about doing that without
deflating the risen dough. I have a pizza stone but have never
used it much. I can't wait to bake my first loaf. I will let
you know how my fresh ground wheat does with the sourdough
Thanks for the help. Connie
glad that you wrote and that you are enjoying your new pets. The easiest
way to use the stone is to put it in the oven when you begin to preheat.
Then put the pan that your shaped and risen dough is on directly on top of the stone when you put it into the oven.
you've had a little practice in shaping and rising and know how your
dough behaves and exactly the right time to bake it, then you can shape
your loaves on a baker's peel that is dusted with cornmeal and,
when rising is finished, use the peel to slide the loaves directly on to the hot stone.
For obvious reasons, I don't recommend this at first.
stone does a lot to stabilize the temperatures inside your oven as
well as making the bottom of your bread very crusty, even if
it's on a pan and not directly on the stone. Congratulations
on grinding your own wheat! I'd love to know how you like using
the sourdough starter with it.
I would like your opinion of the
use of citric acid with your sourdough. I am looking for the san francisco
Will your starter produce this with the addition of nothing else
or may I have your suggestions.
use ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) in my breadmaking--sourdough or not--because
it prevents a problem from occuring in freshly milled
weakens the gluten bond--and gluten is what gives your dough
the strength to
hold a rise. You never really know if your flour is aged
or freshly milled, so I just add the Vitamin C whenever I bake bread.
sourdough it's just more important because the acidity of the sourdough
tends to weaken the gluten somewhat anyway. Citric acid is not necessary
to get the characteristic San Francisco sour taste--the lactobacillus
in the starter takes good care of that.
you live in Texas and we all know that there are wild yeasts in
the air everywhere, won't your starter change from a San Francisco
Sourdough Starter into a Texas (or Oklahoma, or Maine or Virginia
or Oregon) starter as I use it where I live?
question. If the starter I sell had been 'homemade' here in Texas
and I sent it somewhere else, it might eventually take on different
characteristics because most sourdough starter recipes you see
tell you to just mix up flour and water and let the wild yeasts
in your local air do their work.
symbiotic combination of wild yeast and lactobacillus that make
up the genuine "San Francisco Sourdough" starter culture
is unique and readily excludes other wild yeasts and other friendly
bacteria (lactobacilli). There are jillions of 'starters' out there
that will leaven bread and even give it a sour taste. But the particular
wild yeast, classified as Candida milleri, and the lactobacillus
classified as L. sanfrancisco, both of which are contained in the
starter I sell, are very special when they are together and they
blatantly snub friendly overtures from other wild yeasts and lactobacilli.
There is a nutrient found in wheat flour called maltose. Candida milleri
yeast is unable to use maltose. Funniest thing--the lactobacillus L.
sanfrancisco loves to eat maltose and actually finds it essential for
survival--it can't live without it. So the wild yeast and its partner
lactobacillus don't compete for nutrients when they're hanging out in
a delicious nutritious flour and water mixture--they actually help each
other thrive. (Regular commercially available baker's yeast loves maltose
and would eat it all up so the bacteria would die!) In addition, this
particular lactobacillus produces an antibiotic that actually protects
the culture from contamination.
Both this yeast and lactobacillus also grow best in an acid environment--like
a sourdough culture. But an acid environment actually inhibits the growth
of most other yeasts, especially commercially available yeast. Most other
lactobacilli really hate an acid environment too. So, now you know why
a San Francisco Sourdough Starter can survive in Texas and stay pure.
It is very difficult to contaminate it with the randomly available wild
yeasts that are all over everybody's air. It keeps itself pure.
I didn't make this starter. I got it from someone who got it from a baker
in San Francisco.
am not sure what I am doing wrong, but my loaves tend to be
very flat and
dense. I let the dough rise for two or three hours, form the
loaf and let it rise again for another couple of hours. I suspect
adding enough flour to the sponge when I make the dough. The
first loaf I made did not have much of a sour taste at all, but the
and third were progressively more sour. Is this normal?
Does it have
some-thing to do with the "hooch" that forms on the top of
the stash? Thanks for your help. Michael
for flat loaves--they are common for 'freeform' bread--and especially
sourdough. And you're right, adding more flour will give you
more structure and, therefore, height. Another thing to do is
to knead more. Kneading strengthens the gluten and the stronger
the gluten, the more your bread will rise up.You can also buy all sorts
of forms--baskets, metal baguette forms, all the way to a canvas baker's
couche, but if you'll add flour and knead more and shape your free-form
loaves by moving them in circles on the countertop to tighten the 'skin'
(a la Alton Brown) you'll make beautiful round loaves that make you
proud--without any form at all. It just takes some practice.
for dense loaves...sourdough tends to be dense and heavy all by itself.
But if you want it lighter and less dense than it is, then
use starter that is more 'active'--that is, starter that has been fed
really heavy feedings for 24 hours or more--and then use it at its
most active and don't add any other liquid. Be sure that, no matter
how long it takes, that you see your dough and your loaves almost double
in bulk--at least increase by 1 1/2 times.
bread got more sour as the starter 'matured' and that is normal.
The 'hooch' is just the liquid byproduct of metabolism of the organisms
and when it accumulates, you know that soon you need to get your little
critters out and feed them. But it doesn't have anything to do with
the sourness of your finished loaf of bread.
the faith, Michael. This sourdough baking is fun and challenging
because there are so many variables. When I was first learning, I
in the habit of jotting down ingredient proportions, just in case something
turned out really well. I still do it when I try something new.
more thing....what temperature is your oven when you put the bread
in? Do you have a thermometer? If it's hot enough, you should be getting
some good oven spring.
is too flat: Flatness
instead of height is always a problem with sourdough. Try adding
more flour to the dough, to make it stiffer, for free form loaves.
Also try making smaller loaves. I have started making 9-ounce
loaves which turn out perfect for dinner for four! I make them
free-form and just slightly oval. They are really cute and the
slices are a good size for serving, cut off the long side. I
also have some bread forms (not loaf pans) that I use for pretty
baguettes and fatter Italian-shaped loaves. One is an unglazed
clay with a lid in a long but fat loaf shape that I really love.
They are pricey....retail for about $50, but it's like baking
bread in a brick oven. The others are about $20 each and are
made of metal with tiny holes all over it and made by Chicago
Metallic. You can find both on the King Arthur Flour site. I
bought my Chicago Metallic ones at a local kitchen store (and
one at a garage sale!!). You can also get basket-like things
that you coat with flour for the last rise and then you turn
the risen loaf out on a sheet pan or on a peel to transfer to
a baking stone. Commercial sourdough bakers use forms of one
type or another--some use floured fabric that is suspended on
wooden forms. The point is, you are not alone and you don't have
to feel like you're not a good baker if you don't get mile-high
loaves like you can get with commercial yeast.
Bread is fragile after rise and will fall easily: I
think you're probably letting it rise too much...either too long
or at too warm a temp. for
the timing. You should be able to slash it without deflating it,
but do try a single-edged razor blade instead of a knife. And dip
water before each slash.
Bread isn't browning: Mix one egg with 1 T water
and 'paint' on loaf just before baking. Or leave it in the oven longer.
Check the temp
of your oven. Keep the oven at 400 degrees the whole time instead
of turning it down.
Bread doesn't rise properly: Use a higher proportion
of active starter so that you'll have more yeast organisms. Be sure
that starter is at its peak of
activity when you use it.