Frequently Asked Questions

Starter Questions

The liquid that forms on top of the starter is called hooch, this is an indication that your starter needs to be fed.
Pour off the hooch and feed your starter as you normally would.
When hooch forms on top of your starter, it may have a strong smell, this is normal.
Keep feeding it until it mellows out. 

Transferring the starter to different jars/containers (whether you want to wash it or need more space) it will not affect your starter.

 

This is a normal. Your fridge may have been too cold which caused the starter to go ‘doormant’. Give it a few extra feedings (usually 3-4 feedings, 8 hours apart) to “wake it up”. You may also keep it in a little warmer environment to speed up the process.
To prevent this from happening in the future, store your starter in the door of your refrigerator which is not as cold.

A healthy starter can survive in the fridge for a few months. Although I suggest maintaining a weekly feeding routine even when not baking, it is ok to store your starter for a lengthy period of time as long as you have a strong and healthy starter. For more on this topic please refer to lesson 4 in Module 2.

NO! This is very normal. Keep feeding it twice a day for at least another week.
For more on this topic please refer to lesson 5 in Module 1.

If your starter is in a warm environment, use colder water when feeding. This will slow down the process. The opposite works for colder environments – use warmer water in order to speed it up.

Yes. You can either use colder water to feed the starter ahead of schedule and/or leave the starter in a cool place once fed; this will slow down the process. Or you can use warmer water and/or leave the starter in a warmer environment once fed in order to speed up the process by a couple of hours.

It really depends on the environment; generally it takes between 5-7 days of feeding your starter twice daily before it’s active and ready to use for baking. This may take longer in cooler environments or shorter in warmer environments.

I strongly suggest maintaining a consistent feeding schedule even when you are not baking with it. This will keep your starter healthy and strong, ready for future use.
The frequency of these feedings will depend on how and where you store it. If you are going to leave it out on the counter you should feed in once daily. Alternatively you can pass with a weekly feeding by storing it in the fridge.
For more on this topic please refer to lesson 3 in Module 2.

Yes you can! Once you have an established starter you can feed it a different flour 4-5 times before using it again.

You don't have to use the same flour as the starter when baking sourdough products.  

Although it usually takes 7-14 days for a starter to become active, I have seen some starters take a little longer especially with season change. Don't give up, keep feeding your starter daily until you see it's bubbly and active.

Sometimes when you feed it a small amount you may not notice when it grows since it's not a significant change. Try to feed it 100g each flour and water and watch it hourly. 

A starter is meant to last a lifetime (and beyond) Every time you prepare your starter for baking make sure to feed a little extra so you have leftover for the next time you want to use it.

Typically it takes about 6-8 hours for a starter to reach it’s peak, although some starters can be ready as soon as 3 hours while others can take 10-12 hours. In the beginning you may want to keep an eye on it until you get the hang of your starter.

 

Baking Questions

Yes you can! Though, you will need to adjust the hydration and the length of fermentation.
Whole grain flours tend to result in denser breads which are more difficult to keep in shape.
If you are not up for the challenge, I recommend baking it in a loaf pan.

This depends on several circumstances, such as the ambiance, the flour you are using and the strength of your starter.
Generally, if you have a strong starter and keep it in a warm environment, your dough should rise fast and you should be able to shape it within 3 hours.

There are multiple reasons why this may happen, the most common ones are:

Your starter is still very young

Solution- Keep feeding your starter daily to build strength

Your starter wasn’t active enough when putting up the dough.
Solution - When you feed your starter, make sure to wait until it is active and bubbly before continuing to put up your dough.

The dough did not ferment for long enough / baked too soon.
Solution – Let your dough rise longer, you can identify this by doing the ‘poke test’. See Module 3, lesson 6.

Your hydration percentage is too low.
Solution – Use a higher hydration value (add more water to the dough). I suggest keeping your hydration between 70-73%.

This is usually a sign of over fermentation. You may have let it rise too long and should have baked your bread sooner.

Tip! If you want to do a fermentation longer than 3-4 hours I recommend placing it in the fridge for a cold fermentation, for anywhere from 8 to 72 hours.  
Though, if you leave it in the fridge for more than 18 hours, chances are deflation will occur. To prevent this - aim for a shallower cut when scoring.

Achieving a nice ear on the bread is every baker’s aspiration. There are many factors involved in getting that perfect ear (the flour used, shaping method and length of fermentation are all at play here).
The main factor though, is the way you score your bread. Hold your blade at a 20 degree angle and make just one smooth cut across the loaf.

There are multiple reasons why this may happen, the most common ones are:

You didn't bake ferment your dough long enough.

Solution- Leave your dough at room temp an additional 1-2 hours to fully rise (this may take trial and error for a new baker until you get the hang of what the dough is supposed to feel like). 

You didn't bake the bread long enough.
Solution- Bake your bread on 500° F for the first 20 minutes, then lower the oven to 450° F and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes.
Additionally, this may occur if you cut the bread too soon after baking. I recommend you let it rest for at least 1-2 hours. I know, it’s hard!

After the first 20 minutes of baking, when you remove the lid and lower the oven temperature, you can remove the bread from the pot and place it directly on the oven rack.

In addition, some ovens have their heating element on the bottom. If so, place your bread as high as you can.

 This is usually a sign of under fermentation. 

You can refer to the identification section in the resources library to help you gauge when your dough is ready for shaping. 

Additionally, this may occur if you don’t score your bread deep enough and gases in the bread don’t have sufficient space to escape or if you baked your bread at a high temp with insufficient steam the first 15-20 min of the bake.

 

 

This is likely due to improper shaping. When you shape your bread you want to get a nice tight boule (ball). 

Generally when baking you should be able to interchange one from the other. Some things to keep in mind. If a recipe calls for bread flour and you’re using AP flour cut back a little of the water, and knead it an extra few minutes to strengthen the gluten.

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