Sourdough Starter/Bread (Gluten-Free) Troubleshooting FAQ

by Jeanne on March 22, 2012

I’m getting a lot of the same questions about the Sourdough Starter, and the Sourdough Bread made from the starter,so I thought I’d  provide a troubleshooting guide to help folks with the difficulties they may be having.  I update these FAQs as I learn or think of more information.

This post was substantially updated (along with the Sourdough Starter post) on 8/8/14.

STARTER FAQ

The main thing to remember is that sourdough is a living thing—it is a combination of wild yeast and bacteria.  Since yeast and bacteria are living and not chemical (like baking powder), they react in ways that we can often guess at but that we cannot be absolutely sure of.

KEEP IN MIND:  that creating a sourdough starter is a process.  It takes time.

FIRST AND FOREMOST: If you did NOT do everything exactly as described in the starter recipe, go back and re-do it according to the recipe.  Seriously.  This means using organic cabbage, filtered water, and feeding and watering the starter on a schedule, with regular stirring.

Q: My starter doesn’t seem to be “starting”—no bubbles are happening.  I followed all the directions exactly.  What’s wrong?

A: There could be many things happening, not all of which are bad.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1)   Is it less than 5 days into the process?  If so, continue to feed the starter every twelve hours and give the yeast a bit more time to develop.

2)   Did you use non-organic cabbage?  If so, and it is beyond the 5 days in #1, then I would recommend throwing out the whole thing and starting again with organic cabbage.  Depending on how many chemicals have been used on the non-organic cabbage, you may have gotten a head that has no yeasts and bacteria.

3)   Did you use organic cabbage but scrubbed it clean?  If so, you might have scrubbed off the white yeast that is the thing that starts the process.  Start again and this time, use leaves that are rinsed but not scrubbed.

4)   Did you use regular tap water?  If so, start again and use filtered water.  Depending on what’s in your tap water (e.g., chlorine, chloramine), the yeasts and bacteria may have been killed off. Depending on how your area chlorinates its water, you can also try setting out a cup of water uncovered on the counter for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate out of the water. If your system uses something other than chlorine in its water, this sitting out process might not work (thank you to Tim McCormack for info on this).  Then you can use this water for your starter.  But you will have to repeat the evaporation process for all the water you add to your starter.

If this doesn’t work, I recommend buying filtered water to use with your starter.

5)   Is your kitchen really cold?  If so, the yeast may be having a hard time getting started.  Remember—they go dormant in the cold.  You will need to wait a bit longer.  Yeast grow best at 70-75 degrees F/21 to 24 degrees C.

6)   Are you sure it’s not bubbling?  I realize that some people think it will actively bubble—which it might not do.  Mine doesn’t actively bubble like a pot of boiling water.  It’s more that there are bubbles in the starter.  It looks like bubbles of air inside of the starter if you look through the side of the container (see photo at top).  And if you look at it from the top, it will start to look “hilly” under the water versus like “sand” under the water.  That said, some of my readers have said that their starter is actively bubbling.  So, check carefully before you assume your starter isn’t working.

Q: When do I take the cabbage leaves out?

A: As soon as you start to see bubbling action.  For me, this is after about 48 hours.  See the directions in the Sourdough Starter post.

Q: My starter is really sour.  Is that OK?

A: Well, a really sour taste mean that the yeast is weak and the starter is getting too acidic.  This usually means 1 or both of 2 things:  1) your starter is too big.  It’s too big if it’s bigger than about 2 cups/475 mls unless you’re going to bake with it right away; 2) and/or you haven’t been feeding it enough food and water/often enough.  Go back and follow the directions in the Sourdough Starter post.

Q: My starter liquid has turned pink and has stayed pink.  Is it OK?

A:  Probably.  The smell is really what will tell you if your starter has gone bad.  Even though the color pink is usually associated with a bad starter, I have found that the smell is your best indicator.  If it smells yucky (you will know if it’s yucky–see the next question–trust your instincts), assume that it’s bad and throw it away.  FYI: my starters always have a tiny tinge of pink in the first fews days or so from the cabbage, but that goes away eventually.  Also, if you’ve been faithfully following the directions and pouring out, feeding, watering and stirring on schedule, and have a kitchen that is not too hot, then it should work.  Allow yourself to relax and follow the process and the pink should go away.  If it doesn’t go away in about 4 days, I would throw it out and start again.

Q: How will I know if my starter has gone bad?

In order to answer this question, I let my well-developed starter go bad.  I let it sit out at hot room temperature for a few days without feeding or stirring.  Pee–yew!  Wow.   It smelled so gross that it made me nauseous.  Even thinking about the smell makes me nauseous.  You will know when it goes bad, believe me.  There is no mistaking it.  Gah.  Also, it was not really a “pink” color.  Instead, it was kind of a sickly, brownish, sewer-y, yucky color on top in the hooch.  Seriously, there was no mistaking it being bad.  Also, if it begins to grow mold on top (or on the sides of the container) it’s gone bad.  There are ways to solve this problem, but for our purposes, just through out the starter and begin again.

Q: Can I add sugar or honey to the starter?

A: No, don’t add any sweeteners to the starter itself.  The time to add sweeteners is in the recipe for the bread.  Sugar or honey is “junk” food for the yeast—it will cause the yeast to speed up and over work themselves.  Kind of like kids (heh).

Q: I want to try using a nut flour, or coconut flour or another flour that you don’t mention.  Can I do this?

A:  I don’t know.  I haven’t used flours that I haven’t mentioned, so I can’t tell you how successful it will be.   That said, coconut flour has a reputation for absorbing a lot of water compared to other flours–so I think you will probably need to add more water during the feedings/waterings.

Q: I’ve heard that I can use a gluten starter and then feed it with gluten-free flours and it will turn into a gluten-free starter.  Is this true?

A: No.  I have heard folks talk about doing this, but I’ve never seen someone actually do this successfully at home.  Maybe it has been done in a lab somewhere but I can’t imagine it being a safe thing to do at home.  I haven’t done this, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  That type of gluten to gluten-free process would probably take a long time, even if it was possible.  Don’t do it.

Q: Can I refrigerate my starter and leave it without feeding it for awhile?

A: Yes.  See instructions in the Sourdough Starter post.

Q: I have heard about a method of creating a sourdough starter with water kefir crystals (or some other method of creating a sourdough starter).  How do I do this?

A: I don’t know.  I would go to a site that uses the method you’re interested in and see what instructions they have.

Q: I want to use a different starter creation method than yours.  Do you think your bread recipe would work with a starter created from them?

A:  I’m not sure.  I imagine that a working starter is a good starter.  But, I haven’t used any other starters than the one I explain on my site, so I can’t be sure.  My advice is to try it and see!

Q: I’ve seen advice telling you not to use metal utensils for stirring my starter.  Is metal an issue?

No.  The issue with metals is with reactive metals like copper or iron.  Stainless steel is just fine for sourdough (although I would recommend a glass or plastic container for the starter to live in).  I use a stainless steel metal whisk to stir my starter every day and it’s fine.

Q: I did everything right and read the entire FAQs and my starter still didn’t work (or it went bad).  What happened?

A: This is one of those situations where there is no real answer.  Given that starter is a living thing, sometimes it doesn’t do what we want it to, no matter how well we treat it.  I kind of think of it like plants in my garden.  Sometimes I buy a new plant for my garden.  I give it everything it needs and plant it in an optimal space and it still dies.  Who knows why?  I just have to start again with a new plant and hope it works the next time.

SOURDOUGH BREAD FAQ

Q: I don’t have a Dutch oven and I don’t want to get one.  What should I do to make this bread?

A: This recipe is for a bread made in a 4 quart Dutch oven.  If you don’t want to use a Dutch oven, then you need to do some experimenting to see how it works in other containers.  Try a 9 in by 5 in loaf pan and see how it works.  Or use another pan and see how it works.  I don’t have time to troubleshoot with you on how to do this recipe in a different pan other than a 4 quart Dutch oven with a lid.

Also, please DO NOT ask me why this bread didn’t work if you didn’t use a Dutch oven with a lid.

Q: The bread seems dense–is that OK?

A: Yes, this recipe does make a dense bread.  This isn’t a light and airy bread.  Take a look at the photo on the boule post.  Also, the more sour the starter the bread is made from, the weaker the yeast and the more dense the bread.

Q: No, this is really dense.  Like a brick.  No holes.

A: Ah.  Did you use an active starter?  It’s important that the yeast is not dormant when you make the bread.  So, if your starter has been in the fridge for awhile and hasn’t been fed before you make the bread, then it probably won’t work that well.  You need to wake up the yeast by feeding and watering them and getting them to start bubbling again before you make the bread.

Q: The bread didn’t bake all the way through.  What went wrong?

1) Did you use the exact ingredients called for?  If not, do it again and follow the directions exactly. If you make substitutions, then the substitutions might be what caused the bread to fail.

2) Was your starter bubbling?  If not, go back and make sure your starter is viable.

3) Do you have an oven thermometer in your oven to make sure it’s heating to the temperature you think it’s heating to?  If not, get one, put it in your oven and test your oven temperature.

4) Did you use an instant read thermometer to make sure your bread was 200 degrees F or more inside before you removed it from the oven?  If not, get one (there are cheap ones) and use it to test your bread’s insides before removing from oven.

5) Did you follow the directions exactly and use a a 4 quart Dutch oven to bake the bread?  If not, you need to get a 4 quart Dutch oven and try again.  I don’t know how this bread behaves in a loaf pan.

(as of 8/8/14)

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{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda September 5, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Hi Jeanne, I’d like to make a bread for a person who cannot have any sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc, though she is allowed stevia. Do you have any experience with leaving out the sugar? Does this feed the dough and is it used up by the yeast by the time it is recommended to bake (4-6 hrs)? Thanks for your help, Amanda

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Jeanne September 15, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Amanda: I would recommend that you just leave out the sugar. I think that will be fine. :)

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Esther August 27, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Just wondering if you had tried making the bread in a bread maker? I make wheat sourdough in the bread make, works well. Do you think your recipie woul work?

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Jeanne September 5, 2014 at 9:24 am

Esther: I’ve not made it in the bread machine. Check my bread machine post for info on how to use bread machines for my other breads.

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Melina August 12, 2014 at 4:30 am

Hello,
I need a little advice on starters and their sensitivity to temperature. I was worried that my house is too cold to keep the starter going so I placed it on top of a yoghurt maker base that if may have a regular warm temperature. Call me silly but I became frustrated with never knowing whether my environment was warm enough for the starter. However, I now find my starter only bubbling slightly on the top while the middle and base show no bubbles, just a runny mass. I’m guessing it’s tooooo warm and the critters are dying off. I’m at a loss for where to places starter to get the best results. Any advice is welcome … And yes I am a starter novice!

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Jeanne August 14, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Melina: I’m not quite sure what you’re asking. As per this post, the optimal temperature for a starter to grow is 70-75 degrees F/21 to 24 degrees C. If your kitchen is significantly over or under this range, then the yeast will either go dormant or grow so fast that you need to feed it much more frequently. Also, I wouldn’t place it on a heat source–that will just cook the yeast and kill it off, I think.

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Beth May 5, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Hi Jeanne,

All the loaves I’ve made so far have been sticky on the inside. Could it be that I didn’t bake it long enough. I followed the directions on your website. Any suggestions? Thank you.

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Jeanne May 5, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Beth: I think this is because the yeast in a super sour sourdough starter is fairly weak. I’ve been doing research for the new book and figured this out. Check out my sourdough starter post again: I added a bunch of new info.

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holpolmac March 3, 2014 at 11:15 am

Jeanne,
My first loaf of GF sourdough was delish! My starter is very active and smells fine so I hope the answer to my question is that it is fine… One thing troubles me about it. On top of the hooch layer I have a fine, cloudy film that floats sort of separate from everything else. Occasionally there are some bubble formations that include one large bubble surrounded by multiple smaller bubbles. I would assume thes were just gases except for the fine film… Any experience with this?
TIA!

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Jeanne March 6, 2014 at 9:53 am

hopolmac: Yeah, some of my current starters have that, too. I’m not entirely sure what it is. I’m doing research on it to see what it might be.

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holpolmac March 6, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Thanks for the reply. While I was waiting to hear from you I did a bit of digging around and everyone agrees that your starter can “heal it self” so I decided to pour off the hooch (which got rid of that layer,) and then I diligently fed it and it is doing fine. My thinking about pouring it off was that it would give the winning edge to the starter. (Less bad bacteria, mold… Whatever it is to fight off)
Seems to have worked, but I am also curious about what is going on.

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Jeanne March 9, 2014 at 3:52 pm

holpomac: Good! Yes, I’ve been experimenting with the “starter will heal itself” situation myself. I think what is going on is that a light coating of mold is on top of the hooch. So your fix of pouring off the hooch and then paying attention to feeding and watering to heal it is exactly right. Last summer, I had a starter that had gone a bit bad. Not entire bad, but it wasn’t smelling great. I did what you are doing and it worked. That said, I’m kind of puzzling over why I’m all of a sudden getting a layer of mold on top of my hooch. After all of these years, I’ve never had that happen. I am doing experiments and will report back. Please let me know how it goes for you!

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mabel February 22, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Hi, many thanks for all the information.
I’ve a question re temperature range.
This website (classifieds.com), the author specified the range of temperature for sourdough fermentation. ” Stage 1: water and wheat flour are mixed together with the starter culture to give a dough yield of 200. The basic definition of dough yield is the amount of dough prepared from 100 parts of flour (the Germans call this TA or “Teigausbeute”). So in this particular example we mix 100 parts of flour with 100 parts of water. The dough is allowed to ferment 6 hours at 26°C. During this time the yeast will grow and some acidity will develop.
Stage 2: adjust the dough yield to 170 by adding more flour and ferment for 8 hours at a temperature between 24 and 28°C. During this time the dough ripens and develops a considerable amount of acidity and aroma. To do this, one can add to the dough of stage one 100 parts of flour and 40 parts of water. In total we then have 200 parts of flour and 140 parts of flour i.e. a dough yield of 170.
Stage 3: adjust the dough yield to 190 and allow the sourdough to mature during 3 hours at 28 – 32°C. To obtain a dough yield of 190 at this stage, one has to add 100 parts of flour and 130 parts of water to the dough of stage 2. ”
I just wonder if you think it’s necessary to get a proofer to get failsafe sourdough?

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Jeanne February 23, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Mabel: I think it doesn’t hurt to get a proofer–anything that facilitates success is OK by me. That said, I don’t use one and things are fine over here. But, you’re right–a proofer would probably help the folks who are struggling with getting their sourdough to mature.

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Lindsay January 23, 2014 at 6:49 am

Hey there, I scoured your site to see if this had been addressed and was unable to find anything. So, please forgive me if this is a repeat question. I am a little confused about feeding the starter multiple flours. I started mine 4 days ago and it is perfect and amazing and I sometimes just sit and stare at it ;) But my question is, does adding say 3 different flours affect the end taste? Or does something in the fermentation process sort of homogenize the tastes of the flours? I have been using a combo of brown rice, oat and amaranth, but am concerned that this will “confuse” the end taste of the bread. Thoughts?

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Jeanne January 23, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Lindsay: Yes, different flours affect the taste of the starter. There really isn’t such a thing as a “homogenized” taste when it comes to starter–because it is a living, changing thing, and the age of the starter will also affect the taste. It sounds you need to experiment for yourself the kind of taste you like and then cultivate a starter that leans towards that taste. This is a very personal kind of thing. For example, currently, I have 2 starters going: a sorghum one and a millet one. The sorghum one smells richer and more sour, while the millet one smells “lighter” and kind of like apple juice. I like both for different reasons.

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Tim McCormack January 18, 2014 at 9:29 pm

I would love to see descriptions of what happens with too much/too little xanthan gum, salt, water, etc. — if you have comparative data on that.

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Jeanne January 20, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Tim: Oh shoot. Unfortunately, it would take to long for me to write that up–and my notes are all over the place (lol). I might have some of this information in my new book depending on if I feel it would be useful for readers at that point.

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Tim McCormack January 4, 2014 at 8:14 pm

You should be aware that many municipal water supplies use chloramine, not chlorine. It can’t be removed by letting water sit out — you have to treat the water with UV or other methods. Wikipedia seems to indicate that a small amount of Vitamin C will neutralize it, and that’s worth looking into.

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Jeanne January 5, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Tim: Ah, good point. Thank you!

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David December 28, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Hi Jeanne, I’ve been baking bread with your sourdough recipe for about a year, and love it! My mother-in-law is interested in making this bread in a bread machine. I saw your posts on making white and MG loaves in a bread machine, but can’t find anything about sourdough. Have you tried this? Any tips? Many thanks for your information and inspiration. –David

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Jeanne December 28, 2013 at 7:47 pm

David: Hm, I haven’t done this, so I don’t have any tips. I would encourage her to experiment and see how things work in her particular bread machine. I think part of the issue might be that sourdough needs more delicate and specialized handling and therefore a bread machine might seem to be too forceful for it. But, I am always of the opinion that it never hurts to try and see what happens! If she does, let me know how it goes!

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Sandy October 28, 2013 at 2:26 am

Made great loaf of sourdough bread. Addictive toasted. Can this bread be frozen?

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Jeanne October 28, 2013 at 11:32 am

Sandy: Oh, I’m so glad! And yes–wrap it well in plastic wrap (so it’s airtight) and then freeze. Defrost by letting sit for 24 hours in the fridge. If you think you want individual slices, then slice the loaf before you freeze it–and then you can take out a slice at a time. If you do this, just take out the slice and put it directly in the toaster. No need to defrost.

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Debby October 17, 2013 at 4:24 pm

My starter is bubbling away and I’m looking forward to making my first boule tomorrow. My question – can the dough be shaped into smaller loaves or sticks or rolls? With just two of us in the house, I don’t want to waste a whole second/third/etc boule before we can eat it all. Second question – how would the dough freeze? Could I shape it into the size wanted, flash-freeze, then thaw/rise/bake later? I’m new to GF breadbaking, but not GF baking in general. THANKS for a great recipe and all the help!!

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Jeanne October 18, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Debby: I’m still experimenting with using this starter in different things. I have used it and the bread recipe on this site to make baguettes–they worked fine. But, I’m still experimenting. I would recommend doing your own experiments and see how they go!

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Pam September 18, 2013 at 9:23 pm

So, I am making my second loaf! The first turned out amazing . Thank you! Now, starter question, I have been feeding it sorghum and quinoa flours and it has been happy. Tonight I tried a mix of potato and finely ground brown rice flour and it became stiff like dough. I added twice as much water to try to counteract this texture and it is still very stiff. I put it back in it’s happy warm place and am leaving it alone for the night. If it is still stiff in the morning, am I making muffins with it and starting a new starter?

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Jeanne September 19, 2013 at 7:50 am

Pam: I think maybe it’s because of the potato flour. That absorbs a lot of water compared to the whole grain flours. I would recommend sticking with whole grain flours for your starter (sorghum, brown rice, quinoa, millet, teff, buckwheat, etc).

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Mariette September 15, 2013 at 2:38 am

Hi Jean, hope you are still active: do I need to throw out a quantity of the starter every day I will feed it??? Or just add a cup of flour and water every 12 h? Thanks, I am just in the first day.

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Jeanne September 15, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Mariette: I don’t throw out any starter until it gets too big for my container. And then I throw out about half. :)

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Mariette September 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Thank you so much for your quick response, I am exited if this is going to work. I had to grind the sorghum myself, because I could not find it in the ecostore as flour.

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Jeanne September 18, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Mariette: also, you can use a combo of flours if you don’t have sorghum. I would recommend brown rice flour if you have it.

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Mariette September 19, 2013 at 6:48 am

Just want to let you know that I just baked my first glutenfree bread ever, with your sourdough starter. I just sorghum and besan flour and 1c of quinoaflakes. I used arrowroot instead of xanthamgum, and tossed some sunflowerseeds in the dough. It turned out DELICIOSA! I am so happy. I sudpect I am glutenintolrant, to say the least, so I am heading this way! Happy and thank uou for letting me find your recipes. Internet is a blessing, so I found you even though I am living in th Netherlands. Take care!

Pam September 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm

My starter has only been going for 48 hours and I used two organic cabbage leaves. It is starting to show a few bubbles. It looks very cabbage pink, but smells fine. How long should I wait for the cabbage pink to fade before I become concerned?

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Jeanne September 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Pam: Congratulations on the bubbling. And don’t worry–you will KNOW if the starter goes bad–it will smell horrible. The pink right now is due to the cabbage. I wouldn’t worry about it for at least a couple of weeks.

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Pam September 12, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Great! Thank you! I am really looking forward to ‘real sourdough’ bread. I have been missing that for the last six years since we went gluten free. I assume I can use the starter once it reaches at least two quarts in volume, or around 8 cups of starter?

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Jeanne September 15, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Pam: Yes, you can use the starter once it’s actively bubbling and it is at least 4 cups in volume.

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Tammy August 19, 2013 at 10:56 am

Hello there! I’ve had my starter going for 2 weeks. I’ve tried baking bread with it, but the bread is very flat, and so dense– I really wouldn’t even call it a bread– it’s very, very heavy. I am wondering if my starter was too runny. I’ve thickened it over the last 2 days, but I haven’t baked with it. Could you tell me the characteristics of a good starter? ( it’s definitely bubbly, smells sour, developers hooch, and was pretty runny until recently).

Thank you,
Tammy

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Jeanne August 20, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Tammy: the bread is pretty dense and heavy. But not flat. I don’t think the thickness of the starter is the cause. If it is just dense, that’s how it is supposed to be. If it is truly flat, them I’m not clear what happened. Did you do everything exactly how I described to bake it, including the pan?

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David July 17, 2013 at 12:26 am

Finished my first loaf and it was good. While building the initial starter
I experienced periods where there was little visible action (bubbling) and other period where it was very active and building a foam for the hooch which I stirred back in. After using the starter for my first loaf I started to rebuild (add to the) starter. Had very good action at first but after the second 12 hr period the activity has fallen off to whee there are no visible bubbles except when stirred….I might get one or two small bubble to rise. I am concerned because of the difference in the levels of activity. Can it be I’ve forgotten to add an ingredient. I’ve been adding one cup of flour and one cup of filtered water at room temperature. The starter is very runny.
Should I cut down a bit on the water so it’s not quite so thin – say 2/3 cup?

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Jeanne July 17, 2013 at 11:19 am

David: What flours are you using to feed the starter? I’ve had a starter going for months and even if it goes a bit dormant, I can revive it with sorghum flour or brown rice flour. Also, if there is a significant amount of “hooch” (the liquid that forms on the top), it may be interfering with the growth of the yeast. I would pour off the hooch and see if things get better.

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Susan July 9, 2013 at 7:07 am

Hello. I just finished baking this bread this morning, but I’m not sure it turned out right as it seems to not have risen.

What would make the batter not rise?

The starter was good and bubbly and sour. I weighed all my ingredients. I proofed it in the oven over night (about 6-8 hours, so that was slightly longer) but the batter seemed to have only marginally risen. I baked it according to the directions but the bread is only about 2-3 inches tall. I had to leave for work, so I haven’t tasted it yet to comment on that.

Thanks so much. This is the first gluten free bread I’ve tried, and to be honest baking is not my forte, but I’m trying to learn, so I really appreciated your detailed instructions!

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Jeanne July 12, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Susan: This bread doesn’t rise a whole lot. And it is supposed to be dense. If you aren’t a big baker and you’ve never baked gluten-free bread before, I would maybe try another of my bread recipes and get some practice and then come back to this one.

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Brittany June 14, 2013 at 8:19 am

Hello! So I started my starter last weekend, and it seems to be doing great! I’ve been feeding it each evening by throwing away 80% or so of the starter and then adding 100g of sorghum and a little over 100g of warm. While the starter doesn’t smell bad, it is definitely kind of a pink/peach color. I know in the FAQ it says that anything towards pink is not good, but there doesn’t seem to be a bad smell.

Do I need to toss it?

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Jeanne June 14, 2013 at 9:09 am

Brittany: I think it’s OK as long as it smells OK. Be sure you got all of the pieces of the cabbage out. Sometimes I accidentally leave in a few small pieces that continue to color the starter a bit pink.

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Brittany June 14, 2013 at 9:19 am

Phew! Good to hear, Jeanne. Thanks for your quick response! The cabbage is definitely all out. I guess I’ll keep feeding and give it some time and hope that the good stuff overtakes all the bad stuff!

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Jeanne June 16, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Brittany: Since it doesn’t smell bad, I’m guessing that it’s just fine. You would know if it was bad by the smell.

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teresa June 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm

We are on a gluten free/sugar free diet will it be o.k. to delete sugar?
My starter looks and smells great so far (3 days).
Thank you so much for your recipe.
Teresa

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Jeanne June 9, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Teresa: Yes, I think it would be fine to delete the sugar. Sugar helps with browning of the crust, but it’s not necessary. Happy baking!

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teresa June 18, 2013 at 4:54 am

What a yummy bread!! I omitted the sugar (because we are on a special no sugar, no gluten, no dairy diet for lyme disease) and used ground flax seed in lieu of xanthum gum. The bread was delicious and beautiful. The rest of my family was so jealous I began a second jar with the starter and added spelt flour for them. It’s in the oven rising I let you know how it turns out. Love the cabbage starter!!
thanks tons
teresa

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Jeanne June 21, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Teresa: Yay! I’ so glad!

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kinder May 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Do have any experience with making your own gluten-free bread starter through the method of catching your own wild yeast? I am interested to know what flour/flour combos you use successfully (and unsuccessfully) and whether or not there should be any discoloration on the top of the starter.

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Jeanne May 21, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Kinder: Read my sourdough posts and the comments.

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Rebekkah Smith March 27, 2013 at 4:48 am

Can you store this starter in the refrigerator to keep it dormant like a regular sourdough starter?

Thanks so much for this! My starter is bubbling in the kitchen right now, and I can wait to use it! I use to make sourdough all the time before my son was diagnosed with celiac.

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Jeanne March 27, 2013 at 10:34 am

Rebekkah: Yes! Just put it in the fridge and feed it less often–maybe every three days or so. And happy baking!

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Saiorse February 16, 2013 at 7:09 am

I have read through several times and am still unsure as to when the cabbage leaves should be removed. Is it after the first few days?

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Jeanne February 16, 2013 at 10:46 am

Saiorse: Once the bubbling has started, wait another 24 hours and then remove all of the cabbage leaves. :)

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Joyce Pace April 26, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Hello….I have a question.. I am a culinary student and we are learning about sourdough starters.. Since I’m gluten free I decided to try out your recipe…

I followed your recipe and started seeing a tiny bit of activity on the second day.. I used one of those breathable mesh vegetable bags to cover the lid of my jar, however when I looked at my starter this morning.. there was fruit flies in there and I had to dump it out :( It was such a waste… especially because sorghum and brown rice flour is not cheap! I was really upset and decided to redo it anyway, but this time, I used a cover filter to cover the opening of my jar. I asked my chef instructor if it was okay and she said she doesn’t think the yeast will be able to penetrate through the cover filter and I should use a cheesecloth instead.
Do you think this will work? Thanks!

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admin April 26, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Joyce: you need a cover that is breathable. Other than that, you’re fine. The majority of the yeast is coming from the cabbage–not from the air. I’m not sure what a cover filter is, but if it is breathable, it’s fine. I use a piece of parchment paper that I have pricked all over with a thumbtack. :) Super low-tech. I then secure it onto the jar with a rubber band.

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Pam November 3, 2013 at 11:30 am

I just found fruit flies in mine too. So sad :( I have been covering the starter in cheese cloth and the flies seem happy to fly right through the cheese cloth. I guess I will need to double the cheese cloth? I know that yeast spores are much smaller then flies so perhaps I can even triple it? Have you tried double or tripling yours? Alternatively, Have you tried keeping it in the fridge? Is so how often do you feed it? And how long does it need to stay out of the fridge warming up and reactivating to room temp before you can bake with it?

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Jeanne November 4, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Pam: I use a piece of parchment paper pricked all over with a pin. That keeps out those dang fruit flies.

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Alpine March 27, 2012 at 6:05 am

Oh, I am at a 5100 ft altitude in the Rocky Mountain West, so the air is drier here. I also had to bake in a stock pot, not a shorter dutch over, because mine is too small. Would the higher sides of the stock pot make cooking slower? I thought cooking might speed up due to the metal pot instead of enamel. Thanks

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admin March 27, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Alpine: I’m not sure what to say about a stock pot versus a dutch oven. I think the best thing to do is to experiment. Also, high altitude is actually terrific for gluten-free baking. My readers at altitude have reported that things rise much easier–which is awesome!

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Alpine March 27, 2012 at 6:02 am

I followed the starter recipe and it made a great starter, and the bread is very good, too. However, it is ever developing a beer aroma. I read somewhere that sourdough should reach an internal temperature of 210. However others have said 195-200. My bread hit 200 but was mostly at 195.
The result was moist inside, but was it too moist? I don’t know. It tasted good and cut well, but later in the evening really smelling like delicious beer.

Problem solving: bake longer to reach a higher internal temperature? Keep the starter at a lower temperature? Feed less? I used sorghum and rice flower, is that a problem-not enough protein?

Thanks for the tips!

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NoriCroquante March 22, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Thank you for this full of interesting details article. I’m about to start my own !

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Jeanne September 19, 2013 at 7:49 am

Mariette: Hooray! I’m so glad!! I love your additions–sunflower seeds and quinoa flakes sounds terrific!

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