|Here is a great example of a happy
healthy starter brought in by a class
member. Thick enough to hold big
bubbles. See how the starter clings
to the glass? Just right!
Today I taught a starter trouble-shooting class at Honeyville Grain Store, and a record number of people brought their starters. Luckily for the time interests of the class, about 60% of them were strong, healthy, and producing big beautiful bubbles. Of the less-happy, sad starter lot there seemed to be a consistent problem, which was in fact, consistency (of the texture variety). The starters that were not bubbling up tended to be runnier. I would say that a rough 90% of starter problems I see in helping people with their starter is a result of a runny starter. These people described their starters as forming bubbles, but mentioned that the starter as a whole never rose or “doubled” in volume as typically happens among happy starters.
This is especially important with refrigerator starters like ours, since the colder temperature makes the starter more “rigid” and will slightly resist leavening.
Note: Countertop starters do not have this problem, and can bubble just fine when runnier, but require more frequent feeding/usage than our refrigerator starters.
|Beautiful family photo! Almost all of these are
starters that originated with mine.
I explained the need for a thicker starter, and one class member made this great parallel:
“When your starter is more liquid, it isn’t strong enough to hold the bubbles the organisms are creating. The C02 is being produced, but there’s no parachute to catch it. The bubbles just leak out the top and so your starter never “rises” or doubles. If you want to see some action, you have to let your starter be thick enough to hold on to the bubbles.” Brilliant! She nailed it right on the head.
So here is a tip: Your starter should be thick enough to hold in your fingertips without running through. If your freshly fed starter is too runny for this, then add more flour. It is almost always better to err on the side of a thicker starter. Starters that are too thin tend to sour and be unproductive. For step-by-step photos and more detailed information, read the Critical Keys to Success section of Beyond Basics with Natural Yeast
|A few of our class members who bravely brought
their starters in for check-ups 🙂