Help w/ sourdough starter

Hello. I’m going to try to make a sourdough starter (my first time!) using the direction from Lionel Vatinet’s “A Passion for Bread.” Question: do I cover the starter in the first days of feeding? The text says to cover after the starter has matured, but it doesn’t say what to do for the first few days.

If I cover it tightly, I assume I won’t develop the natural yeasts in the air. But if I don’t cover, won’t it dry out?

Thanks in advance.

Cover loosely.

If you’re using a glass jar (which you should), you can simply place the lid over the jar without screwing it tight.


I got a plastic container (+ top) that’s not too deep from the Gelson’s deli. All my glass jars are super tall. Hopefully, the starter takes… and then I can maybe transfer to a glass jar. Will post some updates…

I failed my first two times. Lots of flour wasted. I felt guilty. Then I got lucky. Organic grapes, King Arthur flour, whatever atmospheric conditions were smiling. You will succeed. Then you can make the greatest garlic bread evah!!! It just takes time…and luck…and luck!

As you can see in the photo, he just leaves the container uncovered.

Starter recipes that use grapes might be more foolproof.

when prepping a starter, I usually will put it in a Ball Mason jar (quart) to develop, loosely covered with plastic wrap and a rubber band.

Don’t worry. The yeast is already in there.

Ohmigod, I’m so indecisive that I had just placed the cover on (w/o sealing it) and then had a change of heart and removed it! I’ll prob cover again after I feed it tomorrow b/c I don’t want to open the oven to create a draft… Except I was thinking of trying a dacquiose recipe tonight… Oh, gawd, whatever… :wink:

Do what I do when I’m not sure…experiment with BOTH methods and see which one works best for you. No worries.

1 Like


Despite it being rather cold in LA, the starter seems to be doing decently. I’m on Day 5, and it def doubles in volume, it’s got a few bubbles on the surface, and it’s got a faint and pleasant sour smell.

The book doesn’t say what I do after it’s “ready.” I put it in a “permanent” jar and refrigerate it? And then I feed it once a week? Once a month? Never?



Okay, so after browsing around on the web, it appears that, if the starter is bubbly and has doubled in sized btw feedings, it’s ready to go. I had the tiniest film of hooch on the surface of the starter yesterday evening (I know I went WAY too long btw feedings), so I think I’m at least a few days out from it being ready (I want to give it more time to strength, esp w/ the weather now being a little warmer). One blog I read said not to refrigerate for at least the first 30 days (!) to develop the best flavor.

Various blogs also seem to agree that, once refrigerated, you can feed it btw 1x per wk or 1x/mo. Partner and I think we’ll be trying to make bread weekly, so I’ll just feed it then.


1 Like

I make bread weekly, and do the same. After I pull out what I need from the starter, I’ll toss in a spoonful of flour and stir it into the remainder in the jar before putting back in the fridge. It’s enough to keep it fed until the following week’s baking and ensures you’ll always have enough.

1 Like

Argh. Okay, so the first started got burned (literally; don’t ask). Second starter started smelling heavily of sweet and fruity but in a really scary way after about 10 days. Read one site that said to dump it. Kept feeding it for a few more days, but the smell got stronger and stronger. Dumped it this morning. Now I’m wondering if I should’ve kept it longer (it was bubbling but not rising). ::sigh:: Round three coming up soon…

I think the problem is that you’re allowing the flour to “mature” before feeding it the first time round. When you leave it sitting for 2 or 3 days, in my experience, it almost invariably gets overtaken by bad bacteria before good yeast start producing. After 24 hours of making the yeast, start the feeding process even if no bubbles appear. The yeast is there. It might take a week days longer to get that sweet smelling yeast, but it’s also a good safeguard against bad bacteria. Don’t bother waiting for it to double in size, just keep feeding it on schedule. Some yeast just doesn’t double in size.

I fed it 24 hrs after creating the starter and then twice a day thereafter.

I think what happened w/ the second batch is that I had placed it in the oven w/ the light on (but oven off otherwise) b/c it’s been so darn cold recently. I think the light runs way too hot and caused there to be too much activity btw feedings (after 2 days in the oven, the consistently was like a thick soup… :frowning: ).

I think I need to be more patient…

ok, so what’s the recipe you are using?
what are the quantities being used?

Lionel Satinet (still). 7gm honey, 70 gm wheat flour, 70 gm 85 deg water to start. Wait 24 hrs, dump all but 70gm and feed w/ 70gm wheat flour and 70 gm water. Then feed on alternating 6-8 hrs/16-18 hr twice a day schedule. The first 4 days use wheat flour then switch to bread flour. I think the directions say that the start should be ready about day 10?

I can get some tiny bubbles forming after the first day of using bread flour. First batch was accidentally baked in the oven (partner didn’t know I had it in there when he pre-heated). Second batch was in the oven w/ only the light on. After a few days, it was VERY runny, very bubbly, and smelled VERY artificially fruity. The temp in the oven even just w/ the light is pretty warm (80 deg?). Tried feeding for a few days (first w/ wheat then bread flour), and the odor only got worse.

With batch 3 (current), I switch over to bread flour either tonight or tomorrow morning.

It could be that the ambient yeasts and/or bacteria in your kitchen favor development of a culture that’s not good for bread.

If so, one of those recipes that includes organic grapes might work better.

Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking, too. I’m going to first give this 3rd batch a good month (unless it starts growing mold or something like that) first, though.

Wow, that is pretty involved!

When I make a starter (just flour and water w/ ambient yeast) I mix equal amounts, stir and let sit for 2 days, stirring each day, but not feeding until the 3rd.

Only after full hydration is acquired, I’ll feed daily for a few days then store in the fridge, feeding it 1-2 times a week.

Here’s a similar method that I know works very well.

Okay, this batch seems to be coming along nicely (knock on wood). It’s Day 9, and the start has a sour and slightly fruity smell (not overpowering like it was for batch 2), and the start definitely rises significantly btw feedings. The starter also has nice a foamy appearance. Woo-hoo! :slight_smile: