Feeding the Bitch: Days 6-8
When last we spoke of our bubbly slavemaster (some time on Monday, Day 6), she was barely recovering from near death. Here's how she's doing, and how she got there.
Day 6, late evening. The starter was looking a little better, but not enough for me to feel confident it was going to come back. I took drastic measures. I removed 2 cups (about half) of the starter, and replaced it with 2 cups of bread flour, and 1 1/2 cups of water. I say drastic because I'd been conservative with the feedings so far. I gave it a good stir, let it sit for a couple hours, and gave it a look. It was looking OK, considering the state its been in, with some nice bubbles starting to form. I covered it and went to bed.
Day 7, first thing in the morning. It had doubled in size and was bubbling away. It didn't smell like dirt anymore, but it wasn't smelling like sourdough either. I wasn't worried, since most of the original starter had been replaced by this time. I covered it and left it alone for another 4 hours. It smelled like regular bread dough, and looked nice and healthy. I decided not to remove any of the starter, and added 50 grams each of bread flour and water, gave it a good stir, and left it alone until late afternoon.
Yes! Still growing, still bubbling, and still smelling like bread dough. Periodic checks throughout the evening showed the same results. Before I went to bed, I just gave it a good stir.
Day 8 (today). It's grown so much that it's reached the top of the container; it's frothy and bubbling, and it smells like whole wheat bread. I've stirred it down, removed half of it (which I put in the freezer), and fed it with 1 cup of bread flour and 3/4 cup of water.
I've been playing around with the amount I feed it because I'm seeing too much conflicting information about how much a starter should be fed. I'm of the opinion that it's better to feed it a little at a time, unless you're in full battle mode the way I was at the end of day 6. It needed a big meal to give it energy and jump start it again. The whole point to a starter is to give it time to grab ambient wild yeast and create more of its own. It's supposed to be a slow process. Removing half of it every time its fed, and replacing it with the same amount of new flour and water is going to dilute the starter by taking away too much that's developed the desired flavor and smell. In my original source, Ken Albala says to wing it. That's exactly what I'm doing. I'm following my instincts and winging it.
By this time, a starter is normally ready to use. But this one had a rocky start, so I'm going to continue feeding it for at least three more days. It's healthy enough to make a loaf of bread, but it's not smelling like sourdough yet.
More to come, later today or tomorrow morning.