In your recent message you write:
> I've made three attempts at a sourdough starter and every single one
> has died. These are starters that include yeast and that will, when
> done, be sealed up and refrigerated. After two or three days, each one
> has just gone flat, separating into a greyish water on top and gluey
> flour paste on the bottom. Any suggestions? What might I be doing
> wrong, or does anyone have a favourite way to make one that has always
> worked for them?
Sounds like your starter is doing just exactly what it's supposed to do.
After you put a live starter in the fridge it will separate into two
components. The gray looking liquid on top is the alcohol which was formed in
the fermentation process. It was called "hooch" by the miners in Alaska and
the Yukon and some miners were known to drink the stuff after their supply of
whiskey ran out and they had nothing else alcoholic to drink. The white stuff
on the bottom is the residue of the flour after the protein has been fermented
All you have to do is stir your starter up real good and combine a small
portion of of it with flour and water. Allow it to ferment at about 85
degrees until it is all bubbly and sour smelling and your starter is ready to
bake with again.
The method I use is as follows:
Stir the old starter up real good and place one tablespoon of it in a small
bowl along with 1/2 cup of 85 degree water and 1/2 cup of flour. Beat
vigorously to incorporate lots of air. After about 7 or 8 hours it should be
bubbling real good so double it. In other words, add 1/2 cup of water and 1/2
cup of flour beating again as before. After about 7 or 8 hours it should be
bubbling again so once more double it by adding 1 cup of water and 1 cup of
flour. Just keep on doubling your starter until you have enough to bake with.
I usually start preparing the starter a day ahead of my baking day so the last
fermenting will take place over night and I can bake first thing in the
morning using the 2 cups of starter that were produced. I then take one
tablespoon of starter from the new batch and place it in a small jar along
with 1/2 cup of 85 degree water and 1/2 cup of flour. Beat it well and allow
that to ferment for 8 hours then chuck the jar of new starter in the fridge.
After a few days it will separate as you have already discovered but it is
still good. An alternate to this last step could be to just make a little
more starter than you actually need for your baking, measure out the amount
you need in your recipe and save the rest for your next project.
By the way, I never keep the old starter after using it to create a new batch
for baking. I just keep producing new starter. I know this method sounds a
little involved and time consuming, but it guarantees you the freshest and
most vigorous starter possible every time you bake and that's really crucial
to successful sourdough baking.
Gypsy, I hope this helps you. If you have any questions please drop a line.