Claude needs some tips


My name is Claude I am 23 and from South Africa,


Recently I came across an article about how to make a Sourdough Bread starter,

Although I seem to be having a hard time to make sense of the steps,

As far as I know is to start do this:

A clean Glass or Plastic bowl,

1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water, Stirr it well, cover and store someplace warm.

Feed it once a day, 1/3 Cup of water and 1/3 Cup of flour ?

So every day check the surface to see if the yeast has moved in, It will be foamy / bubbly and have a sour smell,


Although, the directions is hard for me to follow online since we work the kitchen using Grams, and millilitres and litres, and such.

The first guide I read told me to put the mixture away for 5 days.

I did that, when I took it out, It was very foamy, at this point I went back to the guide, Which was not very specific on what to do, So I added more water and flour and put it away for 2 more days, But the yeasty things were not as strong anymore..

I am trying to look for guides but they are not SPECIFIC. and it confuses me, Cause I don't know who to ask something to be sure if I am doing it right or wrong!


I mean I don't even know how to bake the bread with it! I tried, and it raised only like 1/4 of its size! I have no idea how long my bread should raise for!

My oven is stupid it can only bake top or bottom as well.


Should I restart? And does someone have proper instructions for me please?

This is my first time doing something like this,

What do I do, Once the yeast has moved in?

How much do I keep for next time? and how much do I keep to bake a bread?

and what do I do with the half I keep to bake a bread?

I know that once its ready, The half you keep, you feed it once a week, 1cup water and flour.


Well, I would appreciate it so much for any help!


PS - I am using normal Cake Flour, This is bad?



388 users have voted.


farinam's picture
farinam 2016 May 20

Hello Claude,

One of the best guides that I know of is the beginners Blogs on this site.  You access them from the Home Page in the right hand column.  They cover everything from making and maintaining your starter to making and developing the dough and shaping , proving and baking your loaf.

You can make bread with soft flour but if you can get it, a stronger (higher protein) bread flour is a bit easier or, if you can get hold of some gluten (from a health food shop perhaps) you can get some extra strength by adding a precent or two of that.

Don't despair.  You sound as if you are off to a good start and it often takes a number of tries before you get a 'good' result but what you do make is always edible and very tasty.

Good luck with your projects.


Anonymous 2016 May 20

Oh wow, I only see that Beginners guides right now!

I mean I was snooping around the homepage for hours and never even noticed it to the right.

I think the best thing to do would to be discarding my whole batch, And to restart, Unless, I post a picture and get advice before throwing it out.

Although, I don't know if tap water is bad for the mixture or not.

So I think what I will do is, See which flour the shop has, But I won't get organic, Because anything labled organic in this country is nearly double the price (no kidding).

As for gluten, I will find out about that too. Since the flour I use, It's not bright white, So I don't think its bleached, Yet the packaging only mentions that its the grain and nothing about if it was altered or bleached.


After I go to the shop today, I will post a picture of my current mixture, and details about the new flour I have bought!

Then if everything is correct, I will proceed following the steps in the guides! :)

Anonymous 2016 May 20

PS - I read about sterilizing the things I use...

I may have not done that to my glass bowl, Oh crap!

Since I washed it in warm water and rinsed it out, oh man, There is my first mistake.

Claude92 2016 May 21

Okay, So, (For some reason I can't use my name to post, But I used Claude92 instead!)

I took out "Johnson" (Yes that is the name of my Starter, I named my starter because I have to look after it like a pet, So to take it more seriously, Why not name it? In the name of science.... haha)

Well, Anyways Johnson did not look too great:

There was just a murky yellow liquid flowing atop the flour, Only, Today there was not even the slightest bubbles, And the distinct Sourdough smell was not there anymore.

I chucked him away.

Here is what I did next:
I washed the bowl, Squeaky clean, Then boiled a kettle of water while I placed the bowl in the sink, I then poured the boiling water all over the bowl, Removed it, Dried it on the outsides and placed it down to cool off,

I then boiled another kettle of water (Since my country has a water crisis right now, There are many more chemicals in the water, And I don't want Johnson to choke on this rubbish)

While that is cooling down, I took pictures of everything I have and want to do.

I spent an hour at the shop, I finally found the ONLY BRAND of Unbleached, Pure MILLED Bread Flour!
What, Who would have guessed it would cost a few pennies more than that other rubbish I was using? But now I have a problem! I have a lot of Cake Wheat Flour left! uhhhgg. Guess I have to bake cakes with it or something.

Here is my bowl and my nice bag of Flour (Its actually products meant for Artisan Bakers, Well uhm?)

(I do not know why the picture is incorrectly angled, Sooory! It was not that way in my PC)

So Cake Flour and Unbleached Milled Bread Flour:

The difference, Can be identified upon close inspection,

The spoon to the right has Cake Flour, The spoon to the left, Has the Unbleached Milled Bread Flour, And also has tiny brown speckles!


Next, Which Cloth should I use?

To the left, This cloth is normally used to keep the bugs from invading your food, I folded it twice, And can use it to cover Johnson while he is placed in a dark, not too cold cupboard (It's Winter here) 6-20 Celsius variables.

To the right is a normal kitchen cloth, I bleached it, It's clean and dry. I can close Johnson with that too,

But which should I use?


Thank you for reading my post and thanks for the advice! Tonight I will prepare Johnson with cooled down boiled water, And do daily follow ups! If that's okay, I do not wish to spam the website.


farinam's picture
farinam 2016 May 23

Hello Claude,

While your bowl will very likely be perfectly satisfactory.  It does have a large area to cover (with cloth or wrap) and a large area for potentially nasty molds and fungi to access.  Also there is a large area for gases to escape and water to evaporate and there is little support from the sides so any volume increase in the batter will be harder to see and maintain.  So, I would suggest that you try to get a wide mouthed bottle or jar, preferably one with little in the way of shoulders such as a preserving jar like Vacola.  One with a loose fitting screw top lid and a capacity of no more than half a litre is ideal. 

If you have such a vessel then your cloths will not be necessary but if you do not then either one would suffice.

As for your flour problem, I think you can safely use a blend of the two to use up your cake flour rather than use it for something that you don't necessarily want.

Certainly keep us informed of how you and Johnson are getting along and good luck with your projects.


Anonymous 2016 May 23

Thank you for your response,

I currently do not have such a Jar, But I will try and get one at a later stage, I will just have to keep cleaning Johnson's Home when I add him into another bowl for proving (another step I don't understand so well actually) Maybe its because I am mainly english?

As far as I know, You prove the whole starter, Then Keep half and use half.

Most of the instructions, Include steps for Dry Yeast, I am trying to make a Sourdough Bread, If I wanted to use dry yeast, That is so simple, I know how to bake a normal bread, few cups of flour, salt, sugar and some yeast, knead it thoroughly and leave it to raise, Knead it once again, And lay it in a tray then bake it,

But, The steps for my Sourdough Bread, It is super confusing to me!

Once Johnson is ready, I will have to do the following.

Put him into another bowl,

add 1cup flour and 1cup water, Stir well, (But how long should he remain in the warm place?)

Once he is ready, Keep half, and use the other half.

So while I am using the other half, What do I do with the kept half? Feed it again?

(Well, What I think I should do is after I put him in a new bowl and fed him, leave him for at least 2 hours, Put half back into the home, And the remaining half I will add 2-3 cups of flour, and some water to knead thoroughly a dough, Once its ready and firm enough, I will add it into an oiled bowl and leave for another 3-4 hours, Take him out the bowl, Slash the top, Then bake?)
Oh sorry if I misunderstand all the stages lol

The reason I am so confused is probably because I want to do it as best I can the first time, (Well 2nd time now)

Anyways I couldn't get a picture for Day 1 on Johnson, But he did look quite interesting, some minor holes in the dough and something strange happening, No smell yet, Day 2, I have a picture!

You should be able to see it!


PS - I use a stainless steel fork to mix Johnsons new feed in, Bad idea?


Claude92 2016 May 25

I have no idea what I did wrong, I was so disappointed that I forgot to take a picture!

I boil water in the kettle then leave it to cool down, I boiled water lastnight and used it today, But I left it in the kettle, Did this kill the yeast?

I used a slightly larger cup this time, Did I overfeed Johnson?

I put him into a new sterilized bowl, and use a stainless steel fork, What have I done wrong?


Instead of throwing half of the mixture away, I decided to knead it and make a loaf with it leaving it to raise overnight, a fab bread was the result, But now my mixtures gone to hell!! :(


It looks like the first mixture I made, See the first set of images,

Only this one still smells like sourdough and has tiny bubbles round the edges of the bowl :(

farinam's picture
farinam 2016 May 25

Hello Claude,

Making sourdough based bread is basically the same as making yeasted bread, it is just that it takes longer because the yeasts have not been selected to work quickly like the ones in commercial yeasts have.

In effect, the levain (the starter that you prepare to make your dough) is a substitute for the commercial yeast.  Johnson is like the packet that the commercial yeast comes in.  The difference is that you take some out and mix that with some flour and water to add to your recipe and you put back fresh flour and water to give Johnson a feed and keep him alive until next time.

So, you have taken some from Johnson (say 90g) and you have added fresh flour (say 45g) and water (say 45g) and mixed it all in (say) a Pyrex jug.  You cover it with plastic wrap and you leave it on the bench for several hours.  The 'batter' should fill with gas and rise up in the jug and this proves that Johnsons pup is alive and well.  Meanwhile, Johnson, with his new supply of tucker can go back in the fridge for a holiday.  He can stay in the one container for life and there is probably less chance of contamination with nasties than if you are perpetually transferring him back and forth.

Then you make your dough and process it just like a yeasted bread except the it will take several hours to overnight, if it is cool enough, instead of just one hour to get to the baking stage.

Also, rest assured that you probably will not get it right first time or even second time but whatever you do, do not despair.  After a while you will wonder what you were fussing about.

Also there is absolutely no problem with mixing Johnson's feed with a stainless steel fork or even mixing your dough in a stainless steel bowl despite what you might read.

Good luck with your projects.


JusticeZ 2016 May 27

I finally managed to get my account registered, But I could not use my name!
But I am using JusticeZ instead!

So...... It turns out that Johnson is taking longer to mature.. Because it is winter.

The temperatures currently in South Africa are from 6 celsius to 20. (In this city at least)

So I think I may have to leave him for 2/3 days before I actually throw some off to make a Bread.

Because I left him for 2 days, And the dough still looked pretty fine, But it was not ready to make a bread yet.


This is worrysome, Because I don't know if I am doing something wrong.


So the day after my last post, I decided to bake a bread, Instead of throwing half away.

I let it raise overnight, And it baked beeeeaautifully!

I have not been able to recreate the results? I don't know why not, If it's the Temperature, Or Johnson became sickly? Its been a bit colder during the mornings and evenings.

However, I did mix 1 tablespoon oil into the first bread, The last 2, I didn't, They did not raise much, And when I baked them, They came out pretty dense, But not TOO dense.

Is it too cold? Or is Johnson sick?

farinam's picture
farinam 2016 May 29

Hello Claude,

Although the outside temperature might range from 6 to 20. unless you live in a cardboard box it is probably unlikely that your house will vary that widely.  In any case, it can almost never be too cold.  All that happens is that the level of activity slows down.  This is why people store their starter in the fridge so that they don't have to be feeding it every day or why they put their dough into the fridge overnight so that they can have a loaf ready to bake in the morning.

Yes, if it is cooler things will take longer but it will not make Johnson sick or kill him.  Provided that there are no really bad smells or nasty molds, then he should be fine.  The bread that you have made looks just fine and maybe all you need is practice.

As I said, if you follow the guidelines given in the Beginners Blogs here then you will be fine in the end.  At the sort of temperatures that you are talking about you could be looking at several hours to overnight for your levain (freshly fed starter for making a loaf) to reach the peak of its rise (generally considered to be a good time to make the dough).  As a rough guide you could be then looking at the same sort of time frame to get the dough to the baking stage with about half of that taken up with dough development and prefermentation and the second half in proving the loaf ready for baking.  However, as this all is temperature dependant, you really just have to get to know the look and feel of the dough and adjust your timing accordingly.  Don't feel bound to prove the dough for four hours just because the method given says that is what is required.  This timing might be suitable for a kitchen at 28C but at 20C the amount of time required will be significantly longer.

Above all, stick with it and don't go searching around for 'magic' methods or recipes.  SourDom's techniques and recipes are all you need with a bit of attention to detail and practice from you.

Good luck with your projects.


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