[I’ve been following instructions for the wild-fermented starter in A Tavola Senza Glutine - if you’re new to this series, see the first and second posts for introduction and more info about GF sourdoughs in general!]
When we last left off, I'd just given the starter its first refresh. As the book instructed, I continued to refresh the dough in the same manner every 1 ½ - 2 days, removing 50 g of the dough and replacing it with an equal total of fresh material (20 g rice flour, 10 g corn flour, and 10 g water). After a total of 5 refreshings in this way, the book said, the starter can be used for bread.
Well, by the fourth refresh - a little more than a week in - the dough seemed pretty lifeless. A lievito madre is often more concentrated than the sourdough starters many of us are used to, and as such it’s generally used in quantities similar to fresh yeast - a spoonful, as opposed to sourdough bread recipes that use a few ounces of starter per loaf. So I knew that, like the similarly slow-growing yeast formulas found in old cookbooks, it wouldn’t be as active as my normal starters. But I expected more than this! There weren’t many bubbles visible and the increase in height in the jar was negligible. On the final refresh I also added in 5 g more honey, hoping the free sugars might spark some visible activity, but even that didn’t do much. I kept going only because the gradual changes in smell had hinted that something was still happening.
|Day 11...Not much going on here.|
So finally, I tried it with one of the recipes in the book: the focaccia, as pictured on the cover, which you can see in the Day 1 post. Well...it didn’t work. The “dough” was a runny mess, it didn’t rise or develop much flavor, and the final product - far from the lovely springy-looking bread in the pictures - was a dense, tough cracker/pancake hybrid.
I have some ideas about what might have gone wrong, and hopefully I’ll be able to fix it. For now, though, I put the starter in the fridge (note: the book did not instruct this, but at the stated 15 days between feeding of the mature pasta madre, I assume refrigeration is wise!) and will come back to it when I’m feeling patient enough to test a few things - I’ll keep you updated!