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Establishing and Working with Homegrown Sourdough Starter

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65% hydration, 25% rye, 25% whole wheat flour. 24 hours cold proof. Baked one after the other, I'm not sure why the second loaf had less steam, but it's clearly not as golden. Still tastes just fine though ;)

I have one more batch of dough still in the fridge for a 48hr cold proof :D

 

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Good save Cakewalk

 

KeyChris, beautiful loaf.  

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Not a lot of point in trying to explain why I don’t see adding yeast to an apparently dormant dough as a triumph.

 

But that bread, along with 5 Seed with Spelt, was one of the first breads I devised back in 2007 when my microbakery started to take off. Although there’s nothing very clever about it and it’s highly derivative of other formulas, it resonates with some customers who won’t buy anything else.

 

One customer had a dog called Tog. She had an awkward journey and worked long hours which, together with a lot of family commitments, meant she tended to buy several loaves when she could call by and load up the freezer. Tog had toasted Mulitigrain for breakfast and when supplies occasionally ran out, he lay down and pined. I’m with Tog.

 

Mick

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Back in September I posted in this topic after just beginning to make bread from a starter I had purchased on-line. Kind comments and advice followed, within the topic and by personal message. In the weeks that followed my time was in demand professionally and while I continued to bake bread I didn't get to any further reading until the start of this holiday break.

So, a late thanks to everyone who passed on their advice and comments. I believe that we never stop learning, or at least that we should never stop learning; places such as this are so precious as a source of ideas. 

 

My own adventure with bread in some of its many forms continue. The starter is still going, I divided it into 2 so that I will have a second chance to hand should I manage to kill or damage the other. I feed mostly with strong white flour but occasionally with rye flour as someone here suggested. The depth of flavour these starters have added to my bread really is remarkable. I have always made bread but it has taken until now to appreciate the range of flavours to be found from different ways of using the basic ingredients and I believe I'm only at the beginning of this learning experience.

 

I'm really looking forward to seeing what everyone here has been creating and discussing over the past few months. 

 

Thanks again to to all who helped with my questions of last September and who wrote kind words of encouragement.

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Two and a half years ago, I discovered and fell in love with San Luis Sourdough's Rosemary Olive Oil bread.  It has a pleasantly sour bite, good texture, just the right hint of rosemary, and makes killer grilled cheese sandwiches.  Unfortunately it's hard to find: it seems only to be available in California - maybe in Arizona - and it's not carried by every grocery chain.  I decided to try to make something like it for myself, given my difficulty getting it.  

 

I was just able to score a couple of loaves of the San Luis bread, and as it happened I had a freshly-baked loaf of my attempt.  Here they are, for comparison:

 

5699b79e74c29_Breadcomparison1.jpg.d66d9

 

Theirs, on the left, has better shape.  I'm still working on timing, and tend to overproof my loaves due to inattention or poor planning, with the result that my rounds aren't very.  Theirs crisps beautifully in the toaster, but since it's an all-white bread it can get mushy when bitten.  Grand flavor, especially with the above-noted grilled cheese sandwich. I've been overindulging on them lately, but without adequate freezer space I must use this bread before the mold gets it. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

 

Mine, on the right, is half whole-wheat.  At 80% hydration, with a good slow initial proof, it's getting a good airy crumb.  It's a bit firmer than theirs, and doesn't get the contrast of crisp shattery exterior with soft interior from the toaster, but it also doesn't get mushy.  I haven't tried it yet with the grilled cheese sandwich treatment, but I'm very pleased with its flavor as toast or standard sandwich bread. 

 

5699b79f8eaa2_Breadcomparison2.jpg.0f32b

 

 

Progress: it's what pulls the world forward!  I'm quite chuffed.


Edited by Smithy Corrected misspelled word (log)
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Wow so impressed by all your bubbly and active starters.  I used to have one which I ended up killing by neglect.  It was equal parts white flour and water by weight (I think that makes it 100%?).  

 

Anyhow I've been craving some seriously sour-tasting sourdough bread, which means it's time to start a new starter.  So I have a couple of questions.

 

1.  What is the most ideal composition and conditions for the most sour of sourdough starters?

 

2.  Is it safe to put dairy in a starter?  I saw a YouTube video that was equal parts white flour and low fat yogurt.  It's an interesting idea and they had great results after 16-17 days (it tripled in volume), but I've never heard of dairy in a starter before and have some concerns about it going bad since it'll be at room temp.

 


Edited by pastryani (log)

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No expert here, as I usually just wing it. But I've had my current start for over 3 years now, and it's just bread flour and water. I've also read of starters begun with yogurt, or sometimes fruit pulp. There's a wonderful Nancy Silverton you tube somewhere about this. But to me it always seemed like an overcomplication, unless you are aiming for a particular flavor. If you just want a basic starter, I don't think there's a need for anything other than flour and water. Also, if you want to maintain the starter for future use, it would be much easier to use just flour and water. 

 

I remember reading somewhere that lower hydration, or a stiffer starter (say that 3 times fast), will produce a more sour loaf. The King Arthur Flour website has something about this, with a recipe for a very sour bread using a stiff starter. I remember making it once, and I liked it very much. 

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I think the science is pretty well established that using things like yogurt and fruit juices in starters amounts to old fashioned sophistry. Some of the wild yeasts and bacteria that make for a good starter can survive their presence, but none of them is encouraged by it. Organisms that like wheat aren't going to be found in fruit. I don't believe there's ever any good reason to put something besides flour and water in a starter.

 

It's also been mostly established that when you start your own starter, your not doing it with organisms from the environment, but organisms that were resident in flour (probably from the wheat itself). I haven't seen hard science on this, but a number of fairly well controlled experiments have led to this conclusion. There may, of course, be exceptions. How often and under what circumstances is a question for someone who's studied this process..

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I wonder if the addition of yoghurt to a starter would be a simple lowering the pH for the acid bacteria to do their work - my first starter I ever made I followed Reinhart's "pineapple juice" method and it worked perfectly.

 

As for ideal composition and whatnot, for starting out I used 100% hydration starter (that's equal quantities of flour and water), now I run at 66% (50g water, 75g flour) because it lasts a couple of days before needing to be fed again, and has a nice flavour.

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The acid bacteria make acid, they don't consume it. Lactic acid, and occasionally acetic acid, are byproducts of the bacteria in sourdough metabolizing sugars. Active yogurt contains its own lactobacillus bacteria, but these will be different strains that thrive in different environments.

 

According to the interwebs and Google Scholar, the bacteria in yogurt are typically strains of lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus.

 

In sourdough it's typically strains of lactobacillus pontis, lactobacillus sanfranciscensis, lactobacillus paralimentarius, lactobacillus fructivorans, and lactobacillus fermentum. Part of the environment that these  strains are especially adapted for is the yeast itself, which is likely to include saccharomyces exiguus, candida milleri, or candida holmii. 

 

The coexistence these bacteria and yeasts works in sourdough because the organisms are mutually tolerant of each others' waste products. Both types of organisms use their waste products as chemical weapons, to discourage the growth of competitors. The lactobacilli produce lactic acid, which inhibits most other bacteria and yeasts (including commercial baker's yeast—saccharomyces cerevisiae). But not our friendly sourdough yeasts. Likewise, yeasts produce alcohol. This discourages most bacteria, but not the right strains of lactobacilli. 

 

This is true up to a point. Eventually the dough can get too acidic for the yeast. This is why it can be hard to get extremely sour bread to rise much.

 

But the broader point is that bacteria and yeast that thrive in an unrelated environment are not going to thrive on wheat flour. Maybe there's some utility in pre-acidifying the flour, to prevent infection by other types of organisms before these acid-resistant ones take over. That's just a wild guess. But you're not actually going to be colonizing flour with bacteria from fruit or dairy products.


Edited by paulraphael (log)
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5 hours ago, paulraphael said:

But you're not actually going to be colonizing flour with bacteria from fruit or dairy products.

 

no, of course you're not - I was merely saying perhaps the acidity in yoghurt may reduce the pH to an agreeable level for the bacteria in sourdough to proliferate. Thanks for such an informative post :)

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What @paulraphaelsaid.

If a bread tastes really sour then it's not a good sign, it means the fermentation was far from optimal. You can't get a proper fermentation if you aim for a really sour bread: a balanced fermentation happens within a certain pH window, where the fermentation gives a certain balance between lactic and acetic acid. With a proper fermentation you get a bread that is slightly sour, not definetely sour.

If you like acidic tastes, then I would say it's better to aim for a well fermented bread (not too acid), then add something sour/acid when you eat it.

 

 

 

Teo

 

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55 minutes ago, teonzo said:

If you like acidic tastes, then I would say it's better to aim for a well fermented bread (not too acid), then add something sour/acid when you eat it.

 

I'm curious about how it works in San Francisco sourdough (which I like very much, but have never made. I've read that many Europeans think the stuff is vulgar!)

 

I've seen recipes but don't see anything in the technique that explains how so much sourness doesn't interfere with the rise.

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Kingarthurflour.com/recipes/extra-tangy-sourdough-bread-recipe

 

This from Peter Reinhart: "Some bakers prefer to work exclusively with firm starters . . . This is not only easy to transport and handle ... but also makes a very sour bread, for those who like it extra sour. Acetic bacteria prefer the denser, less-aerated environment of the firm starter; lactic bacteria prefer the wetter sponge of the barm method." 

ETA - make it the way you like it. If the science tells you that you "shouldn't" like it, so what?

 


Edited by cakewalk More to say (log)
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10 hours ago, cakewalk said:

If the science tells you that you "shouldn't" like it, so what?

 

I don't think science has an opinion, but French bakers are pretty vocal ...

 

Re: SF sourdough, I understand various ways of getting a dough more sour; just not the techniques for doing so that don't also inhibit the yeast.

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On ‎2‎/‎20‎/‎2017 at 6:34 AM, cakewalk said:

Kingarthurflour.com/recipes/extra-tangy-sourdough-bread-recipe

 

This from Peter Reinhart: "Some bakers prefer to work exclusively with firm starters . . . This is not only easy to transport and handle ... but also makes a very sour bread, for those who like it extra sour. Acetic bacteria prefer the denser, less-aerated environment of the firm starter; lactic bacteria prefer the wetter sponge of the barm method." 

ETA - make it the way you like it. If the science tells you that you "shouldn't" like it, so what?

 

 

 

Wow thanks for all the info everyone.  I think I'll stick to flour and water (which I've been doing with rye, ww, and white), but was contemplating an experimental dairy starter for comparison.

 

For the extra tangy sourdough bread recipe - this uses citric acid for that sour flavor which I can't help but think is "cheating" (though it sounds delicious and I'll probably end up trying it). :)  I'd like to get the sour flavor from the starter alone, but let's see how it turns out.  The mostly rye starter was pretty active on Day 3 and then I added white to it for feedings and it seems to have slowed down. :|

 

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The KAF "basic" extra tangy is just flour and water. They add a note saying if you want super duper extra tangy (paraphrasing) then use citric acid, which us what paulraphael suggested above. I never used the citric acid, mostly because I didn't have any. It's not cheating, although I understand the feeling. But you want to make bread that you like best. If citric acid gives you that, then I'd say take it. 

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11 hours ago, cakewalk said:

The KAF "basic" extra tangy is just flour and water. They add a note saying if you want super duper extra tangy (paraphrasing) then use citric acid, which us what paulraphael suggested above. I never used the citric acid, mostly because I didn't have any. It's not cheating, although I understand the feeling. But you want to make bread that you like best. If citric acid gives you that, then I'd say take it. 

 

Maybe someone else suggested it? I don't have any experience with adding acids to bread / starter. Not opposed to it, just trying to learn the bounds of the minimalist processes before thinking about all that.

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23 minutes ago, paulraphael said:

 

Maybe someone else suggested it? I don't have any experience with adding acids to bread / starter. Not opposed to it, just trying to learn the bounds of the minimalist processes before thinking about all that.

You mention somewhere above that the way to get extra tangy bread is to add stuff to the dough, not through manipulating the starter with dairy or fruit products. You didn't mention citric acid specifically. I'm basically saying that the KAF suggestion to add citric acid for an extra tangy loaf is in agreement with what you mentioned; there's a limit to how tangy the starter itself can make the dough. (At least that's what I think you're saying.) 

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23 hours ago, cakewalk said:

You mention somewhere above that the way to get extra tangy bread is to add stuff to the dough, not through manipulating the starter with dairy or fruit products. 

 

That was Teonzo's comment. He seems to know about how to do this.

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I should have known that there was a topic on sourdough starters and posted my yesterday's post in the bread topic here. I need help please!!! I have never made nor worked with sourdough, high hydration doughs or made a starter before but am willing to learn. I made all my own bread and buns for a long period of time but stopped for a number of reasons. I have just found out that you can make sourdough whole wheat bread as I am presently buying exactly this from a small excellent bakery not far from where I live. However, I would like to make my own. I am on my 4th attempt at making a starter with success this time and today am 5 days into the process. Yesterday's starter for the first time (of any of my starter attempts) actually rose to double in bulk in about 12 hours and then overnight fell back to about half way of the rise by this morning. This morning it smelled a little alcoholic so I assume I should have fed it last night? or not?. Also the starter this morning for the first time was very "frothy" on top even though it had lost some of it's rise and appeared to be well dispersed with tiny gas bubbles. Do I wait for another 24 hours to feed again or feed more frequently now is my question?

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I'm no expert on the topic, but I've had a sourdough starter going and useful for over 3 years now, thanks to this topic. I'll throw out my guesses, and hope the experts chime in! If the starter smells a little too sour (I think that's what the alcohol-y smell is about) then it probably wants feeding more frequently.  I think that when I got mine going it rose to double, then collapsed, as you note, and I'd feed it again.  I don't think you'll hurt it if you feed it too frequently, but it may not be as sour as you'd like.
 

As I recall - remember, this is over 3 years ago - my starter gave off wild odors and was not predictable in its rise and fall until I'd had it going for a couple of weeks; then it stabilized.  I can tell you for sure that my starter has occasionally started to die: given off a lot of free liquid ("hooch") and sat there looking flaccid, with no bubbles.  When that happened I gave it twice the usual feeder, and it revived.  So, for instance, if my starter was neglected and looking hoochey, I used 50g starter, 100g water and 100g flour, and did it again the next day or three until it recovered.  These days it's pretty happy with a ratio of 1 part starter to 1 part water and 1 part water. I'm keeping it in the refrigerator and feeding it weekly.

 

By the way: since your starter is doubling in size after you feed it, I wonder whether it's ready to use in baking.  I've read somewhere that when you refresh the starter in preparation for baking, the time to begin mixing the dough is when it's doubled in size.

 

I hope the pros chime in!

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Thank you for your post Smithy.

From what I have read I am not sure whether or not it is ready at this stage to use for baking or to wait a little longer.

The starter which is not appearing to grow past the doubled state which it reached 3 hours ago is still bubbling but not growing and smells slightly sour. So I guess that all is well but am still not sure whether or not to go feed it again tonight or wait until tomorrow until the 24 hour period is up and then feed again.

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40 minutes ago, Soupcon said:

Thank you for your post Smithy.

From what I have read I am not sure whether or not it is ready at this stage to use for baking or to wait a little longer.

The starter which is not appearing to grow past the doubled state which it reached 3 hours ago is still bubbling but not growing and smells slightly sour. So I guess that all is well but am still not sure whether or not to go feed it again tonight or wait until tomorrow until the 24 hour period is up and then feed again.

 

Well, I'm afraid I don't the answer to the question of "feed now or wait until tomorrow" either. :) Do you have enough that you can split the starter, feed half and leave the other half alone?  I did a lot of that sort of thing when I was establishing mine.  Can't find my notes, though (sorry) so I can't tell you to what degree any of it mattered.

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Agree with Smithy about splitting the starter in half. And then in half again! It lets you try different things. After you feed your starter are you refrigerating it? Or letting it sit at room temperature? Also, are you starting a whole wheat starter? It's much easier to get a starter going with regular bread flour (or rye flour, that usually works best), and then after it's going well to split it in half and start feeding one half with the flour you eventually want to bake your bread with. Keep the bread flour starter going as well. When I first started playing around with starters I had bread flour, rye flour, and whole wheat flour starters. It was like feeding a baby. Or three. Now I just maintain one bread flour starter. I use it for whatever bread I'm making. If I want a whole grain bread I'll split the starter in half, then start feeding half with WW flour until it's ready. Actually sometimes I don't even bother with that. I'll use the bread flour starter as-is and just add WW flour as I mix the dough. I'm probably a lot less precise about this stuff than you're trying to be. But my bread is pretty good, no complaints. 


Edited by cakewalk punkchooayshun (log)
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