(Solved) Sourdough starter and general hints please??

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simonm
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(Solved) Sourdough starter and general hints please??

Post by simonm » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:07 pm

Long preamble. Questions at the bottom.

I have tried making sourdough a couple of times recently with varied levels of success.
So far I have been doing it with wheat flour,either wholewheat or a mixture of wholewheat and white. I known that most sourdough is traditionally rye or rye/wheat mix.
I met someone recently who makes all their bread and has done so for years. He told me that in their current house they can never get a starter to start. So they buy a starter once ever 6-10 weeks (whenever the piece saved from the last baking looses its "starter power") whereas in their previous house, they were always able to make their own starter.
My most recent attempt at making a starter seems to have worked. The loaf I took out of the over this afternoon is quite successful without any yeast.

Questions:
When do you put salt into the mixture? In the starter? Only when you are getting ready to bake? i.e. keep the starter salt free?
When do you put in flavourings ***? In the starter? Only when you are getting ready to bake? i.e. keep the starter flavouring free?
Have you experienced a similar case to the colleague who found that starters could be grrown naturally in one house/building but not in another? If yes, any theories as to why?

*** by flavourings I am referring only to the traditional spices and seeds like caraway, anis, coriander and similar but not fruit/nuts/olives or anything else.

Thanks.

p.s.

14/11/2014.
I have the info I need. Thank you.
Last edited by simonm on Fri Nov 14, 2014 5:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Sourdough starter and general hints please??

Post by edcat7 » Thu Nov 13, 2014 6:22 pm

I have experience with steamed Chinese breads which require a sour dough starter but I don't know if it's the same.
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Re: Sourdough starter and general hints please??

Post by UKsteve » Thu Nov 13, 2014 6:49 pm

simonm wrote: When do you put salt into the mixture? In the starter? Only when you are getting ready to bake? i.e. keep the starter salt free?
DON'T put salt in the starter. It's flour & water. That's it!
simonm wrote: When do you put in flavourings ***? In the starter? Only when you are getting ready to bake? i.e. keep the starter flavouring free?
DON'T put flavourings in the starter. It's flour & water. That's it! If you want that stuff in your bread, put in in when you're making the loaf (i.e. when mixing the leaven with your flour).
simonm wrote: Have you experienced a similar case to the colleague who found that starters could be grrown naturally in one house/building but not in another?
No. But...it can be a real pain getting a starter to start and stay active consistently. When it does, it does so reliably and is nearly indestructable, but it can take a good month of daily feeding. There is a ton about this on the sourdough forums (yes, there are such things). Persistence and patience are key.

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Re: Sourdough starter and general hints please??

Post by Scot Tremblay » Thu Nov 13, 2014 6:53 pm

EDIT: Sorry Steve. I guess I posted just as you were...lots of answers.

Hi Simon, I was a pastry chef for 25 years of my life so I may be able to answer some of your questions...if I haven't forgot everything by now...

The first thing is to get a good proven starter. In the absence of a friendly bakery nearby, a friend with a good starter, a traditional farm....it's best to purchase a kit from a reliable source. There are good ones available on line. Sounds like you have this part covered.

The second thing is that the starter needs to be well cared for to survive long. The longest I ever maintained a continuous batch was five years. It would have been longer except I went on vacation and the new Hotel Ex. Chef threw out my starter thinking it had gone sour...Well yea! That's the point. It's called "Sour Dough" for a reason

So, be sure to keep in warm draft free area of the kitchen, feed twice a day with equal part by weight of water and flour. Less than twice a day it looses vitality and will become useless. Each feeding should be enough to double the size of your starter. Before feeding remove half of the starter and use it...for pancakes, biscuits, even cake, give it to neighbours for their own starter...or pitch it. Other wise you will have sourdough enough for your entire city within a couple weeks.

I suspect that your friends issue in the new house is not due to environment but more likely their routine has changed and their sourdough is not being fed enough or properly cared for.

To your questions: Do not add salt or anything else (no flavourings) to the starter (if we need a lot of starter in a big hurry we would add some sugar the day before, yeast loves sugar just like the rest of us). Salt is used in bread to control the growth of the yeast, you're not trying to control the growth of your yeasts but expand the growth so no salt in the starter. In fact any dry flavourings (salt, cracked pepper, spices, seeds, nuts...) should be mixed with the flour (dry ingredients) when making the loaf and any wet flavourings with the water or liquid you use in the loaf. A little trick I learned from an old German baker was to substitute up to 1/4 of the liquid (water usually) in your bread with buttermilk. This gives the yeast a little boost during the final proofing. I also used the buttermilk in pancakes 1/2 - 1/2 with milk to make creamy buttermilk sourdough pancakes....

OK, now I gotta go make some flapjacks for lunch. :bye:
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Re: Sourdough starter and general hints please??

Post by simonm » Thu Nov 13, 2014 10:08 pm

Thanks guys for that info. Seems I am on the right path. Questions all answered. So time for a new one.
Wheat, rye or mixed? I assume it is just basically a matter of preference? As I mentioned above, so far I have just tried wheat.

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Re: Sourdough starter and general hints please??

Post by Scot Tremblay » Thu Nov 13, 2014 11:12 pm

I had best luck with wheat and rye but kept them separate just so I wasn't stuck with only one choice. I found that the rye worked better if I put half an onion in it for the first week or so. Seems to help the yeast get established...work in wheat too and doesn't really impart the onion flavour to the product.
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Re: (Solved) Sourdough starter and general hints please??

Post by singularity » Fri Nov 14, 2014 9:08 pm

I don't think this has been mentioned before, and for professionals like Scot it's likely a common sense, but many recipes do not mention when making bread you should use de-chlorinated water, even more important for bread starter. Also, flower should be un-bleached so that yeast that is in it can start doing it's magic.
My grandma used to make bread this way, she maintained her starter for years, only when she fell ill and passed away it died with her. I don't make bread that way, I make biga, an Italian bread starter that is easier to make and taste pretty good. However, this whole discussion might just make me curious enough to try it.
Thanks for bringing this up.

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Re: Sourdough starter and general hints please??

Post by simonm » Sun Apr 10, 2016 4:03 pm

Scot Tremblay wrote:... Other wise you will have sourdough enough for your entire city within a couple weeks. ...
Really just bumping this thread in case anyone reading the "amazing revelation" thread is interested in making (uncut) sourdough. I followed Scot's methodology and eventually arrived at the stage above. The quantity really does go up over the weeks.

For what it is worth, we just use plain old tap water here. We are in an area where much of the water is actually from mountain springs. It is treated of course, but there is absolutely no discernible chemical taste. It tastes way better than bottled waters. Very lucky in that respect and we miss it when we are somewhere else. The office I work in a few km away has a slightly different mix as it gets some spring water and some "recycled" water. Still tastes better than most bottled water.

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Re: (Solved) Sourdough starter and general hints please??

Post by MessyTendon » Sun Apr 10, 2016 5:44 pm

The environment has nothing do with the bread, most likely bad habits. Just feed the starters and they'll all be fine. There is nothing wrong with pitching some yeast. In fact you can boil a large amount of yeast in water, it will be dead yeast, but those dead soldiers can be pitched directly into a starter. Yeast are cannibals, they will consume the nutrients of dead yeast. It's a cycle.

For good starters, just keep feeding it. Grapes work well for making a good starter, get the oldest nastiest imported Chilean grapes from the market, crush up toss in flour and water, let em ferment, then add fresh flour later. Remove the grapes of course, but keep feeding it.

Surely you've got sour grapes in Germany :) Maybe not...here in America we get unseasonal fruit year round.

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Re: (Solved) Sourdough starter and general hints please??

Post by tom2977 » Sun Apr 10, 2016 5:44 pm

I recommend this site and getting hold of some of the starter "starter". I got hold of some and now get very good sourdough. I found my own starter was fine but this one was just more vigorous.

http://carlsfriends.net/

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Re: (Solved) Sourdough starter and general hints please??

Post by lycrabyka » Thu May 05, 2016 4:45 pm

I've just found this thread, it seems an odd topic for classical guitar but useful for me as I have tried a few times to get a sourdough to start without success, so I'll try again with a some of the tips.

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Re: (Solved) Sourdough starter and general hints please??

Post by Reymundo » Wed May 25, 2016 5:58 pm

I started baking bread in early 2015 (decided to make hobby of it), I thought it would only last a year, but now its been about 18 months. I started doing Sourdough with a King Arthur Flour (KAF) Sourdough starter (after taking a bread baking class at KAF's VT campus), and it has been thriving since about last August. Once you get a starter going, it will stay pretty stable (while changing over time based on flours used and natural yeast present in the environment).

I tend to bake two loaves at a time going from a revived sponge (50/50) starter to make a stiff starter (65/35) to ultimately arrive at a final dough mix, and also rely on refrigerator rising for the most part (in about a two day process), after I have reactivated the starter with 2-3 consecutive feedings.

While I don't eat generally eat much of the final product, I have so many takers, it seems I am nonetheless baking 2 or 4 loaves each week.
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Re: (Solved) Sourdough starter and general hints please??

Post by Andrew Pohlman » Wed May 25, 2016 9:31 pm

Glad this topic was resurrected. I followed up on Reymundo's post and went to the King Arthur site. It seems that one of the secrets is the covered baker for the sourdough loaves. It "steams" them as if they were in a brick steam oven.

A little more research revealed that "real" sourdough is made in brick steam injection ovens that start out at about 1000F, and drop temp rapidly. This is supposedly responsible for the amazing sourdough crust. The best we can do at home to emulate this is the covered baking pans. SO has anyone tried those covered pans ?
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Re: (Solved) Sourdough starter and general hints please??

Post by MessyTendon » Wed May 25, 2016 10:53 pm

Covered baking pans, or high temperature have nothing to do with sour dough flavor. It's entirely the cultures of yeast and bacteria that get introduced to the fermentation of the dough.

You can make a wild yeast starter from grapeskins, or even wild flowers from outside. There is yeast everywhere. As long as you get a sour character you like, then keep feeding it like a child, or it dies :)

Andrew, why don't you just enjoy a fresh loaf of SF sour dough if you are there. Hell you could probably ask a local bakery to buy a pinch and then grow your own. Or just start one, place a cup of flour and water with a touch of yeast, let sit outside...wait patiently...Does it start to smell sour...good, that's it. No magic, just luck, love and care. Yeast cells are cannibals. Any wild yeast will eat the dead yeast cells that you pitched in your starter.

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Re: (Solved) Sourdough starter and general hints please??

Post by Andrew Pohlman » Thu May 26, 2016 9:10 pm

MessyTendon wrote:Covered baking pans, or high temperature have nothing to do with sour dough flavor. It's entirely the cultures of yeast and bacteria that get introduced to the fermentation of the dough.

You can make a wild yeast starter from grapeskins, or even wild flowers from outside. There is yeast everywhere. As long as you get a sour character you like, then keep feeding it like a child, or it dies :)

Andrew, why don't you just enjoy a fresh loaf of SF sour dough if you are there. Hell you could probably ask a local bakery to buy a pinch and then grow your own. Or just start one, place a cup of flour and water with a touch of yeast, let sit outside...wait patiently...Does it start to smell sour...good, that's it. No magic, just luck, love and care. Yeast cells are cannibals. Any wild yeast will eat the dead yeast cells that you pitched in your starter.
I didn't say that the flavor is affected, rather the crust. And maybe I misunderstood, but as for baking rather than buying, you would be right that it would be very hard to bake bread as good as I can buy in the SF Area. But my mom baked fresh bread and taught me how to bake. I want to bake my own.

I suppose it's analogous to playing guitar. I can certainly buy music better than I can play, but I still want to play.
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