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The Pineapple Juice Solution, Part 2

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

The Pineapple Juice Solution, Part 2

Pineapple juice is a simple solution to a problem that many people encounter while trying to start a sourdough seed culture from scratch. Oftentimes, a new culture will appear to start off very strong, only to die a day or two later. The early expansion is caused by a prolific gas-producing bacterium which many mistake for yeast. Pineapple juice can be added to flour instead of water at the beginning, to insure against unwanted bacteria and the problems they leave in their wake. It doesn't change the end result, but it does seem to keep things on the track to finish on time. Part 1 tells the story of where the pineapple remedy comes from and how it was conceived. The rest of the story probes deeper into how it all works. But first, here is a recap of the key patterns revealed by notes and data collected during experimental trials:

  • When starters expanded significantly on the second day, a period of stillness followed, and the appearance of yeast was delayed.
  • Gas-producing bacteria stopped growing when the pH dropped to 4.5, but yeast growth didn't begin until the pH fell to around 3.5, accounting for the period of stillness.
  • Lowering the pH in the initial mixture, by adding ascorbic acid or by replacing the water with pineapple juice, kept gas-producing bacteria from growing and brought about a more timely and predictable result.

But it wasn't enough just to find a fix. The problem-solving efforts of my team were creating a buzz which we hadn't anticipated and this thing, like the seed cultures we were creating, was taking on a life of its own. Some were jumping to premature conclusions, and speculation seemed to be spreading as fact. It made me very uncomfortable, because I'd rather be dispelling myths than adding to them. I wanted to find some real answers, and find them fast, so I started making phone calls. I found two local labs that could help me out. One had the capability to identify leuconostocs, and the other to detect lactobacilli and other bacteria of interest. I submitted samples of a day two starter during the big expansion. Both labs found that there were three organisms growing. But there were no lactobacilli or yeasts found, which supports what I observed time after time on microscopic examination. My gas-producer was identified as Leuconostoc citreum. At the time, I couldn't find much information specific to this organism, although it seems to share many characteristics with other Leuconostoc species found in foods. Most will not grow below pH 4.8, and this one doesn't appear to be an exception.

Until recently, I could only theorize that the Leuconostoc may actively hinder the process, because the pattern supports it, and because it's not uncommon for microorganisms to produce substances which inhibit competitors. But in updating this article, a new search of the scientific literature finally uncovered the piece of the puzzle I was looking for. Who would have thought the answers would be found in kimchi and sake? It turns out that kimchi fermentation has a lot in common with sourdough development, and mirrors the early days of the seed culture process. Leuconostoc citreum plays a dominant role in the early and mid-phases of fermentation where it causes a slow and prolonged drop in pH, and retards the growth of other lactic acid bacteria.[1] In a study on sake fermentation, Leuconostoc citreum was found to produce bacteriocins (bacterially-produced antibiotic proteins) which inhibit the growth of similar lactic acid bacteria (i.e., lactobacilli).[2] It appears that these bacteriocins linger for a time even after the organism stops growing, although their effect is diluted through successive feeding. A dosage effect would explain nicely the apparent relationship between the vigor with which this bacterium flairs up initially, and the number of days the starter remains still afterward. The higher the rise, the longer it seems to take to recover.

In addition to Leuconostoc citreum, there was also a large amount of Aerococcus viridans. The first lab I visited found Leuconostoc to be in the greatest quantity, but Aerococcus was multiplying so fast that it soon passed the Leuconostoc in number. That is important, and could very well have contributed to the delayed progress. Even though Aerococcus doesn't produce gas, and so was not responsible for any of the expansion, it is not much of an acid producer either. So while it was using up a large share of the available sugars, it was not helping the pH to fall. Aerococcus is an occasional spoilage organism in unpasteurized milk, which is the extent of information that I have found on its involvement in foods. Its lower limit is not given in my reference books, but since pineapple juice seems to keep it at bay, I suspect that it must be in the same ballpark with leuconostocs. I'm still not sure how big a part each of these organisms plays in slowing the progress of a seed culture, but lowering the pH at the outset seems to be a blanket fix.

I mentioned in Part 1 that some of the bacteria were flipping, twirling and zipping around under the microscope. Those were Enterobacter cloacae. Enterobacter produces gas, but since it was present in only a scant amount compared to the others, I think it safe to say that the Leuconostoc was responsible for the majority of it. However, Enterobacter contributes to an unpleasant odor, as do Aerococcus and Leuconostoc. Because some people report a very stinky smell and others not as much, I'd have to say that even among starters that grow Leuconostoc, not all necessarily have the same combination of bacteria. There are others that can grow as well. Results vary from flour to flour and year to year, because the number and species of microorganisms are influenced by conditions relating to weather and grain crop production.[3] I wish I could have all the organisms identified at every stage, but there aren't any laboratories in my area that are equipped to identify wild yeasts or sourdough bacteria. And even if they could, the cost would be prohibitive. I was fortunate to be in a position to have two of the organisms identified as a professional courtesy.

With the additional information, and having watched the drama unfold under the microscope, I started seeing the seed culture process not as good guys out-competing bad or gradually increasing in number, but as a natural succession of microorganisms that pave the way for "the good guys" in the way that they transform their environment. There are bacteria in flour that prefer the more neutral pH of freshly mixed flour and water (like Leuconostoc and company). They are the first to start growing, some producing acids as by-products. This lowers the pH, and other bacteria begin to grow; they produce their acids, lowering the pH even more. It soon becomes too acidic for the first batch and they stop growing. One group slows down and drops out as the next is picking up and taking off. Each has its time, and each lays the groundwork for the next. It's much more like a relay than a microbial free-for-all. The baton is passed to the next group in line as conditions become suitable for them. The acidity increases a bit more with each pass, and the more acid-loving bacteria can eventually take over. The appearance of yeast seems to be tied in some way to low pH---maybe directly, maybe indirectly, but the correlation shows that it isn't random in the way that "catching" yeast from the air would be, or their gradually increasing in number.

In the late fall/early winter of 2004, I was coaching a group of women on Cookstalk, Taunton's Fine Cooking forum, and I noticed something else. My starters sort of liquefy the day before yeast starts to grow. Gluten disappears, which shows the work of proteolytic enzymes. At first I thought it signaled the appearance of lactobacilli and their proteases. But now I think it was simply an indicator that the pH had dropped low enough to activate aspartic proteinases, pH-sensitive enzymes abundant in wheat.[4] Because I prefer to seed a new culture with whole grain flour for at least three days, there are more cereal enzymes present than in a starter fed with white flour (most of them are removed with bran in the milling process). But either way, it is a good sign of Lactobacillus activity, whether by production of bacterial proteases or by the organism's effect on pH and activation of cereal proteases.

The starters were developing a little more slowly this time around, which inspired me to describe the different stages that a new culture transitions through, rather than try and pin it to a time frame. Room temperature is different from one kitchen to the next, as well as season to season. Sometimes rye flour finishes faster, sometimes whole wheat is faster. Sometimes a culture doesn't start producing its own acid for the first two days instead of one. Because this process involves variable live cultures under variable conditions, it doesn't always work in a prescribed number of days, but it follows a predictable pattern. While this has been a discovery process for me, it is not a new discovery:

"There has been nice work done in Rudi Vogel's lab on the microflora of a freshly started sourdough: first, there are enterobacteria (Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Enterobacter), highly undesirable organisms that stink terribly. Then there are homofermentative lactobacilli (good lactic acid producers, but they don't produce gas or acetic acid), then acid-tolerant, heterofermentative lactobacilli that make lactic and acetic acid, as well as CO2. I think this took about forty-eight hours at 30ºC in Vogel's study. The stink at the beginning does not matter as the organisms will be diluted out or die eventually. No L. sanfranciscensis appears by forty-eight hours, though: these will occur only after repeated refreshments. Peter Stolz told me that it takes about two weeks of repeated inoculations to get a good 'sanfranciscensis' sourdough."[5]

That paragraph didn't have any special significance for me until I had gotten to this point. But when I read it again, I had one of those aha moments. Not only did this describe a succession, but it filled in some of the blanks, and I could see clearly how all these microorganisms related to the four phases I had defined. Here is the updated version marrying the two. You don't need a microscope for this, because there are outward signs which serve as useful indicators of progress.

The First Phase:
For the first day or so, nothing really happens that is detectable to the human senses. It doesn't taste any tangier or develop bubbles. It remains looking much the same as when it was mixed, except a little lighter in color if an acid was used, and a little darker if not. While nothing appears to be happening, the first wave of bacteria (determined by pH and the microflora in the flour) are waking up, sensing their new environment and preparing to grow. This phase usually lasts about one day, sometimes two.

The Second Phase:
The starter will begin producing its own acid and develop a tangy taste (although it might be difficult to distinguish from pineapple juice). Lactic acid bacteria are actively growing at this point. When using only water, this phase represents two waves of microbes---first Leuconostoc and associates, followed by homofermentative lactobacilli and possibly other lactic acid bacteria. By controlling the pH, you can by-pass the leuconostocs and other "highly undesirable organisms that stink terribly," and skip to the second wave. It will get bubbly and expand only if the pH is not low enough to prevent growth of gassy bacteria, otherwise there won't be much to see. There probably won't be much gluten degradation, and it may smell a little different, but it shouldn't smell particularly foul unless started with plain water. This phase can last one to three days or more. If it is going to get hung up anywhere, this is the place it usually happens, especially if it is put on a white flour diet too soon. If after three days in this phase, it still doesn't become more sour and show signs of progress, the best thing to do is switch back to whole grain flour. Whole grain has a much higher microbial count to re-seed the culture and get it moving again. If that doesn't do it, skip a feeding or two to allow the acidity to build.

The Third Phase:
The starter will become very tart like lemon juice---an indication of more acid production by more acid-tolerant bacteria. The gluten may disappear and tiny bubbles become more noticeable. These are signs that heterofermentative lactobacilli have picked up the baton. Once a starter becomes really sour, it usually transitions into phase four within a day or two. Note that lactic acid doesn't have much aroma, and so smell is not a reliable way to judge the level of sourness. If it gets stuck here for 48 hours or more, make sure there's still enough whole grain in the mix and give it more time between refreshments.

The Fourth Phase:
Yeast start to grow and populate the starter relatively quickly at this point. It will expand with gas bubbles all over and begin to take on the yeasty smell of bread or beer.

This pattern suggests that wild yeasts are activated by low pH. Or perhaps the activator is something else produced by lactobacilli, but it happens predictably at this point for me, as long as the whole grain flour has not been diluted out. There may be some variation among wild yeasts as to the exact pH or activating substance. I have been unable to find the answer in scientific literature, and my contact at Lallemand did not know. I have only found studies done with cultivated strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which don't seem to require much more than a fermentable sugar (and may explain why seed cultures take off much quicker in a bakery environment where baker's yeast is everywhere). The most useful information I have found on the subject is this, about microbial spores in general:

"Although spores are metabolically dormant and can remain in this state for many years, if given the proper stimulus they can return to active metabolism within minutes through the process of spore germination. A spore population will often initiate germination more rapidly and completely if activated prior to addition of a germinant. However, the requirement for activation varies widely among spores of different species. A number of agents cause spore activation, including low pH and many chemicals... The initiation of spore germination in different species can be triggered by a wide variety of compounds, including nucleosides, amino acids, sugars, salts, DPA, and long-chain alkylamines, although within a species the requirements are more specific. The precise mechanism whereby these compounds trigger spore germination is not clear."[6]

What this means is that for dormant cells to return to active growth (germinate), they need to break dormancy (activate) which is initiated by different things for different species. In the case of these wild sourdough yeasts, if all they needed were food or oxygen, which are there from the get-go, then they would start growing immediately. The fact that they don't, is probably why many people think they need to be caught from the air, or that large quantities of flour must be used to round up enough of them. There are enough dormant cells present even in relatively small quantities of whole grain flour, but it's like a game of Simon Says. You can try to coax them into growing, with food and all the things you may fancy to be good for actively growing yeast. But they're not active. They are dormant, and will remain so until they receive the right message from their surroundings. Compare this to the plant seed that sits in soil all winter long, waiting until spring to sprout, when conditions are most favorable. Is it a survival mechanism? I don't know, but waiting for the pH to drop does increase the likelihood that the yeast will wake up in the company of lactobacilli, with which they seem to share a complex and mutually beneficial relationship. It is also important to point out here that active sourdough yeasts thrive in a much wider pH range than what appears to be required for activation of dormant cells. The point to keep in mind is that active and dormant cells are physiologically and metabolically different, and so their needs are different.

This pattern of growth is not unique to the formula in the Bread Baker's Apprentice. I have seen the same progression, in whole or in part, with all the starter formulas I've tried. And it doesn't really matter how much flour you start with. In fact this can be done with very small quantities of flour. All else being equal, it proceeds just as fast with a teaspoon as it does with a pound. Procedures that call for two or three feedings per day, or large refreshments before yeast are active, can actually get in the way of the process. Overfeeding unnecessarily dilutes the acid, which slows the drop in pH, and keeps it from moving through the succession of microorganisms in the timeliest manner. But while it can take up to two weeks or more this way, with Mother Nature as the driving force, things do fall in line eventually. It's just a question of when. Three to five days is about all it really takes to reach the yeast activation stage at average room temperature, somewhat longer if Leuconostoc and associates grow. The strategy is quite different from reviving a neglected starter, which is likely to have an overabundance of acid, and a large population of yeast and sourdough bacteria, however sluggish they may be.

So, what can we do instead to facilitate the process? Start by providing conditions for the first two to three days which are favorable to lactic acid bacteria. A warm spot if you can easily manage one (but not too much higher than 80ºF), and a reasonably high hydration (at least 100%). Use pineapple juice if you like, to bypass the first round of bacteria. (Or use water if you prefer, and don't mind the odors and delay.) Feed with whole grain flour until yeast are actively growing, not for the wider spectrum of sugars it may offer, but for its higher numbers of yeast and lactic acid bacteria to seed each phase in its turn. Don't feed too much or too frequently, so as to allow the acids to accumulate and the pH to fall more rapidly. The ideal feeding quantity and frequency would depend on the temperature, hydration, and how fast the pH is falling. However, I usually recommend once a day at room temperature, simply because it is the easiest to manage, it works, and the daily manipulation helps to keep mold from getting started. Mold is the biggest stumbling block for procedures in which a young mixture is allowed to sit idle for two or three days at a time. Turning surface mold spores into the center by re-kneading or stirring and scraping down the sides daily, is the best way to get around it. Mold is not inhibited by low pH or pineapple juice, and anti-mold properties don't fully develop until sourdough is well established.

While you don't actually need a formula to do this, no article on making sourdough starter would be complete without one. This procedure was designed with simplicity in mind, to be efficient, effective, and to minimize waste. It was developed with the participation of four willing and very patient women whom I worked with online---DJ Anderson, Karen Rolfe, Deanna Schneider and the still-anonymous 'lorian,' whose plea for help is what renewed the quest to find a better way. I learned a great deal from the feedback they and others gave me as we worked out the kinks, and this formula is a tribute to them.

There is nothing magic about the two tablespoons of measure used throughout the first three days. Equal weights didn't provide a high enough ratio of acid to flour to suit me, and equal volumes did. Two tablespoons is enough to mix easily without being overly wasteful (and just happens to be the volume of an eighth-cup coffee scoop, which is what I kept on the counter next to the flour and seed culture for quick, easy feeding). If you insist on weighing, make it about 15 gm flour and 30 gm juice. These first few days don't really benefit from being particularly fussy with odd or precise measuring, so make it easy on yourself. Keep it simple, and let Mother Nature do the rest.

Day 1: mix...
2 tablespoons whole grain flour* (wheat or rye)
2 tablespoons pineapple juice, orange juice, or apple cider

Day 2: add...
2 tablespoons whole grain flour*
2 tablespoons juice or cider

Day 3: add...
2 tablespoons whole grain flour*
2 tablespoons juice or cider

Day 4: (and once daily until it starts to expand and smell yeasty), mix . . .
2 oz. of the starter (1/4 cup after stirring down -- discard the rest)
1 oz. whole grain flour* (scant 1/4 cup)
1 oz. water (2 tablespoons)

* Organic is not a requirement, nor does it need to be freshly ground.

On average, yeast begin to grow on day 3 or 4 in the warmer months, and on day 4 or 5 during colder times of the year, but results vary by circumstance. Feed once a day, taking care not to leave mold-promoting residue clinging to the sides or lid of your bowl or container, and refer back to the different phases to track progress---particularly if it gets stuck in second phase or shows no progress for 3 or more days. Once you have yeast growing (but not before), you can and should step up the feeding to two or three times a day, and/or give it bigger refreshments. Before yeast, don't feed too much; after yeast, don't feed too little. You can feed the starter/seed culture whatever you would like at this point. White flour, either bread or a strong unbleached all-purpose like King Arthur or a Canadian brand will turn it into a general-purpose white sourdough starter. Feed it rye flour if you want a rye sour, or whole wheat, if you want to make 100% whole wheat breads. If you're new to sourdough, a white starter is the best place to start.

This is the point at which I generally defer to the sourdough experts. There are several good books on sourdough which address the topic of starter maintenance and how to use it in bread. There are many different approaches. Just keep in mind that the first days of the seed culture process have nothing to do with developing flavor or even fostering the most desirable species. The object is simply to move through the succession and get the starter up and running. The fine-tuning begins there. Once yeast are growing well, choose the hydration, temperature and feeding routine that suits you, and the populations will shift in response to the flour and conditions that you set up for maintenance.

One more thing I have found is that with regular feeding at room temperature, new starters seem to improve and get more fragrant right around the two week mark. Maybe this coincides with the appearance of Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis mentioned previously, or another highly adapted sourdough species. A Fifth Phase, and beyond? Obviously, there is still more to learn.   -Debra Wink

References

1. Choi, In-Kwon, Seok-Ho  Jung, Bong-Joon Kim, Sae-Young Park, Jeongho Kim, and Hong-Ui Han. 2003. Novel Leuconostoc citreum starter culture system for the fermentation of kimchi, a fermented cabbage product. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek  84:247-253.

2. Kurose, N., T. Asano, S. Kawakita, and S. Tarumi. 2004. Isolation and characterization of psychotrophic Leuconostoc citreum isolated from rice koji. Seibutsu-kogaku Kaishi 82:183-190.

3. Doyle, Michael P., Larry R. Beuchat, and Thomas J. Montville. 2001. Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains, p. 135. Food Microbiology Fundamentals and Frontiers, 2nd ed. American Society for Microbiology Press, Washington, DC.

4. Katina, Kati. 2005. Sourdough: a tool for the improved flavour, texture and shelf-life of wheat bread, p. 23.VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

5. Wing, Daniel, and Alan Scott. 1999. Baker's Resource: Sourdough Microbiology, p. 231. The bread Builders. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, White River Junction, VT.

6. Doyle, Michael P., Larry R. Beuchat, and Thomas J. Montville. 2001. Spores and Their Significance, p. 50. Food Microbiology Fundamentals and Frontiers, 2nd ed. American Society for Microbiology Press, Washington, DC.

7. Arendt, Elke K., Liam A.M. Ryan, and Fabio Dal Bello. 2007. Impact of sourdough on the texture of bread. Food Microbiology 24:165-174.

------------------------

This article was first published in Bread Lines, a publication of The Bread Bakers Guild of America.
Vol. 16, Issue 2, June 2008.

Related Links:
  The Pineapple Juice Solution, Part 1 | The Fresh Loaf
  Lactic Acid Fermentation in Sourdough | The Fresh Loaf 
  Basic Procedure for Making Sourdough Starter | Cooks Talk

Comments

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi BB,

Sounds like you're doing everything right. The water and temperature are fine, so here are two things to consider at this point:

1. Is it sour enough yet? They often have to get really tart before the yeast take off. By that I mean puckeringly so. It should compare with sauerkraut or full sour pickles. Also, the gluten strands should disintegrate by feeding time --- accelerated proteolysis in whole wheat is one of the hallmarks of third phase. If it isn't sour enough, it may just need more time between feedings. You can give it 3 days or more as long as you stir it and scrape down the sides every day to keep mold at bay.

2. If the starter has been sour enough for a few days (maybe even showing some tiny bubbles from the heterofermentative LAB), but still isn't expanding, there may not be enough viable yeast in your flour. How hot does it get when you mill it? Do you have any other whole-grains, raw bran, or whole grain flours on hand? Sometimes trying another flour does the trick.

The problem is probably one of those two things, and fortunately they're easy enough to fix :)

 

BeansBaxter's picture
BeansBaxter

I have tasted it and it's extremely tart. The gluten strands do disintegrate by feeding time. Based on that, it seems like I'm stalled in the 3rd phase. That's why I tried going to every other day for feedings. I will try every 3 days and see if that makes a difference.

I wondered about the lack of viable yeast so I tried a different source of wheat with the same of results. It shouldn't be a temperature issue as the flour comes out of my mill (Mockmill KitchenAid attachment) at around 100-105 ºF. I don't have any other whole grains on hand but I'll see what I can find locally and try again. Fortunately the pineapple juice came in a six pack so I still have a few cans left.

Thanks for your reply and helpful suggestions.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

More time between feeding may be all it needs. I think that helped someone up-thread stuck at the same place. If that doesn't do it, do you have Bob's Red Mill Products at your store? You could pick up a small cello bag of dark rye flour, unprocessed miller's wheat bran, or any of the number of cracked cereal grains. I'd recommend that before starting over when it sounds like you're so close to lift-off.

Added for clarification:

I don't have any other whole grains on hand but I'll see what I can find locally and try again. Fortunately the pineapple juice came in a six pack so I still have a few cans left.

I mean that you can try adding one of these to your flour as another source of seed yeast in the feeding of your current starter. There is no need or benefit in starting over. That would be like running a race and going back to the starting line when you get to the hill. You'll see the finish line sooner by tackling the hill. But first give it the extra time because you're already near the top and you may not need the extra push to get over it  :)

pmccool's picture
pmccool

Does the Dole juice contain any preservatives?  I ask because one non-starter of my own some years back was waylaid by pineapple juice that contained preservatives.  I never though to look until things were well past the stage that I should have seen activity.  There it was, in tiny little print: Contains BHT. 

Please note that the juice I used wasn’t Dole. 

Paul

BeansBaxter's picture
BeansBaxter

I checked the label when I bought it and it seemed fine. Here are the ingredients:

pineapple juice
ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
vitamin E
vitamin A

I don't see BHT mentioned anywhere on the label.

pmccool's picture
pmccool

I didn’t want to leave that possibility unmentioned, since it isn’t an obvious one. 

Paul

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi Paul,

Dole is what we used in the trials, so unless they've changed the formula, I can vouch for it  :)

dw

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

at night, then see about getting the starter warmer during that time. Feed before the warm section of the day and right now skip a feed when it gets cooler.  Count the warmer parts of the day which may mean count a day as a half day.  That might give you a better perspective and reward your patience.  Temperature really makes a difference and if you can get up to at least 75°F it will speed up the process.  You are so close!

The middle and upper 70's °F are good temps for getting yeast going in new starters.  As the starter yeast numbers increase and it gets older it can tollerate the low 70's° better.

intergalactickungfuoverdrive's picture
intergalacticku...

Hopefully i’m not replying too early; i am maybe 2/3, 3/4 through part one’s posts on the 1st page; and at this comment here to Crumb Bum, 3/5 down the page, on the 1st page of part 2

 

i have tried experimenting with this before and now have started a blog here on my current progress. i am now at a point where i think i should juggle around my current jars to make starter; and use some for longer term pre-ferment (but fed enough, to stave off mold);

the flavor compounds i am looking for are the cheese cultures products from aging (and? with leconostocc mesenteroides var cremoris, initial flavor (if it isn’t decomposed later ??))

i am curious how cheese aging works; with the bacteria staying alive and making what they do; but also, i dont know the pH ranges they are non dormant in.

i believe there are 12 intended bacteria types in my one jar (because i have 2 identical mesophilic mixes but two companies/cell lines) 2 in the thermophile, 4 x 2 (the repeats from briena and flora danica/cw hansen) in each mesophile, 1 propionibacterium shermanii (the really important goal for me here; being vegan and shooting for healthy propionates that even prevent cancer; and which taste delicious) , and a staphylococcus xylosus II strain in a choozit brand MSA adjunct culture

my plain jane san franscisco sourdough culture attempt got moldy, but the one i added thermophile to, with swiss cheese bacto (prop shermanii) , had a dollop of it added to it before the contribution jar contents went moldy 

(i have ordered another san francisco sourdough culture as a backup)

 

see, i also want to experiment with keeping a special ale yeast strain (i targeted for one that produces diacetyl and can withstand higher fermentation temperatures without tasting bad) which i am hoping could work out;

it is an english strain ((wyeast london ESB 1968 ale)), which are known to produce diacetyl (not only do i want to make a real deal, slightly sweet butterbeer like in harry potter, but, i’m hoping to make butter-with-cheesy-bread :) )

for a buttery cheesy bread, all from little beasties and flour/water

 

i was wondering if i could make my own sourdough with the wyeast (which is reportedly a bit rapid in beer fermentation; so, being that ale yeasts are generally less active then active  dry yeasts and need longer rise times; compounded with sourdough rising slower; it figured good to find a rapid-ish fermenter, with a high temp limit, and produce diacetyl if not too high on that temp limit) and cheese yeasts, swiss, specifically, which needs a helveticus culture (or anything else ?) for some amino acid or protien feed.

i just updated my blog posting and after reading some, last minute, am thinking i should maybe underfees both remaining jars with maybe 1 Tbl flour and water, and stir nice (?) just to keep it firsty against mold, but not dilute pH

(the mesophilic one, with the leconostocc mesenteroides var/ssp? cremoris, smells food and cheesy :) i can correct spelling later, i hope. both have bubbles, i believe.

 

 

 

EDIT; so i added 1 tablespoon flour/water to them, and split the one that has everything in it, into two jars. about 8 hours ago

 

i am guessing the special leconostocc are contributing to the delicious smell; and i juggle repoured to succesovely cleaned jars, as to remove batter from the walls.

i am hoping that i can turn what i called A into a starter, and use one of the B’ or B’’ to make a starter, with the other beong a continually fed pre ferment.

i figure that maybe, that can be continually fed slightly and multiplied into jars and form a kind of slow aged assembly line or something, where i use jars of preferment; with flour/dough to raise pH, and add starter as well; and, keep cycling the jars forward, as i feed fresher ones.

i don’t think it’s an assembly line but i cant think of a better word right now

 

this is my blog of notes

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/64573/cheese-culture-sourdough-bread-experiments#comment-460694

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi intergalactickungfuoverdrive,

I'm not sure what this is about (and I'm not a cheesemaker), so if there is a sourdough question please be concise and to the point.

Thank you,
dw

intergalactickungfuoverdrive's picture
intergalacticku...

i’m just looking for help in general on trying to get a sourdough that has cheese bacteria making nice things in it. 

i have been trying different types of approaches before and after i got some pineapple juice, and in the beginning i didn’t have any pineapple juice and used cheese cultures with sourdough starter and ale yeast (2 different approaches i took then) there was the nice cheesy smell; and then i started getting more of a vinegar smell or kombucha smell, later (i think before i used the pineapple juice). before any yeasts appeared, the most smelly was the one i threw all the cheese cultures at, which also had leconostoc mesenteroides var cremoris in it besides the flour microbes.

 

 

only one jar/experiment suceeded in producing a cheesy loaf that had fried cheese and ages soft cheese tastes; but i’m not sure if it’s going to work again, due to there being a slow buildup of bacterial stages before i did the pineapple juice, and then it smelled like kombucha and then also a mix of fusels or stuff from the pineapple (likely yeast); but surprisingly that stuff went away on a 20 hour rise and when baked was cheesy.

but the other ones i just baked for example, that had some of that batch mixed in with another (that barely rose and had no great taste) ended up still fusel alcohol like after baking even, and barely rose.

 

i am wondering if keeping cultures in fermenter jar lids that let gas out but not in, or under saran wrap would be better for the cultures, because it would produce alcohol maybe, instead of vinegar (from the yeast)

but also, my previous bread fail that still had fusels was risen under saran, instead of damp cloth.

 

i don’t know what’s going on with the cultures so i’m trying to understand and patch up or discard what is necessary; i got really close but there was something off and it wasn’t perfected; but i’m worried that the bacterial populations are shifting and capped and doing stuff that will leave me having to start over with fresh culture if it needed to be fed a certain way and/or if the yeast hit some vinegar phase that preclude it from making alcohol again if i put a seal on it.

 

i figured it couldn’t have been clostridum perfeingens, salt rising bread, because i didn’t sterilize anything and i didn’t think my room got that hot to 90-100 ect degrees F, maybe 80s ? and then i thought its compounds could stay in the bread, and the other bacteria that came with lowered pH and pineapple juice kept those compounds around and outcompeted the perfringens and made other things along with the yeast.

i entertained that idea which i don’t believe; and also the one where the buildup of the stages of leconostoc and then lactic cheese cultures, built the good molecules that were dilutes with vinegar and acids and fusels, and that the fusels baked off, but that maybe the next feedings wont bring back the old flavor compounds because the flora are onto a different stage,

i am hoping they really produce the compounds on a ling rise time, once they are introduced to fresh normal pH dough, but i don’t know

 

 

also, the salt rising bread gave me an idea; to follow a salt rising bread recipe and let the loafs rise; but then sterilize them and mix in dry malt extract and london ale yeast; and let rise in a low temperature 50-60 F environment slowly and bake the loaf; then it could have better bubbles, crumb and still have the butyric acids from the perfringens (if the yeast didn’t metabolism them) and it would have the diacetyl from the london ale (if it doesn’t all evaporate in baking because of it’s boiling point, i don’t know).

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

If what you're trying to do is ferment flavors of cheese into your bread by perpetuating cheese cultures in a sourdough starter, then I think it's unrealistic. In all likelihood, they are wasted there. It would be like trying to herd cats ;-)  Pressing them to go a certain direction just makes them scatter and disappear because they have a will of their own.

The microbes doing the fermenting are only half of the flavor equation. The other equally important half is what they are fermenting -- the substrate -- because it is where the microbes must get the raw materials to build the flavor compounds. The cheese cultures, if they do well in a flour-based system alongside sourdough cultures highly adapted to it, will likely produce different flavor profiles than they do in dairy.

If you find the cheese cultures you're working with do produce the flavor you're after in bread, then a more direct approach would be the way to go. Add the pure cultures to your preferment or dough each time, with or without sourdough, in the same way you would use bakers' yeast. An even more direct and flavor-accurate approach might be to add grated cheese to the final dough.

Good luck in your pursuit,
dw

Jupiter's picture
Jupiter

Hi Debra, thank you so much for your contributions here, I have learned heaps from your posts and have just signed up in the hope of having a question answered please.

I have what seems like a very vigorous starter, which i started using the pineapple method a couple of months ago. I've been feeding it quite often, trying to time it to the correct peak of activity as described in your previous posts, rather than letting it bubble all the way up and then flatten back down.

What I am trying to achieve is a once-daily feed at the peak, but i'm finding my ratios are getting a bit extreme. My house goes from about 21 degrees C during the day, to about 12 degrees at night (winter here in Sydney, Australia), and to achieve a 24 hour feed time at the peak of activity means I'm using a ratio of around 1:12:12 or 1:13:13. I have scales that measure 0.01g so its not difficult to have a small feed that is for example 1.48g starter, 19.2g flour and 19.2g water, so even though the ratios are extreme, the waste is minimal.

My question is, do you see any problem with this? Am I at risk of wild fermentation perhaps? When I perform the feed, I first measure the water, then add the tiny bit of existing starter and disperse it in the water, then add the flour last. I feel like this gets the best dispersion of the small amount of carry-over starter.

Secondly, does this seem normal to you? I haven't found anwhere online any reference to having to use such an extreme ratio of 1:13:13. Do I have some sort of super-starter? Or do most people just feed well after the activity peak?

Thank you so much for your help, you've contributed such a great deal to this space!

Justin

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi Justin,

If it's not getting overly acidic or sluggish, you can let it go past peak. Especially since it's so cool where you are. Play it by ear, see what it will do. You can always add an extra feed if you need to before baking with it. The problem with simply diluting more is that it doesn't buy you that much time, and other problems can arise. If you want to slow it down, I'd suggest reducing the hydration instead of increasing the ratio to extremes. But watch that you don't lose the souring entirely or you may end up with bland bread. If one regimen doesn't work for you, you can always pivot and try another.

Are you baking bread with it?

Jupiter's picture
Jupiter

Thank you Debra, I will see how I go reducing hydration and playing around with it more. Yes I am baking bread with it and getting very good, consistent results, even when I miss the peak. I think I'm so focused on the peak because I'm not a fan of sour bread, and I tend to take things to extreme whereas I should just enjoy both a mildly-sour bread and the more reasonable feeding schedule that goes along with it!

Thanks again

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

If you're not a fan of sour bread, I think you'll like a stiff starter (50-60% hydration depending on your flour), particularly in summer. I'm guessing it's winter where you are? Try 20% starter to 100 flour and 50-80 water once/day for a few days. Maybe start at the higher end and work your way down. Then taste it after a few days at each level to make sure it's not getting too bland. (It's a myth that keeping a starter firm or cool makes it sour.) Between low hydration and low temperature it may lose the sour altogether, in which case it will probably make uninteresting bread. But you can always readjust one or more of the parameters until you find the best compromise that works for your taste and fits your life. There's no one best or right way, and if you're getting good and consistent results, you needn't worry too much about going past peak in you current circumstances. The window is much larger at lower than at higher temperatures.

Anon's picture
Anon

Hello. I'm having problems getting my starter going. I made a post on another forum, I got a suggestion to try gradually transitioning from juice to water. I was wondering if anyone here might have some insights or other suggestions. This was the post.

My starter is 22 days old. The volume is not increasing much, maybe 5 to 20% after each feeding. I feed it twice every day, and it sits in a very warm room. I had active yeast on the third day, starting with pineapple juice and whole grain unbleached King Arthur wheat flour, I could smell it and see it. When I then switched to tap water (which is > 95% of what I drink), activity gradually, slowly died down, day by day. Never completely, but there was not a whole lot to begin with, either. The smell also gradually got worse, and eventually I was concerned that there might not even be any active yeast left. I was expecting that the volume would begin raising significantly after each feeding, once I had active yeast. I did some research and learned that the amount of chloramines put into the water varies throughout the year, usually more in the summer time (which it is). Sometimes, I can smell the chlorine products in the water.

It never improved, so I switched to wal-mart brand (Great Value) gallon jug of spring water on the 11th day, which the label leads me to believe is not treated with chlorine/ammonia. All activity pretty much immediately ceased. Also, I found that this water tastes much worse than the tap water, it tastes like plastic (which I imagine is probably dangerously toxic), so I doubt it would make good bread anyway, I think I’ll have to find yet another option eventually and dump these jugs of water.

The next day, I switched back to pineapple juice. The day after that, the volume nearly doubled, for the first time! Exciting and validating. This leads me to believe that my method is fine, the environment is fine, the flour is fine, the problem must be the water, but until I find something that sustainably works I can’t know for sure what works and what causes problems.

The next day, I switched back to Great Value spring water. 7 hours later, it seemed again to be completely dead. Another 5 hours, and there are some bubbles and hooch on the surface, and it seems that I’m back where I started. A little activity, tiny bubbles, very thin hooch layer, almost no rising. Perhaps there is a guaranteed adjustment period when switching liquids, where strain selection and behaviors need time to shift in response. There seems to be yeast activity, but not nearly as much as I’ve read that there should be. Seven more days later, still the same.

Am I doing something wrong? Is it possible that I don’t even have active yeast? Do I need to just keep feeding and waiting as all these articles say, expecting it to suddenly improve eventually? The fact that I had yeast on day 3, and significant volume increase just one day after switching back to juice later, makes me think I’m supposed to see faster results. I’m assuming that this isn’t good enough to make bread with, but maybe this is what this particular starter is ‘supposed to be’ and I should have been making bread this whole time? The rational part of me says the water is still the problem. But if there’s no chlorine in this water, why is it giving exactly the same results as the tap water? I’ve read the yeast/lactobacillus ecosystem can tolerate some chlorine, and most chlorinated tap water is fine. If it tastes good to me, shouldn’t the tap water levels have been low enough for the yeast? What is going on?

Anon's picture
Anon

I'm starting two more, one with spring water, one with tap water, in case for some reason the first one is incapable of ever working with anything but juice. Continuing the first one with the spring water though, and moved all three to what is hopefully a cooler location. Now, the first one doesn't even have any yeast smell, just bubbles and another unpleasant smell. Going to feed the other two perhaps every other day at first, and back to twice a day once I smell yeast.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi Anon,

Every municipality has their own water treatment system, so I can't speak for all, but mine uses chlorine in winter, adding the ammonia in summer. Neither has had a detrimental effect on my starter that I can see.

Tell me what brand and type flour you are using for feeding now, and exactly what ratio you are using --- how much ripe starter, and how much fresh flour and water. Also, what is the average room temperature?

Anon's picture
Anon

Whole grain unbleached King Arthur wheat flour, half starter, 1/4 flour, 1/4 water, as suggested. Temperature was probably mid-80s much of the time, at first, but I've moved them to a cooler area.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Okay, I think we've uncovered the issue :)  The whole grain, half starter formula was just for getting to the yeast-activation stage. Once yeast are active, it's time to move on to a more appropriate maintenance regimen. In the mid-80's it would have been severely underfed, which is probably why the pineapple juice seemed to help. I recommend you switch to King Arthur all-purpose now, keep it in the 70's, and step up the feeding ratio. But maybe a conservative feed first to make sure it will still rise.

Try a 1:1:1 with either flour, and if that rises at all, another 1:1:1 with AP when you think it has peaked. Then work your way up -- 1:2:2, 1:3:3, etc. -- until you find the sweet spot.

I think you'll find this easy to fix :)
dw

Anon's picture
Anon

I was watching them the whole time, every time. I assumed that if it was underfed because of the temperature, it would just accelerate the rise, but instead it didn't rise. I also tried more extreme ratios, but it didn't help. I guess my assumption was wrong, and the ratios not extreme enough. Thank you for the replies.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Increasing the ratio didn't help in that scenario because it magnifies the effect of the whole wheat flour in combination with high temperature. All three of those things promote bacterial growth. And bacteria, when they get too high, have an inhibitory effect on yeast. Couple that with sourdough yeast already being uncomfortable at such high temperatures (their growth rate drops sharply as temperature climbs much above the low-80's) and poof, there goes your leavening. You were building a type II (industrial) sourdough instead of the type I (traditional) sourdough you intended.

Is it rising at all?

Anon's picture
Anon

The two new starters had a thick layer of alcohol after the second feeding (the spring water a bit more than the tap water), which looked promising, so I increased feeding from every other day to twice a day, with a high ratio. But now only a very thin layer forms, and they are not rising, even though they are in the coolest part of the house. Maybe I increased feeding too late? Should I try keeping them in the fridge?

What is "the effect of the whole wheat flour" other than providing dormant yeast? At the moment, I don't have a thermometer or all purpose flour. I didn't think much about the temperature before because I had read that oven spring is heat causing more yeast activity.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

The two new ones aren't ready for twice a day feedings yet, because you don't have yeast growing in them. The liquid is really just the water you added and whatever by-products the current bacteria are adding, it isn't the alcohol-laden hooch you think it is. Flour settles to the bottom when there is no bubbling to churn it up, and there is no bubbling because the yeast aren't active.

What happened to the first one? That's the one closest to being usable. The small feeds and warm temps got your yeast activated quickly, but then you didn't decrease the temperature and increase feedings soon enough. It's probably not too late to save it.

You've done a lot of things right, you just got it backwards. Before yeast don't feed too much, after yeast don't feed too little. (And watch those temperatures.)

I had read that oven spring is heat causing more yeast activity.

Another of the myths surrounding sourdough I'm sorry to say. Oven spring is a result of alcohol vaporizing, water turning to steam, dissolved CO2 coming out of solution, and all the gasses trapped in the bubbles expanding with the dough's rising internal temperature.

Jupiter's picture
Jupiter

Hi Debra, thanks for that. I think I like a little sourness, just not too much. Anyway I realised that this whole time that i've been struggling with more and more extreme ratios, there's the wine fridge sitting in our kitchen keeping a steady 16oC all day every day... So I'm keeping the starter in there now, at 1:5:5 (just 2g of starter and 10g flour/water), which works fantasically because I can feed it every day with barely any waste on non-baking days.

Thanks again for your help, I really appreciatre it!

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