The Fresh Loaf

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Starters converting themselves ????

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JerryMac's picture
JerryMac

Starters converting themselves ????

Hey Guys,

I'm  relatively new to Sourdough and starters and the only starters I have used are ones I have created.

In the commentary section on page 230 of Reinharts BBA he states " This is why a starter made from a seed culture imported from Egypt or Russia will, over time, produce a bread that tastes like a starter made locally from scratch. "

I have read basically the same thing ( how over time the yeast and bacteria from your local area will take over those of a starter you purchased, say from Italy of San Fran ) from numerous other reputable sources on the net.

It sort of makes sense to me that if you follow a feeding procedure of discarding some and then feeding with flour and water that eventually you will have none of the original yeast or bacteria left.

Just looking for opinions on this as I know a lot of people are purchasing starters from all over the world.

Mangia Bene
Jerry

JIP's picture
JIP

Actually, from what I have been reading the real culprit in changing a starter from a culture you bought to a new one is the flour you use to feed it.  I'm sure someone with alot more knowledge in this area will be of more help but that was my 2 cents.

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

Hi Jerry,

What you're saying is a bit like saying if I take my Pedigree Highland cattle, put them in a truck and drive them to Jersey, over time they'll all become Jersey cows. Remember yeasts and lb's bud rather than reproducing sexually.

Providing you keep your culture healthy there is no reason why it should be taken over by local flora. If you have a non-standard starter i.e. one that is made from yeasts and bacteria other than from the flour, then there is a good chance this will happen wherever you are. Dr. Ed Wood, a pathologist, has been keeping and selling his cultures from around the world for well over ten years now with no complaints.

 It just goes to show that you can't believe everything that's written down by people respected or not, including me. ; -) I prefer to store information in a 'likely to be true' box rather than a 'definitely true box'.

All this aside, the majority of effect on your bread comes from you, what you do to the dough and the starter rather than from any innate characteristics of the starter. 

Sourdough-guy

breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

Well that'a s little extreme example, ha ha :)

 

I've heard that argument before (that yeast cultures will convert), from some very experienced bakers. I understand what you're saying about how yeasts reproduce, but as you said the flour and conditions are also a factor. Wild yeasts exist on the wheat itself, so as you add flour it's very likely you will introduce new strains. And I think its reasonable to assume that a strain could "take over" a culture if the conditions were right.

 

I agree that it's how you maintain and take care of your culture that is the most important. I think a healthy culture adapted to your ingredients and environment will taste the best, whether it is a 100 year old strain or a new one.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Jerry,

It's a very complicated topic. I haven't found any definitive answers after a lot of reading. Here are a few ideas though.

1) A stable starter culture has successfully rejected a lot of other organisms, so it isn't clear that just because you add a few new ones from your flour or environment, that those organisms will establish themselves and change the culture.

2) The character of a starter has to do with which of a few key organisms are in the starter.

3) You introduce new organisms to the culture all the time from your flour, environment, skin, and so on.

4) Most of the organisms won't be able to compete with the established culture's organism and won't gain in numbers, after all, that's why the culture was stable to begin with.

5) But,.... It is possible that an organism may be able to co-exist fruitfully with the culture, so it may gain in numbers and eventually become a significant component of the culture, especially if it is constantly being introduced to the culture from the flour or other aspect of the environment. In that case, maybe the culture character would change.

6) So, it is possible that an organism introduced from the environment could change a culture established in a different environment.

One idea to think about, is suppose you got two of the Ed Wood cultures that are completely different in character. Revive one. Then, every day as you feed, add a little powder from the other culture. It might or might not change the one that was revived. There are some similarities to this if you have only one culture but have organisms constantly being introduced from the environment and your flour.

Very, very complicated, and I haven't read anything that clearly lays out what will or won't happen when it comes to this stuff.

I agree with sourdough-guy, that the most important factors in how your bread comes out have to do with the way you maintain the culture and then the rise times and temperatures of the fermentations, as well as handling and flour types. The character of the culture isn't as big of a factor. To me, it's kind of like different cultures are like coffee beans. Sure beans vary in flavor significantly, but you can make pretty good espresso with most any properly and freshly roasted coffee beans.

Bill

leemid's picture
leemid

The most obvious question, to me, that no one ever asks is, how does the San Fran starter remain a San Fran starter in San Francisco, if, as is so often purported, the culture agents inherent in the flour WILL eventually dominate whatever culture is inherent in the starter, when the flour for San Fran bread comes prodominantly from somewhere else (like Montana or some other place where winter wheat is grown)? True, some of the wheat may be grown in California, perhaps even near the Bay Area, but when I was there last winter I didn't see very much (none at all). When one thinks of great expanses of hard, high protein wheat, does the San Francisco area leap to mind? Not for me. Or even small patches of AP type wheats? No. Perhaps it is only good marketing, but we think of it as wine country. I suspect that to some extent, what wheat fields used to exist there gradually give way to the more profitable vinyards.

The notion that a stable culture will eventually be overcome by relatively small amounts of 'local' yeast and bacillus requires that San Fran starter, or any other for that matter, must morph willy nilly as the origin of the flour changes, which I think is not the case. That said, is it possible for 'local' yeastie beasties to join in the cherished culture? Perhaps, but I think the logic fails as does the first argument.

So how do we get different cultures in different locales? Simple. When you begin a new starter, there is no dominant, stable culture that can dominate the really quite small amounts of yeast and bacillus introduced in feedings. Why does it take a week or more to get a stable culture? Because the most dominant agents must dominate. They do that by propogation. When they dominate numerically, they have proven they are the strongest in the culture. However, if you add a couple of teaspoons of commercial yeast to your starter, is it not overcome by the stronger yeast? While I have not tried this, I have read that it can happen. The scientific texts indicate that there is significantly more yeast in commercial yeast than in 'natural' starter. True, commercial yeast tends to fail in an acid environment, which again is an argument in favor of stable cultures remaining stable, but if you feed a starter with a large feeding and add commercial yeast to it then, when the acid percentage is low, I think you could screw it up. Perhaps you can also do so by really large feedings if the flour you use is filled with an extraordinary amount of yeast and bacillus foreign to what is in your starter.

I personally think the whole argument is a result of paranoia fostered by the rumors and difficulties we experience in trying to start our own starter. When I got a stable culture from someone else, I lost that paranoia, replacing it with the confidence that comes from success after success in using that starter. Eventually I will have satisfied my curiosity with this starter and will buy several different starters from Ed Wood to experience the differences in San Fran, Egyptian, and Russian cultures. I will keep the incubation containers well labelled to prevent cross contamination, but I have no fear that I will eventually have several jars of all the same culture, perverted and polluted by my 'local' flour, which comes from I don't know where.

The currently popular argument that little of the distinction the palate thrills us with upon sensing an extraordinary bread comes from the starter, the majority coming instead from the technique and process used, along with the type and quality of other ingredients like flour, is certainly correct, at least in so far as these components of bread making seem clearly to determine the quality of bread. You can, after all, have the best starter and produce inedible leaden bricks of 'bread', or, conversely, using that nasty commercial yeast and the right recipe and process, produce exquisite, nearly orgasmic, bread.

Okay, I have said my piece. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

 

  •  "The most obvious question, to me, that no one ever asks is, how does the San Fran starter remain a San Fran starter in San Francisco, if, as is so often purported, the culture agents inherent in the flour WILL eventually dominate whatever culture is inherent in the starter, when the flour for San Fran bread comes prodominantly from somewhere else (like Montana or some other place where winter wheat is grown)?"

I couldn't agree more and I did bring this point up some time ago somewhere on this very topic, I think this is why those San Franciscan bakers assert so much that the yeast and lactobacilli are in the air. Where they come from to get into the air they, of course, don't say. Out of the San Franciscan Ether I suppose. lol. 

  • "True, commercial yeast tends to fail in an acid environment, which again is an argument in favor of stable cultures remaining stable, but if you feed a starter with a large feeding and add commercial yeast to it then, when the acid percentage is low, I think you could screw it up. Perhaps you can also do so by really large feedings if the flour you use is filled with an extraordinary amount of yeast and bacillus foreign to what is in your starter."

The big boys at rec.food.sourdough last week all agreed that yeast will not survive in a sourdough culture. I maintained a yeasted culture for years though without it ever becoming anything like the sourdough culture that I made using the same flour that I fed my yeasted starter so I'm not so sure. I intend giving this a try when I've got time. Perhaps another thing Bill and some others might want to join in with? I do feed large feedings but I do feed with the same flour that I made my starter with so this isn't much defense.

  • "The currently popular argument that little of the distinction the palate thrills us with upon sensing an extraordinary bread comes from the starter, the majority coming instead from the technique and process used, along with the type and quality of other ingredients like flour, is certainly correct, at least in so far as these components of bread making seem clearly to determine the quality of bread. You can, after all, have the best starter and produce inedible leaden bricks of 'bread', or, conversely, using that nasty commercial yeast and the right recipe and process, produce exquisite, nearly orgasmic, bread."

Yeah, exactly, it comes from that instinctive reaction we all tend towards as seeing things as inherently existing. If it did exist inherently, the cultures quality that is, it wouldn't matter a jot what you did with it you'd always get the same bread. Okay another extreme, but you need to explore these extremes to keep your thinking in check.
Thanks leemid for that great post it was a breath of fresh air. You've made me want to dig out my Arabian starters again. The Bahrain was my favourite for the whole of 2005. There's so much still to learn. Great.

Sorry for the extensive quoting sometimes it's not easy to tell what people are referring to.  


Yours
 
Sourdough-guy
 

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Good read sourdough-guy. The whole debate of why the SF SD bread is so famed and in fact delicious is tainted by the fact our senses are loaded with constantly changing bias. On a given day at low tide sitting on Fisherman's Wharf the bread may not be so memorable as another day at high tide and a bowl of chowder nearby. I have a hard time believing the big bakeries that are famous for sourdough bread are still counting on a locally grown culture for daily production and not using some kind of production yeast. Maybe in Europe but not here.

I know you have mentioned that you have a collection of starters from various places around the world. Could you suggest one that might be interestingly different that you know of. I would like to try a comparison to the 2 I have now. I was gifted an old  sample from an artisan European style bakery in New Mexico that has been good to me and the one I made here locally.

Cheers,

Eric

JerryMac's picture
JerryMac

Hey Guys,

Thanks for helpin out a sourdough newbie :)

Guess I'm pretty safe trying a starter from far and strange places :)

Mangia Bene,
Jerry

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

u know there is a solution to this don't u?

alls u need is a tandem mass spectrometer and two of ed woods cultures...and ed wood :D

that way u can image the original culture and one that has been living in a far off land eating foreign flour and know for sure if the protein structures are different from each other...

(there's a smart a** in every group :D )

 

redivyfarm's picture
redivyfarm

Without the use of an in-line flux capacitor, I'm not sure the images generated by your mass spectrometer will be useful.

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

Redivy I love your comment! I was being silly so am glad that you replied as you did!

We just watched BTTF I-III not too long ago, back to back, during a very rainy weekend! :D

Happy Baking!

 

p.s. Did you see that I tried the rolls for a second time and they were awful? :(

 

redivyfarm's picture
redivyfarm

I did read about your second assault on the garlic rolls. There doesn't seem to be anything to stop you from turning out the exact tasty items in your mind's eye. I suggest you breathe deeply, keep trying and I won't even begin to try until you've worked it out!

leemid's picture
leemid

Let me be the first to admit that I too love the mystique of making bread. Beside the fact that offering bread to friends and acquaintances elevates us to a higher status, as though we are approaching what Harry Potter will be if he ever matures to adulthood, even if the bread is marginal. If the bread is truly good, we stand next to godhood. Beside that, I love the personal satisfaction of believing in my heart-of-hearts that I really am some sort of wizard because I can make bread that makes my face and soul smile no matter what else is going on in life, using this magic sourdough starter, steeped and shrouded in mystery.

I can weld steel together and fix broken things, or create new things. Yawn. I can write software that solves the problems of the world. Ho-hum. I can comfortably speak in front of hundreds or thousands of people I do not know. Snore. I can make sourdough bread. Oooo... really? W:ow...

So if the flux capacitator quarantees proper functionality and irrefutable evidence of whatever nature and decision concerning the evolution of mysterious, magical entities... I don't wanna know. I've got my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

BTW, is anyone else using dragon fire in their stone hearth ovens?

Lee

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Lee, ByTheWay, would that be a one or a two dragon stone hearth oven? 
 
I think the real story to the SF SD is not so exciting, here is my guess:  a baker acquired a starter perhaps from a ship's cook or anyone for that matter.  I would bet that the flour comes from everywhere, SF being a port.   An established starter dealt with all kinds of flour but in dealing with the local competition in a budding city, the baker had to have good advertising with mystery and hype.  Thus, the good baker's bread of life came from the good coastal air, and is named after the good city, and then it goes to follow that the City also promoted both its good self and the sourdough bakery's "good original product."   


I actually wrote a long note and realized how much hype had been typed into it. I could remove the ship's cook part too but, hey, I don't want to be too boring.  Can't you just hear sea gulls and creaking wood?  Mini
BTW DNA of SFSD?
   

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

 Yeah and smell those seals. brrrh. 

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Sourdough-guy

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Sourdough-guy, 

I think you found the current repository of that "wild yeast" there in San Francisco. I've been there a few times, but I didn't have a culture jar to open up and "capture" them out of the air. LOL

Bill

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

Oh my gosh! Great piccy sourdough-guy! LOL to bwraith for his funny.

I think the caption here is -

...the San Franscico treat!  :D

Happy Baking!

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

lol, yeah the next time one of us is passing we should take a swab. We could be on to something.  

 

Sourdough-guy

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Glad I don't have a smell button...  Mini Oven

bwraith's picture
bwraith

MiniOven,

Sorry, as we're veering off-topic, but at least this started with a discussion about the origin and stability, possibility of geographically induced changes in starters, and whatnot, with some references to SF sourdough starters.

Here's an article about the seals. I'm sure there are many more. Sorry to be off-topic, but it's kind of interesting. The excuse is that it all relates back to "wild yeast" and SF sourdough.

Bill