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weak starter

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harum's picture
harum

weak starter

Hello,  a technical question here.  My wild yeast sourdough starter, started and maintained with rye flour, has been rising bread dough pretty well for a few month now.  It also works well when the rye is replaced with whole wheat flours to make whole wheat starters.  All these starters expand 2-3 times over 4-6 hours.  However, when the rye is replaced with unbleached white wheat flours after two-three feedings, bread or whole purpose, the rising power disappears.   After switching to white flours, the starter (about 125% hydration) still bubbles and floats when dropped in water -- but doesn't rise much, if any.   My questions here are:  (a)  Should I propagate this white wheat starter for longer and wait until it eventually starts rising? (b) Do I have to start a separate wild yeast white wheat flour starter, so that it has its own microflora?  (c) Would, in general, I get a set of identical starters, if I started them over and over again with the same flour and conditions?  Or there is a chance that some of them will end up better with the possibility of selection?   Thanks!  Appreciate any suggestion.

vtsteve's picture
vtsteve

for white flour - try 100%. Rye and whole wheat both absorb more water than white, so the mixture is thicker at a given hydration. I think with white flour at 100%, you will see it rise.

Ford's picture
Ford

I use 100% hydration for both whole wheat and for white flour.  As vtsteve says the whole wheat flour does need more water due to the bran.  No need to start over, you can make whole wheat starter from the white starter and vice versa.  I am wondering whether the temperature has dropped since you started the white flour.  Have you switched water supply?  Try using bottled water, or milk in your bread recipe.  (I am not recommending milk in the starter.)  Try raising your dough at a higher temperature, say 85°F.

Above all, have patience.

 

harum's picture
harum

Thanks for the feedback. The starter has never lost its rising power when switched from rye to whole wheat or other whole grains. From day one it bubbles and rises without a pause. There has to be something different about the white flours, AP or bread, that suppresses the microflora grown in whole grain starters. One explanation is that the microflora has to either adapt to new food sources or change the relative amounts of the yeast and bacteria or even introduce new species, which all take time comparable to development of a fresh starter.

I always use filtered water. The rye starter expands several-fold at a wide range of hydrations -- don't think the bugs are as fascinated with round numbers. Even after 24 hrs after switching from the rye to white wheat bread flour the starter hasn't risen a bit despite a lot of bubbles at the surface.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

it takes time to choke down the food.   White wheat is not a rye starter's favorite food so feed it gradually and slowly increase the % of wheat to rye with each feeding.  Leaving it a little % a rye is a good idea.  It will balk but give it more time.  Rye (to me) are the faster starters, wheat somewhat slower.  Just be patient and readjust your timing.  (even if it suddenly slips you a 1 cm peak at a time of 28 hrs!)  Let it peak out before discarding and feeding gradually more wheat.  

I've got one rye starter that is half wheat half AP flour just for wheat breads.  I think the bacterial/yeast colonies are a little different with different flours.  I just think you need to give the starter some time to adjust.   (wish I knew exactly why...might have to do with a higher protein level found in the bran.)

Mini

Thinking more about it... could it be that perhaps that while the yeast is balking, the Lacto bacteria are increasing sending the yeast a signal to stop metabolizing and think about conserving energy. Taste the starter, if it tastes sour (unlike wet flour) then discard and feed the starter to stimulate yeast growth with a higher pH.

harum's picture
harum

Yes, after a day or so after switching from rye to white bread wheat flour, the taste of the starter  is not much different from a fresh water-flour paste, i.e., not much sourness.  I guess it might have something to do with the biochemical differences between rye/whole wheat and white flours.  The rye has more starch-degrading enzymes, amylases, and more easily digestible starches, thus giving the bugs more food for a faster growth.  The bulk protein content should not be relevant for production of simpler sugars from the starch.  However, a higher protein content might help with rising.

Do white wheat starters grow slower than rye starters in general because of less food for the bugs?  Don't know, they are probably about the same, at least the dough processing times are similar in the recipes.

 

 

harum's picture
harum

According to professionals in the baking industry, the yeast species of white wheat starters are distinct from the yeast of rye starters.  While S. cerevisiae are most common in white wheat starters, rye starters are dominated by C. milleri.  This, for one thing, explains, why "switching" from rye-containing starters to pure white wheat starters makes no sense whatsoever.  Switching the other way is, probably,  equally questionable.  

What many people mean by "switching" from one type of flour to another is, probably, development of a new starter, a bit accelerated by addition of a piece of already working starter made with a different flour.  After several days, my new white wheat starter seeded with rye starter has begun bubbling on its own.  Has the addition of the rye starter helped?  Apparently, only with the LAB species. That's why it takes so long. 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Usually when adding rye flour to a wheat starter there is no lag time.

harum's picture
harum

This has been my experience too.  There is no lag when switching from the rye to some whole wheats and whole spelt as well.

Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

Hi Mini,

I know from reading this site over the past few years that you have done a lot of traveling, and have spent some time living in Asia.  My niece, who works in Shanghai, is trying to create a healthy starter. She began the process about a month ago, and the starter has since produced about two or three decent loaves so far. Now things are petering out, and she's at a standstill.  She has been using an all-white flour because she said whole meal flours are incredibly hard to find.  Do you have any suggestions for her? I've actually told her to try *decreasing* the hydration, to use bottled water, perhaps a tablespoon or so of pineapple juice, and to try to find a warmer place to incubate.  Any other suggestions would be very much appreciated.

Thanks,

Barbara

 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Shanghai really does have lots of flour variety, it's just a matter of locating it.  There are shops that deliver.   Check the net.  

Starters, well, if your niece plans of baking with white wheat then a white wheat starter is the way to go.  Bill's post has lots of good information. I've sent you a private message.  

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/3064/maintaining-100-hydration-white-flour-starter

Mini

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

letting the tap water stand out seemed to help a lot.

Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

Thanks, Mini, for all your help! (I sent you a pm)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

(Question b from original post.)

I think that if you bake a lot with AP flour, having a white flour starter to have white flour micro-flora is a good idea.  I don't know if the sour dough benefits are the same if the culture has problems metabolizing a flour that is new to it.   A serious question asking for a serious answer.

harum's picture
harum

Yes, looks like that, irrespective of where all the microflora comes from, the air or the flour or both, each flour has its own specific healthy set of LABs and yeast, which takes time to develop.  

AZBlueVeg's picture
AZBlueVeg

I switched my rye starter to unbleached AP, then back to rye and back to unbleached AP again. No issues with yeast or rise. In fact, doing this little 2-step of switching to rye and then back to unbleached AP has allowed me to reduce the overall acidity of my starter. This allows longer fermentation without over-fermenting. I use about a 2% innoculation - 10 g of 100% hydration starter in 525 g of flour. At current ambient temps of about 80 degrees, I can ferment this dough for approximately 8-10 hours, shape and final rise of about 3 hours. This is room temperature (80 degrees, actually) fermentation requiring no refrigerator retardation.

You will have much more flavorful bread if you use less starter and a longer, non-retarded fermentation. I've tried recipes containing up to 30% starter, by weight, but these recipes require some refrigeration and I have never been satisfied with the rather one-dimensional flavor. Once you've eaten bread that has been fermented for a long time at ambient temps, you will never go back.

harum's picture
harum

Do you mean that after feedings of the original rye starter all the rye is diluted out with AP flour in your new AP starter, so that you only have white wheat flour?   In my hands, as long as at least some rye/whole wheat is present in a mostly white wheat starter, there is no issue with rising/bubbling.  However, the microflora of a healthy white wheat starter is different from the microflora of rye starters and may take several days and multiple feedings to develop and stabilize.  Thanks for sharing the interetsting tips!

AZBlueVeg's picture
AZBlueVeg

I get more yeast activity when my starter has some amount of rye, even as little as 10%. When I go completely unbleached AP, I get an overly sour starter which speeds up the gluten break-down in the bread. When I have a pure white starter, I seem to get into trouble with a long, non-refrigerated ferment.

harum's picture
harum

The yeast activity in sourdough is optimal at around 30 degrees C.  The temps above and below are more favorable for the LAB.  The LAB may sour your dough at these temperatures too much before the yeast produce enough gas to rise the dough.  Besides, when switching from rye flour to pure white wheat, an extra time has to be taken to replace the yeast species -- hence even slower yeast growth in the dough.  Maintaining pure white wheat starter for a week after switching from rye before using it for bread and keeping the dough at around 30 C before refrigeration would probably alleviate the too much sourness problem.