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Newbie question about bleached flour and starter

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cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Newbie question about bleached flour and starter

Hi everyone, totally new to baking artisan bread but I love it so far.  I wanted to jump into sourdough as soon as I was having good results with baking using active dry yeast in the packets so yesterday I started my starter mix.  I used Gold Medal bleached APF.  I since did some researching and no matter how much I look can't find the answer to my question so wanted to join and ask here as most of the search results usually bring up "The Fresh Loaf" forum.  

I have read that you CANNOT use bleached flour b/c there are NO yeast on the grains (makes sense to me) and your starter will NEVER start.  

I've also read you CAN use bleached flour but might not get good results.  

And lastly I've read you CAN use bleached flour and get great results.

So you can imagine a new person is confused by this.  I checked my starter today, not even 24 hours after starting it with bleached flour and it had developed what I have deemed to be "hooch" which I stirred back in.  A few hours later it was bubbling and growing at only the 24 hour mark (and not fed yet) which I have never read will happen so I'm even more confused and kind of pumped about honestly (take that science!).  I started another starter with King Arthur APF that is unbleached and as I was going to throw out the first one until I saw all the activity and smelled it.  It has a wonderful sweet smell that is VERY nice so I didn't want to throw it out, I figured I'd just continue on in the face of what I have read and see what happens.

Now brings me to my question, which information is correct and which is not about using bleached flour???  Here is what I don't really get, If you want to cultivate your own local wild yeast, why would you use an unbleached flour that already has wild yeast on it from wherever it was produced?  This seems like a contradiction to me.  I read "grow your own wild yeast, but start with an unbleached flour b/c it already has yeast on it", huh?  I get that, but I also get that if the flour was produced in TX and you live in OH, how are you cultivating your own local sourdough yeast if you use flour with yeast already on it?  In contrast if you use bleached flour that has killed all the local yeast at the production plant like I have and it is growing, how can that be anything but my local wild yeast right?  Seems like using bleached flower would be the only way to get 100% local yeast unless you live in the same town that the flour mill is at.  

Anyway just saying hi and hoping someone that is much more experienced can answer my questions for me as I'm super confused.  I feel the need to "throw out" my first batch b/c of using the bleached flour, but again, seems like it is doing exactly what it is suppose to do in spite of all I've read, and "should" be nothing but local yeast which is what I want.

BreadBro's picture
BreadBro

Listen, if it's working for you, then great. Of course, whole grain rye or whole grain wheat flour will more readily feed a starter, but its not an exact science.

That being said, I would suggest working with unbleached flour as it provides a better flavor to the bread and imparts a more natural color to the crumb.

phaz's picture
phaz

fwiw - I created a starter on bleached, 10 days and I was using it to make bread.  it is true that bleached flour doesn't have the quantity of yeast, or nutrients, as unbleached,  some had to be lost in the bleaching process,  but it should have some.  if anything,  it may take longer to get a starter going,  and may not get it the first try,  but eventually it should go. I would tell people when creating a starter,  go for the whole grain wheat or rye to get things going.  success rate will be higher, and I'm not 1 to make things more complicated than they already are. it can be done, I did it as have others, and also feed, until recently, bleached. I started some rye to get a little more sour, feedings are half whole grain rye and bleached now. also, as mentioned above, it's working, right? keep on going!

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Hi and thanks you all for your posts, but I still am wondering about the whole "not getting local yeast with unbleached" theory I had, is it at all valid?  It just seems logical to me is all but I could be 100% wrong so that is why I was asking.  

The other question I had since you brought up  "...if anything it may take longer to get going" that is what I was thinking, so why so much activity within just 24 hours, actually less, I had hooch forming at probably 18 hours or so and at 24 it was rising and bubbling?  

phaz's picture
phaz

I'm sure it's a mix of both. I'm no scientist, but common sense tells me, since yeast is just about everywhere, you'll get some from the flour, and air around you, and the air around the mill, and the packaging plant, and the trucks used to ship it around, some warehouses, the trunk of your car if that's where you store it for the ride from the store to your home! most flour is wrapped in paper, and from what I see, not very well sealed paper. I'm sure there's a lot more than just yeast making its way in. the starter takes care of that for the most part though. when balanced, the environment created favors the friendly bugs making it harder for bad bugs to take hold. good luck with the starter. sounds like it took right off. most don't get that lucky! I had to wait a week for my flour and water starter, bit recently got another going in a day using rye and bleached flour and blackberries from the yard. still took a week to get the right lacto/yeast balance but making bread with it now.  oh,  early activity could be bad bugs,  but with a sweet smell,  it doesn't sound like that's the case. not unusual to get bad smells the first few days,  and not unusual to not get them! the end result is what matters, and sound like you've got a great start! 

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Phaz, I'm thinking the same thing about it being a little of everything, that makes sense to me :) 

chris319's picture
chris319

The yeast you want for type I sourdough (the kind with wild yeast) is not airborne -- it's in the flour. It's called candida humilis. It used to be called candida milleri but they changed the name. So do some google searching. No reason to use bleached flour.

At 24 hours it is doubtful that you are getting any meaningful yeast activity. Do yourself a favor and read Debra Wink's posts called The Pineapple Juice Solution Parts 1 and 2. It is an education in making starter.

In short, candida humilis thrives in an acidic environment. Debra chose pineapple juice for its pH of 3.5, which she found best.

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Thanks again everyone.  Chris, I would tend to agree that I would never get anything meaningful in 24 hours  based on all I've read (including the pineapple juice thing you said) unless I didn't see it with my own eyes.  It is definitely growing, bubbling and smelling sweet, but then after my first post tonight I smelled it again and it was turning sour, the good sour smell I think and growing to the point I was nervous about it overflowing my little container so I dumped 1/2 cup out (50% volume) and then put 1/4 cup each of more bleached flour and purified water and stirred a good while and changed the container to a clean one.  Now it looks like batter again and has a more sweet smell again (although the sour is still present just faint now).  Maybe I'll take a picture if it does anything overnight and try to post it here so you all can see and tell me if I'm just wishful thinking :)

 

 

chris319's picture
chris319

You really need to read Debra Wink's posts. Unless you are putting the flour in an acidic environment, in the first few days the starter basically starts to spoil, then the yeast you want gets a foothold.

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

I don't understand, everything I've read says you start with just 2 ingredients, flour and water, so how is it that an acidic environment is the only way to do it?  Not being argumentative just seems like most every recipe I see is only 2 ingredients?

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

It may also be Leuconostoc. If you continue feeding regularly, you will find out in a day or two. If it is Leuconostoc, it will have a period of transition, where it seems to become dead and has little or no activity, then a day or two later, it will become active again. The second round of activity will be your yeast culture. If you feed it, and it never drops out, it may be you got a quick, early yeast activity. If so, congratulations! Either way, I wouldn't consider the culture to be stable for a couple weeks, meaning that bad things might still be there that you don't want in your bread. After a few weeks, you should be able to bake with it, and get good results. As a beginner, you probably would do well to read some step-by-step, day-by-day instructions, at least so you know what to expect. Adding a little bit of pineapple juice, as suggested above, will help the good bugs thrive and bad bugs go away, but is in no way necessary.

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

David, it is really funny you mentioned this b/c it is exactly what mine did!  I fed it last night and it has died down to not much at all except a little more hooch and bubbles that I stirred in this afternoon.  Can you explain what Leuconostoc is, and is that a good thing?

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

I may have a problem!  My bleached starter developed another layer of "hooch" but this time it was in the middle of the starter which I just stirred back up, do I have a problem?  

My non-bleached is 24 hours old and doing good with some hooch on top.  

I've read if hooch is in the middle or bottom something is wrong, while other sites say it means the same thing as on top, *sigh* so I'm confused again lol, please any expert advice is appreciated on this!  Most ever recipe I found said not to feed the starter for 48 hours at first, but I fed the first one at 24, was that a problem?  I have not fed my second one yet and it is at 24 hours now, not sure how to proceed.  

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Just checked and even my new non-bleached starter developed a middle hooch layer, what the heck?  Are both batches bad?  I stirred it back in as well, the first batch at 48 hours has a strong sour yogurt smell, where the newer 24 non-bleached batch still smells kind of sweet.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Hooch is probably a sign that you are underfeeding your starter. You should either feed it more often, or a larger amount. Leuconostoc is bad stuff, not good, but as your starter culture starts to build up good yeast and lactobacillus, the leuconostoc should go away on its own.

Is there a specific method you're using, that you read somewhere, for your starters, or are you winging it? Not saying you can't get good results from winging it, but usually the people who write up instructions for cultivating a starter will tell you step-by-step what to do and what you should expect to see happening. Even if you are just trying your hand at getting it going on your own, you can learn alot about what to expect of your culture, by reading someone's write-up. There are lots of good ones around. One I've read, that seems to be well detailed, is Susan's Flour + Water = Starter post at http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/07/13/raising-a-starter/

I haven't used her method to start a culture, but it is well written, and should help you understand what is going on with your own starter. There is also a comments section below that post, where she ends up answering LOTS of questions. I recommend you take a look.

Bottom line: your starter should be okay, if you feed it properly and don't abuse it with too much heat, or chlorine, or anything like that.

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

David thanks for your comments/guidance.  Yes I am following several written and youtube videos that all had the same approach, which is:

-Equal parts (1/2 cup each) flour and filtered water, mix and cover with a cloth (some say tightly with saran wrap?)
-Do nothing for 48 hours 
-After that pour out 50% and replenish back with fresh flour/water
-Repeat last step everyday until it passes the 12 hour float test

I'm thinking that this liquid I am getting is not hooch, I mean how could it be in less than 24 hours?  Maybe it is just water separation from such a pancake batter consistency?  Either way the first one is smelling sour, and maybe some would say it is pleasant but I don't really like it so not sure how to explain it other than "ripe yogurt smell".  I'm thinking it has got to be water just b/c I have started 2 different starters with different flours and in different containers and they both got a layer of liquid on top first, then on the middle on top of a firmer layer of batter and under a very frothy growing top layer.  I don't know what to do, it doesn't smell horrid like rotten trash or anything, just strong, sour, ripe yogurt is the only thing that comes to mind.  I am doing a time-lapse video to show you all what I'm talking about, I've captured this "seperation" with my GoPro, I'll post it up in just a bit, maybe that will help.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Yes it's water separation. Using equal parts by volume (use of cups should be banned) will give you more water than flour by weight. This separation happens in an overly hydrated starter such as yours.

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Good to know I guess, how do I fix it, more flour?  I decided to go ahead and feed the second mix as since it is at the 24 hour mark as I don't see a good reason to wait and many of the recipes say to feed at 24 hours anyway.  I fed it 1/4 cup flour and only 1/8 water to try to get it a little thicker which it did.  Here is the time-lapse I made, this whole time-lapse happened in about 50 minutes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtYl_Ry5NwU&feature=youtu.be

My first "bleached" mix is on the right, nothing going on anymore.  You can see a bubbling, frothy top layer, then the liquid form under it and then a heavier batter at the very bottom, is this all still normal for an overly hydrated starter?

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

The culture used in yogurt is lactobacillus, just like the lactobacillus in sourdough starter. The fact that it smells sour like ripe yogurt should mean it is well on its way to greatness. Since you are using volume measurements, and putting the same measure of flour/water, I suppose it is very liquid, but I don't know if separation is common at that level of hydration or not. Overall, just keep at it, because it has a better chance of turning out well than not. If you do discover/decide that your starter is forming hooch, you would do well to feed it more flour, or feed it more often, so it will be healthy and robust.

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Hi Dave, thanks for your reply, please see my above reply where I shared the time-lapse video of what is going on, thanks!

chris319's picture
chris319

No one said you "must" give the yeast an acidic environment. The point was that if you're just using flour and water, any activity within 24 hours is more likely leuconostocs than yeast.

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

I see, thanks sorry for the mis-understanding on my part :)

chris319's picture
chris319

When using pineapple juice, you're pouring a lot of sugar into your starter as well as the enzyme bromelain. Some people may not mind this or figure the pineapple will get diluted in subsequent refreshments. My starter experiments are starting to take off and for that reason I'm leaning toward using plain water as they did in the olden days. One lesson to be learned from Debra's posts is that you may see activity at first (leuconostocs) and then it will appear to go flat. You shouldn't throw it out at that stage but leave it be and let things work themselves out.

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Chris thanks for the info.  I decided to throw out my second non-bleached sample just a bit ago and restarted it with measurements by weight instead of volume.  The result is a much thicker mixture which I'm hoping will alleviate my water separation problem that you can see in the link above that I posted.  I'm still keeping the first bleached mixture as I simply thickened it up by adding more flour just as an experiment.  I had my wife smell it and she said it wasn't pleasant but didn't smell foul...yet.  This mixture has gone completely flat as you were talking about so does that mean the bacteria is dying that was causing all the frothing or no?  Do the smells change over time, like going from this pungent soured yogurt smell to more fermentation smell?  I have no idea what this is suppose to smell like except for what I've read, but one person's "pleasant" is another person's "yuck" so I'm not sure what to be smelling for, or if it is even that important.

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Chris I just got finished reading Debra Wink's posts on the acidity stuff, very interesting info.  If I was reading it correctly what I am smelling then is bad bacteria b/c there is NO yeast or good bacteria to kill them off yet correct?  It is also stated that eventually mother nature will fix the starter it is just a matter of time hopefully.  It seems like what I was having is EXACTLY what was going on so know wonder you wanted me to read it lol.  It seems like everytime I read something like this to "answer" my questions it makes me have more, like I'm wondering now about the smell and will it change eventually to a different smell when the yeast finally do start coming.  The other question the article raised for me was once the initial starter goes flat after day 2 or so will it ever come back as the bad bacteria, or if you ever see it come back is that a definite sign it is going the right direction?  Thanks for everyone's help!

chris319's picture
chris319

After much difficulty, my own starters are starting to take off. I am now making them even thicker than previously -- more like a wet dough than oatmeal-consistency. As a result there aren't as many surface bubbles but beneath the surface the starter has a spongy texture with many gas bubbles.

My initial mixture is 2 TB water and 2 1/4 TB flour. That will give you an idea of the consistency.

chris319's picture
chris319

Here is a patent pertaining to sourdough. Read the part about using salt. Note that they make their mixture to a pH of 5 using acetic acid (white vinegar).

https://www.google.com/patents/US3734743?pg=PA1&dq=kline+sugihara+sourdough&hl=en&sa=X&ei=QcgAUoX4DIS0yAHZ74HYCA&ved=0CGMQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=kline%20s...

phaz's picture
phaz

if the smell is good, you shouldn't have leucs. when they are active you will know it, easily, just by the odor. I believe the liquid you're seeing is a combination of too much water, and lack of food. when a starter takes off, it's hungry, very hungry. a thin starter allows for more mobility, as in the bugs can move around more. this allows them more access to the available food, so the food gets consumed faster. not unusual to feed something like 1:2:2 - starter/ water/ flour, or 1:3;3 the first week in your case to make sure you've got enough snacks for the little buggers. Something you can do, after your starter is a decent consistency, is, after a feeding and starter reaches peak and starts to fall, just stir it up again, no food, and see if it rises again. if it does, you have plenty of food. if not, or rise is little, you should consider increasing frequency, and/ or quantity of feeding. happy baking!

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

I would not classify the smell I have as good, it is more spoiled yogurt or milk, pretty strong and nothing I would say "yum, I'd like to eat that", but doesn't smell like a decaying body or anything lol.  Definitely doesn't smell like alcohol, but not really cheese either, just strong spoiled yogurt or milk smell where you kind of go "ew, that stinks a little", and this happened at around 24 hours or so and has stayed that way up until now at just over 48 hours so I'm thinking it is the bad stuff I want the good stuff to kill.  I'm hoping it will just go away with time as the good stuff starts to grow.  I wish I had smelled what it was suppose to smell like before, that would sure help, wonder if my local grocer or baker has some I could smell, guess that would be weird to ask huh lol.

chris319's picture
chris319

Leucs smell like cheese.

Hooch is alcohol -- no mistaking what it smells like.

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

When you say cheese do you mean a good smelling cheese or a rotten smelling cheese, I'm assuming the latter but wanted to clarify as cheese can smell really good or funky.  Is there any other smell descriptions that might help?

chris319's picture
chris319

Debra describes the cheese smell in The Pineapple Juice Solution, which you have read. That's all the information I have. If your starter is but a few days old, it's likey not yeast you smell.

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

I agree, I'm going on day 4 and this morning it was much more pleasant than yesterday, still spoiled but noticeably improved and 0 signs of anything happening say for maybe a bubble or 2 at most, it has flat lined.  I'm hoping this is the calm before the storm.  My new one that is 24 hours old is showing big signs of life just like the first one so I know this is the bad stuff trying to fool me.  I'm just going to wait until 5 or 6 days and then see what is going on and report back.  Thanks for everyone's help.