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South African Sourdough Starter - Day 1

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TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

South African Sourdough Starter - Day 1

Hi. I am a bit frustrated here. I bought 3 sourdough starters from sourdo.com, Ischia, Camaldoli and South African.  I tried the Ischia for 7 days and then the Camaldoli for 7 days but neither would start. So 2 weeks later and after a lot of wasted flour I am trying the South African Sourdough starter which is for whole wheat. I have been doing everything exactly by the book (reading the instructions a 100 times and checking and double checking).

I started the South African Sourdough this morning at 90F for 24 hours. After about 5 hours it had about 1/4" of hooch on the top. Now 12 hours later it has about 1/4" of hooch about 1/2" up from the bottom, none at the top any more, but it does not smell really foul - just kind of like beer I guess. None of the other starters that didn't start ever had hooch on the bottom. The instructions say that if it has hooch on the bottom AND it smells bad that the starter has been contaminated and must be 'washed', but I guess one only does this after the first 24 hours. But my question is if it seems to smell ok (I think!) but the hooch is on the bottom it does not satisfy both tests, so is it contaminated or not?

I guess the other problem is maybe I don't know how bad it is supposed to smell to be contaminated and I have no reference to go by really.

Any advice? I've been emailing Ed Wood who I bought these starters from but he just keeps asking the same questions over and over (ie if I have followed the instructions) and now won't respond for 4 days.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

What exactly have you been doing to activate these starters? I'm sorry I don't know what the procedure is. Each of those starters should have worked right on the first day, because they are supposed to be mature cultures already, and just need to be reactivated with a little flour and water. Perhaps his instructions were not the best. Also, are you measuring by volume or by weight? What is the consistency of the starter when you feed it? Around here, we like it to be at least as thick as a pancake batter. Some even keep theirs like a dough. If you feed it equal proportions of flour and water, it should do well. In that warm of environment, you may just not be feeding it enough. It will burn through food quickly at that temp. If it smells like beer, it is fermenting, which is what it's supposed to do. It probably needs more food. Try taking what you've got (don't remove any) and add enough flour to make it like a thick pancake batter. Watch it for a while. It should rise to its highest point and stop for a while then start to fall. Anytime after it has reached its highest peak, you can feed it again. I would recommend discarding all but 20g and feeding 80g each of flour and water at that point. In several hours it will need to be fed again. If you want to get it to once-a-day feeding, you should probably take it down to 10g of starter, and feed it at least 100g (maybe more, at 90F) each of flour and water. If you use less water, making it thicker, it will slow it down more, maybe use 100g flour to 60g water, or something like that.

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Exactly according to Ed Wood's book, Classic Sourdough's and all items weighed.

What I wanted to know was if hooch on bottom and ok smelling starter is ok.

mariana's picture
mariana

During the first 24 hrs the most important factor is temperature. Maintain T of the flour+water mix at 32-33C. I use either electric heating pad (from pharmacy) on the lowest setting, or gently preheated oven. 

If it separates into layers, blend layers with spoon. Washing of the starter is done when you have a starter. Right now it's not a starter yet. 

I had success with every culture from Ed Wood (I am also in Toronto), except this South African item. It gave me an impossibly acidic flavorless starter. So I got another packet from Ed and plan to activate it again. Maybe second time it will work better, who knows. 

best wishes

mariana. 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

With my first two cultures (done separately, 1 each week) I had the first culture in a wide mouth 1 quart glass jar with a loose fitting lid in a styrofoam proofing box for 24 hours at 90F and regulated with a digital thermostat and also verified by having a thermometer inside the box (I'm an engineer and lawyer so I am pretty anal with ensuring things are just right). After the first 24 hours it was taken out and kept in the dining room at 70F. After 7 days of feeding 140g of flour and 180ml of filtered Brita water every 12-24 hours there was no rise. With the second culture I discovered my Wolf electric oven has a 'Proof' feature and I could use that to regulate the temperature to 90F for 24 hours. So I placed the jar in the oven.  I also placed a thermometer in the oven to double check the temperature. Again, nothing after 7 days of feeding.

The South African culture I put in the proofing box at 90F for 24 hours (along with the whole wheat flour and water of course) and when I took it out I then mixed the culture as it had hooch on the bottom (not the top), then poured out half, then fed it 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup of filtered water as per the special instructions provided with that culture. I kept it outside the box of course in my dining room at 70F (again verified by thermometer). Within 4 hours it rose 3 inches. Apparently that means the culture is activated apparently. 12 hours after taking it out there is 5/8" of hooch on the bottom, not the top, the culture smells a bit like beer but not fragrant at all and not super foul smelling.

So, I have REALLY followed the instructions to a T. I don't know why I would do otherwise as that would have little chance of success.

So, my questions still are what does hooch on the bottom not the top mean? Apparently hooch on the top + a foul smell means it's contaminated and needs to be washed. But, hooch on the bottom and smelling like beer but not super foul? Does anyone know?

Ed Wood has been no help at all. He refuses to answer any of my questions 5 days later, but has twice asked me to repeat what I have already emailed him  only a few days earlier. Then, after not answering my questions he sent an emall and suggested that proofing in the oven was the problem? Huh? Temperature is temperature as far as I know! I would never buy anything from this man again as once he makes the sale he simply forgets about his customers and may ask questions, but then just goes silent. Why ask questions if when you get the answers you don't respond? Very frustrating.

mariana's picture
mariana

Oh, I see that your instructions (or your interpretation of instructions) are different! I activate according to the following protocol from Ed Wod:

 

1) Mix ingredients in 1L jar (this means 300-500 strong strokes with spoon). Keep that mixture for 24hrs @32C

30g of culture from the packet

110g flour

180g water 40C

(in Toronto, please, don't use water from faucet, even if filtered with Brita. It frequently spoils starters. I speak from experience. Use either distilled water or spring water. Brand Canadian Springs, 8L bottles with tap, I get it from NoFrills, Loblaws. http://www.aquaterracorp.ca/category.aspx?id=100001 )

 

2) to the mixture from the step (1) add

145g flour

160g cold water

Mix (300-500 strokes), leave for 12 hrs at 21C

3) to the mixture from the step (2) add

145g flour

160g  cool water.

Mix well, then discard half and let another half ferment for 12hrs at 21C

4) to the mixture from the step (3) add

145g flour

160g cool water

mix, measure 1 cup (240ml, 200g) of that mixture and let it ferment in 1 l jar for 12 hrs at 21C.

 

...

repeat step (4), until you get a starter, meaning that 1 cup (200g) of liquid dough in 1 l jar will foam up, rising up 5 cm from initial level in 2-3 hours after feeding. 

This starter can be used for mixing a sponge or simply stored in refrigerator. 

Bread, using Finnish sourdough culture from Ed Wood. 

 

Your protocol from what you are saying above is different. You started halving the mix and adding to the half of it fresh flour and water immediately, I.e. you overfeed the mixture. That delays formation and establishment of the new culture significantly.

-  what does hooch on the bottom not the top mean?

- hooch is alcohol  from alcoholic fermentation mixed with water formed during  yeast respiration. You don't have that (hooch) yet. You have water separating from the dough, i.e. excess of water in your dough, the amount of water is too large for the amount of flour. That is what it means. 

- Within 4 hours it rose 3 inches. Apparently that means the culture is activated apparently. 

- When a culture foams up that fast that much, it only indicates a large number of gas producing bacteria and yeast cells in your FLOUR. It is not an activated starter culture yet. If it were, the accompanying smell would be out of this world fragrant, delicious, strong and enticing. 

best wishes, 

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

For the Ischia and Camaldoli I went by the instructions in his book and on the flyer that he includes.

For Step 1 the only difference is he specifies to use 105g not 110g of flour and 180ml of warm water (he doesn't specify it in grams) which weighs 180g just as you specify.I can't see how 5g of flour would make a difference. For the South African which has its own instruction booklet, he specifies 3/4 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water (75F-85F). I take it there is more water because whole wheat flour absorbs more.

Thanks for the tip on not using tap water even if through a Brita filter, but again I was going by his book where on page 29 he even states that he has never had problems using water with flouride or chlorine (but that some have with chlorine so avoid it then if you have problems).

For Step 2 he specifies 145g vs the 140g you list and up to 180 ml (ie 180g) of water to maintain the thick pancake like batter and feed every 12-24 hours and 70F (ie 21C). But I have been putting in a bit less than 180ml of water and probably more like about 160ml, ie 160g, like you specify as I found that's all I needed to get the consistency. Again I don't think the 5g of flour difference makes a difference, especially if one adds enough water to get the consistency specified. The main difference here is he specifies to feed it every 12-24 hours whereas you say ever 12 hours. Actually I did it every 18-24 hours with the first culture (for 7 days) then every 12 hours with the second for 7 days, but neither activated. With the South African I am feeding every 12 hours as that's what that special instruction booklet says to do.

Now you say feed then discard all but a cup. On page 28 of his book he says discard all but half before feeding. Btw, I put a line at the one cup mark on the jar so I always knew I had one cup left. So it's not really a question of interpretation as I am doing exactly what his book says to do.

With respect to discarding 1/2 right a way with the first culture I did not do this after the first 24 hours. I did it as you specified (ie on the third feeding) but before feeding. On the second culture I figured maybe I did it wrong, as the book is ambiguous as to whether you discard after it comes out of the proofing box, so I did it right away, then fed. On this South African culture I did it when I took it out of the box and before feeding as it had risen a bit and I figured it might overflow if I didn't.

So, aside from me discarding all but a cup the 2nd and 3rd times right after it comes out of the proofing box, the differences are you say to feed first then discard. Ed Wood's book says to discard first then feed. How could we receive different instructions from the same source? Maybe his instructions change over time but I got these cultures and the book last year.

Also, on page 29 of his book Ed Wood specifically says 'when foam and bubbles increase the culture's volume by about 3 inches (8cm) within 2 to 3 hours of its last feeding, the culture is fully active and can be used or refrigerated until needed'. For the South African culture his special booklet  says ' at least 2 inches within 2 to 3 hours after the last feeding, activation is complete'. This is exactly what happened after the first feeding with the South African after it came out of the proofing box which Ed Wood says means that it is active. Now you are saying this does not mean it is active, but then further down under the first and second picture you say this does mean it is active. You seem to be contradicting yourself or what am I missing here? Now I am REALLY confused.

Also, after rising 3 inches within 3 hours after the first feeding, now for the last two feedings it has not risen at all and now what I called hooch, which you say is just water, is 1/2" thick and now is on the top of the culture and no longer on the bottom. I don't know why all of a sudden it is not rising anymore, and I am watching it every 1/2 hour after feeding so I know it hasn't risen then fallen.

I am going to continue to feed it every 12 hours as the South African booklet specifies, use even less water (and use spring water now) and discard it after feeding instead of before feeding as Ed Wood specifies.

I'd really like to know why my written instructions are so different from yours.

 

 

 

 

 

mariana's picture
mariana

Let us focus on S-A culture for now. I have placed the first stage mix to activate for the first 24H @32C right now (Today, 5PM). We'll see how it goes. I will rely on instructions for SA culture specifically, from the booklet that accompanies.

It says

The organisms...(in this sourdough culture) produce the sourest breads I have experienced. ... It gives a lovely strong flavour. ... (It) happily rises at temperatures down to 18C/68F. ..Never expose it to temperatures over 100F /38C  p1

From my experience, it is impossibly sour, yes. I missed the flavour though. It didn't smell or taste 'lovely'. So I hope this time I will get something with lovely flavour

 

The steps are outlined on p2. I says

It is activated by feeding 100 percent whole wheat or white flour and water and proofed for 24h. At the end of that time... start feeding 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup of water every 12 hours. Your will soon have a full jar (1L) of partially activated culture. At this point discard some (half) and feed, discarding the excess as necessary.  

I will follow the step as it says, i.e.

1) Mix

30g dried culture in WWF

3/4 cup APF (white), I measured 110g white All-purpose flour, because white  flour is cleaner, has low content of contaminants, compared to WWF

1 cup water , I measured 240g of Canadian Spring water @85F/30C

leave for 24hrs @ 32C

2) add

1 cup WWF (125g)

 3/4 cup of water, 180g water 70-75F/21-24C

12h @21-24C

3) add

1 cup WWF (125g)

 3/4 cup of water , 180g water 70-75F/21-24C

12h @21-24C

This will give nearly a full jar, so I would probably discard some right after mixing it, so that I could see at least a 5 cm rise in 2-3 hrs of fermentation, should it happen, accompanied by a 'lovely flavour'. 

By then it would be full 48 hrs. We'll see if it activates that fast. The booklet says it's possible. If not, I will report how it goes after that. OK? 

 

---

- I don't know why all of a sudden it is not rising anymore

- that fact, that your dough is standing still right now, no bubbling is a good sign. It confirms that bubbling was due to the non-sourdough bacteria in FLOUR, not SD culture.

As the concoction becomes more and more sour, the pathogens die out (they like neutral pH). And true sourdough microbes (lactic bacteria and sourdough yeast) will take over, those species that like pH around 3.5-4.5

Let it sit, until it is acidic enough (pH at least 4.0-4.5, to discourage bacteria from whole wheat flour from reproducing) and then feed again. Eventually the culture will take over. 

RE: tap water. I have been working with different sourdough cultures in Toronto (High Park area) since 2007 and never had an issue with tap water straight from the tap. However, in the last 2-3 years tap water started bothering my starters. I.e. I would be either unable to maintain an existing starter using tap water (straight from the tap, brita filtered, or filtered and boiled - nothing worked), or develop one from scratch or from store bought culture. Water was killing bacteria, but not yeast and water was damaging gluten in starters. So I switched to distilled water (it always works), and then found this Canadian Spring brand that is soft water (low mineral content), quite pure and comes with tap that prevents contaminants getting into the bottle when you take some water from it. It works well. 

best wishes, 

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

What do you use to test the pH?

mariana's picture
mariana

I use lithmus paper strips that work in pH range 3.0-6.0

something like that

http://www.amazon.ca/Strips-0-5-5-0-Universal-Indicator-Papers/dp/B00HVT9SHO/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1394665927&sr=8-17&keywords=ph+paper

 

but if you plan to work with starters and sourdough, you might go as fancy as that:

just insert the tip of pH meter into dough and it will tell you its pH

http://www.leevalley.com/en/garden/page.aspx?p=69257&cat=2,42578

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

I've always wanted a PH meter but I sure am not paying over $100 for one! Not enough time right now to get some litmus paper unless there is a retail location around in Toronto somewhere. Is there any length of time that would result in the PH being right?

mariana's picture
mariana

Yeah, I hear you: ) It's made in Japan, that is why the price is pricey : ) 

 

Rona hardware has pH strips in two locations

http://www.rona.ca/en/test-strips-37425025--1

And Home Hardware as well

http://www.homehardware.ca/en/rec/index.htm/Outdoor-Living/Yard-Decor/Planting/Accessories/Miscellaneous/PH-Soil-Tester/_/N-2pqfZ67l/Ne-67n/Ntk-All_EN...

 

- Is there any length of time that would result in the PH being right?

- No. It all depends on the kind of flour you have, dough hydration, temperature, and on the culture you are using. 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

To Home Hardware it is tomorrow (I'm far from a Rona). Thanks so much. I am anxious to get a starter activated after almost 3 weeks now trying.

mariana's picture
mariana

In answer to your question

 

- I'd really like to know why my written instructions are so different from yours.

 

- I do have the same book as you. However, I also got a number of pages with instructions sent along with the cultures. So after comparing them with those in the book (Classic SD, revised) I used the ones on the printout. Here's a photocopy of the first page

and of the portion that specifies the steps in culture activation

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

I was provided with the same instructions. To me they don't seem to be inconsistent with the book except for the fact the book mentions exact weights and volumes for the flour and water, which work out to about the same as on these instructions. Where are these instructions inconsistent?

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi, 

the differences in instructions are the following

1) BOOK "proof for about 24 hours. Warm place (about 32C)". The goal of that step is to promote growth of the lactobacilli, increased acid production... High acidity.... I.e. at the end of that stage pH should be at least 4.5 even if it takes longer than 24 hrs at 32C

PRINTOUT doesn't state the duration for step 1, but in step 2 says 'at the end of 24 hrs...feed', i.e. exactly 24 even if the batter hasn't reached high acidity level yet. 

2) BOOK Feed 1 cup flour and up to 3/4 cup water (thick pancake batter consistency). Leave for 12-24hrs at 70F. 

PRINTOUT  Feed 1 cup flour and water. Leave for about 12 hrs at 70F

3) BOOK repeat step (2)

PRINTOUT feed 1 cup flour and (1 cup?) water. Maintain the consistency of thick pancake bater.  Discard 1/2. (exact wording is divide the culture into two 1L jars). 12hrs at about 21C

4) BOOK repeat step (3) Should mixture foam and overflow, divide into two jars. 

PRINTOUT feed 1 cup flour and water , 12 hrs @21C.  

following feedings

BOOK discard half, feed the remainder with 1 cup flour and enough water to obtain thick pancake batter consistency. 12-24hrs at 21C. 

PRINTOUT: feed 1 cup flour and water, discard all but a but one cup of culture or the jar will overflow. 

READINESS

BOOK foam bubbles increase the culture's volume by 3 inches (8cm) withing 2-3 hrs of its last feeding. 

PRINTOUT foam and bubbles will increase the volume by 2 inches within 2-3 hrs of the last feeding. 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Not all of those instructions conflict with each other although they may be written differently. Also, the ones that do are very subtly different and I can't imagine they would make a difference. 

in any event shouldn't both sets of instructions work and how would one know not to follow one but the other?

mariana's picture
mariana

Mathematically and biologically they lead to opposite outcomes: feeding 1.5 : 1 is opposite to feeding 1 : 1.5 and one (single species) is opposite to multiple (species)

The book instructions lead to 700g of starter in 1L jar, the starter rises 3 inches in 2 hrs@21C, it is fed 1.5 parts starter to 1 part fresh dough. This is appropriate for a single species starter, i.e. San-Francisco sourdough and German rye sour. 

The printout instructions lead to 500g of starter in 1L jar. the starter rises 2 inches in 2 hrs. It is fed 1 part starter to 1.5 parts fresh dough. This is appropriate for starters with multiple species of lactic bacteria and yeast. I.e. French wheat sourdough, Russian rye, etc. 

 

They both work. However only one of them accompanies the cultures :) The cultures don't come with the book attached : ) that was my one and only criterion of choice.

I used instructions that came with the cultures. They were written after publication of the book, they are more detailed, and I assume they account for the ever incoming customers feedback and for the feedback from the readers of the book 

 

best wishes, 

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

The 1.5:1 vs 1:1.5 does not really follow I do not think. One is maintaining a pancake-batter like consistency in both cases and even if in one case one is feeding 3/4 cup of flour (printout) vs 1 cup (book) the fact that the printout instructs to leave 1 cup of batter in the jar vs the book instructing to discard 'about half' the mixture means one could actually end up with the same ratio in each case. 'About' half the mixture is not a specific volume.

But you also say the book's instructions are appropriate for single species starter and the printout for multiple species but then that 'they both work'. I am not saying you are wrong (I have no clue!), but how do you know this by the way? Anwyay, even though they are appropriate for different circumstances it doesn't really matter anyway? Or just that the chances are greater for success if one uses the book for single species and the printout for multiple species? I am confused (yet again!).

I ordered the book and cultures (Ischia, Camaldoli & South African) together. You say the instructions were written after the publication of the book. I don't know how you know this because nowhere on the printout does it list the date of publication. It also says Quick Reference, rather than 'Updated Reference' or something to that effect, which one would think would be labelled at the top of the page if Ed Wood expected those to be followed instead of the book.

Anyway, Ed Wood obviously needs to do some serious editing of his instructions (and start providing some customer service) as I shouldn't have to go online and spend hours in an attempt to get explanations about how to activate the starters I bought from him.

 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

I also wanted to add, for the South Africa culture I am using the special booklet provided with it entitled 'The South Africa Sourdough Culture Instructions' to activate it and not the book or the printout. These instructions are again slightly different. I don't know if it's a single or multiple species starter, do you?

 

 

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi! How is your starter doing today? Mine is 20 hrs old and has already reached pH of 4.5, smells excitingly nice, milky, like yogurt, like a good starter...

I am sorry that you had to go online to find answers to your questions. Unfortunately, novices tend to misunderstand even the simplest instructions when it comes to sourdough and make mistakes that lead to baffling outcomes. Been there, done that ...million times myself. 

Even with yeast alone, it is not so simple to learn to manage dough, if you learn all by yourself. It's because it is next to impossible to find a skilled person nearby who could SHOW you, instead of tell. I don't know of workshops in Toronto where you could come and in a single evening or even a weekend learn to handle sourdough. Words are victims of  misinterpretations, and written words - even more. I know it from experience. 

I am also using instructions from the booklet that came with South Africa culture. And yes, the instructions for activation and for washing are 'different'. I will see what will come out of the jar as I proceed, i.e. I will see whether the halving of the mixture should be done after the second feed of after the third. 

As it is written, it prescribes the following regimen of feeding the flour mix in the packet

(1) feed 1:4, 185% hydration, 24h@32C +2C (I assume)

(2) fed 1:1, 175% hydration, 12h@21C +2C (I assume, given that this culture thrives even at 18C)

(3) feed 2:1, 165% hydration, 1kg of batter (1000g) divide in half

ideally, at this point 2-3 hrs after feeding  500g of that mix in 1L jar should rise 2-3 inches in height and the activation is complete. 

should that not be the case, complete full 12hrs at 21C and the feedings will continue

(4) feed 1.5:1, 155% hydration, 12h @21C... etc. 

 

I have no idea how many species of yeast and bacteria this culture contains, but it is treated as the single species culture. Feeding are scarce and they pressure all secondary microflora to die out leaving a single dominant species of yeast and a single dominant lactobacillus.

Dr.Wood says in his book (p10) that his starters contain 1 species of yeast and 2-4 different lactobacillus strains. Since he uses word 'strains' (not species) and single lactobacillus, he might be saying that all his starters are San-Fran type with different strains of that bacteria, Lb.sanfrancisco in each culture. Investigations of SanFran sourdough, for example, show that it has one species of yeast and 3 strains of Lb.san-francisco. German rye sour (Reinsuchsauerteige) has the same bacteria. 

On the other hand, Dr.Wood was studying cultures under microscope in 1983, visually differentiating strains and species among microbes... and sourdough cultures must be studied differently, using genetic analysis, to differentiate species and strains within species. I.e. what he thought was one lactobacillus, could have been different species of lactobacilli . 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Today there was a layer about 3/4" of liquid at the top. This was about 24 hours after the last feeding. I had left it because I wanted the acidity to rise, but no way of testing it as all Home Hardware stores were out of stock of litmus paper and the Rona's are about 45 minutes from me by car. About 2 hours ago I decided to bite the dust (what else to do?) and add 1 cup of flour and 3/4 cup of water (it doesn't say anything about pancake-batter consistency) and then split into two jars and see what happen. 

I just found out that one Home Hardware store downtown might get the litmus paper in this evening and then I just found out The Big Carrot Dispensary (beside the main store) has litmus paper so I am going to head there. While there I am also going to get some spring water too. I am told 'Ice Age' brand is the best for this purpose.

mariana's picture
mariana

Yeah, Ice Age is an extraordinary water brand. I haven't seen it in our stores, though. 

good luck with lithmus paper : ) I got mine when it was sold by Efton Science supplies store, since then they closed.

Just make sure that the paper you buy distinguishes gradations among pH in the range 3.5-5.5, the most common in yeast and sourdough baking. 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

I just bought 2 1.5L bottles for $2.29 each of Ice Age water at the The Big Carrot on the Danforth, Toronto. Also in the Big Carrot dispensary across the way they had Alkazone pH Test Strips for water, package of 50, for $8.99. It tests from 3-10 in increments of 1. As soon as I bought it my phone rang and the Home Hardware store told me they got their pH test strips, but those are 10 for $6.99.

I immediately tested the 2 South Africa cultures when I got home. Both jars of South African culture tested at 3. I then tested tap water and it came out to 4. That doesn't seem right, does it? I thought tap water was closer to 7. I am hoping these test strips are working right but I don't know of anything really alkaline that I can test them with.

Given I fed the culture this morning I will do so in a couple hours again using the Ice Age water.

 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

I did a google search and found out that bleach is supposed to test around 13. My testing kit only tests up to 10 and the bleach was a 10 so I guess the strips are working. I didn't know Toronto tap water was so acidic. I tested the Ice Age water and it too came out to 4.

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi, 

something is not right. Toronto water is not THAT acidic at all : ) It's pH is about 7.0, neutral. If you have distilled water nearby (of fresh milk), it should give you firm 7.0 on your test strips. Are you sure they are pH strips? 

pH 4.0 is very sour, very. For example, buttermilk and cream cheese have pH about 4.8, so 4.0 is 10 times sourer. Even acidic plain yogurt is not as sour as 4.0. Its pH is only 4.2-4.9/

Sourness at pH 4.0  is like sour cherries, red plums, or grapefruit sour. 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Just to prove I am not a total dimwit here are pics of the package I just took. I tested both tap water and Ice Age water twice. Both times they came in about the 2nd colour swatch from the bottom which is a pH of 4. Bleach tested right at the top (ie dark purple) which is 10, so I know it is working. Maybe it just doesn't test the lower end properly?

I just found out the the U of T Med School Bookstore has litmus paper and it is not expensive so I'll get some there to confirm.

I just fed my 2 starter jars with 1 cup each of fresh ground Red Fife whole wheat berries and 3/4 cup Ice Age water, but I am pretty well ready to throw in the towel on all of this. I am very technically-oriented and have never had a problem as frustrating as trying to make some plain old sourdough starter! Almost three weeks and nothing to show for it.

mariana's picture
mariana

Thank you for the pictures!

I understand how you feel. I am sorry it is going so tough. My first attempt at activating this starter failed miserably. This time, however, it looks a bit more promising. I successfully activated all of sourdo.com starters, all of them, and this one seems to be the toughest one.

When I attempted to activate it first time, I also used Red Fife flour in every stage. But I was not tracking acidity. This time I used white all-purpose flour in the first step and it alleviated the problem of contamination. It GOT contaminated, but not from my  flour : ) Probably from the flour that comes with the culture in the packet! And by the end of the 24hrs @32-34C it was flat and beautiful, fully acidic with proper aroma. 

So I do understand how you feel and how emotionally invested you are in this thing. As you mentioned, this is a living matter, so timing for feedings must be just right, but not so much by the clock - by the proper condition of the microbial population and their milieu achieved on each stage. pH is very important, and temperature as well. Please acidify each step to the level of at least 4.5 before adding more food to your starter. I am not familiar with the brand of the test strips that you are using, but I assure you that water from the faucet in Toronto is not sour tasting like grapefruit juice, no way in has pH 4.0. 

------

I am done with the stage 1 and 6 hours into stage 2 now. So far so good. This is what happened up untill now

1) I used white flour and Canadian Spring water to activate starter. 16 hours later, kept at 32-34C, it became very foamy and bubbly, smelling like  warm milk. 

By the 24 hr mark, it went flat, divine fragrance, smells like good yogurt. pH about 4.5 or somewhat lower. 

 

2) stage 2. I added to it whole wheat flour and spring water. Now, 6 hours later @21C it tastes sour again, bright flavor of kefir (more acetic than lactic).

I will post more about this one, should it activate (or not) into a foamy culture. 

 

best wishes, 

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Well today I had about an inch of liquid at the top of each jar and each jar smelled like beer. Not fragrant but not foul either. So I mixed it, discarded all but about a cup, added 1 cup of freshly ground red fife flour and 3/4 Ice Age water to each, mixed again, marked the high point on the outside of the jar with a felt pen and put the lids on loosely and placed them on the island in my 70F kitchen.

I'll keep repeating every 12 hours. I am not sure the pH test strips I am using are accurate given the reading I am getting for tap water. I am going to return them for refund. Also, I have posted below a picture of the reading I get for tap water following exactly the instructions on the package which are to leave the strip in the water for 2 seconds, shaking it off, then waiting 20 seconds. The result does not match the 7.0 pH reference colour which I have put the strip beside at all. If anything it's more like the 2 or 3 to me. When I tested the culture last night it definitely was a 3.

 

 

Btw, thanks for posting that picture of the pH testing strip you use. I used that picture to search where I could buy it. It is manufactured by microessentiallab.com and sells for $5.23 on their website but you have to order 5 minimum. amazon.ca does not have it but amazon.com does but they don't ship to Canada. So I googled the supplier to amazon and they do ship to Canada. It's $8.49 + $7.12 postage for a total of $15.61 USD. And because they send by USPS and it is under $40 Canada Post does not charge brokerage or taxes.  I have emailed microessentiallab to see if anyone carries it in stock in the Toronto area or online in Canada and if not I will just order it online from the US. The link is below if anyone needs this.

http://www.onlinesciencemall.com/hydrion-ph-paper-range-3-0-5-5-single-roll-dispenser.html

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Well 1-1/2 hours later there is already 1/4" of liquid at the top of each jar, so I guess it's not going to do any rising in this 12-hour period. This has happened the last 3 feedings. Do I just keep repeating the feeding every 12 hours. Is there any hope for this culture? When should I give up?

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

You have too much water in your starter. If you have access to kitchen scales, you should weigh your flour and water and mix them in equal amounts. For whole grains, it can take a little more water, but not the amount you're giving it. A cup of flour can be a huge range of weight, from 110g to 150g. On the flour bag I buy, it has a prescribed amount of 30g per 1/4 cup, which would be 120g per cup. Let's just go with that. Water has a weight of 236g per cup. So, when you mix 1 cup of flour to 3/4 cup of water, you are getting a hydration of 177/120, which turns out to be 147.5% hydration! With that much water, you will always see separation, or a layer of water. If you pack your flour down, and happen to get around 150g per cup, you get 118% hydration. That would be okay for whole grains, but still more than you need.

Another thing that is happening is that you are underfeeding your starter. It needs several times its weight in new food every day. For instance, my starter, when kept at about 70F gets fed at a ratio of 1:2:2 of starter:flour:water by weight- twice a day. That means that for every 10g of starter, it gets 40g of new flour and water, for a 12 hour period. Of course, if your ambient temperature is higher, it will take more. And, when using whole grain flour, it will eat more. While we're on the subject of weight, yours is much more than you need. You can reduce it down to a smaller size, so that you're not throwing so much money away every day with discards. So, if you must measure with cups, maybe use a feeding ratio of 1Tbsp starter to 1/4 cup flour and 2Tbsp water, every twelve hours.

If you want to keep the ratio down to encourage a single dominant species, or something like that, you then need to increase the frequency of the meals, so the culture still gets enough to eat in a day. When you get the mix of water and flour corrected, you will be able to see it rising and falling with fermentation. Right now, that is an impossibility. It's too wet to hold enough structure to trap air. When you see it rise to its highest point, feed it again, however long that is. If you want it to be more acidic, you can wait until it has just begun to fall from the peak height, then feed it.

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

That is very informative and makes total sense, thanks so much.

But, I was just going by the 'South Africa Instructions', ie 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of water. I would have thought that if it should really be weighed that Mr Wood would have prescribed that given he even supplies special instructions for this starter. I do have a digital scale that measures is g/oz/kg and just weighed the flour. A cup of this Red Fife flour weighs 160g while the 3/4 cup of water I was using weighs 200g. so that was 200/160 or 125% hydration. So I will change to 160g flour and 160g water and see what happens.

Also, I just noticed that the Classic Sourdough book does have the weights shown for adding the flour (140g) and water (up to 180ml which equals 180g). The printed instructions do not. Of course that is for white flour but it is a high hydration of 180/140 = 129% if one used the entire 180g of water. I was getting liquid on the top with both the Ischia and Camaldoli all the time and was even reducing the water as I noticed the Arva Mills hard white flour I was using required less water when I was making my usual pizza dough and bread with instant yeast. I figure it has more moisture in it because it had been recently milled. 

As for how much starter you feed, are you weighing that starter each time in a new jar or how else do you know how much you have in the jar? Also, you say feed twice a day. Is that twice in 24 hours, ie every 12 hours as the instructions say, or twice during the day, ie every 6 hours?

 

mariana's picture
mariana

When should I give up?

NEVER

and that's why :)

Hi! thanks for the update. I was waiting for it!

Please, don't guess about future rising of the starter by the liquid on the top. It has nothing to do with the culture and it has to do with your flour.  It means that you need to pour off that excess of liquid, for it exceeds your flour's water absorption capacity. Red Fife doesn't absorb as much water as modern Canadian wheat varieties, such as used in RobinHood Best For Bread Whole Wheat flour. 

In essence, the previous step demonstrated that there was 1 inch worth of excess of water in the mix and you needed to pour it off and add a bit less water on this step (or more flour). 

So either pour off excess of liquid you see now, and discard it, if your flour is incapable of absorbing that much... or pour it off, collect it, add flour to it, to make pancake batter consistency and return to the jar, mix well. 

Remember that before pursuing RISING of the starter (yeast development), Dr.Wood asks us to obtain high acidity at high temperature (bacterial development). At least pH around 4.0 for whole wheat batter at 32C, and should taste acidic as well. Pronounced acidic taste, however long that takes. Only then add more food to the jar with the culture and shift temperature to the lower end of the interval, to 21-24C.

 

His recommendations are based on this chart

Where you can see that he pursues first speedy bacterial propagation in the culture between 30-35C, when lactic bacteria multiplicate at full capacity and produce lactic and acetic acid at maximum capacity

 

Only then, after this stage is complete and the batter is sour and safe (protected from contamination), he asks us to shift to the lower end, around 21-25C where yeast is reproducing at near maximum speed and out-paces bacterial reproduction and bacterial activity. 

Please, account for that information when you proceed later on. OK? Whole wheat liquid starter should ferment at about 27-29C during propagation of the culture and reach TTA of 11-12, pH of about 3.9-4.2.  

Mine is 50-50 mix of white flour and whole wheat flour right now and it should reach TTA of about 8. I am still waiting for the second step to end, because my batter now, 18 hrs long, only shows TTA of 5.6, pH about 4.0. I think by 2 PM it will be ready. Fully activated. 

Right now it looks like that

best wishes, 

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Honestly I have to say your last post has now confused me more than ever. I just mixed one jar, poured off all but 80g and added 160g of red fife flour and 160g of water and mixed it according to your 1:2:2 instructions. Was I not supposed to do that? Am I supposed to put it back in the proofing box now?

The other instructions and graphs bewilder me (and I have an engineering degree). I don't even have proper pH strips to test it. 

I think I need more one-by-one instructions. Like do this, report, receive instructions, now do this, report, receive further instructions because your instructions are totally at odds with his.

I am ready to give up. Ed Wood's instructions have a LOT to be desired. Mostly all the info you provide is not provided by him anywhere.

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

And what is TTA? I have never heard that term before. And how do I even test for it?

mariana's picture
mariana

TTA is total titratable acidity. 

pH measures how sour substance is, i.e. how much STRONG acid (dissociated, free H+ ions) substance contains. 

TTA measures total acid content, i.e. all acids in substance, both weak and strong. 

two starters with the same pH will have different TTA, depending on the buffering capacity of the flour and length of fermentation. .Whole wheat has very high buffering capacity, so even once it reaches pH of 4.0 it can stay there forever, still having quite low TTA, not high enough for the starter to be safe and proper.

There are numbers that bread technologists use to determine whether their starter is ripe, fully active to inoculate sponge or bread dough. So I gave you those numbers. 

so if you measure your batter's pH and it is 4.0, but doesn't taste sharp sour, your TTA is not there yet. My second step batter reached pH 4.0 at 12 hr mark, but sourness was barely detectable. So I checked TTA and it was only 4, and it should be 8 for 50-50 white -whole wheat mix. When it reached 6, the sourness was already nicely detectable and flavour (odor) changed too. Weak organic acids are necessary for full taste and aroma of sourdough. 

TTA is very VERY easy to measure, but why don't you first get pH right, ok? I got my kit for TTA measurement from wine and beer making supply store. Kipling subway stn. It looks like that

http://www.dannyswineandbeer.com/buy/acid-test-kit-for-wine

Being an engineer myself, I like to have numerical criteria for readiness of the starter or culture, so I track acidity and acid load, and it helps me activate cultures in record times. 

thanks, 

mariana

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

and ph at the same time what difference do you get in the readings? 

If this one fails, we can always give this a try.  Or yiu could do it at the same time.  You can't get more simple that this - Thanks to Not Mini Oven's Ancient Starter Method.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/32665/mini-ovens-no-muss-no-fuss-starter-8-days-laater 

Happy baking

mariana's picture
mariana

O! I never would tell you to feed 1:2:2 when activating dried culture. That was another person.

You can feed your STARTER, when you have a starter, that abundantly. But when you activate dry culture, you must follow instructions for culture activation, not for the starter (WHICH ALREADY HAS ESTABLISHED CULTURE). 


You started this conversation by asking a bit of advice, because you didn't get the info from Dr.Wood personally or from his website. Now you feel that because the information you see here you didn't get from Dr.Wood you can't use it? I don't know what to say to that.

He wrote a book about his experiences and among printouts, brochures, his books and website pages he dispersed plenty of information about rules of good culture management. However, his focus was more on his experiences, not on writing a scientific manual on sourdough microflora and its habits.

So for those who are already well versed in microbiology of sourdough, his  materials ARE complete, fully informative. But for the newbies it might not be enough or too much, especially because even limited amount of information seems too much to them and they skip steps of forget some aspect of the process.

This is to say that it is not me, but dr.Wood who says put your culture back in the proofing box, if it separated at the bottom or in the middle in the first 24 hours, and keep it there, until you get high acidity (low pH, very sour taste).  This is the one by one instruction : ) Just leave it there for 24 hrs at 30-35C. 

Please, do not give up. You have good bacteria in your culture. My packet is super old, bought years ago and I managed to activate it. You sure will too. The microbes are there, they just wait for proper conditions to show up. 

best wishes, 

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

I am talking not about the dried culture just out of the package but of the culture I have now (ie the dried stuff that I added water and flour to and kept in the proofing box for 24 hours at 90F and then took out into the 70F environment and then developed the water on the bottom, then on the top.) You said I was feeding too much water and to switch to 1:1 flour: water and that the ratio should be 1:2:2 culture:flour:water, so I did that. Now it seems I shouldn't have.

I am not saying the info I am getting here I can't use. I was merely making the observation that it is new and I am confused by your instructions. I greatly appreciate your info and have been following every step you have told me but your last post got me confused. What exactly am I to do now?

Right now I have one jar that has 80g of starter/culture (whatever you call it) in the bottom along with 160 g of red fife flour and 160g of water mixed into it.

I mixed the liquid on the surface of the other jar into the jar and it's just sitting there about 1/2 full.

Should I put both jars back in the proofing box?

As for Ed Wood, if he is going to sell cultures to people he should sell them with proper instructions and if not then tell people they should be well versed in the microbiology of sourdough starters as his information will only be complete for people who have that knowledge. That basically rules out anyone who has never activated a culture before or aren't experts.

I never skipped one single step. Ed Wood even acknowledged that actually, but then suggested 90F an oven with a proof feature verified by a thermometer might be the problem which is the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. Anyway, I did it both ways with the two cultures I tried to activate before, proof in the oven and proof in a proofing box. Regardless of that nothing is an excuse for then asking further questions of me and then simply ignoring me when I kept asking him to kindly reply (after giving him many days to respond). If you are going to sell products to customer at least have the human decency, kindness and morality to respond to them if they ask questions, not to mention business sense. I have no respect for him at all. He left me high and dry. If it weren't for you I would have just tossed this out a few days ago. But I have now spent countless hours, money and a ton of flour following instructions which simply don't work.

But anyway, I would appreciate it if you would tell me exactly what to do.

Also, with respect to the instruction of 'dr.Wood who says put your culture back in the proofing box, if it separated at the bottom or in the middle in the first 24 hours, and keep it there, until you get high acidity (low pH, very sour taste). I see that nowhere in his South Africa Instructions. What page is it on?

I see nowhere that I am supposed to taste (ie with my tongue ) the culture.

I see nowhere that the flour and water ratio should be equal, only volumes are provided.

Also, my culture did not separate in the bottom or middle in the first 24 hours. You can see that in my first post. It separated only a few hours after it was taken out. And then after the first feeding the liquid was at the top not the bottom so that advice to put it back into the proofing box wouldn't have even applied to me if I saw it.

Also I still don't know what TTA is or how to test for it.

mariana's picture
mariana

It seems that there is a misunderstanding. I never said to feed 1:2:2 or 1:1 water: flour, OK. That's another person up there in the thread who was talking not about culture activation and not about anything from Ed Wood, but about his own starter. 

Right now you don't have a starter. That is the issue,  right? You have a culture that is not activated yet. For if it was, then you would see something like that on the second day of activation of the culture: 

 

...this is my step 2 batter, 3PM, fully foaming, pH 4.0, TTA about 6.5 (not there YET). I still have to wait an hour or more to get to the safe level of acidity (TTA 8.0) to feed it and store it in refrigerator (or use it). 

So, please,

- whip your batter, at least for 1 min on high speed, to aerate it very well,

- put your jar(s) with culture into proof box,

- keep at 30-35C until you see that,

OK? It will happen at most within 12 hours, but might take up to 24, as Dr.Wood writes in his book. 

the suggestion about witnessing separation at the bottom or in the middle of the fermenting culture and placing it back to proof at 90 degrees F is on p 3 of the South African culture manual. For as long as it is not highly acidic and doesn't smell like yogurt, it is not there yet to start propagating yeast in it, to feed it or to lower its temperature. 

I see nowhere that I am supposed to taste (ie with my tongue ) the culture.

Well... he says on p 28. High...temperature promotes the growth of the lactobacilli and ... increases acid production. High acidity helps prevent contamination of the culture by non-sourdough organisms. 

He implies that we need massive amount of acid accumulated by the end of the hot stage of activation, and 'high acidity' for a layperson is  a synonym of sourness, determined by sniffing and tasting substance. For a more 'analytical' person it means certain pH and certain TTA. OK? 

I don't want to discuss his choices of wording or writing style. It is all there (necessary information). He simply does his best, I guess, as we all do.

I am glad he was brave enough to share his knowledge and his cultures with us, despite lack of writing finesse, teaching skills or exemplary customer service delivery. His methods and his starters are all amazing. We will descipher his 'code', don't worry. That';s why we are here on the forum, together. 

 

thanks, 

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

You're right about the 1:2:2, etc. You have been the only one replying to me for the last day or so and I forgot to read the name on the post, sorry.

I did have what I see in your picture within a few hours after taking the original culture out of the proofing box and feeding it, ie rose about 3 inches within just a few hours. So, I would have thought that was an activated culture no? But, then when I fed it the next time with the flour and water that was instructed in the booklet I ended up getting liquid on the bottom and the level of the culture had lowered back to what it was in the beginning. That's when I posted the original message here as it did not also smell foul. Any reasonable person would think it was not contaminated given it did not meet both tests. Also, even if it did, there is a big may in there, ie may be contaminated, not for sure But then I was also told by someone on here was that it wasn't hooch but 'liquid'. So it didn't look like the test applied at all. But then the liquid was on the top after the second feeding not the bottom, and so the test was not met at all (ie the hooch or liquid or whatever it is/was was on the top, not middle or bottom and it did not smell foul). So, that's why I am saying no where does the booklet say in my situation that I should put it in the box. I guess maybe the booklet should be revised to cover my situation, no? Otherwise how would any reasonable person be expected to follow some procedure in the booklet where it does not seem to apply? Again, we don't all have microbiology degrees and he is selling this stuff to the general public, many of whom are neophytes.

But you are saying I should regardless, so I will. But should I also fill the jar to the top with warm water as he instructs, etc? ie follow all the steps in the 'Washing a Culture' paragraph.

Also, when I start feeding again outside the proofing box, just how much culture should i leave in the jar by weight and how much red fife flour and water should i feed it by weight?

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

I would have thought I could get sick tasting something that wasn't at the acidity it should be yet and therefore maybe have bacteria in it that is harmful. So actually tasting it was the last thing from my mind. And, so, if it is not a risk  then informing someone to taste it might be a good instruction. After all, he does say to smell, so why not taste too? Simple.

So I take it I don't fill the jar with warm water even though he instructs to do so in the paragraph you referenced? How do I know when to ignore his instructions and when not to?

 

 

mariana's picture
mariana

There is no need to fill the jar with water, because if fact you have been diluting (overfeeding) your culture all this time with excess of water and flour, never quite getting it to the point of necessary acidity.  The fault is not yours, it happened because the multiplicity of instructions is confusing, one doesn't really know which ones to follow :(

I understand. 

So your culture is diluted. Just place it to ferment for 12-24 hrs at 30-35C. Now.

Next, feed it and attempt to ferment for 12 hrs at 21C. If it doesn't reach pH and TTA, sourness and fragrance of a sourdough starter, foaming head, etc. then move that same jar into hot spot to continue forcing acid production for 12 more hours. 

Again attempt to feed and ferment for 12 hrs at 21C... etc. 

This will very quickly adjust all the parameters, required from a great culture and you will be done, God willing, by tomorrow evening. Or the day after tomorrow, the latest. 

if you wish, subject only one jar to this process, and continue doing whatever you were doing with the other one, as a backup and test of Dr.Wood's protocol as you understood it. 

Let's be kind to the writer, Dr Wood is in his mid-eighties, if not in his nineties today. It's hard to expect a vigorous correspondence and fresh editions of materials written long time ago from a widowed man so busy at his advanced age. I am actually afraid that one day we won't have access to his cultures no more. That would be a disaster , for me at least. His cultures are phenomenally good and varied. 

 

PS. mine (my South African culture) is fully activated, took 46 hrs from packet to starter!. Thank you so much of your thread... Your problem was akin to mine , same culture, same instructions... and discussing it with your helped me figure out what parameters to control within the letter or Dr.Wood's instructions, to avoid the trap that I fell in the last time I attempted to activate whole grain based culture from South Africa. THANK YOU. 

best wishes, 

mariana. 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

LOL, I cannot believe I helped you at all! All the help was from you to me. Thank you.

You say that ' If it doesn't reach pH and TTA'. Well I cannot test that as I don't have the means. I will test the pH but given these strips test water at 4 or less I am not convinced they even work properly.

But, just to confirm, how much starter should I leave in the jar and how much flour and water (all by weight) should I feed it each time? For some reason, with each starter all I've been getting is liquid on the top (except once on the bottom) using the recommended amounts in the instructions.

As for Mr. Wood, I see no reason to be kind. He asked me 3 times to explain my procedure within 3 days. I gave him prompt replies in detail. Then he made the wild suggestion that the proof function on my $7,000 oven was the problem even though it was confirmed by thermometer and when I used my proofing box I had the same result. Then he asked another question to which I replied to. Then he went silent for 3 days and I let that go and sent him my next starter experiment with his South Africa culture and even a picture. He ignored that email too. I sent him another email 2 days later asking if he would kindly reply. He ignored that too. Why ask questions of your customers only to ignore their replies and then ignore them even when they ask if you could kindly reply?

Yes I thought his book and observations were great too. I am sorry his wife passed away. He has done a lot of great research. But Mr. Wood runs a business. He takes customer's money. He shouldn't treat anyone the way he has me. You don't just abandon them after making them think you actually have some customer support and leave them high and dry by suddenly ignoring them. It takes only a few minutes to respond. Shame on him.

 

 

 

mariana's picture
mariana

Sorry, I though you got that pH test paper from UofT or from Home Hardware today. 

Then there is no recourse but to hold for 12 hrs @ 29-32 what you have now in a jar and then feed and hold for 12hrs @21-24C. See how it behaves during cold phase, so to speak and either move it to the hot zone again without feeding, of feed and keep at 21-24C again to test for foaming and nice fragrance. OK?

Feeding should be done as in the book: half a jar of starter plus cup of flour and 3/4 cup water, which in grams looks like that

450g starter + 300g fresh dough (120g whole wheat flour+180g clean water)

If I were you, I'd abstain from freshly milled wheat flour in starter. Freshly milled rye is the best for starters, but freshly milled wheat - not so much, due to the fact that it doesn't yet have gluten strong enough to expand under gas pressure or to resist proteolysis (degradation of gluten with time). Gluten in wheat ages, matures with time (oxydizes) and become strong.

 

Keep your freshly milled RedFife for breads, and use strongest WWF for culture activation and starter development - refreshments, etc. where you judge your progress by increase in volume and thick layers of foam on top. 

 

KAF tested the difference between dough from freshly ground wheat kernels that they mill for flour and dough from properly aged whole wheat flour that they sell and the difference in volume of dough and bread is quite striking. I.e. you simply won't get the results with culture activation that you want to get unless you use aged flour with mature gluten

source: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2010/10/

The strongest that you could probably have from a regular grocery store is RobinHood whole wheat best for bread flour

.

 

From health food store - something from hard wheat (not heirloom). 

best wishes, 

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

I do have the pH paper which I bought at the Big Carrot Dispensary as I reported before. I don't have the means to test TTA though.

Are you now suggesting that I switch from the Red Fife to white flour? Because first you said '450g starter + 300g fresh dough (120g whole wheat flour+180g clean water)' and then in the next line you said 'If I were you, I'd abstain from freshly milled wheat flour in starter.'  Should I now switch to one of those or am I supposed to stick with the whole wheat since that is what I have been using?

Also now you say 'Then there is no recourse but to hold for 12 hrs @ 29-32' but before you said wait up to 24 hours. Should I go with one of those or am I supposed to stick with the whole wheat since that is what I have been using?

(see why I get confused?)

I have Arva Mills Daisy Hard Winter unbleached white flour and I have organic rye berries that I can mill if I should be switching.

Below is a pic of what the two jars look like now after 18 hours in the proofing box at 90F. The left one I merely stirred vigorously before putting in and the right one I had already poured out all but 80g and then used a 1:2:2 culture:flour:water mixture before putting in because I erroneously thought that other guy's post was yours. Neither has really risen much but there seems to be some kind of activity at the top layer as it's a slightly different colour. The top line is where the level was when I put it in the proofing box. (They are now back in btw)

Quite frankly, with all the instructions I have been getting I haven't a clue what to do now, sorry!

Left one from top.

Right one from top.

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Sorry it seems you can't edit after posting (or can you?). The paragraph that reads:

Also now you say 'Then there is no recourse but to hold for 12 hrs @ 29-32' but before you said wait up to 24 hours. Should I go with one of those or am I supposed to stick with the whole wheat since that is what I have been using?

Should read:

Also now you say 'Then there is no recourse but to hold for 12 hrs @ 29-32' but before you said wait up to 24 hours. Did you mean hold for 12 -24 hours? They've been in 18 now.

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Ok well 2 days later and 4 feedings and nothing has happened except I don't get any liquid at the top anymore and the it doesn't smell as 'beer-y' and a bit more fragrant. But there is no rise at all. Not sure what to do.

Feed it white flour instead now? Keep going? Give up? I've gone through SO much flour in these 3 weeks trying to get these 3 cultures activated. Maybe I just got bum cultures from Ed Wood.

I think I'll feed some white flour for another couple days and if that doesn't work then I'm just going to chuck these babies. I can't believe I've spent a month already in vain.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

stop feeding the starters. 

What temperature are your starters, day and night?

 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

70F as per Ed Wood's instructions.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Get the starters up to 75°F.    Have you got some older starters set aside anywhere?  Ones that you stopped feeding and were waiting to trash?

 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

No, the other starters were thrown out as I didn't think there was a reason to keep them. I have the whole wheat starter split into two and can put them into my proofing box at 75F

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

until this starter get established.  Once it's going gangbusters and the yeast are well developed, the 70° won't be so bothersome.   Don't feed yet.   :)

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

They are in the proofing box with the digital thermostat set to 23.9C (75F). No one ever suggested raising the temperature before or to actually stop feeding.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to catch up.  Takes a while and the culture can change in the process if a long lag time is needed.  I think I've mentioned it before and on other threads, but never mind.  Funny thing here on TFL... often the same subject pops up in several threads at the same time or one thread leads to another closely related thought.  Never hurts to read other threads going on at the same time.   

24°C is still rather conservative but the starter will be able to adjust to cooler temps sooner after the yeast has been well. established.  So... do you know what to look for when the starter is ready to feed?  

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Nope!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I'm typing in:  When to feed a starter...  see what pops up...

Also what are the signs of fermentation?

Edit:  I see Mariana has come back, I humbly bow to her advice and am very interested in the next few steps.   

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi Mini!

Your advice was right on spot, i.e it was time to rise the temperature :) Thanks! It is easy to miss in the instructions that the 21C phase lasts only 24 hours. The wording in the instruction booklet says 'in the next 24 hrs reduce the temperature to about 70-75F and feed every 12 hrs'. And after that 29C is perfect, where both yeast and lactic bacteria grow in tandem. 

The following charts indicate the dynamic, showing that in the interval 28-29C wild yeast grows the fastest, doubling its numbers every 60 min. Whereas lactic bacteria doubles its numbers fastest at 32C, every 45 min, so @28-29 it will slow down a bit and double its numbers about every hour as well, step in step with yeasts. : )  Charts taken from Dr. Daniel Wing's book The Bread Builders, 1999

We are dealing here with specific cultures from Dr. Wood and his instructions are quite good. No need to deviate from them.

Yours, on the other hand, are very good instructions for the starter, created from scratch (flour and water, spontaneously fermenting mix): i.e. stop and don't feed until several generations of microbes pass and the dominant ones will establish themselves. I often do that as well, when I create a starter from scratch using Nancy Silverton's recipe for san-francisco type starter. 

 

Thank you, MiniOven!

mariana

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and I too have dried starters and have played around with restarting them.  Interesting that a cool ferment is followed by a very warm one.  

Is the starter then lowered to a maintenance temperature?  

Does the warming of the starter need to be repeated with future starter feeds?  

Is there specific ways to build this specific starter in preparation for bread dough use?  

Can I apply this technique to an existing random sourdough starter?

mariana's picture
mariana

Mini, 

I'll answer below, since this part of thread is thinning out to the point it is hard to read. OK? 

mariana

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

until later as well.   I don't want to pull too much attention away from the current operation .  I am drawing some interesting parallels with body heat and pocket warmed starters. 

Thank you again.

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi!

Glad to hear from you and to hear good news, that the 'beery' odor started shifting towards 'more fragrant'. Mine smells realy nice, 'lovely' indeed. And gives fantastic taste in bread. 

Now, it's time to shift temperature to 29C.

In other words, the hot stage (30-32C) lasts 24 hrs, or until you get the acid load appropriate enough for the yeast to kick in. Then the cold stage lasts 24 hrs or so, until it starts bubbling, as in your last pictures. After that, switch to the 29C and keep your starters there, feeding with bread flour (NOT freshly milled, white or WWF - your choice)

Feed 1 part starter to 1.5 parts fresh dough (i.e. 200g starter+120g -140g flour+180g water) every 12 hrs or so, and they will begin to foam within 2-3 feedings and eventually they will show 2 and 3 inch rise in 2 hrs. 

South African starter 2 hrs after feeding (@27-29C) - 3 inch rise

If you are not too far from me (Bloor West and Keel) and you are willing, you can bring me your starters, we can check their true pH and TTA (and I'd show you how to track it). Or send me 1tsp sample of each in regular envelope. Take 1 tsp of starter, mix with 1 Tbsp white flour into crumbly mass and place in a small pouch - nylon or paper. OK? I can give you my address via PM. 

best wishes

mariana

 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Ok I did exactly what you said and they are the proofing box at 29C now. I noticed when taking them out of the box at 24C that they had 1/2"+ of liquid at the top which they did not have before I put them in. I remixed the starter before leaving all but 200g each in the jars and then adding 140g Arva Mill hard white flour and 180g Ice Age water. I added 140g instead of 120g as I've noticed the Arva flour seems to have more moisture than store bought floor. It was milled about 5 weeks ago.

I can't tomorrow but maybe if you are around on Wed I will take a drive out and take you up on your offer. I am at St. Clair & Mt Pleasant. I will PM you. Thanks so much!

mariana's picture
mariana

OK. Wednesday is fine for me, except between 3:30-5:30PM when I'd be away, meeting with my p.t.(rainer). Anytime between 9AM-9PM is cool. 

Remember that aeration stimulates yeast growth, so give it a good whip now and then (you can do it every 2 hours if you wish). I use handheld mixer, I remove one whisk and plunge the oner inside the jar. 1 min on high speed. Dr. Wood calls it " "stir the mixture with sufficient vigor to beat in additional air".

 

Like so

 

I also have Arva flour, and I like it. : ) You did absolutely right when added 140g of white. It is always the case: 140 white or 120 whole wheat. But the same 180 g water.

 

 

5 weeks is enough for the flour to age and become good for baking. Average is 4-8 weeks, depending of the frequency of aeration of the flour ( to expose it to oxygen of the air, to mature it).  

And I have a couple of extra packets of interesting starters from Sourdo International that I can give you (Finish and French), if you want to give white flour based starters another chance. Once you learn how to track acidity (both pH and TTA), the starter activation is a no brainer, really. 

 

best wishes, 

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Ok I whipped it good, lol.

An offer of free sourdough starter? OMG you are too kind!

Oh and I can't wait until this is a no-brainer for me because right now my brain is fried.

I've used the Arva for my pizza dough and commercial yeast bread and noticed that it seems to only need about 85% of the water I normally use. Otherwise it is just way to wet. The owner of Arva was supposed to get back to me on why that was but I haven't heard back from him yet. I ended up buying 30kg of their Daisy hard white and 10kg of their pastry flour for a total of $99 shipping included and sold one on Chowhound for what I paid.

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

After almost 12 hours in the proofing box this is what it looks like this morning. Both jars look about the same. It hasn't risen above the line but is slightly below.

There is the tiniest bit of foam on top which disperses as soon as the jar is picked up and tilted a bit and almost 1/2" liquid. The smell is in between beery and fragrant. I guess I feed it and whip it now.

mariana's picture
mariana

Very good, Thanks for the pictures!

Now, pour off the excess of liquid... since your white flour has such low absorption capacity, add less water when feeding. Wash jars with baking soda in between feedings, please. 

Can't wait to meet your starters in person! I have no idea what kind of smell is 'beery'. I have never had that in starters. : ) 

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

This is at 1:30pm today about 12 hours after last feeding. The liquid is now about 1/4" high but is forming now underneath the surface which also happened in the previous feeding. I noticed the level rose beyond the marks about and inch yesterday evening but then went back down by the time of the feeding, then rose again after the next feeding but then went back down to the original level. I am washing the bottles, putting 120g of starter back in, adding 140g white flour and now about 160g of spring water vs 180g, then mixing it with a spoon then using a handheld mixer to aerate it, then back in the proofing box as before.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

marking on the jar or starter separation?  It almost looks like starter separation.

Edit:  If it is separation then, Congratulations!  

(waiting for Mariana, but I would say you got it eating thru the flour already and from the glass, looks like you got a lot of lift off of this runny starter as well!  Funny place to separate.  You will be baking soon!)

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Starter separation. Happened the last feeding too.

mariana's picture
mariana

These are lovely looking starters, TF. Well done!

So, you are basically over the hump now in terms of culture activation.

Just feed them with more hard wheat flour and less water from now on. Your flour's gluten is completely digested by proteolytic enzymes and that is why the mass is rising and then goes flat and releases the water in form of a layer of hooch under floating foam. It has no gluten by the time you feed it.

It doesn't affect bacteria and yeast in any way, i.e. it is flour-water interaction, but visually it is a flat mass with foam on top. As if the microbes were dormant. They are not! I get the same if I let my starter sit long enough before feeding it again. 

See ya, today after 6PM. Anytime after 6PM I'll be home armed with chemicals and lab instruments to give your babies a good check up : ) 

 

Please bring your home milled RedFife, and your Arva Unbleached. We'll compare them to mine in terms of quantity and quality of gluten and water absorption capacity. OK? 100-200g sample of each flour would be enough. 

Until then, 

mariana

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

match the data in the other 2 .....or are my eyes too old to see them clearly.  The other two seem to be based on Ganxle's work.   Ganzel's data shows that LAB out produce yeast at all temperatures from 36-93 F and the closest that yeast get to the LAB rate is at room temperatures 62 - 82 F with 72 - 75 being the closest LAB to yeast ratios for reproduction.  Here is Ganzle's raw data and Happy Baking

 

Reproduction Rates of LAB and YeastL/Y 
T(°F)T (°C)L. SF IL. SF IIYeastRatio
     36         2 0.0190.0160.0053.787
     46         8 0.0470.0430.0212.222
     61       16 0.1440.1500.1141.265
     64       18 0.1870.1980.1631.145
     68       20 0.2390.2590.2251.064
     72       22 0.3010.3320.2951.021
     75       24 0.3740.4160.3651.024
     79       26 0.4530.5080.4141.094
     82       28 0.5350.5980.4171.284
     86       30 0.6090.6720.3461.760
     90       32 0.6580.7060.2023.255
     93       34 0.6570.6710.050

13.127

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi dabrownman,

 

how are you today? :)

The first chart shows the rate in fractions of maximum rate which is specific for each strain and species. I.e. If specific strain of certain species of yeast reproduces at 20C at 50% of its maximum speed (0.5 is 50% fraction of 1 on the chart), and lactobacillum next to it is reproducing at 40% of its maximum speed, we would say that yeast reproduces faster than lactobacillum, i.e. that it responds more positively at that temperature, doesn't mind to reproduce quite fast at that temperature , compared to the lactic bacteria. 

The numbers that you show in the table, simply tell us that the number of cells of lactic bacteria in sourdough is a limiting factor. I.e. sourdough Torula holmii yeast will never reproduce at larger numbers per hour than bacteria Lb.sanfrancisco (unless there is a lot of free sugar in the dough, which happens when  we feed 1:2, 1:4, 1:20 etc...), because it is lactic bacteria who split starch into sugar and yeast steals a bit of that sugar for themselves.

That is why it takes 100 bacterial cells to leave enough leftover sugar on the table, to feed 1 yeast cell in sourdough without sugar supply. And it would take 200 bacteria to feed 2 yeast cells, 300 bacteria to feed 3 yeast cells, etc. 

that is what this ratio L/Y near 1,0 tells us in the range of 16-28C/60-82F, at which sourdoughs use to ferment in bakeries. At these temperatures we see balance of numbers yeast:lactic bacteria equal to 1:100 maintained, more or less. 

best wishes, 

mariana

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

most SD starters and levains that are maintained and cultured at room temperature, with enough of the right food, the ratio of LAB to yeast will stabilize somewhere around 100 to 1.  Those temperatures and feeding schedules  also produce the least sour starters and levains which lead to mildly sour SFSD style bread which is fine since that is what most people like the best - by far and away.  Any yeast in a mediums without sugar supply will struggle whether it is in a SD culture or not.

The amount of food that LAB supply to yeast and the other way around when yeast break fructose bonds for LAB is quite negligible in the scheme of things.  Commercial yeast do quite well, reproduce quickly to raise bread dough when there are not any LAB around all and fructose only makes up 1-2% of sugar flour.  So, like most things, this symbiotic relationship is a relative one in the real world.

Love this thread and Happy Baking 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Thanks for pointing all that out, but I didn't find they were that different because:

1) The book was merely providing an explanation for why one proofs for 24 hours. It was not specifying that you must test the pH after 24 hours to make sure it has a pH of 4.5 and if it doesn't to extend the time, ie explaining that you proof for 24 hours because by that time the acidity will be promoted. If testing was required then any reasonable person would have expected that he would have specified that, especially if it was that critical that there be a specific level of pH. I expected that if I did what he said then what he explained about why I was doing it would happen, ie the acidity level.

2) Yes they are different but not totally inconsistent as 12-24 hrs means either 12, 24 or in between. Leaving it for 12 hours is consistent with the printout at 12 hours. Also my printout says feed enough water to maintain 'pancake-batter consistency' the same term the book uses. It's just that the book doesn't also say 3/4 cup water. However both direct you to achieve the same end result by using exactly the same amount of flour - 1 cup. As such, the exact amount of water does not appear to be important. The final result is of 'pancake-batter consistency' is.

3) Again both the book and printout specify to achieve the 'pancake-batter consistency' so they are not inconsistent. Again, they both specify 1 cup of flour. Here the book and printout were not consistent.

Then, A strict reading of the book directs one to do the first feeding at 70F, then continue feeding every 12-24 hours, and then because the next sentence says 'it will be necessary to discard about half the mixture before each feeding' then one must do so only after the second feeding at 70F. I took it to just be a general statement to do it before each feeding, but not the first one because the culture hadn't really expanded by that point. Anyway, very ambiguous at best! As you point out the printout is much clearer, ie divide into two jars after he first 12 hour proof (at 70F).

4) Again, not inconsistent. You are feed both 1 cup of flour to get the pancake-batter consistency.

As for Readiness, the book says 'about' 3 inches, the printout says 'about 2 inches'. If you interpret about 3 inches to include 2.5 inches and about 2 inches to be 2.5 inches (that doesn't sound that unreasonable does it?) then they are not inconsistent.


With all due respect. I think we are splitting hairs here. Given we are dealing with a live organism and flour here and both instructions both allow 12 hours (one 12-24 hours, one 12 hours) between feedings, both require discarding about 1/2 the culture after the feedings (one after the first proof, one arguably only after the second), both specify to achieve a pancake-batter consistency and both require the end result of a rapid rise of about 2 or about 3 inches within the same time period, ie 2-3 hours of the last feeding to me they close enough so as to be the same instructions.

Ed Wood certainly didn't seem to think I was doing anything wrong when I wrote copious emails to him about exactly what I was doing, except to suggest that doing the initial proof for 24 hours at 90F in an oven on the proof cycle at 90F was somehow (inexplicably to me) different from proofing in a proofing box at 90F, both monitored by a thermostat and confirmed by a separate thermometer.

I have, btw, sent him a number of emails asking him to please respond to my questions and he simply ignores me after initially engaging me and asking me the same questions over and over and saying he would get back to me once he got my answers which I sent him more than once. I can't believe the guy is still in business the way he treats customers.

 

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

TorontoFlour,

I'm sorry I didn't ask the right question. I know you followed the instructions. You had already stated that. When I asked about what you are doing, I really mean that I need to know what you're doing. I don't know what his instructions are, so "following his instructions" doesn't help me to help you. From what I gather, the instructions said to proof at 90F for 24 hours. That already sounds insane, whatever the rest of it is. If his culture is good, you should be able to mix a little with some warm water and flour and see activity in a few hours at the most. It also seems that you're putting too much water in it. I really think his instructions may be leading you astray. The liquid you see on the bottom is not hooch. It's probably water. Separation happens sometimes when the starter is too wet. If you will list the procedure you followed, someone could probably tell right away what the problem is, because the procedure is probably the problem.

 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Thanks. The 24 hour proof at 90F and other instructions is from Ed Wood's book, Classic Sourdoughs, and apparently is typical to activate the sourdough starters he sells. You realize this is the dried starter out of the foil package that I am trying to activate.  I can't imagine the book he has been selling for a long time is totally wrong. The instructions say that after the initial 24 hour period at 90F that you feed it every 12-24 hours for 3-5 days to see activity (every 12 with the South African one which is intended for whole wheat flour, which I am using).

As for what I see on the bottom being water, that explains something for me, thanks.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

If this is made with whole wheat flour, then the larger particles tend to separate and you get the layered effect. It should smell beer-y or yeast-y. If it was contaminated with undesirable bacteria, it starts to smell like old rancid cheese, toe-jam or sweaty athletic socks. I used a variety of descriptions but I think you get the idea. Overall-yuck.

I confess I just scanned the prior thread. I remember when I started with sourdough how confused and intimidated I was because I didn't understand what was happening.

First of all-relax. I t sounds like you have a good start. There have been yeasts that have been recovered from Egyptian tombs that have been used to brew beer today. It sounds like your yeasts are waking up. Yeasts are amazing creatures and you will get to experience them in your bread!

The easiest way to get a culture going is-flour, water, time. The yeasts you want to make bread are already on the grain/flour (if it is Unbleached and not heated). Nature provides. Everything on this planet is covered microscopically with what can digest it for food (including us!). The by-product of their digestion of the carbs and sugars is carbon dioxide (bread traps as bubbles) and alcohols (which give all fermented products their characteristic flavor). 

By using a dried culture, you can jump start the process a little but you still have to allow the culture to come into balance. A sourdough culture consists of the lactobacillus (which make a favorable, acidic environment) and the yeasts (the workhorses for our breadmaking purpose). When you wet the dried culture, the yeast "wakes up" and immediately needs food and reasonable warmth. Actually, its warmth requirements are the same as a humans but with a narrower "favorite" range of about 80-92F. Lactos like it a little cooler, I believe. So when you revive the culture, some lactos are present,some yeast are present and at first the lactos growth will quickly surpass the yeast.Lactos can raise the level and produce gas but generally it is too weak to completely raise bread-esp with multiple risings.  As you feed and maintain the culture, the yeasts (esp if you keep it in their favorite temp range) will gradually dominate. Eventually, they will come to a balance and survive.

Generally, the more liquidy the culture is kept at, the faster it needs to be fed-esp if it is warm. If it is kept cooler, the yeasts and lactos generally get sleepy and don't eat as much. It will be very noticeable if you have seasonable temp changes in the kitchen. I like to keep my culture like a thick pancake batter consistency when I start it-it is just easier to stir and see the rise.I think it is easier for a beginner to see what is happening when it is a little thicker and the level actually rises in the jar rather than the bubbles just escaping from the surface.. If it is too liquid, the bubbles rise and break the surface so its hard to judge if it actually rises.  Others swear by a putty like consistency. You will get all kinds of advice to do all different things. Try one thing consistently for a while and make note of successes and failures. Repeat or not on subsequent attempts.

So stop following directions to a T and look at your culture. Figure out what is happening in their world. It is like having a microscopic pet-does it need to eat? Have the cage cleaned? Is it sleepy? Does it need warmth? Later, you will also benefit from looking at your dough/bread and not looking at a clock. It will be ready when its ready-it doesn't matter if the timer has dinged.

Have fun! Start by making pancakes and enjoying the deliciousness. No special recipe-Starter,flour,milk,egg,baking soda,salt, sugar-mix and griddle-enjoy!

 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Thanks for taking the time to give me that detailed explanation, but I do have to say that someone telling me not to following the instructions to a T does leave me a bit bewildered given I've had 2 cultures in a row not activate after 7 days each and Ed Wood even provides a special booklet of instructions just for the South African sourdough starter. If I had done this before and had some terms of reference I would be less likely to following everything to a T. Also, Ed wood kept asking, before he went totally silent, whether I had been following his instructions closely and to tell him exactly what I am doing.

But, this starter has now twice risen 3 inches in the first 3 hours after the 12-hour apart feedings so it appears to be activated. This last time, just now, I gave it less water than usually so the consistency was a bit thicker than before. I want to see if the water forms again at the bottom.

It does smell very beer-y, more like a Guiness I would say, and a bit rank, but it's not a total turn-off to smell it.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

that it is actively fermenting.  It starts out mild but increases (as it should) with time. When this beery starter is first fed 1 to 2 (starter weight to flour weight, plus water) the smell is of wet flour.  As soon as the population of yeast increase enough to give off gas, it will start to smell like beer again. The more the flour and water mixture ferment and thus breaks down and no longer contains the gas, the smell of beer gets stronger.  Strong smells come off mature sourdoughs.  Judging the smell of a starter requires experience and a good sense of smell.  I have a neighbour who has lost her sense of smell.  Very interesting,  another day.

When I first sense the beer smell in a new starter, I leave it alone (no food) to mature another day before removing a portion to feed.  I tend to mix up my starters in a clean bowl (like the asian rise bowl shape) and then put them into a jar or container to ferment.  I don't like the fermented  edges of the older container interfering with my nose and combining with the aromas coming off the newly fed starter.  The "cage" is kept clean to observe the starter dropped cleanly into the middle.  Wet fingers level the surface if firm.

I'm guessing here but if you had mentioned the beer smell to Paul Wood.  This would explain his lack of interest, help is no longer needed.  The starter is active.

When the culture is active and established, separation is rare.  The active mixture tends to stir itself if thin and a thick one doesn't separate except if it gets really really over-ripe, then it oozes.  

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Thanks. It has separated itself into a layer of about 5/8" of water or hooch or whatever you call it at the top now. I am getting litmus paper to test the acidity (which is in very short supply in Toronto it seems!).

As for Ed Wood, since you mentioned him (Ed, not Paul), he just kept asking me the same questions and said he would answer when he got the answers which he asked more than once (and I gave more than once) and then he went silent even though I have asked him to please get back to me now that I have given the answer. The last he heard there was a layer of liquid on the bottom, which is not mentioned anywhere in the book or his instructions. I don't see he has any excuse for not giving customer service or telling me that the starter was active, it is indeed is. Takes 2 seconds to reply.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

many years ago about separation at the bottom of a starter, trying hard to remember what the cause was.  I will see if I can find the thread.  

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/3025/starter-w-liquid-bottom

There are several, most give reference that circle around to Debra Wink's solution to the problem.  Read carefully.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2

Other threads on the "Hooch on the bottom" theme mention that this tends to happen when the whole grain flour is suddenly replaced with white wheat flour.  This makes a lot of sense as the gluten in the wheat flour increases forming a sort of dough ball that is trapping and loaded with gases from the first forming bacteria and therefore, floats. 

The plain flour addition, and or coupled with particular early bacteria seems to also delay the process resulting in a viable culture.  Corrections are made by returning to an increase in whole flour (more variety of bacteria and yeast) and reducing the feeds (to starter amounts) so acidity can continue to drop.   Every time fresh food is added to the starter it raises pH.  I strongly suggest that should your starter float, reduce or stop feeding so that pH can fall (acid levels rise) and the culprit bacteria can be phased out by more acid loving bacteria.  Continue feeding (use extreme conservation) after seeing the floating flour sink or it stops separating at the bottom of the starter after stirring.  

"So 2 weeks later and after a lot of wasted flour..."    Doesn't need to be, most starters use way too much flour.  I've gotten good starters with as little as half a cup total flour over a week.  Yes.  More flour is less when it comes to activating or creating starters.  Once the yeast appear, then the starter goes through flour.   

mariana's picture
mariana

...a layer of liquid on the bottom, which is not mentioned anywhere in the book or his instructions.

 

hi, it's me again. Dr. Wood specifies the meaning of the layer in the middle on on the bottom in the booklet for the South Africa culture. Here's a photocopy of that instruction

 

...and the portion where he explains that it might indicate contamination, unless the culture 'has a pleasant odor and continues to respond when fed" (p29 in his book)

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

The sentence you are referring to was the reason for my very first post and that is why I wrote it.

In my first post I describe that I had a layer of hooch on the bottom, which I am now informed in this thread was not liquid but hooch (which is it?). Also that I didn't know if there was an 'unpleasant odor' or not. So, I did not know if I was fulfilling the two tests of odor + hooch on bottom or not.

Also, even if so, the instructions only say contamination 'may' have occurred. Without any way of knowing if it did then washing should be done I guess. But I don't even know if the test was fulfilled. I seemed not to have hooch on the bottom, but liquid, and also really have no reference to go by to know if the odor is unpleasant or not.

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

I should add that the hooch or liquid or whatever is no longer forming on the bottom but on the top.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

added info for anyone else pulling up the thread that perhaps has a floating starter.  Also the links I gave have more to do with Whole wheat starters (very common) but applications can be made.  You can look back at the starter and understand more of what was going on at the time, when it was difficult.  

Now that there is liquid on the top, I have been looking for ways you could test your starter for pH without a meter or special paper.  Been looking for some kind of chart dealing with baking soda amounts and common kitchen acids with which you could compare.  Cider vinegar has 4.5 to 5 pH for 5% acid (sounds interesting)  If you were to take say a teaspoon of water and combine with baking soda and measure the reaction, then take cider vinegar and do the same, and then take a spoon of hooch and test with baking soda.  How close could you come to knowing if the pH was lower than 4.5?  Combine beer with baking soda?    (need to be rather accurate with a scale) or...

2.0 - Lemon Juice
2.2 - Vinegar
3.0 - Apples
4.0 - Wine and Beer

See where I'm going here?

mariana's picture
mariana

Hurrah! : ) 

You will get a starter going. I am sure. Keep up the good work!

What do you think about adjusting your hydration a bit ( make a thicker batter), so that it doesn't separate?

Also, using RobinHood Best for Bread whole wheat flour would help immensely. It has high gluten content and its gluten is very robust and absorbs a lot of water. NEVER separates even at 200% hydration level. 

mariana's picture
mariana

 

 

There are actually four conditions that together indicate that the local flour micro-flora is thriving in your batter

1) foaming

2) low acidity which can be determined by tasting the batter or numerically with pH meter. 

3) foul smell

4) foaming ceases as you continue to feed the batter with fresh portions of flour and water

In your case, the following feedings show that the starter did not continue to respond when fed. I.e. the bubbling has ceased along with new feedings. Therefore, there was some contamination.

However, it is all in the past now. Once pH of the current batter gets down to 4.0, the sourdough yeast will kick in. For them it's a signal that it is now safe to reproduce. 

mariana's picture
mariana

Good morning, MiniOven

 

 

and I too have dried starters and have played around with restarting them.  

 

Dried starters are different from dry microbial cultures. Dried starters are usually restored in 24 hrs. Cultures, they usually take longer (to develop a sourdough starter based on that culture), minimum 2 days, normally 3 or even 5 if you don't track acidity and pH. Dr. Wood sells cultures for starters (microbes mixed with flour). They are not dried and pulverized starters per se. 

The difference would be the same if you sold someone  dried yeasted bread dough, in order for them to restore it into a fresh and bubbly yeasted dough and propagate it as a source of yeast for baking... Or if you'd sell dry yeast (pure yeast) mixed with a little flour in a packet : ) 

Is the starter then lowered to a maintenance temperature?  

South African culture doesn't have 'maintenance temperature' per se, because the culture, once activated, is stored (preserved, conserved) refrigerated and small portions of it are used to inoculate sponge (leaven, levain), which , in turn, will inoculate bread dough.

 

 

Does the warming of the starter need to be repeated with future starter feeds? 

Yes, but not to as high T, as when you activate dry culture. I.e. when one activates dry culture, one goes through

(1) high T stage of 32C

(2) cold stage of 21C (or even as low as 18C)

(3) normal warm stage of 29C

So when one takes a portion of a culture from refrigerator, one brings it first to 29C (warming up the culture). Next, blend about 400g of this sourdough with 600g of warm water (lower its acidity) and take 250 g of that, add 90g flour and enough water to obtain thick batter consistency. Thoroughly aerate the mix (whip it). 

Then it is left for 2-4 hrs @ room temperature (21-24C) and if it rises 2-3 inches in that time, it is considered activated (from the lethargic cold and over-acidified state). Next, it can be used to inoculate sponge (leaven, levain) for the future bread dough. 

Temperature at which the sourdough sponge and dough are fermented strictly depend on the recipe for a specific kind of bread, I guess. In Dr. Wood's book, he states his personal preference for the 2 stage sponge fermentation

(1) per 1 cup of active culture (200g of chef, starter) add  90g flour + 120g warm water. 

3hrs @18-21C, then 6-10 hrs @ 26-29C. 

(2) alternatively, one can do one stage sponge "hot" fermentation: 6-8 hrs @ 29-32C. 

From this sponge a portion is taken, fed, proofed for 1 hr,  and kept refrigerated as a stock culture for future baking. The remainder is used to inoculate bread dough which again ferments for 8-12 hrs @21-24C. 

 

Can I apply this technique to an existing random sourdough starter?

I don't know which technique you refer to, but each kind of starter requires its own process, in order to preserve its microbial association and character (its flavour, essense). I guess as an experiment, one can give it a try with an existing random starter : ) I don't know.

Dr.Wood's process is more typical of treatment of san-francisco type starter that has Lb.san-francisco in association with C. miller in it. Other starters have different yeasts and different LAB, they are treated differently, have their own protocols.  

 

best wishes, 

mariana

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Thank you, thank you for clarification.   Would you know if yeast microbes are also included in the culture or is acquiring yeast left to spontaneous yeast growth? 

Mini

mariana's picture
mariana

Yes, Mini 

they are in symbiotic relationship with LAB, so both are included, yes. : ) 

mariana

mariana's picture
mariana
TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Hi Mariana,

First of all I can't thank you enough for letting me come over and spending all of that time with me giving me a college level course in starter and dough technology. I think most of it sunk it but I never would have believed there is so much going on behind the scenes the starter cultures. And thanks for letting me borrow some of your testing apparatus. You are too kind!

(Correct me if am wrong on any of this Mariana, it was a long evening), but what happened was, after Mariana gave me a detailed course on yeast, microbes, bacteria, gluten and water absorption of dough and how to test various levels we worked with my starters. It seems that the flour I was using, hard white flour milled about 5 weeks ago and red fife flour milled just before adding it seems to be the major problem. The amount of protein and quality of protein was not high enough to activate these starters successfully. That plus a few techniques Mariana showed me. The two cultures I brought were reduced to 200g of each by pouring some out. Then they were fed on a 2:1 basis, 120g flour + 180g spring water to 200g starter. But, one was fed a bread flour (Robin Hood Best for Bread flour) and the other Red Fife flour that had been aged already (vs mine which was freshly milled). We tested both beforehand and both had a higher protein content than what I was using.

Anyway, the flour was incorporated into the culture first, in a bowl, and then mixed on high using a hand mixer on low. Then the flour was added and it was mixed on high with the hand mixer for about 2 minutes until it started to become a dough and not cling to the sides, kind of like kneeding it. Then it was poured back into the jar. We tested that pH on each after that and it was 4.5- on each, but should be 4, and the TTA (which I learned how to test) was less than 4 but it should be 5-8 on one culture and 8-10 on the other I think (now I can't remember which!).

Mariana told me that the culture would likely rise in the jar within a couple hours. I was not too hopeful but about 2 hours later the flour fed white culture had risen 2" and the whole wheat 1". An hour after that it was 3" and 2", which please me immensely after my lack of success in the past getting it to rise. I tested the pH and TTA and both were the same as before.

This morning, both have gone back down to what they were when we started which I was told they would likely do. The pH on both seem to be just under 4.5 with maybe the whole wheat a bit closer to 4 (pic of it below). However, the TTA of the white flour is 4 and the TTA of the whole wheat is 6!

The last feeding was at around 10pm last night so I will feed it shortly again using the same procedure as before.

Here is a pic of the 2 cultures (white on right, whole wheat on left) last night just after midnight. They rose another inch each an hour after that (rubber band is where they started). Also below is a pic of the pH of the whole wheat about 9:30am this morning.

Thanks so much again Mariana for the incredible help you gave me last night! You are life-saver and a saint.

mariana's picture
mariana

What a beatiful picture , T.Flour : ) Gorgeous starters indeed !!!

Congratulations, I am so so so so sooooo happy for you. And for your well fed and well cared for starters : ) 

to recap a few procedures from yesterday

1) to fortify any flour that is not standard quality: those that are sold as organic, pure, 100% flour nothing added, hard wheat, etc. 

1/8 tsp Ca-Mg-VitC supplement per 250 g flour

1/2 tsp diastatic malt  per 250 g flour

2) best water is Canadian Spring for dough, Distilled water for tests

3) strongest flour for starters is RobinHood, either Best For Bread or All Purpose, both unbleached and whole wheat. 

add 2-3% wheat germ from freezer to whole wheat flour  (but not to whole grain wheat flour)

4) Flours of specific brand and specific designation, i.e. No-Name all-purpose, or Five Roses unbleached all purpose, or RobinHood Best for Bread...etc. will be very stable in quality from bag to bag, year to year. So it is enough to determine their water absorption capacity and gluten content only once.

All other flours have to be tested for each bag, each purchase, they will vary wildly in their quality depending on the quality of wheat milled and left unadjusted. 

5) Water absorption capacity test. Take 25g of medium hard water and add enough flour to obtain medium soft dough. Determine how many grams of flour it took and calculate water absorption for 100g of flour

Arva unbleached flour has water absorption capacity about 60%

RobinHood best for bread flour (white) has water absorption capacity about 72%

6) Gluten content test

50 g flour + 30g water (not distilled, medium hard) + small pinch of salt, mix, divide into 2 equal parts.

let one ball rest for 20 min and another - 60 min. Wash out gluten and weigh it. Multiply x4 to get gluten content of 100g of flour with 20 min autolysis and with 60 min autolysis. 

Note the quality of gluten. How extensible it is, how elastic (tough to stretch), how sticky, etc. 

7) pH test

5 g substance (dough, bread crumbs,etc) + 45 g distilled water, blend well, dip pH paper into it and compare the color with the chart

pH of sourdough starters usually  stays in 4.0-4.5 range and depends on buffering capacity of flour. The more ash content (the more bran flour has) the higher is buffering capacity of flour. I.e. pH of the starter will reach certain level and stay there for a long time, even though the TTA will continue to rise. 

8) Acidity test (total titratable acidity)

5g of dough + 50g distilled water + 2-3 drops of indicator (phenolphthalein)

Blend well

add 1/2 N NaOH solution until liquid in the bowl turns pink and stays pink. 

See how many grams of NaOH it took to neutralize all acid in the bowl and multiply times 4. This is your TA (total acidity)

Proper TTA values for mature starters

stiff rye starter, whole grain 13-16

stiff rye starter, medium rye 12-14

 

liquid rye starter, whole grain 10-13

liquid rye starter, medium rye 9-12

 

stiff wheat starter, white flour 6-8

stiff wheat starter, whole grain flour (70% hydration) 11-12

 

liquid wheat starter, white flour 4.5-5.5

liquid wheat starter, medium ash content (50:50 white and whole grain mix) 6-7.5

liquid wheat starter, whole wheat > 7.0

 

9) feeding starter. Different starters are fed at different temperatures and in different proportions of flour:flour, different hydrations. The process of feeding a starter, however, is more or less the same and consists of tree steps:

- mix starter with water, 1min on high speed

- add flour, 1-3 min on low to medium speed or until fully homogeneous

- let rest for 10-20 min and mix, until well aerated shows signs of gluten development. 

best wishes, 

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Oh and they have risen about 2" each in the almost 3 hours since I fed them with the white one slightly higher.

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

It is now soon 12 hours after I last fed the starters. Both levels have dropped a bit but the whole wheat, which had the better readings, is about 3/4" above the level it was when it was fed, which I would think makes senses given it had better readings, and the white one just slightly above the level. Neither dropped totally back to the original level like the previous feedings. I will do a test before feeding again so I know what to do next.

I've been looking at Ed Wood's book, Classic Sourdoughs, and it says to create a culture proof from the fully active culture. For the culture proof he says to split the active culture into two jars first, feed it and proof it 8-12 hours before moving on to the dough proof. First, I am wondering if I should deviate from his instructions to add 2/3 cup flour (90g) and enough water to maintain a pancake like consistency and proof for 8-12 hours. He says he likes to proof at 65-70F (18-21C) for 2-3 hours, then 6-10 hours at 80-85F (26-29C). I am wondering because it sounds like I am duplicating what I have done before to get the culture activated? Or is this indeed another step I need to do.

Also, under Dough Proof he doesn't say what to do with the other jar. Is this the jar you save for to use in the future?

 

mariana's picture
mariana

TFlour, I think it would be better to first stick to the brochure for the African starter and complete starter process and bake test loaves using recipes from that brochure. Later on well discuss book instructions, OK? 

One starter and one process at a time. 

So. Should your cultures be ready tomorrow... I.e. by the end of the 8-12 hrs fermentation they reached proper TTA levels, you would feed them , let them sit for 2 hrs at room T and place them in refrigerator. 

Should you then want to start preparing a sponge with one of your starters for one of the bread recipes in the booklets, let me know. I will do as you do and we'll compare our notes, and bake breads OK?

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Also, Mariana, I noticed you don't have a TTA for stiff wheat starter, whole wheat flour but you do for whole grain. I am curious because is that not what I have? ie was what we had last night not stiff rather than liquid? Maybe I don't know what you mean by liquid vs stiff starter I thought there was only one kind.

mariana's picture
mariana

Whole wheat means whole grain : ) 

lt's just in Canada when they sell us 'whole wheat', it is not exactly whole. So you have to add wheat germ. Preferably roasted and milled finely with portion of four. 

I think Canada is the only country in the world where whole wheat is not the same as whole grain : ) Usually these are identical terms in meaning. In Canada whole wheat means 'white flour + added bran' and 'whole grain' means 'the entire grain milled into flour'. Just as you do at home. 

Freely flowing starters are liquid, they can be thick liquids or thin batters, but they flow.  Those that are in one piece that you can hold in you hand - stiff, firm starters. their hydration levels range widely, due to different water absorption of different flours. 

Depending on the recipe of certain breads, you will be required to adjust your starter to a different consistency (or different flour - rye, wheat, etc). Right now don't worry about that part. Right now you need to track only two numbers

liquid whole wheat starter and liquid bread flour starter TTAs. 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Thanks for that good guide. My starter didn't beat as dough-y this morning when I fed it as it did last night at your place and the only difference is I used Robin Hood All Purpose Whole Wheat flour for the second starter and last night we used Red Fife flour which was aged. I must have whipped each for at least 3-4 minutes but they were a bit more on the liquid side.

So it looks like neither my pH or TTA is where it should be yet as I have:

White flour starter - pH 4.5, TTA 4

Whole wheat flour starter - ph between 4 and 4.5, TTA 6

I take it I now just wait until 12 hours have passed at 21C and test again?

 

mariana's picture
mariana

Yes, please. Test again in 12 hrs @ 21C and if TTA isn't there yet, keep the jar(s) at 32-34C, until TTA gets where it belongs.

My starter  took 12 hrs @21C PLUS 10 hrs @33C to get there for the first time. Now it reaches proper TTA range in 8-10 hrs after feeding, kept @21-24C. 

Adjust water to get consistency of thick pancake batter, please, i.e. as in my examples above, to about

200g starter

145g flour

160g cool water

180 g water seems too much. The KIND of flour is not the only difference. You use different water, with very low salinity (Ice Age vs Canadian Spring). That liquefies your batter even more (lack of salts in water relaxes dough). So, please, fortify a bit with Ca-Mg-Vit C powder, OK? 

Remember that Canadian whole wheat flour requires addition of 2-3% of wheat germ. Did you add wheat germ  when you fed your whole wheat starter? Lack of germ will affect dough rising speed, overall volume of dough, and rate of bacterial metabolism (TTA) and reproduction. 

Otherwise, it is ready to be used in baking, I think. : ) 

Your assessment of 85% of normal amount of water for Arva was right on spot, actually. Since we determined its water absorption to be at 60 % level and average Canadian white flour has water absorption at 72%. 60 is 83% of 72. Go figure : )  Well done!

Hurrah!!! : ))))

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

I think it was a lucky guess on my part.

I am using Nestle Pure Life 100% Natural Spring Water (Sodium 25mg/500ml, Calcium 4%/500ml, Mineral Salt Content 552ppm and Flouride Ion 0.4ppm) that I got at Costco a couple days ago but will look for the Canadian Spring. I don't see Canadian Spring's sodium level anywhere on their website so can't compare. I emailed them to ask, or do you know?

It will increase the flour and reduce the water on the next feeding.

Now, are you saying my starter is ready now, or after I get the pH down a bit and TTA up to the required levels as per your instructions above?

mariana's picture
mariana

Well, your starters rise well, as requested by the 2-3 inches in 2-4hrs criteria, in that sense they are ready.

However, as we discussed yesterday, you TTA isn't reaching proper levels by 8-12 hrs mark, so you need to keep your jars at 32-34 for a while to bump up bacterial population. You need to stimulate bacterial growth in your starters. And that is done by keeping them non-aerated at 32-34C. I.e. once you move them into your proof box, to keep them warm and cozy, don't stir the batter anymore, ok? 

Water hardness is combined amount of Ca and Mg salts (, i.e. calcium carbonate, etc... not table salt, i.e. not sodium, Na content). Ice Age has very low mineral content, it's extremely soft. Nestle Pure life , aka Aberfoyle is hard water, which encourages microbial contamination of water and that could affect starters. 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

So results are:

White - pH almost to 4, TTA 4.4

Whole Wheat - ph almost to 4, TTA 6.4

I am putting them in the proofing box at 32-34C and test in the morning.
I didn't put wheat germ in the whole wheat I fed the starter because I thought that only affected the dough, not the starter. I will get some.

Now I am a confused about keeping the starter non-aerated in the proofing box at 32-34C. Don't I aerate them when I feed them then put them in the proofing box? Am I not supposed to aerate them when I feed them just before putting them in the proofing box?

mariana's picture
mariana

White is good! You can feed it!

But whole wheat one isn't there yet. However, it is not WHOLE wheat... remember, while at my place you mixed whitish starter with whole grain flour and water, so it won't get at a very high level of total acidity. It is a mix of different flours, not a pure whole wheat yet. 

So feed BOTH : )

When you feed the starter you knead it and that action of kneading dough (beating it)  aerates it. But then

1) if your goal is to grow and multiply yeast cells, you keep aerating it throughout the period of 12 hrs , i.e every two hours, or even continuously, as in a mixer with a paddle at slow speed. 

2) if your goal is to grow and multiply bacteria, don't aerate after initial mixing and kneading. Leave it standing for full 8+hrs @32-34C, checking its TTA occasionally, until it get to the level of maturity. OK?

 

Your goal right now is to push a bit more towards bacterial growth. So feed them and go to bed. Let them sit still. At 32-34C. OK? 

best wishes, 

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Or am I supposed to not feed them, just put them in the proofing box at 32-34C?

mariana's picture
mariana

edited. Yes,  feed them. TTA is high enough for that. Very good.

In the morning, should they show proper TTA levels, then feed them again. OK?

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Ok after 12 hours in the proofing box at 33C (+/- 0.5C) the white starter had risen during the night and overflowed the jar and there was also starter on the bottom of the proofing box, but it was back almost to the original level. The whole wheat looks like it probably had risen 1.5" during the night but was back down to the original level.

White - pH between 4 & 4.5, probably closer to 4, TTA 5.6

Whote Wheat - ph between 4 & 4.5, TTA 6.4

I think the white is activated but the whole wheat is not as the TTA is not 7 yet, so I put only the whole wheat back in the proofing box but I have not fed it yet, should I?

mariana's picture
mariana

I agree with you. It seems that the white  one is ready to use in baking (or to prepare it for refrigerated  storage, in any case), so you can start baking with it today.

And the whole wheat one ... I would give it another 2-4 hrs @ 32C to see if it gets to the target TTA and then feed and leave at 21C for 8-12 hrs. OK? 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

I have done that. Well now this exciting since I can finally bake a sourdough loaf. I was thinking of trying the recipe on page 6 of the South African Instructions, which is a 2/3rds whole wheat and 1/3 white flour mix but to only make 1/2 the recipe, ie 1 1-1/2 lb loaf.

So, as I understand it, now that I have an active culture can I now create the culture proof using the instructions in the booklet to mix the flour blend with 1 cup of water and proof for 6 hours at 85 or 12 hours at room temp (68-72). Is either better than the other?

Also, I am now wondering what would the difference be if the whole wheat starter had been fully activated and I was using it in this recipe instead? They are both the same sourdough culture just different flour.

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Mariana informs me that proofing the dough for 6 hours at 85F vs 12 hrs at 69-72F (68 should be more like 18 hours she informs me while 72 for 12 hours) will impart different flavours to the dough just as whole wheat SA starter will impart a different flour than SA white flour starter. So, aside from different flour blends, there could be 4 distinct tastes to this dough for one particular flour blend depending on the SA starter used and the proof time (aside from other aspects that could also change the taste).

So, I am following the Recipe #3 on pages 6-7 in the SA Instruction booklet. I had about 400g of white flour starter in the jar so I fed it with 200g flour and 250g water, first mixing the water with the starter with the hand-held mixer on high, then adding the flour, mixing it again on low and then letting it rest 15 min before beating it with the hand-held mixer again on low until it appeared to be kneeding the dough to a thick consistency. I then poured it back into the cleaned jar and proofed it for 2 hours at 85F at which time it rose almost to the top of the jar (about 3 inches).

I then took out a cup of the starter for the recipe and put the jar with the rest of the starter in the fridge. Mariana informed me to mix it every 2-3 hours to stop it from collapsing which prevents the gluten from (getting weak or ?). It should be good for a week by just bringing it to room temperature (I think). I am not sure if I need to stir it every day though.

I mixed the flour for the recipe (4 cups whole wheat + 2 cups white bread flour, both Robin Hood brand). I did the first 2 steps together (Mariana said it was ok!) and created the sponge. Specifically, I mixed 2-1/2 cups of the flour blend with 1-1/4 cup of water and the 1 cup of culture, then split it into two in order to see how different proofing times and temperatures affect the taste. So, I then started to proof one of the sponges at 85F for 4-6 hours and one at 68F for 18 hours. Then I will do step 3.

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Here is a picture of my South Africa Sourdough Starter with white flour that is now left over and is being stored in the fridge. Thank you so much Mariana for helping to get me to this stage!

 

 

Also, my whole wheat starter is now at pH = 4 and TTA = 7.2 so it looks like this one is ready for activation! Do I now feed it to activate and then store it in the fridge or just store it in the fridge?

 

 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

So I followed the recipe with the 6 hour sponge (adding the flour, kneeding etc) and let it proof again in the dutch oven with the lid off at 85F until it doubled in size. I heated up the oven to 375F and baked it for 45 minutes with the lid on then 20 min with the lid off as I thought Mariana said 30 min with the lid off but wasn't sure because the instructions say 45 minutes total but that is not in a dutch over. Anyway I got confused.

The dough really hardly rose at all and did brown much. After my excitement over getting the starters where they should be, I am a disappointed and not sure what I did wrong or maybe this is the way it is supposed to end up. It sure doesn't look like all the other nicely browned loaves that seem to rise a lot more on here.

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi TFlour,

congratulations with both starters being fully active, functional and ready! Very good. 

Baking times and temperatures in Ed Wood's instruction booklet are for the pan loaves. I.e dough is baked in bread tins. Thus 375F is not bad for baking, quite appropriate indeed. 

For hearth loaves one needs at least 425F, or else there would  be no oven spring and hardly any crust browning. Yesterday we discussed that on the phone, when I mentioned Cook's Illustrated method of baking from cold oven and you agreed that you understood. Apparently you thought about some other CI article. 

I was talking about this one, where they moved on from preheated Dutch oven to cold oven and cold Dutch oven: 

 

So yeah, your oven was too cold for the loaf to achieve nice jump with opening along the slashes and serious browning. That is not starter's fault, but baking technique. I.e. oven management. The best method for the newbies is actually this one, devised by Susan from this community

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/comment/9907#comment-9907

 

I tested it and fell in love with it. The Best, really. My loaves using Susan's set up: cookie sheet and 4Qt pyrex glass bowl 

Your starters are top notch at this time. Congratulations! They look really healthy and gorgeous and they measure proper pH and total acidity. I am happy that this ordeal (or adventure) is over for you.

Baking sourdough breads, learning fine details about it,  would be another chapter, another adventure to remember, I guess. : ) 

best wishes, 

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Wow, that looks beautiful (what I wanted to achieve).

I got confused about the instructions and just couldn't remember everything even though I thought I wrote them down right. Thanks for the clarification. I'm glad there was something I did wrong because at least now there is hope if I do things right.

I have the sponge that has proofed for about 13 hours now @ 70F and I will try another loaf with this one.

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Thanks, I am going to read her method and try it. I like the fact you can see through the pyrex bowl. I always wonder what is happening in the dutch oven when the bread is baking and don't want to reach in and take the lid off to check. I am going to see if I can find a pyrex bowl that large this week.

In the first picture it looks like the dough is sitting on a cookie sheet. But in the second picture it looks like it is sitting on a round piece of parchment paper which then curled up in the third photo. So I take it you put the parchment paper on the cookie sheet, then the boule on it, then the glass bowl on it and then slid it into the oven? Is that correct?

Also, in your post below you mention you baked at 425F for an hour. Was that in a pre-heated oven as Susan's instruction say to preheat but the instructions above for the dutch oven say don't preheat, but when it gets to 425 then time for one hour? Her instructions have very different times, but she takes the bowl off for 8 minutes at the end. Did you take the bowl off as you didn't mention that?

 

 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

My whole wheat SA starter activated nicely so much so that it overflowed the jar. So, I decided to use some of it to make the sourdough baguettes in Ed Wood's book. We'll see how those turn out tomorrow.

mariana's picture
mariana

This is my first loaf baked with South African culture from Ed Wood's Sourdo.com

70% whole wheat, 30% white all purpose flour, 4 hr sponge @85F/29C, no-time dough, 2 hr proof @85F/29C, 1 hr bake@ 425F,  

Moderately sour, nice fragrance. This culture is indeed quite suitable for whole grain baking. Lovely. 

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Here is a pic of the inside. It looks a lot denser than I expected and it hardly looks like it did not rise at all.

The bread does appear to have a mild sourdough flavour to me, but this is my first one so I really have no reference point.

 

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi, TFlour, 

would you like to bring your second portion of sponge (cold fermentation method)  to my place and we'll go step by step and bake a successful loaf with it? It will take about 3-3.5  hrs from start to finish. 

What do you think? 

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

Thanks. That is a kind offer but I cannot today as I have to prepare for a friends birthday party. But I think I understand your instructions now and will attempt a more successful end result.

But, if that does not work then I may take you up on your offer another time! Thanks.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

reference points.  The differences can help you out.  You can see that perhaps your oven needs to be warmer and perhaps your final proof needs a tiny bit more time to gather gas.  That is, if a more open crumb is desired.  I bet toasting will give you some added flavour.  You did good!  It's all part of the learning experience!   

Looking forward to the next loaf!  :)  

 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

I placed the sponge that fermented for about 15 hours into the fridge yesterday late afternoon as I wasn't going to bake. Today I took it out and let it rest at 70F for about 3 hours and then mixed it with the rest of the flour as in the recipe I did above. I formed it into a boule and place it on parchment paper in my Le Creuset dutch oven and put the lid on to let it rest and double in size according the Ed Wood's instructions. Then I baked it as per Mariana's instructions - put the dutch oven with the lid on in the oven, then turned the oven to 425 and then when it reached 425F (about 35 minutes) I left it in with the lid on for 30 minutes and then took the lid off and baked it for another 25 minutes. I would have left it for 30 minutes but the crust was getting awfully dark. I am much happier with the result compared to the last time although it doesn't quite look as pretty as Mariana's nor did it rise quite as much. Maybe my slashing technique needs to be improved or it was something else?

The crust definitely tastes burnt, is quite hard and unfortunately overwhelms the taste of the bread inside, which tastes pretty good and has a mild sourdough flavour. It is a bit more burnt on the bottom than on the top. I am cutting the crust off before I eat it. Maybe my oven is a 'hot' oven and I know baking is a science as well as an art so likely I should note that for next time and not bake it as long.

mariana's picture
mariana

big difference! Congratulations with successful bake, TFlour. Now you know what to aim at when you are baking, i.e. less browning of the crust and probably shorter baking times for the loaves of this size and composition. 

My second loaf with cold sponge was not free form, I baked it in a bread pan. It turned out well. Delicious indeed and with pronounced acidity, although not overwhelming. 

best wishes

mariana

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

That looks really nice. Both your loafs are less dense than mine and your first one has a lot more air bubbles in it. I wouldn't think that has to do with the bake time, does it? Also, was your second loaf baked under a pyrex bowl?

mariana's picture
mariana

Not really. Bread crumb structure has nothing to do with baking times, TorontoFlour. Crumb quality - yes, it can be underbaked (wet, gluey) or overbaked (dry, crumbly)... but structure of the crumb itself is created prior to baking and in the initial stages of baking. So baking times, overall baking times, do not affect crumb bubbliness, athe very structure and pattern of the pores. 

I don't own a Pyrex bowl large enough to place an entire bread pan under it. So it was baked "with steam", but not using Pyrex bowl method. 

Anyways, we both should be content by now. : ) The South Africa culture was successfully activated and works as prescribed .

Bread dough and bread baking is entirely different topic altogether. It covers everything that you do, once you have quality ingredients and mix them into something that you eat - bread. If you have yeast culture, you need it to be active to bake yeasted bread. If you have sourdough culture, you learned how to make it active to bake with it sourdough bread. So now we have active culture of very good quality, indeed. 

I think I will give Dr.Wood's recipes from the booklet for South Africa culture some attention, i.e. bake both pan breads using his recipes for oven, and  his recipes for bread machine loaves. The culture itself is active and working, it  indeed has a personality of its own. It doesn't resemble any other sourdough cultures from his collection. So our work here is done! : ) 

best wishes, 

mariana

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Is it possible that you are over proofing? I have read that sourdough breads should only increase in size 20-30% before baking. If you wait until it doubles you may be causing those bubbles to over expand, weaken and collapse in the oven. 

I read that what you want is to create the bubbles and have them be "strong" so they don't break when the steam heat expands them. The way to get there is to avoid the over proofing/over expansion (I.e., not letting it double) before baking. 

 

TorontoFlour's picture
TorontoFlour

I just wanted to report a successful conclusion to this thread. Mariana has been immensely helpful in educating me (both on here and at her home) regarding sourdough cultures and how to activate them, how to get them to and test them for proper pH and TTA, how to feed the culture and maintain it, how flours differ in protein content and water absorption and many other bread-making issues so I am very indebted to her. Also, thanks for the help I received from other people. I have a lot more to learn but am very happy I have gotten over this hurdle. I've been baking quite a bit to get the hang of the various stages and here are a few of the loaves I recently did (and there are a few in the freezer ready for the city's compost truck to come by!).