The Fresh Loaf

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Lazy way to catch a sourdough starter

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The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

Lazy way to catch a sourdough starter

There is a very easy way to obtain a sourdough starter that involves a cup of flour, a cup of water, a glass jar or crock, and a clean dish cloth spread over the top of the jar or crock. The jar or crock must be immaculately clean to prevent cultivating undesirable fungi and bacteria.

On a day when you are baking, mix room temperature water and flour into a slurry. Place it in the container, and cover it with a clean dish cloth. Leave the container on the counter overnight. In the morning look for activity. If you don't see any, add another 1/2 cup each of water and flour. Leave it on the counter another 24 hours. Repeat feeding the following morning, and leave out overnight.

In the morning you should see activity. Remove all but 1/2 cup of the starter, and add a cup each of water and flour. Let it ferment until evening. Add another 1/2 cup each of water and flour, and let sit on the counter for at least two more hours, and then refrigerate (unless you enjoy daily feeding of the starter.)

What will happen over time in the starter is that the local wild yeasts will displace any domestic yeast that was in the original starter - and the domestic yeasts begin to diverge from the original strain with additional generations.

I feed refrigerated starter once a week, removing all but 1/2 cup and adding a slurry made from one cup each of flour and water. When I intend to bake, I take the starter out, and increase the volume by feeding it and leaving it on the counter for a day. I then combine 1 cup of starter with two cups of flour and one cup water and let it ferment overnight on the counter. I then add flour, water, salt, and fat to make up the amount of dough I want, and then let it rise twice on the counter, a process which can be rather slow. Sometimes I start in the morning and let it ferment all day, and then add the additional ingredients and do the first rising overnight.

The important thing with sourdough is to not be in a hurry; traditionally the sponge was started and went overnight before adding additional ingredients, or was started in the morning and the additional ingredients added before going to bed.

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Stop.  I know a lazier way, don't add anything for the first 3 days.  and start with only 1/4 cups.  

There is no mention of temperature.  This is an outdated recipe.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

which  turned out to be the most interesting thing I Iearnd onTFL last year :-)   A MO classic if there ever was one. 

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

An "outdated" recipe for sourdough starter? I think that is an oxymoron. It's sort of like suggesting there is an outdated approach for building a trireme. B^)

True, you don't have to feed it in the first three days - but I do, and it works. I like it to grow larger over the first few days - you can divide it and share when you purge it.

This isn't a modern method; this is an adaptation of methods handed down in family lore from women who lived on the eastern Colorado prairie, in Arizona Territory, and Washington Territory. This recipe derives from the days before everyone had a kitchen thermometer and central heating - and one determined the temperature of the oven using the feather test.

A desirable trait in sourdough starter is to select for the most adaptable, toughest yeast spores. Temperature variations and changes in environment - from feeding - tend to select for those yeasts. Remember, sourdough was a method of baking used in harsh conditions where central heating, indoor plumbing, and luxuries such as electricity and coal gas did not exist. It predated the kerosene stove with oven thermometer neatly in the door, the envy of every farm wife in the early 20th Century. It also predated the automobile and the option of running over to the neighbors at the blistering speed of 20 miles an hour to borrow a cup of sugar - or a cup of starter.

Sourdough is an ancient technique; and this is a lazier recipe than many I have seen, which involve mussing about with fruit juices, commercial yeast, sugar, and careful measuring.

And yes, I have a Home Economics degree (Foods and Nutrition, Foods emphasis) and I am NOT afraid to use it. B^)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

of vague recipe that gets so many sourdough newbies into trouble when trying to make a starter.  Temperature plays a bigger role than you can imagine.  I see from the weather reports that your temperatures are not as extreme as the rest of the country, and I love your idea of "divide and share" when the starter has not established itself yet.  Sorry, I would not take such a young starter shared from you, kid, I just might get sick on it.  Using old history as evidence doesn't add backbone to the story, only romance.   

I repeat, the method is outdated in that there are lazier and better ways to go about making a sourdough starter that are more likely to succeed.  

Example, I challenge you to try making this with 65°F in your kitchen with frozen flour and 65°F tap water and no deviation from your instructions.  Closer to limited central heating and cold storage of flour.  Maybe you get my point.  Too many helpful details are missing from your starter recipe that could make it successful.  

placebo's picture
placebo

I'd be surprised if your method consistently worked even at normal room temperatures. The activity after the first day is very likely bacterial, and then you're putting it in the fridge before the wild yeast have had a chance to start up.

You seem to want to lord your home economics degree over everyone, but you should be aware there are very knowledgable people here. Your arrogance isn't exactly winning people over.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

bread making.   In ancient times the bakery was next to the brewery and almost all bread was baked using the barm from the top of the brewers vat  The time when SD became relevant and prevalent is when people were far removed from the brewery and wanted to make bread like pioneers in the USA, moving East to West and the folks during the gold rushes in North American.  As soon as commercial yeast became available in the 1870's and it could make a loaf of bread very fast and wasn't sour, it became an instant hit.   Keeping SD at home was passe, but it never was THE ancient way ancient people made bread. In the scheme of things bread has been made for thousands of years - not since there were territories in the Western USA.

When pioneers were heading West they had no idea what yeast was nor could they select for it any more than we can today.  Yeast select themselves without any help from us at all.  They are everywhere especially on the food they like to eat like grain and other vegetable matter just like LAB and there isn't much we can do about them or that.  Yeast was not even seen microscopically until 1680 but those who did said they were not alive.  It took Louis Pasteur in 1857 to prove yeast were indeed alive and behind fermentation.  Well we have come a long way since then and yeast is now the the most scientifically experimented on living organism - by far - and we know more about it than just about anything else alive including humans.

Enough to know that the way women used to make a SD culture in pioneer days really is an old one and not at all all the way folks would do so today,.  It;'s just like cars or just about anything else.   We do it better today,

That is the great thing about TFL. You can learn all kinds things about SD - and some if it is actually useful.

Happy SD baking  

MisterTT's picture
MisterTT

There were plenty of territories, especially in Eastern Europe, where beer culture is relatively new thing, while sourdough bread is truly ancient.

For example, there is plenty of historical research to support the fact that sourdough rye bread was being baked in current Lithuania's territory during first century AD. There was absolutely no beer culture in this part of the world, the only fermented beverage, which has an even older tradition than bread, was mead and it did not play any part in the baking of bread.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

in northern Europe, especially those places where only rye and barley would grow and SD was used to leaven rye bread just like today since yeast isn't good at doing it alone.  But of course there aren't many people living up there because it is so cold many crops won't grow there and the land just won't support a lot of folks.  So even though SD rye is the bread of choice in Lithuania, there are only 3.5 million people in the whole country.  The city I live in is larger than that adn SD rye isnlt a big seller here and neither is any SD bread - jus tike most of the world.

People forget that barley is about as hardy in cold weather as rye.  In Lithuania today, barley is the 2nd most grown grain after rye.  Rye is used for bread and the barley for beer.  The beer making goes back to the 11th century AD  in Lithuania because barley could be grown there.  I like their Warewolves Darl Ale beer, giving it a 6.5 out of 10 because it has 8.5% alcohol and it doesn't taste too bad at all.

In 1,000 AD when beer was first being brewed in Lithuania, there were only  2 million people living in Poland and Lithuania and most lived in Poland. In all of Northern Europe including Germany, Russia, all of Scandinavian counties and places where rye was the grain of choice, lets throw the British Isles in there too, there were only 14 million people living there in 1,000 AD but in Europe where barm was king, there were 24.5 million people.

So everything is relative but that isn't the point.   What is new is that it turns out that barm was the predominate way bread was made to rise, where most of the people in the known world lived,  since 3,500 BC.  The Egyptians passed it down to the Greeks, who passed it to the Romans, who past it on to the French, Brits and the rest of us.   People always assumed that SD was king in ancient times but it turns out this was false.  It was never king at any time really, even though there were some strongholds, like Lithuania and other rye based bread places.  SD breads were baked everywhere else bread was baked too since 3,500 BC but barm and its commercial yeast has been the real king for 5,500 years - and still is. 

Happy baking ,

 

MisterTT's picture
MisterTT

is a fair enough assessment. SD wasn't dominant, but it has always been in use, if not that widespread for all that.

3.5 million is a very generous number as regards size of Lithuanian population, these days it's almost a million less, but at least the grain growers are still going strong. I do think that wheat is the predominant type of grain, but our statistics department doesn't provide breakdowns by cereal type, so I can't confirm. However, most of the barley is used for animal feed, though a good part does make it into beer production.

By the way, just yesterday I had the pleasure of sampling a new beer from the same brewery you've mentioned, it was a dark lager called Port Night I believe. Not a beer expert at all, but I did enjoy it.

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

FYI - sourdough technique was used in Europe and brought to Colonial America by early European immigrants. It wasn't until the Middle Ages in Europe that the barm from breweries was used to leaven wheat bread - and where rye flour was used, the sourdough technique was used continuously until modern times..

The reality is that it was a tradition used anywhere rye flour was heavily incorporated into bread, for obvious reasons.

Rye flour was  leavened with sourdough as the acidity would inactivate the amylase in rye flour; since rye is very low in gluten, the structure of rye bread depends on the starches and other carbohydrates. If the amylase in the rye flour were to remain active, the bread would fall apart; the amylase in rye flour remains active at rather high temperatures, and without the acidity provided by sourdough starter, the bread would disintegrate in the oven..

The lack of gluten in rye flour combined with the popularity of yeast rising is why most "modern" rye recipes include a substantial portion of wheat flour.

The idea that it was somehow a "pioneer" invention ignores several thousand years of bread baking history. In the California gold rush people actually preferred to use baking powder - and in fact baking powder was extracted from a native plant, the Quail Bush. Sourdough in California was primarily a technique introduced by the French; the actual "pioneer" use of sourdough was more common in early New England, the Yukon, and other places settled by people from New England and by European immigrants where the tradition came from the heavy use of rye flour.

I have a Home Economics degree, and I am NOT afraid to use it.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

how the ancients made bread and it is what I was taught too - but I'm pretty old too.  Everyone thought it just had to be sourdough because there wasn't any other way to make bread.  Now we know, from the research done by food anthropologists, (who have their doctorate degrees in such thing - who knew?)  and who study these things intensively as their profession, that SD bread making while known in ancient days of the Egyptians, was a very tiny part of the bread being baked - just like today and just like it has been through the ages.

Time consuming, much  more expensive ways that make sour bread have hardly ever been the preferred way to make the non sour bread  people have always preferred - even in ancient times 5,500 years ago.  But there are good reasons and explanations that these anthropologiists use to document their findings.  

When Egyptians  hybridized local grasses, engineering them to them to better in quality and quantity.  This set off three things that happened at the same time, around 3,500 BC, the ramping up and growing of these new grains along the Nile River so that they could be used for bread making and beer making - the liquid bread.

Now food anthropologists believe that serious beer and bread making on a much greater scale, happened at the same time in ancient Egypt because they used the same yeast to make both.  Making bread with barm turns out to be much older and discovered long before the Middle Ages as previously thought.   Time after time they find breweries and bakeries in the same bulding or right next door all throughout ancient Egypt.. 

It is just as likely that a bread maker tried using beer as the liquid in his bread as it is that some old dough was sitting around and became SD all on its own.   I fact, they also now believe that by 1,000 BC the Egyptians had figured out how to separate and culture this yeast taken from the beer making process so that they could inoculate their bread directly.  It has always been the case that we modern folks don't give enough credit to the ancients that they really deserve.

The one thing we do know is that about 97% of the facts believed by people though out the ages have been proven wrong by people who came along later with better science as  tool.  I think that what we believe today about how bread was made before 3.500 BC will also change and that the idea that flat unleavened bread was the way most bread was made will eventually be changed too.   I'm guessing the 'old dough' method to make bread predates 3.500 BC by a very long time indeed.

By the way, baking powder wasn't even distributed to the Eastern USA, where just about everyone lived,  until after the Civil War ended in 1865.  In 1849 there were only 1,000 people who lived in San Francisco but they did make beer and the vast majority of their bread was leavened with barm pre-Gold Rush days.  But, when the French bakers showed up for the Gold Rush in 1849, they quickly realized that they way they primarily made bread in in France, and everywhere else in the world for that matter, using barm, produced a product that 49'ers didn't want and would not buy because the bread would stale in a day - just like it does today, making it pretty much useless for those supplying the gold fields.  It was that era's crap bread - not that it isn't today too:-)

But, it was these French bakers who quickly married up the ancient heritage of Europe and pioneer SD with French bread baking techniques to make a bread that would last a much longer time and one the 49's.would buy and one we think is so special today.   In a year, there were 25,000 people living in SF - it had to be pretty wild I'm guessing and having good bread might have been considered a blessing - even then.

Happy Baking   

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Ok, I'll bite...but not hard. 

Yakima Kid, although these sourdough instructions might work, if you review these forums and the (almost) countless experience of both new and experienced bakers here, you'll see that recipes like this one are far from foolproof, as Mini Oven suggested, because they ignore certain critical factors. 

Use of warm temperatures (or temperature controls to create warmer environment), use of whole grain flours (whole wheat or rye), acidification of the initial starter environment to spur LAB and yeast growth (as contentious as that is), and isolation of other environmental factors (such as using bottled water) are all important factors to establishing a healthy starter, and your instructions don't mention any of that. 

So again, while this classic and oft-repeated recipe will work for some, it just won't work well for many. As Mini said, someone living in a cold place with bad flour and poor water may not have much success with your instructions. 

 

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

Some old style lazy methods depended on a bit of luck and common sense. One would assume that most people would know that yeast does not do well in frozen flour - in modern times we even freeze dough to storeit until we wish them to use it. And even if someone decided to start with 40 degree Fahrenheit water, they'd find it would warm up to room temperature over time. The method may take a bit longer in that case. The reason it doesn't use whole grains is whole grains often harbor wild yeasts from the areas where they were grown, and this method focuses on capturing the local wild yeast.

If one needs to guarantee success, one may simply purchase a commercial packaged starter and inundate it with bottled water which is quite likely tap water from somewhere else. b^)

One isn't attempting to cosset the more fragile strains of the local wild yeast; a large point of sourdough was that you wished to have a hardy culture that could withstand the occasional shock of alkaline water or whatever. In any event,

Sorry to have bothered you; it appears this forum is not what I thought it was and I'll be moving on; it appears I've fallen into a Queen Bee hive.

ccsdg's picture
ccsdg

I could be wrong, but most people I've seen advising bottled water seem to do so because of the chlorine content of some tap water, not the alkalinity. And enough chlorine will kill anything, afaik, regardless whether it's a "tough"  yeast or not.

Julie McLeod's picture
Julie McLeod

Sorry to have bothered you; it appears this forum is not what I thought it was and I'll be moving on; it appears I've fallen into a Queen Bee hive.

I thought you opened up a very interesting conversation and I know I learned a few things.  I hope you'll reconsider.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

The Kashrut is the ancient Jewish cooking law. It contains a fairly lengthy prohibition on the use of fermentable grains during Pesach (Passover - Sundown April 14 thru Sundown April 22 - Easter Sunday is April 20).

Chametz (Jewish word for leavan) is a pejorative term for "baked foods" and includes wheat, oats, rye, barley & spelt - which are prohibited if they have been in contact with water/moisture for longer than 18 minutes, which leads to rising or leavening. Leavening agents, like yeast and sourdough, are also considered chametz. It also includes  beverages made from fermented grains - wine is recommended at 4 glasses per evening (red is preferred).

This establishes that flour made from organic grains readily begins to ferment from the time moisture is added has been a known fact for around 3 Millennium.  

Matzo (unleavened bread), the only Chametz allowed during Passover has to be mixed with water and in the oven in under 18 minutes in order to be Kosher.  Below is a recipe copied from here:

Preparation:

1. Put the oven through a full self-cleaning cycle to make it kosher for Passover. 
2. Make all utensils used kosher for Passover.
3. Use kemach shel matza shamura, which is flour that has been watched from the moment of harvest to the moment of packing to make sure it has not come into contact with any moisture. 
4. Line the oven shelf with floor tiles. Leave some space between the tiles and the sides of the oven. 
5. Set the oven on the highest possible temperature setting. 
6. Put clean paper on the work surface.
7. Depending on how many matzot you want, measure 1 part water and 3 parts flour. The second the moisture hits the flour, the clock starts to tick. There must be no more than 18 minutes from the time the water is mixed with the flour until the time the matzo is put into the oven. 
8. Quickly mix and knead into a firm ball of 1-2 inches.
9. Roll out dough as thin as possible.
10. Poke holes in the dough.
11. Check to make sure no more than 18 minutes passed since the flour and water were mixed. Put matzo onto the tiles in the hot oven. 
12. Bake on tiles for 2-3 minutes until done. 
13. Remove from oven and cool. 
14. Put clean paper on the work surface, and repeat steps 7-14. 

TIPS: 

1. A three-person team should work together to make the matzo. One person should mix and knead, another person should roll out the dough, and the last person should put the matzo into the oven. 
2. To be sure the matzo is kosher for Passover, no more than 18 minutes can pass from the time the flour and water are mixed until the time the matzo dough is put into the oven.

The takeaway is that to insure a decent incubation of your own sourdough starter one should begin with a flour that will provide the "decent" part - organic wholewheat flour and pure water. Waiting longer than 18 minutes is recommended though.

 Wild-Yeast

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Kid,

Are you really trolling here, or do you honestly believe that:

1) Your way is the absolute best

2) Your educational background gives you a right to be right

3) Anyone who disagrees is just a "Queen Bee"

Everyone who comes here comes because they want to. Nobody is paid to be here, nobody is forced to be here, and nobody is ever encouraged to leave, either. You're welcome to stay around, if you'd like. But may I recommend a slight reduction in ego, and a little expanding of the mind. Even Aristotle said "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." From the looks of this conversation, the only one here NOT doing that appears to be you, Home Economics degree notwithstanding. Another quote I've read but can't remember who said it is: "It's what you learn after you know it all that really counts."

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

Modern baking powder didn't exist until the 1840s; however, a baking powder known as "hartshorn", commonly called "baker's ammonia" today has been in use since the 17th Century. Despite its name, hartshorn often came from the hooves of domestic ruminants, not elk or red deer. Baker's ammonia is extremely potent.

Yes, in Europe there is scientific evidence that as far back as early Roman Britain that barm was used to raise wheat breads in Europe. However, let us get back to the reality of  rye bread in Northern Europe, and as far south as much of Italy. Rye used a starter. Starter didn't miraculously arrive in the US courtesy of the French baker's in SF - although it may well have arrived with them to California. Sourdough wasn't a "new" technique - it was how baking was done with rye flour and quite often with wheat flour. Sourdough was never the main way of baking bread in California; it was more associated with rural settlement areas and the Alaska and Yukon gold rushes.

As late as 1850, more than 80% of the US population lived in rural areas. Those on farms were did  not generally ride into town to purchase their bread or to pick up barm on a regular basis. They used the traditions they brought with them - the sourdough traditions seen in rye flour nations (which included countries as far south as Italy) and the soda bread traditions of Ireland. In other words, they were using soda and acid and/or sourdough or baking powder. Breads were often baked in Dutch ovens or on stones; ovens weren't as common as they are now - if you look at 19th Century advertisements for ranges, many lacked an oven, and more than one oven was designed to wrap around the chimney as aj add on.

Baking powders were sold prior to the Civil War; but it wasn't until the 1840s that modern baking powders were invented.

Quail bush was used as a baking powder before modern commercial baking powder was common in California. Prior to that people used hartshorn or soda and acid mixes.

BTW - I am not trolling; however, I was taken aback by the random attack on sourdough culture capture as "outdated", followed by the lecture on how it must be done. I don't really care if people visit the local brewpub for barm or capture sourdough or use bottled water or grapefruit juice or whatever. I do find it offensive when someone demands that everyone else follow their orthodoxy. I don't expect any recipe or method to be foolproof; barometric pressure alone can change the results on a cloudy day. It isn't as if failing to capture a culture is likely to cause someone to starve to death.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

in Northern Europe has more to do with the fact that rye is the only grain that will grow there and SD is better at making it rise than yeast alone - but once folks knew it was acid that made the difference other option other than SD were quickly adopted.  Even to this day, rye bread making using SD and consumption is tiny especially outside of Northern Europe when compared to all the bread made using other method and since the time of the Pharaohs, bread has mainly been  risen using barm and the yeast derived from it.

No one claims that French bakers brought SD to SF it was there before they got there although they might have brought there own but probably not.  They knew it was easy enough to make and exactly ow to make it - just like the Egyptians did,and the Greeks and Romans and the folks in Northern Europe and the immigrant to America and the pioneers.   Still in all of these places and all of those times,  the huge and vast majority of bread was made with barm.or the yeast derived from it  - with the tiny bit of rye bread in Northern Europe where only rye would grow, as the exception.

If there was any bread being made in the USA before the Civil War using baking powder that would be rye impossible.  There were other chemical leavening agents going back centuries but they too were hardly ever used, barely known of and certainly not baking not baking powder. 

You keep mentioning capturing when it comes to SD.  What do you mean by that?

The only reason Mini was so harsh with you, and she could have been less so,  is that we have seen this kind of 'ancient outdated starter hokum' posted so many times before and are plain tired of folks leading others astray for on this subject for no good reason - requiring folks like Mini to set them straight when it fails .  It's not your fault, so many still have these non scientific, antiquated and odd notions about how to make a starter.  

Happy baking 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Most often I am my pleasant mousey self.   Kid, you hit my defender of newbie reflex.  

No sourdough newbie should have to battle with the posted recipe.  As the recipe stands, I would put the success rate at about 2%.  

  • More if there is already an active sourdough starter in the same kitchen
  • even more if the room temperature is 75°F or 24°C.  
  • Add 10% if the first day is met with an 85°F heat wave,  
  • and 50% if you skip the refrigerator part.  
  • Choices of flour can raise chances of success even more and
  • so can covering loosely in low room humidity or high elevation to prevent evaporation and contamination from insects and moulds.
  • I'm not so interested in the water as long as it is medium to hard water and contains no chlorine and keeps the flour wet.

Would be nice if you would explain what this means:

What will happen over time in the starter is that the local wild yeasts will displace any domestic yeast that was in the original starter - and the domestic yeasts begin to diverge from the original strain with additional generations.

 

 

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

DB Wrote

"In Northern Europe has more to do with the fact that rye is the only grain that will grow there and SD is better at making it rise than yeast alone - but once folks knew it was acid that made the difference other option other than SD were quickly adopted.  Even to this day, rye bread making using SD and consumption is tiny especially outside of Northern Europe when compared to all the bread made using other method and since the time of the Pharaohs, bread has mainly been  risen using barm and the yeast derived from it."

Hello? Did you even *bother* to read what I wrote? I pointed out why sourdough was used for rye bread, and how the traditions was imported to the US by settlers and also used on wheat. What part of  settler don't you understand? From the 17th C on the Dutch and Germans were a considerable portion of immigrant America, as were the Huegenot from France? They did bring their rye and other sourdough traditions with them, although I have no doubt that city and town bakeries used the barm from the local saloon/brewery. In the early 19th Century, we find recipes.that are clear descendants of Kastenbrots in the form of sourdough risen wheat based Krustenbrots which had far less rye but used the sourdough tradition.

The traditional Italian farm bread, the pagnotta, was traditionally made with sourdough. Look it up in your books.

From the 1840s German bakers in the American Great Lakes regions and portions of Canada were noted for baking a wheat sourdough version of the Krustenbrot for sale. The Austrians developed the poolisch or preferment or sponge method - do you know if they used barm for that? B^)

"If there was any bread being made in the USA before the Civil War using baking powder that would be rye impossible.  There were other chemical leavening agents going back centuries but they too were hardly ever used, barely known of and certainly not baking not baking powder. "

Modern baking powder - as we know it - was patented in 1856.

In 1817 the editor of The Gentleman's Magazine, published in London, was challenged to come up with a better way of making bread with poor wheat.  He decided to create a way without using leaven.  He used wheat flour, mealy potatoes, salt, and water.  And soda and muriatic acid. If you leave out the potatoes, it meets all the requirements of being a soda bread.  He went on to describe making a 9 lb cake containing  additional ingredients at a cost of two shillings and sixpence.

Mary Randolph published  "The Virginia Housewife" in 1824, containing the following soda cake recipe:

Dissolve half a pound of sugar in a pint of milk; add a teaspoon of soda, pour it on two pounds of flour--melt half a pound of butter.  Knead all together until light.  Pour it in shallow molds and bake it quickly in a quick oven."

In NOV 1836 the The Farmer's magazine (London) p. 328 cited the following article that was repeated in various publications in the US, including  The Journal of the Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania and Mechanics' Register on page 71 had the following.

A correspondent of the Newry Telegraph (a newspaper in Northern Ireland) gives the following receipt for making "soda bread," stating that "there is no bread to be had equal to it for invigorating the body, promoting digestion, strengthening the stomach, and improving the state of the bowels."  He says, "put a pound and a half of good wheaten meal into a large bowl, mix with it two teaspoonfuls of finely-powdered salt, then take a large teaspoonful of super-carbonate of soda, dissolve it in a half a teacupful of cold water, and add it to the meal; rub up all intimately together, then pour into the bowl as much very sour buttermilk as will make the whole into soft dough (it should be as soft as could possibly be handled, and the softer the better,) form it into a cake of about an inch thickness, and put into a flat Dutch oven or frying pan, with some metallic cover, such as an oven-lid or griddle, apply a moderate heat underneath for twenty minutes, then lay some clear live coals upon the lid, and keep it so for half an hour longer (the under heat being allowed to fall off gradually for the last fifteen minutes,) taking off the cover occasionally to see that it does not burn.  This he concludes, when somewhat cooled and moderatey buttered, is as wholesome as ever entered man's stomach.  Wm . Claker , Esq., of Gosford, has ordered a sample of the bread to be prepared, and a quantity of the meal to be kept for sale at the Markethill Temperance Soup and Coffee Rooms.   Farmer's Magazine.

However, by the 1840s in addition to primitive leavenings, people purchased an early baking powder that consisted of separate envelopes of cream of tartar and sodium bicarbonate, to be mixed together in the dough or batter.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, judging by the advertisements in the papers between 1846-1853, it seems a lot of those going to the mines were stocking up on pilot bread, which is closer to a matzoh than anything leavened.

 

The first patent baking powder was calcium acid phosphate and sodium bicarbonate - which is why the Rumford Chemical Works in East Providence, Rhode Island, and  Clabber Girl headquarters in Terre Haute, Indiana are National Historic Chemical Landmarks of the ACS.

You keep mentioning capturing when it comes to SD.  What do you mean by that?

The only reason Mini was so harsh with you, and she could have been less so,  is that we have seen this kind of 'ancient outdated starter hokum' posted so many times before and are plain tired of folks leading others astray for on this subject for no good reason - requiring folks like Mini to set them straight when it fails .  It's not your fault, so many still have these non scientific, antiquated and odd notions about how to make a starter.  

Happy baking 

ccsdg's picture
ccsdg

Deeeep breaths, Yakima kid! We're not your adversaries... Everyone here is somewhere along the journey to learning more about the craft. I'd be the first to confess I know nothing about the history of baking powder, but would you say you are an expert in sourdough? (that being the original topic). There are people posting in this thread who, by evidence of the number of starters they have rescued, or quality of their sourdough loaves, I would say, are. Feel free to convince me, but I'm not sure a home economics degree rivals that. (speaking as a postgraduate myself).

For the record, a gracious and humble attitude helps tremendously, too.

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

Sigh.

We will start with the history of baking powder, after hartshorn.

In 1817 The Gentleman's Magazine, London, published a recipe for making bread from poor wheat flour leavened with muriactic acid and soda. The recipe also included potatoes, salt, water, and wheat flour. Leave out the potatoes and you have soda bread.

In 1824 "The Virginia Housewife" by Mary Randolph was published; it had a recipe for soda cake leavened with milk and soda.

In 1835 that pre-packed "Royal Baking Powder" came into production combining bicarbonate of soda with cream of tartar in a single acting baking powder. Others sold cream of tartar and baking soda either in separate envelopes or as separate ingredients.

In the book Saleratus: The Curious History & Complete Uses of Baking Soda by Peter Ciullo, the author states that in the 1830's Britain primarily used baking powder for making bread but British companies couldn't make inroads into the US market and baking soda remained popular.

The flour of the era in Britain was what we would consider a fairly soft white wheat flour.

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

It's like this; I have successfully baked for forty years, and I have not encountered any difficulties capturing starter cultures.

Understand that the outdated nonsense I profess was taught to me from PhDs who made me study things like microbiology and three years of chemistry, including biochemistry, in order to receive my degree in Foods and Nutrition.

The method has a much higher success rate than the 23% that one respondent here suggests. I would like to see the basis for that calculation, and the calculation itself.

The assumptions are that the mixture of local water with flour will have a pH in the range between 4.0-7.4 to enable both anaerobic yeast activity (yeast metabolism results in the release of acidic byproducts and anaerobic metabolism ceases below about 2.4. Most lactobacilli require a pH at or above 4.0 for fermentation to take place.

A cool room temperature is sufficient.  After the initial response of the 19th inst., I immediately started another culture in a kitchen that currently is running no higher than 65 Fahrenheit at night and perhaps 70 Fahrenheit by night. After three and a half days I have quite the vibrant culture started - not yet full and bubbling and collapsing, but there are  bubbles and the mixture has acquired that distinctive flavor that indicates the release of carbon dioxide and aldehydes.

Capturing a starter is essentially taking a culture of the room air. The reason we start on a day when we have been baking - and I did make the assumption that this day would include mixing, proofing, etc. - is that we are going to give our friend S. cerevisiae and other desirable yeasts every advantage in the wars of competitive inhibition during the growth of the culture in our flour and water medium.

If you wanted, you could add a little olive brine from the olive bin at a delicatessen after the culture is clearly established (not the canned sort) and spike the sourdough culture with the species of yeast found there. (It is a different genus than the common bread yeast and seems rather popular among some SF locals.)

FYI, the traditional rise temperature range for SF sourdough is between 68 and 86 Fahrenheit. The cooler the starter and rise, the lower the lactobacillis activity, and the higher the ratio of vinegar to lactic acid, and the more sour the dough. A wetter cool starter will increase the ratio of lactic acid to vinegar. If you wish to increase the activity of the lactobacillus in your culture, put it out on the counter on a day with warmer temperatures, say no higher than the mid 80s as temperatures that are higher tend to cause the yeast to die. (This is an accelerating process since the chemicals that dead yeast release are not good for live yeast.)

Over time, wild yeasts tend to out compete domestic yeasts in the colder, nastier, conditions of being stored in a refrigerator, or sitting around on a counter to - but we use them here as a sort of nurse crop to help the yeasts outcompete other fungi. To reiterate, our goal is to encourage the lactobacilli and yeasts while discouraging other, nastier, fungi. A kitchen on baking day tends to have quite a bit of yeast floating about. One may increase one's chance of obtaining a higher proportion of wild yeast by doing this on a windy - but not chilly -  day and opening the windows for a few hours.

The dish cloth - not towel - goes across our culture vial AKA the crock or jar since it looks like Interstate 80 to the yeast and Lactobacilli while convincing flies, ants,  and other insects that the container is not desirable real estate, no matter how attractive it seems. Using a plain unbleached, enriched white all purpose or bread flour suffices - this flour as a rule contains the essential vitamins and the trace amounts of minerals required.

Perhaps manners are different in some places  - but where I come from when someone responds to another individual by referring to them as spreading hokum, unscientific, or odd notions, it was considered suggestive of  having ancestors who wound up processed at the bacon plant. I was raised by academics, so experiences vary.

ericreed's picture
ericreed

At the risk of jumping into this quagmire, I think it is important that we all step back from time to time and re-evaluate what we think we know. Having myself struggled these past 6 weeks to get my first culture going, I am sympathetic to Mini's concerns about the reliability of some methods. Much of the history you all are writing about I have no idea on, but there are clearly things in your posts that are no longer considered to be true. Catching yeasts and bacteria from the air is one of them. What I would consider the most reliable sources out there now, places like the San Francisco Baking Institute, are very firm that the most significant source of bacteria and yeasts for a sourdough culture comes from what is on the grains themselves, and not the air.

It's also interesting to note the reason why cooler, drier cultures produce more acetic acid and warmer, wetter cultures produce more lactic acid. Debra Wink, noted microbiologist and developer of the "pineapple solution" for sourdough cultures has written a nice bit here at thefreshloaf on LAB and acid production. But the gist is that there are two categories of LAB, homofermentative and heterofermentative. Homofermentative LAB only produce lactic acid, hetero can produce acetic acid as well. In a cooler or drier environment, enzymatic activity is better able to release more fructose from the flour, and heterofermentative LAB produce more acetic acid on a fructose diet.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

SD starter going in SF 40 years ago now, I too used a similar method as yours to get it going.  I also firmly believed, as I too was told, that the yeast and LAB in the culture would be captured from the air and to make sure that the would be culture was uncovered for the first few days to make sure the wee beasties could get in there and do their thing.  Even famous bakers and serious foodies like Mark Bittman of the NY Times, who should know better, were thinking the same things, writing and commenting on TV about them incorrectly just a few short years ago.

But we know better now and know that the wee beasties like to live near their food source, something we should reconsider and remember, and that the wee beasties in cultures we create really come from the grain itself and, in fact, grain is just infested with them  - unlike the air that has relatively and comparatively  few floating around in it.

The reason I asked the question about 'catching' is that I figured you were just like me a few years ago - and you are.  At one time I though like you do about SD too,  It certainly is ancient and has been used t make bread since at least 5,500 years ago - all over the world.   We now know that barm was used to make bread since that time too, not just  since the middle ages.  As a a result, we know that SD has been used to make a teeny, tiny, nearly insignificant bit of all the bread made since that time.   I always though it was SD making most of the bread before the Middle ages - but I was wrong. 

Even the places you mention where SD has traditionally been used to raise a loaf of rye, when rye was the only grains that would grow in northern climes, today the large bakers use industrial fermenters and type 2 sourdough cultures (quite different than the type 1 SD cultures used throughout history)  to make 'Frankenstein Sourdough' where the LAB used love and thrive at  pH's below 3.5 and then commercial yeast is added later when making the dough with this lab created LAB cocktail.  I don't really have a problem with this.  The people seem to buy it and think it tastes like traditional type 1 SD bread the we make.  Most probably don't even know how it is made.

Baking soda is not baking  powder and even it wasn't used in Europe until the mid 1850's.  While baking powder was patented in the USA in 1856 it wasn't manufactured or distributed widely until after the Civil War and only on the East Coast where most everyone lived at the time.  Baking soda, much less the later baking powder, was not used in SF until well after after the Civil War too.  But barm and SD were used in SF as was pot ash for quick breads, that the pioneers learned from the Native Indians - but this too is bot baking soda or baking powder.

Your 3 day old starter is not a SD starter yet.   The activity you see is from all the bad and wrong LAB (Homofermenatative) )and yeast that predominate the the first 3-4 days when starting a culture.  In a day or so the mix will appear to go dead as the correct t LAB and yeast that like to live with them start to win the war going on.  The LAB will win first,say day 5 or so, and start to bring the pH down where the yeast that have evolved to live with low pH and these heterofernentative LAB will start to win but  lagging the LAB by about 2-3 days.  At 12 days the correct LAB and yeast will be in control and near their peaks  with the pH being over 6 at feeding and back down to 3.5 within 12 hours.

What adding an acid, like fruit or citrus juice to the culture from the beginning does is to help keep the bad wee beasties that usually thrive in the beginning more in check so that the good, more acid tolerant ones we want can more easily thrive and out competed the bad ones faster - speeding the whole process along by a couple of days.  Fresh milled whole grain flours have the most of the wee beasties in them.   They are the best choice best for starting a culture since there are more wee beasties in them.

The best reproductive rate for yeast happens at 82 F and higher temperatures just slow their reproductive rates down to the mid 90's - not kill them until the temperatures are too high .  Folks are told to activate ADY with water  not more than  115 F.  The best reproductive rates for LAB are at 93 F or even up to 115 F for type 2 LAB who thrive up to 122 F without dying until much higher temperatures are reached.

So once again, even though SD has been known ans used all over the world since lits discovery in ancient Egypt, the vast majority of bread ever made, by a far and away margin since that time, has been made with barm and the commercial yeast derived from it,  SD has always been a side show just like today for all the same reasons - It takes way too long, the results inconsistent, it costs too much, takes too much maintenance and it made sour bread which people do not prefer and never have.

Those if us who like to make SD as well as we can, have always been in the tiniest of minorities throughtout most of recorded history.

Not including Walmart who is by far the largest seller of bread in the USA, the amount of bread sold by the 10 next largest sellers of bread, racked up $10 Billion in bread sales including rolls.  An insignificant of that was SD but SD did gain 4% in sales last year .....but from near zero, that 4% s pretty easy to hit.   So nothing much has changed since 3,500 BC when it it coms to SD bread.

Happy baking

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

Yep. The "wee beasties" do prefer to stay near their food source - which is why one sets out the culture media while one is mixing, kneading, etc. It seems that the wee beasties do tend to wind up a wee bit in the air, and do tend to like a convenient food source.

Here's an experiment. Try taking air samples on a day when you are baking, and after not baking for a week. Obtain some media culture plates suitable for growing yeasts from a scientific supply. Open one and use a dish cloth over it to keep out insects on  a day when you are baking. Leave it like that for a couple of days. Now, after going on a vacation for a couple of weeks, try the procedure again.

Count the colonies.

Then get back to me.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

The method has a much higher success rate than the 23% that one respondent here suggests. I would like to see the basis for that calculation, and the calculation itself.

Couldn't find the 23% you referred to...did you mean Mini's comment about 2% success? 

I would like to see the basis for your suggestion that your method has a much higher success rate, and the basis of that calculation :)  On second thought, scratch that. There's no way (and no point) for anyone to prove which method works best, because too many environmental variables are in play each time a starter is created (type of flour, quality of flour, water quality, temperature, how many yeasts/LABs live in the local environment, etc.), and many ways to kickstart fermentation of dough. 

I think the point of any good set of instructions is to create the highest likelihood of success, and to help people learn to troubleshoot when things go wrong. I don't disagree with you that your method will work. It will work for some. However, for many people that haven't baked before, creating a starter is a real test of patience and exercise in frustration, because it can take a long time, and success is only guaranteed to those who care, are patient and can pay attention. Maybe that's a good thing though, sourdough does reward the patient! 

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

Just record every time you start a new starter or a friend starts a new starter using the method. Yes, I typed, I meant Mini's 2%.

Yes, you're right, there are many environmental variables; one here is that I bake yeasted goods very close to daily, some days more than once. Yesterday and today I baked simple old fashioned "farmhouse" loaves in the oven - unbleached baking flour, salt, water, yeast, and olive oil  in the Romertopf. A few days back I made several loaves of standard American family bread - all purpose unbleached baking flour, salt, water, yeast, sugar, milk. and butter -in a bread machine. A week or so before that I took a break and used an Italian-style flour to make pizzas...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I think the correlation of baking yeasted goods leading to successful sourdough starters in the kitchen is misplaced.  The relationship to starters is not the presence of random floating yeast but the presence of the warm kitchen, warm oven and warm environment.  A cold kitchen would not be conducive in promoting starters.  I would place your warm kitchen at 75°F or more to be specific.

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Once again this notion of "capturing" wild yeasts floating around the kitchen is just silly, baking day or otherwise. The levels of yeasts / labs in/on the grains themselves or in your flour is massively more than anything that might inadvertently float into your jar from the air. The idea of creating a starter from the air is pure romance and kidology.

As I have said elsewhere in this thread, you can happily mix rye flour and water and put it in a jar sealed tight from the air and it will still produce a nice viable starter. Equally, if you take a handful of raisins and put them in a jar with some water and seal the lid you will have lovely yeast water in 2-3 days with 100% success rate. It has nothing to do with airborne yeasts and everything to do with the yeasts already present on the raisins themselves. As Mini says, in all cases you need to provide the right temperature for the environment otherwise all bets are off regardless.

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

I think this deserves a little discussion. Arrogance and ego entered this forum when other posters responded with snide comments and name calling to the first post.

In fact, the  immediate response to my first post consisted of a greeting: "Stop." The closure was equally polite "This is an outdated recipe." Combined with the insistence on the need for greater frugality, it was pretty clear that someone was offended by an idea that they had not entertained. The need for greater frugality is more confusing, given her recent concern that the starter might dry out in arid or high altitude conditions.

Next, several posters insisted that the recipe couldn't possibly work - in fact, they were so sure of their opinions that they didn't try it before expostulating. This seemed rather odd, given that it has worked successfully and easily all along the Pacific Coast - including on the dry, high side east of the Cascades. Variants worked well over a hundred years ago in Arizona, Texas, and Colorado. The current recipe is a refinement of older techniques.

Then, we were treated to repeated inaccurate details of baking history by an individual who decided to announce that she and the original poster were displeased by "hokum", "odd notions" and "unscientific" approaches.

This struck me as rather odd when the Queen Bee returned and announced that she had calculated that the recipe would at best have a 2% chance of success, apparently using either a secret classified formula that cannot be shared, or a number pulled from the imagination.

My only request is that those objecting try it, and if they have problems with it, that they contact me and tell me their experiences - because over the past forty some years I have shared this technique with people who have used it successfully. I actually used regular, everyday, unboiled, unpurified city tap water in the culture started on the 19th.

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"Stop" was meant as a warning.  It worked.  Had I seen a warning label posted (your results may vary) I wouldn't have responded.   We are finally seeing some temps and other information that could lead the new starter maker into the right direction.  I'm still not sure of your abilities to trouble shoot especially if you have a 100% batting average.  Those of us who have had trouble getting starters going, know how frustrating it can be.   

The posted recipe has some interesting steps but gives no direction or insight as what to do when the slurry is not corresponding to the instruction.   That is lazy to only suggest patience, and I agree it is key, but more information would be helpful.     

I do bee-lieve in many ways of creating starters.  I like to examine the method, temperatures, understand what is going on and suggest what needs to change so that the starter can become active with desired bacteria and yeast.  It is also important to know what the home baker expects in their starter as it is important not to become a "slave" to the starter.  The starter should be a no fuss, easy to manage culture that fits the lifestyle of the person using it.  I think by calling the starter lazy you were trying to make this recipe appealing in that direction.  Good so, but too much simplifying is the problem here.  

Growing starters and maintaining them are two very different operations using flour, water and patience.  It does take some effort to get them growing and turn them into proper starters.  Maintaining them is easier in my opinion although problems can arise due to temp, water and flour changes throughout the year.

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

As I have attempted to point out, it is very important that there be yeast in the kitchen to colonize, and it is very important that one have patience. Follow it literally.

If the slurry isn't bubbling, you can always start over with whole rye which is pretty much a yeast farm. For me that would mean using enough for a starter and tossing the rest since very few of the people in my life seem interested in eating rye.

Or you can perform a heretical but effective shortcut. Make a prefernent, pinch off a 1/2 c or so, stir it into a mix of equal volumes of water and flour - 1 c each - and leave it out in a ceramic bowl, covered with a dish cloth on the counter for a few days. That one's pretty close to 100%, especially if you feed it with whole wheat after it is good and bubbly.

Starters mature over time. You can attempt to force them, or you can let them mature over time. Lazy means you might have to wait for the starter to mature and ripen into the proper balance. I use mine one to three times a week, removing it from the refrigerator and feeding it before leaving it out overnight, using a portion, and then feeding it and leaving it out until bedtime.

 

ccsdg's picture
ccsdg

"someone was offended by an idea that they had not entertained" - wait, you feel your recipe is completely novel to these forums, and to mini oven in particular?

MarkS's picture
MarkS

The method posted by The Yakima Kid in his(her?) original post is very similar to the one in The Bread Baker's Apprentice. That is the method I followed and it worked great! My starter is hyperactive! As far as water goes, I use tap water with no treatments of any kind. However, I live in a place with amazing water with very little chlorine.

While I am new to sourdough, would it be safe to assume that there are many ways to achieve the same results? I have seen dozens of different methods for creating a sourdough starter, and most of them failed for me. The Yakima Kid's method may fail for some people, but if they are truly interested, they can search out the dozen or so other methods and try them.

ericreed's picture
ericreed

There are many different ways to achieve the same results, and it's not to say the Yakima Kid's method is unfeasible. I think the concern is in picking methods that have the best chance of success, especially for the inexperienced, and giving the most current and best information we have regarding what goes on behind the scenes in sourdough. (Well, that's a big concern for me. I suppose many people don't care about why it all happens.)

Just to note, BBA recommends Debra Wink's pineapple solution and starts it with 100% whole grain rye flour, presumably, though I can't recall seeing Reinhart mention it, because whole grain rye is loaded with the yeasts and bacteria we're looking for in a starter.

ericreed's picture
ericreed

I think this hasn't been mentioned yet, though I haven't read through all the posts thoroughly, but another trick for those looking to get sourdough going is to whisk air into your starter a couple times a day. Yeasts bud best (maybe only?) in the presence of oxygen, which is used up in about 20 minutes in a dough. Reinhart notes this a correction to BBA on his webpage.

gerhard's picture
gerhard

Any forum is made up of a wide variety of personalities and some may not be compatible but that is what makes it interesting if we where all on the same page what would be the point of our discussions.  As most things found on the internet I apply my personal filter to this information and don't take things personally.

Gerhard

chris319's picture
chris319

would it be safe to assume that there are many ways to achieve the same results? I have seen dozens of different methods for creating a sourdough starter, and most of them failed for me.

You have answered your own question.

MarkS's picture
MarkS

What I meant by that was that the methods that did not work for me work for others and the method that worked for me has failed others.

There are many methods, most are valid.

chris319's picture
chris319

The O.P.'s method may work, and he says it works for him. Unfortunately the part about "local" yeast and "domestic" yeast doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

I find it ironic that the O.P. is being lectured by someone who resorts to adding baker's yeast to sourdough starter.

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

Actually, there are domestic and "local" or wild yeasts. For grins and giggles, try getting some culture plates suitable for yeasts and leaving them around the yard, the kitchen, the kitchen on a baking day, and then after a two week vacation when no baking has been done.

As one person pointed out here, since they took up making cultured foods, they have found that foods tend to ferment rather than rot.

I have actually considered testing different varieties of brewer's yeast in preferments.

Then again, circa 1980, I used champagne yeast to ferment hard cider in a time that was considered absolutely heretical.

placebo's picture
placebo

The intent of the method is apparently to spike the flour-water slurry with commercial yeast sent airborne by baking activities. If that's indeed the case, it would be simpler just to add a little to the initial mix instead of relying on chance.

hankjam's picture
hankjam

Lazy: why would you use this word... it implies so many negative thoughts, which is what bread baking is really not about.

Two bits

Andrew j

 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I can't believe I read this whole thread! Yikes!

I agree with the initial concept of flour,water,stir and wait but the timing I have experienced in my kitchen is not as the OP described. My shortest time from original stirring of the first flour and water to having a starter that would actually raise a loaf was 9 days. I believe some have talked about having one is as little as 5 days.I usually start my starters with only a few tablespoons of flour and water because I don't like the volume of wasteage in the discard/feeding you have to go through-esp at first. Once it is nice and active I start increasing the volume. I take a few tablespoons of starter and mix it in a cup ea of flour and water for a preferment-just as the original poster does. Works great for me.

 I have read  articles about German bakers who used to stir up a starter one day and use it the next but the bakery where they did this is probably so full of culture that that would work. I know that since I started fermenting kimchee and kefir, my food tends to culture rather than spoil so maybe that is part of it and maybe the OP has a highly "cultured" kitchen after having baked for 40 years.

AS for who's right or who's more right-let it go. There have been a lot of valuable insights offered. Let's go with that and end this now.

Everyone-keep posting-don't be touchy-be respectful as always.

Delicious baking!

chris319's picture
chris319

My shortest time from original stirring of the first flour and water to having a starter that would actually raise a loaf was 9 days.

That's reasonable. Mine is 8.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

using Joe Ortiz's method he populatized on Baking with Julia and that sweetbrd did such a a great post on here. 

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/27528/joe-ortiz-pain-de-campagne-wonderful

I still like to go on YouTube and watch that classic show where he deocrates the bread he makes using that SD starter.  It's a method that uses cumin, a bit of milk, water and whole wheat.

http://video.pbs.org/video/2250840871/  On this show Joe also claims he is pulling yeast out of the air:-)  See everyone thought that at one time. 

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

There are many different ways to start a sourdough culture. Some work for more people than others. I doubt there is a never fail method.

If someone told me they started a culture by soaking their feet in the solution I probably wouldn't try it, but I wouldn't insist it "couldn't work" without trying it.

As for what concentration of which bacteria I have and whether or not the starter is real sourdough starter by day four isn't a concern as long as it works. Over time their will be competitive inhibition and succession, and the culture will mature and ripen. The information about heterofermentive and homofermentive bacteria is very interesting and useful and leads me to consider whether adding an acid might be useful.

 

cranbo's picture
cranbo

If someone told me they started a culture by soaking their feet in the solution I probably wouldn't try it, but I wouldn't insist it "couldn't work" without trying it.

Funny, I posted a thread a while back about a starter I started by chewing the dough first (inspired by chicha), because of what I read that LAB is believed to live on people's teeth. 

 

 

 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Come to think of it-I think you must have linked that sometime recently (which means sometime in the last 5 years). It was a wonderful show. I believe you can also use the stem area of peppers in milk and get a kefir-like culture going. Yeast and lactos are everywhere!

When I first started on THeFreshLoaf, getting wild yeast "out of the air" was common thinking. It is only about the last 3 years that yeast was talked about coming from  the flour itself. I do believe that airborn yeast can be a factor,also. Before I started fermenting vegetables and milk, food spoiled in a normal fashion in my kitchen. After I started culturing foods, fruit and vegetables generally fermented as it aged rather than spoiling into a slimy mass.  Occasionally my gallon of milk would ferment as it got lower and lower in the container in the refrigerator. Very strange to have a yogurt form in a cold container of milk but then it was right next to my jar of kefir being held in cold storage.

chris319's picture
chris319

My understanding is that the wild yeast is airborne, but in the wheat field, not in the kitchen or bakery.

placebo's picture
placebo

I don't think that's right. I know a lot of people say that yeast is airborne, but I think it's more likely that it's spread from place to place by insects and other critters, just like many other germs.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

relying on insects to seed our SD starters - we are doomed. It's bad enough we have to rely on bees to polllnate our crops! :-)

andychrist's picture
andychrist

Sporulated yeasts, like mold, can most definitely be airborne, and are found all over. Am not saying that is how SD get inoculated, think it has been pretty well demonstrated that the grain itself already harbors all the wee beasties necessary to start a culture.

gerhard's picture
gerhard

But it is a whole ecosystem not any one component air, soil, grain, environment that allows yeasts and mold to flourish.  I think we are just trying to be to specific on the source of the yeast.

Gerhard

placebo's picture
placebo

That's true. My thinking is that the primary mechanism for the spreading of yeast is probably insects, but I'll readily admit this is essentially just a guess on my part. 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

There must be a delay as to when some of these posts become visible to me. Often, I will read the thread and respond to the latest remarks and my response makes sense in the "conversation". The next morning or evening, I will review the thread and suddenly 5 or 6 other posts have appeared willy-nilly in various spots and often my response does not make much sense at all.

Chris 319-Yeast is ubiquitous-even in the kitchen and bakery. Probably more of the commercially cultivated variety in most kitchens and bakeries but every surface of this planet boasts a good population of any yeast. Which is why we enjoy their company so often in fermentation.

Cheers!

ericreed's picture
ericreed

It happens I think when people hit "reply" to a post vs. making a new post at the bottom. Replies appear directly following the replied to post.

sandydog's picture
sandydog

I have been baking bread for over 30 years now, since being taught at Culinary School.

My first ever sourdough was made using a method very similar to that of the OP although I have no doubt that there are many other successful and more reliable/efficient methods available nowadays.

Over those happy 30 years of baking I have utilised my original starter to make variations based on white wheat, rye and wholemeal flours. During those 30 years I have managed to (Somehow) maim/kill my starter on 2 occasions - Fortunately, having made friends with other like minded bakers in my town/area, I was able to accept a small gift of a few grammes of their starter to get me going again within 24 hours with only 1 build of their starter.

Coincidentally I have also provided starter, on 2 occasions, to friends who had experienced similar difficulties with their own starters.

My point is that it is nice to make friends who would want to help me, rather than spending countless hours reading about (Sometimes confusing/contrary) techniques (Which take a long time come to fruition) which I might need twice in 30 years. Baking bread is much more fun for me (I can see Clazar 123 thinks the same above) than wading through postings like this one.

Of course, I accept that some folks really enjoy the complexities and technical discussions - Good luck to them - I wish you all "Happy" baking and friendly cooperation.

Brian

chris319's picture
chris319

I know a lot of people say that yeast is airborne, but I think it's more likely that it's spread from place to place by insects and other critters, just like many other germs.

I've read that s.cerevisiae, aka baker's/brewer's yeast, is deposited on grape skins by birds and insects. I'm not sure if birds and insects are much interested in wheat, and if they were, it makes sense that wheat would get the same yeast: s.cerevisiae.

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

Also in corn and other grains.  Locusts were notorious for periodically destroying the US wheat crop into the 1930s, until modern insecticides came into use.

Grapes are very interesting to birds and insects. My yard has both wild and domestic grape vines and over the winter any grapes left on the vine feed some of the resident birds, while the Mockingbirds and some of the Jays like them in the summer. Our domestic chickens will eat grapes, but seem to prefer blueberries. When the blueberries are in season, the biddies make a beeline for the blueberry hedge the minute the coop door opens.

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

"Capturing a starter is essentially taking a culture of the room air."

This is nonsense imo. Sorry but the notion of mixing flour and water and walking around a kitchen, willing wild yeasts to jump into your bowl is utter nonsense. The wild yeasts are in the grains (if you are milling fresh flour), otherwise they are already present in the flour your have.

I was determined to disprove this notion of "catching wild yeasts from the air" and so conducted an experiment which you can see in another thread here :

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/37259/mythbusters-grain-yeast-or-air-yeast

Mixing flour with water (preferably freshly milled flour) is the simple way to make a SD starter. It requires nothing else except the right temperature and regular discard and feeding. The process can be aided by quickly establishing the optimum pH levels (by adding acidic things like pineapple juice) but it isn't at all necessary to do so. Flour + water + temperature + time = viable starter.

This is old hat.

EP

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

I was amazed that I could actually capture colonies in the backyard on windy days. Also on days after baking.

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

The difficulty with the dead flour culture media is that the preparation technique also denatured - and inactivated - the amylase enzymes in the flour without providing alternate sources of glucose, fructose, sucrose, and maltose for the yeast.

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

with a culture plate there is no competing mass of existing wild yeasts is there?

When you mix flour and water you are starting out with a significant % of wild yeast already present in the flour itself. Those yeasts will multiply far faster than anything that happens to pop in the mix from the air. The yeasts multiply every 90-100mins or so and will do so for 26 generations.

The other big give-away here is that if you mix some flour and water and put it in a jar with a lid sealed on tight, you will still generate a nice viable SD starter the same as you would with the lid off.

I don't dispute that where the wild yeasts originally came from (in the wheat field or grain factory) could easily have been airborne in that environment. However, for domestic/amateur bakers, those yeasts are in the flour that we buy or make ourselves and when you mix that flour with water and apply the optimum temperature, you are providing an environment for those yeasts to grow and prosper. There is no "capturing" involved here, the yeasts are already there.

gerhard's picture
gerhard

Where does the yeast come from? If you grew and milled the wheat in a sterile environment would there still be yeast in the flour?  I bet the flour picks up a little in the field, in the farmer's grain bin, at the mill, in your kitchen........ and it all adds up to what you have in the bag.  I am sure that flour and wheat are good mediums to store and grow the yeast so that is why it is convenient for the little beasties.  My point is that this discussion is pointless as there are many points where the flour is potentially contaminated by the yeast so what is the real source of your culture?

Gerhard

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

This is a first. Tread lightly, sir, in making such accusations.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

The other big give-away here is that if you mix some flour and water and put it in a jar with a lid sealed on tight, you will still generate a nice viable SD starter the same as you would with the lid off.

Yes, but unless you do so in a vacuum, you can't control for the airborne yeast that are in the jar, can you?

I made my starter in space, because I could not figure out how to use a bell jar to evacuate the air and then mix my flour and water. It makes the best bread because it is pure.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

outer or inner space? :-)  I think I have an evacuator to pull a vacuum on refrigeration systems somewhere?  Maybe we could do a starter - underwater using it - to kill off this old wives tale for good.....Naw.... they won't believe it anyway.  More fun this way.

Happy SD baking everyone

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I have a vacuum gun that lets me evacuate the air from my mason jars. However, I was under the impression that air was needed for the earth-bound starter to work. In any case, it won't create as good a vacuum as I get in outer space. 

Some may wonder how I get such a great starter without air when using my outer space method.  But these people are just detractors and do not know anything about making good bread. 

The truth is out there and the best and purest starters use alien yeast. I thought that was obvious and wonder whether you are trolling here. 

gerhard's picture
gerhard

In outer space would you really need a sourdough or any leavening as there is non of that pesky gravity.  Do they bake in the space station?

Gerhard

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

But once you get the pure space starter you bring it back down to earth for baking. This is how bread was originally baked by the ancient Egyptians. They built pyramids as waypoint markers and aliens or "Gods" brought their space starter with them when they landed at the pyramid sites. 

You can read all about it if you just use google or the search box on the upper right. 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

are no pyramids in Roswell, NM.  The real strory is that aliens didn't have yeast, and thus no beer, on their home planet and this was the original reason that aliens had to come here - to get our native yeast to go back home to make beer.   We didn't have LAB here but they were thick floating around in their alien air back home.

When they camr back to earth the next time, they brought their half alien / half earth starter with them and lots of LAB by accident which quickly infested earth.  But they were a little drunk, couldn't find Egypt and ended in Mexico where they had folks there build pyramids there too.   But they ended up being step pyramids instead of nice smooth ones like in Egypt because they were too sauced to remember what the original pyramids were supposed to look like .

By the time they flew to Roswell NM, they were totally drunk.  They counldn't even fly and crashed there killing themselves instead and before they could get us to make pyramids too......which is why there are no pyramids in Roswell. NM

But we at least got LAB and SD out of the deal.  Still, I think we got the short end of the stick if you ask me - pyramids are pretty cool and we are too lazy to build them ourselves without alien construction technology.   At least we can still learn about important Ancient Alien History on TV - an alien technology we stole from the crashed spacecraft at Roswell no doubt. 

Davo's picture
Davo

Whether yeasts come from flour or air (personally I believe predominantly from flour) can't be proven exactly. Clearly there will be some airborne spores - but I'm happy to believe the (reported for years now) trials of attempts to establish cultures with sterilised flour (generally doesn't work).

My concern at the premise of the method is that it sets out to "capture" commercial yeast originating from the baking  being done at the time of "capture". To me this seems a bit strange - if that's what you want to do, like another poster said, why not just add some commercial yeast to your intended SD culture. But then you would have a culture dominated by commercial yeast, which is not what you want, as I understand while commercial yeast is commonly present in many SD cultures, it's a minor player. From what I recall reading (I may be misrecalling), this is because commercial yeast metabolises maltose, whereas other wild yeasts don't, and it's this that promotes a stable symbiosis with LABs (that do break down maltose). So starting with dominance of a yeast that will compete directly with LABs seems strange way to go about getting to a stable mix where the yeasts by-and-large don;t compete with the LABs.  And I'm not sure about the commercial yeast strain "diverging" over time.  Maybe it does, but I'm not sure what material difference this could be expected to have (How does it change - does it no longer metabolise maltose?), nor on what basis this can be stated as fact.

The other thing is the refrigeration after only a couple of days bit.From my own experience and reading about lots of others', you'd have to be relatively lucky to have a stable culture at that point - better to keep feeding at room temp for a week or two before fridge-storing... Any one person can have success a number of times with a certain method, but that doesn't mean it'll work universally...

Davo's picture
Davo

Whether yeasts come from flour or air (personally I believe predominantly from flour) can't be proven exactly. Clearly there will be some airborne spores - but I'm happy to believe the (reported for years now) trials of attempts to establish cultures with sterilised flour (generally doesn't work).

My concern at the premise of the method is that it sets out to "capture" commercial yeast originating from the baking  being done at the time of "capture". To me this seems a bit strange - if that's what you want to do, like another poster said, why not just add some commercial yeast to your intended SD culture. But then you would have a culture dominated by commercial yeast, which is not what you want, as I understand while commercial yeast is commonly present in many SD cultures, it's a minor player. From what I recall reading (I may be misrecalling), this is because commercial yeast metabolises maltose, whereas other wild yeasts don't, and it's this that promotes a stable symbiosis with LABs (that do break down maltose). So starting with dominance of a yeast that will compete directly with LABs seems strange way to go about getting to a stable mix where the yeasts by-and-large don;t compete with the LABs.  And I'm not sure about the commercial yeast strain "diverging" over time.  Maybe it does, but I'm not sure what material difference this could be expected to have (How does it change - does it no longer metabolise maltose?), nor on what basis this can be stated as fact.

The other thing is the refrigeration after only a couple of days bit.From my own experience and reading about lots of others', you'd have to be relatively lucky to have a stable culture at that point - better to keep feeding at room temp for a week or two before fridge-storing... Any one person can have success a number of times with a certain method, but that doesn't mean it'll work universally...

ericreed's picture
ericreed

Yeast is observable with microscopes, seems like it should be possible. Rose Levy Beranbaum in "The Bread Bible" reports there are approximately 13,000 wild yeasts in a gram of flour. I'm not sure where she got her number from, but I think it's reasonable to think it isn't made up. Yeasts need nutrients to grow, for commercial yeast, they often grow it on molasses. While some surely become airborne, the most significant and important source of yeast in building a sourdough culture will be from the stuff they grow on, ie, the flour.

Davo's picture
Davo

Eric, I agree with you. "The most significant and important source" - I'm with you. I believe that to all intents and purposes the yeast comes from the flour. But because some may be airborne, it wouldn't shock me if a sterilised batch of flour did eventually develop some bugs. That happening wouldn't for me prove that SD cultures were typically or even occasionally  "captured from the air", or make me think that opening the window and putting the bowl under muslin was doing anything meaningful.

As you say, "surely some become airborne". I'm guessing these ones are the odd stray snowflake against the avalanche in the flour. All I'm doing is saying that the one-in-a-million can't be said to be zero-in-a-million, so don't go looking for zero. Even if the one-in-a-million will have no practical impact.

ericreed's picture
ericreed

I'm just nerdy; I've often thought about what cannot be proven vs. what has not yet been proven vs what has been adequately proven yet remains contested. So when I see a phrase like "cannot be proved" it perks my ears. Not meaning to get down on you or anything if it came across that way.

Looking at the context more I get why you used that phrase. I guess I'm not sure why folks up there are arguing about the existence of stray yeasts in the air or whether insects spread them around to new food sources. Seems like in the context of making a sourdough culture, for the question "Where do yeasts come from?" it should be fairly uncontroversial to answer, "From the grains they grow on." Just as we wouldn't say commercial yeast comes from the air, even though some also probably become airborne, but rather that it is grown on molasses or other nutrient dense food to be packaged for us.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Because this thread is so full of useful information but spread out over many responses, I thought it would be helpful to summarize the content in one spot so we don't have so many people repeating what had already been well established. 

Ezekeil 4:9 provides as follows:

"Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof, according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon thy side, three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat thereof."

Nothing is said about yeast, barm, sourdough or baking soda.  However, scholars are generally in agreement that some sort of leaven was used, because later, the bible talks about unleavened bread for those who are on the go, as opposed to those lying upon their side. 

So, we have to go back to the beginning. Way back then, there was darkness and God allowed there to be light, followed by the sky, land, seas and vegetation. Later, living creatures were added to the seas and birds to fill the air. Land animals and people were added next. 

Biblical bakers all agree that the reference to land animals includes yeast because only birds are mentioned as occupying the air. Obviously, if the yeast is a land animal (since it is not a bird), our starters come from the vegetation that grows upon the land. 

Other interesting points that were made or implied in this  thread:

1. Sourdough starters consist of yeast and bacteria. 

2.  Some people have better luck than others at creating a viable starter. 

3.  Domestic yeast is not as glamorous as foreign yeast. So snooty Americans import their flour from overseas (or Mexico if less snooty) and non-Americans import their flour from other countries, so they too can bake with imported wild yeast. 

4.  Some bakers and established authors recommend a pinch of commercial yeast to increase the likelihood of creating a successful starter. Commercial yeast may also be described  as "domesticated yeast", and many believe that domesticated yeast will be replaced by wild yeast over time, in any starter due to the fact that domesticated yeast does not thrive in the same environment created by flour and water, as wild yeast. 

5. Good bread tastes good, with or without butter. But butter makes it better.

6. Bread baking is as much an art as a science and science is as much religion as anything else. There is an enormous amount of misinformation in both science and religion, as demonstrated by the large number of editions of any science textbook and by the large number of differing religions. 

7. If you beat a dead horse, you burn calories, but you will NEVER convince it to either drink water or do the backstroke.

8. Nothing can be proven to everybody's satisfaction because not everybody is blessed with equal intellectual capacities, and not everybody has the same level of care or contrariness.  So, some are convinced of anything they read, while others are not convinced of anything at all.  Where you fall on the spectrum is of no concern to me, and of little concern to anybody else, as long as you don't disagree with their opinions, beliefs and understandings. 

cranbo's picture
cranbo

I agree, a great summary of this thread and related topics, well done! :)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

toasted before the butter goes on it

!0. SD bread tastes better the next day

11. We would'lt have SD at all if weren't for Ancient Aliens, pyramids and beer.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

David, that was the best summary anyone could have given for this conversation. I especially like point number 5 and point number 8 is a marvel of knowledge and wisdom! By the way, how are the ole finger hairs doing? All still present and accounted for?