The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


loydb's picture

I haven't been baking for a bit, and apparently the starter that I thought was frozen in my freezer, wasn't, so time to make some new. This is on day #4 using the BBA starter recipe. Glad I put a plate under it :)

yy's picture

more starter shenanigans - starter acidity

September 1, 2011 - 10:26am -- yy

I have a 100% hydration 50/50 whole wheat and white flour starter. A while back, I was having trouble maintaining its health. No matter how faithfully I'd stick to feeding schedules, it would develop a weird rotten egg smell. I believe that this was due to discarding too much of the starter every time I fed it. The acidity that was making the starter "immune" to colonization by unwanted bacteria was being diluted too much.

HokeyPokey's picture

There are a lot of posts on activating a starter on this wonderful website and I thought I’d add my two pennies worth and get a chance to show off my hubby’s wonderful photos :)

My starter is taking over the world, well, taking overUKat least and I thought I’d share my feeding schedule with the rest of you and open a forum for questions / comments.


Also, I would like to know why would you keep waters (raisin water, apple water, etc.) that started popping up in a lot of recipes on this side AS WELL as a starter – whats the difference, advantages of one over another?

 Full post and lots of photos on my blog here

Nickisafoodie's picture

I came across the following link/article on Lactobacillus San Francisco posted in 2004 by Mark Preston on a site called “Danger! Men Cooking!”

The article describes how over several weeks one could replicate the SF Sourdough culture started by Isadore Boudin himself in 1849.  And be able to maintain it locally with minimal effort after the initial series of builds and at the recommended temperature for various steps.

This article is fascinating because many posts on TFL and the web in general say that any culture purchased or created will eventually assume the characteristics of the bacteria naturally present on the wheat, i.e. being local to where the wheat was grown.  Or that over time it assumes the characteristics of the wild bacteria present in the bakery/household in which the culture is maintained. Or a combination of both, which to me seems to be plausible- i.e. that once started from say a purchased culture, you cannot maintain it.  Is in fact that assumption correct?

The author says otherwise referencing a $192 technical book “HANDBOOK OF DOUGH FERMENTATIONS by Karel Kulp and Klaus Lorenz. (NY: Marcel Dekker, c.2003), some 328 pages long.  The book is listed on Amazon:

To quote: “Well theories on that point differ radically. Some say the microorganisms are wild and floating around in the air. Others speculate that the quality of the flour has much to do with the fermentations. I have read a serious scientific paper on the quantity of lactobacillus microorganisms being greater on wheat near humanly populated areas than wheat in less populated areas. Another research paper says that there are about 400 types of microorganisms in a fermenting loaf. Other papers say that the sanfranciscensis microorganism is about 36% of that 400, that is to say, by quantity it predominates, naturally. So the question becomes how to nurture those San Francisco organisms along and not get anything bad going. That's what the Handbook of Dough Fermentations is all about. The piece of information lacking was to not make bread after two to three or four days, but that the starter needed about two to three weeks of refreshments. And it needed specific amounts of water and flour and at very specific intervals.”

Boudin is the oldest sourdough bakery in San Francisco. Mr. Boudin came from a village along the Swiss French border. The boat trip across the ocean allowed no baking so it likely took weeks of feeding to establish the culture. The Boudin Bakery still uses the same starter and the production method at the bakery also has to be taken into account.  I can honestly say it is the best sourdough that I have ever tasted and a must stop attraction for those visiting the Wharf in San Francisco.

My homemade culture using fresh ground rye has thrived for years.  Over time I have come to have a better understanding of some of the variables that we control to target a given bread style. These variables combined with the fermentation times and temperatures allows for an infinite range of bread styles – from a hardly noticeable and not desirable sour (baguettes) to the high levels typical in Northern/Eastern Europe as in Polish, Czech, German or Russian ryes. 

The essential elements are by controlling the buildup for a given bake in terms of:

1)       Intervals between feedings/buildup

2)       Percentage of starter used in the final recipe

3)       Temperature during the builds

4)       Hydration levels of the starter ranging from stiff to very loose (75% to 150%, each giving a different characteristic).

5)       Fermentation time and temperature of the dough

Yet as good as they are, the taste is not that of Lactobacillus Sanfranciscensis.  Should I be happy?  Yes.  Yet the pursuit of bread perfection is never achieved and continues!

The feeding cycle expansion from the initial start point is 312,500 times!  And the feeding cycles alternate between 8 and 16 hour cycles and follow specific temperature guidelines.  The author says after a few weeks you will have it.  Note: regarding the build table shown, there is a typo in the row that shows 12,500 water – the flour amount should be 10,000 not 1,000. 

In summary, a very interesting read that represents one approach that surely is not the final word on the subject.  There are many articles on the web regarding Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis and Candida milleri, likely counter to some of the points raised in the post.  This is leading me to do more research and explore other information on the web regarding this infamous grouping of complementary bacterias.  

I would also like to hear from people that may have purchased the SF cultures and whether or not they evolved over time to something other than when started?  That would seem an easy way to start if in fact one could maintain it so it doesn’t evolve away going forward.   Thanks to all…

JonnyP's picture

Sourdough starter Hydration Ratios: Thin vs Thick: How they smell, and how do they affect the final loaf.

August 13, 2011 - 9:41pm -- JonnyP

How "sour" does your starter smell?

When I use my soudough starter (typically about 6 hours after the final refresh), I remix it well, blow off the CO2, and take a whiff: it usually smells like vinegar (acetic acid; burns the nose).

In contradistinction, my home-made fermented pickles and Polish sour rye soup starter (500% hydration ratio), typically smell like lactic acid (sweet to the nose).

JimmyChoCho's picture

What happened to my starter? Help!

July 30, 2011 - 11:51am -- JimmyChoCho

I've been baking for just under a year using the starter from Tartine Bread. I've always used water from my Brita pitcher and have had no problems until recently. One day I noticed that the bottom of my pitcher was a little green, looking up online a lot of people seem to be having problems with algae growing in their brita pitchers. The day prior to realizing this, I fed my starter using this water and ever since that day my starter looks like this about a day after I feed it:

dolcebaker's picture

Can store bought starter packet be used as a base for ongoing starter? How?

July 30, 2011 - 7:22am -- dolcebaker

 I bought a packet of ready sourdough culture, says to just add it to bread dough, intended for make at home one shot sourdough, says add to 10-35 oz of flour (just add to base bread formula). 

I found this 'all natural ready sourdough' starter, Seitenbacher brand from Germany, I found in a health food store.  It is a rye culture.

azmar's picture

Orange streak - is my starter contaminated beyond help?

July 17, 2011 - 10:52pm -- azmar

Hi, I'm a newbie to bread baking and have learned a lot from the accumulated information on this site. Hoping someone more knowledgeable or experienced can advise me on this.

About 1 1/2 months ago, I created a starter using whole wheat flour and pineapple juice that I eventually converted to a white flour starter. I usually keep about 60g of starter, retaining 10g and feeding it with 20g water / 30g bread flour about once or twice a week. When not feeding, I keep it in the fridge. I've made a few experimental loaves which have turned out ok (at least by my novice standards).


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