The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

sweet vs. sour (and intro)

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Legendadry Perc's picture
Legendadry Perc

sweet vs. sour (and intro)

I've been baking bread my whole life.  Grew up on a diet which mostly consisted of 100% fresh ground ww bread.  We bake for food - not for fancy, so I'm not too picky.  I have just recently fallen in love with the concept of growing my own yeast.  I used the last of my yeast about a week before I could afford to buy more, so I just kept part in the fridge, and fed it warm water and honey before adding it to each loaf, then only added half each time.  This has worked wonderfully.  Well, I was having so much fun, my good freind gave me some "real" natural starter (not from instant yeast)  I'm completely nervous I'll mess this up.  The yeast I was growing never tasted sour.  My dh (dear husband) doesn't like ww sourdough, so this was good.  My freind who gave me the starter says that it doesn't have to be sour, but I'm not sure what makes it sour or not.  Also how different is it from the yeast I was using?  Should I feed it flour and water?  What if I feed it something sweet like honey?  What I ended up liking best with the yeast I was growing was sprouting some wheat, then grinding it up in warm water, and feeding that to it.  Would this be good for the natural starter?  I'm also wondering about the "take forever to rise".  I cook bread sometimes 3 times a day (that's what we live off of, and it tastes better fresh).  So reading through the threads, putting the dough in the fridge for a long time makes it taste better because some parts of the yeast work in that cold of an environment, and some don't.  Is that right?  My house is fairly cold right now (winter), should I still put it in the fridge?  I hate the idea of putting regular bread in the fridge, because then I have to worry about trying to get it warm again so it will rise, which is a pain, because, like I said, we cook bread a lot - not fun to sit there hungry because the bread's too cold.  If I'm using the starter all the time, should I put it in the fridge?  My freind said to only put it in the fridge if I wasn't using it every day, but does getting it cold have other benifits?  After I put the bread dough in the fridge, do I have to worry about getting it warm again to rise (cold house right now)?  Not too concerned with how much it rises.  We tend to not make loaves, but other creations (my kids have fun with the dough) that are smaller and thus rise and bake faster.  My main concern with the natural starter is to not have it be sourdough.  Is there some recomended online reading I could find answers in? (can't afford a book right now).  I prefer knowing why it works and how, all I've found so far is specific instructions - which are nice, but as random as my life is knowing how and why would help me with each unique and different bread baking.

thanks for any help!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

could be useful.  Click on  THIS


beeman1's picture

I bake with 100% homeground grain. Mostly whole wheat. I do add rye sometime. I got some desem starter. It seem's to bring out the taste of whole wheat with almost no sour. There is much information on Desem in TFL. 

leucadian's picture

Hi LP,

Does your oven ever cool off?? Your friend seems to be feeding you with good information, and I would trust her/his advice. Most people who bake with wild yeast are looking for the sour taste, but some just like the more complex taste, and some like the idea of controlling everything that goes into the bread.

In some wild yeast starters (but I think not all) there are bacteria (good ones) that make acid as they grow, turning the bread sour. Cooler temperatures favor the yeast, warmer temperatures favor the bacteria. But not all starters have the bacteria, and your original starter from commercial yeast probably didn't have any. There's a certain type of yeast that doesn't consume maltose, thus leaving it for the bacteria that can use it. If you don't happen to have that yeast, it's likely that all the sugars are consumed by the yeast, leaving none for the bacteria. Also, a short fermentaion will produce sweeter bread.

Interesting what you said about sprouting wheat and grinding it up to feed your previous starter. You were making malted grain, letting the enzymes in the wheat convert the starches to sugars. It's the perfect food for a starter. I'd keep doing it till you see a reason to change.

You might consider dividing the starter (kept on the counter, not refrigerated since you're using it so often) into two jars, one to keep feeding as your friend recommends, and the other to try your own feeding methods on. I'm sure your friend would spot you another starter if you lost yours, however.