The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Starter made with commercial yeast?

  • Pin It
Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

Sourdough Starter made with commercial yeast?

Ok, this is THRICE in one day I've read here about people starting "sourdough" starter with commercial yeast. 


Can anyone explain the process and how this is seen as "sourdough"? Does commercial yeast get along with lactobacilli's acid development? I'd imagine that needing to feed the commercial yeast a lot sooner, since it's a faster yeast than wild yeast, would mean that the lacto wouldn't have enough time to establish itself before it's numbers get diminished rapidly.


Someone walk me through this please...


Saw it mentioned in a link to PreparedPantry.com, then again here and Norm mentions it here.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi, I'm new here, but I'm willing to take a stab at it. Yeast really isn't all that sensitive to pH, or acids in general. Just acetic acid, which is produced to some degree by lactic acid bacteria (LAB). It's pretty hard to keep LAB from gaining a foothold. They're in flour. When you add water, the process begins. Competition from the yeast may slow them down, but can't stop them. So, over time (and refreshment) I would expect them to take over, commercial yeast to disappear and be replaced by a wild yeast that is a little more tolerant of acetic acid.


So, then comes the obvious question, "Why add commercial yeast to begin with?" Alcohol fermentation by the yeast, inhibits some undesireable bacteria, that inhibit desireable lactobacilli. (A double negative makes a positive, right?) Leuconostoc bacteria, which often flare up in the beginning stages, can produce bacteriocins (antibiotic proteins) which cause problems getting a starter going. Adding a pinch of yeast is another type of insurance policy, one that sourdough purists probably wouldn't approve of ;-)

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hello, Debra Wink... (I almost wrote "the" before your name.)


I don't know if you have posted on the Introductions thread, but I saw your response and want to say Welcome to TFL!


I have to thank you for your work on sourdough cultures, as I am one of many who benefitted from your research. I built my first starter using the "pineapple solution", and the fact that it worked the first time probably played a large part in my complete conversion to sourdough. I almost never use commercial yeast anymore and there's a big tub of SAF in my freezer going to waste!


There are always a lot of calls for more scientific information on TFL, as most of us just poke around by trial and error till we get something that works. I hope to hear a lot more from you on lots of different topics!


Soundman (David)

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

It makes me very happy that pineapple juice has helped so many people. I had no idea when I stumbled down the sourdough path, just where it would lead. It has been a very interesting journey :-) Have we met on any other forums, or do you read Bread Lines?


I haven't made it to the Introductions thread yet, but I'll make a point to in the next few days. I'm still stumbling around trying to get a feel for navigating this site. It's very different from others I'm used to, but I'm figuring it out a little at a time. The blog feature is very cool :-)

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi Debra,


I have never read anything about how other people navigate TFL, and it would be interesting to know. I have 3 ways of digging in: 1) by clicking on Forums, and from there looking at all the different forums for whatever is new (and who has authored or responded recently), 2) looking at the Bakers Blogs, or 3) using the Search feature.


When I first found TFL I was so thrilled to discover an actual Sourdough and Starters forum, it took me about a month before I realized most people like you to introduce yourself through the Introductions forum. The same thing has happened to lots of people, so it's no big deal.


I have never directly read Bread Lines, but as it turns out, maybe I did, indirectly. I first heard about your method from Breadtopia.com. Eric, whose site it is, has a very clear video about making a sourdough starter from scratch. He used pineapple juice and whole wheat flour, and over the course of several days produced a very nice bubbly starter! He also credited you, by name. I still didn't feel ready to jump in until I searched the web, using your name and "pineapple juice" and a strange website called Scientific Psychic printed a written recipe for creating a sourdough starter, attributing the method to you, and mentioning a very recent issue of Bread Lines as the source at the bottom of the article:


http://www.scientificpsychic.com/alpha/food/sourdough-bread.html


The thing that caught my eye was the importance of temperature control. That one additional piece of information seemed important. Who can really say, as I had a bubbly starter after 3 days? But I guess you could say I was hooked, and ever thankful to you (and Eric, and Scientific Psychic, and therefore Bread Lines!).


So glad to meet you on TFL!


Soundman (David)

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

I don't wish to be rude or get voted off the island just yet ;-), so I have posted my introduction and I appreciate the heads-up.


The Scientific Psychic is a colorful website, to be sure. I found it when I was searching the web to find chemical diagrams of sugars to illustrate an article on lactic acid fermentation (the one that he referenced). His was the only place that I found suitable diagrams, and a great chemistry lesson on carbohydrates in general, explained in lay terms. I contacted him (Antonio Zamora), explained what I wanted to do, and asked permission to use some of his graphic images. He graciously consented, and even added pentosans to the carbohydrate page at my request (although yeast don't use them, as he states in the link you posted---some lactobacilli do. I think that was just an editing oversight).


Click here: Carbohydrates - Chemical Structure (Page 1 of 3)


He told me he had recently gotten interested in sourdough himself, and so I sent him the formula I use for coaching. The internet has been a huge part of both its development and its dissemination, although many versions have been reinterpreted by the people passing it along (kind of like rumors ;-) So some of the words are mine, some are not.


Temperature is an important part of the equation, not so much in making it work, but in how fast it works. Two weeks at desem temperatures vs. your three days at warm room temperature. I find that people need to see results as quickly as possible, or they give up too easily, and throw it out, often just before it was about to take off. Very frustrating for all involved.

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

The 1970s were my time of wanting to be an Earth Mother.  I still do, but I think I'm being wiser about it these days.


Anyway, I remember all the talk about sourdough starters, and feeding them weekly out of the refrigerator, and throwing some out if you didn't use it in a batch of bread, and never touching it with metal, and having just the right sourdough crock for it.  I more-or-less knew all this stuff, but I never quite got around to trying it.


Looking at some of the older cookbooks I have around, I see that this "sourdough" of my Earth-Mother-wanna-be youth is apparently more of a flavoring than a process. You have the "starter" made with commercial yeast, and you dump a cup of it into whatever you're baking along with more commercial yeast.


The whole commercial-yeast-in-sourdough thing is just a convenience.  It assumes that you always want a simple ready-in-a-few-hours bread.  That's what everyone has been taught over the last few decades.  The Artisan Bread movement is changing that.


Rosalie

Wisecarver's picture
Wisecarver (not verified)

...Very well put. :-)
"The Artisan Bread movement is changing that."

arzajac's picture
arzajac

I had a pâte fermentée that I kept going for a very long time.  I would cut it in half, use one half in my bread and add the same amount of flour and water to the other half, let it sit overnight and then pop it back into the fridge to be used again. It would rise like any biga would.


After a few weeks, it turned sour.  I never thought to call it sourdough starter, it was just a pâte fermentée.  I liked the taste it gave my bread.


I suppose I could have built it up to leaven a bread without the use of any other yeast, but I never tried.


Also,


I own a few different general-purpose cookbooks.  They almost all describe making a sourdough starter by adding commercial yeast to dough and letting it sit around to get sour.  All the sourdough recipes they have also contain commercial yeast.  So this is not 100 per cent leavened sourdough, but the term "sourdough" doesn't imply the exclusive use of wild yeasts to leaven the bread.  When I buy a sourdough loaf from a bakery, I don't ever assume they go to the trouble of avoiding commercial yeast, unless they mention that as a selling point.


 

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

You can always check the ingredients label.  One of the last items listed will surely be yeast.  You can almost bet on it.  Rare exceptions.


Rosalie

arzajac's picture
arzajac

Many of the bakeries I know don't list ingredients on their bags since they use the same kind of bag for different breads.  You have to ask the person behind the counter.  I have found that most people who work behind the counter of a bakery are not the least bit as fascinated about the process of baking bread as we are. 


Young lady behind the counter:"I dunno.  Do you *really* want me to go and bother my boss and ask him your questionYou're only buying a $2.50 loaf."

TeaIV's picture
TeaIV

that's horrible. whoever said ignorance is bliss did not know what he/she was talking about. I think $2.50 for artisan bread is expensive, because you can make the same, if not better, at home for a lot less. I don't why people even bother with factory made bread.


 


I think adding a teeny bit of commercial yeast will ensure that the wild yeast can grow in it, without affecting the taste too much.

Davo's picture
Davo

I can't agree with the bit about "sourdough" not implying no commercial yeast. If it's got commerical yeast in it, I reckon it should be called "sourdough with added commercial yeast". I have bought plenty of sourdough that's pure, and occasionally sourdough that's had commercial yeast in it, and I know which I prefer. I think it's misleading to add commercial yeast, and then call it simply "sourdough". The problem is that it's a slippery slope once you accept stuff like that, and here in australia there are some bread chain-stores that sell a "sourdough" that's basically yeasted bread with a tiny bit of sourdough added, along with artificial flavourings - I know because my partner bought some for our kids when there was no home-made sourdough in the bread-box. They're frankly disgusting, and I don't appreciate them being called "sourdough".


As to starting up with commerical yeast - I don't doubt a culture will eventually switch over to wild strains of LABs and yeasts, but I also wonder if commercial yeast will actually help. The stuff I have read suggests that while commercial yeast utilises maltose, as do the LABs, the wild yeasts, by-and-large, don't - they utilise the mono-saccharides that the LABs break down from the maltose. This is why wild yeasts and LABs set up so stably - because they don't compete for their preferred food. So I would have thought that - to some extent - having commercial yeast in the initial mix would be likely to make them compete with LABs for their preferred food source (maltose), and therefore not allow a LAB-wild yeast symbiosis to set up quite as quickly. Or maybe not?

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

I'm going through my copies of "The Baker's Companion", an apparently short-lived magazine by King Arthur Flour.  The Summer 2007 issue actually has instructions for a starter using water, rye flour, molasses, and, later, ap flour.  They also have Pain au Levain, no commercial yeast.  A lot of interesting information accompanies these recipes.


Then they have a bread that uses the starter plus commercial yeast.  They preface that recipe with this paragraph.


"Breads that contain both wild (sourdough) and domestic yeast have the attributes of both: the complex flavor and extended keeping quality of sourdough and the greater volume, softer crumb, and speedier production of domestic yeast.  A small amount of yeast is added to the dough at the final stage of mixing.  This method, although not a 'pure' sourdough, is widely used in the bakeries of Europe (in France it's knows as the levain de pate method).  We've grown to love the variety of breads this method enables us to bake."


Well, as long as it has a French name....


Rosalie

Nancy Baggett's picture
Nancy Baggett

I think Debra Wink's posting that in time a starter cultured with commercial yeast will actually eventually become a wild yeast starter is right on.  For several years I have been tending and using some starters I cultured with a small amount of rapid-rising commercial yeast. At the same time I also began using a wild starter purchased from King Arthur.


 


Not surprisingly, at first the two types were rather different--the KA starter seemed more complex and, well, wilder! After maturing a couple weeks, the cultured starters did produce perfectly tasty sourdough bread, just as the mature KA wild starter did. (I always boost my sourdough doughs with both with a little commercial yeast as insurance against low volume--as the previous entry suggests, this is a pretty sensible step used by a number of European bakers--even Cavel did not object to this kind of boosting if amounts of commercial yeast were kept small.)


 


Now, my cultured starters seem just as robust and wild tasting as the wild one--as the LABs in them produced more and more acid the commercial yeast didn't tolerate well, I think the wild yeast just began to take over. Purists don't like to hear it, but the great advantage of the cultured starter for the beginner is that it is far less hit or miss--the starter almost always works and is usable in about 10 days. This is very reassuring, which is why I chose to provide a cultured starter in my Kneadlessly Simple book. Plus, eventually, the cultured starter does indeed go wild.