The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Just a random sourdough blog.

case111's picture
case111

Just a random sourdough blog.

I’ve read here and other places about people making sourdough from Baker’s yeast and making non-sour sourdough bread. So I decided to try a little experiment to see if it’s even possible to make a non-sour bread from a sourdough starter.

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NOTE: Sourdough Starter is a working culture of yeast(s) (yeast is a fungi) and lactobacillus (bacteria simular to the strains used to make sour cream and yogurt) that flourish and ferment together. It’s easy to capture a working yeast in your back yard, especially during the rainy season when fungi are hydrated and active. Capturing a symbiotically compatible lactobacillus is a lot harder. Over a six year period I’ve made four yeast captures, none picked-up a compatible lactobacilli. I finally tried leaving one captured culture jar on my kitchen counter covered with only cheese cloth. I fed it twice a day for many weeks and it finally started producing sourness. (I suspect the lactobacillus it picked-up migrated from one of my other starters but have no way of knowing for sure.)

The microorganism community in a good sourdough starter is pretty special. Not only should the strains of yeast and bacteria not compete for the same nutrients in the flour, the lactobacillus must also be tolerant of the sterilizing effect of the alcohol the yeast produces and the yeast must be tolerant of the highly acidic environment the lactobacillus produces.
Baker’s yeast is a single cell strain developed to consume ALL the nutrients in flour for a fast consistent rise leaving nothing for the slower acting lactobacilli to feed on. Because of this, making sourdough from Baker’s yeast is virtually impossible. But, since good sourdough starters are easily acquired (I have eight at this time) this isn’t a problem.

A word of warning: I purchased three “sourdough” starters from three different parties on eBay; the Australian from northwestsourdough was good; another was a good yeast only Alaskan culture, said to be sourdough but not a sourdough culture; the last was also a yeast only culture (again said to be sourdough) made from grapes and completely useless. Yeast alone will NEVER...EVER...generate a sour taste in a wheat flour bread dough...you’d have better luck trying to spin straw into gold. The alcohol the yeast will produce, which is often mistaken for sourness, evaporates during baking. The lactobacilli used for dairy products and the strains of yeast attracted to the sugars in grapes make extremely poor sourdough starters.
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Back to my experiment:
I made two loaves of bread, the first used 2 ounces of refrigerated sourdough starter mixed with 1 ounce each of unbleached white flour and water to equal 4 ounces. For the second loaf, I mixed two ounces each of unbleached flour and water and added 1/4 tsp of quick rise Baker’s yeast.
NOTE: The sourdough starter I used was the Italian “Ischia Island” from Sourdough International (www.sourdo.com). One of two that come in their Italian collection and my personal favorite.

I let both cultures activate for one hour at 90 degrees F.

To each seed culture I added 6 ounces of water and 14 ounces of unbleached white flour from the same freshly opened 5 lb bag, along with 1-1/4 tsp salt. I kneaded one loaf and my wife kneaded the second to avoid cross contamination. (Normally for sourdough I’ll do a 36 hour dual-fermentation process.) For this experiment we formed both doughs into finished torpedo shaped loaves after only a 20 minute rest and punch-down, then allowed them only a single two hour rise side by side on a cookie sheet before baking. The idea was to give the lactobacilli as little opportunity as possible to generate the lactic and acidic acids that give sourdough it’s sour flavor.

The Baker’s yeast loaf got 50% bigger than the sourdough loaf and both loaves had the texture and crust of bagels due to the extremely short proof. But the sour flavor in the sourdough loaf, although very mild, was distinctly there when compared with the Baker’s yeast loaf.

So, I finally get to my point: If your “sourdough” bread isn’t getting sour...it’s almost certainly because it wasn’t sourdough to begin with. If you insist on using Baker’s yeast to make fast-rise “sourdough”, you’ll need to get yourself some citric acid crystals and distilled white vinegar to “sour” your dough like a lot of commercial bakers. Or, get yourself a real sourdough starter and take the time to do it right, the results are a hundred times better.

rmk129's picture
rmk129

As a newbie sourdough bread maker, I found this blog entry quite interesting. I recently made my own starter using SourdoLady's recipe, and although I enjoy the sour flavour of sourdough, sometimes I would like to make a "non-sour" loaf.
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I know I could just use instant yeast like I used to, but I love the convenience of not having to buy yeast and I am also very impressed by the huge oven spring I get from my sourdough loaves. So I have been trying all different sorts of methods (mainly shorter, faster rising times and different, shorter techniques for re-invigorating my stiff refrigerated starter) to try to get a non-sour loaf using my sourdough starter...I must admit that I have been utterly unsuccessful in my attempts :(
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I didn't really want to post anything about this topic before since it seems like people are generally trying to get their sourdough loaves to be more sour rather than less, so I thought I really shouldn't complain. However, this blog convinced me to add my comments...so it sounds like maybe I should give up on my quest for non-sour sourdough bread???

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

No, It means if you want a yeast starter that's not sour in taste, start one from commercial yeast and treat it like your other starters. I've been doing it for years. I have often done this in the summer when the chances of getting over heated (killed during transportation) com yeast is common. I have developed sour dough starters from com. yeast starter over time, by increasing the amount of acid in the starter (without really knowing what I was doing). Sometimes they would get so sour, I'd dump em and start over.

But with the orange juice/oat starter, the sour won't delute. Like you, if I use my starter in a recipe, it gets sour. If I want a fast rise loaf, I just add some of my oat starter along with com. yeast and I have fast rise sour loaf. Since I've plenty of commercial yeast available, I have no urge to have another starter hanging around. But if you like the way fresh starter behaves, try making one from com. yeast. Refrigerate soon after it rises and falls, it will be much faster than your other starter. :) Mini Oven

case111's picture
case111

I have four yeast only cultures for making slow risen non-sour bread. I also have a jar of Fleishmann’s yeast in the refrigerator but it makes such poor quality bread I rarely use it.

Try this: Mix about a third cup of white flour with enough water to form a pancake batter consistency in a small bowl. If you’ve been using Baker’s yeast, your kitchen is probably full of those spores so don’t leave it in your kitchen or you’ll just end up with a Baker’s yeast culture. Put the bowl in a shady spot outside covered with a clean piece of cloth to keep the bugs out (I use cheesecloth and a rubber band). Every morning and evening stir and add just enough water to maintain the correct consistency. In my yard in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ll see a bubble or two in the evening before stirring after only a day or two during the wet season, it may take a number of days during the dry season. When you definitely see evening bubbles you didn’t stir in, bring it inside, pour the mixture into a large bowl or jar, add 4 oz each water and flour and cover with plastic wrap. Keeping the temp at 85 to 90 degrees makes things happen a lot quicker. If the culture doesn’t activate in a day, toss it and start over. If the culture doesn’t thrive on flour and water only, toss it and start over. (Any culture that needs nutrients like fruit juice, sugar, milk, etc. I wouldn’t bother keeping.)

When the culture is fully active, I’ll wash it, feed it for a couple of days, wash it again and feed it for another week or so to see it any sour develops (I’ve never been so lucky). Since yeast only cultures activate quickly, I just make a few pounds of very dry dough using white flour, water and the yeast culture, roll it out on plastic wrap, dry it, pulverize it in a blender, and keep the powder in a ziplock bag in my refrigerator to use as my plain yeast supply (a tablespoon in 2 ounces each of flour and water takes 8 hours or so to activate, but I never rush bread so I don’t consider this a problem). Although I dry sourdough cultures the same way, the quick activation trick doesn’t work because the lactobacillus in sourdough cultures propagate much more slowly, but once a yeast only culture is active...it’s ready to go!

(NOTE: When I do a wild yeast capture, I first bake two or three cups of raw flour for one hour at 300 degrees F and pre-boil all the water and the cheesecloth I’ll be using. Raw flour often has yeast and bacteria from the grain already in it and I want to KNOW where my yeast originated so I sterilized everything. But going to that much trouble is unnecessary if all you want is a good working yeast culture.)

case111's picture
case111

Dry the dough at room temp and away from direct sunlight, it takes several days. I break up the semi-dry dough into a large glass bowl after a few days so the inside dries also. The first pass through the blender is usually still too wet, so I'll also let that dry for a day or so before the final pass through the blender.