The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Looking for starters from around the world

  • Pin It
Jean-Paul's picture
Jean-Paul

Looking for starters from around the world

I am looking into trying out different sourdough starters from around the USA and the world, without having to pay $5-10+ shipping each. Who out there has an established starter I can get a small bit from so I can try them out? I would love to have starters from, naturally, San Francisco, along with other places like Alaska, France, Russia and Africa. Let me know! Thanks, jeanpaulhebert01@yahoo.com.


 


 

Jean-Paul's picture
Jean-Paul

As a way of saying Thank you to those who send me their starter, I will send them back a starter (or two or three...) I received from someone else, somewhere else. That way we can have an exchange of starters to try out! Imagine sending your SanFran starter and getting back a French and a Russian starter in return. Thanks again, Jean-Paul

ladychef41's picture
ladychef41

Don't forget, any starter you get will eventually pick up the local yeast from your area and become a starter very similar to what you already have...


 


Wendy

qahtan's picture
qahtan

This is so true, ;-(((( qahtan

althetrainer's picture
althetrainer

Good point, Wendy!

leucadian's picture
leucadian

It seems that lots of people (including lots of SD cookbook authors, apparently) believe that a sourdough culture will turn into something different depending on the location where it is maintained. This seems to be commonly believed, but it's not true.


Lots of people have multiple starters. I have an Italian starter that I got from Ed Wood's company SD International, and I have a rye that I develped myself. The Italian one is about 3 years old, and the rye is about 6 months. They are quite different in sourness, taste, and activity.


There's precious little yeast in the air, and most starters never get exposed to the air much anyway. There is yeast and bacteria in the flour we refresh with, but it's weak and usually no match for a healthy starter (whole grains do have more organisms than white flour, since they have more of the outer covering of bran). Your cultural practices however will have a big effect on the flora that you cultivate in your starter. Be careful not to cross contaminate with spoons, containers, or fingers, and keep a consistent routine for refreshing (proportions, temperature, flour, time between refreshments).


 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

If that's actually the case, then why isn't the famous San Francisco sourdough bread available at every bakery in every city and town?    A bakery could make a fortune selling "authentic" SF SD bread in the Midwest.


Just wondering....

suave's picture
suave

So you're saying that your rye and wheat starters are different for reasons other than one is rye and another is uhh... not rye? 

Luvs2bake's picture
Luvs2bake

I know that starters take on flavors depending on where they are.  I am a San Francisco native and can vouch for the fact that no place has sourdough like ours.  I've exchanged starters with baking friends from other parts of the country and we have all seen that within a couple of weeks they all changed.  Starter I sent to the friends soon tasted just like their "normal" starter and on this end, their starters turned into SF sourdough within a short time.  When I went to culinary school, Chef likened this to yeast gang wars.  The "new kid" would come to the neighborhood and just couldn't win.  So I've never bothered to go to the expense of ordering starters that were suposedly from other countries and maintained for years and years.

ladychef41's picture
ladychef41

 


 


Wendy

ladychef41's picture
ladychef41

You are comparing apples to oranges when you are talking about 2 distinctly different types of starters; rye vs Italian.....


 


Wendy

davidg618's picture
davidg618

...by microbiologist, baker, and author PhD Emily Buehler in her self-published book ˆbread science; the chemistry and craft of making bread" and in numerous scientific papers I've found searching the web. i'm not a biologist, micro or macro, but I am a scientist, and being very interested in why and how SD starters work, I've learned enough of the biologists' vocabulary to understand at least the main points of what they report. Two of their often reported findings are relevant to this discussion.


1. Mature sourdough starters are stable communities (they exist together without significant change for years) of one or two dominant bacteria strains, and usually one dominant strain of yeast living together symbiotically. For example, not surprisingly SF SD has been studied frequently. Starters from SF artisan bakeries have exhibited the same bacteria and yeast dominant in their starters in almost all cases.


The dominant SF bacteria, Lactobacillus sanfrancisco, classified in 1971, is unique, but...


2. ...L. sanfrancisco has subsequently been found in bakery's starters around the world.


Nonetheless, there continues to be the pervasive, mostly anecdotal, arguements that SF SD is unique in the world, with a flavor unlike anyplace else; and starters change, taking on the characteristic local yeasts and bacteria. Even Dr. Buehler seems to hedge her bet stating, "It may be possible, however, that a foreign starter could succumb to local invasion, perhaps by a local species that thrives in the starter better than its current community members." Furthermore, in a footnote, she gives two anecdotal examples supporting this statement.


At the end of the day, I suspect the arguements will continue until the end of days;-)


David G

suave's picture
suave

Well, if it will take the end of days for selling dried "regional" starters to stop being profitable, then perhaps you're right. 

leucadian's picture
leucadian

I use the same Harvest King flour to refresh both the rye and Italian starters about every week, 2:5:5 (100% hydration, 1:5 old flour to new flour) , let them double on the counter covered overnight, and refrigerate the next day till I use them or need to refresh again. I keep the small amount of waste to put into waffles or a big batch of dough when I bake. I'm not overly precise about the amounts or intervals, but I'm scrupulous about avoiding cross contamination.

flournwater's picture
flournwater

A flat rate priority mail shipping box is $4.85 anywhere in the U.S..  Can't beat that.

althetrainer's picture
althetrainer

Can we dehydrate the starter and send the dried stuff on a strip of paper?  That would be regular letter mail rate, wouldn't it?  Or would it be too long a procees to get the starter to work again?  Just a thought.


gaaarp's picture
gaaarp

I have mailed dried starter in a regular envelope. I spread the mature and recently-fed starter on parchment paper, let it dry for a few days, peeled it off the pater, then pulverized it in the food pro. 


I mailed about 1 tsp with instructions to mix it with 1 tablespoon each water and flour, and to continue to add 1 tablespoon water and flour every 24 hours until it was nice and bubbly. As far as I'm aware, everyone to whom I mailed the starter received it and succeeded in reviving it.

qahtan's picture
qahtan

 


 I think what a friend sent to me comes under the heading of around the world.


 He sent me some from London, England, some how it got mixed with other mail and went to Australia, from there it finally arrived in my mail box here in  the Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada.


 Yes it worked OK but I couldn't see a whole lot of difference in it.


 true there is a lot of wild yeast here as there is a lot of vinyards and fruit grown in this area. But,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,qahtan

Soundman's picture
Soundman

I appreciate the input of Emily Buehler, who, like microbiologist Debra Wink, knows a lot about the science of sourdough starters. Both have a lot to teach us.


Though I am a non-scientist, I think there is a simple experiment any of us can do that will demonstrate that how we maintain a starter has everything to do with the microbial population it supports.


Here's the experiment: take your starter and split it into 2 parts, and maintain each part differently for 2 weeks, feeding each every day. For example, feed one a mix of 2 parts AP and 1 part whole wheat. Feed the other a mix of 2 parts whole rye to 1 part AP. Feed them on different schedules. For example feed the wheat starter three times a day, and the rye starter twice a day. Keep them at different temperatures: keep the wheat starter in a warm spot in your house, and the rye starter in the coolest spot in the basement. Within 2 weeks you will have fostered 2 very different communities of microbes.


(Not speculation; I've done it. And there's no way for me to turn my rye starter back into my wheat starter, even if I wanted to. They are now 2 significantly different microbial populations.)


The experiment is a little stark. I suspect that most of us would agree, just thinking about it, that the resulting starters would be different. The point is that there are differences, some subtle, some overt, between our climates, our flours, and our SD feeding schedules, that have everything to do with the "identity" of our SD starters.


I suspect it's fair to generalize that maintenance-routine, flour differences, and temperature differences, will change the nature of any sourdough starter. I would guess that these factors have a lot to do with the anecdotal evidence that location seems to change starters.


I suspect too that unless you can maintain your purchased starter in a very similar fashion to how it originated, and unless your climate is similar as well, it will change.


David