The Fresh Loaf

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Starter Time and Temperature

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ctepera's picture
ctepera

Starter Time and Temperature

Hi!


I've been cooking my way through The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and have gotten to my nemesis and great love in bread:  Sourdough.  I'm trying to make his basic starter seed culture, but it isn't performing right.  There is supposed to be little or no rise by day 2, but mine has doubled.  This is my second try at it ... the first try went horribly wrong and I had to throw it out.  We keep it pretty warm in our house (78 right now), could that be the culprit?  If so, do I need to step up the time table to shorter "days" or what?  Turning up the AC isn't an option :)  Thanks for any help you can give!


Courtney

Ford's picture
Ford

You probably have NOT made a mistake.  Sometimes the initial starter does have a strong, foul odor.  The bakers at King Arthur Flour  discovered this was due to a strain of bacteria called leuconostoc that seems to be more prevalent in flour now than it was formerly.  This bacterium is self-destructive as it produces acid that inhibits its growth.  Apparently, the bacteria are not harmful.  Four remedies are readily available: 1/ keep feeding the culture (whisking to aerate it); 2/ add a slight amount of acid (a few drops of vinegar, or a pinch of citric acid, or a pinch of ascorbic acid); 3/ start with canned pineapple juice (acid enough to inhibit the growth of these bacteria) instead of water; or 4/ start with rye flour and later switch to wheat flour.


Baking requires patience; sourdough baking requires patience squared. (from Mike Emory)


 


Keep going--- Ford

ctepera's picture
ctepera

Thanks for the fast reply!  The recipe called for starting with rye flour, which I did.  Is there something else that could be going on?  The fact that it doubled when it should have just sat there has me a little freaked out.  

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Ford, I believe it was Debbie Wink who was the one responsible for bringing leuconostoc bacteria to everyone's attention as the organism responsible for the initial burst of activity when beginning a new starter.  The use of pineapple juice to acidify the flour/water mixture used to start a new culture was also Debbie's idea. 


Before making suggestions, it might be worthwhile to read Debbie's posting: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10856/pineapple-juice-solution-part-1


As Debbie indicates, "...And vinegar was so highly inhibitory to yeast in the doses required to lower the pH, that it was no solution at all."


SteveB


http://www.breadcetera.com


  

Ford's picture
Ford

Thank you, Steve B.  I truly appreciate the correction.  I had the reference from KAF baking book and did not check further.  Shame on me, a person trained as a scientist.  I shall correct my home cook book.


Debbie Wink gives credit to Pat Doucette for the first use of pinapple juice, but it does appear that the finding of the leuconostoc bacteria was Debbie Wink's. 


I found the sites most interesting reading -- written in narrative style rather than the dry scientific style.



http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10856/pineapple-juice-solution-part-1

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2


Ford

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Ford, right you are about Pat Doucette being the first to try pineapple juice.  Now I am the one to stand corrected!  :)


SteveB


http://www.breadcetera.com

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

The rapid doubling could be due to leuconostoc.  Do a search on this site for a very good treatise on pineapple juice starter.  It will explain how "bad" bacteria are very active in the beginning, eventually giving way to "good" bacteria and thriving wild yeast as the acid levels rise.  Using pineapple juice in the beginning helps to keep the leuconostoc under control and allow the proper ph levels for "good" bacteria and wild yeast to thrive.


And yes, the warmth in your kitchen is a factor. I started my starter in the cold spring weather, and it took FOREVER (10 days!) to get going.  When I finally figured out that the cold was slowing things down, I put it in an "incubator" (my microwave warmed up with heated water) and it really took off.  The warm environment in your kitchen and high ph levels will let the "bad bacteria" thrive, so you'll need to give it time for the proper balance of good bacteria and wild yeast to take over.  Acidifying the mixture, as Ford suggests, will probbly help. 

ctepera's picture
ctepera

Thanks JanKnitz.  I'll add some vinegar as was suggested and keep going.  From your experience with the temperature, should I do something different to account for it?  There's nowhere cooler in my house except the inside of the refrigerator, but I think that would be counterproductive :)  

Pablo's picture
Pablo

Hi,


I guess I'm glad that I didn't read the same instructions that you did.  I just started a rye starter 3 weeks ago.  It was very active by the second day, more than doubling in 3 hours.  I kept feeding it twice a day and it settled down.  I've been baking with it since day 10 and it's been stable and predictable.  No problems whatsoever. 


:-Paul

ctepera's picture
ctepera

So yours doubled really actively like mine is?  What did your feeding regimin look like?

Pablo's picture
Pablo

I think that starters are pretty forgiving, I don't think you have to be that exact.  For the first 3 or 4 feedings I didn't measure, I just roughly doubled the amount of flour relative to the bit of starter that I pulled out.  When it was really active like this I fed it 3 x day.  That was for a couple of days.  As it settled down I settled on feeding 2 x day, 3g starter to 15g water and 15 g rye flour.  It seems happy now.  This was day 3 I believe:



:-Paul


 

ctepera's picture
ctepera

Ok, here's the status now, and a rundown on what's happened so far, to keep things from being confused.


 


3PM Yesterday - started seed culture (rye flour and water), directions say that in next 24 hours there should be little or no rise


12 PM Today - seed culture has doubled in size


2 PM Today - seed culture has tripled in size.  Proceed with day 2 directions (add water and wheat flour, should expect a 50% rise in next 24 hours), adding a few drops of vinegar and whisking out the gas as instructed by y'all.  Also moved it to what I think may be a slightly cooler spot.


3PM Today - seed culture has doubled in size again.


 


Add more vinegar?  Any ideas?  I trust the recipe ... all the others from the book have only failed due to operator error :)

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi Courtney,


Lots of people have trouble with this formula, because when Peter wrote it, he got results that were different than what most people get at home. Rest assured that yours is more the norm, but the descriptions in the book won't help you very much. 78 is a great temperature for creating a seed culture, so don't worry about cooling it down. Once the leuconostocs have taken off (and it sounds like they have), trying to doctor it with acids doesn't help, because the "damage" is already done. Not to worry, it will still work.


I'm not quite sure where you are right now in the process (just gave day 2 feeding today?) When you get to day 3, follow the feeding instructions, but don't wait 48 hours if you don't see any growth. Just repeat the day 3 feeding once a day until it is expanding consistantly and smelling nice and yeasty. I recommend using your whole grain flour until it is yeasty as well. Then switch back to white flour.


With whole grain flour and 78 degrees, it will fall in line in no time :-)
-dw


 

ctepera's picture
ctepera

Thanks so much DW!  That makes sense with some of the other comments.  I'll follow your lead.

SourFlour's picture
SourFlour

You are saying that you mixed just rye flour and water together, and less than 24 hours later it trippled in size?  I have not worked with rye flour, but that does not make much sense to me.  Is there any way your rye flour could somehow have commercial yeast that got added into it? Or your container?


Regardless, it doesn't seem like you have much a problem.  The warmth of your house definitely will make your starter much more active than it would be otherwise.  If you have any cool spot in your house, I would recommend putting your starter there (in a closet, the garage, bottom of your pantry?).


As for making starters, rye is supposed to help get you a jump start, but I have always just made starters straight from white flour (bread or all purpose).  I would switch over to those now that you have your activity, and continue feeding on a regular basis.  If your starter stays this active, and you can't reduce the temperature of it, all it means is that your fermenting times and proofing times will be much less than normal.  This will be ok for bread structure, but you might not have as much flavor developed, as it is the long times that gives the different flavors.


How often are you feeding your starter now? What proportions? What type of flour?


Hope this helps.


Danny - Sour Flour
http://www.sourflour.org

willye's picture
willye

I had the exact same results that you did. M starter blew the lid off the "beaker" twice. I just stirred it back down and let it rise again. and kept on with the schedule. My resulting bread was good and with no issues.


 


Willye

JoPi's picture
JoPi

I am new to the "Sourdough".  I started my sourdough about ten days ago.  Not much activity. Very little bubbling going on.  Instead of throwing out the mix, and since it smelled fine, I just took some out and used it in my other bread and bagels.  They tasted great.    Over the past week or so,  I have been taking out half and feeding it  3/4 c. flour and 1/4 to 1/2 c. water each time.  At one point I even put it into the fridge for two days, sometimes using rye flour  and even cheated and added a light sprinkle of yeast to the mix.


 Now, I did the same, started another bread and added some of the starter even though it wasn't bubbling hardly at all (might just be too cool in the house).


I just fed it  3/4 c. white unbleached  flour and 1/4 c. water to that same starter and it is blowing out of the jar now  I guess those yeasties came to life.  I've had to stir it down just after two hours.  I hope it stays in the jar during the night.