The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bringing a starter home

  • Pin It
MJO's picture
MJO

Bringing a starter home

My brother and his wife are in San Francisco visiting family.  I ask them to bring  back a SF sour dough starter.  They are flying back  here to GA.  Does this mean that they will have to get a dried starter?  Can you even buy a hydrated starter and can it be transported unrefrigerated for a few hours?

SourFlour's picture
SourFlour

Just a few weeks ago I was in Costa Rica and made my new starter, Dulce.  I was able to bring her back on the plane; I just overfed her right before heading to the airport. It can survive for at least 3 days, so it should be fine no matter what.


I'm not sure I know of any starter for sale in San Francisco, but I am just now giving away quite a few Blarf Babies (which comes from my starter Blarf).  He is a true San Francisco native, and was born in January.  I believe that Acme, over in Berkeley also give away some of their starter if you ask.


Hope everything goes well.  If your brother wants to pick up some starter, or free bread, from me, just tell him to call 415-509-3380.


Take care,
Danny - Sour Flour
http://www.sourflour.org

Pablo's picture
Pablo

King Arthur flour also ships live hydrated starter.  I'm picking it up on Tuesday.  It's been a week in transit via FedEx Ground.  That seemed to be a normal method of shipping for them.


FYI


:-Paul

MJO's picture
MJO

I just talked to my nephew (who lives in S.F.), and he said that this sour dough starter DOESN'T work anywhere else.  Is this true??  Danny, have you given this to anyone who doesn't live in your area?  Paul, I may be getting it from KA after all. :) 

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

The starter has no idea where it is. It will work. There's great debate over whether the particular strains of LAB and yeast will continue or be overtaken. But it will still be sourdough starter.

Pablo's picture
Pablo

I didn't mean to suggest that you purchase the KA starter, I just meant that they had no qualms about assigning a hydrated starter to FedEx ground and the attendant handling, storage, and transportation traumas.  FYI it arrived today, after a week in the hands of FedEx, and 2 1/2 hours after its first feeding it's starting to form bubbles, so it seems to have survived just fine.


:-Paul

longhorn's picture
longhorn

Your nephew is right. SF cultures invariably fade out when grown anywhere else (or, more correcly, I haven't heard of SF surviving elsewhere). Whatever culture you start with you will almost certainly end up with the local yeast and bacteria after six months or so. If you want SF taste you will have to buy starter regularly.


Good Luck!

SteveB's picture
SteveB

longhorn, are you able to provide a scientific reference to support your claim?


SteveB


http://www.breadcetera.com


  

rockfish42's picture
rockfish42

http://discovermagazine.com/2003/sep/featscienceof
There's some debate, but according to this article the yeasts remain the same and the proportions of bacteria might be affected.

marieJ's picture
marieJ

Thank you Rockfish for drawing our attention to such a wonderful article!  I've been searching for 'scientific' advice and insight into sourdough biology for some time.


 I sometimes feel that we may inadvertantly change the biodynamics of our starter cultures by some of the practices we employ. ie retarding, storing, temp variations etc... 


Even when I feed my starter, I always remove the top layer before stirring in more flour and water. Is it possible that perhaps even such a simple act may inadvertently bring about the lessening of organisms that may flourish in the conditions that exist only toward the outer layer of the body of starter. ie, organisms that exist best in the medium closer to a source of air.??!!  I don't actually know.  This would be an inadvertant selection process.  Who knows given the complexity and volume of micro organisms that make up our much loved starters.  I'm keen to know more scientific microbiology facts specific to sourdough processes as my starter is already the recipient of plenty of love, care, warmth, generosity, heart.................................

MJO's picture
MJO

Interesting article.  Longhorn, did you try a S.F. sour dough starter where you live?

longhorn's picture
longhorn

Good article Rockfish! It helps close a few holes...


First, let me openly acknowldge that the issue of culture shift/transition IS controversial with anecdotal evidence in both directions. And to rainbowz I fully agree - you still have sourdough. And to SteveB the data is anecdotal - I know of no formal studies that have reported on shifting cultures though the French scientist apparently has info.


There is no question that a robust, healthy SF culture is highly resistant to invasion. (Source: Sugihara, Klein, Miller. "Microorganisms of the San Francisco Sourdough Bread Process, I and II" Applied Microbiology, 1971. Same article cited in Rockfish's article). The robustness comes from two sources: 1) the high acidity created by Lactobaccilis sanfrancisco, and 2) high reproduction rates in a healthy, well fed culture.


I have little doubt that a healthy SF culture CAN be maintained outside of SF, the challenge is that I have no evidence that home bakers have successfully done so for more than 6 months or so. (If any of you have, please pitch in. I am going to offer some ideas below that you may well be able to debunk!)


Conventional logic is that either 1) local beasties (bacteria and yeast) take over, or 2) the beasties in the local flour (or what you use) take over. The latter seems less certain to me for I kind of doubt most of us get flour that was consistently grown in a specific location.


The French scientist may offer an important clue in his suggestion that the yeast tend to stay the same but bacteria tend to shift. That could explain the "loss" of SF taste over time ad the SF bacteria get diluted by others. But other bacteria really don't like the acidity of SF cultures so for them to get in implies the culture was not healthy. And it probably would not be too surprising if home bakers generally erratic feeding of their cultures would lead to less than robust cultures at times. I suspect that less than optimally healthy levain is likely a significant factor contributing to culture shift.


I choose to take the posture that you should expect the culture to change because no one I know has been able to keep an SF culture outside of SF. (No, I have not tried personally. It seemed futile!) My position is extreme and should probably be softened a bit for it should be possible to keep SF culture going if you work at it enough.


Emily Buehler in Bread Science concludes that whether local cultures displace imported cultures is indeterminate and suggests trying to maintain a variety of starters and see if they remain distinct so you can decide for yourself. (An issue here is that they should technically receive the same flour to minimize variables.) I don't know anyone who has done that for an exended period of time. Perhaps that would be a good experiment for this group.


Jay


 


 

MJO's picture
MJO

I'm sure this is much to simple an answer for what seems to be a  complex subject, but I couldn't help wondering if somehow keeping the s.f. starter acidic would keep the local organisms from taking over--such as adding pineapple juice every so often.  Is that a crazy idea? 


Peggy

longhorn's picture
longhorn

Hi Peggy!


I think you are right...at least partially and probably mostly. 


It is the bacterium, Lactobaccilus sanfrancisco that makes SF sourdough ultra acidic and sour (for sourdough levains). A healthy culture is a pretty inhospitable place for most bacteria and fungus due to that level of acidity. (The bread has good holding power for the same reason).


Your question raises two more: 1) what would be the effect of adding pineapple juice to a healthy levain, and 2) what would be the effect of adding pineapple juice to an unhealthy levain. And I don't know the full answer to either.


More acidic is definitely a barrier to most bad bacteria for most don't tolerate acid well.  But that doesn't tell us about other Lactobaccilus sp. that are found in sourdoughs. That they aren't as sour as L. sanfrancisco doesn't tell us they can't tolerate acid as well and are therefore controlled. 


As I recall the French microbiologist suggested that the yeast tend to stay the same in a culture (i.e. hold their turf at least so long as kept healthy) but that the bacteria tend to intermix and shift populations such that sourdoughs typically contain one or two yeasts and several bacteria strains. As I scanning the papers I tend to conclude that keeping bacteria strains pure in sourdough may be nontrivial if you move them out of their normal habitat. If that is right, the pineapple juice may not do much good for keeping SF levain "pure".


I tend to think the best "defense" is to keep the levain robust and well fed. Adding a bit of pineapple juice periodically would probably not hurt. But I am not sure it is enough! One might need to be very "clean" in handling hte levain and feeding it.


Interesting idea! I hope someone has kept SF starter going for years in Texas or Georgia and will tell us how they do it!


Thanks!
Jay


 

MJO's picture
MJO

Jay,


 Thanks for your interest in my endeavour.  I think I should get two--one for pineapple juice, and one without!  :)  I'll let you know what happens!


 Peggy