The Fresh Loaf

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Less Sour starters/breads

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VA Susan's picture
VA Susan

Less Sour starters/breads

I read the thread Squeeze more sour from your Sourdough.  I'm not really wanting a more sour tasting bread so I was wondering if avoiding those things would make bread less sour. I'm  happy with the lack of sourness that my present homemade starter produces. In the past, whenever my starters have become unhealthy, they would no longer rise the bread. They also would make hooch early, even right after feeding.  Sometimes I had to add yeast to the rising loaves because of a complete failure to rise the bread after many hours. I ended up throwing the starter away. Those loaves were unpleasantly sour so I turned the bread into bread crumbs.


I was intrigued by this comment.


I also think the liquid that forms on top of the starter is the "sour" and should be used. I poured it off once and noticed a big reduction in sour taste. Mini Oven


Since I started my own starter, I've been pouring off the small amount of hooch that forms in the fridge.  Even with long risings (18 hrs) for the No Knead Bread and the 21 hr chilled rising for baguettes, none of the bread has tasted sour. It also does well with long rising and oven spring. I'm wondering now if the pouring off of the hooch is making that difference with having unsour bread. I read on Jane Do's blog that she does not like the taste of sourdough after being chilled for long periods of time. It was "too sourey" for her taste.


J Monkey said this to produce a sour bread:


3) Use starter that is well-fed


So would underfeeding it help keep it mild?


I was also interested in this comment also by Mini Oven.


My starters don't have hooch anymore. I haven't seen hooch on my sourdough in years! Keep it fed and it will feed you!


That made me wonder if I've been feeding my starter enough since I do have a thin layer of hooch in the fridge. But if I do feed it more often, will I start to have sour-er bread?

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

I don't like the sour flavor, either.  I use my starter mostly as a dough conditioner, occasionally as the leavener, and sometimes for its very mild sour flavor (sourdough English Muffins). 


I rarely have any hooch because I refrigerate my starter immediately after feeding 1:1:1.  The starter still eats, but very slowly.  As long as I use my starter weekly, no hooch is produced and very little bubbling goes on.  I bring the starter out of the fridge and let it get active and bubbly before using it--this takes about 8 hours in our cool kitchen. 


I was very sick over the holidays and could not use my starter for about 3 weeks, nor did I feed it as I should have every week.   I had about 1/2" layer of hooch after all that time.  Interestingly, I didn't pour it off or mix it in.  I sat the starter on the counter as usual, and by the time I checked it several hours later, the starter was active and bubbly and the layer of hooch had been incorporated all by itself.  The flavor seemed about the same to me--a mild sour tang, clean sour smell and it made up a nice batch of english muffins.   

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

than hooch.  The heavier flour sinking and water on top.  Keeping it cold right after feeding slows down the yeasts to a crawl until you take it out and let them feed for 8 hours, their activity mixing the starter.  It works.  It's another routine.  There are many.


When an already fermenting starter or dough is placed into the fridge, and falls to a temperature range between 50°F and 60°F it may develop more sour.  If refrigerated right after feeding or mixing, not much is going on if the inoculation amounts are too low, also it is vulnerable to attack by unwanted bacteria and fungi as time goes on.  Something to keep in mind.


Mini

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I've read through several times and gather that you now have a starter that still has hooch, but raises and flavors your bread and is not sour and you do not need to add extra yeast to your dough.  Correct?  Yes that can happen. 


Some sourdough cultures are not sour.  Yours sounds like one of them.  What has happened is that thru your particular pattern of feeding and care, you have manipulated your starter to be this way.  It is full of bacteria and yeast that have adapted to the conditions you have set for it.  (Applause for the beasties!)  It is important that you record how you take care of your starter (in every detail) before you go about making any changes.


Hooch is normally a sign that you have an unhappy hungry starter or a sleeping one.   Hooch is full of waste products as well as acid but it protects your culture from invasion.  Should you feed it more?  Good question but first... take care of it like you normally do.


I have a few questions for you so we can get your starter fed without changing it to a sour one. 



  1. Tell us the present program the starter has had up to the present moment.  Details.  Take your time. 

  2. How many times do you bake with it and how do you prepare it for a recipe?

  3. How much do you keep in the refrigerator?

  4. When does the hooch form?

  5. What temperature zone do you live in?

  6. Why do you want to feed it more?  Has it lost its properties?


Those who have non-sour starters will also be chiming in with their wisdom. 


Mini

Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

I restarted a starter a bit ago and posted about the bread I made from it recently here. My opinions, and that's all they are, are as follows:


I started this culture with whole wheat flour instead of rye. I spiked it with rye on the 4th day or so, which made it really take off, but then fed it white flour after that one rye feeding. It was bouncing and bubbling, ready to use, by the 7th day this time.


I built my levain for that particular loaf of bread 36 hours before it was used. I mixed up the bread and it had 18 total fermentation hours, 2 proofing hours, and 40 minutes bake time. This made a very non-sour bread with just a tad of sourness as almost an aftertaste. The taste is nutty and the sour is very subtle.


I used plain bread flour for this. Gold Medal Better for Bread. It's the only bread flour I can get in a 10 pound bag without going out of town. Salt was Hain sea salt, and water was a store-brand bottled variety.


I actually think that the lack of sour flavor had a lot to do with the fact that it was allowed to ferment in colder temperatures, and then was put in the oven with the light on to allow for a second fermentation at a higher temperature. That's the only thing I can think of. I also think that my starter, instead of being a pretty equal culture of bacteria and yeast, is more yeast than bacteria. I think I'm going to have to test these things a bit more to find out.


Starter experiments, here I come!

VA Susan's picture
VA Susan

I've read through several times and gather that you now have a starter that still has hooch, but raises and flavors your bread and is not sour and you do not need to add extra yeast to your dough. Correct?


Thanks for your reply, Mini. Yes, your right. It works well but does form some hooch.


1. Tell us the present program the starter has had up to the present moment. Details. Take your time.


Oh dear, I'm not sure I even have a program to speak of, but I'll try to recall what I usually do.


I began this starter using flax seed meal and whole wheat flour and water. On day three, I  switched to unbleached white flour and started feeding it with milk, flour and sugar, the Herman starter recipe. After that was working well, I turned some of that into this flour and water starter I'm writing of. I use King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose flour and spring water for feeding. We have our own spring. Since we've had lots of rain this year, just to be on the safe side, I boil some water and keep a quart jar of it in my refrigerator for using with the starter. I've been using equal volume measurements of starter, flour and cold water. I always measure the starter and then put it in a clean jar when I feed it. I rinse my wooden spoon, measuring cup and the wide mouth mason quart jar in some boiling water before using them. I punched holes in the canning lid and have a screw ring band to hold the top on. I usually refrigerate soon after feeding or let it sit till I see some bubbles then keep it in the refrigerator.


2. How many times do you bake with it and how do you prepare it for a recipe?


I'm not very methodical about it. Most weeks I bake once or twice a week. Over Christmas I was doing other baking so was not using it as much. I fed it once or twice a week then and threw half away.  Sometimes I just use it right out of the jar without feeding it and then feed the rest. If I need more starter than I have on hand, I'll feed it earlier that day and leave it out in a warm place.


3. How much do you keep in the refrigerator?


Usually less than a cup.


4. When does the hooch form?


I think it has it by the next day or two, but I haven't really paid such close attention to it. I fed it more last night than usual, this time according to weight and it has not formed any hooch so far.


5. What temperature zone do you live in?


We're in zone 6 according to the seed catalogue chart. We live in the VA mountains. It's in the 20s here now so my kitchen's on the cold side  I often rise my bread in the oven.


6. Why do you want to feed it more? Has it lost its properties?


No it hasn't. I just thought that it must not be as healthy as it could be since it's forming the hooch. I've dried some of and put it in the freezer in case it goes bad.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

when feeding it will do alright.  The problem with cups is a cup of flour is less than a cup of water.  With each feeding using volume measurements the flour is less each time so it get thinner.    It won't hurt it to use a little bit more flour if you see hooch again.  You seem to be in tune with your starter.  Thanks for answering all the questions.  I have to get back to bed. 


Mini

VA Susan's picture
VA Susan

I fed it again since I last wrote. It still hasn't formed any hooch. :O) It smelled like flour for a few days but today it smells fruity again. I'm going to start some bread tonight and bake tomorrow. Hopefully the bread will taste even better with the well fed starter.

VA Susan's picture
VA Susan

Mini,


Another thought I had about why my starter might be mild. As I already mentioned, I made it from a Herman starter. I've read that Herman starters are known to be much milder than the plain flour/water starters. It might help some here who dislike sour starters to try turning some of it into a Herman starte then either use that as your starter, or turn it back into the plain kind  to see if that helps to make it milder.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Who is Herman?


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Herman the starter has been passed around for many generations as friendship bread, traveling throughout the continent and elsewhere.  He comes in a little bag or dish and with a recipe.  You multiply him, give some away, including copying the story and recipe, and bake one of the recipes yourself.  Made from instant yeast?  Many variations and recipes and non sour.


Start with Google, over a million links.

VA Susan's picture
VA Susan

Lindy,


It's a version of the Amish Friendship recipe with half as much sugar. If you're interested, you could try making some using about a TBSP of regular starter fed with equal amts (volume, not weight) of flour, milk, and sugar. There's a recipe using yeast too but I didn't have any luck with that method and mine went bad after a few weeks. After it gets going well with bubbles all through it, if you want the Herman version, reduce the amt of sugar to half as much.


Some directions say you can't use it at all until day 10, but I've used it much sooner when it's working well, sometimes as soon as the day after feeding.  For the Amish Friendship variety with the full amount of sugar, it needs feeding every 5 days and can be kept at room temperature. The Herman Starter according to Joy of Cooking can be left out for three days at room temperature between feedings. You can keep both refrigerated and can feed them more often if you want to. It will keep in the freezer for a few months.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

My curiosity about Herman pertained to the name.  While I had Googled it and found tons of recipes for Herman bread, Herman cake, etc., I didn't come across any information why it was called Herman -- and not Marvin or Joe.


I did find a couple old newspaper articles asking the same question, though.   


Guess Herman will remain the mystery man.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

on your starter..  Could be the sugar in the starter recipe inhibiting the sour production.  I would go so far as to suggest that should your starter start getting sour, revert back to the Herman starter recipe for a few feedings and then back to flour and water.  There seems to be more to DNA and environmental "switches" than just "survival of the fittest."  I'm open.


Mini

VA Susan's picture
VA Susan

I would go so far as to suggest that should your starter start getting sour, revert back to the Herman starter recipe for a few feedings and then back to flour and water.


Thanks Mini,  I'll keep your suggestion in mind. So far the flavor is still mild. I made a loaf today and the bread is still very good, not sour at all! 

VA Susan's picture
VA Susan

I built my levain for that particular loaf of bread 36 hours before it was used. I mixed up the bread and it had 18 total fermentation hours, 2 proofing hours, and 40 minutes bake time. This made a very non-sour bread with just a tad of sourness as almost an aftertaste. The taste is nutty and the sour is very subtle.


I used plain bread flour for this. Gold Medal Better for Bread. It's the only bread flour I can get in a 10 pound bag without going out of town. Salt was Hain sea salt, and water was a store-brand bottled variety.


...I also think that my starter, instead of being a pretty equal culture of bacteria and yeast, is more yeast than bacteria. I think I'm going to have to test these things a bit more to find out.


 


Hi Stephanie,


I use Gold Medal Bread flour too for my breadmaking. I use iodized salt and our own spring water but I don't boil it for making my bread. Some of the regular loaf breads I've made have had a hint of sour taste, but the higher hydration breads don't have any. Let us know what you find out in your experimenting.


 

VA Susan's picture
VA Susan

Jan,
Hope you're feeling better. That's interesting how your starter did its own stirring!