The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lalvain "French Sourdough" Starter from King Arthur?

tabasco's picture

Lalvain "French Sourdough" Starter from King Arthur?

Hi, Sourdough fans,

I'm fairly new with the Sourdough aspect of bread-baking, but I confess I've become obsessed. 

I have tried to make my own 'wild yeast starter' without a lot of luck, but I continue to try.  I have also baked a few loaves of Levain style bread using an aged 'sponge' including a a little SAF yeast and 1/2 cup of sourdough starter (made from the KA 'french starter' mentioned below), but I didn't like the taste of the bread (really bad).

My third approach involved using a 'starter' called 'French Sourdough'** from KA.  (It came in a tiny packet (5 grams) of granules in the mail.  Apparently this is a freeze dried starter and you add 1/4 teaspoon or so of this product directly to your ingredients for the first step in their recipe.  This made a very very delicious bread and we all loved it.  YUM!

Now, I would like to know if anyone else out there has used this product and what do they think about it??  (that is, Is it a sort of 'cheating' from the authentic sourdough method~~maybe it's just yeast and some flavour chemicals packaged and sold under the name 'starter'?)

Also, does anyone have advice on how to extend the use of the packet by creating a perpetual refrigerated starter, or freeze drying a part of a sponge, AND still maintain the same excellent flavor (french style starter).

Or can I buy it somewhere in bulk?? 

Any thoughts would be appreciated.  Thanks.  J.

**p.s. Here's the link to the KA Lalvain 'French starter'

proth5's picture

I have worked a little with these in the past.  According to the Lallemand company who supplies them, they are intended to be used immediately to provide a specific type of sourdough taste to bread without having to maintain a starter.  They are not intended for use to start a culture.  The Lallemand company claims that they have been derived from yeast and bacteria, but since the starters are proprietary do not give much detail. A link to their website is included below.  You might wish to contact them if you really want to know.

My impresion was that it was a nice product, but not what I wanted.  As regards "cheating, "  I tend not to think along those lines.  If you have an ingredient that produces a pleasing product, why not use it as long as you do not mis represent that have, indeed, used it.

There are people with more expertise than I on the nature of sourdough starters, but what I have learned is that, over time, a starter will change in nature depending on how it is maintained.  My semi-educated guess is that should you use these as a basis for a starter, in time, the character of the starter would change from the original Lalvain.  (Certainly my 10+ year old starter, who had in its origins a little packet of San Francisco soughdough starter, has changed significantly from the original - and I am pleased with the changes) One supposes that you could simply put the starter into the flour used to create a starter and proceed as usual from there. But you should not expect to keep it tasting the same forever.

There is much written on these pages about starter creation and maintenance to create the proper flavor profile.  You might wish to delve more deeply into this.

Hope this helps.

Franchiello's picture

I got carried away and mixed up the whole package of Lalavain starter, gave half to a friend, baked a few loaves and now have the rest in a crock in the refrigerator (today is feeding day).  It seems to be doing fine, I feed "Henri" KA European Artisan flour and bottled water.  "Henri" smells lovely and has a nice tang.  I'm sure the character has changed somewhat, but that doesn't really bother me all that much. 

tabasco's picture

Thanks for the report on your experience with 'Henri', Frnachiello.  And your observations, too, Proth. 

I suppose the main reason I am interested in prolonging the tiny packet of granules is because of the cost ($9.95).  I have started a 'starter' with a 1/2 teaspoon of it and I will see what develops.  KA 'customer service' suggested creating a starter to me when I asked about it, and asked if I could report to them my opinion about the process. 

What I would like to do is 'freeze dry the new creation and then measure out a little each time I want to bake.  Freeze drying will (perhaps) keep the flavor pretty much in tact.

Well, this sounds like something for my niece's Science Fair Project. 

I do think I will call Lallemand and chat with them a bit. If I find out anything of interest I will post it here.  Thanks again.