The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A question about San Fran Sourdough Starter from Sourdough International

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

A question about San Fran Sourdough Starter from Sourdough International

I just received my packet of San Francisco Sourdough Starter from Sourdough International. The instructions call for a proofing box for the first five days. Is this absolutely necessary? I have a Styrofoam cooler but don't want to have to run to the hardware store and get the light socket, etc. Anyone have luck growing this starter without constructing the proofing box? I don't want to experiment with this starter since it's pricey.


Thanks for your input!


Trish

Ambimom's picture
Ambimom

My starter came from King Arthur Flour Company.  It was about a tablespoon of dried sponge.  I am assuming your starter is the same.  Here's the instructions I used to get my starter established...nothing but flour, water, a bowl....


1. put 1/4 cup lukewarm water into container in which starter comes and shake.  Empty the contents into a large mixing bowl.


2. add 1 1/4 lukewarm water and 2 cups flour (the flour you will be using to feed your starter in perpetuity) [I use plain AP flour]; Mix water, flour and starter until well combined.


 3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Let sit on counter for 8 to 12 hours.  You will notice bubbles on the surface after 8-12 hours.


4.   After it has sit for 8-12 hours, stir the mixture and then discard half (down the sink).  Add 1/2 cup lukewarm water and 1 cup flour.  The mixture will be fairly thick, like pancake batter.


5.  Cover bowl again with plastic wrap.  Let sit on counter for 2 to 4 hours.  It should become bubbly.


6.  Stir the mixture again.  Discard half again.  Add 1/2 cup lukewarm water and one cup flour. Stir.  Will be lumpy.   Lumps ok.  Cover and let sit on counter for another 2 to 4 hours.


7.  The starter will be bubbly but maybe not as bubbly as before.  Now pour the mixture into a covered container in which you will store it permanently, preferably made of either glass or ceramic.  If you use a glass jar, punch a few holes into the lid with a screw driver.


You'll read a lot of who-ha about ambient temperatures and the like but it's all subjective.  Sourdough isn't really that finicky.  If it were, there wouldn't be cultures that have lasted over 100 years.


Just feed your starter on a regular schedule; only feed flour and water.  Since I bake bread every 10 to 12 days, that's when I feed my starter.


A scale in grams and ounces in a must.  I typically use 290 grams of starter for my baking.  I replace 150 grams of flour and 150 grams of water into my starter jar.


Your formulae may be different...it's just a guide.


Good luck


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Unless you want to fund your plumber's kids' college education and his retirement plan, don't dump your starter discards down the sink!  As other sadder but wiser posters here have noted, it's a great way to clog the drain lines but not a great way to get rid of excess starter.  Better to put it in pancakes, or the compost pile, or the garbage can....


You can also maintain much smaller quantities of starter, if you wish.  That also cuts down on the quantity of discarded starter.  Lots of TFLers maintain only an ounce or two (less than 50g) of starter, building up quantities as needed for specific bakes.


Paul

PetraR's picture
PetraR

I could not agree MORE with you PMcCool, my drain pipe was blocked and when my husband had to clear it he was almost sick from the smell and the texture of what he had to pull out.

I put mine now on the composter , if I have to.

I only keep a small amount of Starter now.

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

And it was really simple to get it up and going. I've had it for about 3 months now and in fact, it's sitting on my counter right now. I just fed it in preparation to make a pre-fermement and it's very active - it usually doubles in two to three hours. That's why I was questioning all of the instructions for getting this SF sourdough starter going. I think I paid $16.00 for this little packet of starter and I just don't want to goof it up. I wanted to try the SF starter to see if I could get a little more tang in my bread.


 


Trish

Ambimom's picture
Ambimom

I can't imagine that the SF starter is any more difficult than the KA starter.  It reminds me of the old saying:  "Beware of endeavors that require new clothing!"


As for tang...mine's got plenty.  It just gets better over time.  Three months is not very long.  My starter's been fermenting for about two years.


Here's something else you can try to pump up your "tang."  Buy a container of plain yogurt and drain it in a coffee filter (or cheesecloth, or paper towel, whatever's handy) placed in a strainer.  Let the whey drip into a bowl and use that whey liquid for your bread instead of (or to supplement) water.


The yogurt left in the coffee filter can be used in the same way you use cream cheese.  You can leave it plain or flavor it to spread on bread or crackers.

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

I may give this a try. If nothing else, we could end up with some yummy cream cheese which we consider one of the four main food groups around here =).


 


Trish

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Ed Wood, founder and owner of Sourdough International, argues that a warm environment--89°F-92°F--favors the development of bacteria, over development of the yeast in SF sourdough culture. Furthermore, microbiologist, Michael Gaenzle, has scientifically seconded this argument in erudite scientific papers which are found in numerous places on the WWW.(Google keywords "sourdough Michael Gaenzle".)


I've been using a Sourdough International culture--Ischia Island culture--for about a year, in two configurations. One I initially started in my oven, with the oven light on, and carefully monitoring the temperature. I found I needed to turn the light on an off and on to keep the oven temperature nominally at approximately 90*F. Retired, i have time to fuss over such details, but, at night I let the oven cool to room temperature while I slept. Additionally, as I recall, the initiation directions only required 24 hours at the elevated temperature, not five days. Subsequently, I learned that my microwave oven maintains an internal temperature of 86°F with the door cracked slightly, to keep its light on.


I fed the elevated temperature starter on KA bread flour and water, feeding it each time it peaked, and began to collapse. I also did a second initiation fed on first clear flour, fed on the same schedule, but at room temperature.


I continue to maintain both starters, a year since their initiation. I maintain 150g of each in the refrigerator feeding both every seven days. I feed 50g of each starter 50g of flour and 50g of water (1:1:1 ratio). I allow the one initiated at the elevated temperature, fed with KA bread flour, to mature for eight hours in the microwave oven (86°F) with the light on, for 8 hours before I return it to the refrigerator. I feed the second on 1st clear flour, allow it to ferment at room temperature (~75°F) for eight hours before I return it to the refrigerator.


I build formula-ready starter in three builds, over 24 hour, feeding every eight hours, increasing the volume of the intermediate starter by 1/3 each build, and finishing with the preferment amount called for in the formula. When I use the room-temperature seed-starter I build at room temperature. When I build with the elevated temperature seed-starter, I build in the microwave oven at 86°F.


The elevated temperature starter produces bread that is tangier than the room temperature starter, and requires about 1/3rd more final proofing time than the room temperature starter. This is a consistent observation over a year of weekly bakings.


I recommend you check the internal temperature of your microwave oven, with the door, cracked enough that the light remains on. If it's in the the range of 86°F to 92°F--I suspect it will be--thats your instant proofing box. If the temperature exceeds 92°F crack the door a little more until the temperature stabilizes around 90°F.


David G. 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Ed Wood, founder and owner of Sourdough International, argues that a warm environment--89°F-92°F--favors the development of bacteria, over development of the yeast in SF sourdough culture. Furthermore, microbiologist, Michael Gaenzle, has scientifically seconded this argument in erudite scientific papers which are found in numerous places on the WWW.(Google keywords "sourdough Michael Gaenzle".)


I've been using a Sourdough International culture--Ischia Island culture--for about a year, in two configurations. One I initially started in my oven, with the oven light on, and carefully monitoring the temperature. I found I needed to turn the light on an off and on to keep the oven temperature nominally at approximately 90*F. Retired, i have time to fuss over such details, but, at night I let the oven cool to room temperature while I slept. Additionally, as I recall, the initiation directions only required 24 hours at the elevated temperature, not five days. Subsequently, I learned that my microwave oven maintains an internal temperature of 86°F with the door cracked slightly, to keep its light on.


I fed the elevated temperature starter on KA bread flour and water, feeding it each time it peaked, and began to collapse. I also did a second initiation fed on first clear flour, fed on the same schedule, but at room temperature.


I continue to maintain both starters, a year since their initiation. I maintain 150g of each in the refrigerator feeding both every seven days. I feed 50g of each starter 50g of flour and 50g of water (1:1:1 ratio). I allow the one initiated at the elevated temperature, fed with KA bread flour, to mature for eight hours in the microwave oven (86°F) with the light on, for 8 hours before I return it to the refrigerator. I feed the second on 1st clear flour, allow it to ferment at room temperature (~75°F) for eight hours before I return it to the refrigerator.


I build formula-ready starter in three builds, over 24 hour, feeding every eight hours, increasing the volume of the intermediate starter by 1/3 each build, and finishing with the preferment amount called for in the formula. When I use the room-temperature seed-starter I build at room temperature. When I build with the elevated temperature seed-starter, I build in the microwave oven at 86°F.


The elevated temperature starter produces bread that is tangier than the room temperature starter, and requires about 1/3rd more final proofing time than the room temperature starter. This is a consistent observation over a year of weekly bakings.


I recommend you check the internal temperature of your microwave oven, with the door, cracked enough that the light remains on. If it's in the the range of 86°F to 92°F--I suspect it will be--thats your instant proofing box. If the temperature exceeds 92°F crack the door a little more until the temperature stabilizes around 90°F.


David G. 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Sorry, didn't mean to post it twice.


D.G.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Sorry, didn't mean to post it twice.


D.G.

spacey's picture
spacey

I've got the SF starter, and I use one of the italian starters, too.  I decided to build a small proofing box, but one that uses water and a fishtank thermostat/heater to keep the temperature stable.  I've since grown the size of the proofing box, and it's useful to keep the starter going in the winter, and useful to proof dough, too.


You can also just find a place that's got decent stable temperature qualities.  Perhaps by using a microwave as an enclosed environment, and then adding a cup of boiling water to it every couple of hours.

dahaase's picture
dahaase

Regarding the comment about making sourdough starter from scratch at home indicates a lack of knowledge of what true San Francisco sourdough is.  You CANNOT do this at home by mixing water and flour.  SF sourdough is a distinct symbiotic relationship between a specific yeast and a specific bacteria.  It took over 100 years to isolate these two organisms.  True SF sourdough has a very distinct flavor.  Unless you are from the West, or have been to the West and tried it, you probably have no idea what it actually tastes like, because it is virtually unavailable on the East coast.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Unfortunately, your first post  is full or false statements that perpetuate myths. In fact, I can only find one (almost) true statement: "SF sourdough is a distinct symbiotic relationship between a specific yeast and a specific bacteria." However, these yeast and bacteria are in no way unique to the San Francisco area. And establishing their dominance in a starter is more a function of the flour used and fermentation times and temperatures than any other variables.

When I was growing up, "True SF sourdough" meant Parisian. However, in the same era, to others it meant Larraburu or Boudin. They were by no means identical. Today, the range of flavors found in sourdough breads baked in San Francisco is enormous.  But none taste just like either Parisian or Larraburu did. 

San Francisco is magical, but it's not because of the uniqueness of the yeast and bacteria in its air.

Happy Baking!

David

Bob Marley's picture
Bob Marley

You mention two sourdough breads of SF, Parisian and Larraburu.  During my nearly fifteen years in the Bay Area I never ate either but always consumed Columbo bread.  Where does it fall in the SD scheme of things?

And much of the SD small loaves I purchased from street vendors there seemed to be a real aerobic workout for the jaw muscles; they were really a tough chew whereas the Columbo was tender in comparison.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Both Parisian and Larraburu have been gone for decades. I don't know Columbo. Both Parisian and Larraburu were very crusty with moderate sourness (compared to Boudin, at least), yet different. They had chewy crumbs but not rubbery.

David

mixinator's picture
mixinator

You CANNOT do this at home by mixing water and flour.

Yes you can. I've done it myself and it's not difficult. I'm quite familiar with the flavor of the old-school S.F. breads and the sd I bake is just as tangy and more authentic than anything being made there today with the exception of Acme which is close but a bit mild.

The first step to making it authentic like they used to make it in the old days is to start with white flour. Whole wheat and rye don't work for this.

The second step is to stick to basics. Flour and water are all it takes., no pineapple juice and definitely no baker's yeast.

dahaase's picture
dahaase

I've tried many, many times to create a ferment "the old-school" way.  Yeah, they are tangy.  But never have I been able to create a taste anything similar to SF sd. If this is as simple as you say, then let me know how you do it and I will try to duplicate it.

mixinator's picture
mixinator

I specifically exclude Boudin from the category of old-school S.F. sd. It was not much of a player back in the day and hasn't improved since. Back then, people favored the other bakeries. Boudin is not what you want your S.F. sd to taste like. It has too much of an acetic acid flavor.

The starter is simple: 1/3 C AP or bread flour and 1/4 C water. Mix well and let it sit covered for a week, maybe a couple of days more. Stir every day.

Do you need the rest of the recipe or will that get you started?

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

The gestation of Sourdough bread in the San Francisco Bay area is somewhat complicated. Boudin is the oldest, formed in 1849. Next was Parisian Bakery, founded in 1856. Over the years many other competitors entered the market. Toscana and Colombo, both across the bay in Oakland, were founded in 1895 and 1896 respectively.

Larraburu, which was independent, declared bankruptcy in 1979 after a driver injured a young child. The brand was purchased by the owners of Boudin.

The San Francisco French Bread Company, established in 1984, united the four companies under a single ownership. Boudin broke away in 1997 when San Francisco French Bread Company was acquired by Interstate Brands Corporation, the largest wholesale baker in the world (Wonder and Hostess brands). Interstate retained the Larraburu brand.Parisian (under Interstate) ended business operations in August 2005.

Colombo and Toscanna were widely distributed in the Bay Area from Interstate's Oakland bakery operation just North of the Oakland Coliseum- the bread was nothing like Larraburu or Parisian. Both the Columbo and Toscanna labels were still owned by Interstate Hostess when it went bankrupt in November 2012. They had let the Larraburu label lapse years before.

Which one was the best? Larraburu was my favorite. When they went bankrupt it was like a death in the family - finally settled on Parisian.

Now I bake my own and it's the best! Tuned exactly to our household tastes.

Buying an authentic starter will get you started. All sourdough cultures will change over time depending on conditions in which it exists. There's not a lot you can do about it except buy another culture which will last for awhile before it too changes. Along the way you might find you like the taste and texture of where it settles.

This is one reason to seek a local source because its adjusted to the local "terroir" so to speak . It's comparable to getting new heirloom seedstock - if it's not from the local neighborhood it will take three generations before it becomes situated to local conditions and begins yielding well.

And welcome to the wonderful world of levain where the variables are legion..., 

 Wild-Yeast

 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

You've provided a lot of missing pieces of the puzzle. They are kind of ugly, but that's reality. Thank you!

David

mixinator's picture
mixinator

There were two lesser bakeries: Baroni and Pisano. The latter was in Redwood City.

Five brands were part of the USDA study which identified/discovered the yeast and lactobacillus contained in sourdough: Larraburu, Parisian, Colombo, Toscana and Baroni. Pisano and Boudin were not included. All of these brands, with the exception of Boudin I believe, were in the retail grocery distribution chain. You could go to any local grocery store or supermarket -- Safeway, Cala Foods, Lucky, Purity, CoOp, etc. -- and there was an assortment of half a dozen brands to choose from.

At one time the local S.F. bakeries wanted to be able to duplicate their products outside the bay area, presumably to become national brands.That's why the USDA study was commissioned. Ironically, nowadays you can't even buy the genuine article in San Francisco itself. Remember, Boudin doesn't count, despite their aggressive self promotion.

http://articles.latimes.com/1992-09-24/food/fo-1049_1_san-francisco-home

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Samples of several bakeries sourdough starter are kept in the USDA's Agricultural Research Station's Peoria, Illinois facility. I researched gaining access to the original Larraburu sample sometime back...,

Wild-Yeast

mixinator's picture
mixinator

Not the starters, just four yeast samples and a lactobacillus sample.