The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Milk fed sourdough

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ehanner's picture
ehanner

Milk fed sourdough

I have a sourdough starter I got from a friend out west who said she had been feeding it a 50/50 mix (by volume) of AP flour and skim milk. I have been using it for over a Month and it has been performing so far. However I have started to notice that the activity level seems to be decreasing and actually it has only occasionally doubled after feedings. Only recently did I read the advice of sourdolady and others on this site to toss most of the starter and feed at least 1:1:1 or greater ratios. I have been keeping a 4 cup measure half full or more and using the starter for bread, pancakes and waffles. From the sound of it I have been starving the starter by not doubling the batch.

 Now, what I would like to do is switch to water instead of skim milk. We have well water and although I don't have a PH meter I think I recall that generally the water in the Midwest US is a high PH around 9. The other thing is that we live in an area that people have to replace the zinc rods in the water heater every now and then. If you don't change the zinc rod we get a nasty smelling bacterial from the hot water tap. So, I've been using only cold water for any bread mixes just to eliminate the possibility of picking up an unwanted bacteria from the hot water. This hot water deal is a wide spread issue according to my plumber that affects most of the country.

The questions then are: Can I just switch over to water from milk or is there a transition procedure? I really like this starter and the full body aroma it gives off and I understand it is quite old so I don't want to kill it. I find it difficult to keep fresh skim in the fridge all the time since we don't drink that product. And, have I been starving my beasties?

 

Thank you

Eric

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Yes, by all means, you can switch to water. In fact, I recommend it. No transition is necessary. I also once had a starter that the owner told me to feed with milk. I found that I tended to not feed it like I should because milk was expensive and I had 4 small milk drinkers in the house so they took priority! I also hated to have to dump out part of it, but it's not so hard with flour/water. Another thing, I just feel that there is a grey area as to food safety when using milk. I have since learned that flour and water is the traditional way to feed a starter anyhow.

You may notice a difference in flavor of your bread after switching to water. You can still use milk as your liquid in your bread, though. There is no need to have hot or warm water for sourdough. I use mine right from the tap. In the winter I sometimes nuke it in the microwave until just barely warmish because our water supply is river water that comes down from the mountains and it is very cold. If you are worried about the pH being too high you could add a tiny bit of vinegar or lemon juice. I would try it without and see if it works okay first.

I'll bet you will notice a nice surge of activity when you start saving less starter and upping the proportion of feeding. I most generally only save 1/4 cup of old starter--the rest gets dumped if I don't have a use for it.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thanks for your reply sourdolady. My starter has been getting a little sluggish recently so maybe this will pick it up. I find that the most active time is about 1 hour after I feed it and that continues for maybe 2 or 3 hours and then it slows down to small bubbles for another 8 or so hours. I can see it is food related because if I feed it again it perks right up after an hour or so.

I split off a sample today and gave it a few drops of vinegar. We'll see what happens.

 Eric