The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Taste the Difference

balabusta's picture
balabusta

Taste the Difference

I've been maintaining both white and rye starters for about a year now.  Probably because we're snowed in,  I decided to see if I could really taste the difference between my SD and active yeast.  Afterall, I don't really save money by maintaiing a SD starter, particularly when I can buy active yeast in large containers.  I had to know.

Yesterday I made two poolishes (Is there a plural?).  Each poolish had 80 grams of unbleached bread flour and 80 gram of 72 degree water.  I added a smidgeon of yeast to one and a smidgeon of my starter to the other.

At first the active yeast poolish outgrew my SD poolish.  But then ultimately my SD took off, doubling the size of the active yeast poolish.

Now for the taste test.  I labeled the bottom of each jar, grabbed my husband, and ordered, "Taste." (He likes my bread, so he had no choice but to humor me.) His comments, "At first, I thought they were both the same, but # 1 had a strong yeasty aftertaste.  # 2 was fully developed."  Smart choice.  My SD is # 2. Since he is an engineer, I consider him a reliable source of information.

Next, I tried the taste test.  The active yeast poolish has a strong, bitter taste.  My SD has a complex bitter-sweet taste.

My conclusion is that it definitely is worth maintaining and using SD in your bread doughs.

Diane

pseudobaker's picture
pseudobaker

Interesting idea.  Thanks for the post.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

I'm now thinking I could stagger the feedings on a few test SD cultures. I would like to taste compare the following:

  1. Recently refreshed 4.5 hour old.
  2. Recently refreshed 5.5 hour old.
  3. Recently refreshed 6.5 hour old.
  4. 5.5 hour old culture, then refrigerated for 24 hours.
  5. 5.5 hour old culture, then refrigerated for 48 hours.
  6. 5.5 hour old culture, then refrigerated for 72 hours.

With some careful planning maybe I could get them to all be ready at the same time. Then it will take a superhuman effort to get some tasters around my house who are willing to taste a bunch of SD cultures. None of them are engineers, except me, so I won't have an independent engineer's views.

balabusta's picture
balabusta

Hmmm.  I doubt you will see a difference among # 1 - 3, but would be interested to know. Your independent observation may be enough, although it may depend on what kind of engineer you are. ;-)

When I was trying to see if there was a difference between my SD starter and the SF starter I bought from sourdo.com, my neigbhor and his son helped with field testing.

Diane

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Diane,

In the case of # 1-3 below, these are at room temp. In my process I feed w/KA Bread Flour and leave the culture at room temp for 4.5-6.5 hours or so. I find it takes about 4.5 hours at room temp after a 1:2:2 refreshment (starter:flour:water by weight) for my culture to double. At that point it is still yeasty smelling and only has a hint of sour smell/taste. By 5.5 hours, there is a more distinct sour smell/taste but it's still mild. By 6.5 hours, the sour smell/taste is bolder, but it's still pleasant. After that it starts to head toward what I would describe as too ripe and it no longer rises or even starts to fall by about 9-10 hours.

I believe that is the case, although the impressions of sour taste/smell are an hour apart. However, what I plan to do at some point, inspired by your early posting is to stagger the feedings and see if I can get all the starters to the line at the same time so I can really compare them simultaneously instead of waiting.

The # 4-6 are interesting to me, as I often let the culture age in the refrigerator for a day or two or three. Again, as a qualitative matter, I know that if I refrigerate my culture at about the 5.5 hour point, I can then get a more sour, more complex flavor each day over the next 2-3 days. However, once again, I've never arranged it so I could taste all those variations all at once. And, as you mentioned there is something very good about getting an independent assessment that's "blind", so they don't know what you're expecting.

So, one of these days, I'm going to try staggering all these to get them to be ready at one time and see what happens.

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi bwraith,

It sound to me like your kitchen is getting quite crowded by now with containers of experiments! :-)) I don't think anyone else in my family is brave enough to taste the starter...good luck

L_M

bwraith's picture
bwraith

L_M,

Yes, I guess the idea of tasting the sourdough starter has evolved over to this thread. You're right. I can picture some disgusted looks when I suggest a blind tasting of a bunch of smelly sourdough pastes.

Bill

balabusta's picture
balabusta

I live near the Finger Lakes where we have many wineries that offer wine tasting tours.  If you're going to taste SD starter <ahem> you've got to do it with panache.  Taste it and spit it out.

Diane

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Diane,

Ahem, ahem...

I think you've provided the key to getting the kids involved. Spitting it out will be a big hit, to say nothing of putting on airs. I'm having trouble taking wine tasting seriously with this image of swishing and spitting out sourdough starter in my head. I may have trouble behaving with appropriate decorum at the next wine tasting.

Bill

Squid's picture
Squid

I'm curious what the results of the taste test were. I have a culture from SDInc. that I just activated and I'm waiting to bake with my homemade one before I can taste test.  I also plan to freeze some early baked bread so I can compare it down the road with my starter to see if the taste changes.

Ed Wood says that the cultures becoming saturated with local yeast is a myth. This is what he wrote me:

LOCAL ORGANISMS/BALANCE

 

I am frequently asked if local organisms will replace the organisms from a culture moved from another area such as San Francisco, for example.  I have long believed that San Francisco bakers were responsible for that myth to persuade the public that to get an authentic sourdough bread, one must go to San Francisco.  I think that stills plays a part in keeping the myth alive, but there is something else involved.

 

It is well established that the organisms of a sourdough culture function in a delicate balance.  When a culture becomes too acidic from the metabolism of the lactobacilli, the wild yeast are the first to be inhibited.  When the acidity increases even more, the bacteria are also adversely affected.  In either case the culture is out of balance. 

 

Simple things including prolonged refrigeration with long dormancy can trigger such an imbalance.  Over dilution of a culture can do the same thing.  Even using a very large container can produce an overly acidic culture following multiple feedings.  Each new feeding causes a small increment of increased acidity which in time inhibits the culture.  A quart jar which requires discarding some of the culture after two feedings offers just enough dilution to prevent this.

 

These imbalances often cause of loss of sourness or failure to leaven properly.  However, they are almost always blamed on some local organisms displacing those of the culture.  It doesn’t happen.  It is a myth!

 

One of the best ways to cure the imbalance of a culture is to get it fully active then develop (proof) it for 8 hours at 80oF.

balabusta's picture
balabusta

Squid,

My neighbors and I had difficulty telling the difference between my SD and the SF starter. Then, one week, when I was refreshing each, I misplaced the labeled lids (I use Pampered Chef little glass prep bowls with lids that I buy on Ebay to keep my starter). I knew there was a difference, but which one was which??  It was driving me to distraction. I tasted (and spit out) each, decided which SD I liked best, and threw the other one out.  So the truth is, (and I hate to admit this) I don't really know if the starter I've been using for more than a year is Rochester SD or San Francisco SD.  All I know is that my SD starter makes a heck of a bread, earning me a fine reputation in my neighborhood. 

When I have spare time in a few weeks, I'm going to try one of the SD starter packets I bought.  I purchased Russia SD, Italian Camaldoli SD, and Italian Ischia Island SD.   I think my reasoning at the time was that buying those SD strains was cheaper than traveling to either place.

Has anyone had experience with any of these? 

Also, I'm going to post under equipment section, information about my dough retarder which maintains perfect temperature. 

Diane

Squid's picture
Squid

LOL Diane. That must have been frustrating. I have the Italian SD starters (and the SF starter) but I've only just activated the Camaldoli. I haven't baked bread with it just yet although I plan to in the next few days.

Sourdolady was mentioning to me that she has some of the starters. She'd be a good resource.

mij.mac's picture
mij.mac

How about just tasting the bread made using the starter? That is what it's all about isn't it?
mac

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Mac,

Yes, I have to agree that in the end the objective is good tasting bread. However, what you do to make the bread can affect the taste in so many ways. I think it could make it harder to do a good test. I guess you could make the exact same bread for all the test cases - something simple that wouldn't have a lot of other tastes in it - maybe something like the "basic sourdough" recipe in BBA. Also, I have another intermediate objective, which is trying to know when a particular sourdough starter is ripe. Since at least the temperature is a big factor that isn't that easy for me to perfectly control, I'd like to get better at knowing the condition of the starter by taste and smell, not just by time and rise. It might make it easier to change flours or hydration  if I was better at knowing the condition of the starter by taste and smell.

Bill