The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Anyone familiar with the idea behind this?

GaryJ's picture

Anyone familiar with the idea behind this?

Just stumbled across this... The must have sourdough accessory for 2011? I am curious though, has anyone come across this sort of approach before? Cheers, Gary

Janknitz's picture

It's something I would love to have in my kitchen, BUT . . 

The practicality is pretty limited.  Once you have an established starter, your need to process apple peels is done.  So not only is this a uni-tasker (in the spirit of Alton Brown), but it's a short-term unitasker at that, unless some other uses could be found for it. 

LindyD's picture

Would love to hear Debbie Wink's opinion of the gizmo - and process.

Caltrain's picture

Yeah, it's not much use for those of us with already established starters. Also, it looks to me like you get the exact same functionality with any glass jar and some cheesecloth, which makes me wonder how much anyone would pay for this device.

Still, I'm intrigued. I've never heard of using apple peels to help young starters. Does anyone know the science behind it? Or is it an old wive's tale?

Janknitz's picture

I think Hammelman suggests getting a starter going that way.  The "bloom" on the apple is wild yeast, to give your starter a good start.  Grapes and some other fruits have the bloom as well.  

I'm reading 52 Loaves right now, and using apple peels is his preferred method of getting a starter going--I believe he got the idea from Hammelman.  But Debbie Wink's pineapple juice method seems more reliable for the proper balance of bacteria and yeasts.  

davidg618's picture

Ms. Wink prescribes pineapple juice to initially acidify a new starter mixture, and thus avoid unwanted bacteria that can't survive in a weak acid environment--preferred bacteria and yeast can.The source of preferred bacteria and yeast in Ms. Wink's approach remains those that like to live on wheat. The pineapple juice helps the process, it isn't the initiator.

The subject apple peel approach relies on the yeasts and bacteria that like to roost on apples.

Most (certainly not all) bread book writers advocate relying on those bacteria and wild yeasts that make wheat their home.

I'm even more conservative. I've purchased my starters from TFL recommended sources.

On the other hand, ocassionally I make hard cider. It would be an interesting experiment to develop a starter with apple peels, and use the results to ferment not bread, but...obviously, apple juice.

Save your money.

David G

Janknitz's picture

I meant that the pineapple juice creates the proper acidic balance to get the desireable beasties going.  :o)


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I could find it useful to put something like cream or cheese in the bottom and sliced chili peppers with a strong but fruity aroma in the top and close up the container hoping the aroma will taint the food below.  I have some great peppers but they are much too spicy to eat. If I just open the jar of dried peppers, a fantastic fruit aroma fills the kitchen!

It also looks like a little steamer.  If the bottom was heated with water, the steam would rise up and cook something in the top part -- would work well in a microwave if the top was loose.  A mini micro oven steamer for mini steamed foods.  Would make an interesting single serving dish with rice in the bottom and steamed goodies on top.

As for the advertised purpose, the jar is wide mouthed and the design is very appealing but the idea of helping a sourdough starter is far fetched.  We all know how bacteria can quickly rise fourfold in the first few days of a young starter and that little wooden top would be a pain to clean and sterilize.  Sure, I could boil or steam the hell out of it but it may never look or fit the same again.   Apple peels may lend some moisture like they do for hard dry cookies (now, that's an idea! -- throw a dried up cookie into the jar and let the apple peel soften it up) but that would be the limit.  The apple peels may soon start to mold on the wood and then the whole pretty picture is gone.  Open wood would stain easily. 

If the idea of the apple peels in the lid is to keep the surface of the starter moist,  I can say that for all my years of working with starters, that hasn't been a problem.  Cover it.  If the covered starter is sitting in a warm place, moisture actually collects on the dough side of the cover.  If the apples are to contribute to lowering the pH, they would have to be mixed into the flour and water.  If the apples are there to add their wild yeasts, there are more yeasts in the flour.  If fresh peels are placed in the lid to oxydize and ferment and possibly start a chain reaction on the dough beneath, the time taken to influence that dough would more than likely be slower than the fermenting process of the dough itself.

So my opinion is that the jar looks nice (as a jar for something) but for starting a sourdough or storing a mature sourdough it is rather useless and not practical.  A plain wooden top might be more practical.  I prefer something I can soak and throw into the dishwasher.

Janknitz's picture

Maybe it would be good for sprouting seeds? 

EvaB's picture

to have yeast from the bloom of apples, you have to have fresh unwaxed apples, not from bagged apples in winter, those are mostly waxed, so need to get fruit fresh in season unwaxed!

By the way, bloom is the stuff on prune plums that makes it look sort of whitish, also on blueberries, so maybe you can make yeast starters with those as well.

My mother;s preferred starter was to take a twig off the aspen (poplar) tree in the back yard and stir her flour and water mix.