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Sourdough Water

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jcking's picture
jcking

Sourdough Water

My understanding is the flour provides wild yeast and the air in your local provides the bacteria for the sweet/sour of sourdough. While building the sour it is usally kept covered to prevent crusting. What if one were to leave the water, that they would use in the next refreshment, uncovered along side the sour? The uncovered water could then pick up the bacteria. My thought is it could decrease the time necessary to reach its full sour. Comments? I've been using my chef for almost 2 years so I'm not some rambling theorist, not that there's anything wrong with that.


Jim

Ford's picture
Ford

Hello Jim,


It is a myth that the yeast and the lactobacteria come from the air and migrate to the starter.  Both the yeast and the bacteria are found in the flour that is used to make the starter.  They are then encouraged to grow and propagate by your maintaining the culture at the appropriate temperature, ensuring that there is adequate food (flour) for them, and that the pH of the medium is on the acid side.  The lactobacteria see to it that the acid is supplied.  For more information see:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10856/pineapple-juice-solution-part-1


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2


Ford

jcking's picture
jcking

Hey Ford,


Then why does the San Francisco sourgdough taste different than others? What I have learned from Reinhart's books is that if you take a sourdough from one place and move it many miles away it will take on the flavors of the new area. Quote (page 65 BBA) San Fran sourdough bread has a particular type of local bacteria called Lactobacillus sanfrancisico that gives this bread a different quality, more sour with a thicher crust, than any other wild-yeast in other parts of the world." The bacteria I'm speaking of are flavor components rather than levining components. From his books it seems there are many different bacteria at work in sourdough.


Jim


P.S. hope I haven't created a souddough theory war.

Ford's picture
Ford

That is a good question and there are theories to account for this.  I am not a bacteriologist.  I was a chemist, but it has been many years since I was truly active in that field.  So much for excuses.


One theory is that the culture changes character as one changes the flour and perhaps the critters in the flour you use overcome those in the origional culture?  If you don't like that one, perhaps it is the water?  Perhaps it is the schedule on which you feed the culture?  Maybe the temperature?  There could be a number of reasons and I'll wait for the definitive experiment to come up with THE answer. 


You can test the flour as the source of bacteria yourself.  Sterilize the flour you use be heating it to 225°F for a half hour and seal the container.  Then using only similarily sterilized ingredients try to start a culture.  Simultaneously, use unsterilized flour and the same other ingredients and start another culture.  Which one is active?


Ford

jcking's picture
jcking

Would the sterization of the flour kill the wild yeast ( a fungi )?


Jim

Ford's picture
Ford

I think that 250°F would kill both the fungi and the bacteria.  There are some bacteria that survive short periods of boiling water (eg Colostridium perfringes,or its spore) but I know of none that will survive 250°F for 30 minutes.  However, I'm not now, nor never was, a microbiologist.  So, you will have to go to some one else for authority.


RCC Ford

jcking's picture
jcking

Thanks buddy! sounds good to me. I was wondering if my experiment might go for naught if the fungi didn't go bye bye.


Jim

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Jim, i'm pretty sure the bacteria you want in sourdough grows in an environment that is conducive to flour and water together, as Ford suggested, which creates the right acidic environment for both bacteria and yeasts to thrive.  I don't think water by itself provides any additional benefit. 


Of course, as Ford suggested you could test it :)


Start two new cultures, using the same flour type, quantity and feeding schedule. In one, feed with water as you suggest. In the other, use water from tap/bottle, etc. See if it makes any difference in speed of culture development, or its flavor. 


 

jcking's picture
jcking

Cranbo, this discussion is triggering neurons in my brain. Getting back to my original thought, I was wondering if those local bacteria could develop local flavor sooner by leaving the water out. Although unless you're using distilled water there may already be some bacteria in the water one uses.


THanks for your input.


Jim

jcking's picture
jcking

My thought was that we are surrounded by many different bacteria every where we turn, and some would work it's way into the sour. Thus giving your sour or my sour a different flavor profile. Yet there are other variables such as flour and water that could also cause that. I think the sterile culture could develop yet it might take years.


One thing the pineapple solution doesn't mention is stirring a few times every day. an addition by Reihart.


Thanks for your thoughts Ford.


Jim

G-man's picture
G-man

L. Sanfranciscensis is called that because that's where it was first discovered. It's a common myth (propagated, no doubt, by San Fran sourdough bakers) that it is only found in the city by the bay.


Debra Wink has shared information with us that includes this tidbit:


Quote:
In type I, or traditional sourdoughs (i.e., those maintained by continuous refreshment at room temperature), the obligately heterofermentive Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis is the species most frequently and consistently found---not just in San Francisco where it was first discovered, but all around the world. And so it deserves special attention.

 and the link to the article is http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10375/lactic-acid-fermentation-sourdough


 


To sum up a lot of what the article says on the subject, the sort of bacteria found in one particular culture vs another has to do with the differences in feeding and storing practices. It's a fascinating read if you want to know about the science of it.

jcking's picture
jcking

G-man, thanks for the link. Must say I'll re-read it a few more times. Yet, call me kookie, I find it hard to believe that bacteria in the air around us does not play a roll, be it small, in making ones sourdough unique.


Jim

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

This subject area is not as cut and dried as it was just a short while ago.

Epigenetically produced variation implies that both yeast and bacteria adjust over generations to environmental conditions.

It's similar to something that gardeners have noticed about planting new heirloom seeds - that they require a minimum of three generations in a particular area to fully adjust to conditions.

Some think that epigenetics is strongly related to "Terroir"..,

Wild-Yeast

jcking's picture
jcking

How does the wild yeast get on the wheat grain, or grapes where it is more visible, in the first place? Do they have legs or wings? Or do they, along with other bacteria, float in the air?


Jim

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

as rain wets the ground and temperatures rise, so does the bacteria count on organic matter.  As the seeds germinate and push up thru the soil, they pick up bacteria around them.  


I won't deny that bacteria is in the air, just not at the quantities found on surfaces and in organic matter.  Insects crawl around and fly around and wherever they land, leave some kind of bacteria trail.  


The idea of leaving a clean open glass of water next to a sourdough starter leads me to ask a question.  If you were a bacterium, would you give up your nice warm literally up to your neck in food glass to jump over to a glass that contained just water?  And...  Would the survival conditions there encourage you to reproduce?


 

jcking's picture
jcking

That begs the question of how bacteria travel. I agree that a bacteria may not want to move, yet how did it get to where it is in the first place.


Which leads me to ask; A whole wheat flour has a lot more of the wheat husk ( where the bacteria reside) than Bread flour, so a whole wheat sour would develop much faster than bread flour sour? I haven't made a whole wheat started, yet I've yet to read that a whole wheat sour developes faster.


Jim

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Hi, whenever I use any kind of wholemeal flour (rye, wheat, corn, wahtever) my "baby" takes just 24-36 hours to come to life. I always clean very deeply the glasses I use as incubators and close them tightly with a sealing plastic lid, so there can't be any environment taint.

jcking's picture
jcking

Would you be curious ae to what would happen if you didn't? Breaking the rules may lead to new rules. Myths are busted and unbusted. Life is full of choices and results. Did man stop with the wheel?


Jim

G-man's picture
G-man

This is anecdotal, so take it or leave it.


 


My first job in a kitchen was as a dishwasher at a place that was primarily known for some pretty unique breakfast items. One of those items was sourdough pancakes.


The head chef kept the batter in a big proofing container right under saute, which was HIS station, period, unless he had the day off (about once every two weeks). He used the batter throughout a shift. He would pull it out again in the morning as part of his morning prep.


That batter produced pancakes that always tasted the same no matter when in the shift you had some. I know because I experienced these pancakes.


 


I now believe that it was the unchanging conditions the starter was kept in that caused it to retain its flavor. He never even washed the container, that I ever saw. He scooped some out in the morning, kept it in a clean place (chef kept his station spotless; cluttered station is a cluttered mind), kept refilling throughout service as needed. When service was over he returned whatever was left to the mother, refreshed it, put the lid on and that was it. It had been treated that way since its creation, it worked, and there was no reason to change anything.


 


I'm not in any way trying to tell you what to do. What I'm saying is that your starter can be what you want it to be, depending entirely on the conditions under which you keep it. As long as you keep treating it that way, it will probably stay that way.

naschol's picture
naschol

I tend to think that bacteria in sourdough could come from BOTH the air and the flour!  The reason I think this is because I once created a new starter in a day and a half by using the crust of a good loaf of artisan SF sourdough bread.  I soaked the torn up heel in water overnight.  In the morning, I squeezed the water out of the bread and used it to moisten flour to a wet batter consistency.  I put this in a warm place.  Several hours later, it had bubbled really well.  I then added more flour and again, put in a warm place.  By bedtime it was fairly active and I fed it.  The next morning I made bread.  It rose quite well, but didn't yet have a very sour taste, as you might imagine.


 


How did that happen?  I had made starters from scratch before and it had taken 4+ days to be ready for use.  Since most, if not all, bacteria are destoyed by the temperatures used in baking, I'm pretty sure it didn't come from the loaf itself.  However, the loaves need to be cooled before they are packaged.  And, they are cooled in the same building they are made and baked.  So, I think that some of the bacteria and yeasts are floating around in the air and landed on the cooling loaves before they were packaged.


 


If they are floating around in the air, why couldn't they also be in the air to "contaminate" the grains or milled flour?  So now, you could get strains from wherever your grain was processed or the flour was milled.


 


Just my rambling two cents...  :-)

jcking's picture
jcking

It just might be the sugars in the baked bread that allowed the sour to work faster.


This thread has taken on an interesting turn that I never saw coming. Thanks all for the input(s). I imagine it just might end up with "what came first, the Biga or the Poolish) ;-)


Keep the comments coming.


Jim

G-man's picture
G-man

Yes, there are absolutely native bacteria in the air. Pasteur's experiments into spontaneous generation proved as much, if I remember my high school biology.


 


It is only reasonable to assume that these bacteria do find their way into your starter and, if they are the type of bacteria that find sourdough starters to be comfortable living space, take up residence alongside the other bacteria.


The thing to keep in mind is that there are already bacteria in the starter, these bacteria are native to the environment and adapted to its particular conditions. Any major invasion has to deal with alien conditions.


 


Think War of the Worlds here, where the invaders were destroyed by native pathogens.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Trying to understand the microbiology of a natural levain is made more difficult because we can't as laymen see the individuals we are discussing. Furthermore as I understand it, there has not been a definitive answer to the question of what the source is for Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis creature. I have read scientists have found it on the teeth of children that have not been exposed to sourdough breads, and everywhere else. It is a commonly found bacteria that will flourish if encouraged by the environmental conditions it requires. The population density seems to be much higher in flour as compared to the air that circulates the planet.


As naschol stated his new "starter" produced bread, in that it rose like bread is supposed to. But, that doesn't mean that his starter had a population of Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis large enough to create a large enough amount of lactic acid to flavor the dough. It was simply mostly a natural yeast, similar to commercial yeast products.


My 2 cents.


Eric

jcking's picture
jcking

What, if any, bacteria flourish in water? If so how would they affect the sourdough? What is the percentage of bacteria in the air compared to ground flour minus most of the husk? Does Lac San favor levining or flavor or both? It's got me wondering.


Jim

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Time and time again it has been mentioned that whole ground grain is the food of choice for starting a sourdough starter.   It doesn't have to be wheat either.


 

jcking's picture
jcking

I've read so many books and threads it some times gets confusing as to how things work. You could say I'm curious and very analitical. Or one could say " For a guy from New Jersey (lived ther for 50 years) you sure do ask a lot of questions." Old Saturday Night Live" reference. :-)


I'm devising a recpt to see if sterile flour, as Ford mentioned, could sour by attempting to capture Wild Yeast from the air. Any suggestions welcome.


Jim

naschol's picture
naschol

I know they make some kefirs out of water and kefir is produced by introducing bacteria and yeasts.  Another successful starter I have made began as a milk kefir and flour.  Anyway, you might want to do a little googling on water kefir and see what they say about the strains of bacteria present.  I don't remember, now, though I researched it quite a bit at the time.


 


Nancy

naschol's picture
naschol

There was a mild sourdough flavor in the first breads, but got more concentrated as time went on.  I think it was just mild to begin with because it was a new starter, though I know that some bacteria take over and kill out the weaker strains.  Anyway, it was a successful experiment.


 


BTW, I am a she...  :=D


Nancy

jcking's picture
jcking

With all the 2 cents flying aroud I'm getting richer by the minute. :-)


Jim

jillybeansisme's picture
jillybeansisme

I'll throw a wrench into all this -- how can it come from the air if the sourdough starter is covered?????  I think it simply comes from the grain used to make the starter.  My starter is over five years old.  I feed it equal parts of flour and water -- about one tablespoon of each, unless I'm baking with it.  Then I add a cup of each or whatever I need. Sometimes it is fed rye flour, sometimes wheat flour, and sometimes all purpose flour.  It depends on my mood of the moment and what I grab first (ok, so it's really the latter!).


I've frozen my starter and resurrected it (hey I go on vacations and I wouldn't think of bringing my starter with me unless I was sharing it with someone).  I've neglected it at times and simply fed it again.  Once in awhile I simply stir it if I see it has hooch. 


From this, my conclusion is that it is on the grain which has aged and, therefore started the bacteria multiplying.  Sort of like the way guppies multiply -- look you have two, blink you have six, blink again, you have twenty, etc.


That's my 2 cents.


jillybeansisme


www.BakingBread-101.com

jcking's picture
jcking

I agree with all you say, yet the discussion has turned to whether bacteria in a certain area of the country, or world for that matter, would affect ones sour making it unique. I now doubt that it could be verifyied. As a follow up I will attempt to cultivate a sour with sterlized flour and boiled water to see if bacteria in my area (the sunny south) could produce a sour. This may seem like a waste of time to some, so I'm only doing it as a test - not a recommendation for others to follow. Once the flour and water are bug free I will leave them uncovered for one week so that any wild yeast/bacteria can alight. After one week I will follow Reinhart's 75 % sour formula. The seed will be kept covered and the awaiting pre-sterile flour and pre-boiled water left uncovered.


Jim


 

sam's picture
sam

Good experiment.   Definitely let us know the result!


I once had a thought, considering I live in the east bay area, CA, of taking a small bucket of flour+water, ride the the train down to San Francisco, going up to North Beach, open up the container, and maybe taking a bay cruise boat ride, walk around, etc., just to get some ambient wild yeast in there.  :)  If that would even matter.


In the starter I raised a few week back, I kept the container totally sealed for the first few weeks except during feedings, and it is quite happy.  (I followed Hamelman's method, started using whole-ground Rye that I milled myself, then transitioned to KAF AP flour).


So, as others have pointed out, I am guessing a significant portion of the yeast comes from the flour itself, since my last starter was primarily sealed (except when I had to feed it).  But there was air in the container.


So it's hard to say.


 

jcking's picture
jcking

It took me a little while to find this reference since I jump back and forth between the dozen or so bread books I have and Net info. Relating to my original post; Reinhart's whole grain baking, pg's 41 & 43 "From a functional standpoint, the job of the yeast is to slightly acidify the dough via the production of carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol, while the function of the bacteria is to acidify and flavor the doughand to a lesser degree, create some carbon dioxide." Ergo; I assume, for better or worse, the bacterial flavoring was a factor of local bacteria. Other opinions are more than welcome.


Jim

jcking's picture
jcking

Today I've boiled 1000 g of water and baked 1360 g of flour. Water was store bought spring boiled for 30 minutes. Flour used was a new, unopened bag, of KA Durum Flour baked at 250 F for 30 minutes ( as per Ford's rec ). Why Durum? 100% flour no additives. Will allow both to sit for one week before starting seed culture. Will cover with cheese cloth (no dust bunnies allowed!) and attempt to capture wild yeast and other local bacteria. Stay tuned I'll be reporting back. Anyone in the GA Atlanta area may visit to see the progress. BYOB Bring your own bread.:-)


Jim

jcking's picture
jcking

Oh bother, checked on the water and flour to be used in experiment above. Lost a few oz.'s of water to evaporation; boiled another gallon. Weather has been favorable enough for me to leave the windows open during the day.


Interesting reading; The Bread Builders, Wing & Scott. Daniel Wing interviewing Michael Ganzel (grad student in Sourdough Microbiology at the University of Hohenheim, in Germany).


DW: Many knowledgeable people are suprised when I tell them it is possible to raise dough with bacteria, in the absence of any kind of yeast.


MG: We've done the experiments, it works quite well without yeast. The volume is somewhat smaller though. Markus Brandt has estimated the contribution of yeast and lactobacilli to gas production in a normal sourdough: about 50 percent comes from lactobacilli and yeasts each. The yeasts are fewer in number, but larger in size. Lactobacterial fermentation releases plenty of CO2.


Still reading, Jim

Ford's picture
Ford

 


"DW: Many knowledgeable people are suprised when I tell them it is possible to raise dough with bacteria, in the absence of any kind of yeast."


When you get around to it, you may want to make some salt rising bread -- no yeast, just Clostridium perfringens.


Ford

jcking's picture
jcking

Hey Ford,


I'll look into salt bread after, and if, the experiment goes well.


From J. Mamelman, Bread; pg 351 appendix. "Wild yeast live in abundance in the air, as well as on seeds, grains, fruits and vegetables."


Either he has a different view than WInk, or he hasn't been exposed to her tests. My current view would be, believing Hamelman, is that I may capture wild yeast but the amount may be quite small. Ergo, it may take quite a while. Years?


Page 352; "Regional uniqueness is a fortunate characteristic of sourdough bread. The ambient yeasts and bacteria in one area will naturally differ from those in another, and breads from different locations have a subtle distinctivness of their own."


Here again, the terrior effect. Only the strong survive?


I'm still trying to recitify some of Wink's results - more to follow.


Thanks for staying tuned...


Jim

jcking's picture
jcking

This somewhat wacky post has led me to dig deeper. Having read, and reread through my library and many web related posts I turned to food science for an answer. Digging through wikipedia data and linked University sites, I now may be able to shed a little light. One thing that puzzled me was the lab testing D Winks performed, indicated wild yeast and bacteria were only discovered in the seed after 3 or 4 days. Did they magically appear? No. WIld yeast is a fungi, with DNA more closely related to humans than plants. Bacterias and fungi are abundant and only a small percent have been identifyied and studied. The whole crux of the debate as to where the fungi and bacteria come from cannot be determined at this time. Why? Fungi and bacteria need conditions allowing them to live and reproduce. And here is the eye opener. Current sci-tech can only identify active strains of fungi and bacteria!


If you care to follow my experiment, I'll be posting it under Sourdough and starters, Calling it "Sterile Sourdough X".


Jim

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Conventional identification methods rely on an organism's culturability in laboratory media, but sourdough microbiologists have other methods they can employ. Like various DNA analyses, some of which can be performed on flour. It isn't quantitative, but can reveal the presence and identity of various organisms, even if not growing.


In their desiccated, dormant state, bacterial cells and yeast spores are indistinguishable under the light microscope, from starch granules in the surrounding flour. You need special stains to set them apart, and the lab that I worked in at the time didn't use that sort of thing. I had to do the best with the resources that were available to me. But please note that I didn't say they (lactobacilli and yeast) weren't there. Only that I couldn't find (see) them until they became active. I decided to leave it at that, because I didn't want to veer away from the main subject to talk about laboratory technology. That's a whole separate topic. But suffice it to say that if Wiki says current sci-tech can only identify active strains of fungi and bacteria, the author's knowledge isn't very current.


Best wishes,
-dw 

jcking's picture
jcking

Thanks for your update on current findings, guess I haven't found the latest info. So is there still more to learn and is my experiment a fools errand?


Jim

jcking's picture
jcking

Sourdoughs have been develpoped using a variety of grains/flours. I would assume some of these grains have been exposed to fungicide along the way. Comments?


Jim

G-man's picture
G-man

Not all fungi are created equal. Some strains of yeast tolerate fungicide levels that wipe out other fungi. This has been shown on grape yeast colonies, and there have been poison-tolerant yeast strains identified on wheat as well.


 


Yeast is pretty sturdy compared to some other fungi. It can shrug off a great deal of punishment, especially when dry.

jcking's picture
jcking

Inquireing minds needed to know. Please stand by we may have more questions:)


Thanks;


Jim

jcking's picture
jcking

As this thread began I was looking at how ones sourdoughs developed uniqueness. Quickly it took a different turn. Where do the beasties come from? Is it a myth that wild things comes from the air? How do they travel? Many questions.


I now believe one should say "Everything needed to develope a sourdough is in the flour".


Comments please,


Jim