The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

William Alexander's Hazy Apple Sourdough Starter

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

William Alexander's Hazy Apple Sourdough Starter

I'm not quite sure why, but I decided to try William Alexander's Hazy Apple Sourdough starter to get a new levain going.  This is leading to some questions:

1)  Am I wasting my time and effort since there are already yeasts present in the flour and I could get a levain going (using Deborah Wink's method) without bothering with the apple?  Or will I get (at least to start with) a different strain of yeast going by using the apple ( just picked a hazy looking one from the organic bin at Whole Foods) or a different character to this levain? 

2)  By day three (today) I'm supposed to be seeing a bit of "foaming".  All I see are some very teeny, tiny little bubbles formed around the edges.  Is that enough, or should I really see some activity?  I did learn my lesson last time I began a starter that my house is too cold,  and I'm keeping this coddled and warm using my microwave oven (turned off, of course) as an "incubator" at about 78 to 80 degrees. 

3)  Does anyone know enough about the chemistry of this "apple water" I'm creating to tell me if it's going to be acidic enough to kill off the bad guys when I add the flour?  Or am I going to have to add in some pineapple juice anyway?  (If so,  IS there a point to using the hazy apple method?).

 

 

RonRay's picture
RonRay

Deborah Wink's method is very good, the use of other approaches may offer you alternatives, especially in addition flavor and timing alternatives worth your time to understand. Ultimately, there are decisions that you are best to judge. You may find it worth 10 of 15 minutes reading and thinking about the info in a posting I did here last weekend., but the TFL link is not working in this editor (for unknown reasons).  There is also a PDF here:

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B_MScoZfDZkwZDFkMmY5NWQtMTA0MS00OGE2LTllNzQtMDFkMzM1Yjg5OWZl&hl=en

 Ron

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

was what inspired this question ;o)  I think I had Alexander's starter in my head when I read your very scholarly treatise, and that's what finally compelled me to try it. 

But I don't really want "yeast water" as you have described, I want a flour-based levain to try to be true to the original of Alexander's peasant bread formula--I want to try the original with as few variations as possible. 

I know that I can create a levain using Deborah Wink's method to get things going, but I was more curious about whether a flour based levain started with the apple water would have any difference in yeast and flavor profile than starting with flour--I'm looking for more depth of flavor without being sour.  

You say that when the yeasties from the flour take over the YW, the flavor profile will be more sour--perhaps that answers the crux of my question--it would seem to suggest that there are different yeast and bacteria species in the two types of starters--perhaps different things grow because the ph is different in YW and flour-based levains, or there are simply different strains of yeast that attache to fruit and grains?  If the former is the case, there's no advantage to starting with an apple, because if I turn it into a flour-based levain eventually it's going to be at the same place as one started from flour and a little pineapple juice for ph balance.  Correct?

Since I'm most of the way there with this apple water, I'll continue out of curiosity.  But I get this sense that I'm just spinning my wheels at this stage of developing the levain and wonder if Alexander's insistence on using something like an apple as the source of yeast comes from a place of ignorance of the fact that there are already plenty of yeasts in the flour itself.  Or will the flour-based levain started in apple water always have a different character than those started directly from flour?

RonRay's picture
RonRay

Deborah Wink's method solves a problem that many people encountered when using the (more or less) 'classic' way of starting a SD culture.

That problem is in 'false positives' - bubbles starting, so people thought they had their SD, but then the bubbles stopped, after a day or so. Deborah Wink's explains all of this in her posting The Pineapple Juice Solution, Part 1 & 2.

The bubbles were not sourdough yeast, but different beasties that could not survive once the pH started to drop, so the addition of Pineapple Juice (initially only) was a way to drop the pH to below the tolerance of the 'bad beasties' long enough for the sourdough WBBs to 'get happy' sooner, with less competition.

I suggest that essentially all the foods (grains, fruit, vegetables, etc,) that people typically use to obtain yeast cultures, which can successfully leaven dough, can be switched from any one to any other, simply by a "diet change" to the culture. If you reread my post, you should find I tried hard to make that point.

So, start any way you wish, and you can get to a pure white sourdough levain culture (WSDL) by feeding A-P flour for a few days. And no matter how you get there, you can change, or start additional types, by switching to a different feeding - apples - rye flour - whole wheat- peaches - raisins -etc.

Indeed, when you get your SD, it will change its characteristics if you use the same food as always, but shift the feeding schedule, the storage temperature, and on, and on. You always have a mixer of different WBBs, and the population dynamics will change as a function of the environment they must existing within, and you control the environment. When you change the environment you disadvantage some WBBs and give advantages to others. It is that complexly simple.

I hope that helps answer your question.

Ron

p.s. my Apple Yeast Water is about 3.0 pH

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

"...there's no advantage to starting with an apple, because if I turn it into a flour-based levain eventually it's going to be at the same place as one started from flour and a little pineapple juice for ph balance.  Correct?"

Correct. It's all about how you maintain it that makes the difference, not how you started it.

Happy baking to you :-)
dw

jcking's picture
jcking

I wasn't familar with th hazy apple starter so I googled it. And what do you think was at the top of the list? Your Fresh loaf querry! Well I'll be :)

Jim

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

It's here in case you did not. 

RonRay's picture
RonRay

You said you wanted something

I'm looking for more depth of flavor without being sour

 If you keep your AYW culture separated from flour until you wish to make bread, your levain will have identical physical characteristic as a sourdough levain (equal parts by weight of flour and water, if 100%HL is your choice of levain). However, the water will have the WBBs that prefer the Apple as food, and the wheat WBBs, while there in the flour will not yet have time to grow into a strong (sour) factor. Thus, the levain produces a sweeter, less sour bread.  If you where to use that levain as a seed for a separate culture, using the normal method of back sloping (keeping some and discarding some) while feeding only flour, the wheat loving WBBs will differentially grow and become the primary culture, and - depending upon your maintenance schedule - will get to the same "sour" that it would have had if you never had an apple associated with it.

So, if you want the apple, less sour result, that I get, you can have it for 3 builds up to a levain quanity needed to bake your loaf.  But, by continuing builds, by a 6th build a sour starts entering into the levain flavor. This has been my experience. Perhaps, that will make the method more clear.

Ron

 

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

Tonight I add the flour.  I'm thinking of holding back some of the AYW to keep it "pure" but I probably won't because of time constraints and a grumpy teenager who is complaining about the apple smell in our kitchen. 

And three builds--that's tough working full time.  If I  froze the AYW, do you think it would hold up for times when I want to "play"? 

BTW, I'm pretty sure there are really bubbles in there.  VERY small little bubbles around the edges, but bubbles all the same.  I hope that means it's really alive. 

RonRay's picture
RonRay

I use a few temperature controlled environments (a fridge by any other name). In a small digital wine bottle fridge (WBF) my WSD will double in 24 hours, but AYW take about twice as long at 51ºF ( 10.6º C). At  44ºF ( 6.7º C) both will barely grow, but the SD will increase in sourness.  Those are levain builds (flour mix in both cases).

Pure AYW that has matured will still be good when returned to room temperature or up to better than  82ºF ( 27.8º C) after a few weeks at 44ºF ( 6.7º C) and respond actively to fresh apple and a bit of a sugar cube 'fix'.

If I understand your situation, a few days old starting culture - at a guess - should be able to recover in a few days if moved in total, to the back of most kitchen fridges for better than a week or so, but it would likely take a day or to to get back to where it was before that cold storage.  I have never frozen any, so I will not guess at that idea.

Three builds are not 'required', That is my self imposed way of being certain of my levain, as it goes into a final mix. I have, in the past, used active YW - apple and other types - using YW in only 1/6th the weight of the final levain mixed with 1/6th flour, as a seed that once risen to 60-80% then was mixed with equal H2O and A-P flour, to form a final mix. Many others I know do a straight levain mix of 50% YW and 50% flour, and have success. I have had some successes that way - and some that took 16 hours to double. That is why I use 3 builds starting with 1/18th of the final required levain amount.

I hope that both makes sense to you, and helps.

Ron

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

I tossed about an ounce of the AYW in the freezer to play with when I have time.  It was definitely active with something (a littlebubble activity that I assume is wild yeast)  and I don't know if it will survive the freezing, but we'll see.  If it doesn't, I can always try again. 

Meanwhile, I added a flour mixture to the rest of of the AYW.  William Alexander calls for 1 part WW to 7 parts AP flour, but instead of 7 parts AP, I reduced it to 6 parts AP and added 1 part rye.  It seems to be active already this morning--there were some bubbles.  I wouldn't say a huge amount of activity, but last time I did a starter with DW's method it was several days before I saw any signs of activity--I later realized my kitchen was very cold and that made things move very slowly.  This time I know to keep the starter warm (which makes the family a little grumpy because the microwave is my "incubator"). 

 I'm still not sure if I'm ahead of where I'd be if I'd just started with DW's method to begin with   Still, I'm interested to taste this starter and see if it has a different flavor profile. 

RonRay's picture
RonRay

I suppose it is a reasonable way to start a Sourdough levain. I doubt you will be able to notice any difference from any other SD being feed the same way and maintained in the same manor, certainly not after a week or so. However, a good SD levain is a good SD levain by any name.

Assuming you do get your SD culture and maintain it, of course, you can jump-start a pure AYW by using a small amount of the SD in a new Apple and water batch. Just keep it away from any flour thereafter, and use small quantities of the AYW to start your flour and water levain builds that you wish NOT to be sour, from then on.

Ron

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

A question about liquids used in builds....

I have read through all that has been written here and on other threads about the use of YW as well as owning a book where there are 2 recipes that use AYW....

My question is why do you use active YW in ONLY your first build and then either water or your 'storage' YW for your subsequent builds instead of using AYW for all 3 builds?

The book I own is Jan Hedh and he also only uses his AYW for his primary build but doesn't explain why.

When I was experimenting with my YW I assumed that my leaven that was fed with RYW for all builds and had been maintained on my counter being fed with RYW would be the most active in my group.....Much to my surprise, it took the longest to rise and had the strongest alcohol aroma of the 3 I was testing....

I do not know why it behaved as it did and am hoping that you have some insights into it's behavior.....The only thing I could come up with based on my very limited experience with YW and with regular leavens too was that by using active YW for each build I was essentially increasing my yeast population each time I added the YW and that due to the increased number of WBBs I was not giving them enough flour to munch on so I was starving them.....hence the alcoholic aroma and slower growth.

I know there has to be an explanation 'out there' somewhere and I know you have done extensive experimenting so I am hoping you have an explanation to help me solve this mystery for me :-)

Thanks,

Janet

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

With the flour this thing is taking off like gangbusters. I've never had such an active starter. A huge amount of activity in it's first 24 hrs-- I could literally watch it climb the sides. I'm inordinately pleased with this. Fun!

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

I woke up to a geyser of  this morning--it outgrew my 1 qt container.  I can't believe I had to spend my lunch hour buying a larger jar and going home to transfer it.  I was home for about 30 minutes after transferring it, and it grew 1/2" during that time.  It would make a great disaster movie--I can just picture a giant blob of sourgdough rolling down the street and taking out everything in it's path!

I've always held the smallest amount of starter (usually around 60 grams) to avoid waste, but the Peasant Bread I want it for calls for 250 grams at a time.  I really don't want to maintain 500 grams of starter all the time.    If I kept, say 100 grams and fed it with 150 grams (100% hydration, so that's 125 each of flour and water) before baking, could I do this just a few hours before baking, or would I have to do one build, let that double, discard, feed, and only then take enough to bake with?

I think it's name is going to be "Audrey"--as in "FEED ME!"