Striving for flavor consistency in home sourdough baking (Ischia starter from Ed Wood)
Hi all, new to the forums but have been baking in my home for about 4 years now. This place has been a very valuable resource over the years, so thank you all for that.
My reason for posting is lately I have been wondering if sourdough cultures are perhaps affected by too many variables to be maintained consistently in the home. I have mainly been using the Ischia Italian starter from Ed Wood.
My main issues so far have been in flavor consistency with my experiments with the Ischia Italian culture. I try to maintain as many variables as possible. I have a cooler that I converted into a proof box complete with external temperature guage and a variable light bulb that doubles as a culture and dough proof box. I tend to bake each weekend and refrigerate the culture between uses. I try to follow the same procedure each time for activating the culture before my Saturday bakes, but I still cannot get a consistent flavor from the starter.
Now, I must say I haven't produced any bread that wasn't delicious, but sometimes the starter produces this most excellent flavor, I wouldn't even call it sour, but it is just something I have never tasted before in a bread. I cannot really describe as there is nothing I can compare it too. I can only imagine this is the true flavor of the Ischia starter. However, many other times the bread does not have this special flavor, and while still delicious, I find myself wondering if I could not have achieved similar results (flavor-wise) with commerical yeast.
The flavor when I tease it out is so good that is borderline addicting and each weekend I hope for another encounter with this elusive starter, but the failures greatly outnumber the success. I know there is some controversy over whether local organisms take over eventually but I have been using this same strain for over a year now and still manage to tease that same flavor out from time to time. Perhaps the local organisms have already taken over or it is the original strain, but either way I am still having the same difficulty with flavor consistency.
My hope is that I still need to refine my techniques and I would love to hear if people have this problem reproducing that special flavor from their sourdough starters, or what you attribute to your success.