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Beautiful loaves BUT flat flavor of pain au levain w/ mixed starters. Why?

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joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

Beautiful loaves BUT flat flavor of pain au levain w/ mixed starters. Why?

I have been baking Hamelman's pain au levain with mixed starters for over a year, my go-to bread.  But, for some unknown reason, at least to me, the flavor of the last two bakes has been flat.  What was great bread is now just OK bread.  It looks the same, has good oven spring, deep brown crust, good, sweet-wheaty aroma as it cools.  But when I bite into it, I feel let down.  What was always delicious, tangy sourdough flavor is now ho-hum.  Why is this happening?  I've recently been feeding my white and rye starters twice a day (after reading about Hamelman's class on rye from other TFL'ers, including Varda's postings), and the dough and the oven spring and appearance have been beautiful.  Only possibility is that the starter has been slightly more hydrated than before, more like 90%, when it was 75% in the past.  Only the night before the bake, I followed Hamelman's formula to the letter (I previously added a little more whole wheat, borrowing about 1 oz. from the bread flour total).  This time I did just as he wrote it.  Anyone want to venture a guess?  (I keep wondering if it's the flour.  I'm using K.A. bread flour and whole rye from Whole Foods bulk bins, as always.)

Joy

MANNA's picture
MANNA

You changed your feeding schedule to twice a day. Go back to your previous schedule and I think your flavor will return. My thought is that since your feeding twice a day there are less componds in the starter since its being refresed more often. The yeast and bacteria dont have enough time to eat and produce those flavors before you dilute it with another refreshment.

joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

Certainly that is the only variable I can think of.  If you are correct, then I would get my former results by returning to my previous schedule of refreshing the starters a couple of times, refrigerating them for a few days, even up to a week, then feeding them for 2-3 days before the bake.  That makes sense in that they would be more acidic, more "sour," which would give the bread its usual tang.  Thanks and I'll see how it goes the "old" way.  My change and resulting confusion stems from the reportage from Hamelman's class from Varda, who said that the odor of the twice-daily refreshed rye starters in the class just about bowled her over.  I too noticed the more powerful aroma with the new refreshment.  So that's where I was coming from.

Joy

varda's picture
varda

Hi Joy.   First of all, I have no idea but a couple thoughts.    How long was your starter on your twice a day regimen?   It took mine more than a week before it looked like it was happier with the new routine than before.    Did you taste your starter?   Was it tart?   If not, that's not right.    Next thing is flour.  I finished up a bag of Arrowhead rye and started using something else.   My starter lost it's nice smell after the first feeding.   The new rye just wasn't right.   Possible that the bulk flour you are using was different than usual?   Third, you want your starter to be pretty ripe before the next feeding for the twice daily feeding.   It is possible as Manna says that your starter is maturing too slowly to be fed again after 12 hours.    This is a function of temperature and inoculation ratio.    Are you using enough seed so that your starter matures between feedings?   Is it warm enough?   You can adjust time between feedings to match your conditions or your desires or what not.   The only thing here is to keep your starter healthy by feeding it regularly and maintaining it in reasonably consistent conditions, so it's not spending a lot of time adjusting to changes in condition and losing whatever equilibrium flavor and strength that you'd like it to have.   My 2c.  -Varda

 

joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

for your 2c (at least a dime's worth (-:  )!  To answer some of your questions:  My memory is a bit fuzzy (nothing new), but I think I had the 2 x day regimen for at least 3 or 4 days, maybe more, but not over a week as you state.  The taste was tart, a bit sour, but pleasant enough for rye.  I am consistent with the whole rye (bulk from Whole Foods), but, yup, you never know.  I do suspect that, with night temperature in our house around 56F, that may have been problematic.  Here's what I think about inoculation ratio:  I was making it 100% hydration, essentially doubling the amount.  If I recall, Hamelman, in the rye chapter in bread, says that high hydration leads to formation of a lot of microorganisms and low hydration (2nd build in Detmolder formula) encourages acetic acid.  The 3rd build (don't remember exact hydration) gives it a smoother taste, lactic acid formation.  I am not sure how this applies to what I was doing, but if it was high hydration, I wasn't getting enough acid.   What I am doing is using my B&T proofing box to keep the final preferment at the correct temp. overnight.  (That's 70F for the pain au levain.)

That all being said, there's a lot for me to learn.  I have taken rye bread off my baking schedule for sale for awhile until I get it right (a deli style loaf, not too insipid, not too "germanically" dark.  Maybe more like Leader's chleba?).  Wish I could get Brent's Deli in Northridge, CA, to send me their formula!  Wish I had chemistry in high school.

BUT, I need to get that pain au levain w/ mixed starters back as it was, as everyone loved it.  That's staying on my "menu."

Thanks again, Varda. --Joy

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I think the previous posters are correct in focusing on your starter. If you want to give your new schedule of feedings a fair test, you probably need to keep it up for longer. (I have no idea how long is "longer.") It may also not be mature enough when you are using it. 

A "young" starter should give good flavor though, just less acid. Are you seeing bubbles on the surface of the starter before you feed it? If not, it is certainly too young to feed.

Varda: What was Mr. Hamelman's formula for feeding a levain? (Seed: flour: water)

David

David

varda's picture
varda

I forgot to ask.   Oops.  -Varda