The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

levain lost lustre

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Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

levain lost lustre

I have been following the Tartine instructions for many months now... with steadily improving results.

Now suddenly, my levain doesn't reach the point of passing the float test any more. Both my starter culture (fed daily) and the levain itself are reliably rising in a few hours. However, now the levain stops rising before it has enough entrained gas to float. This is a new phenomenon... until two weeks ago it would just keep rising until it passed the float test.

I thought I'd try, this morning, using the levain even though it's not passing the float test, and the oven spring was definitely sub-par.

I think I'm tasting more acidity in the levain than before, not unpleasantly so, but a noticable citrus note.

In case it might be relevant, the change does correlate with my moving from N.Cal to N.E. Oregon. But I know, too, that correlation and causality aren't the same thing!

Does anyone have any ideas what might be the cause?

Thanks in advance for any insight you may have to offer.

Les

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

along with changing location?  Are ambient temperatures different?  The first could lead to a temporary decrease in activity as your starter adjusts to the new food.  The second could also slow down your starter's activity if temperatures in your new home are a few degrees cooler than in your previous location.

Or, it could be something entirely different.  ;)

Paul

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

have been starving your starter,  Take half a cup of starter, add 1 cup of flour and 1/2 c of water.  It should perk right up. 

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

@paul, @dabrownman

thanks for your suggestions.

Paul, yes, there are some changes in temperature and flour. But I've been using the same process through the winter, spring and early summer, reliably.

@dabrownman the starter seems as active as always, the daily rise, peak, and fall haven't changed. The change becomes apparent in the levain. It starts rising within a couple of hours, as it always did, but quits before it has sufficient rise. I'll try stimulating the starter as you suggest, even though its daily feeding schedule has been consistent for months.

thanks again

Les

holds99's picture
holds99

You mentioned a citric acid smell in the starter (or levain).  You may have some cross contamination in your starter from the fridge or some other source.  If you aren't doing so, try removing your starter from the container then thoroughly washing the container with soap and thoroughly rinsing and drying it, including the lid.  A year or so ago I had cross contamination in my starter, from the fridge, I think.  Mine actually developed an orange crust on top, possibly from cheese or other dairy products.  Needless to say, I had to discard the starter.   Anyway, since then, I remove my starter and wash the container every few weeks then put the starter back into the container.  Thankfully, I haven't had a problem since.  I hope you have a backup starter. 

Howard

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

Turns out the whole wheat flour that I was using in the Tartine levain formula was too old. The bag was probably 10 weeks old. A new bag of ww flour solved the problem! Yay I'm back in business!

chris319's picture
chris319

In 1973 Sunset Magazine published one or more articles by Kandace Reeves in which the services of a Dr. George K. York of the University of California, Davis, were engaged to come up with a recipe for a sure-fire sourdough starter. Dr. York supposedly found a microorganism in yogurt which is conducive to making starter (lactobacillus?). The Sunset recipe calls for both milk and yogurt. The recipe is on line, but does anyone know about this microorganism or the Sunset Magazine article?

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

dairy yogurt is produced using a culture of Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus bacteria.  Fermentation of lactose by these bacteria produces lactic acid, which acts on milk protein to give yogurt its texture and its characteristic tang.

Sounds a lot like SD bread to me where Labs produce the acid that gives the bread its tang.  But the wild yeast cultures that are cultivated in a SD starter may not be the same ones. Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis is the one responsiblefor SFSD.

I have no idea what Lab or combination of them is in my starter