The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie question about bleached flour and starter

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Newbie question about bleached flour and starter

Hi everyone, totally new to baking artisan bread but I love it so far.  I wanted to jump into sourdough as soon as I was having good results with baking using active dry yeast in the packets so yesterday I started my starter mix.  I used Gold Medal bleached APF.  I since did some researching and no matter how much I look can't find the answer to my question so wanted to join and ask here as most of the search results usually bring up "The Fresh Loaf" forum.  

I have read that you CANNOT use bleached flour b/c there are NO yeast on the grains (makes sense to me) and your starter will NEVER start.  

I've also read you CAN use bleached flour but might not get good results.  

And lastly I've read you CAN use bleached flour and get great results.

So you can imagine a new person is confused by this.  I checked my starter today, not even 24 hours after starting it with bleached flour and it had developed what I have deemed to be "hooch" which I stirred back in.  A few hours later it was bubbling and growing at only the 24 hour mark (and not fed yet) which I have never read will happen so I'm even more confused and kind of pumped about honestly (take that science!).  I started another starter with King Arthur APF that is unbleached and as I was going to throw out the first one until I saw all the activity and smelled it.  It has a wonderful sweet smell that is VERY nice so I didn't want to throw it out, I figured I'd just continue on in the face of what I have read and see what happens.

Now brings me to my question, which information is correct and which is not about using bleached flour???  Here is what I don't really get, If you want to cultivate your own local wild yeast, why would you use an unbleached flour that already has wild yeast on it from wherever it was produced?  This seems like a contradiction to me.  I read "grow your own wild yeast, but start with an unbleached flour b/c it already has yeast on it", huh?  I get that, but I also get that if the flour was produced in TX and you live in OH, how are you cultivating your own local sourdough yeast if you use flour with yeast already on it?  In contrast if you use bleached flour that has killed all the local yeast at the production plant like I have and it is growing, how can that be anything but my local wild yeast right?  Seems like using bleached flower would be the only way to get 100% local yeast unless you live in the same town that the flour mill is at.  

Anyway just saying hi and hoping someone that is much more experienced can answer my questions for me as I'm super confused.  I feel the need to "throw out" my first batch b/c of using the bleached flour, but again, seems like it is doing exactly what it is suppose to do in spite of all I've read, and "should" be nothing but local yeast which is what I want.

BreadBro's picture
BreadBro

Listen, if it's working for you, then great. Of course, whole grain rye or whole grain wheat flour will more readily feed a starter, but its not an exact science.

That being said, I would suggest working with unbleached flour as it provides a better flavor to the bread and imparts a more natural color to the crumb.

phaz's picture
phaz

fwiw - I created a starter on bleached, 10 days and I was using it to make bread.  it is true that bleached flour doesn't have the quantity of yeast, or nutrients, as unbleached,  some had to be lost in the bleaching process,  but it should have some.  if anything,  it may take longer to get a starter going,  and may not get it the first try,  but eventually it should go. I would tell people when creating a starter,  go for the whole grain wheat or rye to get things going.  success rate will be higher, and I'm not 1 to make things more complicated than they already are. it can be done, I did it as have others, and also feed, until recently, bleached. I started some rye to get a little more sour, feedings are half whole grain rye and bleached now. also, as mentioned above, it's working, right? keep on going!

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Hi and thanks you all for your posts, but I still am wondering about the whole "not getting local yeast with unbleached" theory I had, is it at all valid?  It just seems logical to me is all but I could be 100% wrong so that is why I was asking.  

The other question I had since you brought up  "...if anything it may take longer to get going" that is what I was thinking, so why so much activity within just 24 hours, actually less, I had hooch forming at probably 18 hours or so and at 24 it was rising and bubbling?  

phaz's picture
phaz

I'm sure it's a mix of both. I'm no scientist, but common sense tells me, since yeast is just about everywhere, you'll get some from the flour, and air around you, and the air around the mill, and the packaging plant, and the trucks used to ship it around, some warehouses, the trunk of your car if that's where you store it for the ride from the store to your home! most flour is wrapped in paper, and from what I see, not very well sealed paper. I'm sure there's a lot more than just yeast making its way in. the starter takes care of that for the most part though. when balanced, the environment created favors the friendly bugs making it harder for bad bugs to take hold. good luck with the starter. sounds like it took right off. most don't get that lucky! I had to wait a week for my flour and water starter, bit recently got another going in a day using rye and bleached flour and blackberries from the yard. still took a week to get the right lacto/yeast balance but making bread with it now.  oh,  early activity could be bad bugs,  but with a sweet smell,  it doesn't sound like that's the case. not unusual to get bad smells the first few days,  and not unusual to not get them! the end result is what matters, and sound like you've got a great start! 

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Phaz, I'm thinking the same thing about it being a little of everything, that makes sense to me :) 

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

It may also be Leuconostoc. If you continue feeding regularly, you will find out in a day or two. If it is Leuconostoc, it will have a period of transition, where it seems to become dead and has little or no activity, then a day or two later, it will become active again. The second round of activity will be your yeast culture. If you feed it, and it never drops out, it may be you got a quick, early yeast activity. If so, congratulations! Either way, I wouldn't consider the culture to be stable for a couple weeks, meaning that bad things might still be there that you don't want in your bread. After a few weeks, you should be able to bake with it, and get good results. As a beginner, you probably would do well to read some step-by-step, day-by-day instructions, at least so you know what to expect. Adding a little bit of pineapple juice, as suggested above, will help the good bugs thrive and bad bugs go away, but is in no way necessary.

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

David, it is really funny you mentioned this b/c it is exactly what mine did!  I fed it last night and it has died down to not much at all except a little more hooch and bubbles that I stirred in this afternoon.  Can you explain what Leuconostoc is, and is that a good thing?

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

I may have a problem!  My bleached starter developed another layer of "hooch" but this time it was in the middle of the starter which I just stirred back up, do I have a problem?  

My non-bleached is 24 hours old and doing good with some hooch on top.  

I've read if hooch is in the middle or bottom something is wrong, while other sites say it means the same thing as on top, *sigh* so I'm confused again lol, please any expert advice is appreciated on this!  Most ever recipe I found said not to feed the starter for 48 hours at first, but I fed the first one at 24, was that a problem?  I have not fed my second one yet and it is at 24 hours now, not sure how to proceed.  

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Just checked and even my new non-bleached starter developed a middle hooch layer, what the heck?  Are both batches bad?  I stirred it back in as well, the first batch at 48 hours has a strong sour yogurt smell, where the newer 24 non-bleached batch still smells kind of sweet.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Hooch is probably a sign that you are underfeeding your starter. You should either feed it more often, or a larger amount. Leuconostoc is bad stuff, not good, but as your starter culture starts to build up good yeast and lactobacillus, the leuconostoc should go away on its own.

Is there a specific method you're using, that you read somewhere, for your starters, or are you winging it? Not saying you can't get good results from winging it, but usually the people who write up instructions for cultivating a starter will tell you step-by-step what to do and what you should expect to see happening. Even if you are just trying your hand at getting it going on your own, you can learn alot about what to expect of your culture, by reading someone's write-up. There are lots of good ones around. One I've read, that seems to be well detailed, is Susan's Flour + Water = Starter post at http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/07/13/raising-a-starter/

I haven't used her method to start a culture, but it is well written, and should help you understand what is going on with your own starter. There is also a comments section below that post, where she ends up answering LOTS of questions. I recommend you take a look.

Bottom line: your starter should be okay, if you feed it properly and don't abuse it with too much heat, or chlorine, or anything like that.

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

David thanks for your comments/guidance.  Yes I am following several written and youtube videos that all had the same approach, which is:

-Equal parts (1/2 cup each) flour and filtered water, mix and cover with a cloth (some say tightly with saran wrap?)
-Do nothing for 48 hours 
-After that pour out 50% and replenish back with fresh flour/water
-Repeat last step everyday until it passes the 12 hour float test

I'm thinking that this liquid I am getting is not hooch, I mean how could it be in less than 24 hours?  Maybe it is just water separation from such a pancake batter consistency?  Either way the first one is smelling sour, and maybe some would say it is pleasant but I don't really like it so not sure how to explain it other than "ripe yogurt smell".  I'm thinking it has got to be water just b/c I have started 2 different starters with different flours and in different containers and they both got a layer of liquid on top first, then on the middle on top of a firmer layer of batter and under a very frothy growing top layer.  I don't know what to do, it doesn't smell horrid like rotten trash or anything, just strong, sour, ripe yogurt is the only thing that comes to mind.  I am doing a time-lapse video to show you all what I'm talking about, I've captured this "seperation" with my GoPro, I'll post it up in just a bit, maybe that will help.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Yes it's water separation. Using equal parts by volume (use of cups should be banned) will give you more water than flour by weight. This separation happens in an overly hydrated starter such as yours.

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Good to know I guess, how do I fix it, more flour?  I decided to go ahead and feed the second mix as since it is at the 24 hour mark as I don't see a good reason to wait and many of the recipes say to feed at 24 hours anyway.  I fed it 1/4 cup flour and only 1/8 water to try to get it a little thicker which it did.  Here is the time-lapse I made, this whole time-lapse happened in about 50 minutes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtYl_Ry5NwU&feature=youtu.be

My first "bleached" mix is on the right, nothing going on anymore.  You can see a bubbling, frothy top layer, then the liquid form under it and then a heavier batter at the very bottom, is this all still normal for an overly hydrated starter?

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

The culture used in yogurt is lactobacillus, just like the lactobacillus in sourdough starter. The fact that it smells sour like ripe yogurt should mean it is well on its way to greatness. Since you are using volume measurements, and putting the same measure of flour/water, I suppose it is very liquid, but I don't know if separation is common at that level of hydration or not. Overall, just keep at it, because it has a better chance of turning out well than not. If you do discover/decide that your starter is forming hooch, you would do well to feed it more flour, or feed it more often, so it will be healthy and robust.

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

Hi Dave, thanks for your reply, please see my above reply where I shared the time-lapse video of what is going on, thanks!

phaz's picture
phaz

if the smell is good, you shouldn't have leucs. when they are active you will know it, easily, just by the odor. I believe the liquid you're seeing is a combination of too much water, and lack of food. when a starter takes off, it's hungry, very hungry. a thin starter allows for more mobility, as in the bugs can move around more. this allows them more access to the available food, so the food gets consumed faster. not unusual to feed something like 1:2:2 - starter/ water/ flour, or 1:3;3 the first week in your case to make sure you've got enough snacks for the little buggers. Something you can do, after your starter is a decent consistency, is, after a feeding and starter reaches peak and starts to fall, just stir it up again, no food, and see if it rises again. if it does, you have plenty of food. if not, or rise is little, you should consider increasing frequency, and/ or quantity of feeding. happy baking!

cfiiman's picture
cfiiman

I would not classify the smell I have as good, it is more spoiled yogurt or milk, pretty strong and nothing I would say "yum, I'd like to eat that", but doesn't smell like a decaying body or anything lol.  Definitely doesn't smell like alcohol, but not really cheese either, just strong spoiled yogurt or milk smell where you kind of go "ew, that stinks a little", and this happened at around 24 hours or so and has stayed that way up until now at just over 48 hours so I'm thinking it is the bad stuff I want the good stuff to kill.  I'm hoping it will just go away with time as the good stuff starts to grow.  I wish I had smelled what it was suppose to smell like before, that would sure help, wonder if my local grocer or baker has some I could smell, guess that would be weird to ask huh lol.