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Starting and maintaining a live sourdough culture in Southeast Asia

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pantone_000's picture
pantone_000

Starting and maintaining a live sourdough culture in Southeast Asia

Hi! I have been making homemade bread for almost a year (and hopefully I can do this until forever) so I can say I know some basic ins and outs of bread baking. I use instant dried yeast because that is what's readily available here, and I know no source of live sourdough culture. I live in the Philippines, the weather here is averagely hot and humid. Can a sourdough culture stay alive in our climate? Any bread bakers out here from Southeast Asia who has experience with live sourdough? How did it go?

 

Edit: After 8 months of worthless worrying, I have finally started to make the seed. 

Starting date: Aug 16, 2014. Time: 10PM (So this means I mark one day in the PM). As in the Tartine book, I mixed equal parts of whole wheat flour (the semi-fine type that still has visible bran) and dark rye flour (because I didnt have medium rye as told in the book). This is supposed to be the food for the starter. Also, I had limited amounts of both flours so I scaled down the quantity as compared to the book. Take note: #1: I don't have option for refrigeration, #2: Out kitchen's ambient temperature is 85F on the average, it lowers down around 82F at night and can rise as high as 90F in the noontime.

Day 1 (10PM): 60g [wwf + rye] flour blend + 60g water. (The book says 85-89F is warm water, but in here I didnt have to heat it.)

Day 2 (11PM): Before feeding, I checked for signs: healthy amount of bubbles and doubled in bulk, aroma of overripe banana/fruit. And so I got 30g from it, and then added 60g flour blend + 60g water. I didn't want to waste everything so I thought of making a second starter to be fed with tipo00 flour I have on hand. I got 30g from the discard that I have set aside and then mixed in 60g tipo00 flour + 60g water. Let's see how that goes...

Day 2 (11AM) : I still am on Day 2. Examined the signs both show before refreshing: #1 (the wwf+rye) showed that it had doubled and I saw a slight fall. #2 (tipo00) also showed a healthy amount of bubbles, its aroma is of overripe fruit. So I did the same for starter #1: 30g seed + 60g flour blend + 60g water. For #2, same 30g seed, but this time I tried a 60% hydration just to see any difference with seed #1. So for #2, I did 30g seed + 60g water + 100g tipo00.

Day 3 (11PM): Check before feeding: both smelled  of overripe fruit, healthy signs of bubbles below the surface. Seed #1: 30g starter + 60g flour blend + 60g water. Seed #2: 30g starter + 50g water (yup I again got curious how it would go at 50%) + 100g tipo00.

Day 3 (AM): This was tricky. I skipped this feeding because I needed to go to a job entrance exam of some sort. And some of the other things I noticed: both hasn't doubled noticeably (very few bubbles but there were some) around brunch time when I had to go and the temp was fairly hot, maybe around 90F. I didnt have the time to check the aroma of both.

I returned around 5pm and immediately checked. Both of them had shown the rise and fall. The aroma of both was slightly beer-y already. #1 smelled of really overripe bananas. #2 smelled of soymilk. I didnt feed them at this time because my instinct was to wait until 11pm. Or was this step a deadly mistake???

Day 4 (11pm): And so I waited until this time to feed them again. #1: 30g seed + 60g flour blend + 60g water. I just started to notice that I have been doing the 1:2:2 feeding pattern that I read on sub-forums on TFL. #2: 30g seed + 50g water + 100g tipo00. I had to knead the dough mass to get the flour particles evenly hydrated.

Day 4 (AM): Didn't feed them, period. I got busy preparing for a demo class that I need to present on the following day. I only remember taking a quick glance if they had risen. #1 had risen slightly, #2 no significant rise and very few bubbles.

Day 5 (11PM): Fed started #1: 30g seed + 60g flour blend + 60g water. #2: 30g seed + 50g water + 100g tipo00

Day 5 (AM): Fed started #1: 30g seed + 60g tipo00 (I ran out of the flour blend) + 60g water. #2: 30g seed + 50g water + 100g tipo00

Day 6 (PM): Didn't feed. Again really got busy preparing for a class demo.

Day 6 (AM): I had to go to work mid-brunch time so didn't feed agian. Oh snap!

I got home around 5pm with good news that I can start the class next week (to teach high school art class, yay!). I had very little sleep so I did get a couple of hours of rest once I got to my bed. I thought the two could maybe wait a little bit more. Or couldn't they?

Day 7 (11PM): Woke up to check my pets. I observed both before deciding what to do. And then I had to make the decision to chuck out all of starter #2 so I could focus on just 1 seed (why did I start a second seed anyway? LOL). So I only had to worry about #1 which is now my only 1. It smelled like rotten food. It formed a bubbly crust on the top. I carefully skimmed this bubbly crust out and threw it away, and then immediately realized that the rotten smell must have been from it. The stuff below smelled still of overripe fruit with hints of the beer-y alcoholic smell. I read in  Reinhart book that could still have hope resurrecting the seed so I got 30g from it. I instinctively fed it with 100g water and 100g tipo00 flour (I ran of whole wheat on day 5 remember). Which reminds me that I need to make a trip to the market soon. I decided to feed it from hereon with only whole wheat because it is cheaper (around $1.5 for a kilo at the market) and I can get it a more accessible place. As for the rye, I had to travel far out the city to get it and it costs a lot (we have Red Bob's Mill brand here). Good thing I had some rye left to start the seed in its early days. 

It is now Day 7 (AM) and I have fed 30g of the seed with 45g water + 60g flour. I will promise to abide by the 75%hydration from now on.

Meanwhile here are some questions:

Until when will I do this before I can start to make bread? Except for my glitches on day 6, am I doing this right? I mean the twice a day feeding. I will go back to feeding them whole wheat flour as soon as I make a trip to the market.

What really are the signs of an active starter before I attempt to make a leaven? How should they smell?

This rise and fall thing, i am still wary about. Does this mean that yeast activity is at their peak when the seed has noticeable doubled, and as it is, on its peak? And when it falls, does it mean the yeasts are exhausted and hungry? I am asking this because I cannot be on guard to check it because of the new job. Unless of course I bring it so work? I don't know hahaha.

Lastly, am I feeding the 30g seed too little or too much or just right in relation to the ambient temp we hare here?

That's all for now. Thank you for all your help with this. :)

Pantone

 

 

nora sass's picture
nora sass

Hi there, I am pretty new in this forum and also just a newborn in bread making. I started making my own culture and had no problem with the humidity here. My culture has been with me for past two months now.  To start with, this is a good place to be. I had learned and hv much more to learn from the bakers here who have been so helpful and are so willing to share.  I have yet to invest in a book just yet and am still looking around for one that will suit me eventually.  This blog and forum here for now is my book. Go on and start your own culture.  You will have so much fun.  Happy Baking !!!!

Cheers ! Nora

pantone_000's picture
pantone_000

I will, Nora. Thanks for the encouragement! Hopefully I can find my bread baking bible, too. :)
Tell me when you have found yours. :)

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

The yeasts and lactobacilli that live in a sourdough culture LOVE a hot and humid environment! I don't know how hot it is there, but I believe the yeasts can survive up to 140F or so. The problem you might have, is keeping them well fed. At high ambient temps, they are more active ( I told you they love it) and will eat more, and rise faster.

pantone_000's picture
pantone_000

Hi David,
Thank you! Re: keeping them well fed, I think that is my worry too. I only bake on weekends and we don't have a refrigerator at home, I read the weekend bakers may keep their SD culture in the fridge and can be fed once a week. And oh, we don't have rye flour and unbleached a.p. flour here. I use bread flour almost all of the time and fine/coarse wheat at times. 

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

As for getting your hands on some live culture, there are a few ways you could try. Some places sell live cultures online, and ship them to you dry. You would then reconstitute it, and keep it fed and watered from then on. There is even one group who will give you a live culture for just the price of postage. They call themselves Friends of Carl Griffith. And the sourdough they have is supposedly from the days of the Oregon Trail. The website is http://carlsfriends.net where they will tell you exactly how to get their starter, why they give it away, and how to use it when you've gotten it.

Alternatively, you can start your own. Mix up some flour and water to a somewhat thin batter consistency, don't add anything else to it, and in a couple days you should start to see activity. For more thorough instructions, you can find relevant posts on this website, using the search box at the upper right corner of the screen.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

search function on this site just look for Debra Winks pineapple juice method for getting a SD starter going.  It is very easy and nearly foolproof.  The idea is to have a slightly acidic medium to start with to promote the culture you want. to end up with.

Your culture will love the heat and humidity .

Good luck

pantone_000's picture
pantone_000

Thank you, dabrownman. ;)

clazar123's picture
clazar123

For that reason, I recommend you keep a smaller starter so the feedings won't break the bank. A few tablespoons of flour in a pint jar is all you need.  If you have a cooler spot or a refrigerator(for later when the culture is more mature) than you will have no problem-just keep it well fed when at ambient (very warm) room temp.

As for where to get a culture-flour,water,stir,time. The yeasts come from the flour itself. Using pineapple juice or another slightly acidic additive gives the culture a head start on developing an acidic environment to discourage the nasty bacteria and encouraging the tasty yeasts.

Try it! Have delicious fun!

pantone_000's picture
pantone_000

Thank you clazar123 for the reco, I haven't thought of halving the starter recipe. I am definitely open to that idea.  :) 
That's another posing problem. We don't have a refrigerator to keep the starter. I am afraid I cannot buy a refrigerator for that sole purpose of keeping a starter alive. 

 

P.S.
Yes, there are still households here with no refrigerators and that includes us. Why?

1. Electricity costs are so high!

2. We can buy fresh vegetables, fruits, and meat from the nearby local market anytime we may need and we don't have leftovers to put in it, anyway.

3. Our family isn't used to ice-cold drinking water. Well, that's just us.

Too much of an introduction? Haha. That is also why I am not fond of baking cakes and making frostings--because they need refrigeration!

 

pantone_000's picture
pantone_000

Thank you for all your help and suggestions, guys! To give you an idea, the average temperature here is 28-30degC in the rainy season (June to October), cooler on the holiday season (November to February) and in summer, it can go up to 37degC in March. But basically erratic, there can be hot days in rainy season and cool days in summer. The weather here being "erratic" is the harder aspect. I guess I should get a room thermometer too?

I agree, yeast loves a hot and humid environment. I actually feel blessed than cursed with this weather. Most of the time, my dough doubles in size in less than an hour without any help from a lamp, a heating pad, or the need to place my dough in the oven on low with a bowl of hot water.

Meanwhile, I guess I have to read up fast. Why did I learn about TFL only now?! :)

Thanks guys, keep those posts coming. I hope sourdough bread enthusiasts from other Southeast Asian can post too. :)

 

PeterS's picture
PeterS

Adding some salt to your starter will slow it down and make it more manageable in hot weather. It is an old and well known adjustment. Also, lowering the hydration (to 50-60% from 100% or more) will slow down the fermentation. You can also start with cold water (flour, too) or even refrigerate your starter for a couple of hours right after mixing. You'll have to play around a little to find out what combination works best for you.

nora sass's picture
nora sass

I am not far from you, Im in Singapore and having the same climate as you. I started my started following Susan, the link here www.wildyeastblog.com. It took me about a week to finally get my starter ready. Since I am baking quite often as I am practicing,  I fed my started every 12hrs and gradually reduced to 1 per day. Perhaps since you will not be refrigerating it, you might want to keep only a 50gm or 60gm started as suggested by one of the bloggers here. I had been practicing a lot of sourdough breads myself. It is fun !!! I am pretty sure you will have much fun as I do :)

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

pantone_000,

The amount of starter you keep can be very miniscule, once it is established. If you have (or get) a scale that can measure in grams, you can keep as small an amount as you can accurately measure, mix, and store. At one point, I was keeping less than 25g of starter. I would scrape all the starter out of the container, and feed flour and water to whatever clung to the inside walls of the container. I would recommend getting the starter well established before cutting it down that low, because you want the innoculation from the starter to be strong enough to do what it's supposed to do. If you start your own, that means possibly two weeks or more of a good sized starter before cutting it way down. If you get a culture from somewhere else, it is considered mature already, and you can keep it small.

Another thing you can do is keep your starter dry. Many people on this site have mentioned that they dry some of their starter to keep as a backup in case something happens to the starter they are maintaining. They can start over with the dried culture, and go on as if nothing happened. You could do that every week, if you wanted to. Once you have a mature culture, dry some of it and use the rest in your bread or discard it, so you don't have to feed it any more. A couple days before your next bake, reconstitute the dry culture, feed it through a couple of cycles, then use some for baking and dry some again for the next week. It sounds like a strange up-and-down, but it would keep you from having to feed your starter for most of the week.

One last idea: Learn to use the "discard" from the starter every day, so you aren't throwing it away. Two suggestions I've seen are pancakes and english muffins. Find something you could stand to make every day, and eat or give away to be eaten every day. I happen to love sourdough pancakes. Both pancakes and english muffins can be made with the discard, because they don't need the starter to be alive and active, like you would want for raising bread. I also discovered that sourdough starter is good for fried chicken. I take some of my starter and add extra milk or water to it, to make it very wet. I dip the chicken pieces in that, then coat them with a mix of flour, salt, pepper, garlic, and such, then fry them up. I think it produces the most tender and delicious fried chicken I have ever made. Then, the starter liquid and the flour mix that are left from that get mixed together and rolled into balls and fried too! Anyway, with some creativity, you may be able to maintain a starter without having to throw anything away, even your "discard" from feedings.

pantone_000's picture
pantone_000

Thanks PeterS, nra, and DavidF! Your posts are all helpful!

@DavidF: I guess there really is no escaping making a regular sized batch. Since I am very new to sourdough and I have yet to face its complexities, I am gladly taking in your insights. Thanks a whole lot!

pantone_000's picture
pantone_000

I really do hope I meet sourdough fans here living in the same region as mine. I have been reading about troubleshooting sourdoughs and a big chunk of it's success lies in  its environment's temperature.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Natural leavening (sourdough) has been used for thousands of years in all kinds of climates so there are numerous ways to make it successful. That is part of the beauty of this site. It draws from expertise all over the world and in all kind of climates.

Great ideas for you to try-salting the mix,using cold water, reducing the wetness/hydration of the starter. See what works for you!

One more idea-how about starting with fruit water yeast? Enter that in the search box and see if it works for you!

Candygirl's picture
Candygirl

Hi I'm also from Manila and have been learning to bake sourdough bread for the past 3 years. I've learned so much from this site and these wonderful artisan bakers from all over the world Who are kind enough to share their tips and recipes. I've managed to make my own culture from rye flour and water But I'm currently using a starter from SF, a gift from my brother in San Mateo. There are some bread books available locally at NBS or Fully Booked. I've seen Tartine- a good book with good photos. Good luck and enjoy!

PeterS's picture
PeterS

Pantone,

The activities of yeast & bacteria approximately double for every 10 degree celsius increase in temperature. Your starter, all other things being equal, will double in volume in about 1/2 the time of a comparable starter at 21C (70F). 

This is not exact as it is an oversimplification, but should put a lot of what you read about starters in non-tropical environments into perspective.

According to Hamelman, salting a starter at 1.8% baker's percentage is a good starting point. Keep the level at or about the saltiness of your formula and no higher.

pantone_000's picture
pantone_000

I still have other major questions regarding starter in southeast asian climate.

1. For example, I need a Y amount of leaven for the recipe, and I have X grams of leaven. How much do I feed the starter? Which leads to...

2. I read that there are timing / feeding intervals (sometimes 2 times, sometimes 3, in X hour intervals etc) before a leaven gets to its ripest stage and can be used. Given our hot/humid climate and that yeast activity more or less doubles in half the time required as compared to colder countries, then what timing do I use?

3. The hydration matter. I guess everyone starts off at a 100% hydration starter and then eventually cuts it to 80% or 65% etc. How does one arrive at those hydration percentages?

I am still lost on this levain starter technique but it makes me want to learn more about it. Meanwhile I am experimenting on using poolish/sponge (equal parts of water and flour taken from the total flour weight from the recipe, plus a pinch of yeast, then left 6-8 hours overnight when the temp is cooler). My general observations:1. Dough is very soft and hard to form but doable. I use Richard Bertinet's forming the dough technique and usually do it for 30minutes maximum. A lot of dough (well, it's almost a very thick quick bread batter!) gets wasted because it sticks to my hands and fingers although I try my best to incorporate them back into the dough.
2. But the crumb of the finished bread...oh the crumb! It is very soft and cottony, but a bit crumbly.
3. I haven't taken note of how long it will keep fresh because once it cools down to a temperature acceptable to the tongue, my family members instantly devour it. So I can't keep track.

Pardon the newbie questions. I know I have so much to read and learn and experience and I just can't wait until I can make my own sourdough bread. :)

pantone_000's picture
pantone_000

According to this site http://www.nyx.net/~dgreenw/whatistherelationshipbetwe.html,
"Further, Michael Gaenzle (GŠnzle) has shown that sourdough yeast growth (for the SF sourdough yeast organism) is severely retarded by temperatures much above 85 degrees F. and that culturing above that temperature can deplete the yeast, leaving the lactobacillis predominant."

So there really is a chance that a wild starter in a above 30C environment can die? In summer (which is nearing, btw, March to May) our temperatures here can reach as high as 38C!

mwilson's picture
mwilson

A chance yes, but only if that yeast (c.milleri) already exists in your starter, which it probably doesn't. There are a vast range of yeast species that can thrive in a sourdough starter such as yours. I know, I've read about it and I've done it. Don't worry too much about it. But with such warm temperatures I would advise making the move to a firm starter (40-50%). The reason being to prevent protease degrading your flour too much.

The resulting difference being that your bread won't have same flavour as one made in a cooler climate.

pantone_000's picture
pantone_000

After 8 months of posting this question, I finally had the courage to build up my own and tomorrow is it's first weeksary. I will post the story and progress and another set of questions in a while. :)

First, is a week-long starter already mature to make a leaven?

@Candygirl, I have adapted Tartine method to make the starter, although i have scaled the numbers down to around half so I could get the hang of it first before building it up. And i didnt have enough rye flour to last the week for its food.

WoodenSpoon's picture
WoodenSpoon

seems a little young to me, but if its healthy smelling and doubling reliably then it could be. any idea how long after a feeding it reaches its peak and begins to fall? and how many days has it been displaying the activity that its showing now?

pantone_000's picture
pantone_000

What would healthy smelling particularly mean? Excluding very very off aroma of course.

I fed my starter last night before I went to sleep (take note I start the day count at PM). I checked it now and it smelled like slightly fermented scent but it wasn't beer-y, it smelled of soymilk.

WoodenSpoon's picture
WoodenSpoon

I would see fruity/yeasty/maybe a little acetic as a good sign, what kind of activity had it shown since its last night feeding? I also fed mind before I went to work last night and it had peaked and fell right when i touched it this morning.

pantone_000's picture
pantone_000

Fed the seed around 11pm and check it around 8am today. From the outside, there was a good sign of bubbles and I probably doubled its bulk (no sign of falling yet). When I opened the cover to check the aroma, I noticed that the top has formed into a thin crust - why is this so? The crust smelled lacquer-ish sort. What I did was I stirred down the thing down and also did that to give fresh air to the starter, and then the lacquer-ish smell was gone. 

My routine is: 30g seed + 45g water (around 85F) + 60g ww flour + small pinch of salt (75% hydration to keep the activity down). Am I doing this thing right? Let me mention again that I have no option for refrigeration and the ambient temp in our kitchen is 85F (82F at night, 89-90F by midday/noon).  Am I feeding the seed the right amounts? Is it enough or not enough? 

Or do I have to transfer it to a cooler room perhaps? I will try my best but I don't see any big changes in temp at home, we dont have air conditioning either.

Zoebaba's picture
Zoebaba

Hello, I actually just registered to be able to tell you my experiences. I live in Europe, but in the heat of summer, this is what I do:

Use less seed. This, plus the addition of salt which you already do, will slow fermentation. (This is true for both the culture and the bread dough.) I stir up my ripe starter with water and let the whole thing stand for a bit before discarding 90%. Then I mix the new flour in. I eyeball quantities. This should enable you to stick to your 12 hr feeding schedule.

As David said above, keeping a firmer sourdough will also slow down fermentation. In Italy they use about 50-60% hydration.

Use a wet cloth to cool the jar with the culture. I use a glass jar with a lid and wrapping it in a wet cloth will cool it by evaporation. I also let my bread dough ferment overnight in a plastic box with a lid and in summer I put a wet towel around this box. A fan would help with the cooling, but this is probably taking things too far....

Good luck with your starter and bake bread soon,

Zoebaba

shuklamadhuri's picture
shuklamadhuri

I live in India. Due to rainy season the temp here is around 79 deg F in the morning also it is very humid .I already have an active sourdough wholewheat starter with 80% hydration.I have tried Susans's Nordwich basic sourdough recipe but my bread is turning out too sour for our palette.Can someone please help with the fermentation timings .also I am not very clear about the levain concept.