The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I Think I Messed Up My Starter

chris319's picture

I Think I Messed Up My Starter

Lately my loaves have been lacking that distinctive L. SanFran flavor unique to S.F. sourdough. They're kind of bland and not as tangy as previously. I'm not doing anything differently. The only thing I can think of is that I messed up my starter.

I have some cake flour (don't ask) that I've been wanting to use up. It does not contain malted barley flour (diastatic malt) and I've been using it to replenish my starter after baking, adding 1/2 tsp (just guessing at the measurement) of diastatic malt to make up for it.The starter smells yeasty and the loaves rise OK but I'm starting to wonder if this is the reason my sourdough isn't as tangy as it used to be. I'm not worried though. I'm now replenishing it with some first clear flour I had on hand which does contain diastatic malt, so I'm hoping this will bring the tanginess back. I'll make biscuits with the cake flour.

More to come.

Craig_the baker's picture
Craig_the baker

Not only the type of flour you use but the feeding schedule, % of hydration, temp of the starter make huge differences in level of tang. More info would be needed in order for the folks here to make so suggestions for you.

pmccool's picture

but the outcome has, it's time to broaden the scope of inquiry.  My first guess would be that, all other things being equal, temperatures are different.  If you maintain a controlled environment for your starter and dough, that guess is out the window.  However, if your starter and doughs are maintained at ambient conditions, and if those conditions have been changing, then a different strain of lactobacillus bacteria may be dominant now and create a different flavor profile.

Just one of a boatload of possibilities...


P.S. I didn't understand from your write-up if the change in flavor was coincident with the use of the pastry flour for feeding the starter.  If it was, then you've answered your question and you did introduce a change in your process.

chris319's picture

Well Paul, at least you get it.

I thought the first sentence of the second paragraph made clear that the use of cake flour without diastatic malt was the one big change in process, so yes, I agree, that's the first place to look. There have been no real changes in the environment.

chris319's picture

After replenishing my starter with some First Clear flour which does contain malted barley flour and waiting a day, I made another loaf and the familiar tanginess of l.sanfran is back! I'm happy now because my sourdough is more authentic than most sourdough sold in San Francisco nowadays, and from Los Angeles, not S.F.!!!

A testament to the craft of the miller.

Or maybe it's the Lactobacullus LosAngelencis?