The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hey, I'm New..and I have a Question.

chesspeaceface's picture
chesspeaceface

Hey, I'm New..and I have a Question.

I'm trying to get a starter going this week and I'm considering the possibilities of starter mixes for flavor. I read Kitchen Confidential years ago and there was mention of a guy in there who made starter from all kinds of horrendous things--the most interesting to me was black gill sludge from mushrooms. Is that more or less a tall tale? Would you end up poisoning yourself if you try some real mad scientist concoctions in your sourdough starter or is the sky the limit? Any stories about successful or failed flavoring combinations? Thanks in advance!

sphealey's picture
sphealey

If you are just starting out with sourdoughs I would suggest first getting a reliable starter so you can learn how to manage it and bake with it. You can either create one using the pineapple juice method described on this site and elsewhere or buy a sample from King Arthur, sourdo.com, etc.

I am no microbiologist, but I would have to say that if you mixed mushrooms in right from the beginning you might very well get some undesirable compounds in there. Of course whther or not hallucinigenic compounds are "undesirable" depends on your state of mind and legal jurisdiction ;-), but in general mushrooms do a lot of odd things.

sPh

TRK's picture
TRK

While I agree that there are far better ways to capture yeast than mixing in mushroom sludge, it seems to me like you can expect most of the nastiness to get diluted out as you go through successive refreshments.  I only save 1/4 cup of starter each time I refresh, and mix it with the new flour and water.  After a couple times through, I feel like any nastiness will be essentially gone.

 

I know there are lots of different methods of making starters, with milk or grapes or what have you.  I think Peter Reinhart's argument that what you want are the organisms that can live on wheat seeds, so the organisms you can capture off of wheat seeds (i.e. already present in the flour) are the best ones to use.  After all, they settled on the substrate you are hoping they will eat.

 

 

chesspeaceface's picture
chesspeaceface

Yeah, that really does make a lot of sense. The starter I'm trying right now is just flour and water. So, adding different foods for the yeast to eat doesn't effectively change the flavor of bread made from the yeast further down the line?

TRK's picture
TRK

I made mine using rye flour for the first piece, then feeding with wheat flour.  I didn't bother with organic, and I didn't bother with special water.  I used Brita-filtered tap water.  I hadn't heard about the pineapple juice thing and never needed it.  In my experience, sourdough is a lot simpler and a lot hardier than a lot of people make it out to be. 

 

There is an argument to make that different foods or sources of yeast might change the organisms in the starter and therefore the flavor.  I tend to fall into the camp that says that any starter will change to match the local flora when you move to a new location.  Some people buy cultures from different locations and swear that they remain different (Ed Wood and World Sourdough sell them online).