The Fresh Loaf

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Experiment: Non-Traditional Starters from Scratch (Probiotics, Honey, Thyme)

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Mudelicious

Experiment: Non-Traditional Starters from Scratch (Probiotics, Honey, Thyme)

Sourdough Starters

 

Hello everyone!

I’m brand new to cultivating starters from scratch, and this website has been a wealth of fantastic information. I’ve read a number of Debra Wink’s very informative posts about the different LAB bacteria and the phases that a new starter goes through, and as a research-driven woman who majored in biology myself, I am intrigued by it all.

 

I decided to start an experiment in my home, as my first-ever attempt to cultivate starters from scratch.  I’m 5 feedings into the experiment and will hopefully add my photos and more details in a later post. I’d really appreciate any insights and advice about my experiment from anyone, especially if anyone knows of other similar experiments!

 

Here is the experiment:

I began with 5 clean glass quart jars, disinfected by boiling water.  The jars are kept in my small room at around 73* Fahrenheit, a room heated with a rotating electric heater. I started out the first 2 feedings all the same with just whole wheat flour and water (except the RYE, which I used only rye and not wheat flour). During the 3rd feeding, and to each one after, I added the extra ingredient to the jar. They are labeled and filled on Day 1 as follows:

 

FEEDING ONE: (4am Thursday)

1. CONTROL:   3/4 cup Whole Wheat flour mixed vigorously with 3/4 cup spring water

2. PROBIOTICS: 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour mixed vigorously with 1/2 cup spring water

3. HONEY: 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour mixed vigorously with 1/2 cup spring water

4. THYME: 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour mixed vigorously with 1/2 cup spring water

5. RYE: 1/2 cup Rye flour mixed vigorously with 1/2 cup spring water

 

FEEDING TWO: (5pm Thursday, 12 hours later) This feed, I did NOT discard any original starter, but simply added more flour and water to the original mixtures. There was a massive fast rise in all the jars that peaked around 3am Friday (about 10 hours after feeding). The starter more than doubled in volume. I attribute this to the Leuconostoc bacteria that Debra Wink mentions in her Pineapple Juice Starter blog post. 

 

1. CONTROL:   To starter, add additional 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour and 1/2 cup spring water

2. PROBIOTICS: To starter, add additional 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour and 1/2 cup spring water

3. HONEY: To starter, add additional 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour and 1/2 cup spring water

4. THYME: To starter, add additional 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour and 1/2 cup spring water

5. RYE: To starter, add additional 1/2 cup Rye flour and 1/2 cup spring water

 

 

FEEDING THREE: (5pm Friday, 24 hours after Feed 2, 14 hours after starters peaked). I know I was late with this feed.  I had planned to feed every 12 hours, but was too tired to do it at 4am, and so decided to wait 24 hours and see what happened.  Well, all of the starters had fallen back down to almost their original starting points, and there were layers of liquid, which must have been the alcohol or acid byproducts of the bacteria metabolism. Each jar had lots of bubbles and a lovely sour smell.  I decided to add the extra ingredients during this feed. I also began to remove the original starter.  First, I stirred the day old starter to mix in the liquid/hooch and make it homogenous.  Then, I discarded about half of the starter from each jar until only about 1/2 cup remained. Each jar had the following:

 

1. CONTROL:  1/2 cup old starter, 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour, 1/2 cup spring water

2. PROBIOTICS:  1/2 cup old starter, 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour, 1/2 cup spring water, 1 Probiotic pill

3. HONEY: 1/2 cup old starter, 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour, 1/2 cup spring water, 1 Tablespoon Honey

4. THYME: 1/2 cup old starter, 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour, 1/2 cup spring water, 1 Tablespoon Thyme (dried)

5. RYE: 1/2 cup old starter, 1/2 cup Rye flour, 1/2 cup spring water

 

Notes:

The probiotic pill brand is Renew Life Ultimate Flora 30 billion. Each pill contains 3 Bifidobacterium strains totaling 18 billion and 7 Lactoctobacillus strains totaling 12 billion. I will post the exact species later. I removed the clear cover of the pill and dumped the contents into the jar. 

The honey is Stop&Shop brand Clover Honey. 

The thyme is dried thyme leaves sold by a local market. 

The flours are King Arthur whole wheat and Hodgson Mill whole grain rye.

 

FEEDING FOUR: (3pm Saturday, 23 hours after Feed 3). After Feed 3 around midnight, the first three jars had not risen in volume at all, but there were bubbles. The thyme and rye jars showed a tiny bit of rise.  By 3am, it looked about the same.  Interestingly, only the thyme and rye had risen significantly, by almost equal amount. Each jar had bubbles, but each smelled differently.  The control and probiotic smelled a similar sour, the rye smelled sour but different, the honey had a much less sour smell, and the thyme smelled so fragrant of thyme with a hint of sour. When it was time for Feed 4, the jar volumes hadn’t risen any more than they were at 3am, but on a positive note they had not fallen from their peak.  The control jar was the only one showing lots liquid hooch.  For Feed 4, I stirred each jar with a different knife, discarded all but a 1/2 cup of each starter, and put in the same ingredients as last time, including more of the additions.  Each jar had the following:

 

1. CONTROL:  1/2 cup old starter, 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour, 1/2 cup spring water

2. PROBIOTICS:  1/2 cup old starter, 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour, 1/2 cup spring water, another 1 Probiotic pill

3. HONEY: 1/2 cup old starter, 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour, 1/2 cup spring water, another 1 Tablespoon Honey

4. THYME: 1/2 cup old starter, 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour, 1/2 cup spring water, another 1 Tablespoon Thyme (dried)

5. RYE: 1/2 cup old starter, 1/2 cup Rye flour, 1/2 cup spring water

 

 

FEEDING FIVE: (7pm Sunday, 28 hours after Feed 4). Over 24 hours (at 5pm Sunday) after Feed 4, there was again very little activity in the Control, Probiotic, and Honey jars.  Those first three starters had each risen just a tiny bit risen in volume, but there were bubbles and similar smells as before.  The honey had less bubbles. The thyme and rye jars once again showed much greater rise, bubbles, and seemed to have much more active organisms.  This time, the rye had risen almost twice as much as the thyme had risen. By 3am, it looked about the same.  Interestingly, only the thyme and rye had risen significantly, by almost equal amount. Each jar had bubbles, but each smelled differently.  The smells in each jar were similar to before, but there was very little liquid hooch in any jar.  I think the timing for the feed was better, because neither the thyme or rye jar peaks had started to collapse.  I’m realizing it’s taking me an hour to feed all five jars! For Feed 5, I stirred each jar with a different knife, discarded all but a 1/2 cup of each starter, and put in the same ingredients as last time, including more of the additions.  Each jar had the following:

 

1. CONTROL:  1/2 cup old starter, 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour, 1/2 cup spring water

2. PROBIOTICS:  1/2 cup old starter, 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour, 1/2 cup spring water, another 1 Probiotic pill

3. HONEY: 1/2 cup old starter, 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour, 1/2 cup spring water, another 1 Tablespoon Honey

4. THYME: 1/2 cup old starter, 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour, 1/2 cup spring water, another 1 Tablespoon Thyme (dried)

5. RYE: 1/2 cup old starter, 1/2 cup Rye flour, 1/2 cup spring water

 

 

 

It is currently 4am Monday, about 10 hours after Feed 5. Finally I’m seeing some activity in the first three jars.  The Control has finally risen significantly (after two days of almost no activity) but has not doubled in volume. The Probiotic has also risen significantly (after two days of almost nothing) and I think it has actually doubled in volume. The Honey has not changed volume at all, but there are a few bubbles showing at the surface. I’ve read that the yeast feed so quickly on simple sugars like honey that they have a boom-bust population growth, so maybe the yeast are not surviving while the honey is still feeding some batería that produce gas bubbles.   Or possibly the honey is keeping the pH higher than needed for LAB bacteria to grow, which is slowing down the acidification of the starter and slowing down the yeast growth.  The Thyme is my huge winner (most active) yet again, rising significantly to a double volume by around 2am, and it’s still around the same height. It must be close to its peak, hopefully it won’t collapse too much before I feed it in the morning.  Strangely, the Rye has barely grown at all.  This is the first time that it has not significantly risen between feedings. It started a little drier than usual (I’m just using volume measure, not grams, sorry I know that alters the experiment, but I’ve tried my best to make similar consistency each time). So maybe the slight dry-ness of the Rye starter is to blame for the lack of any rise this time??

 

I was hoping to wait 24 hours to do Feed 6 around Monday 5pm, but it seems I may actually need to do it pretty soon.

 

Please send me any advice and counsel or insights you have!!! I’m particularly interested in what is going on with this Thyme starter!! I’ll post more of my thoughts about the thyme later, with some links to scientific papers I’ve read.

 

Thank you all so much for all the great advice I’ve read on here. I’ll try my best to post updates.

 

Keep smiling!

Mary Dake (mudelicious)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mini Oven

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