The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

sourdough starter struggling in London

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

sourdough starter struggling in London

Hi,

over the last 12 years I've made literally dozens of starters (both solid and liquid) that have given me a lot of satisfactions: explosive starters and great rise.

In London it's a totally different story: starters are sluggish, they barely double (in Italy they more than tripled) always very slowly. The temperature in the house is more or less the same here as it was there: around 21/22°C.

Suspecting the level of chlorine/chloramine in water I've tried tap water and various brands of bottled water, with better success rate with bottled water. 

As for the flours, in Italy there's a infinitely richer choice of brands and types, while in the UK the choice is extremely limited and technical flours that I had in Italy are just a dream.

Even with wholemeal rye flour the starters are very sluggish and even tend to die.

So, my question to Uk users is: what flours and water do you use for your SD starter?

At the moment (after having tried nearly all flour in major supermarkets) I'm using Allinson "very strong white" canadian flour, that at least resists very well to long fermentation without turning into mud (it was time!).

Thanks

SourdoughSA's picture
SourdoughSA

Hi hi.....i'm not from Londen.....but from South Africa......i always use purified water for my cultures, and even when i bake, i use purified water, tap water contains a LOT of industrial chemicals, and that poor culture can't handle that.

I also use a combination of flours when i feed my culture.  Normally i would use a stoneground white 70%, stoneground whole meal 20%, and a stoneground rye 10%, and my H2O will be 120%, because technically rye and w/w absorbs more moist than your white.

So this normally works for me, feeding ratio of 1;1;1,  and my culture is currently 11 years old, and i bake with it on a daily basis.

Insomnia Brendan's picture
Insomnia Brendan

Hi Nicodvb, 

I live just outside London and have only been baking sourdough for two months. I cannot directly answer your question regards initiating starter issues as I bought my starter from Freshly fermented website for £5. It's got a terrific flavour. 

However, I can tell you about a couple of great options for buying great flour. However, they are not cheap options but I think the quality is excellent. 

My previous supplier was Shipton Mill

My current flour and equipment supplier is Bakery Bits

Water - I use boiled water that is left in an open jug for a day or two to evaporate off the fluorine. It doesn't seem to hurt my preferments or starter growth at all doing it this way. I did have one negative experience with direct water but it was in the early days so I cannot be sure it was definitely the water. 

Hope that helps until now experienced bakers comment. 

 

 

Novice's picture
Novice

Hi Nicodvb, I am also in UK London area, my starter has quietened down a lot since the warm summer days. I try and leave it out of the fridge a little more and feed it a little more often, but still it's not as active as in the summer.

I agree with on of the previous posters on Shipton Mill flours. I they are excellent and give a great flavour better [IMHO] than any of the supermarket varieties, I buy their Organic white No4 in 16kg sacks which I use as my base mix. At 16kg it makes it much more economical per kg than buying an equivalent @1.5kg bags a time. The stoneground organic white is also excellent but makes quite a sticky dough so I don't use it at 100% the colour slightly greyer but a wonderful taste.

I think the UK water is an issue. Like Brendan I feel guilty using bottled water, so I use it only for the starter and use tap for the dough making. I try and keep the starter as pure as possible so only organic flour (keep adding yeasts) and bottled water (not killing them off with chlorine) to keep the culture healthy.

Robertob's picture
Robertob

Hi,

I live in London and use Bakery Bits For Mulino Marino flour and lots of other fantastic flours.  I have not had any issues with my starter, although I tend to use my starter when it’s young.  

roberto

 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

with some raisins it's going much better, but it's a bit like cheating, as it's renowned that their surface is loaded with yeasts.

Insomnia Brendan's picture
Insomnia Brendan

Glad to hear you've got your starter going. Do you use tap water? It's annoying aerating my water each time I make bread, and I'm too environmentally guilty to use bottled mineral water. If you did use tap water unadulterated, I shall be keen to drop this step too as we probably have similar tap water. 

Did you notice a taste difference using your raisin starter? 

As you may already know, but  I read some really  information indirectly obtained from Deborah Wink that the reason the fruit is helpful in starting a starter is that it inhibits leuconostoc bacteria. This is the first gas producing bacteria to form in a starter which you want to eventually subside as the yeast forms after day 4-5 or so.

I think my mum uses these leuconostoc bacteria in her fermentation when making some of her Sri Lankan foods (idli, dosa). 

 

 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Hi, 

I'm using bottled water now.

pintolaranja's picture
pintolaranja

Also tried Shipton Mill and at the moment I'm playing a bit with Allison's Very Strong White.

I can see some starters on the web much stronger than mine, but what I do is play around with the water temperature a bit. Or... just give it more time. Magic will happen.
The water I use comes from a big glass jug where I keep some active charcoal sticks to filter regular tap water for drinking. I may warm it up in an electrical jug depending on how cold the kitchen is. The starter does double, may even triple, it is a matter of time. But it does require a couple of feedings after taking it out of the fridge and letting it come to room temperature.

To be honest, I haven't seen much difference with the different flours, though it works a little better if I use some percentage of wholemeal flour in the starter.

Insomnia Brendan's picture
Insomnia Brendan

Hi all, 

Its great to discuss things with experienced home bakers as in this message thread. I'm very new to baking, and i don't know what's well known and not well known in the baking community. 

In reference to the value of different flours and starter development, I've read that stoneground flours would have more natural yeasts present because the use of steel rollers to grind flour generates more heat that destroys more of the microbial population on the grain.

I would hypothesise that organic flour would also have better microbial /yeast populations due to a much richer soil ecosystem and less/no pesticide/chemical fertiliser usage which are so damaging to soil microbes.

However, I've no experience in baking, so I'm not sure if the theories that I've read have any elevate to the real world?

 

pintolaranja's picture
pintolaranja

And it does make sense, but I have no ground to compare, all the flour I've been using in the UK is labelled organic and stoneground.

However, I do question whether being stoneground is always better. Heating too much may depend on how fast the stones are kept rolling and for how long? Not sure. But I tend to agree that reaching that point may take a bit longer.

Insomnia Brendan's picture
Insomnia Brendan

Good point. Surely lots of people have compared this already, but just for fun, I'll have to do a very small scale experiment and generate starters from different yeast and assess the difference. 

I have a strange idea of fun! 

Kind regards, 

Brendan 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Actually over the years  a lot of millers told me the opposite, meaning that roller milling heats the wheat much less because being a more more efficient process it requires less time to grind.

Insomnia Brendan's picture
Insomnia Brendan

The more you know, the less you know...

Insomnia Brendan's picture
Insomnia Brendan

Just for the record, agreeing with what the millers have told you is an article with a some information contrary to what I had stated earlier.

Article

Nothing in baking is simple.