The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Teenage Mutant Ninja Starter (or total gluten destruction)

LowerHaightBaker's picture
LowerHaightBaker

Teenage Mutant Ninja Starter (or total gluten destruction)

Hi all,

Thank you to the experts for helping us baking newbies out!

I've been baking with a rye starter for about a year but recently ran out of rye flour and started to use just normal bread flour. However, once I changed flour types my starter turned into a completely different beast. It used to be thicker and spongey with rye flour but after a few weeks the bread flour would turn into a pancake batter consistency and has amped up the sourness of the starter by 2-3x. It also develops a black hooch very quickly. It just seems this starter has become hyper active.

At first, the bread that I baked with it turned out fine. However, the last time I baked with it using the same recipe and doing everything to the tee, the entire bread dough came out very liquefied after the second proof. It had no structure and was more of a wet ciabatta-like dough consistency.

My recipe is from Josey Baker Bread so it is a little on the wet side. Everything was fine consistency-wise until after the second proof and it just turned out so bad.

Can anyone explain what might be happening? Can starter turn to the dark side? Do I just need to get a new starter? 

Thank you,

Ryan

PS: I did put it on an aggressive feeding schedule at one point and fed it a lot over a couple of days but that never seemed to create this monster when I would do it with rye flour. 

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

But I wonder if your feeding routine is 1:1:1. If it is, try throwing half of it out and feed it 1:3:3 (one part starter to 3 parts each water and flour by weight) or something even higher. The acid build up might be killing your dough. If that’s the problem, it needs to be highly diluted by large feedings. 

LowerHaightBaker's picture
LowerHaightBaker

I usually do 20g starter to 80g flour and 80g water. Maybe I will do 5g:80g:80g

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

Should be fine. But go ahead and see if increasing the ratio helps. 

LowerHaightBaker's picture
LowerHaightBaker

Any thoughts on dough becoming like pancake batter? is that the acid?

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

I was thinking initially but your refreshment ratio looks fine to me. I know that if I didn’t do enough builds to dilute the acid, at shaping, I would find that the skin on the loaves would tear even though they were just sitting there. 

Maybe the flour is at fault since you said you recently changed it. Have you tried with different flour? Really grasping at straws here. 

Martin Crossley's picture
Martin Crossley

Although it’s tempting to think of our starters having a unique personality, it’s better to think of them as a dynamic ‘zoo’ made up of many different types of yeast and bacteria, but one or two dominant species. Every time you add flour, you introduce new species.

if you change the environmental conditions (temperature, frequency of feeding, hydration...) then within a few days a new balance between the different types microbes will emerge. What were previously minority species might now become dominant, or the existing species may adjust their metabolisms to operate in a completely different way (e.g. producing more acetic acid and less lactic, thus radically changing the flavour profile).

Therefore while it’s nice to think of a particular starter as having been handed down from great aunt Aggie 250 years ago, the reality is that it’s reinvented almost every few weeks.

When you switched from feeding with Rye to Wheat flour, you will certainly have made a vast change to the environmental conditions in your starter, because the range of nutrients available is between the two is radically different. At the microbial level, empires will have fallen... and new ones started to emerge. The change in acidity that you noticed is a clear sign of this.

Don’t worry, but your starter is probably going through a period of change where the different types of microbes are reproducing and dying at different rates than before, so that the ones best suited to the new regime gradually become the majority. So keep following a stable type and frequency of feeding and maintenance, and things will sort themselves out.