The Fresh Loaf

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Sourdough saga

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bnb's picture
bnb

Sourdough saga

 About a week ago I embarked on a journey to create my first sourdough bread. Thus far, I am bewitched. I started cultivating yeast using hodgson mills(not organic) rye flour and cold tap water (1:1 by weight). The first 24 hours, the starter puffed up really tall and bubbly. I did not want to get carried away as I read in one of sourdoughlady's post that this is not the yeast growing, its just gases released by another bacteria that has nothing to do with yeast.

So I was patient feeding the starter, discarding about 4 oz of the starter and adding 8 oz total of all sorts of flour: bread, AP, rye and water. I really did not stick to a standard flour. But all the flours were non organic and the water was cold straight from the tap. The next 24 hours were uneventful as the starter was pretty listless. I missed the second feeding as I was very busy. Out of guilt I just gave the starter a quick stir to incorporate some hooch.

The third 24 hours the starter showed life and started creeping up the container. The rise was gradual and slow but it did finally go upto more than twice the volume. I was surprised the starter was responding this quickly. Since then my starter has been highly active. I actually split my starter in two, out of sheer guilt about the daily wastage of 4 oz of flour and water. I collected the 4 oz in another bottle and started feeding it.

One starter is greater in volume than the other, so I named them Big bubba and small bubba :). I have been feeding them daily before I hit the sack at night. What I have noticed is within that short time when I am asleep, Big bubba, rises tall and deflates, leaving tell-tale traces on the sides of the container. While small bubba maintains its puff when I check it in the morning. Anyone know why?

But the starters are gorgeous to look at when in full "bloom". Full of irrregular bubbles, creamy, and sweet smelling, they rise to 3 times their height after every feed! Its been 6 days so far.

The thing I am most happy about is that I am able to do this with the regular store brought flour. I can't afford organic flour at the moment, so this perfect. Of course the true test will be the actual bread. Keeping my fingers crossed.

BNB.

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

I can't afford organic anything either, the prices are shocking, but I am going to put together a starter forthwith and see what happens.  I gather you didn't use any commercial yeast in yours?

Marni's picture
Marni

Hi, I'm new to this site and also trying my first sourdough. Actually my second starter attempt, my first was questionable and I threw it out.  I have two going now and have not yet had the kind of rise yours have had.  I'm following the pineapple juice method this time.  I was wondering if maybe the temperature might be one of the factors effecting it.  My house stays pretty cold these days.  Do you put yours somewhere warm?  Thanks for any insights you have.

bnb's picture
bnb

Hi Marni,

 Don't be disheartened. My family spends most of its time in the living room and the thermostat in the living room is set to 70-75. Sometimes it goes higher, but for most of the time the temp is pretty conducive, I think. I don't think that should really matter unless your house is frigid because I use very cold water when feeding the starter. Where are you located and what is the avg temp in the warmest place in the house. Remember that yeast is pretty resilient to a wide range of tempertures, google this topic and you will find the exact range.

So anyway my starters are always in the living room where I can see their progress. I would suggest setting your starter in the warmest place in your house, maybe the kitchen. Be sure to start with rye, that is supposed to give you the best results. Also use clean utensils.

How many days did u give your first starter? What flour did you use? Do this the next time you feed your starter, add lukewarm water when feeding it.

I have been reading a lot about starters and have used bits and pieces of information from everywhere.

BNB.

bnb's picture
bnb

Paddy, 

I am glad I could share my experience. The prices for regular flours are also rising so I can only imagine how expensive organics are getting.

Nope, my starter has not a trace of commercial yeast. It's one hundred percent naturally cultivated, harvesting yeast the old fashioned way, just flour and water - no salt,no sugar, no additives at all. I actually started out having very little expectations, what with all the warning about using tap water, chlorine and how the yeast is sensitive. I am extremely surprised at my results.

I am sure a starter made from organic flour and mineral water would have the best flavor and quality but for now I am happy with the way things are.

I live in central NYS and it is still pretty cold here and my home temperature hovers around 70.

Go ahead give it a try.

BNB.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

BNB,

Since you split the starter, the two "should" be identical, but a few things could be different.

For example, are they in different shaped containers? The rising and collapsing process is somewhat sensitive to the shape of the container. A wide container is different from a tall, narrow container.

Also, is the temperature slightly different? Maybe one is just a little closer to a source of warmth than the other? Even a slight difference of 1 or 2 degrees can significantly change the rate at which one ferments vs. the other.

Is there a slight difference in the consistency? Slight differences in the consistency will make a big difference too.

I would bet they are identical, and that they would both work the same in a sourdough recipe.

Bill

bnb's picture
bnb

 BW,

 You suspect right. Big Bubba is in a wider bigger jar, he is the highly volatile one :). Small bubba is in a tall, narrow platic container. And BB is more rye than any other flour, while SB is more bread flour than any other flour. The consistencies should be slightly different as I eyeballed some of the measurements.

So, I guess the different temperments make sense.

Thanks.

BNB.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

BNB,

A starter with whole grain flour or high ash content flour will generally ferment faster. So, the one fed with rye will ferment more quickly. Also, whole grain flours, particularly whole rye, will absorb more water. If the ratios of flour weight to water weight are equal, a whole grain flour will generally create a thicker paste. So, if you want the same consistency you have to add a small amount of additional water to a whole grain dough.

The gluten content matters, too. A strong bread flour will rise more slowly and last longer before collapsing than a lower protein AP flour will. I'm not familiar with rye starters, but it makes sense to me that rye flour won't support anywhere near as long or as big of a rise, just because it doesn't have the gluten in a wheat flour. Also, it will ferment faster than white flour.

Since the starters probably have about the same organisms in them since you made them by splitting a starter, the performance should still be very similar for both, regardless of the details of how they rise. This is especially true if the starters are maintained at the same temperature and approximately the same consistency. The fact they use different flours may cause the organisms types to differ at some point, since you constantly innoculate the starter with whatever organisms are in the various flours, and the chemical conditions of the culture will be chronically a little different because of the differing flours, too.

Bill

bnb's picture
bnb

Thanks for the detailed analysis, BW! It really gives me confidence that the starter is acting the way its supposed to.

 I am planning on moving to the next step, tonight - the firm starter. Hopefully my I can cram it into my schedule. Fingers crossed.I will update this post with details about that as it happens.

BNB.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

BNB,

Are you starting one from scratch or converting one of the existing starters? You can do it either way, but it's lots easier to convert from an already active starter. It's possible a converted starter would be a little different from one started from scratch, although if you maintain a converted firm starter the same way for a long time, it probably would eventually end up being the same as if you started it from scratch as a firm starter.

Overall, I haven't found it that worthwhile to start or maintain several starters, after various projects to start and maintain different starters over the years. I've been able to convert my starter from one consistency or one flour type to another very easily. The difference in flavor you get from one starter to another seems fairly subtle, although there are differences, certainly. However, maybe I've been lucky. I seem to have a starter that is not particularly extreme one way or the other. I know of people who, for whatever reason, have a starter that is especially mild or especially sour.

At one point, I purchased and tried a few Sourdough International starters. They did seem different. For example, the French starter had a distinctly different aroma from the SF Sourdough starter. Nonetheless, both made very good breads that did not differ that much in flavor, in spite of having noticeably different aromas in culture.

Bill

bnb's picture
bnb

BW,

 I am converting my active starter into a firm starter. And then I will let it rise and retard overnight and finally incorporate the firm starter into the bread dough.

I have a few questions. Can I retard the firm starter for a couple of days? How long can the final bread dough be retarded. I want a prominent sour flavor and a nutty crust.

 

BNB.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

BNB,

Just to clarify the discussion below, I'm going to call the firm starter above a levain, meaning an intermediate sourdough preferment to be added to your final dough. The levain term distinguishes it from your "mother" or "storage" starter. Although in the BBA and many other places, "starter" is used for both the storage starter and for sourdough preferments, I think it helps to have a way to distinguish between the two when discussing sourdough recipes.

Yes, you can retard the firm starter or levain for a couple of days. You can also do that with storage starter. It will continue to ferment very slowly and somewhat differently in the refrigerator. It will lose some "strength" and increase some in sourness, although after two days that should only mean a little bit longer bulk fermentation, rather than a big loss of the total rise you'll get in the final dough.

There are a lot of ideas about how to get a more sour flavor in a sourdough bread. I think the best way is to use a fairly large and ripe levain, i.e. if you calculate the amount of prefermented flour as a percentage of total flour weight, it would something like 25% to 50%. The problem is that if you contribute too much of a very ripe levain to a dough, the acids from the levain will break down the gluten and the levain itself is weakened from over-ripening, and the final dough won't rise well. You can offset that to some extent by adding 1/4 or 1/2 tsp of instant yeast or so to the final dough along with the levain to help raise it. Other than contributing a big, ripe levain to the dough, it helps to let the dough itself ferment and proof longer. Again, you run a trade-off between extra sour flavor that develops with a longer fermentation and problems with overproofed dough that doesn't spring well in the oven or even collapses if you take it too far. Long fermentations can also lead to a pale crust if there is no sugar left to carmelize during baking.

Having said all that, I prefer milder sourdough breads, so I don't spend much of my time figuring out the best way to get things more sour. The sourdough flavor in milder breads is very different from breads made with instant yeast, and it's a flavor I like so much, that I rarely make breads raised only with instant yeast. I'm more or less a fan of using lower amounts of preferment and not letting the preferment or the final dough ripen too much. The result is generally more mild and with a lighter crumb and darker crust when you do that.

Bill

bnb's picture
bnb

Alright! I leave work in about an hour. Can't wait to get started. Here's hoping I don't bake a doorstop! :)

Thanks for the guidance, bw!

BNB

bwraith's picture
bwraith

BNB,

One thing I forgot to mention. Retardation in the refrigerator doesn't count much in the "length" of the fermentation that will lead to more sour flavor. The reason is that very little fermentation activity will go on at low temperatures. The length of fermentation I'm referring to that contributes more to sour flavor is the time spent at room temperature while the levain is ripening and then in the bulk fermentation and the final proof. However, the long fermentation will eventually result in problems with overproofing or gluten breakdown, so you can only take it so far.

Retardation will have subtle effects on flavor. Enzymes have time to break down starches, and the more complete hydration and variation in the rate of activity between yeast and lactobacillus and whatnot will have effects. Some fermentation activity will continue in the refrigerator. However, refrigeration at around 40F or below probably won't result in a "sea change" in the sour flavor of the loaf.

Bill

bnb's picture
bnb

 BW,

Now that you mention it,  the retardation-in-the-refrigerator-for-sour-flavor concept always gave me pause. I make a lot of ethnic breads (not wheat based) that need to go sour to give them flavor and this only happens at room temperature for me. They get a nice puckery tang

Many of my friends hail from tropical countries where breads and batters are left out to ferment, not in the refrigerator. Actually refrigeration cripples fermentation. Thats what I have found with these ethnic breads.

Anyway, I was so busy yesterday, I only got to the levain at 12 AM. I stirred up 2 oz starter (1 oz from each of the two starters I have. there is no particular reason I did this), 2.25 oz flour and about 1 oz lukewarm tap water. Set it in the same bowl I mixed it in, covered with a plastic wrap and cloth. Set in my living and called it a night.

This morning the levain had doubled in volume. Now for some reason I just didn't feel like setting it in the fridge for the rest of the day, so I set it in a storage area where we never turn on the heat. So its not frigid or but its cold. 

I probably might get to making the final dough tomorrow. Do you think the levain would overproof in this time?

BNB

bwraith's picture
bwraith

BNB,

I posted a "rise time table" that you can use to get a sense of how long things should proof. It doesn't answer the question completely, since you have done it at two different temperatures.

Your levain is fed at a fairly low ratio, so the "inoculation" in the table would be up around 30% or so. You can take a look at temperatures that you think prevailed for the first part of the rise. I think it will be the case that if the temperatures are up around 70F, then the levain is already fairly ripe. At cool temperatures around 50F, let's say, it wouldn't ripen a whole lot more, so it would probably be fine. However, the low feeding ratio of that levain means it will peak in a few hours at temperatures above 70F.

In any event, if the levain is not that large a proportion of the final dough - not sure what total amount of flour will be in the dough - then you can allow it to get fairly ripe. It will begin to weaken as it ripens beyond the collapsing point. However, if it is going into a relatively large amount of unfermented flour, an inoculation of less than 10% or so, then the weakened levain will recover during the high ratio feeding and long bulk fermentation in the dough itself.

If you want more sour flavor contributed by the levain, you may want to try a larger levain to final dough ratio, as mentioned before. However, you can also get sour flavor from just letting the final dough proof enough.

Here's a comment by Susanfnp about retardation that seemed relevant.

Bill

bnb's picture
bnb

 Bill,

 The final dough is going to have about 1/2 lb of flour, will add more if too sticky. 6-7oz water and 1 tsp of salt.

Since this is my first time with a sourdough I thought I'd take it slow start with just one loaf.

The levain had not deflated when I checked it at about a qtr to 8 this morning. So that means it had been proofing for a little less than 8 hours at 70F. Its bulk had doubled.

I immediately transferred it to the storage area where it will stay either  until tomorrow or tonight when I get a chance to make the final dough.

Thanks for the spreadhseet. Lots of info and lots of terminology I am not familiar with. It will be a while before all that info sinks in and falls into place.

Interesting thread by susan on retardation.

BNB.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

BNB,

Sorry, I know there's some jargon in that rise time spreadsheet. The basic idea is that there are entries along the top for the "inoculation percentage", which is just the ratio of fermented flour (coming from a ripe levain or a ripe storage starter) and the total flour (combination of fermented flour and new flour). Along the left column you can see temperatures in F or C. Then, you go to the box in the table corresponding to the inoculation percentage and the temperature, and you will see 4 numbers. They are the doubling time, bulk fermentation time, proofing time, and mix to bake time. The doubling time is how long it takes for the dough to double in volume. The bulk fermentation time in the table is a shorter time than the doubling time and is meant to be a good time to shape sourdough, generally when the dough is less than doubled. The mix to bake time is how long the total fermentation should be from when you mix until you bake. The proofing time is just the difference between the bulk fermentation time and the mix to bake time.

Oh, and one important point - the left group of numbers is for no salt, as in a levain. The right set of numbers is for 2% salt, as in a final dough.

Your levain should probably double in about 5 hours at 70F. The mix to bake time for 25% inoculation and 70F is about 7 hours. A dough fermenting undisturbed for the whole mix to bake time normally might more than double - possibly triple or more - and be fairly puffy and airy in that time. It generally would take an hour or two beyond the mix to bake time for a dough to be near the point of dipping and collapsing. However, it's hard to say what will happen with a 100% hydration starter. It might rise by more than double, or it might not, depending on the type of flour, the temperature, the shape of the container, and the consistency.

Your dough with 8 oz of flour will have an inoculation around 25%, so you can use that table again to figure out bulk fermentation and proofing times. It looks like it might be something like a little less than 5 hours of bulk fermentation, and a little less than 4 of final proof. You can lean a little on the longer side on your fermentation times to push the sour flavors up. Retardation may add a little to it, as well. However, you can't go too much beyond 8 hours mix to bake at 70F (or whatever times apply at the temperatures you use) without having an overproofed loaf that "goes to rags". Sourdough is less forgiving of overproofing than yeasted doughs, at least I've found that to be the case.

Note that rise times are highly sensitive to temperature, so the rise times mentioned above will vary a lot if the temperature is higher than 70 or lower than 70 by even just a few degrees. That was actually the main point of posting that table. I think many bakers underestimate just how large the difference in rise times can be as temperature varies a few degrees.

Good luck with the test bake. I hope it works out.

Bill

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Bill's comment isn't quite clear, and to the extent that I understand it, it isn't really best practice.

 

What's a ripe starter? One that was fed 12 hours ago? One that was fed two days ago? One that measures 3.5 with a pH meter? "Ripe" or "sour" are not really precise terms unless people already understand sourdough and one another.

 

In the discussion below, I'll talk about a fresh starter as being one that is active, that has recently doubled in size through rising, and has reached a peak but has not yet fallen. A ripe starter is one that has passed its peak and has fallen.

 

Using a ripe sourdough starter to create a sour taste really isn't the optimum way of creating a sour taste. A ripe or very ripe starter has lost it's activity levels, and adding yeast really defeats the purpose of using sourdough to start with. Ripe starters all too often have off tastes that you don't want in your bread. Adding yeast to sourdough doesn't give the bacteria enough time to develop the flavor of the bread. Using starters to ADD flavor as opposed to using starters to DEVELOP flavors is an important distinction, and it is better to use starters to develop flavors.

 

Flavor develops through longer fermentations. And this is true with yeasted or sourdough breads.

There are a number of things that tend to favor the development of sour tastes. A longer rise. A flour with higher ash (mineral) content. An overnight rise at reduced - or elevated - temperatures.

 

The temperature question is one that is kicked around a lot. Boudin bakeries lets their bread rise about 18 hours at 65 to 68F and their bread is sour. This is warmer than a fridge, but certainly cooler than most of our room temperatures. Craig Ponsford, a world class baker, said he knows of no way to get a sour taste other than a long ferment at reduced temepratures. Other people, such Dr. Wood, prefer higher temperatures. refrigerator temperature really are a bit too low.

 

So, what's going on? There are two major variables. One is the strains of sourdough critters being used. Different critters handle differently. You have to figure out what works for your culture. The other is that yeast and bacteria are both affected by temperature. But they don't react the same way. if you look at the graph at the bottom of the page at http://www.sourdoughhome.com/risetime.html you'll see the bacteria (L. Sanfranciscus) is somewhat more active than the yeast (C. Milleri) at lower temperatures, but a lot more active than the yeast at higher temperatures.

 

There are some other issues. Is your culture homo fermentative or hetero fermentative? Homofermentative cultures produce lactic acid which has a mild flavor profile. Heterofermentative cultures produce lactic acid and acetic acid. Acetic acid has a stronger flavor profile. Some cultures can be homo or heterwo fementative, depending on the conditions in which the are used.

 

The amount of mineral content in the flour is also a predictor of sourness. More mineral, or ash, content means more sour. Some flour manufacturers specify the ash content, some don't. You can boost the ash content by adding some whole grain flour to your dough.

 

The thickness of the dough, or hydration of the dough, is another issue. A thicker dough tends to favor heterofermentative processes. And it slows the rise. San Franciso sourdough is normally made with a very dense dough.

 

Reversing these things tends to make milder breads. Less ash, using more starter to get the rise over faster, wetter doughs all make the bread milder.

 

Tailoring your starter and process can let you get the flavor profile you want, without adding yeast, without the off tastes from overly ripe starter.

 

Mike

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Mike,

(edit added 3/29/08... I actually did the experiment described below and posted a blog entry on it. I think it shows the ideas described. The results were consistent with the theory, at least people in my family given numbered samples with no other information were able to pick out the more sour loaves made with a two-step process with a more ripe preferment).

I suppose this may end up being a candidate for the advanced topics forum, but I wanted to mention this idea and see what you think. I think the below thought experiment itself is useful for anyone interested in sourdough to ponder, whether beginner or advanced, so maybe at least this idea is not advanced topic material.

I agree with the ash content and temperatures around 65F, or maybe temperatures around 85F, as in Dr. Wood's approach. I think where it's not so cut and dried is on the issue of adding vs. developing flavor. I think you can add flavor usefully with a ripe levain, accepting that if too ripe, it may result in off flavors. The question is how much fermentation product is added and how that affects the next rise and the total fermentation products at the point the loaf is baked.

An important point we both agree on above, even if I wasn't clear enough, is that a long cool rise means using temperatures more like 65F, not anything remotely like refrigerator temperatures of 40F or below, which essentially halt all the activity of the sourdough culture. I was trying to get at that in a comment above.

So, here's my thought experiment:

Make two loaves with the same overall formula and do all fermentations at 65F:

  • 1000 grams high ash content flour
  • 20 grams salt
  • 650 grams water

Loaf number one is a 3% fermented flour straight into the dough:

  • 60 grams 100% hydration storage starter
  • 970 grams high ash content flour
  • 620 grams water
  • 20 grams salt

Mix ingredients, then knead, fold, etc., as you bulk ferment for 16 hours at 65F, form loaves and proof for 5 hours at 65F, then bake.

Loaf number two:

Make a levain which will contribute 30% fermented flour to total flour in final dough at 65% hydration:

  • 60 grams 100% hydration storage starter
  • 270 grams high ash content flour
  • 165 grams water

Allow Levain to ferment for 16 hours at 65F. It should be "ripe", i.e. well past doubled, somewhat past peak, hopefully not to the point of having off flavors in it.

Make final dough:

  • Levain from above
  • 700 grams high ash content flour
  • 455 grams water
  • 20 grams salt

Mix, then knead, fold, etc., as you bulk ferment at 65F for 6 hours. Form loaves, let proof for 6.5 hours at 65F, then bake.

I believe the second loaf will have more sour flavor than the first. The factors of ash content, temperature, firmer consistency are well chosen for sour flavor development in both loaves. However, the second loaf has a larger load of fermentation byproducts delivered from the levain, then develops further over the relatively short 6 hour fermentation and final proof. The second loaf is allowed to get closer to the overproofed state than the first loaf, adding additional sour flavors.

I believe the first loaf will be milder and rise more vigorously. The second will be more sour and a little more dense, due to being closer to an overproofed condition, both from the length of the dough fermentation, and also because of the added fermentation byproducts from the levain.

Forgive me for this heresy, but I also think you can add a small amount of yeast, like 1/8 or 1/4 tsp to the second final dough, which will reduce the mix to bake time and consequently the final flavor development, just as you say, but it will make it rise better. To some extent adding yeast in this method for the second loaf is similar to what Peter Reinhart does in WGB, when he says the flavors are developed in his preferments, soakers, and mashes, and so he adds some yeast to the final dough to speed up the final rise time. However, I'll admit I don't usually use added yeast in the WGB recipes. When I make whole grain recipes from the WGB, I usually reduce the levain size, use no yeast, and allow for a longer rise.

Mike, this is funny in a way, because I'm much more a fan of using starters when they are a little beyond doubled, and I tend to do things much as you describe them above, i.e. using active starters and levains, not ripe ones. I tend to lean more toward a little more than doubled levains and err on the side of baking when the loaf is underproofed as opposed to overproofed, all of which I think leads to my preferred flavors. However, I still think there is some logic to the approach described for the second loaf, if you want to increase the fermentation byproducts in a loaf.

I'd also like to say that I'm still a big fan of your site, by the way. It's a great sourdough information resource.

Bill

Marni's picture
Marni

Thanks for the advice.   My house is pretty cold, probably 70-72 in the day and 55-60 at night.  I'm also reading about starters everywhere- so interesting.  I scald the utensils and use a warm bowl- no metal and cover with a linen dish towel after leaving open for 30 minutes or so.

I gave my first starter (potato water and organic whole wheat) 6 days and didn't know about regular feedings, so it was only fed at day five. If I had known then what I know now (thanks to the good people at thefreshloaf) I would not have thrown it out- oh well, we move on...

Now I have one 3 day old pineapple juice and organic whole wheat and one 1 day old pineapple juice and organic whole grain rye.

About the container-  I have one in a small pyrex bowl the other in a plastic cup. I think narrow might be better because it holds heat and gasses in better.

Also what do you know about stirring?  Good, bad, unknown?

I guess I'll ponder all this while I wait and watch...

Thanks again,

Marni

bnb's picture
bnb

Marni,

  I only stir the starter, when I am feeding it, with a metal whisk. Some bakers advice against using metal objects but I have had no problem (metal containers are a definite no-no). I have never stirred or disturbed the starter in between feedings. The one time I left my starters starving I only stirred them to stir in the accumulated hooch.

I have not read any literarture that speaks about stirring in particular. 

Anyway I guess the first starter was wrong technique and had nothing to do with your ingredients or room temp. How is the current starter?

BNB.

Marni's picture
Marni

BNB,

Thank you for the help.  I hope its ok that I'm asking questions here along with your saga.  I'm not at all familiar with posting protocol. Please let me know if I should start a new thread with my questions now.

The first starter ( 5 days old today) looks like nothing.  Shiny surface, just beginning to smell slightly sourish and NO bubbles at all, ever. Last night when I removed 1/4 cup, it was sightly gelatinous. Do you know what that means?

The 2nd starter is 3 days today and I have no idea what will happen. No bubbles, smells sweet.  I'll keep waiting.

How is your starter coming along? Will you be baking soon?

This is a lesson in patience.

Marni

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I call 'em old husbands tales.

 

I have gotten emails from people who threw away their starters because they touched them with a metal spoon.  *sigh*

 

Sourdough is acidic.  And acids can dissolve metals.  And we don't really want to ingest heavy metals.

 

However, the effects of an acid are dependent on the strength of the acid, the strength of the metal, the length of exposure and the temperaure of the acid.

You can safely stir sourdough with any common kitchen metal implement.  Steel, iron, stainless steel, copper, brass, whatever.  The exposure is so short there are no health implications for the starter or anyone who eats bread made with it.

If you are using stainless steel bowls, there is again no problem.  The acid is weak, the stainless steel is strong, and the temperatures are low.  I start my starters in stainless steel bowls.  I feed my starters in stainless steel bowls.  My starters spend weeks in stainless steel bowls.  The bowls are still shiny with no pitting.  The starters are still healthy and my family is still healthy.

 

So.... if you'd rather not use metal bowls, that's OK, but there's no real reason to avoid stainless steel bowls.

 

Mike

 

bnb's picture
bnb

 Marni,

 No problem at all. You can keep posting here. I would love to see you succeed and I would like to help.

Ok, I am obviously a greenhorn but I still think its your technique thats wrong not the ambient temp or ingredients.

Where is your starter located? Can you provide a detailed break down of your starters composition-flour & water. How much did you start with? How much do u discard? How much do you feed? How often do you feed? Exact time of day when you feed? Do you change containers or wash them every time you feed?

Hopefully members who are more knowledgable will chip in.

Let me know.

BNB

BNB

 

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Temperature is key when beginning a new starter. You will get yeast growth much quicker if you keep your starter warm. Around 80 degrees is ideal, but most of us do not keep our homes that warm so try to find a place where you can put it that is warmer than the room. There have been several suggestions posted already about how to find a warm place.

You can grow a starter at cooler temperatures but it will take much longer. Bill has a spread sheet posted somewhere showing how temperatures affect sourdough growth. Even a few degrees make a dramatic difference.

audra36274's picture
audra36274

a square pan filled about half way with water, and a fish tank heater tucked in and set at 80 degrees. Then I sit in my jar of starter, and I don't have to worry about drafts and how cold my old house is. It is pretty easy, and at least that is one element that you can control in this experiment,well that is unless the power goes out! Good luck!

                                                                                               Audra

Marni's picture
Marni

BNB,

Thanks for letting me tag along! I just read you are proofing and getting ready to bake. That's great!  The table  for proofing is beyond me right now ( but I printed it out for future use)  I did post the gelatinous starter question separately because I thought I was asking too much here.

I'm following Sourdolady's formula as exactly as possible. Do you know that one?  That's how I found this great site- google searched. I feed them at 7:30 every night. (after my human children :-) )  I just looked now and there is already a layer of hooch on the older one.  That's when I wonder - stir? leave it alone?  feed now? I'm sticking with the formula - feeding at 7:30 tonight.

Thank you Sourdolady for your response.  I also think it is likely the temp.  My house is about 70.  So much for warm Southern California.  I put the starters in the morning sun and they feel slightly warm to the touch. They'll have about 3 hours in the sun this morning. Hopefully that's good.

 So many questions- thank you for your help.

Marni

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Stirring the starter often is good for it. It incorporates some air and it also discourages surface bacteria/mold.

bnb's picture
bnb

Marni,

 I saw your new post. I see that Sourdoughlady has joined your post to help you through this process. Since you are following her recipe her insight should be very valuable.

Good luck and keep us updated.

BNB.

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Marni: I see from another posting that you are located in Southern California. I would be happy to pass along some starter to you if you would like. I have a liquid white starter (100% hydration), a firm white starter and a rye starter (I do get attached to my starters....) All are healthy and discards would be happy to find a new home!

Just let me know.

Liz

Marni's picture
Marni

Liz,

Thank so much for the offer.  Wow- do you bake often with all those starters?  I can barely get anything going.  I really do want to get my own going though.  Once I've started, I just want to know I can do this.

Thanks again,

Marni

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Marni:

I understand the desire to get a starter going.  Just wanted to let you know that there's "back up" out there.  Temperature does really affect how quickly the starter begins "percolating".  I began my liquid starter in the winter and, as I recall, it took a good two weeks to develop some activity, and even then took a month longer to develop more balanced flavors.  My firm starter was begun last summer and showed signs of life after 5 days or so, and tasted good from the get go.

Another thought if you are interested.  I buy my flours and grains in bulk as prices, selection and quality are so much better.  If you ever wish to go in on an order, just let me know.

Liz 

Marni's picture
Marni

Liz,

Do you order from a catalog?  I bake mostly simple sandwich type breads for my kid's lunches- whole wheat, spelt, white whole wheat, and white combos.  I just buy it from Trader Joes and Whole Foods. ( I hope no one gasps in horror)  My older son loves sourdough and that's one of the things that got me started. How is it sold? 50lbs? 100? I'm interested.

Thank you also for your sourdough story.  So many people see results in just a few days, I thought only I am enjoying this long wait. I just checked this morning and both my starters look totally inactive.  No growth, no change.  Sweet smelling and boring. It finally warmed up a bit here yesterday and they got some warmth, but nothing yet.

I also wondered about the fact that I live in the city. Maybe pollution is killing all the wild yeast out there.

It's like fishing- sit quietly and wait.

Marni

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Marni:

I order my flour and grains in bulk from Mother's, a local health food store. I prefer Guisto's organic flours and grains, when they can get it for me.  The prices are reasonable (even with the climbing price of grains) and there are no shipping costs.  The only problem is quantity.  Most items are in 50 lb sacks, occasionally in  25 lbs. There are some flours/grains that I couldn't possibly use in such large quantities (such as higher gluten flour).

Sounds like your starters are doing fine, but just need some more time and warmer temperatures. And, they've been brewing for less than a week if I recall.  Our weather is starting to get so lovely which should help.  And, perhaps with this slower, longer buildup, your starters will taste even better when they get going! 

Liz 

bnb's picture
bnb

 My saga continues as I was very busy over the weekend and could not find time to bake any sourdough and its a shame coz I was this close. I had gotten as far as the first rise of the bread dough.

I actually mixed the bread dough on Friday, so the levain had been sitting out for quite a while. The bread doughs first rise was a treat to watch. It crowned beautifully. It sat there unattended and rose to 5 -6 times its volume in less 24 hours. After which it deflated and turned into a starter.

So I will start a new levain and follow the process all the way through this time.

Both my starters are doing very well. Each feeding is followed by a few hours of intense activity. Look and smell healthy. They have been at room temperature since their birth, no signs of mold.

BNB.

bnb's picture
bnb

Alright, finally, I was able squeeze in some sourdough baking into my weekend. And I really, really had to squeeze it in.

I could only allow 3 hours for the 2 proofs for the final bread dough. I started with the levain which proofed overnight. On sunday I proofed the first rise of the final dough, then rolled it into a small pillow and let it rise a second time. My oven heats to 550 and that was what it was set to for the first 10 mins and then reduced to 425 for 30 mins.

The bread was pretty good for such a hurried dough. It had ok oven spring. The crust was brown and crisp. The crumb not as hole-y but still pretty good. It has a very subtle sour taste which kicks in after a few chews.

I will try to get pics later tonight.

The next time I will aim for more oven spring and bigger holes.

BNB. 

 

Marni's picture
Marni

bnb,

I'm glad you got to try out your starter.  It is so interesting how the taste grows.  I'm looking forward to seeing your pictures.

Marni