The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Soupy seed culture

bigsur3's picture
bigsur3

Soupy seed culture

Hi all,

I'm trying to start a sourdough seed culture based on Peter Reinhardt's recipe in the Bread Baker's Apprentice. I had no issues when doing it before in a wetter and cooler climate but I'm in a desert climate now and nothing seems to work.

In my previous attempts, I left the seed culture out, but our house is pretty warm (76-78 degrees) and it ended up a wet soupy mess with no rise. This time I've put it in a cooler with ice packs to maintain the temperature at 60-65 degrees (it got up to 70 at one point but not higher).

I started with the recommended amount of flour and orange juice (instead of pineapple juice), did the day 2 and day 3 ingredients. Initially it was looking a lot better (no soupiness) but it's now day 6 and while there's a little bit of bubbling there's no rise. 

I'm worried that the yeast has basically devoured all the flour at this point but if I'm reading Reinhardt's recipe right, you don't add additional flour or water after day 3, you just stir every 12 hours to prevent mold from forming on the top. I know this isn't what you would do with a standard starter, but I figured because you're making a seed culture (that you then turn into the starter) that it might be a bit different (and it did work for me before).

Sorry for the wall of text, hope someone has some ideas, thanks!

LittleGirlBlue's picture
LittleGirlBlue

Does Reinhart recommend you keep the culture so cool?  It will definitely slow things down compared to someone who is starting a starter at room temperature.  I don't see any reason your room temp of 76-78F wouldn't be ok, altho if you get much higher than that it can suppress yeast reproduction.  Maybe just try to find a cool corner of your house rather than using the cooler and ice packs?

What kind of flour are you using?  That can have a huge effect as well.

bigsur3's picture
bigsur3

No, Reinhardt doesn't mention a specific temperature but I found this interview in which they state (about halfway down the page) that you don't want to have it too warm because otherwise you end up with more of the bad bacteria. And again, the biggest difference I could tell between what I did before (which worked) and now is the temperature was about 15-20 degrees warmer. And 76 is the cool corner of the house ;-). 

I started using King Arthur whole wheat for day 1, then switched to King Arthur bread flour for days 2 and 3 (per the recipe).

LittleGirlBlue's picture
LittleGirlBlue

Thanks for the link!  That's interesting.  I haven't seen anyone recommend keeping a starter that cool before.  I wish there had been some discussion or a link to the science behind their recommendation.  It's entirely possible they know something I don't.  OK, it's pretty much a given they know a lot of things I don't.

It seems that in that article they are saying the main reason for the cool temps isn't so much because the yeast and LAB love those temps as because they are better able to out compete other organisms at those temps.  Or, the other organisms hate those temps.  This may be true.  Most of what I've read about temps was focused only on what yeast & LAB like, not, for example, the preferences of the Leuconostoc bacteria that sometimes dominate in the first few days of a sourdough culture.

Please keep us updated!  I'm curious to hear how this works out!