The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Purchased San Francisco Starters

SANDYAE's picture
SANDYAE

Purchased San Francisco Starters

If I purchase a S.F. sourdough starter off the internet wouldn't it eventually lose that S.F. bacteria (and taste) over a period of time when I'm refreshing it here in Ohio?

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

In my opinion, yes. I have rec’d starters from a number of bakers throughout the US. After feeding them with my flour and placing them in my environment in short order, they become indistinguishable.

Others may not agree, but that has consistently been my experience.

Danny

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

When feeding no more than  1:1:1 and using store-bought white flour to feed, I think  my purchased-starters maintained their characteristics.

Feeding with whole grains introduces different yeast/LAB that reside on the bran.  White flour has some (obviously, because  it can create a starter from scratch), but has less than whole grain. 

Also, feeding no more than 1:1:1 helps, I think,  the existing yeast/LAB not be over-whelmed by whatever newly added bugs come in with the flour when feeding.

Commercial culture sellers, and the Carl's Friends outfit, mostly recommend feeding with white flour.

To be a Carl's Friends volunteer, you can't have any other starter in your house.

Hsving just one starter in the house helps prevent cross-contamination by utensils, containers, dish towels,  or spores from one floating over to the other.

I've had three starters, all purchased.  I accidentally killed off #1. then bought #2.   #2 never picked up the characteristics of #1, even after 6 months or so.  I didn't like  the taste of #2, so dehydrated it, and bought # 3.   #3, after 6 months or so, still is nothing like #2.

I created #4 from scratch, while still maintaining #3.   These may have airborne cross-contaminated some.  I have made flat bread, but not loaf bread with #4, so I can't really say if they are same or different yet.

My favorite one, by taste, was #1, Cultures For Health Whole Wheat "Desem" culture.

As they say, YMMV.

Bon appétit.

Nickisafoodie's picture
Nickisafoodie

I have bought several cultures and stay with one that I like the most.  I have maintained a SF starter for several years.  When I first started, I used rye that I grind myself, I did find the culture mutated over time when feeding with rye over a period of say 6 months.  I restarted the same SF dried culture from a reserve I held back about a year ago.  Since then, I have fed it with only white flour (King Arthur patent flour 12.7% protein) - and it has maintained the same smell since the day I bought it.  I have no explanation other than this is my experience.  I feed it twice a week, and refresh it twice before baking.Even though it is a white flour starter, I mostly bake WW or Rye for up to 50% and white flour for the remainder.  The breads turn out fine and I do not have to build a separate Rye starter when I make those breads.

Most of the articles say it will migrate over time to "local conditions".   Most  cultures cost about $4-$5 and you do not need to use all of it to start, thus keeping some in reserve if you need to start over.  When it is well established, you can dry some at 100 degrees and keep it in reserve too.  Go for it.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Because I believe that my starters will all evolve into starters that are so equal, I can’t distinguish one from the other, a backup of each new starter is made right away. This way the original characteristics are largely saved.

My thoughts on staters loosing their characteristics may be because I bake a lot. My utensils, containers, and even the kitchen may be covered with microbes. I know I can consistently make a new starter in a very short time

albacore's picture
albacore

I read this scientific paper recently suggesting that L. sanfranciscensis does not actually come from the flour, although other Lactobacilli species do. I will let you read or skim the paper to see what the authors think the origin of L. sanfranciscensis is.

Suffice it say that it is closely related to my recent post regarding Bifidobacteria!

Lance

SANDYAE's picture
SANDYAE

I'm an absolute newbie to bread making. My first several attempts to make a starter I had to trash. Purchased a few interesting books on sourdough and tried several recipes. Used recommended King Arthur (Bread, Whole Wheat, A/P) and even made an out-of-town trip to Whole Foods to purchase rye flour. My first loaves didn't rise at all- were like hockey pucks. I even purchased a cast iron dutch oven, a scale, proofing baskets, instant read thermometer- the works. Because I discovered this website I now have a greater appreciation of the knowledge and dedication people like you have towards the art bread making. I do have a followup comment and question to this post. As a newbie it wasn't my desire to inquire about a purchased SF starter because of my failed first attempts. As I said, I've got a lot to learn and I don't plan giving up. Thinking it over I ask myself what is my bread baking goal? Is sourdough starter right for me? Why not just use instant yeast? My goal is taste, taste, taste regardless of the method of rising. I had fresh baked sourdough once in S.F and never enjoyed a bread as much in my life. So my question is, since my goal is a very sour tasting bread, is sourdough starter the only way I can go? Can I achieve the taste with instant yeast? The term, 'sourdough" implies to me, "sour bread", but it's much more than that. I appreciate the replies I've received from you and hope I'm not offending by asking this particular followup question to a forum dedicated to sourdough.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Sandy, sourdough is the only way to get what you are looking for. There are ways to add sour bacteria and flavors. But IMO, there is only one way to get to where you want to be.

Danny

I tried to send you a Private Message, but I see you don’t have that up.

SANDYAE's picture
SANDYAE

Danny, how do you set up Private Messaging?

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Sandy, click on your name, located just below your icon image. Then click “Edit” and setup “Allow private messages.

If you don’t see these features, let me know. The administrator may have to increase your priveledges.

Mr Immortal's picture
Mr Immortal

There is never anything offending about being curious.  

The “sour” in sourdough comes from lactic acid producing bacteria, which live in a sort of symbiotic relationship with many strains of wild yeast.  The amount of sour in any particular recipe can be controlled with carefully application of time and temperature during the fermenting stage.  

Unfortunately, commercial yeast is a completely different strain of yeast, and doesn’t pair well with acidic environments, and has a relatively bland flavor. It’s this difference in flavors that cause so many people to go through all of this trouble to make their own bread.

 

I also trashed my first two starters because they “weren’t working”.  What I eventually figured out was that they just hadn’t worked yet.  It seems to me that on all of the lists of necessary equipment and ingredients that I’ve seen on the internet, they all lack the one most important tool needed for a healthy and stable sourdough starter:  patience.

My current starter (Randolph) took over 3 weeks to become something that would even try to raise a loaf.  The first loaf was terrible, although it was bread flavored and Mrs Immortal said it was good.  The second loaf was better.  The next one will be even better still.  As starters age, they mature and they develop.  Many of the loaves that come from iconic bakeries in places like San Francisco are using starters that are decades old.  

So my advice would be to keep reading, and keep asking questions.  Start a new starter (if you haven’t already), and just keep on keepin’ on.  Have patience with the process, and know that as long as you stick with it you’ll get there.  Failures along the way are only failures if you don’t learn from them, and if you let them make you stop keepin’ on.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

My baking progression went like this:

1. For years, used a bread machine and instant yeast. Sometimes still do.

2. Overnight rise, no knead, instant yeast, baked in casserole dish in oven. (Steve Gamelin on youtube was my sensei.)

3. Sourdough, dried culture purchased from Cultures For Health (via Amazon). Baked mediocre sourdough loaves.

4. Discovered TFL. DanAyo was my sensei.  And baked even better loaves.

5. Changed starters twice, obtained as dry culture from Carl's Friends and again Cultures For Health.

6. Finally made my own starter "from scratch", and have made pita/tortillas, but not loaf bread with it yet.

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So.... bottom line, there is no law or rule that you must use DIY starter.  Buying, or getting free pass-along starter is just fine.

my best "sour" starter was my first, the Cultures for Health Whole Wheat "Desem" culture, but then I bake with mostly whole wheat.  Their regular San Fran sourdough culture might be best for white flour bread.

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If you do go the DIY route, most everyone here seems to recommend the Pineapple Juice method. https://www.thefreshloaf.com/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2

I used fresh squeezed orange juice, whole wheat flour (hard red wheat) and it worked for me. 

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Some of the users you see regularly posting pics of great loaves would likely send you some dried starter for merely a self-addressed stamped envelope, or even for free.

If you want to share what city you are in, there might be someone who would meet you in person to give you some wet/fresh starter.

If you are on Facebook or nextdoor.com, those are other ways to find someone near you to share fresh/wet starter, or dried starter.

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Regardless of the type of starter, here are tips to make your bread more or less sour:

https://truesourdough.com/18-ways-to-make-sourdough-bread-more-or-less-sour/

 

 

Mr Immortal's picture
Mr Immortal

Yes, to what Dave says 👆

 

There is no wrong way to do something, other than to not try.