The Fresh Loaf

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Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter

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Chavi's picture
Chavi

Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter

Hey everyone! Great to finally be a member of this site.

I just started building my whole wheat sourdough starter. I was wondering if the starter can be used in any recipe that calls for a starter or ones that specifically calls for it. Any tips and leads would be appreciated. Thanks!!

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

When people say "sourdough" other people tend to hear "San Francisco Sourdough Bread," ignoring the idea that any bread made before 1880 or so was, almost certainly, a sourdough bread.  You can use sourdough to make almost any bread you can think of.

 

In general, a cup of active sourdough starter has about the same rising power as a packet of yeast.  So, eliminate the yeast, and adjust the recipe for the amount of water and flour in the starter.  That won't work every time, but it will give you a starting point.

 

Also, I find that whole wheat starters tend to be more trouble than white starters.  Whole grain starters tend to get into more trouble than a white starter.  So, I keep a white starter and when I need a rye or whole wheat starter, I just take a small amount of my white starter and feed it up on whole wheat or rye.  Also, white flour is cheaper to use to feed a starter than whole grain flour.

 

Hope this helps,

Mike

 

Chavi's picture
Chavi

Thanks Mike for responding so quickly and for the heads up. Ill keep maintaining the whole wheat starter and keep in mind that I can just convert that one to a white starter should I need to.... That will work wont it?

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

The problem with whole grain starters is that they buffer the acidity created by the microorganisms very well.  Buffering doesn't negate the acidity, it allows it to build to greater potency.  There are two reasons to feed a starter.  One is to reduce the acidity through dilution, the other is to provide food for the critters.

 

Low food levels and high acidity are both stressors for the critters. So, if a whole grain starter is left unattended, it will become more acidic than a refined flour starter, and it will be harder to revive.  That's the theory, and it corresponds to my experience.

 

As long as you use the starter very regularly, no problem.  If you start storing it, the chances of problems go up.

 

As a result, I suggest to people at sourdoughhome to keep a white flour starter and convert it to whole grain as needed.  When you decide it's time to start keeping your whole grain starter as a white starter the starter may not be easily recoverable.

 

Mike

 

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

So what about spiking?  I tend to feed my starter using 75% white, 25% whole wheat, partly because it matches the ratios of the bread I tend to build from it, and partly because I'm under the impression that WW flour (like rye flour) helps to keep a starter lively and active, presumably due to a higher critter count.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

For a while, I pre-mixed white and wheat flour, ala Dan Leader's 20% bran flour.  And one day I was making one of his recipes that called for a certain amount of his 20% flour, more whole wheat flour and then some graham whole wheat flour.

I decided at that moment that pre-mixing the flour was a waste of time.  It just meant I had one more can of flour lying around and one more thing to do.  I scribbled in the margins of the book the adjusted amounts of flour.  Now it's white flour plus wheat plus graham.  I really don't think graham versus whole wheat makes a real difference.

 

So.... personally, I'd just feed the starter white flour and add more whole wheat when I made the bread.  But that's just me and doesn't really answer your question.

 

Adding the whole wheat would increase the buffering in the starter, which could help the acidity increase a good bit.  Enough to be a problem?  I don't know.  You'll find out when you don't feed your starter for a week at room temperature or for a year in the fridge.  I hope you'll get back to this thread and tell us how it worked out.

 

I'm not a chemist, so I'm not going to try to explain buffering.  It's been too many years since high school chemistry.  Maybe a chemist could offer a few words on the subject.

 

Mike

 

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

Hmm... interesting.  If what you say is true about WW helping to increase the acidity of the starter, then that might explain why my own starter tends to produce quite a sour dough if I use it right after a regular 1:2:2 feeding (well, sour to my taste, anyway. I want to taste the grain in the bread, and I found the sour overwhelmed the other flavours... and this without building a firm intermediate starter). 

As such, in order to get the starter volume I need for a batch of bread, I do a 1:4:4 feeding the night before (rather than a 1:2:2 build twice in a row), and the result is just perfect for my tastes... still tangy, but not overwhelmingly so... as such, given the behaviour of my starter,  it seems to make some sense to use a bit of WW, not just to keep the starter happy, but also to increase the acidity.

'course, I'd also never leave my starter unfed for a month in the fridge (or a week on the counter... heck, I worry when I miss a 12-hour room temp feeding), so I'm not too terribly worried about that case. :)

Chavi's picture
Chavi

Thats a really interesting idea. I guess sourdough starters are more flexible than I initally thought. What is your favorite sourdough bread? Looking for good whole grain breads to make with my brand new starter...

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

Well, I regularly make the basic sourdough in Reinhart's BBA (in fact, I just finished up a batch this morning)... but, given I haven't really attempted any other sourdough recipes, I don't really have the perspective needed to decide if it's the "best" or not. :)

rideold's picture
rideold

I maintain a 100% WW starter and use it for all my breads.  Almost all of the bread I bake is whole grain so I don't find having a white starter helpful since I'd be using it infrequently.  I just "convert" my starter when I want to make a white loaf.  I use my starter every 4-7 days and keep it at a low hydration (refresh at 1:1:2) loosely follwing Leader's stiff dough levain from his Local Breads book.  I've used my starter for breads from Reinhart's, Leader's and Hammelman's books with no problems.  Best of luck.

Geoloaf's picture
Geoloaf

...it sounds like the typical 1:2:2 feeding still applies.  I read on Sourdoughhome that "If you want to make WW SD, you need a WW starter."  While I'm sure that that's not an absolute necessity, as Mike pointed out, I still wanted to give it a try.  I started out with 1/2 cup white starter, 1 cup water, and 1 cup King Arthur Traditional 100% Whole Wheat Flour, Never Bleached, Never Bromated (Ooooh! Aaaah!)  Anyway, I've fed it a couple times since I started it about 3 weeks ago.  After feeding, I let it sit out at room temperature for about 3-6 hours and it bubbles up real nice and gets a nice sour smell, although not usually as sour as my white starter.  I restir it and pop it in the fridge.  It usually bubbles a little more then gets a nice layer of hooch on it which I stir back in when I get it out again.  I've noticed that this starter, and flour in general, is not as "sticky" or "cohesive" as white flour, and it doesn't "appear" to be as active (bubbly) as white, nor for as long.  Am I seeing and interpreting this correctly?  I should note that I haven't tried to make bread with this yet.


Keith

cheekygeek's picture
cheekygeek

Newbie here. I'm doing the "Step-by-step guide to starting your levain" in the Ken Forkish "Flour Water Salt Yeast" book, page 130. I wanted to draw your attention to what he says at the top of that page. "The best way to start a levain is to use whole grain flour... Whole grain flour is preferable because there is more yeast and mineral content in the bran and outer layers of the wheat or rye berry than in the endosperm."

This makes sense to me. However, my question is... is it important to continue using whole grain flour on Day 2 through Day 5 (or can I downshift to endosperm-only Whole Wheat flour)? I guess I'm asking if the "more yeast" is necessary all the way through the 5 day process, or am I mostly building from the yeast cultured from the whole grain used on Day 1?

Also, those ratios you are using in this thread... do they apply to the weights of the Starter:Flour:Water ? (Told you I was a newbie).

Thanks in advance for any clarification. (Today is my Day 1).

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

It will ferment more readily for the reasons that Forkish mentions.  Once the starter begins to stabilize, say in a week or two, you can begin to adjust the flour you use to feed it.  If you want to go to an all-white starter, use a graduated approach instead of just switching from one to the other.  For example, feed 90% WW and 10% white, then feed 80% WW and 20% white, then feed 70% WW and 30% white, until you have progressed to 0% WW and 100% white.  Since the transition occurs over a series of feedings, the starter organisms have the opportunity to adjust to the gradual change in their environment.

Some people (and I'm one of them) prefer to maintain their starters with a mixture of flours; some WW, some rye, and some white.  The exact proportions don't matter, really.  I find this easier to do than maintaining multiple, single-flour starters.  And it gives me the opportunity to pivot from my one starter to build a rye sour, or a white levain, or whatever is needed without a big shock to the starter because of a brand new flour being introduced.

Point of clarification: the all-endosperm flour you mention is actually white flour, not whole wheat.

Although I don't have the book in front of me, I believe that Forkish uses weights as the basis for the ratios he mentions, not volumes.

Paul

cheekygeek's picture
cheekygeek

I appreciate your taking the time to reply. Looks like I need to get some more wheat berries then. Seems a shame to be dumping so much of it, but that is the nature of the beast, I know. The good news is: I've already got a big bubble rising from the levain and we're only about 4-5 hours in on Day 1. Yay!

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Nascent starters usually are frothy and stinky in their first 2-3 days. Then they go absolutely quiet for a day or two.  This is when people think they have killed the starter. Not so.  It's just a natural stage as one bacterial regime yields to another.  It will eventually get bubbly again, this time as the yeasts begin to assert themselves.  You will also norice that the starter begins to smell yeasty / beery / fruity.  

Looking forward to hearing your adventures. 

 

cheekygeek's picture
cheekygeek

Glad you mentioned that! I'd hate to give up when only a little more patience was required. My levain doubled on Day 1 (sitting on top of stove where it was approximately 81 degrees). When I removed the 75% to throw away, I found a lot of liquid under the dough. (So I mixed it up again before discarding the 75%. Hope that was correct!) I've fed it and into Day 2 now. Bubbling seems much more active on Day 2.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

the first 2-3 days the mix can be pretty active but for all the wrong reasons.  The wrong LAB and yeast are in control.  Then the mi may go and look dead for a day or two.  No worries.  This the bad wee beasties being knocked back and eventually out by the lower acidity of the culture that the good we beasties need to form a stable SD culture.  Then the nest 2 days the culture will come back to life as the good microbes take hold and increase in numbers.  By day 7 they will be in control and the culture will be fairly stable.  From day 7 to 10 the culture will be ready to raise  loaf but on day 10 it will be much stronger and do a better job with the low acid loving yest and LB continuing to increase in numbers.

For years i kept and white starter ion the counter and in the fridge  putting up with the huge waste of flour and maintenance time being chained to the darned thing. Then I found out that you could easily move from one kind of flour to another without worry and that you could keep a small amount of stiff whole rye starter in the fridge for up to 16 weeks with no maintenance at all and use a bit of it each week to make levain for bread.

This week it was 11 weeks retarded in the fridge and i used 10 g of it to make a 5 sprouted grain levain of 150 g over 3 builds and then used 2 g of that to make 100 g white levain over 3 builds or a multi levain bread i baked in Friday.  What ever bread I am making that week i just feed the tiny bit of rye starter what ever grain of bread I am making - it works every time for years now.

It is called the

No Muss No Fuss Starter

You can switch over to this method of starter maintenance and levain builds once your starter is mature at about a month old.  I never found any advantages whatsoever to the old white wasteful way and it was just a waste of flour and time for me.

Happy baking 

 

mixinator's picture
mixinator

The wrong LAB and yeast are in control.

The mixture is starting to spoil. No yeast in the first few days.

This the bad wee beasties being knocked back and eventually out by the lower acidity of the culture that the good we beasties need to form a stable SD culture.

Lower pH. Lower pH = more acidic.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

There are plenty of LAB and yeast the first 2 days just the wrong ones - the mixture is not starting to spoil at all   Here is the science behind the 3 stages of making a starter.as you will see there are LAB and yeast in the mix the first 2 days just  -the wrong ones the ones that can't tolerate the low pH of the the stable culture.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1951026/

here is a abstract of this paper from Wiki

A Belgian study of wheat and spelt doughs refreshed once every 24 hours and fermented at 30 °C (86 °F) in a laboratory environment provides insight into the three-phase evolution of first-generation-to-stable sourdough ecosystems. In the first two days of refreshment, atypical genera Enterococcus and Lactococcusbacteria highlighted the doughs. During days 2–5, sourdough-specific bacteria belonging to the genera LactobacillusPediococcus, and Weissella outcompete earlier strains. Yeasts grew more slowly and reached population peaks near days 4–5. By days 5–7, "well-adapted" Lactobacillus strains such as L. fermentum andL. plantarum had emerged. At their peaks, yeast populations were in the range of about 1–10% of the lactobacilli populations or 1:10–1:100. One characteristic of a stable dough is that the heterofermentative have outcompeted homofermentative lactobacilli.[6]

 

 

mixinator's picture
mixinator

This is Debra Wink's finding on day two of beginning a starter.

there were no yeast or lactobacilli to be seen anywhere in all the activity of day two. Not a single one. But it was like a three-ring circus in there---different kinds of bacteria, some round, some rod-shaped, some motile, some not. Some were spinning, some were twirling, some flipping or zigzagging, and some were just darting back and forth across the field.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

other scientists as the Dutch experiments  and so many others that verify it.  Figure one shows that the low point for yeast was at the very beginning and increased all the way to the 108 hour where they leveled off . LB were faster in the beginning to increase and their numbers leveled off at the 24 hour mark.  What changed was the kind of yeast and LAB at each of the 3 stages of the starter build 

mixinator's picture
mixinator

Figure 1 in that paper is for spelt sourdough.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

and find the part that says all the yeast and lab were dead an day two and the mixture was spoiled?  I'm done doing your work for you.

cheekygeek's picture
cheekygeek

Please forget the papers and the write-ups and help this newbie with a Real World levain. I've followed Ken Forkish's flour wasting method through Day 5 and my starter had doubled in 12 hours. I'm not going to be ready to bake for a a couple of days so.... do I put it in the fridge (now or in the morning) and then reawaken it following Forkish instructions on the morning I'm ready to bake?

KathyF's picture
KathyF

Yes. It is okay to put it in the fridge for a couple of days. I would give it some time to warm up before continuing with the process, so factor in that time also.