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How to get back the sourness your starter lost.

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antonis's picture
antonis

How to get back the sourness your starter lost.

 

I have been trying for years to find what happens with the sourness of starters. I am referring to the problem of having a starter producing sour bread and after a few weeks or months you lose sourness although the bread rises as it used to. The fact that the bread rises proves that the starter was not neglected.

I have heard many explanations (mainly about change of region) and many suggestions to fix the problem (mainly based on rye) that never worked, at least for me. I faced this problem with SF starters I bought from different vendors and also with my local starter, which I started from scratch. The latter proves that the problem does not have to be in the change of region, but it may have to do with the flour or water used, or method of feeding. My local starter lost its ability to produce sour bread after 4 months. But the bread rises very nicely!

 Since I can not find a solution on the internet,  I publish a solution here for lovers of sour to enjoy!

 I tried to experiment on the subject essentially without a recipe or known path to follow. My friend Spyros Paramithiotis, a research scientist on sourdough in the Agricultural University of Athens (with scientific publications on the subject of sourdough) helped me a lot with his knowledge although he could not help me fix the sourness problem (I had discussed it with him many times). But he gave me crucial information answering different questions over the last 3 years. When he recently gave me the third one I knew I could solve the problem. Here is the crucial knowledge:

 1. The bacteria that produce acetic and lactic acids do not really move in the dough! They consume whatever sugars the find nearby.  On the other side, yeasts that produce CO_2 to rise the dough, they move. If they consume their nearby food, then they start moving in order to find new sources of food.

 2. The acid producing bacteria reproduce at double the rate the yeasts reproduce. So, starting with the *smallest* amount of starter will lead to bigger sourness.

Because of 1. the acid producing bacteria will multiply better if there is plenty of food in the dough. We have to care for them, since they do not move. Do not bother with yeasts, they move and they will find their food. So we need a "sweeter" flour:

3. The flour that has more food for the acid producing bacteria is durum flour. It is the yellow hard flour that is mainly used for pasta so it should be easy to find. In Greece it is widely available. Durum, although hard, it can not rise well (its gluten is not of good quality, and this is why it is not used in bread making).

So if your starter rises well but  has recently  lost its sourness take it out of the fridge and make a firm dough adding water and durum flour. Put it in a plastic bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and let it on the kitchen counter for 48 hours in warm climates, 72 hours in colder ones. Twice a day punch down with a spoon. Not with your hands as it gets very very sticky. The dough being firm and the flour being from durum wheat will have enough food to sustain life. Repeat once more and after the new 48 or 72 hours you are ready to bake a sour bread. After you used the starter put the remainder back in the fridge. It will be OK for about 2 weeks. Meanwhile you may take small quantities and bake bread. At the end of 2 weeks feed it with durum, leave it out to ferment for 48 or 72 hours and return to the fridge for another 2 weeks.

(Times may have to change depending on temperature.)

 

  To take advantage of information 2. above, use only a teaspoon of starter for 1.4 Kg or 3 lbs of (bread or other) flour. Make the dough in one step (straight dough method), cover and let it ferment for about 22 hours. If the temperature is about 20 C, it will take more than 14 hours to see it rising. But sourness will be better at the end. After 22 hours at 20 C, form loaves and after they rise bake at 230 C. 

If  your starter has lost its sourness for a long time, you may try again, but one can not know what will happen.

 This has worked beautifully for me, when other methods (using rye) have failed. So some people may find it useful.

 Antonis.

 

 

 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

In one of the SFBI newsletters, Didier Rosada commented on this.  He feels that when a starter is not producing enough sour it is because of an imbalance between the yeast and bacteria.  Aggressive feeding regimens tend to favor the yeast to the detriment of the bacteria.

 

His suggestion is to feed the starter 95% white and 5% either whole wheat or rye flour for a few feedings and that this should restore the balance between the bacteria and yeast.

 

Mike

 

Kuret's picture
Kuret

Yes aggressive feedings lose sourness, I have felt this when making ryes and other bread.  To remedy this  I just  feed the starter lower quantities over time to give the bacteria time to catch up.

If the bacteria don´t move then stirring the starter whould favor bacterial reproduction right? As the bacteria will benefit from gaining access to more sugars while the moving yeast might not see a significant change in sugar abundancy. 

antonis's picture
antonis

 

It is correct that stirring (as well as punching down) will benefit the bacteria. Can you or Mike define "aggressive feeding" ? What is not aggressive? SF starters that lost their sourness after a few months were given food once per week with organic white flour at 100% hydration, starting with 1/2 cup starter and adding 1 cup organic white flour and 1 cup bottled table water.

The starters mainly remained in the fridge at the top part of it where the temperature is about 10C. This is suggested in "The taste of bread" by Calvel (not to go below 10C).

 

 

 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I get lots of emails from people who have abused their starters through underfeeding.

 

These tend to come back when fed three times a day with each feeding being enough to triple the size of the starter. This process tends to favor the yeast. It's also not clear if the long period of underfeeding hadn't already damaged that balance.

 

10C is about 50F, and that is a bit too warm, in my opinion, to be feeding only once a week. The starter is slowed, but it is not stopped.  More about that in the next message I post.

 

As to temperature, there is a lot of debate on the matter. Dr. Sugihara studied frozen, not refrigerated, starters and found there were few problems, however, he suggested freezing a fresh, rather than mature, starter. The fresh starter suffered less.

 

Other people tell you if a starter gets below 45F, you might as well just throw it away. Others tell you that refrigeration is the best way to store a starter if you can't keep it at room temperature and feed it no less than twice a day.

 

As I've commented elsewhere, there are few areas as filled with old husband tales as sourdough baking. Since people who give both sets of advice produce good bread, I think the "don't let it get below 45F" crowd are seeing something else happen and attibuting it to temperature.

 

I'd feed the starter more often, and/or store it at cooler temperatures.

 

Mike

jimhaas3's picture
jimhaas3

Hi Mike; Jim here...

I have been using a levain starter based on that proposed by Jeffrey Hamelman in the appendices to "Bread". He gives a good description about how to make it during the first 3-5 days, but perpetuating it is not really touched on.

I queried and was told that the best schedule to perpetuate is the 12hr feedings as described if it fits the production schedule and if we don't worry about discarding so much of it in the process (if not using it in bakes). The assumption is that this would mean not refrigerating it. Does this to you seem "agressive"?

And another relate matter. For a wheat based levain culture that seems to have lost its sour, probably the most common remedy that I see suggested is to feed it rye flour for 2 or 3 feedings. But I never seem to see a reference to the quantity of rye (as a % of total flour) for this purpose. What's your opinion? 

Jim Haas, Kyiv Ukraine

antonis's picture
antonis

And how come commercial bakers produce sour bread when they feed their starters 3 times a day? Can you comment on this too? This sounds to me very aggressive. But still they produce good sour bread. If this is correct then aggressive feeding can not be the reason...

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

My usual comment is that starters at room temperature should be fed no less than twice a day. A starter which is already impaired, like yours was and many of the ones people write me about, can not work well under conditions that healthy starters thrive under.

 

A hundred years ago when housekeepers and cooks baked several times a day, and in bakeries today when bread is made several times a day, the conditions for starter health were much better than for the starters today that are largely neglected.

 

If you look at different bakeries, you'll see different practices. It's hard to generalize about bakery practices. Boudin's in California is contantly making bread. They have a master starter that, from what I can tell, is propogated for each batch of bread. When the starter is ready, they make the bread. The dough is given a longish first rise, is formed, and then given an 18 hour second rise at a temperature in the low to mid 60F range. Other bakeries give their breads long slow rises in the 48 to 55F range. The long slow rise at low temperatures is called retarding the bread.

 

Craig Ponsford went so far as to say he felt you couldn't get a good sour taste without a long, slow cool rise.

 

Some bakers find a higher temperature works for them. Many of the bakers who use a higher temperature had tried a lower temperature and found it hadn't worked for them.  However, many of those bakers were using home refrigerators for their retarding.  In the USA home refrigerators tend to stay in the 34 to 38F range which slows things too much.  Which gets back to why I think storing your starter at 50F and feeding it once a week is part of your problem.  50F is a temperature at which many bakeries raise their bread.

 

Mike 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Antonis you are touching on a subject that has come up here many times. Some of us have tried many things to produce a very sour bread with limited success. In the end for me I have been using a long extended fermentation in a cooler to allow the acid to catch up. I have read and seen video from Calvel and the SFBI, Hamelman, Reinhart and others. The best advice for producing a good sour without using chemicals to make it so, seems to be Calvels position that it is so easy to start the bacteria growing and multiplying that creating a new starter often will take you back to the beginning where the bacteria is balanced.

Many of the German recipes for sour breads start with a large batch of fresh sour every time. The usually do not refer to feeding an old starter to use for weeks ahead.

Your friend and you will have done many of us a big favor if this thing with using Durham flour to change the balance of bacteria works. Outside of the U.S. there is not the interest in very sour bread I think. Professor Calvel did go to San Francisco to develop a formula for producing SF sourdough but he didn't write much about the sourness process.

I'll give this a try here in the Midwest U.S.. I hope you are on to something. Thank you for your post.

Eric 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Eric commented:

Many of the German recipes for sour breads start with a large batch of fresh sour every time. The usually do not refer to feeding an old starter to use for weeks ahead.

 

Dr. Michael Gaentzle, formerly of the German Cereal Instititute in Detmold Germany commented on German practices in a talk to the Bread Baker's Guild. In moderate sized bakeries, the recent practice has been to get a fresh, laboratory pure, culture every Friday. (Yes, this means it has only one yeast and one bacteria strain, unlike natural cultures.) This is placed in a large vat with flour and water. The vat is temperature controlled, and features agitation. The starter is allowed to work until monday, when they start using it. For the rest of the week. Without further refreshment. The culture is, from our point of view, excessively acidic and not worth using. However, the German bakers are interested in the acidity from the culture to acidfy their doughs, which it does quite well. Bakers yeast is used to actually raise the bread.

 

There is a more recent trend away from this approach and back to procedures that were used before commercial bakers yeast became available. But the large vat technique has worked well for some time and it is very economical.

 

Also, the culture is quite thin. German bakers want the culture in the vat to be pumpable so they can use hoses from the main tank to deliver the starter to the mixing vessels.

 

American practice seems to be to use a flour with higher mineral content, a thick dough, a fresh (rather than over-ripe) starter, and long rises at cool (NOT cold) temperatures.

 

While Calvel didn't comment on San Francisco operations, Dr. Sugihara did.  Your local librarian can probably help you find his papers.

 

Mike

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Very interesting Mike. I wouldn't even begin to guess if such a product is available here. A single stain of each from a lab. That tells me they don't think they can prevent the culture from changing.

I'll see what I can find on Dr. Sugihara. Thanks.

Eric 

antonis's picture
antonis

 

Dear Eric, if you try it, please post your findings. It seems that there are no good answers so far on how to get a good sour. This is the first time that a method worked for me and I am very happy. People suggest rye, as Mike did, but to my experience it does not always work (did not work for me, but of course I believe it has worked for other people). Durum or durham (spelling?) was the first time it worked immediately. I will keep feeding the starter on durum to see how it progresses and I will post again my findings.

The suggestion of Calvel, to restart  the culture is correct on the one hand, but on the other hand it admits failure to make it work. So if Calvel suggests this, it means that a general solution is not known.

 You are correct saying that outside the US there is not enough interest on sour bread. It is true, and this is why I posted here my suggestion. In Greece however, the standard homemade bread a few decades back was very sour bread as sour as SF but not well risen as SF (mainly due to lack of knowledge).

But people here remember! They remember that true bread has to be sour although they may not like it always !!

 Greek traditional starter begins with immersing fresh unsprayed basil leaves in tepid water for an hour, and then remove the leaves and use the water to start a culture. This was my local starter which was giving very sour bread, similar to SF or even more sour, but sourness dissapeared after 4 months for uknown to me reason.

 I have an SF starter which I bought and on this I used the method with durum. Now, I will start a new culture with basil leaves using durum, to see where it gets to.

About cool fermentation. To my experience, yes it helps. But it is not the solution. If you use hard flour (like bread flour) and you extend the rising a lot, you may get some sourness but the bread may end up being rubbery. And you will never get the sourness of a balanced culture.

 So I think after many many experiments, that No1 priority should be to restore the balance. Then low temperature will help to get slightly better sour. But you can not rely only on this. My last experiments before the use of durum, was to use 18C temperature, 1 tspn starter/3lbs flour with 10% rye !!, straight dough,  24 hours fermentation. The result was: good rise, no sour!

 We will talk again on this. Since we love sourness in bread, we have to find a univesally working solution :-) I do not claim that durum is this solution. It may have worked for me and may fail for others, just like rye works for others but failed with me.

 

 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I do need time to mill this around in my mind and bowl before I can comment.  I have noticed a durum connection when baking with golden durum.  I had dismissed it until your comment.  I have never fed my rye starter durum to refresh but it would make an interesting experiment in December when I can get ahold of some.  

Mini O

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Antonis and Mini,

It makes sense to me that the answer may be found in feeding a flour that does in fact aid the growth of the acid producing bacteria. I will have to get some Durham flour and play with it. Since we home bakers or at least small time bakers do not have access to the scientific equipment that we would need to see what we are growing and actually know how the balance is changing, this is a slow process and mostly unscientific.. We just have our taste buds and noses to guide us. Again, I hope you are on to something here. We can celebrate with some 7 star Mataxa!

Basil eh? Interesting. 

Eric

antonis's picture
antonis


In the USA home refrigerators tend to stay in the 34 to 38F range which slows things too much. Which gets back to why I think storing your starter at 50F and feeding it once a week is part of your problem. 50F is a temperature at which many bakeries raise their bread.



Dear Mike, maybe I am not so smart, but in the above you state what is the problem. USA home refrigerators at 34-38F are too cold and the 50F is part of the problem. Please, can you explicitely write what temperature is the proper one for storing the culture? Or you think that proper is ambient temperature with 2 feedings a day? But this conflicts with the "aggressive feeding" claim.


Again, I do not think that this is the problem. Why? I talked to the vendor of one of my SF starters. I asked her to put a thermometer next to her SF jar starter in her fridge and tell me what the temperature is. She replied 38F. So this can not be too cold as you say. Because when I restart her dry culture, the sour it gives is excellent.


As my experiments are concerned, I have come to believe that the problem is in the flour or water or both of them. I gave some of my SF starter to my brother who lives in Athens (I am located on Samos island in the east Aegean sea). He fed the starter with a Canadian very expensive (here) flour (Robin Hood) and Athenian tap water. His starter keeps being strongly sour, and it is stored at 50 F.

antonis's picture
antonis

 

Dear Eric and Mini, thank you for willing to try. And yes we will celebrate with Metaxa !! 5* is also very good :-)

Soundman's picture
Soundman

My thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread. Very interesting reading indeed!

As Mike Avery said, there are many paths to the same elusive goal. My own starter may not be old enough to have the affliction Antonis writes of, as it is now just 4 months old. That said, it has lost none of its sour-making capacity. So perhaps one issue that makes everyone's information different is the fact that the microflora here there and everywhere are all different.

The durum flour idea is intriguing. If I find my starter's sourness flagging, I will start adding a small percentage of durum to my refreshments instead of whole wheat or rye, as I now do, to see if that makes a difference.

But, Antonis, before I do, I am curious about nomenclature on this subject. Here in the U.S. we call the flour sometimes used in pasta "semolina" and the finer-milled version of the same grain "durum flour". So are you using semolina or durum?

On the subject of American refrigerators, I don't know what brands you all are using, but the refrigerator I use for storing my starter and for retarding loaves can be set to hold at 43.6 dF or 6.4 dC. (Maybe this helps keep the yeasts happy and alive enough that they never seem to lose their punch.)

Thanks again for your work, Antonis!

Soundman (David)

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I picked up a small bag of semolina which is durum flour today and I'm about to feed a side starter sample to judge the difference.

5* is good but when I really want to enjoy my Spanakopita and dream of white washed villa's on the Mediterranean and warm sunny breezes, only the 7* will do. Liquid Gold.

Eric 

antonis's picture
antonis

 

Dear soundman, I mean durum, not semolina. This is what I have used. Maybe semolina will have the same effect. I just did not use it.

One more comment: I wrote this for starters that have lost their sourness as the title of the thread says. If your starter gives good sourness, there is no logical reason to assume that you will notice any serious difference.

Yesterday I baked again (2nd time after durum feedings) this time with hard flour (first  time was with all-purpose). Hard flour is to my experience more difficult to make it sour, mainly because of lower buffering capacity and lower percentage of sugars. The bread turned out with very good rising and very good sourness too. 

 All purpose flour gives better sourness than hard flour (ok, this is well known) but this supports also the idea that a "sweeter" wheat flour will promote sourness. Rye is a different path where it promotes sourness for other reasons.

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Well I must say that I was skeptical when I first thought about this suggestion of using durum to feed a starter that had fallen out of balance.

I mixed a firm starter from a teaspoon of my white starter that rises well but hasn't got hardly any sour no matter what I do. I used a spoon to mix it around 3 times while it sat on the counter at 75-80 F over 40 or so hours before I took 35G and made a batch of my daily sourdough bread.

I use 35G starter, 500 G AP flour, a teaspoon of whole rye, 325G water and 10g salt. I put it together at midnight last night and baked it at 5ish this afternoon. In between there was a couple stretch and folds. At 4 it was puffy and well developed so I shaped it gently and set it on parchment to proof for 30 minutes. I should have let it go longer but distractions were becoming louder so in it went in a just barely preheated 450F oven on a sheet pan for 30 minutes.

While it was cooling I made a tomato salad for Bruchetta and chilled it. It was just barely warm when we cut into this loaf and my wife who was unaware of my test to improve sour exclaimed "Oh this is more sour" at the first bite. If it survives the night it should improve in sourness.

So Antonis, I would say that even though I was impatient and have only done one refreshment with the Durum (semolina) same thing, I am on the right track in improving the sourness of my breads. I did refresh again today making a stiff or firm starter dough and I will wait another 48 hours and try again. The bread I baked today was the most sour I have made in several months so it was not by some accident or coincidence this occurred.

 

Thank you for the tip and I will keep you posted how my next test goes.

Eric 

mariana's picture
mariana

Antonis,

I am glad you were able to restore the sourness of your starter. Congratulations!

I have two questions. One is about feeding regimen and schedule. It seems to me that you have changed not only the flour (from organic white wheat to durum wheat) but also the constistency of sour dough and the schedule of feedings. I.e. you switched from liquid to firm, from once a week refreshment to once every two weeks and from N hrs at room t before refrigerating to 48-72h at room t before refrigerating your starter. My question is what was you exact schedule of feedings before you switched to your current "stiff durum starter, 2-3 days at room t, 7-14 days at 10C" method? In what proportions do you feed your starter now, i.e. existing sour + fresh batch of durum flour, how many grams of each?

 You also said that rye promotes sourness for other (than sweetness of flour) reasons. What are they, those reasones?

Thanks and congratulations again. I know what it means to want a really sour piece of bread and be unable to achieve it no matter what. You must be so happy now. Good for you!

mariana

antonis's picture
antonis

Dear Marianna,

 your question is correct in view of the fact that many sources (web, books) suggest that a stiffer starter and a stiffer dough will produce more acids. This may be true and may be false also. I am aware of these suggestions and before I think about durum flour, believe me I have tried everything including stiff dough with white wheat flour and the same schedule I do now with durum. An other suggestion that I had tried is the use of an old starter (unfed for several days) and a fresh one. There exists at least one well known book that suggests this in order to make a sour bread. The persons who wrote it seem to believe that the acids of the old starter will suffice to make the dough sour. Wrong. It fails badly.

 So, yes I had tried exactly the same feeding proceedure with white wheat flour. No sour at all; the same as the liquid starter.

 You see, some suggestions found around the net or in books, are written by people that think that what we are after is only some sourness and we will sacrifice all other qualities to get it. This is wrong also. I want a well made bread, with light or medium crumb, but definitely not dense crumb which is sour. I do not want a sour brick.

 So, for me, so far there are two options if your starter gets out of balance. Try to feed it with rye (as Mike said) and see if it works (it did not work for me) and I believe that feeding with durum flour is another way. 

 My current feeding schedule is: Stiff dough with durum flour, 48 hours at ambient temperatures (72 in cold weather) and then at 10C for a week. So essentially the starter gets a feeding about every 9 days (A week in the fridge + 2 days on the kitchen counter).Quantities: 1 tspn old starter + 1/2 cup bottled table water + durum to make it stiff dough (I did not measure that).It has happened also that I left the starter 2 weeks in the fridge instead of 1, baked after that and did not notice any difference. I feed now every week just to be on the safe side.

 

Rye promotes the production of acids. I do not remember the mechanism but I can find it in my notes if you are so interested. What I am not sure though is this: Does rye helps the bacteria produce more acids? Does it promote the production of acetic (instead if lactic acid)? Or does it help the population of bacteria to grow?

I believe (and I may be wrong, we will learn as more people try it) that durum promotes the growth of the bacteria population. Correct or not, this is the right way to go for sour bread.  To take care of the bacteria to grow.

 I may also convince my friend in the Agricultural University of Athens to run some lab tests on these conjectures.

 

 

 

 

 

mariana's picture
mariana

Antonis, thank you for the explanations.

I am testing your method now. It is very interesting. Although I have never had a starter losing its potency or sourness or fragrance, the very idea that one can shift the bacteriological profile by switching to a different kind of flour and feeding procedure is interesting and worth trying.

I have three starters in my collection: mild, medium and very sour. They are this way just because they are, they were born this way, so to speak. They produce breads with different sourness and fragrance if used in a bread using the same recipe.  I would like to see if I can shift the sourness of the medium sour starter, while preserving its aroma.

The biggest question I have is this, will the sour starter created by your method work with my existing recipes for breads or not. So far,  I was varying the sourness by using in the same recipe different starters, but the schedule of fermentation and baker's percentages were the same.   

Using different schedules of fermentation and baker's percentages, as in Reinhart's SF style sourdough, has worked for me as well. It doesn't create a very sour sourdough, but it does create a loaf of bread that is somewhat more sour than usual and very fragrant indeed. However, the recipe is very complicated and lengthy, so I don't bake using that method, hardly ever.

Thank you, Antonis.

mariana

antonis's picture
antonis

 

Marianna, I do not know the answer to your question. The idea of using durum is new and recent and I did not have the time to test all parameters. So your tests will be the first to give some information in this direction. Please inform us about the results. From the mathematical point of view (I am a mathematician) since the starter is a symbiotic culture there always exist a maximum and a minimum the bacteria will multiply to, whithout vanishing or vanishing the yeasts. Durum will get the starter close to the top bacteria population it can give. This is my conjecture.

What I know for sure is that using small amounts of a starter (say 1 tspn per 3lbs flour) and using (as a consequence) a very long fermentation time will increase sourness. This is because the bacteria reproduce at double the rate of the yeasts. So smaller quantities of the starter will give more time to bacteria to myltiply.

antonis's picture
antonis

 

Dear Eric,

next time you bake, have some Metaxa ready ! :-) 

If it is successfull for you too, and maybe some other people get to test it and it tests positive, maybe we should ask the administrator of the forum to add it to the FAQ of the site.I believe many people will need this information (if correct, of course).

 

antonis's picture
antonis

 

To feel the sourness better (for test purposes) of the crumb, when you put a crumb piece in your mouth, sip a little bit of water and chew. Water will help you understand better the sour quality of the crumb as it will help the side parts of the tongue that feel the sourness better to have good contact with the acids of the bread. And this is not SciFi :-)

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

My home refrigerator maintains closer to 40-42F on the top end. Your suggestion of a 10C puts it at 50F. I know some of the bacteria die off at the colder temperatures so I need to find a practical solution to maintain that temperature range.

I might be able to insulate an area in the top of the refrigerator for this purpose for a short term solution. A small wine cooler would be better.

Is it your experience that once the balance is restored a return to feeding with AP will continue to produce sour results?

Eric

Added by edit: Interesting with the sip of water. You do get a clear sour flavor at the sides and back of the tongue I haven't experienced before. 

 

antonis's picture
antonis

 

The suggestion for 50F came to me from Calvel's The taste of bread. He says that below that the culture may be damaged. But the vendor who sold to me my (second) SF culture keeps her master culture at 38F. And the results it gives are excellent. So I am not sure if you really have to go out of your way to get 50F. For me it is easy (and this is why I mentioned it originally) because european refrigirators have 50F at the top part, if operated according to the manufacturers instructions.

 After the balance has been restored with the semolina or durum, you can feed it with any flour you want. But keep in mind that it may again lose its sourness after some time. So it is your choice. I also do not know if it will be the same if instead of using a stiff starter I use a liquid one (100% hydration) with durum. As I wrote to Marianna, the durum idea is new to me and I have not test all possible parameters.

About water: yes it works. And the good thing is that it will work also when you have eaten something acidic. For example, if you eat a not very sweet fruit, and then you taste some bread you will not be able to feel the sourness although it may be there. water will bring the sourness out and make it more pronounced.

 

 

 

 

antonis's picture
antonis

 

Lab analysis of rye and durum have shown the following, which explains what is going on.

Rye has enzymes, amylases, which help break  starch into carbohydrates needed by the acid bacteria.

Durum already contains ready to be consumed lots of carbohydrates.

So the top recipe to intensify sourness is to mix rye and durum. Carbohydrates will be immediately available from durum and more carbohydrates are on the way coming from rye.

In general the addition of amylases improves sourness.

Feeding with wheat flours low in enzymes and carbohydrates kills sourness.

 So if you had a starter that was giving sour bread and after some period it stopped, rensonsible for this is your flour. Not the frequent feeding, not the frigde temperatures, not the water.

Case closed :-)

 

apprentice's picture
apprentice

Antonis, thank you very much for sharing this learning project with us and your results along the way. I hadn't come upon the thread until today, when you posted the results of the lab analysis. Can't wait to experiment with my starter! Have been babying it along...trying to...as I got busy with other types of bread. The last time I used it, I noticed a sad lack of sour. :( I think my starter will thank you, too!

You raised some questions about rye a few weeks back that I might be able to address:

What I am not sure though is this: Does rye helps the bacteria produce more acids? Does it promote the production of acetic (instead of lactic acid)? Or does it help the population of bacteria to grow?

According to Jeffrey Hamelman in his description of the Detmolder method of rye production developed in Germany, the variables of time, temp and hydration level affect which aspects are encouraged. The potential is there for all three -- yeast, acetic acid and lactic acid.

The method is labour-intensive. It uses three stages for the build over 36 hours or so, providing the different conditions in sequence under which each of the three aspects thrives.

As I said, for interest's sake. What I know about this myself could be placed on the head of a pin. But it's fascinating, yes?

Carol

antonis's picture
antonis

Thank you for the information Carol. Indeed all this is very fascinating and to my opinion, it is the core of sourdough baking.

 

Thanks again. 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I ran my test feeding my starter with durum and then putting it to age in the cooler for 10 or so days. When I made a loaf from the culture it was completely devoid of sour. There wasn't even a hint of sour. What I have found is that if I use some durum in my feeding flour I do get a better sour flavor almost instantly or with that one feeding.

So if I read your post above correctly you are saying to use rye and durum together in building or elaborating your starter.

By the way, I had a little sip of my seven star in your honor when I tasted the test loaf. Every drop is like gold!

Eric 

antonis's picture
antonis

So you say it is sour after one feeding, but it is not sour after staying unfed for 10 days. Well this may be reasonable. It maybe that 10 days in the cooler is a lot for your culture and bacteria population decreases again.

 

As said above durum is to bring back sourness. And as you confirm even one feeding does the trick. From then on a good feeding schedule must be invented. You may use rye after durum too. If one feeds only with durum as you tried, it maybe that more frequent feedings are required.

 

Obviously this thing has so many parameters... and this is why it is difficult...

 

Enjoy Metaxa 7* ! 

Sparkie's picture
Sparkie

Ok Ok blasphemy,

 but err, adding vinegar that is still alive (you will see a jelloie"mother" jelly fish or sludge in bottom of the bottle if the vinegar is alive),  add a teaspoon to the mix. The aceto bacteria will take the natural booze in the dough and acidify it, so I would add it to the sour yeast mix with water b4 adding the flours and if you give it a warm rise it will do quite nicely. Since the alcohol  will have the nuances, (esthers) of the grains that made it, it will be a natural sour. Vinegar bacteria eat booze and make vinegar. Heating the vinegar to the right temp kills it. I believe it also has a healthy dose of ascorbic acid which is a NATURAL dough conditioner, well if it isn't cooked from petroleum, it's natural.  I have added it to pumps and ryes before I figured out to make a biga. I read up on dough conditioners, and read packages of commercially produced rye breads for ingredients. VInegar bacteria work best in warm temps so added to a seed starter mother is not a bad thing, but you will need to experiment.   And then there was chef Munn's classes...

 This is no a panacea, but another tool in your tool box. Give it a try. if you have some flat tasting starter, take some add vinegar and see. If it doesn't work for you feed it to the birds, or donate it to a soup kitchen.

In fact do a bunch of tests and give them to a soup kitchen on purpose.

sparkie

Ricko's picture
Ricko

I have found this thread on the use of Durum flour to increase starter sour intriguing. I was wondering if after all the discussion, has anyone tried this feeding technique on a regular basis and able to report on the results?


I have ordered some KAF Durum flour to try it for myself. My hopes are to keep one mild starter and one sour on hand to satisfy those of my friends who prefer one over the other.


One question that I have is, do you feed your sour starter every time with the Durum to maintain the sour, or just for a few freshenings and then switch back to regular flour? Thank you for the follow-up.

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hey again, Ricko,


I did try Antonis' suggestion. My starter had lost its sour-making capacity a few months after I first developed it, and this thread gave me ideas for things to try to get it back. I stuck with the durum flour for several weeks but found, much to my surprise, that rye was a better medium for building a more sour sourdough starter.


I now do just what you are proposing: I keep 2 starters, one wheat-based, one rye-based. The rye flour apparently helps foster the bacteria that produce the acid that gives sourdough its sour. And, taking Antonis' lead, I started feeding my rye culture less frequently, just once a day, and then controlling its temperature. I.e. after 12 hours I keep it cool. In winter I find a cold spot in the basement, or if the weather is warm I cool it in the fridge. This cooling slows down the microbial development. By feeding it only once a day I prevent dilution of the bacterial content, which are still more active than the yeast at lower temps, ultimately giving this starter real sour power.


I now never have any issue with creating a sour bread, if that's what I want. In building my final levain I combine the two starters, using anywhere between 10 and 40% rye starter, depending on how I want the bread to taste.


Hope this helps.


David

Ricko's picture
Ricko

Hello David,


My objective at the moment is to be able to get a good sour sourdough starter. So my intentions were to use the Durum with my sourdough starter, and work later on my rye starter. Am I understanding correctly that you are adding the 10%-40% of a rye starter to your sourdough stater to get additional sour? Thank you again!

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi Ricko,


I didn't get a notification of your reply, I don't know why.


I may have jumped the gun on you. You should surely try adding durum flour to your starter and find out how that performs. If that doesn't work as desired, try a rye-based starter?


I typically use both my starters to build my final levain, in varying ratios, as noted earlier. I found that my wheat starter, refreshed every 12 hours or so, didn't yield much sour to the final bread anymore, though it had at the beginning. So, after reading Antonis' post, and trying the durum flour and getting only mixed results, I bumbled along and tried a 66% rye starter. Now I had 2 starters and could rely on the wheat starter to raise the bread without problems. That left me free to experiment with the rye starter, to tweak the final levain build and thus to get the kind of flavor I like in my sourdough bread.


Let us know how you progress!


David

Ricko's picture
Ricko

David and others,


First I'd like to say, I wish I had Mylissa20's problem of too much sour (see her post).


I did several feedings of my starter with the KAF Durum at 100% hydration. On making my bread this morning, I can say that I noticed no increase of sour in the final result. This was after several feedings at 12 hour intervals, and a dough retarding in the fridge of 12 hours.


So now my thoughts turn to the water and flour, of which I am using KA bread flour for my final dough, and well water tested to 88 gpm hardness.


One thing that comes to mind is the last batch of rye bread I made that gave a good sour to the back of the tongue, and much to my liking. It was the Leader Silician dark rye. Since I have a 20 qt. Hobart mixer, I did a 6X of the recipe to get 7 two-pound loaves. So I needed about 1200 g. of starter which I started off with 4 oz. or about 113 g. of starter to the added (Bob's Red Mill) rye flour. This starter was placed in a 80 degree controlled area for 36 hours to ferment. On mixing in the starter, I noticed the starter at the bottom of the container was very liquid. The final result was the good sour taste I was looking for.


So the question that comes to mind, is perhaps I;m feeding my starter too often. Maybe I should let it build for 36 hours in order to get the added sour that I'm in search of?


I have since started another starter, fed with the Durum flour, only at 50% hydration. This does have a more sour smell to it over the 100% hydration starter.


Now the problem I have is how to use a 50% hydration starter in place of the 100% called for in the recipe. I suppose it would be adding the difference in the amount of water between the two. This is starting to get more complicated as I go on, just to gain more sour!

Ricko's picture
Ricko

I'd like to mention that my eggs and toast this morning gave me a nice surprise. My toast had a nice sour taste. This may have been due to the loaf setting for 24 hours allowing the crumb to settle. My first report took into consideration a taste after 6 hours of cooling only. I'm still looking to do a bake with the 50% starter to see if I can gain a little more sour out of the bread.

Padeiro's picture
Padeiro

I did not have durum flour but I used  a little rye flour during each feeding as some had mentioned.  I have refreshed the starter 3 times, once each day.  The starter is now very sour.  I was very surprised at how much of a difference it made. I will make some bread and see what the results are.

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hello Padeiro,


Thanks for your post. You confirmed what I have been telling people who say their sourdough isn't sour enough. Rye flour, once a day. It's foolproof.


David

Padeiro's picture
Padeiro

David,


how much rye do you add to your feeding?  I am putting 1/4 cup rye to 3/4 cups of white flour.