The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Mature Culture, From Bread by Hamelman

AW's picture
AW

Mature Culture, From Bread by Hamelman

I am beginning to bake from Jeffrey Hamelman's book Bread, have had two wonderful successes, but am terribly confused on how to come up with 2 tablespoons of mature culture required for the Whole-Wheat Levain as described on p 168.

  1. I don't have to buy the mature culture, right?
  2. I need to make the mature culture, right?
  3. Am I supposed to use the instructions in the appendix of the book and then incorporate 2 tablespoons of it?
  4. Is a mature culture different from a sourdough culture?
As I scoured the book going from section to section I simply could not figure out what it is that I am supposed to do in order to make this bread. My frustration partly means I'm learning, which is exciting, but I'm also frustrated.

 Could someone please help me (and reference the book if possible)?

 Kind regards,

AW

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Hi AW,

I'm glad you're digging into 'Bread', as I think it's probably the best, most in-depth bread book for the serious homebaker.

You're absolutely right about the mature culture required for the WW levain. In order to make the levain, you'll have to mix two tablespoons of a mature culture with water and flour. To make the culture, you could either follow his instructions in the appendix of the book, or try making a culture from one of the many recipes posted on the web (here at the TFL forums, various blogs, sourdoughhome.com etc.).

You'll also find websites selling mature culture, if you're having difficulties getting one going yourself.

I hope that helps, and enjoy your loaves :-)


Hans Joakim
AW's picture
AW

Hi Hans,

Thanks very much for your help, words of encouragement, and resources to which you've referred. Every time I get a bit perplexed, but move forward with the recipe anyway, it turns out great. Luck? I suspect it has more to do with those early years helping my grandmother bake bread, though all of this is quite a different world from hers. I remember standing on a kitchen stool as she told me to throw a glob of dough into a bowl while she added other things. I was too young to understand then, but now I know I was helping her make bread using a pate fermentee. It gives me great joy to see my knowledge come full circle.

Thanks for closing another loop for me. :)

Arlene

Soundman's picture
Soundman

AW,

Mature culture just means a sourdough culture that has matured enough to have the requisite beasts in it to both leaven and flavor sourdough bread.

  1. I don't have to buy the mature culture, right?
  2. I need to make the mature culture, right?
  3. Am I supposed to use the instructions in the appendix of the book and then incorporate 2 tablespoons of it?
  4. Is a mature culture different from a sourdough culture?

1) No you don't need to buy your culture, though you can purchase starter, both dry and wet.

2) Yes, it's a good thing to "make" your own sourdough culture. The yeast you seek live in the flour and can be encouraged to develop and colonize a mixture of flour and water. (Sometimes it helps to use an acidic juice to help get things started.)

3) Yes, the instructions in the appendix are for starting your own sourdough culture.

4) No, "mature" only refers to a sourdough culture that has developed properly, and contains (one hopes) the yeast and heterofermentative lactobacilli that produce both lactic and acetic acids, which flavor bread so wonderfully.

Don't worry. Jump in!

Soundman (David)

AW's picture
AW

David,

 Thanks for your help and enouragement.

 Arlene

gavinc's picture
gavinc

Arlene,

David hit the nail on the head, so to speak.

I have a picture of what you need to aim for in a previous post, a fully active culture (levain).  This picture is a small pudding bowl containing enough levain to make two loaves of Vermont sourdoughwith a little left over (about 28g (1 oz) to start off another feed).

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/8951/active-liquid-levain-out-proofing-box

AW's picture
AW

Thanks very nice of you to send me a picture of what it should look like. Thank you very much for helping me.

Arlene

plevee's picture
plevee

This w/e I made Maggie Glezer's sourdough challah. It took ~12 hours to see any activity in the first fermentation and 7 hours in the 'fridge plus 7 hours at cool room temperature for the dough to be ready to bake. It did taste OK after all this.

I used mature starter which had been fed twice. This starter is used every week and reliably produces good rises in <3 hours with lean doughs. 

Does anyone have any suggestions/solutions to improve the starter activity in enriched doughs? Or is this normal?

 This was not a very rich dough - 90g honey & butter & 4 eggs to ~700g flour. I would love to try brioches  or pannetone, but the proof times are too unpredictable. Patsy

AW's picture
AW

Patsy,

 I'm sorry I don't have any words of advice. As you might notice, I'm a novice.

 Best wishes to you,

Arlene

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Aside from knowing that some yeast strains ("osmotolerant") are better able to deal with the higher fat and sugar content of enriched doughs, I can't offer much insight into your challah situation.  I note, however, your mention that your room temps are "cool", which will slow down any sourdough, lean or rich.  I cheated this weekend and resorted to the "proof" setting on my oven to overcome the cooler temps in my own kitchen, which ranged from the upper 60's to low 70's Fahrenheit.  Otherwise, Id have baked my sourdough rye today, instead of last evening.  That would have been fine from a flavor perspective, but it did not fit my schedule.

Paul

plevee's picture
plevee

The cool kitchen doesn't help, I know. But the starter copes with it when I make lean doughs.

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi Patsy,

Like Paul I claim no expertise with enriched dough. But I have a question: how long does your starter feed during refreshment cycles?

I find that it helps 1) to stir the starter as it is feeding, at least once and maybe twice, and 2) to let it feed until it is clear the yeasts are done partying. It always surprises me that there is more food in the mix than I would think. When the yeast have really consumed their fill, I have a bubbly, yeasty mix that always gets a good rise out of the dough.

How long?

Soundman (David)

Eli's picture
Eli

Are you using the sourdough challah listed in the A Blessing of Bread? I have made that recipe, recently, three times now, and I don't get a big rise during the initial fermentation but once I shape and braid I get a double after about 4 hours if the kitchen is 72 degrees. I really like retarding for 10 12 hours the end loaf seems to have a better crumb and longer keeping attributes. How long does it take your starter to peak? An afterthought- I try to have my dough before the first fermentation at around 78 degrees.

Eli