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The Pineapple Juice Solution, Part 2

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

The Pineapple Juice Solution, Part 2

Pineapple juice is a simple solution to a problem that many people encounter while trying to start a sourdough seed culture from scratch. Oftentimes, a new culture will appear to start off very strong, only to die a day or two later. The early expansion is caused by a prolific gas-producing bacterium which many mistake for yeast. Pineapple juice can be added to flour instead of water at the beginning, to insure against unwanted bacteria and the problems they leave in their wake. It doesn't change the end result, but it does seem to keep things on the track to finish on time. Part 1 tells the story of where the pineapple remedy comes from and how it was conceived. The rest of the story probes deeper into how it all works. But first, here is a recap of the key patterns revealed by notes and data collected during experimental trials:

  • When starters expanded significantly on the second day, a period of stillness followed, and the appearance of yeast was delayed.
  • Gas-producing bacteria stopped growing when the pH dropped to 4.5, but yeast growth didn't begin until the pH fell to around 3.5, accounting for the period of stillness.
  • Lowering the pH in the initial mixture, by adding ascorbic acid or by replacing the water with pineapple juice, kept gas-producing bacteria from growing and brought about a more timely and predictable result.

But it wasn't enough just to find a fix. The problem-solving efforts of my team were creating a buzz which we hadn't anticipated and this thing, like the seed cultures we were creating, was taking on a life of its own. Some were jumping to premature conclusions, and speculation seemed to be spreading as fact. It made me very uncomfortable, because I'd rather be dispelling myths than adding to them. I wanted to find some real answers, and find them fast, so I started making phone calls. I found two local labs that could help me out. One had the capability to identify leuconostocs, and the other to detect lactobacilli and other bacteria of interest. I submitted samples of a day two starter during the big expansion. Both labs found that there were three organisms growing. But there were no lactobacilli or yeasts found, which supports what I observed time after time on microscopic examination. My gas-producer was identified as Leuconostoc citreum. At the time, I couldn't find much information specific to this organism, although it seems to share many characteristics with other Leuconostoc species found in foods. Most will not grow below pH 4.8, and this one doesn't appear to be an exception.

Until recently, I could only theorize that the Leuconostoc may actively hinder the process, because the pattern supports it, and because it's not uncommon for microorganisms to produce substances which inhibit competitors. But in updating this article, a new search of the scientific literature finally uncovered the piece of the puzzle I was looking for. Who would have thought the answers would be found in kimchi and sake? It turns out that kimchi fermentation has a lot in common with sourdough development, and mirrors the early days of the seed culture process. Leuconostoc citreum plays a dominant role in the early and mid-phases of fermentation where it causes a slow and prolonged drop in pH, and retards the growth of other lactic acid bacteria.[1] In a study on sake fermentation, Leuconostoc citreum was found to produce bacteriocins (bacterially-produced antibiotic proteins) which inhibit the growth of similar lactic acid bacteria (i.e., lactobacilli).[2] It appears that these bacteriocins linger for a time even after the organism stops growing, although their effect is diluted through successive feeding. A dosage effect would explain nicely the apparent relationship between the vigor with which this bacterium flairs up initially, and the number of days the starter remains still afterward. The higher the rise, the longer it seems to take to recover.

In addition to Leuconostoc citreum, there was also a large amount of Aerococcus viridans. The first lab I visited found Leuconostoc to be in the greatest quantity, but Aerococcus was multiplying so fast that it soon passed the Leuconostoc in number. That is important, and could very well have contributed to the delayed progress. Even though Aerococcus doesn't produce gas, and so was not responsible for any of the expansion, it is not much of an acid producer either. So while it was using up a large share of the available sugars, it was not helping the pH to fall. Aerococcus is an occasional spoilage organism in unpasteurized milk, which is the extent of information that I have found on its involvement in foods. Its lower limit is not given in my reference books, but since pineapple juice seems to keep it at bay, I suspect that it must be in the same ballpark with leuconostocs. I'm still not sure how big a part each of these organisms plays in slowing the progress of a seed culture, but lowering the pH at the outset seems to be a blanket fix.

I mentioned in Part 1 that some of the bacteria were flipping, twirling and zipping around under the microscope. Those were Enterobacter cloacae. Enterobacter produces gas, but since it was present in only a scant amount compared to the others, I think it safe to say that the Leuconostoc was responsible for the majority of it. However, Enterobacter contributes to an unpleasant odor, as do Aerococcus and Leuconostoc. Because some people report a very stinky smell and others not as much, I'd have to say that even among starters that grow Leuconostoc, not all necessarily have the same combination of bacteria. There are others that can grow as well. Results vary from flour to flour and year to year, because the number and species of microorganisms are influenced by conditions relating to weather and grain crop production.[3] I wish I could have all the organisms identified at every stage, but there aren't any laboratories in my area that are equipped to identify wild yeasts or sourdough bacteria. And even if they could, the cost would be prohibitive. I was fortunate to be in a position to have two of the organisms identified as a professional courtesy.

With the additional information, and having watched the drama unfold under the microscope, I started seeing the seed culture process not as good guys out-competing bad or gradually increasing in number, but as a natural succession of microorganisms that pave the way for "the good guys" in the way that they transform their environment. There are bacteria in flour that prefer the more neutral pH of freshly mixed flour and water (like Leuconostoc and company). They are the first to start growing, some producing acids as by-products. This lowers the pH, and other bacteria begin to grow; they produce their acids, lowering the pH even more. It soon becomes too acidic for the first batch and they stop growing. One group slows down and drops out as the next is picking up and taking off. Each has its time, and each lays the groundwork for the next. It's much more like a relay than a microbial free-for-all. The baton is passed to the next group in line as conditions become suitable for them. The acidity increases a bit more with each pass, and the more acid-loving bacteria can eventually take over. The appearance of yeast seems to be tied in some way to low pH---maybe directly, maybe indirectly, but the correlation shows that it isn't random in the way that "catching" yeast from the air would be, or their gradually increasing in number.

In the late fall/early winter of 2004, I was coaching a group of women on Cookstalk, Taunton's Fine Cooking forum, and I noticed something else. My starters sort of liquefy the day before yeast starts to grow. Gluten disappears, which shows the work of proteolytic enzymes. At first I thought it signaled the appearance of lactobacilli and their proteases. But now I think it was simply an indicator that the pH had dropped low enough to activate aspartic proteinases, pH-sensitive enzymes abundant in wheat.[4] Because I prefer to seed a new culture with whole grain flour for at least three days, there are more cereal enzymes present than in a starter fed with white flour (most of them are removed with bran in the milling process). But either way, it is a good sign of Lactobacillus activity, whether by production of bacterial proteases or by the organism's effect on pH and activation of cereal proteases.

The starters were developing a little more slowly this time around, which inspired me to describe the different stages that a new culture transitions through, rather than try and pin it to a time frame. Room temperature is different from one kitchen to the next, as well as season to season. Sometimes rye flour finishes faster, sometimes whole wheat is faster. Sometimes a culture doesn't start producing its own acid for the first two days instead of one. Because this process involves variable live cultures under variable conditions, it doesn't always work in a prescribed number of days, but it follows a predictable pattern. While this has been a discovery process for me, it is not a new discovery:

"There has been nice work done in Rudi Vogel's lab on the microflora of a freshly started sourdough: first, there are enterobacteria (Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Enterobacter), highly undesirable organisms that stink terribly. Then there are homofermentative lactobacilli (good lactic acid producers, but they don't produce gas or acetic acid), then acid-tolerant, heterofermentative lactobacilli that make lactic and acetic acid, as well as CO2. I think this took about forty-eight hours at 30ºC in Vogel's study. The stink at the beginning does not matter as the organisms will be diluted out or die eventually. No L. sanfranciscensis appears by forty-eight hours, though: these will occur only after repeated refreshments. Peter Stolz told me that it takes about two weeks of repeated inoculations to get a good 'sanfranciscensis' sourdough."[5]

That paragraph didn't have any special significance for me until I had gotten to this point. But when I read it again, I had one of those aha moments. Not only did this describe a succession, but it filled in some of the blanks, and I could see clearly how all these microorganisms related to the four phases I had defined. Here is the updated version marrying the two. You don't need a microscope for this, because there are outward signs which serve as useful indicators of progress.

The First Phase:
For the first day or so, nothing really happens that is detectable to the human senses. It doesn't taste any tangier or develop bubbles. It remains looking much the same as when it was mixed, except a little lighter in color if an acid was used, and a little darker if not. While nothing appears to be happening, the first wave of bacteria (determined by pH and the microflora in the flour) are waking up, sensing their new environment and preparing to grow. This phase usually lasts about one day, sometimes two.

The Second Phase:
The starter will begin producing its own acid and develop a tangy taste (although it might be difficult to distinguish from pineapple juice). Lactic acid bacteria are actively growing at this point. When using only water, this phase represents two waves of microbes---first Leuconostoc and associates, followed by homofermentative lactobacilli and possibly other lactic acid bacteria. By controlling the pH, you can by-pass the leuconostocs and other "highly undesirable organisms that stink terribly," and skip to the second wave. It will get bubbly and expand only if the pH is not low enough to prevent growth of gassy bacteria, otherwise there won't be much to see. There probably won't be much gluten degradation, and it may smell a little different, but it shouldn't smell particularly foul unless started with plain water. This phase can last one to three days or more. If it is going to get hung up anywhere, this is the place it usually happens, especially if it is put on a white flour diet too soon. If after three days in this phase, it still doesn't become more sour and show signs of progress, the best thing to do is switch back to whole grain flour. Whole grain has a much higher microbial count to re-seed the culture and get it moving again. If that doesn't do it, skip a feeding or two to allow the acidity to build.

The Third Phase:
The starter will become very tart like lemon juice---an indication of more acid production by more acid-tolerant bacteria. The gluten may disappear and tiny bubbles become more noticeable. These are signs that heterofermentative lactobacilli have picked up the baton. Once a starter becomes really sour, it usually transitions into phase four within a day or two. Note that lactic acid doesn't have much aroma, and so smell is not a reliable way to judge the level of sourness. If it gets stuck here for 48 hours or more, make sure there's still enough whole grain in the mix and give it more time between refreshments.

The Fourth Phase:
Yeast start to grow and populate the starter relatively quickly at this point. It will expand with gas bubbles all over and begin to take on the yeasty smell of bread or beer.

This pattern suggests that wild yeasts are activated by low pH. Or perhaps the activator is something else produced by lactobacilli, but it happens predictably at this point for me, as long as the whole grain flour has not been diluted out. There may be some variation among wild yeasts as to the exact pH or activating substance. I have been unable to find the answer in scientific literature, and my contact at Lallemand did not know. I have only found studies done with cultivated strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which don't seem to require much more than a fermentable sugar (and may explain why seed cultures take off much quicker in a bakery environment where baker's yeast is everywhere). The most useful information I have found on the subject is this, about microbial spores in general:

"Although spores are metabolically dormant and can remain in this state for many years, if given the proper stimulus they can return to active metabolism within minutes through the process of spore germination. A spore population will often initiate germination more rapidly and completely if activated prior to addition of a germinant. However, the requirement for activation varies widely among spores of different species. A number of agents cause spore activation, including low pH and many chemicals... The initiation of spore germination in different species can be triggered by a wide variety of compounds, including nucleosides, amino acids, sugars, salts, DPA, and long-chain alkylamines, although within a species the requirements are more specific. The precise mechanism whereby these compounds trigger spore germination is not clear."[6]

What this means is that for dormant cells to return to active growth (germinate), they need to break dormancy (activate) which is initiated by different things for different species. In the case of these wild sourdough yeasts, if all they needed were food or oxygen, which are there from the get-go, then they would start growing immediately. The fact that they don't, is probably why many people think they need to be caught from the air, or that large quantities of flour must be used to round up enough of them. There are enough dormant cells present even in relatively small quantities of whole grain flour, but it's like a game of Simon Says. You can try to coax them into growing, with food and all the things you may fancy to be good for actively growing yeast. But they're not active. They are dormant, and will remain so until they receive the right message from their surroundings. Compare this to the plant seed that sits in soil all winter long, waiting until spring to sprout, when conditions are most favorable. Is it a survival mechanism? I don't know, but waiting for the pH to drop does increase the likelihood that the yeast will wake up in the company of lactobacilli, with which they seem to share a complex and mutually beneficial relationship. It is also important to point out here that active sourdough yeasts thrive in a much wider pH range than what appears to be required for activation of dormant cells. The point to keep in mind is that active and dormant cells are physiologically and metabolically different, and so their needs are different.

This pattern of growth is not unique to the formula in the Bread Baker's Apprentice. I have seen the same progression, in whole or in part, with all the starter formulas I've tried. And it doesn't really matter how much flour you start with. In fact this can be done with very small quantities of flour. All else being equal, it proceeds just as fast with a teaspoon as it does with a pound. Procedures that call for two or three feedings per day, or large refreshments before yeast are active, can actually get in the way of the process. Overfeeding unnecessarily dilutes the acid, which slows the drop in pH, and keeps it from moving through the succession of microorganisms in the timeliest manner. But while it can take up to two weeks or more this way, with Mother Nature as the driving force, things do fall in line eventually. It's just a question of when. Three to five days is about all it really takes to reach the yeast activation stage at average room temperature, somewhat longer if Leuconostoc and associates grow. The strategy is quite different from reviving a neglected starter, which is likely to have an overabundance of acid, and a large population of yeast and sourdough bacteria, however sluggish they may be.

So, what can we do instead to facilitate the process? Start by providing conditions for the first two to three days which are favorable to lactic acid bacteria. A warm spot if you can easily manage one (but not too much higher than 80ºF), and a reasonably high hydration (at least 100%). Use pineapple juice if you like, to bypass the first round of bacteria. (Or use water if you prefer, and don't mind the odors and delay.) Feed with whole grain flour until yeast are actively growing, not for the wider spectrum of sugars it may offer, but for its higher numbers of yeast and lactic acid bacteria to seed each phase in its turn. Don't feed too much or too frequently, so as to allow the acids to accumulate and the pH to fall more rapidly. The ideal feeding quantity and frequency would depend on the temperature, hydration, and how fast the pH is falling. However, I usually recommend once a day at room temperature, simply because it is the easiest to manage, it works, and the daily manipulation helps to keep mold from getting started. Mold is the biggest stumbling block for procedures in which a young mixture is allowed to sit idle for two or three days at a time. Turning surface mold spores into the center by re-kneading or stirring and scraping down the sides daily, is the best way to get around it. Mold is not inhibited by low pH or pineapple juice, and anti-mold properties don't fully develop until sourdough is well established.

While you don't actually need a formula to do this, no article on making sourdough starter would be complete without one. This procedure was designed with simplicity in mind, to be efficient, effective, and to minimize waste. It was developed with the participation of four willing and very patient women whom I worked with online---DJ Anderson, Karen Rolfe, Deanna Schneider and the still-anonymous 'lorian,' whose plea for help is what renewed the quest to find a better way. I learned a great deal from the feedback they and others gave me as we worked out the kinks, and this formula is a tribute to them.

There is nothing magic about the two tablespoons of measure used throughout the first three days. Equal weights didn't provide a high enough ratio of acid to flour to suit me, and equal volumes did. Two tablespoons is enough to mix easily without being overly wasteful (and just happens to be the volume of an eighth-cup coffee scoop, which is what I kept on the counter next to the flour and seed culture for quick, easy feeding). If you insist on weighing, make it about 15 gm flour and 30 gm juice. These first few days don't really benefit from being particularly fussy with odd or precise measuring, so make it easy on yourself. Keep it simple, and let Mother Nature do the rest.

Day 1: mix...
2 tablespoons whole grain flour* (wheat or rye)
2 tablespoons pineapple juice, orange juice, or apple cider

Day 2: add...
2 tablespoons whole grain flour*
2 tablespoons juice or cider

Day 3: add...
2 tablespoons whole grain flour*
2 tablespoons juice or cider

Day 4: (and once daily until it starts to expand and smell yeasty), mix . . .
2 oz. of the starter (1/4 cup after stirring down -- discard the rest)
1 oz. whole grain flour* (scant 1/4 cup)
1 oz. water (2 tablespoons)

* Organic is not a requirement, nor does it need to be freshly ground.

On average, yeast begin to grow on day 3 or 4 in the warmer months, and on day 4 or 5 during colder times of the year, but results vary by circumstance. Feed once a day, taking care not to leave mold-promoting residue clinging to the sides or lid of your bowl or container, and refer back to the different phases to track progress---particularly if it gets stuck in second phase or shows no progress for 3 or more days. Once you have yeast growing (but not before), you can and should step up the feeding to two or three times a day, and/or give it bigger refreshments. Before yeast, don't feed too much; after yeast, don't feed too little. You can feed the starter/seed culture whatever you would like at this point. White flour, either bread or a strong unbleached all-purpose like King Arthur or a Canadian brand will turn it into a general-purpose white sourdough starter. Feed it rye flour if you want a rye sour, or whole wheat, if you want to make 100% whole wheat breads. If you're new to sourdough, a white starter is the best place to start.

This is the point at which I generally defer to the sourdough experts. There are several good books on sourdough which address the topic of starter maintenance and how to use it in bread. There are many different approaches. Just keep in mind that the first days of the seed culture process have nothing to do with developing flavor or even fostering the most desirable species. The object is simply to move through the succession and get the starter up and running. The fine-tuning begins there. Once yeast are growing well, choose the hydration, temperature and feeding routine that suits you, and the populations will shift in response to the flour and conditions that you set up for maintenance.

One more thing I have found is that with regular feeding at room temperature, new starters seem to improve and get more fragrant right around the two week mark. Maybe this coincides with the appearance of Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis mentioned previously, or another highly adapted sourdough species. A Fifth Phase, and beyond? Obviously, there is still more to learn.   -Debra Wink

References

1. Choi, In-Kwon, Seok-Ho  Jung, Bong-Joon Kim, Sae-Young Park, Jeongho Kim, and Hong-Ui Han. 2003. Novel Leuconostoc citreum starter culture system for the fermentation of kimchi, a fermented cabbage product. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek  84:247-253.

2. Kurose, N., T. Asano, S. Kawakita, and S. Tarumi. 2004. Isolation and characterization of psychotrophic Leuconostoc citreum isolated from rice koji. Seibutsu-kogaku Kaishi 82:183-190.

3. Doyle, Michael P., Larry R. Beuchat, and Thomas J. Montville. 2001. Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains, p. 135. Food Microbiology Fundamentals and Frontiers, 2nd ed. American Society for Microbiology Press, Washington, DC.

4. Katina, Kati. 2005. Sourdough: a tool for the improved flavour, texture and shelf-life of wheat bread, p. 23.VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

5. Wing, Daniel, and Alan Scott. 1999. Baker's Resource: Sourdough Microbiology, p. 231. The bread Builders. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, White River Junction, VT.

6. Doyle, Michael P., Larry R. Beuchat, and Thomas J. Montville. 2001. Spores and Their Significance, p. 50. Food Microbiology Fundamentals and Frontiers, 2nd ed. American Society for Microbiology Press, Washington, DC.

7. Arendt, Elke K., Liam A.M. Ryan, and Fabio Dal Bello. 2007. Impact of sourdough on the texture of bread. Food Microbiology 24:165-174.

------------------------

This article was first published in Bread Lines, a publication of The Bread Bakers Guild of America.
Vol. 16, Issue 2, June 2008.

Related Links:
  The Pineapple Juice Solution, Part 1 | The Fresh Loaf
  Lactic Acid Fermentation in Sourdough | The Fresh Loaf 
  Basic Procedure for Making Sourdough Starter | Cooks Talk

Comments

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Yeah, yours has been a real stinker to get going, but at least you have leavening now :)  It's up to you how you want to proceed from here.

1) You could just keep it 100% whole wheat for a while, and do some baking with it. Then try converting it again sometime down the road. Starters stabilize faster when it's cooler, so maybe you'll have better luck in a few months.

2) You can continue to feed the 50/50 one for a while longer provided it continues to rise (it sounds like it has been, even if not very robust, no?). I recommend twice a day unless it's not finished rising, and you can drop down a step on the ratio at the next if it doesn't peak by feeding time.

3) The third option is to mix a batch of flour 95/5 ww and ap, enough for 3 days. If it's still rising well, make the next 3-day batch 90/10. Reassess, and keep increasing the ap by 5% at a time if it's adjusting well. You may still hit a point where things decide to change. Starters are all a little different.

I don't recommend trying to do all 3 at once, or you'll run the risk of burning yourself out. And always keep a backup of the best one in the fridge.

You can read more about transition problems here:   Pesky thiol compounds

chuckpierce's picture
chuckpierce

Great, thanks for the suggestions! I'll definitely keep the 100% WW one going for how, as that's been pretty stable and strong. I'm already planning on baking this weekend using that one (adjusting the ratios in my recipe to account for the slightly different starter). If that goes well I'll probably transition that one into the fridge so I can do a little less day-to-day.

Then I'll likely try the 2nd option for a while and break out the 3rd one if that doesn't pan out.

Thanks again for the guidance through this (long) process!

chuckpierce's picture
chuckpierce

So I think I am seeing the transition problems: I attempted to make a dough with the 100% WW starter: After about 15 hours of bulk fermentation, there was very little rise, and the dough seemed to lose all elasticity. It also was very sticky and tough to get off my hands. I couldn't even shape it because it would stick to my hands and wasn't tightening to take on a round shape.

Given that (and based on the discussion in that link you sent), it seems like the offending organism is already present in the WW starter. That also seems like it would make sense with your earlier comments about the large, coarse bubbles I'm seeing in the WW starter: If the gluten development is being inhibited the bubbles aren't able to be trapped in smaller pockets and so they expand.

You mentioned in the linked comments that it went away after feeding at a higher starter ratio (lower new flour) 3x per day for several days. Should I attempt that with the WW starter to try to clear out whatever is inhibiting the gluten development? You also mentioned that when it cleared up, the transition was sudden and distinct. What should I be looking for to notice that transition? Based on the above hypothesis, I imagine I would see much finer bubbles and not the large, coarse pockets that I'm currently seeing, but is there anything else I could notice in the starter itself?

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

One day this will all be behind you, and you'll have a great starter, because you're getting quite an education in the process :)))

Since the only way out of this mess is through it at this point, my vote is for doing it with whatever flour mix and hydration are your goal. If that is still 80/20 ww/ap and 100% hydration, then go with that. If you're up for 3x a day, you might start at 2:1:1 or 1:1:1 and see how that goes. The object is to keep it as active as possible without the pH fluctuating too widely, so that it can advance through many generations quickly. That means letting it peak, but not letting it fall too much after that, if at all. If you think it will stop rising completely on an 80/20 diet, then keep it as 100% ww and hope it will convert easier once it's fixed.

When it gets to the tipping point, what you'll probably notice is a higher rise with more marshmallowy, less stringy texture, and less tenacity to stick to things. Maybe even a more fragrant aroma. But that's with white flour. I assume a ww starter would have similarly obvious signs.

Let me know how it goes :)

chuckpierce's picture
chuckpierce

My goal is for 80/20 with 80% hydration, but even with 50% AP it seems like it isn't rising, so I'll probably stick with the 100% WW and try to push that through, then convert afterwards. Thanks, hopefully it won't take 7x as long as usual to get through this phase :)

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

If you're going to stick with ww, then when you get to the bottom of this bag, I recommend replacing it with one in a finer grind. Doesn't need to be organic at this point since that didn't really help. Bob's Red Mill ww is a nice one. It's a spring wheat, which is stronger than KA's traditional (winter) wheat. No reason you can't reduce the hydration now. That will also help keep the pH steadier.

May the sourdough gods smile on you. You have more than proven your devotion to them :)

chuckpierce's picture
chuckpierce

I'll keep that in mind, since I _am_ near the bottom of this bag of WW. I'm a little wary of reducing the hydration while still on 100% WW, since even doing it with 80% AP it was pretty thick, and in my experience the WW has always been thicker than AP at the same level of hydration, so I suspect it would become more of a paste than a starter, but at this point I'm open to pretty much anything :)

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

With strong whole wheat it would be a medium to soft dough that could be kneaded by hand, so you would be able to work the gluten and feel any changes. However, 100% hydration would be closer in consistency to 80% with ap and closer to your end goal. So it's a toss-up. Do what feels most comfortable :)

chuckpierce's picture
chuckpierce

I did around a week of 3-per-day feedings, keeping at 100% WW 100% Hydration. Things seemed to improve, there was less "stickiness" and what appeared to be better growth. So I decided to try to adjust the flour ratio while keeping it at 100% Hydration. Switched to 50/50 AP / WW flour, 100% hydration, and things were going well. Good growth and starting to fall by 12 hours, so I did a few days of 2-per-day feedings. Then I tried 80/20 AP / WW, still 100% hydration, which was my target for the flour ratio. First feeding, everything looked good, the same as 50/50: Solid growth, starting to fall by 12 hours. Fed it again that night and in the morning it was back to the familiar very little growth. It's got bubbles and tanginess, but it's only growing by maybe 10%, nowhere near the activity level it had been showing previously.

I've also got another culture that I started fresh on a couple weeks ago. That one went through the usual stages in much more of the expected timeframe (over around a week), and was growing well at 100% WW, but then shows the same symptoms when transitioning to 80/20 AP/WW. It's at the final target of 80% hydration as well, and it develops large bubbles but doesn't really have significant growth.

Is it just a case where I need to power through the realignment of organisms with the changed food source? If so, should I look to increase the feeding time? And if I do that, should I care about how much / if it rises, or just keep to a schedule?

Since I had a little bit of luck starting fresh, I'm thinking about starting fresh again but using my target flour ratio from the beginning so as to avoid any transition issues. Would that make sense?

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi Chuck,

Not sure that starting over will change the result, but if you do, save yourself some time and start with pineapple juice.

Fed it again that night and in the morning it was back to the familiar very little growth. It's got bubbles and tanginess, but it's only growing by maybe 10%, nowhere near the activity level it had been showing previously.

  • Was there a drop in the temperature overnight? 
  • Was it finished rising at 10%?
  • What was the ratio of new flour and water to ripe?
  • Remind me again, what AP flour are you using?
  • And you are weighing everything, right?

Is it just a case where I need to power through the realignment of organisms with the changed food source? If so, should I look to increase the feeding time? And if I do that, should I care about how much / if it rises, or just keep to a schedule?

Somewhat, yes, if there is even a small rise keep going. It can take as much as two weeks to get to the other side of transition problems. But skip a feed if it isn't done rising, or if there's no rise at all. And if that means feeding once per day for a few days, that should be okay. If it ever stops rising completely, go back to 2:1:1 once per day, but with your 80/20 mix.

Hang in there

chuckpierce's picture
chuckpierce

Was there a drop in the temperature overnight?

Yes, though I noticed the same thing the following day, after feeding again in the morning. It has been getting cooler, though it's still been in the mid-high 70's indoors.

Was it finished rising at 10%?

I believe so. It wasn't domed any more and looked like it was starting to drop back down with the edges higher than the middle.

What was the ratio of new flour and water to ripe?

1:1:1 (or 1:1:0.8 for the 80% hydration)

Remind me again, what AP flour are you using?

King Arthur Enriched, Unbleached AP flour

And you are weighing everything, right?

Yep, actually even had to replace the battery in my kitchen scale a couple weeks ago :)

 

One other thing I noticed this morning: The 100% hydration was very liquid, almost like early in the process when the gluten disappears. The 80% definitely had a web-like gluten structure, despite the fact that it didn't rise very much. Regardless, I am seeing some rise, even if it's limited, so I'll keep going and see if it clears up.

chuckpierce's picture
chuckpierce

Hi Debra,

It's been a month of mostly staying the course, with a few minor shifts here and there to see how things go. I wanted to update, because over the last couple weeks I was finally able to get through the transition problems and see my 80% hydration starter take off and really grow to more than double. I tried over the weekend to bake with it and it worked! I got a good rise (though it did take a little bit longer than expected), and it baked up wonderfully. It's got a great sour tang and now I just have to figure out all the best ways to use it!

Some pictures:


Thank you again for all your advice! I'm sure I wouldn't have made it through all the ups and downs without it!

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

And that is some really fine looking bread. Longer than expected is kind of a general theme with sourdough as you well know by now ;)  I'm so glad that you stuck it out and have a great starter now --- your future bread baking looks very bright! Thank you for the update, and happy baking to you.

All the best,
dw

chuckpierce's picture
chuckpierce

Oh, and for the tanginess, the rye is only slightly tangy. The wheat is pleasantly tangy, not extreme like it was when it was making the transition, but still noticeable.

chuckpierce's picture
chuckpierce

Another thought: I've been using Press'n'seal to cap off my containers (pint glasses). Is it possible I'm cutting off too much oxygen by making a complete seal? Should I try something more porous like a paper towel with a rubber band keeping it in place?

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

None of these microorganisms need oxygen even though some can use it if it's there. I've done this many times in canning jars with the two-piece lids screwed down finger-tight, and things still take off.

JazzyV's picture
JazzyV

Debra, thank you so much for all the wisdom you impart!

I'm a first time sourdough starter maker. I started out 7 days ago, using 113g rye flour at a 1:1:1 ratio. The first 2 days, it rose and pushed the lid off the quart mason jar I was using, which surprised me (I hadn't read your blog then). Then I was out of rye flour, so I switched to KA unbleached AP flour mixed with WW flour 50/50. A few bubbles at the top, otherwise nothing. I kept feeding daily and was thinking nothing was happening, although the smell was changing. So I changed to all whole wheat flour, with similar results, 2 days ago. I decided not to feed it yesterday (I did stir it) and this morning it was very thin, with a layer of liquid on top. This morning I changed to a smaller jar, used 2:1:1 with WW flour and it doubled by 9 hours and is still slowly rising. Yay! So now I'm not sure how to proceed. Should I change to twice a day feeding now? Transition back to AP flour slowly? Thanks.

Vanessa

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

I think you got good enough expansion today that you can do your next feed 1:1:1 with AP this evening at 12 hours. Even if it's not starting to fall yet, there's enough activity to support it. Then see how well it responds in the next 12 hours after that. If it's at or near peak and still looking lively, feed again the same way. If not, hold off until we can reassess tomorrow.

Congratulations!

JazzyV's picture
JazzyV

I fed at 9PM last night with AP flour. When I looked at my starter about an hour before time to feed today, it had tripled in volume! I think it had started to fall just a little. I fed it at 9AM again with 1:1:1, but after little more than an hour it's already doubled. I'll keep an eye on it, and I guess feed just after it peaks. Should I change to 1:2:2 to slow it down some? I'd like to keep to 12 hour feedings. It's between 76-80° in my kitchen.Thanks.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

You're home free :)  Now just keep it on your 12-hour schedule, and if it has fallen more than a tiny bit by then, increase to 1:2:2 and see how that goes for a few feeds. Increase as necessary. If it needs more than 1:5:5 while the weather is warm, then you're better to reduce the hydration instead (1:4:5 or 1:3:5). Sound good?

The good news is that you can start baking with it at any time. If it can raise itself like that, it can raise dough. The flavor and aroma will continue to evolve for at least a few weeks, and it will take some time to develop skill with it, but that will only come with practice. So pick a basic sourdough loaf to practice with and get started :)

JazzyV's picture
JazzyV

Either I did something wrong or my starter doesn't like 1:2;2. After it doubled in 2 hours yesterday morning with 1:1:1, I fed it around 1PM with 1:2:2, as it started to fall a little. That seemed to work as it doubled in about 6 hours instead of 2 hours. I fed it again at 9PM, trying to get back on the 9A/9P schedule. This morning, it had barely done anything! There were bubbles on top but almost no rise. Too much feeding yesterday? I'm just letting it be, and now it's up about 1/5 the original height. The double flour and water seems to be too much for it. I'll see what it looks like a 9PM. Should I go back to 1:1:1 or perhaps skip feeding it until tomorrow morning (that would be 36 hours)?

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Why didn't you trust me?  :)

  • keep it on your 12-hour schedule, and if it has fallen more than a tiny bit by then, increase to 1:2:2

If it wants to fall before 12 hours, let it fall and make adjustments at the regular feeding time. At 4 hours the LAB had barely made it past lag phase. You reduced them to 1/3 their numbers at the 9am 1:1:1 feeding. They hadn't increased much, if at all by 1pm when they were reduced to 1/5 of that --- so they were knocked down to not much more than 1/15 of what they started before 9. Yeast don't do well when bacteria are too high, but they also don't do well when bacteria are too low.

So you've skipped this morning's feed? Hopefully that will be enough to start getting things back on track. If it rallies by tonight, you could give it 1:1:1 and see what it looks like in the morning. The good news is the LAB will come back if you let them :)

 

JazzyV's picture
JazzyV

I had it in my head that I had to feed the starter whenever it fell, or I'd be starving it. I didn't feed it until 9PM (1:1:1) last night adding a pinch of WW to the AP flour. It's almost tripled this AM and has not started to fall. Sorry, I couldn't rotate the image once it uploaded.

Starter 8.24.2020

 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

It looks like it's back on course and all will be well :)  Fortunately, these things respond well to proper care, and can recover quickly from mistakes. Falling is a sign, but it doesn't mean it's gone right to starving. Starters are more flexible than that. But right now, yours is still in transition and sorting itself out. It isn't yet balanced and stable, and it won't get there if feeding is all over the place. So keep to a roughly 12-hour schedule for now.

If it starts to fall by feeding time, give it 1:1:1. If it's not showing any sign of receding, you can be more conservative --- 2:1:1. Then get back to 1:1:1 tonight, and keep it at that ratio for at least 3 more feeding cycles before determining if you should move on to 1:2:2. If so, keep it there for at least 3 days before assessing again. It takes at least a few feeding cycles for the populations to readjust and find a new equilibrium, so don't be too hasty.

JazzyV's picture
JazzyV

Hi Debra. I'm still tinkering with my starter, which will be 3 weeks old this weekend. When I was feeding 1:1:1 it was doubling in 2 hours and peaking in 4. I went up to 1:2:2 and it doubled in 3 hours, peaked at 4-5 hours. I'm on day 3 of 1:3:3 and it doubles in 4-5 hours, peaks at 7 hours. It falls a little (about 1/3") by the time for the next feed (I feed 9A & 9P). Is that satisfactory, or should I keep going up on the ratio to get it to peak closer to 12 hours? One cooler day it peaked closer to 9 hours.  I've been decreasing the amount of starter with each change in ratio, just so I'm not using so much flour. Right now I am using 15g starter with 45 g water and 45g flour. I haven't baked with it yet, as I wasn't feeling well last week. Thanks. Vanessa

JazzyV's picture
JazzyV

That information is mainly from daytime observations. It does seem to fall more overnight. When I check it in the AM it's maybe down an inch, but never all the way back to where it started.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Sounds like your starter is doing very well and you're settling into a nice rhythm with it. How much rise is it giving you at peak? Has its fragrance changed?

Go ahead and bump it up again. You can jump to 1:5:5 for a few feeds if you like and see how it does. If it doesn't start receding by 12 hours, you can back off to 1:4:4.  As the weather cools off, you may need to adjust back downward, but I think you have got the hang of it now :)

And it won't hurt anything if you want to reduce the volume even more. I usually keep mine to 5/25/25g or 6/30/30.

Time to bake with it :)
dw

JazzyV's picture
JazzyV

Normally my starter would be about triple or slightly more when it peaked. It smells fruity and yeasty (best I can describe it).

I did 1:5:5 this morning. The doubling time took longer, 6 hours. It peaked around 8 hours and is slightly flattening at almost 10 hours. The peak wasn't as high as it had been, not reaching triple.  I know it will take a few days of this new regimen to see how things sit. 

I'll bake with it this weekend. I'm trying to decide what to make.

Vanessa

JazzyV's picture
JazzyV

I decided to make Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough. For my first ever sourdough bread I don't think it came out too badly. I did an overnight retard in the refrigerator and baked it this morning. I need to work on my scoring and lots of other stuff, like shaping. I'll keep at it!

Thanks for your help.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

If that's your first ever sourdough, you did exceptionally well!

NewSourdoughEnthusiast's picture
NewSourdoughEnt...

Thanks, all, and especially Debra, for all the actually scientific input into this process. LOVE the science behind it all. 

Cindi

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Welcome, Cindi  :)
dw

AkitoTakagi's picture
AkitoTakagi

Hi Debra, how are you? I'm so glad I stumbled upon your blog here. I was captivated the way you explained things and I got so much information from you. I need help, this is my seventh or maybe eighth (I'm not so sure I remember) attempt to make a starter. All the previous attempts ended up failing (or so I thought). First of all I never knew if after few days later it would do nothing and the consistency would become liquid like a cake batter with ribbon stage, and I thought it's dead and I started all over again.

I always use bread flour, 100% hydration. The first, second, and third day, it will rise doubled and even tripled or maybe more, the consistency is so thick and gluten is so strong that I need to cut it with two spoon to discard some. It smells alcohol and cheese, sometimes like vomit I cant even describe it. And then the fourth day comes, and it does nothing so suddenly, stays flat, gluten breaks down, it's so runny and watery. So I think it's dead and I throw it away. I start all over again for maybe 5 attempts and it ends up the same, I throw it all away again and again. (because so many video tutorial and blog always shows their starter rises every single day, it's so misleading)

After I find your blog and read all about the phases, I start over again with whole wheat flour (I have 3 attempts and the result is still the same with the bread flour). Here I will describe the starter:

Day 1 at 9 am I mix whole wheat (WW) 15g + water 20g, temperature is so hot these days, I don't have thermometer but I use my local weather application on phone it fluctuates around 86F - 91F 

few hours later, at noon it has doubled, the smell is so strong (alcohol and mix between vomit and socks), it's so bubbly. Few hours later it has tripled and later that night, it has fallen back to double rise. (at night the smell is still so strong, it still has a lot of bubbles and stays at double rise) 

 

Day 2 at 10 am, it still has double rise, same strong smell, lots of bubbles, and then I add 15g WW + 20g water. It rises to double size few hours later.

 

Day 3 at 11 am, still has double rise, same strong smell, so bubbly, I add again 15g WW + 20g water. Later that day, it has no rise.

 

Day 4 at morning 7 am I check, it separated, liquid on top, the smell is so strong (alcohol, vomit, sour, socks), consistency is so thin, gluten breaks down, it has become so runny and watery. Still no rise, but there are some tiny bubbles and some small bubbles on surface.

At 11 am, I take 30g (discard the rest) and add 15g WW + 15 water.

Later that day, the smell suddenly calms down, still no rise, but the bubbles decrease, it only has few bubbles maybe like 10 bubbles.

 

Day 5 and it still has no rise, the smell is almost gone (not smelly and it's like going back to smell just like water and flour), a few small bubbles.

 

In all my 8 attempts (whether it's bread flour or whole wheat), the patterns are all the same, it rises vigorously on first two days, maybe even the third, and then boom, it does nothing, the smell is gone (although if I stir it, it still has a faint smell of vomit) but overall the smell is gone, the consistency on 3rd or 4th day is always so thin, runny, watery, with just a FEW bubbles on top.

Then it never rises again, I even skip the feeding and it's not becoming sour.

This time I use WW and the result is still the same. It never rises again, there are just very few small bubbles. What do I do Debra? Lately I store it in my room with AC on, because outside my room is so hot around 86F.

What did I do wrong? I think this time it'll be different with using WW and knowing about the phases that it will do nothing and if I wait yeast will take over. But it's still the same (I have tried 3 times with WW and waiting for the yeast but it never comes)

Thank you, I'm sorry it's a long message, but I still wanna have a starter, I really do. I am willing to try it again and again as many times it takes :)

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi Akito, I am doing well, thank you :)

Maybe your starter has taken off by now. I hope so, but if not, no worries. You haven't done anything wrong, and it sounds like your starters have all followed a pretty typical progression. The only mistake you can make at this point is starting over again. It's most likely that you just haven't given it enough time to get through phase 3. I think that too warm of a temperature can also prolong the process (and bring out some pretty powerful odors), so finding a spot, or a cooler where you can keep it in the upper 70's to low 80's might help it move past this a little faster.

Keep feeding once a day like you did on day 4 -- 30g (discard the rest) and add 15g WW + 15 water -- until it starts rising again. Don't worry about it getting runny and watery, that's actually a very good sign that it's developing enough acidity. Have faith :)

AkitoTakagi's picture
AkitoTakagi

Debra how I'm so grateful to you, after receiving your message I tried to feed my one last remaining old mixture that I haven't thrown away. At first I noticed it had some a bit sweet smell and I gave it a try and fed it with ww. And it rose to double size.

After that, I usually feed it 1.1.1 ratio, keep feeding it with ww. As I read a lot of comments in this blog, I believe that you once said to feed it 12 hours schedule. I set the schedule 7 am and 7 pm. I have some questions if don't mind :)

 

1. My starter peaks at about 2.5x rise in about 6-7 hours, and then starts falling after that. In 8-9 hours it falls back to 2x rise. And in 12 hours maybe to 1.8x rise. And then I feed it because it has been 12 hours. My questions is, is it okay to let it fall? I read somewhere else that you need to feed it at peak, and not to let it fall because it will weaken your starter. (But I still do it at 12 hours interval even though it's fallen)

Is this true?

 

2. If feeding past peak makes the starter weak, should I try 1.2.2 ratio at 7 am since it's daytime and it's hotter. And at 7 pm can I feed it back to 1.1.1 ratio to compensate since at night it's cooler?

 

3. What if at 12 hours my starter is still at peak and not falling, should I still force feed it or should I wait until it starts falling?

 

4. I actually prefer white starter, so I split 10g off, from the ww, and start feeding it with 10g water and 5g ww + 5g bread flour. I read that sudden change of flour will shock the starter, so I try 50% ww + 50% bread flour. Is this okay Debra? I'm so confused about all this but I'm so excited as well. When should I increase the bread flour and how much should I increase it until it finally eats just bread flour?

Right now with 50% ww + 50 % bread flour, it's still rising and peaking at 2x in about 7 hours (it's not as high as my 100% ww starter, maybe it's in shock because of the sudden bread flour? Nevertheless I think it's still good to peak at 2x.

 

5. And now I keep cleaning all the utensils I use to feed and the container, washing it thoroughly to clean it with dishwasher soap, rinsing them with a lot of water, because I'm afraid of contamination (of mold, or other bacteria or germs). Is starter supposed to be so fragile or should I let loose a bit about the cleaning? Lol. Or as it ages, is starter supposed to be stronger so I can let loose about strict cleaning later?

 

Thank you so much Debra! You're so brilliant and your information here in this blog helps a lot of people I believe. Great job and thanks again.

 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi Akito, that's great to hear

1.  Yes, you can let it fall and then increase the ratio at subsequent feedings. Collapsing now and then isn't going to hurt your starter, but letting it do that too many times in a row can run things amok.

2. Try 1:2:2 at both feedings. You can give it 11 hours during the day and 13 at night if that helps even things out. It doesn't have to be exact.

3. You can wait a little longer, or feed it less, whichever is most convenient. It isn't going to ruin anything if you have to refresh before it's completely ripe. What do you do when you're not hungry at mealtime? You probably make a decision between eating light, eating late, or skipping the meal entirely, whichever makes the most sense for you and your schedule. But whatever you decide, it isn't going to kill you. Same principle here.

4. Sometimes problems arise, often they don't. Try all bread flour and see what happens. If it doesn't react well, you can add back some whole grain.

5. There is no need to wash with soap. Rinsing all the spent remnants off with water is good enough. Any "contaminants" in the container are already in your starter, which you'll be putting back into the container. Plenty of mold and bacteria are in the flour, so you're adding those with every feed. This is no problem for a healthy, established starter. That's the beauty of it :)

Relax and enjoy your starter,
dw

 

AkitoTakagi's picture
AkitoTakagi

And oh, I'd like to ask, how long will it be ready to store it in fridge? Because I normally bake only at weekend. Is young starter okay to be stored in fridge (yeast just activated 2 days ago). When feeding, can I just take like 5g only? Because I don't want to have too much discard later. Thank you Debra :)

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

It's best to keep it at room temp and feed it regularly for a couple of weeks so it can stabilize and develop anti-mold properties. Once it is at its best, you can store it in the fridge. And yes, you can cut back to whatever size you're comfortable with. It is maintaining the proportions that's most important, not the total volume.

Benito's picture
Benito

Just wanted to say hi Akiko and I’m happy that you’ve been able to get your starter going.  I can’t wait to see what you are able to bake with it.

Benny

AkitoTakagi's picture
AkitoTakagi

Thank you :)

Jupiter's picture
Jupiter

Hi Debra, I've just spent a while reading through most of your posts on this thread, including your response to mine from a while back. I really appreciate all the effort you put into helping people in this nebulous art!

One thing you wrote struck me particularly, you said "Another of the myths surrounding sourdough I'm sorry to say. Oven spring is a result of water and alcohol vaporizing, dissolved CO2 coming out of solution, and all the gasses trapped in the bubbles expanding with the dough's rising internal temperature."

I have suspected this for a while, and it's nice to get the confirmation. My greatest sourdough struggle at the moment is trying to figure out at what point to put the dough in the fridge for overnight retardation and baking in the morning. I generally use 10% starter, and from mix time to retard time is generally around 8-10 hours, so quite a while. If I retard sooner, I get more oven spring, but the inside suffers, with large holes amid dense crumb. If I let it rise/ferment longer, I get less spring (resulting in less attractive looking, and flatter bread) but a much softer and nicer crumb.

Do you have any suggestions on how to maximise the soft and open cumb, while maintaining good oven spring? I apologise if this is outside of your area of expertise as a microbiologist!

I suspect that there's no real way to get the best of both worlds - one of the most popular artisan bakeries in my area is called Sonoma, and if you have a glance at their website you can see that their bread looks like that have given up entirely on the idea of oven spring, and are focused solely on crumb:

http://www.sonoma.com.au/our-breads

I also suspect that the flattening can be avoided by baking in a loaf tin. I also plan to experiment with high levels of Vital Wheat Gluten to see if i can get the bread to stand up more at the longer end of the fermentation spectrum.

Anyway, if you have any thoughts on this particular balance, I'd love to hear them. Thank you!

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

It is kinda outside my area, but there are a few helpful tips I have picked up from others along the way. One that helped me for getting what you seek is more fermentation in bulk, less in the final proof. It sounds like you have the bulk fermentation nailed at the 8-10 hours, but maybe you're letting it rise too much in the final proof and it doesn't have enough give left for spring. Is that what you are retarding? You could try shortening that up.

Jupiter's picture
Jupiter

Thank you, will see how i go!

AkitoTakagi's picture
AkitoTakagi

Hi Debra, thank you so much for all your help. Right now, my whole wheat starter is doing fine, but I notice that its rise is not as aggressive as it is used to. It used to rise 2.5x in short amount of time (like 6-7 hours). Right now its max peak is just 2x.

How do I strengthen its rise Debra? What can I do to make it triple? I see that people's starter rise to triple or more.

Is this because I let it fall too many times before feeding I wonder. Then I increased feeding ratio to 1:2:2 and it still fell in 12 hours feeding cycle. The I tried giving it 1:3:3 and it slowed down drastically, not rising much by the time I had to feed it. So right now I give it 1:2:2 and now it doesn't fall in 12 hours but it rises so slow and its max peak is just 2x rise. It's been a week since the yeast activated.

I notice another thing, it develop some kind of soft skin on the surface when I stir it, so my starter never has those bubbly surface with various bubble sizes. It's usually smooth with 2 or 3 small holes. But the inside and side from the glass I see so many bubbles, big and small bubbles, kinda like web. Is this okay Debra?

And whenever I stir it, it feels so loose and doesn't that quite glutenous texture. ( and also my white starter fed with bread flour does this too, it's consistency is not strong, so loose, and my white starter today doesn't rise, just 1.3x rise, with just small bubbles)

Do you have some advices you could share with me Debra? Thank you :)

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

it develop some kind of soft skin on the surface when I stir it, ... And whenever I stir it, it feels so loose and doesn't that quite glutenous texture. ( and also my white starter fed with bread flour does this too, it's consistency is not strong, so loose,

This, to me, sounds like it is still too warm. I would recommend finding a spot less than 75F, especially for the whole wheat, but I have a feeling that isn't practical for you. If that is the case, then a good alternative is to reduce the hydration to a firm dough consistency. You could also chill the flour and water you use to feed them in the refrigerator to slow things initially, or stick the refreshed starters in a cooler with a cold pack (not touching). Even so, you might not ever get to triple in volume with a whole wheat starter. So keep paying attention to the other things, like gluten strength, mildness/sourness, aroma, etc., and see how these things go along with how strongly it rises. There should be some physical resistance remaining, mild acidity and pleasant aroma along with a good rise to show that the bacteria aren't getting out of hand.

There are a couple other options, but they entail more frequent attention, and so we'll save them as last resort :)

AkitoTakagi's picture
AkitoTakagi

Hi Debra, thank you for all you help and explanation. I finally move it into my room where it's much cooler and sometimes I even turn on the AC when the weather is too hot for me too. And now season is changing and it's much cooler outside too. It starts raining more often now.

I thought WW starter would also rise triple. Then my starter is fine if it's doubling. Though it's slow I think compared to when the yeast just activated. Now it doubles and peaks in 10 hours with 1.2.2 feed ratio, I guess this ratio is perfect for me since it still holds its peak at 12 hours.

Thanks and I'll keep watching the starter, see if it still develops some soft skin or anything else. I'll let you know the update if there's something new. I'm having so much fun taking care of this starter yay :)

Regards, Akito.

Jupiter's picture
Jupiter

Hi Debra, I have 2 more quick questions for you, which hopefully should be right in your area of expertise :)

1) Currently we are going into Summer (Sydney, Australia), so I am keeping my starter in my wine fridge which maintains 18C all day every day (about 65F), doing twice-daily refreshes. I feel like you might say the temperature is a little low for optimum fermentation, but i'm hoping the benefits of _stability_ of temperature outweights the downsides, because as we get futher into summer the temperature inside our house will fluctuate from about 20C overnight to 35C during the heat of the day. And 18C isn't really that cold. Your thoughts?

2) I've recently switched from supermarket bread flour to a stone ground, unbleached flour for breadmaking. Do you forsee any changes in starter maintenance routine if I use this new flour for it? I guess the main difference as far as starter is concerned is going from bleached to unbleached. Since I'm only migrating an existing starter over, I'm guessing they will behave the same, but I would also be interested in your thoughts here.

Thanks a million as always!!!

Jupiter's picture
Jupiter

Oh also, talking about the wine fridge, I forgot to ask - right now the starter is 100% hydration, twice daily feeds at 1:7:7. I feel like you're going to suggest a less extreme feeding ratio, at a lower hydration. But I'd rather keep it at 100% because it's easy to mix into the bread. Would you suggest reducing the wine fridge temperature in order to keep the feeding ratios under control, and if so, how low would you go before the microbial activity starts to degrade? i.e. 14C, 10C? Or  does 18C at 1:7:7 sound like a good balance of feed ratio/activity/hydration? Thanks :)

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

I think 18C is fine, but 1:7:7 2x/day won't work with that temperature. You'll have to scale your feeding back to something more fitting. I think the biggest issue you'll face maintaining a white starter that cool is loss of acidity to the point that it might become too bland. To counter that, I'd maintain it on all or part whole wheat. Is that what you mean by stone ground, unbleached?

What I'm suggesting is a more desem-like starter. A true desem is maintained 50-65F, and rises very well. Being 100% whole wheat (which tends to sour), it's the cave-like temperatures and low hydration that keep it mild. You'll have to experiment with feeding rate, feeding frequency, % whole grain, and temperature until you dial in what works best for you and your taste. But that should be do-able at 100% hydration. Try tweaking one thing at a time.
 

                                                    Yeast / Lift   <----->   Bacteria / Acidity 

Flour:                          100% White / low ash  <----->  100% Whole Grain / high ash

Temperature:                                        Cool  <----->  Warm

Feeding:                 Smaller / More Frequent  <----->  Larger / Less Frequent

 

Jupiter's picture
Jupiter

It's funny, you say that the ratio is too high and everything else I read from yourself and other say 1:2:2 or 1:3:3 for twice day feeding, but i've run a bunch of experiments with my starter, and at 1:7:7 it peaks before 12 hours. Actually i've started doing 1:9:9 (at 18C) and it still peaks within 12 hours - at around double the initial volume. Does this tell you anything? Is my starter somehow much more active than the normal, or is the fact that it's only doubling indicate an issue (I see people talking about their starter tripling in volume at the peak, mine does not do this, even at much lower ratios)?

I know that if i do 1:2:2 or 1:3:3 it will double and peak very quickly, by the time i get to 12 hours it will have receeded quite a lot, which is why I started doing 1:7:7 and now 1:9:9

Does this behaviour make any sense to you? Thanks again :)

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