The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Mad Scientist in the Kitchen

CaptTPT's picture
CaptTPT

Mad Scientist in the Kitchen

Hi all. New to posting. New to bread making. Just retired after 30 yrs Surgical Oncologist also with degree in microbial genetics and molecular biology/chemistry so I know a bit about how these cultures work. But- raw rookie in the kitchen needing help with Levain culture. My culture is 2 weeks old developed entirely with whole wheat. For the last several days I have been feeding q12h at 1:1:1 with whole wheat fl, pure water at 85 degrees, then constant room temp at 68 degrees. Culture has been peaking @>2x vol with vigorous bubbling domed up at about 8 hrs. Now is at 10 hrs and falling at that time. It tastes very acidic but smells alcoholic. I’m guessing I have bacterial dominant culture at this time which, of course will have more lactic and acetic acid end products. I note that  Forkish and others indicate their cultures expand 3-4x, which suggests a higher percentage of yeast present and therefore more CO2 production. Mine peaks at just over 2x vol. I don’t think there is anything wrong here but curious your thoughts on this. More time required to select the desired organisms or some other issue? Temp? Hydration? Something else? Thanks. Love the site. Great info and ideas here. 

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Welcome, from another scientist! Sounds like you are well on your way to success.

Peak hight is not that important really. I guess if you continuously keep feeding the starter twice a day it'll be stronger and peak faster and higher - but you can make great bread with starter kept in the fridge by activating it once in a levain.

68F=20C is a little on the cool side, if you have a warm spot a few degrees higher it would make your life (and the starter's life) easier. But if it's more than doubling like this too, it's fine, everything will just take a little longer. Let's see what the sourdough gurus say, but if you keep up the same feeding I guess it'll become a bit stronger, but the temperature might be a bit limiting the peaking time for you.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

Not sure how to parse this:

"Culture has been peaking @>2x vol with vigorous bubbling domed up at about 8 hrs. Now is at 10 hrs and falling at that time."

Do you mean it was peaking at 8 hours, and is now peaking at 10 hours and then immediately falling?

Or do you mean it is now peaking at 8 hours and falling at 10 hours ?

Falling two hours after peaking seems normal, if that is what you meant.

--

Be advised that maintenance-feeding of 100% WW is constantly introducing new/additional yeast spores and LAB to your culture. Using white flour, or a 50/50 mix of white/WW does less "contamination" of your culture with newcomers.

CaptTPT's picture
CaptTPT

I have measured exactly with scale. I noticed that the viscosity of of my immediate mix was a bit to high (barely drops off spoon) so last night I added 120 cc water. All previous feedings were 100cc. That is the first change up since starting. Everything else the same led to peak at about 8 hrs. Last night i noticed a significant fall at 10 hours. Don’t know why I necessarily need a 3-4x rise but better culture rise does roughly translate into eventual (better) bread rise, does it not?

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

1. A thinner mix will lead to a sooner fall.  Thinner batter holds less gas or releases it quicker.  Since thinner batter releases the gas bubbles faster, you could get a lower peak.

2. Who said you need a 3x or more peak rise?   % rise is more related to feeding ratio and viscosity.  IE, a 1:2:2 feed will generally rise more and stay risen longer than a 1:1:1 feed.

3. Every one's starter, environment, water, and flour is different. Every baker must tailor any given published formula to their local conditions.  Individual repeatability is mainly dependent on individual/local _consistency_.   Whether your starter peaks at 1.5x, 2x, 2.5x, or 3x, ... what counts is that whatever it does or you do (in terms of maintenance feeding),  it should be the same bake to bake in order to generate consistent output/results.

4. With sourdough, most bakers look for 25-50% rise during bulk ferrment. % rise during final proof can vary. Most of us look for _oven spring_ to get pretty-looking loaves.

Benito's picture
Benito

Welcome to TFL CaptTPT.  I’m a practicing Family Physician specializing in HIV and working now for 29 years.  I created my starter 1.75 years ago following the pineapple juice formula posted on this site.

If you’re finding that your starter is falling before you were intending to feed it again, then you should start to give it more food.  Why don’t you keep the hydration 100%, that is the easiest starter hydration and so many recipes are based on a 100% hydration starter, it is easiest to mix as well.  Increase your feedings to 1:2:2.  It would be optimal to feed your starter when it peaks and the dome just starts to flatten.  That is the starter telling you that the microbes are running out of food and need to be fed again.

I’d say your starter is already well on its way.  See how it does at a 1:2:2 feeding schedule for a while, if you’re finding that it doesn’t peak by the time you’d like to feed it and need to go to bed, slow it down in the fridge overnight.  That isn’t optimal at this point in the starters life but better than it overfermenting greatly over night.  Then to get it fermenting faster to better fit your schedule get it somewhere warmer in your home, on top of the fridge or even in the oven with the light on and door ajar.  You have to be careful with the oven and light on as it can get too hot in there.

Benny

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Capt, you can get a higher rise if you add some white flour to the mix. It will increase the strength of the gluten which is necessary to contain all of the gas produced by fermentation. Also, lowering the hydration a bit should also help.

We shouldn’t assume that all of the fermentation gas produced is contained within the starter. Often times, some escapes into the atmosphere.

It sounds like you have a healthy starter. Please post closeup images so we can take a look.

Welcome to the forum and wishing you and your family a great retirement!

Danny

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Just came upon this image. It is a whole rye starter.  Notice how little rise compared to the gas created. If you look closely you can see that the starter had already started to recede. This is a strong starter.

Benito's picture
Benito

Very good point about the rye and its ability to trap the gas it produces.  It seems to me that stiffer rye starters aren’t able to hold the gases in as well as 100% hydration rye starters.  The reason I say this is that in the rye CB, I noticed that those who tried making stiff rye starters were reporting very little rise, whereas with my rye starter kept at 100% hydration I always see a vigorous rise usually around 3x or so. 

CaptTPT's picture
CaptTPT

Thanks Danny. I appreciate your help. When I used 1:1:1 my culture became quite viscous. Enough so that my mix would not fall off my mixing spoon. Using less hydration or developing more gluten will turn this into peanut butter. I know that nearly all Lactic acid bacteria and all yeast are immotile. They are dependent on nutrients moving to them or something physically moving them to nutrients. I’m guessing you are developing pockets of growth within the gluten rather than diffuse growth throughout the mixture. I wonder if or when that becomes an issue?

CaptTPT's picture
CaptTPT

Got it. Thanks. I’ll try those suggestions and get back. 

slohcooker's picture
slohcooker

Welcome CaptTPT. I think your starter is doing just fine. When I first made my starter, I was paranoid about every little detail, got plenty of info from these boards, read some good advice, some not so good, and ultimately... learned to relax.

I definitely relate to your scientific brain at work here. in case you haven't read through Debra Wink's legendary microbiologist posts, I urge you to do so. Let me know if you need links. As for your starter, I think the most important thing is consistency of behavior. If your starter is now peaking at 10hrs instead of 8hrs, just relax and keep up a consistent feeding. It will normalize.

As for Forkish, quite a few people, including me, have had wildly different experiences with his lessons -- his basic instruction is great, but his timings/measurements may not be shared by many. Don't worry about 3-4x volume expansion. Volume expansion is good for comparing your starter against itself only since other variables like container size, shape, material, starter hydration, type of flour, temperature, etc, make it an apples to oranges comparison.

I think too many people get caught up in what they think is maximizing their starter's leavening potential as measure by how much their starter expands. Yes, it's a measurement. But here's the important part that's missed: your starter isn't your dough. Sure, you want to make sure your starter is stable, healthy, and behaves consistently. But when you make bread, the mixture of ingredients for your dough is a completely new environment. First of all, it's (usually ) a lower hydration than your starter (if you keep a 100% hydration starter). Your dough can rise more than 2x mainly because of the hydration. More viscous, can hold more gas, etc. And that's before even discussing the different types of flour in the dough. Just because you have a starter that can expand 3x in its jar doesn't necessarily mean it'll expand bread dough more than a starter that doesn't.

If you have a stable starter, use it and see how it behaves before trying to change the starter itself. Things like: when  you add it to the dough or levain (some people use it at peak, others use it "young" before it peaks). Debra Wink's scientific posts were invaluable to me in trying to wrap my head around the process and what actually affects what variable. It's not as simple as many people on the internet say it is (food blogs looking for views who copy and paste the same wrong info again and again) But don't get lost in the weeds of that before you've had plenty of empirical testing. And eating.

Emphasis on the eating.   

CaptTPT's picture
CaptTPT

Thank you so much for the reference and your comments. Very helpful. I will digest the article by Wink and get back. 

CaptTPT's picture
CaptTPT

Ok I made the switch whole wheat to APF plus WW and proceeded to a routine feeding schedule at 24 hr intervals. Because my home is maintained at 68 degrees and the Proofing temp on our Wolf Dual Range is 85 degrees, I made a warming box with a small light for heat. Once stabilized in 24 hrs at 76 degrees, I put the Levain in. Now, all previous rises were about 2.5x max. My bottle had room for about 3.5x rise. No problem. When I got up in the morning the Levain culture blew through the top and was all over my box! Wow! Time to switch to the tub. I think this culture is ready. My first loaf of bread - Pain de Campagne - in the oven in the morning. Looks great so far. Mad Scientist making headway!

Benito's picture
Benito

Well it definitely sounds like your starter is vigorous enough to build an active levain from.  Looking forward to seeing your first loaf, please post it.  Good luck.

Benny

CaptTPT's picture
CaptTPT

Looking pretty sweet so far. Amazing flavor, not too sour, great texture, terrific chewy crust. Happy with the outcome. Only problem is the bubble you can see on the one side. This is a large gas bubble just below the surface. I'm guessing I trapped a small air bubble when folding during the shaping. Other possibilities? Suggestions?  Sorry about

the pics. They refuse to stay in focus when uploading.

 

 

Benito's picture
Benito

Funny that your photos are blurry cam, but you're probably correct that large bubble was trapped air while folding or shaping.  Good to pop those as you go along.  I also try to do a gentle patting down of the dough as I shape also to reduce these types of hole/bubbles.  From what I can tell of your crumb from that second photo it looks like you've done well with fermentation.  To get more oven spring you'll want to get more tension on the skin of the dough while final shaping.  Great job for your first loaf with a new starter.

Benny

CaptTPT's picture
CaptTPT

So, you are suggesting to do a little more shaping to create more of a ball shape before putting in the proofing basket, or are you suggesting to simply do more pulling across the counter for a longer period of time to stretch the surface a bit more?

Benito's picture
Benito

Without seeing photos of your shaped dough it is hard to say which, but getting more surface tension by gentle dragging of the shaped dough across the counter a few more times to tighten the surface can help with oven spring.

CaptTPT's picture
CaptTPT

Ok got it. I’ll do so with the next loaf tomorrow. Thank you for your suggestions.