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SCChris 07-30-2011 09:42 AM

Sourdough starter question..
I have a question for Jay or Peter or whoever has knowledge in the subject of sourdough starters.

When I begin with 100% hydration of a 50/50 all purpose and whole wheat flour, within 36 hours, this mixture has always doubled in volume. All of the information that I’ve been through indicates that growing your sourdough starter begins with going through the initial period of weeding out the “bad” or “unwanted” yeast and or bacteria, and then cultivating the desired varmints. What is the unwanted and why is it unwanted? This initual bloom seems to add the leavening desired for some type of bread, at least in this first phase.


Faith In Virginia 07-30-2011 10:15 AM

Re: Sourdough starter question..
Chris, I can't say I know where your at with your starter. Are you starting a new starter strain or are you building one from an existing one? Your 100% hydration in 36 hours to double is quite weak and may not support bread. When I started my starters I feed them every 12 hours for a few weeks. My feeding was at 40g starter 40g water 40g flour. Today my starter will double in 10 hours winter and 4 hours summer if left out on the counter.

When your starter becomes strong don't look for doubling when you go to use it. Look for maximum rise.

If you want to use your weak starter now I would use it in English muffins or pancakes

Hope that helps Faith

texassourdough 07-30-2011 11:13 AM

Re: Sourdough starter question..
Hi Chris!

You are off to a rowdy start!

The "rise" you got is (virtually certainly) the "bad bacteria" that there are LOTS of on flour. The challenge is there are lots of species that flourish at near neutral pH. The byproducts of the "bad bacteria" acidify the starter over the next day or two to a point where the starter will become acid enough that they can't reproduce. At that point the starter will go dead. You could try to make bread with it but the bacterial rise is notoriously not strong enough to make reasonable bread. I know it seems like it should work but...

The "bad" bacteria are "bad" because they can have off tastes and odors and can't survive in a stable starter - and if they could, they would have no way of defending the starter from other invasive beasties. At this early phase the starter is a soup of probably hundreds or thousands of bacterial species. When it stabilizes it may have one, two, three, four, ?? but usually only a couple as I understand it and often just one. I can't imagine the early soup having enough of any single bad bacteria to make you ill, so I am confident it is reasonably safe, I said, the flavor/odor is likely to be off and the bread is unlikely to rise.

The beauty of sourdough is that once you have a healthy population of appropriate bacteria and yeast it is pretty hard for some new beasty to invade the starter. (NOTE: in a healthy starter it is pretty hard for a new yeast to invade, the bacterial populations usually get augmented over time and the flavor profile of the starter will evolve as the bacterial population shifts. This is part of why SF sourdough is so hard to keep pure outside of SF.)

I would suggest feeding daily until second activity gets going good. Keep it at 100%, Makes the measuring easy and the relatively liquid dough favors yeast development. Let us know how it goes!

texassourdough 07-30-2011 11:14 AM

Re: Sourdough starter question..
Wow, Faith!

Your SD starter is HOT! Four hours is amazing! What is the room temp?

Faith In Virginia 07-30-2011 12:45 PM

Re: Sourdough starter question..
80 ish on room temp. No AC in this old house. I've had to adjust my timing on everything but I think I have a handle on it now. I need to light the oven much earlier now and start my dough much later. Final proofing on the bread is also running about 4 hours. I had a couple runs of bread where the bread was ready and the oven was not. Nothing as bad as over proofed bread.

I played with a new rye bread last week 40% rye at 75 hydration. From Hamelman "Bread" I added a bit of yeast to the sourdough. Talk about HOT!!! Sourdough Rye bread from knead to oven in about 1-1/2 hours. I'm getting closer to the rye of my dreams.

The good news is in the rapid rise times I have not lost any of the good sourdough flavor.


texassourdough 07-30-2011 02:55 PM

Re: Sourdough starter question..
Hi Faith!

I haven't tried my starter at 80. If I have it really fresh I could probably double in five hours but at sort of steady-state, once-a-week baking pace it peaks on a 4X expansion (100 grams of starter and 400 grams of water and flour) in about ten to twelve hours at 76 which is a convenient activity level for overnight. I don't want it to peak too fast so being a little below peak activity is okay.

The rye sounds interesting. Really wet! With your sourdough you probably don't want to add extra yeast. Being faster is not that big an advantage IMO.

I need to bake some baguettes this week to practice up for on August 15 I will begin a week long class on baguettes at the San Francisco Baking Institute. Should be a lot of fun!

Bake On!

Faith In Virginia 07-30-2011 04:01 PM

Re: Sourdough starter question.. I'm jealous. SFBI for a week only in my dreams. Wish I had 2 grand of expendable income at this day.

yeah the yeast was an experiment I did like the results but it really needed some tweaking
I was not prepared for the rise times...doubled in size in 30 minutes @80 degrees..LOL

I agree 80 degrees is quite fast but I don't have a good way to reduce the proofing temps. In the winter I can make things warmer but the summer its either on the counter or in the fridge. The good news is the hot temperatures are usually short in duration here but this year the heat won't go away.

texassourdough 07-31-2011 08:54 AM

Re: Sourdough starter question..
My greatest fear of SFBI is that I will return home with a munchkin figure! They have sweet rolls and such for breakfast and provide lunch which I am sure must include great bread! Too many carbs!!! Arrgghhhhh! My main interest in the workshop is tactile. While I make decent baguettes I just can't make a really great, photo worthy baguette. The techniques are clearly subtle and I think getting the touch will translate brilliantly to the loaves I routinely make.

I am pretty much with you on temp. I like to go with what it is. Just live with it would be my motto. If you find yourself struggling to slow down your proofing you can drop the % starter in the first expansion. (Example I do 4 to 1 (200 flour/200 water to 100 starter) most of the year here in Texas for my overnight first expansion and I use 3 to 1 (150 plus 150 plus 100) in the winter when the temp is below 68 and the time is about the same for peak expansion). At 80 degrees I might try 5 to 1 (250 plus 250 plus 100 or 200/200/80) - that should be about right for me. You might be able to do 6 to 1 or even 8 to 1 with your hot yeast!

A lot of baking books seem to be using sourdough for flavor and commercial yeast for predictability (i.e. boost the fermentation rate to a level where the timing is more predictable). I have had similar experiences. Make a loaf and the damn thing practically ready to bake before I have cleaned up the bowls! (I did this big time on a loaf a couple of weeks ago - I refed all my tired starters and had a bowl of "discard" so I mixed a dough with the discard and used yeast since the starters were not very active... It was a hot day and I had too much yeast (1%) and it was LIVELY. I agree. LOL!

Bake On!

SCChris 07-31-2011 09:25 AM

Re: Sourdough starter question..
Faith and Jay, thank you for your information and experiences. I hadn’t seen much discussion as to what the bad, early, beasties are. My bet was that off flavors was a biggie but I wasn’t quite ready to do an experiment with multiple batches and bake offs to see what they create.

Jay, I’m with Faith on the jealousy factor about your going to SFBI for a week. Maybe some time I’ll have the resources and time..

Thank you both and enjoy SFBI and the Rye..


texassourdough 07-31-2011 11:53 AM

Re: Sourdough starter question..
I haven't seen much on the bad beasties either, Chris, so I was (as I hope I implied) reading between the lines a bit... I suspect the early soup is incredibly variable depending on how you start. The almost predictable part is that the pH will drop and stop the early activity. I must assume the good beasties are pretty rare for it clearly takes a good while for them to convert the environment to one in which they thrive.

I have been wanting to go to SFBI for a couple of years. I won't post much here about it for it the wrong audience. If you are on Fresh Loaf you have probably seen David Snyder's reports on Artisan Breads I and Artisanal Breads II. If not, they will tell you virtually the entire content of the course. But what is missing is the hands on part - which is why I am going!

Let us know how your pet progresses!

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