Who has a good sourdough starter? I like my sourdough very sour, and from what I've read, it's a combination of things, starter included which make the loaves sourer (sourer?) What luck has anyone had with wild yeasts? Is wild yeast from the inner city going to be worse than clean livin' country yeast? I live in Echo Park Los Angeles, and some pretty rough gangs run our neighborhood at the moment. I imagine Echo Park yeast wear bandanas and listen to loud hip hop. My yeast could probably beat up your yeast, but will they make good sourdough?
Yo, redbrick, whaddup?
There's a lot of voodoo out there about wild yeast starters, most of which you can ignore. I've tried several methods from several places, but I've found the best place to begin, at least, is with the quite simple method given in Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. It takes a bit of time, but not the weeks that, say, Nancy Silverton's method takes as written in Breads from the LaBrea Bakery or Hamelman's The Hadmade Loaf.
No matter where your starter comes from originally, it will be taken over by the dominant yeast strain in your area (Cripps, maybe?). It's there, we breathe it all the time.
How sour it makes the bread will depend on how old it is (some are hundreds of years old) and how you feed it. Larger feedings reduce sourness, small increase it. You can also add a pinch of ascorbic (spelling?) acid (Vitamin C) to your flour to get a bit more bite (the French do this all the time).
I've sent dried bits of my starter to a few people, and it seems to work, although it's somewhat hit and miss (it's a country batch, so it might die of fright in yer hood). If you want, I'll send you a few ounces for a try; otherwise go to the books.
I used the Nancy Silverton method. It did take a few weeks, but it was really interesting to watch! She wants you to feed that starter 3 times a day. That is more often than I feed my cats!
I've used Nancy S's method, too. Works, of course, but I'm not convinced the end result is any different than simpler methods once it's been fed a few times. With my staple starters, one white, one rye, I make sure to feed them every three days, at least doubling the weight. Also, I'm careful to feed the day before making my doughs. That way the starters are stringy and strong, not like pancake batter, because pb results in flaccid, dense bread, although it will be sour.
Carl Griffith Sourdough Page is a good place to get a free sample. Although there is no reason why you don't just start your own. The wild yeasts that you are going to be cultivating actually are most easily found on any organic rye flour. I wouldn't bother with grapes unless you want to. Alan Scott's method is pretty reliable. I don't think that where you live has much of an impact - how you care for and maintain your starter once you have it is much more important!
My two cents
I've seen many ways to make a starter and have tried more than I care to count. So I'll just go with the one I think works best and leave it at that.
When I need to start a new batch I either order a small amount of frexh, organic whole wheat flour or find a store that has a high turnover rate and buy a bag there. The trick is to use fresh organic flour because it will naturally have the right yeast already mixed in. Then I just mix it about 50/50 with bottled spring water warmed to blood heat. I normally only use about a good handfull of flour (about 1 1/2 cups) to start with.
All I have to do then is cover it loosely, stick it in a warm, draft free spot and wait for 12-24 hours. If you don't see any bubbles when one day is up you clean out the container and start over. If I'm in a hurry, or just want to cheat, I have disolved a small spoon of honey in the water.
If you see some bubbles forming mix a little flour and warm water and stir it in to get a little more food to the growning yeast colony.
About the only times this hasn't worked for me was when I tried to use tap water, the chlorine added to most city's water supplies will kill off anything in the flour.
Also, while I know many people who'll use fruit to get their starters going I don't think it's a good idea. From what I remember the yeast that eats fruit is a different strain that the one that eats flour. But with many things in life, it's up to you. Not saying it won't work...
I'm with you on the starter development. Keep it simple, avoid the voodoo, and simply give the wild yeast in the flour and the air a good place to live. My starters, begun with Peter Reinhart's method, are more than a year old now. Very happy, easy to feed, and medium sour, except for the rye starter that is very sour.
I have to agree with the keep it simple. I’ve used sourdoughs and starter on and off for 10 – 12 years or so and have lost more than I care to remember. Start with good ingredients (flour and water) and your starter will be fine. My good friend Andrew Whitley says the same in his new book “Bread Matters” and considers chlorinated water a problem for sourdoughs, as the chlorine is there to kill harmful bacteria. Of course a sourdough is full of the good ones but the chlorine takes no prisoners.
I keep my starter in the fridge and if there’s enough room I do long fermentation dough’s in the fridge also. If there’s no room I ferment the pizza dough over night in plastic buckets standing on the cold stone floor of the shed.
If you’re interested in Andrews book try http://www.breadmatters.com/ for a review of his book http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bread-Matter...ion/0007203748 and http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comme...874218,00.html
You guys in the colonies should be able to get the book from amazon.com in a couple of weeks.
Chlorine & Such
I'll definitely look into the book info, thanks. I agree, treated water is not good at all for starters or for bread making, either. I use glacial morraine well water that I get from a friend who literally lives on top of something like 300 feet of sand and gravel. The water is very soft, tastes wonderful and has lots of good mineral flavours. Hope he never moves.
Beer starter vs bread starter
I now only home brew beer on occasion. I usually make a starter - pitch the yeast into a small batch of brew (less the hops) and let it get happy for a day before I brew and toss it in.
The type of yeast has a great deal to do with the taste of the beer. There are litterally hundereds of different ones out there - Are there yeast suppliers out there for the home bread market - similar to the yeast suppliers for beer? I did some googling and did not see any specialty yeasts for breadmaking?
Any chance I could save a little of my beer starter and make a bread with it or is it just going to make a flat bubbly mess?
Could add another dimension to by beer making.... or bread making.
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