Author Topic: ADY versus Natural Starter  (Read 2865 times)

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Offline Jackie Tran

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ADY versus Natural Starter
« on: April 01, 2010, 11:35:55 PM »
So I've been interested in answering the question:  What makes for a better pizza?  Using ADY/IDY or a natural starter?  My assumption is that using a Natural Starter will produce a better pizza.  Is that true?  Can anyone verify that for me?  Has anyone done a side by side comparison?  Has someone been making pizzas strictly with one or the other and then recently switched?
  If so I'd like to know about your experience. 

In the meantime, I'd like to do a side by side comparison myself but first I need a conversion between ADY (what I usually buy) and my natural starter.

Assuming I have an active and healthy starter made with 50% water and 50% flour, I set out to try to find an equivalent amount. 

Using a modified JV recipe, I made a doughball with a 67% hydration rate that weighed 548gm.  Water, flour, salt, and a bit of oil was mixed together.   ADY and starter where added after the doughball was divided in 2. 
 
  To doughball#1 (DB1), I mixed 1/8 tsp of ADY to 7gm warm water & 7 gm bread flour. Finished weight   
         288gm .
  To DB2 I added 15gm of starter.  Finished weight 290gm.

Both balls were kneaded initially in my Cuisinart Food Processor.  After either ADY or Starter was added, each DB was hand kneaded to finish, allowed to rest at room temp for 2 hours to jump start the yeast/starter. 

I'll be using the Poppy seed method to compare the expansion rates of both DB's. 
Pic #1&2  An initial measurement was taken right before the 2 hour rest period.  Poppy seeds where place 1" apart.  I placed 4 seeds to allow for 2 measurements, lengthwise (L) and heightwise (H).

Pic#3 was taken after 30 hours of cold fermentation.  The DB's have flattened a bit.  They look as if they have expanded as well as the seeds look a bit buried.  Measurments taken are as follows.
DB1 (ADY) :  L - 1"    H" 1 1/16"
DB2 (NS) :    L - 1"   H"   slightly < 1 1/16"
For the most part, both DB's are expanding at a similar rate so far.  Will report back in a few days. 




Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2010, 01:29:27 AM »
A starter culture can add a different flavor to the finished crust. This flavor can consist of several components contributed by the yeast and bacteria in the culture. The character and strength of these flavors vary depending on the different strains of these microbes, the activation/feeing protocol, the times and temps of fermentation and proofing, etc. Not sure what you mean by a "cold fermentation" but the starter cultures I use will not be very active at temps much below 60F-65F.

Whether or not commercial yeast or natural starter makes a better pizza depends very much on personal preference. But if you conclude from this test that you prefer the ADY pizza, it is possible that the conditions were less than optimal for the starter. Also, you imply that you captured the culture yourself. If so, it is possible the combination of strains you caught are not very good for making pizza.

Personally, I strongly prefer pizzas and breads made with natural starters. But it has taken me hundreds, maybe even thousands, of "tests" to figure out exactly how to draw out the best flavor from each particular culture. Maybe after a few hundred or thousand more, I'll have it down pat. Using natural starters defies easy conclusions.


Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2010, 08:42:36 AM »
Thanks for the insight Bill.  The starter I'm using is one I grew myself. I'm not quite sure if it's one captured from air or if it actually comes from the yeast present in unbleached flours, but my guess is the later.

By cold fermentation, I'm referring to placing the doughballs at the bottom of my fridge in the garage at a temp of around 40f.  I realize this severely retards the yeasts' activity but over the course of several days, it's evident that the yeast is slowly working.

I guess my main interest in this experiment is to see if there is a difference in crumb structure between the 2 and if there are any detectable differences in the way the crust tastes or mouthfeel.  There may very well be a big or small diference but I've yet to know. It's also possible that my palette (sp?) is imature and untrained to detect such differences.  I'm interested in knowing if it's really worthwhile to keep and maintain my current starter. Not that it's much extra work but it would be silly to just do in vain.

Bill can you elaborate on some techniques of drawing out more flavor from the natural starter?  I also realize that different strains will give different flavors to the end product. Is it possible to keep 2 completely different strains alive side by side in the fridge or is it true that over time the local (and presumably more dominant) strain will overcome them both?

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2010, 04:04:38 PM »
Bill can you elaborate on some techniques of drawing out more flavor from the natural starter?  I also realize that different strains will give different flavors to the end product. Is it possible to keep 2 completely different strains alive side by side in the fridge or is it true that over time the local (and presumably more dominant) strain will overcome them both?

I maintain 5 cultures side-by-side in the fridge with so sign of cross contamination. There are many threads in the "Starters" forum here that discuss this. (BTW, I will move this thread to that forum).

In terms of techniques, I could talk about this for hours since there are so many interrelated factors - but I'll just make a few quick points to consider:

- The frequency of feeding affects the flavor. A starter that is fed every few days will give the dough a different flavor than one fed every few weeks.
- The amount of starter in the dough will affect the flavor and texture and is closely tied to the next two items
- Fermentation and proofing temps - most critical and problematic to control.
- Fermentation and proofing times - most critical, but easy to control
- Flour type and other ingredients (salt, sugars, etc) can affect the microbes' metabolism.

Every pie is different. Every slice is different. Every bite is different. It is very likely that an improvement you are observing has nothing to do with your most recent change.
 

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2010, 10:34:36 PM »
Thanks for the info Bill.  All good points.  I'll try to do some more reading.  In the meantime, here's an update on how the doughballs are progressing.
Again, 2 measurements were taken, lengthwise (L) and Heightwise (H).  Not the actual height of the doughball but a measurement of the other 2 poppyseeds.
Picture 1
54Hour mark   DB#1(ADY)  L: 1   H: 1 1/8       DB#2(S) L-1  H sl < 1 1/16

Picture 2
84Hours    DB#1(ADY) L-1 1/16 H: 1/1/8   DB#2(S) L 1 1/16 H sl < 1 1/8"

As you can see from the measurement, it appears as though both are growing at a similar rate, with DB just slightly behind.  I'm not sure that this is the case or it it was poppyseed placement.  If you look at the entire DB and not just the seeds, it would appear that DB#2 (Starter) may be growing slightly faster.  It appears that #2 is slightly bigger than #1 despite the numbers.  I think these can go a couple more days before baking.

It would appear so far that using my starter, 15gm of starter is equivalent to 1/8 tsp ADY.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2010, 10:39:13 PM by Tranman »

Online Pete-zza

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2010, 09:39:54 AM »
Tran,

I think you created an optical illusion by placing one of the dough balls on a white background and the other on a dark background and further exacerbated by using two different dish sizes (see illusion at http://www.illusion-optical.com/Optical-Illusions/CircleSize.php) :-D.

When I use the poppy seed method, I don't cover the dough balls with plastic wrap as you did, so as not to interfere with the poppy seeds.

Peter
« Last Edit: April 04, 2010, 09:47:08 AM by Pete-zza »

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2010, 11:18:48 AM »
Peter, I may very well have inadvertently created an optical illusion.   I decided on 2 different plates as to try and not mixed up the 2 by accident.   I also cover the doughballs as to prevent them from drying out in the fridge.  What method  are you using?  Do you use the round plastic glad containers with aeration holes on top?
   I was doing that but find that if doing long cold fermentation, the doughball inevitably spreads to the sides of the container and it's harder to get out and leading to me reballing again.   This method seems to work pretty well.  I was concerned about the plastic wrap hindering expansion of the DBs, so as you can see I tucked the plastic around the edge of the doughball rather than wrapping it tightly around the edge of the plate.

If you can block out the plates, if you look at pic #2 in the above post, it appears as though DB#2 (Starter) is thicker over all.  DB#1 appears slightly more flat.  Do you see what I see? or are my eyes playing tricks on me? 
  Also I assume that one just HAD to be rising quicker b/c surely I didn't think I could get so lucky to find an accurate conversion on the first try. :-D 

I will bake these tonight or tomorrow night and hopefully all goes well. 
« Last Edit: April 04, 2010, 11:22:10 AM by Tranman »

Online Pete-zza

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2010, 11:58:04 AM »
Tran,

I have tried all kinds of approaches for storing dough balls and, by and large, they all tend to work pretty well. However, for some time now I have been using glass Pyrex bowls, which member November recommended to me some time ago based on his analysis of different materials used to make storage containers. The lids for the bowls have small holes in the middle for gas pressure release if needed. By standardizing on these bowls, the bowls become constants and I am able to better compare the results of different experiments. If I needed to make a much larger number of dough balls and storage space were to become a problem as a result, I would use some other dough storage method. In using the glass bowls, which I lightly oil before putting dough balls into them, I have not had a problem removing the dough balls when I am ready to use them. Another advantage of the glass bowls is that I can see the development of bubbles in the dough, which are signs of the degree of fermentation. Obviously, using bowls made of some other transparent material should also provide this benefit.

In my experience to date, based on using the poppy seed method, I sense that dough balls that are put into containers with sides that restrain horizontal expansion of the dough ferment more slowly than those that can expand laterally without restriction, such as with your experiment using flat plates. However, it is possible that something happens to the dough when it can expand without restraint, like an alteration of the internal physical structure of the dough, that makes the poppy seed method less reliable in those cases.

Peter

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2010, 02:42:26 PM »
Peter, I do like the idea of using the pyrex dish over my current method as it seems to be the right balance between the plastic tuperware bowls and the plate.  The high walls and the see thru bottoms are advantages as well.
  Ive just loaded 2 new pies into a Pyrex dish along with the top covered with Saran and poppyseeds placed. 

Online Pete-zza

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2010, 02:56:17 PM »
Tran,

As noted at Reply 103 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3985.msg41556/topicseen.html#msg41556, the benefits that member November stated for glass containers is transparency and good thermal conductance. In the same post, he also spoke favorably about plastic containers for the types of doughs he made (he generally favored room temperature fermented doughs or doughs fermented in a ThermoKool unit).

Peter


Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2010, 08:43:42 PM »
Here's what the DBs looked like on day four after coming out of deep sleep (Pic #1)  and after a 6 hour room temp proof 72F (Pic #2).

Pic #1  Day four of cold ferment
DB1(ADY) L 1 1/16 H 1 1/8"      Ball 2 L1 1/16  H 1 1/8

Pic #2  After 3 hours of proofing at 72F.  Balls remained same size for remainder of 6 hour proof.
   Ball 1 (A) L 1 1/8  H 1    Ball 2 (s) L 1 1/8 H 1
Pic #3 just shows poppy seeds expanded from 1" (initially placed) to 1 1/4" (which represents a doubling in volume of the doughball).  This took 4 days to achieve.

DB's were about the same size.  Pete was right, the pictures are a little deceiving.  After removing the DBs from the plate i realized that plate #1 (ADY) was deeper than plate #2 giving DB #2 the appearance of being thicker.  In actuality both had doubled in volume in the same amount of time.

Conclusion: Using my starter, 15gm (1Tbs) is roughly = to 1/8 tsp ADY.  My starter is roughly 50% flour and 50% water and is quite bubbly 2 hours after feeding sitting at room temp from a refrigerated state. 

« Last Edit: April 04, 2010, 08:46:20 PM by Tranman »

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2010, 09:03:10 PM »
So I baked both pies tonight.  First off, I screwed up.  I was trying out a new oven set up which did not go according to plan so the 2 pies were baked slightly different.

As a result of this I got a different amount of rise out of each crust.  This pretty much botches the results BUT I'm confident that had all things been equal, I would have gotten the same amount of rise.  I concluded this b/c both had the same relative amount of rise over the 4 days and during the proof.  Both felt the same as far as being easy to open up and both had similar characteristics of extensibility, moistness, and stickiness.

Pic #1 is the ADY pie (white pie for the wife)
Pic #2 is the Natural Starter pie.  (My FIRST nearlypolitan pie! :)
Pic #3 are the 2 crusts side by side. 

Both had very similar crust and crumb structure & texture.  I (who is not a SD bread fan) could not tell the difference between the 2.  With multiple taste tests of the crust, both had a nice flavor and both tasted slightly sour to me.   

My wife, who is the SD bread fan, said that #2 (Natural Starter crust) had a definite more sour taste to it, but that she preferred #1 crust for texture and taste.   This could be due to the fact that it was baked slightly different, I don't know.  I did not tell her which one was which, but just asked her if she noticed any difference in the 2.

So the results are inconclusive.  It may be that my natural starter culture is a weak culture, I don't know.  It could be the way I'm maintaining it and/or how often I feed it or don't as Bill mentioned previously.  But my feeling at this point is that my Starter gives no more or less flavor or rise compared to ADY.

I will be receiving a different SD culture from another member soon that is suppose to be very old.  I hope to revive it and run another batch of test between the 2 starters.

« Last Edit: April 04, 2010, 09:06:27 PM by Tranman »

Online Pete-zza

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2010, 09:47:36 PM »
Tran,

One of the things I was anxious to learn from your experiment is the relationship between the starter amount and the amount of ADY. You will recall from http://www.sourdoughhome.com/convert.html that a simple correlation is one cup of starter for a packet of dry yeast. You used 1/16th of a cup of starter and a packet of yeast weighs 0.25 ounces. So, that comes to 0.25/16 ounces of ADY, or 0.117 teaspoon of ADY. That is very close to your 1/8th teaspoon (0.125 t.). That might be a useful piece of information to keep in mind for future experiments.

I didn't want to mention it before, because I didn't want to bias your thinking in any way, but of all the types of doughs I have made, and the many different methods I used, and they are many, the biggest "WOW" factor came from using natural starters/preferments. I was most interested in the crust flavor and although I also wanted to have a good crust texture and color, if I got good flavor that would have been good enough for me. As it so happened, the best textured crusts/crumbs I ever got were as a result of using natural starters/preferments. The closest I was able to come to the results that I achieved using natural starters/preferments but using commercial yeast were the doughs that I cold fermented for about 10 days to over two weeks.

Your results using the natural preferment may have been dictated by the particular starter culture you used. Not all home-made starters produce optimal results. Hopefully the next starter culture you use will be a better candidate for a naturally leavened dough. That said, however, I think your pizzas turned out well and look quite tasty.

Peter

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2010, 10:29:04 PM »
Peter thank you for your input.  As always you are a wealth of valuable Pizza information.  I'm happy to do these types of experiments as it is something fun for me in my spare time.  I seem to learn more doing this compared to reading volumes of information. 

Even though I got the results I did, there are lots of possibilities here that I am willing to entertain.  1) that my taste buds for breads and pizza crusts are rather immature and lack experience and refinement to pick up the subtle differences.  2) that I have a mediocre starter in terms of flavor and leavening effect 3) the amount of starter used is possibly too low to make a big difference. 

I used 15gm of starter per 290gm dough (~5%) as I wanted the dough to last 4-5 days in the fridge.  I didn't want to risk overfermenting the dough and this experiment was to serve as a basis for others.  I know from previous experience that any more ADY and the dough would possibly have not made it pass 2 days.

By comparing other members' recipes and I believe you mentioned this in past postings, it appears that I can use a higher % of natural starter for a long ferment as natural starters seem to be more forgiving than commercial yeast. ???

I have prepared 2 more experimental dough balls today using roughly 20% Starter.  I hope the dough will go pass 3 days and beyond.  B/c of the higher % of starter, I opted to do a very short rest period after kneading as I did not want to over activate the starter.  I will monitor this new batch daily and use before they get too ripe. 

Aside from my baking blunder, I was extremely happy with the Nearlypolitan Pie both in appearance and taste.  As recently as last week, I did not know if it was possible for me to recreate one of these Nearlypolitan pies with my current oven and ingredients.    I was very pleased to see just a few leopard spots on the rim as is classic to the Neopolitan pies.  In Toby's honor, that pie was made with 1/2 AP flour and 1/2 BF.  I'm sure it's nothing like the real thing, but for me I had a big grin on my face eating this one.

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2010, 12:03:53 AM »
I wanted to update this thread with the results of tonight's bake.  I baked a JV pie vs a Lehmann pie. 
Results can be seen here.
http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,10880.msg97215.html#msg97215
Eventhough the 2 pies were made with different recipes, the outstanding difference in the recipe is that the JV pie uses my starter and a pinch of ADY, where as the Lehmann dough uses only ADY.  The results of that particular test is that my natural starter won out in taste and texture. 

In the above posts, I originally assumed that I had a weak starter b/c it yielded the same taste and texture as ADY after a 4 day cold fermentation.  Afterall, a starter (or any good one) should yield a better crust and crumb both in texture and flavor. 

Well after a 2 day cold ferment according to the JV vs Lehmann pies, the difference b/t ADY and starter was noticeable and appreciable.  After 3-4 days maybe not so much.  I suspect that after 3-4 days, the ADY will have had enough time to produce it's fermentation byproducts and give you that SD taste.

I assume that this SD taste and texture can also be replicated using ONLY ADY/IDY without the 4 day cold fermentation as long as you do a sufficiently long enough room temp fermentation.  How much yeast to use and how long to ferment?  I have no idea, but a couple of tests should yield the desire results.   

So if there are members who don't have starters or not interested in maintening a starter, you should still be able to produce a SD effect (or improved taste and texture) by using a ADY/IDY (room temp) preferment.  I'm sure the forum is littered with these recipes already and I may do a search before attempting this experiment, but i did just want to throw that out there.   

Any ideas or advice Peter?


Online Pete-zza

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #15 on: May 03, 2010, 09:56:29 AM »
Any ideas or advice Peter?


Tran,

The bulk of the work that I and a few others have done with long, room-temperature fermentations in the context of the NY and similar styles is in the thread at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,7225.0.html. I also adapted some of the basic techniques from that thread for the American style in the Papa John's clone thread at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,6758.0.html. The big issue with long, room-temperature fermented doughs is temperature, which is hard to control without using equipment for that purpose, followed by yeast quantity.

Peter

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: ADY versus Natural Starter
« Reply #16 on: May 03, 2010, 11:49:52 AM »
Excellent thread Peter.  There is no need for me to reinvent the wheel here.  Your results are what I would have expected for a long room temp ferment with commercial yeast.   It was interesting to note that such a technique would not fair well with high hydration doughs.  That bit of info will come in handly when I remake the Lehmann dough using my starter.  Thxs
« Last Edit: May 03, 2010, 11:51:40 AM by Tranman »