Author Topic: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?  (Read 22323 times)

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Offline pjt

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do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« on: March 19, 2012, 10:11:09 PM »
RIght now i am using a sourdough starter from KA that ive been using for bread baking, im using it for pizza too

I am contemplating ordering the italian starter kit from sourdo.com but ive heard that after a few weeks, the sourdough starter will take on the characteristics of the bacteria and yeasts in your home enviornment and be the same reguardless

is there any truth to this?

if thats the case is it worth ordering all these different starters from different regions throughout the world if at the end of the day they are going to turn in to the same thing?


cornicione54

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2012, 10:20:46 PM »
Quote
Is there any truth to this?
From a microbiological perspective, the answer is: not really. A sourdough culture can sustain stable populations of bacteria/yeast which will differ from other cultures from around the world.

Quote
if thats the case is it worth ordering all these different starters from different regions throughout the world if at the end of the day they are going to turn in to the same thing?

From a pizza-making perspective, those differences in microflora may have a limited corresponding variation in crust flavour (the products of bacterial and yeast fermentation in sourdough are pretty similar regardless of species albeit in varying ratios). However you may notice different fermentation times/activity especially with respect to temperature. Ultimately, the key with any sourdough culture is to learn how to use it effectively (through experimentation) to find the regimen that best suits your needs and taste.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2012, 10:26:20 PM by cornicione54 »

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2012, 10:26:01 PM »
RIght now i am using a sourdough starter from KA that ive been using for bread baking, im using it for pizza too

I am contemplating ordering the italian starter kit from sourdo.com but ive heard that after a few weeks, the sourdough starter will take on the characteristics of the bacteria and yeasts in your home enviornment and be the same reguardless

is there any truth to this?

if thats the case is it worth ordering all these different starters from different regions throughout the world if at the end of the day they are going to turn in to the same thing?
There is no truth to this.  I, along with other members here have maintained disctinctly different starters in the same environment without cross contamination.  Some of my starters are 2 years old now and they have maintained distinct and consistent flavors from day one.   I can close my eyes, taste an active starter and tell you accurately which of my starters it is.  

Online TXCraig1

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2012, 10:30:42 PM »
From a pizza-making perspective, those differences in microflora may have a limited corresponding variation in crust flavour (the products of bacterial and yeast fermentation in sourdough are pretty similar regardless of species albeit in varying ratios).

I must disagree with this. The differences in flavor can be stark.

CL
Pizza is not bread.

cornicione54

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2012, 10:37:18 PM »
I must disagree with this. The differences in flavor can be stark.

CL
Differences in crust flavour or raw starter?

I think we're talking about a limited no. of fermentation products - lactic acid, acetic acid, ethanol and their secondary products (eg esters).  The enzymatic properties would account for differences in fermentation sugars and amino acids but that's as much a function of the flour as it is the starter culture.  I'm not saying there's NO variation - but there isn't so much variation that you could say one crust flavour was unique to a particular starter culture.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2012, 10:42:16 PM by cornicione54 »

Online TXCraig1

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2012, 10:51:01 PM »
Differences in crust flavour or raw starter?

I was referring to the crust flavor. I generally use the Ischia culture, but from time-to-time I use the SF culture (both from sourdo.com). Everyone in the family can tell a difference. I think if you rushed things you could make pies with both that tasted similar, but they would both be similarly bland.
Pizza is not bread.

cornicione54

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2012, 10:57:10 PM »
I was referring to the crust flavor. I generally use the Ischia culture, but from time-to-time I use the SF culture (both from sourdo.com). Everyone in the family can tell a difference. I think if you rushed things you could make pies with both that tasted similar, but they would both be similarly bland.

If you apply the same/similar dough fermentation and formula to two diff. cultures I don't doubt you would obtain different results in flavour. I am nonetheless struck by the similarity (within a range) of flavours that I've experienced both from baking and tasting others' sourdough pizza and bread which I know were made using cultures of differing provenance.

To address the original poster's question of whether to purchase the italian starters from sourdo.com:  the wealth of common positive experiences on this forum would tend to suggest: yes! :)

Offline pjt

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2012, 11:35:12 PM »
thanks for the info all, good to know

im going to order the ischia and the camaldoli they come as a pack from sourdo.com will get them going and see which of the two i prefer for pizza

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2012, 12:26:38 AM »
I'm with Craig and Chau on this one. I now have 7 different captured and purchased cultures in my stable (long story). In addition to flavor differences that are very temperature sensitive, there are also large variations in leavening power.

To the OP: you will find both of the Italian starters make delicious pizzas and breads and will retain their uniqueness. In my experience, wild cultures you capture in your kitchen are all a matter chance. Even if you capture one that leavens and flavors satisfactorily, its members may not reproduce fast enough in the conditions in the culture to fend off more prolific contaminants. In time, a stronger population may dominate. OTOH, the starters I have purchased from sourdo.com have been in use in some cases for hundreds of years. They thrive in the particular conditions in which I store and use them in my kitchen. When properly cared for, it is highly unlikely that local contaminants could ever be more than tiny fraction of the population. The biggest concern in this case wold be cross-contamination among my sourdough cultures.

  

cornicione54

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2012, 01:08:13 AM »
I'm with Craig and Chau on this one. I now have 7 different captured and purchased cultures in my stable (long story). In addition to flavor differences that are very temperature sensitive, there are also large variations in leavening power.

Quote from: cornicione54
However you may notice different fermentation times/activity especially with respect to temperature


Offline ThePieman

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2012, 12:29:46 AM »
If you take a 1 pound batch of starter and use it once a week, each time removing half then replenishing the missing half with flour and water, in 1 year, there will only be 10 trillionths of a gram of the original starter in your 1 lb batch of starter.

Of course, as you are adding the flour, the original organisms will proliferate in the replenished starter, causing them to continue on. However, the yeasties and lactos contained in the flour which you are replenishing your starter with, will have a huge affect on the starter. In fact, you could end up, eventually, with a starter that has none of the original organisms. Unlikely, but it is possible. Temperature has a huge affect on which organisms will win out in the end.   

Online TXCraig1

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2012, 12:49:14 AM »
However, the yeasties and lactos contained in the flour which you are replenishing your starter with, will have a huge affect on the starter. In fact, you could end up, eventually, with a starter that has none of the original organisms. Unlikely, but it is possible. Temperature has a huge affect on which organisms will win out in the end.    

No, I've seen no evidence that you are correct in this assertion. You are ignoring the fact that the flora in the flour are dormant and weak while the flora in the culture are health and active. By the time the flora in the flour do anything, that in the culture will have doubled many times. If your culture is healthy, contaminants in the flour are unlikely to have any effect at all. This has been proved true over and over and over here.

CL
Pizza is not bread.

Offline ThePieman

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2012, 11:42:46 PM »
No, I've seen no evidence that you are correct in this assertion. You are ignoring the fact that the flora in the flour are dormant and weak while the flora in the culture are health and active. By the time the flora in the flour do anything, that in the culture will have doubled many times. If your culture is healthy, contaminants in the flour are unlikely to have any effect at all. This has been proved true over and over and over here.

CL

Exactly how could one ascertain that without sophisticated laboratory analysis? You must understand that once the starter is fed, those dormant organisms will eventually awaken. The environment is ideal for awakening the wild wheat yeasts(no need to wait for several days for the starter to acidify). Many myths exist about starter cultures. Those myths continue to flourish in the midst of the techniques of producing viable starters.

Online TXCraig1

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2012, 12:01:12 AM »
Exactly how could one ascertain that without sophisticated laboratory analysis? You must understand that once the starter is fed, those dormant organisms will eventually awaken. The environment is ideal for awakening the wild wheat yeasts(no need to wait for several days for the starter to acidify). Many myths exist about starter cultures. Those myths continue to flourish in the midst of the techniques of producing viable starters.

Do the math and model the growth. You will see what you are suggesting is highly unlikely - if even possible.

I keep 3 starters. One of them I use almost every week. I have not noticed any change in any of them over the past 4 years.

CL
Pizza is not bread.

Offline David Deas

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2012, 12:10:26 AM »
RIght now i am using a sourdough starter from KA that ive been using for bread baking, im using it for pizza too

I am contemplating ordering the italian starter kit from sourdo.com but ive heard that after a few weeks, the sourdough starter will take on the characteristics of the bacteria and yeasts in your home enviornment and be the same reguardless

is there any truth to this?

if thats the case is it worth ordering all these different starters from different regions throughout the world if at the end of the day they are going to turn in to the same thing?

There is some truth to this.  Absolutely.  Because I've had some negative experiences in this regard.  But it depends on how you store and feed your cultures.

Order them up.  Properly take care of them and there should be no big issues.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2012, 12:56:06 AM by David Deas »

Offline David Deas

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #15 on: March 23, 2012, 12:35:24 AM »
I'm with Craig and Chau on this one. I now have 7 different captured and purchased cultures in my stable (long story). In addition to flavor differences that are very temperature sensitive, there are also large variations in leavening power.

To the OP: you will find both of the Italian starters make delicious pizzas and breads and will retain their uniqueness. In my experience, wild cultures you capture in your kitchen are all a matter chance. Even if you capture one that leavens and flavors satisfactorily, its members may not reproduce fast enough in the conditions in the culture to fend off more prolific contaminants. In time, a stronger population may dominate. OTOH, the starters I have purchased from sourdo.com have been in use in some cases for hundreds of years. They thrive in the particular conditions in which I store and use them in my kitchen. When properly cared for, it is highly unlikely that local contaminants could ever be more than tiny fraction of the population. The biggest concern in this case wold be cross-contamination among my sourdough cultures.

  

There is hardly a such thing as a "captured culture"

Your so called 'captured wild culture' comes from the flour itself.  Not the air.  You never captured anything.  This "wild yeast" was already present within the flour.  Another poster has tried to make this point.

It is in for this reason, at least in part, that if you want to change the way a starter tastes just change what you feed it and how much it gets fed.  Give me any starter, no matter how stable you think it is, and I can ruin it with voluminous bags of generic flour over the course of a few weeks.  It's actually not that difficult.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2012, 12:57:05 AM by David Deas »

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #16 on: March 23, 2012, 01:02:10 AM »
My experiences differ.  I normally feed my starters with grocery store bought AP flour.   I have also fed them with HG flour, BF, and caputo 00 flour and the flavor of the active starter tastes relatively the same to me.  Yes the raw flour mixed with water will taste slightly different depending on the flour, but the active starters taste distinct as usual. 

I also agree with you that yeast is not captured per se but is already present in the flour, however it takes me a full 2 days at 90F to reactivate a dried starter and 6-7 days to start a new starter from scratch (flour + water) at room temps 75F.   Despite using a very small seed (1-2% starter) the new starter will be active in less than 24 hours.  How does any yeast present in flour have any chance of becoming activated and taking off in less than 24 hours, especially when there are other already active and hungry yeasts proliferating at exponential rates using up the food source?

And this is with using a 1-2% seed as an example.  Normally the active starter amount is anywhere from 10-50% of the new starter and is active within hours, even less likely that any yeast will just magically take off then or a period of time.   

How is it that multiple members here claim they have managed to keep multiple starters unique and intact over years if it is possible for yeast in the flour to eventually become activated and take off making all their starters the same (assuming they are feeding all their starters with the same flour and thus same yeast source)?  How is it that inactive yeasts in flour have been able taken over mutliple starters among multiple members with discriminating palates without anyone realizing what is going on. 

There is scientific theory and then are undisputable results.  Do you honestly think that multiple members here would not be able to tell if their different starters are now ALL the same and we are just arguing to be difficult?  Sorry, but not likely.


Offline David Deas

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #17 on: March 23, 2012, 01:14:09 AM »
I do not argue with observations.  I simply explain them.  The fact of the matter is that you have people out there claiming *both* scenarios have happened to them depending on the particular person.  I do not ignore the opposite experience simply because it has not been mine.

My experience is has been that I can change a starter by changing what I feed it and how much I feed it.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2012, 01:19:25 AM by David Deas »

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #18 on: March 23, 2012, 01:37:53 AM »
I do not argue with observations.  I simply explain them.  The fact of the matter is that you have people out there claiming *both* scenarios have happened to them depending on the particular person.  I do not ignore the opposite experience simply because it has not been mine.

Okay fair enough.  In the 2 years that I have been frequenting this board daily, I do not recall anyone posting that all their starters have developed the same flavors.  But I do realize there are other forums besides this that I don't frequent.  I should also note that I am not at all strict in my regimen to keep my starters unique and separate.  I feed them at the same time, side by side, often times using the same stir but rinsing and wiping the stir inbetween and have still manage to keep separate starters.  One of my starters when active is sweet as if it has sugar in it, while another is fairly acidic without sweetness.   I also have several others that are mildly acidic with distinct flavor profiles.  And they all seemingly differ slightly in leavening power as well.  

My experience is has been that I can change a starter by changing what I feed it and how much I feed it.

How has the starter changed?  Would you say it is a completely different starter?  A totally different flavor profile?  And does it stay different or would it revert back if you were to feed it it's normal flour again?  So the starter is like a whole new starter than from what you started with simply by feeding it a different brand or type of flour?  Do you think the difference in flavor is mainly due to the different flour used or are you convinced that new yeast from the new flour has taken hold?

Chau
« Last Edit: March 23, 2012, 01:43:51 AM by Jackie Tran »

Offline David Deas

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #19 on: March 23, 2012, 01:45:08 AM »
Exactly how could one ascertain that without sophisticated laboratory analysis? You must understand that once the starter is fed, those dormant organisms will eventually awaken. The environment is ideal for awakening the wild wheat yeasts(no need to wait for several days for the starter to acidify). Many myths exist about starter cultures. Those myths continue to flourish in the midst of the techniques of producing viable starters.

And speaking of myths.

While these so called "dormant organisms" play some role in the alteration of the culture, the main contributor to changes in your starter culture due to a change of flour is the alteration of the metabolic processes and pathways of the microorganisms already present in the culture.  Different concentration of enzymes or forms of sugars will change what metabolisms are most efficient for a particular population and therefore most prevalent.  Temperature has a similar effect.

For instance, switching to a flour with a higher ash content will increase my starter's acidity if all other things are kept equal.  My culture has not changed, but it's behavior in response to what I feed it has.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2012, 01:51:30 AM by David Deas »


 

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