Author Topic: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?  (Read 22828 times)

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Offline David Deas

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #60 on: March 24, 2012, 04:30:29 PM »
I am going to have to agree with Chau on this one.  Once bacterial colonization is established, the flora remains stable over time, as long as regular feeding practices persist (Meroth et al, 2003). While other bacteria may occupy the starter, it would appear that they never grow to any significant degree.  Moreover, aggressive bacterial strains will only takeover if the starter becomes neglected over time (Meroth et al, 2003), i.e. leaving out your starter for two weeks with out feeding it. This may in part explain Brian Spangler's observations with his particular culture.  

Meroth C, Walter J, Hertel C, Brandt M, and Hammes W. (2003). Monitoring the Bacterial Population Dynamics in Sourdough Fermentation Processes by Using PCR-Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis. Applied Environmental Microbiology 69(1): 475482.
This article is open access (meaning anyone can read it without subscription to the journal) and can be viewed here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC152404/


I would add to your statement - "aggressive bacterial strains will only takeover if the starter becomes neglected over time (Meroth et al, 2003), i.e. leaving out your starter for two weeks with out feeding it" - to just keep in mind the importance of bacteria to a sourdough culture.  We keep talking about yeast like its the only thing that matters when its not even the main thing that gives sourdough its characteristics.  

I have, in the past, mixed flour and water together and then let the mixture sit out in open air.  AISTR, at around between the 3rd or 5th day the mixture smelled like buttermilk.  This was Gold Medal or KA.  Can't remember which.  That indicates that, while there is not much healthy yeast in flour, there *is* a substantial amount of bacteria already present.


Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #61 on: March 24, 2012, 04:37:47 PM »
Regarding trosenberg's problem: we have discussed the resistance of wild cultures to contamination by other wild cultures; is it possible that his scenario is a different form of contamination - from commercial yeast? Never tried it, never want to try it, but if a wild culture, even a very healthy one, comes in contact with enough commercial yeast, it could be "game over". Trosenberg mentions "no flavor" and "non-existent flavor". Although I have been able to tease out different flavors in different intensities with feeding and fermentation regimens, there is ALWAYS some flavor from the culture.

 ???

Offline David Deas

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #62 on: March 24, 2012, 04:43:21 PM »
I think he's just feeding it too much, perhaps.  If your starter is too *clean*, as I like to put it, it'll give you a clean tasting bread.

Pretty common, IMO.  Sometimes when I go to Varasano's his sourdough is great.  Nice fruity flavor.  Sometimes I go and its more acidic, but still good.  Sometimes I go and I can't tell its a sourdough at all!!  In my experience this sort of inconsistency has everything to do with feeding schedule.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2012, 04:47:15 PM by David Deas »

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #63 on: March 24, 2012, 04:47:56 PM »
I think he's just feeding it too much, perhaps.  If your starter is too *clean*, as I like to put it, it'll give you a clean tasting bread.

Sometimes when I go to Varasano's his sourdough is great.  Nice fruity flavor.  Sometimes I go and its more acidic, but still good.  Sometimes I go and I can't tell its a sourdough at all.  In my experience this sort of inconsistency has everything to do with feeding schedule.

Wouldn't Varasano have a fairly regular feeding schedule given he operates an ongoing pizza enterprise. Wouldn't he, after a couple of years of operation, have mastered a consistent product? Never been there, but this seems strange to me.

Offline David Deas

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #64 on: March 24, 2012, 04:56:44 PM »
Wouldn't Varasano have a fairly regular feeding schedule given he operates an ongoing pizza enterprise. Wouldn't he, after a couple of years of operation, have mastered a consistent product? Never been there, but this seems strange to me.

I don't think its strange at all.  Its a sourdough.  Inconsistency is the *norm* for sourdough, not the exception.  This is a big reason why the vast majority of commercial pizzerias don't use it.  Including those in Naples.  Varasano can hardly predict how many customers he's going to get on a given day anyhow, so how would he ever be perfectly consistent?  He may have a big batch of dough left over from the day before on one occasion and then on the next occasion he may have nothing left from the previous day at all.

I don't know how he runs his operation, but I can't imagine any scenario where we should expect absolute consistency day in and day out.  His crust is always good, but it isn't stagnant either.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2012, 05:03:00 PM by David Deas »

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #65 on: March 24, 2012, 04:58:21 PM »
Bill, I have created several Hybrid starters.  Starters plus a commercial yeast or CY.   And NO, one does not take over the other.  At least not that I noticed.  At full activity the hybrid starters seem to maintain the flavor of the original starter but just muted or less.   I have done this to starters that were either strong in SD flavors or weak in leavening strength to give them a bit of a boost.  

I don't know what is truely  going on with Trosenburg's starters.  Perhaps a flavorless yeast resides in his kitchen and is over taking all of his starters?  ::)

I think it probably has something to do with the way he is maintaining them.   Trosenberg, are you feeding only after the starter is active and bubbly?  Next time you get an active starter going, try tasting a tiny bit of the raw starter.   Is there any sourness whatsoever?   There should be.  You may be dumping and feeding too soon and also using the starter too soon.  

For more flavor, you might want to let the starter dome and then recede in the center slightly before feeding or using.  It may also be a case whereby your palate is use to a really strong SD flavor and anything less will taste bland to you.    This is certainly the case with me and chile.   If it's not super hot, sometimes I have a hard time detecting it.

David, it's not as if I am acting like SD starters are indestructible.  As I said, you can destroy any starter if you really tried.   As far as reports of bad starters or what not, I think a lot of that is a case of not knowing and not caring for the starters properly.  I bet the majority of ppl with starter problems are tossing out starters b/c they think they are lost and not taking the time to properly revive them.  

Here is a case where one member left a starter in the refrigerator for 6 years and it took only a day and a half to revive.

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,17096.0.html

Without the knowledge that you can revive starters fairly easily, I can see most ppl jumping to the conclusion that the starter is a goner and that it would be safer or easier to purchase a new starter.  
« Last Edit: March 24, 2012, 05:02:39 PM by Jackie Tran »

Offline David Deas

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #66 on: March 24, 2012, 05:02:30 PM »
David, it's not as if I am acting like SD starters are indestructible.  As I said, you can destroy any starter if you really tried.   As far as reports of bad starters or what not, I think a lot of that is a case of not knowing and not caring for the starters properly.  I bet the majority of ppl with starter problems are tossing out starters b/c they think they are lost and not taking the time to properly revive them.  

Here is a case where one member left a starter in the refrigerator for 6 years and it took only a day and a half to revive.

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,17096.0.html

Without the knowledge that you can revive starters fairly easily, I can see most ppl jumping to the conclusion that the starter is a gonner and that it would be safer or easier to purchase a new starter.  


You and I are pretty much in agreement here.  On the subject as a whole.

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #67 on: March 24, 2012, 05:07:20 PM »
I don't think its strange at all.  Its a sourdough.  Inconsistency is the *norm* for sourdough, not the exception.  This is a big reason why the vast majority of commercial pizzerias don't use it.  Including those in Naples.  Varasano can hardly predict how many customers he's going to get on a given day anyhow, so how would he ever be perfectly consistent?  He may have a big batch of dough left over from the day before on one occasion and then on the next occasion he may have nothing left from the previous day at all.

I don't know how he runs his operation, but I can't imagine any scenario where its consistent day in and day out.

Good thing I'm not in pizzeria business. My best pizza dough takes 2 days to ferment. I can still make a decent pizza with older, refrigerated dough, but they're just not quite as good. I guess in the competitive restaurant world, those are the trade-offs you are forced to make. I'll keep my amateur status as rabid sourdough pizza enthusiast.  

Offline David Deas

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #68 on: March 24, 2012, 05:13:24 PM »
You're hardly an amateur.  You, above all, should be able to understand why the practice went the way of the dinosaurs.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2012, 05:20:54 PM by David Deas »

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #69 on: March 24, 2012, 05:48:43 PM »
Bill, I have created several Hybrid starters.  Starters plus a commercial yeast or CY.   And NO, one does not take over the other.  At least not that I noticed.  At full activity the hybrid starters seem to maintain the flavor of the original starter but just muted or less.   I have done this to starters that were either strong in SD flavors or weak in leavening strength to give them a bit of a boost.  

Thanks, Chau. That surprises me, but I often get surprised by these magnificent critters. I'm still not going to let commercial yeast anywhere near my wild babies.


Offline trosenberg

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #70 on: March 24, 2012, 09:52:59 PM »
Thanks to all for your advice.  Perhaps I exaggerate when I say no flavor; muted, subtle may be more accurate, but hardly the sour taste I expect.   I don't think contamination from commercial yeast is likely. As the only commercial yeast I have is stored in sealed containers and I never use it when the starter is out of the fridge.   I do only feed after the stater domes and recedes; that typically occurs about 6-8  hours after feeding, hence the 2X/day schedule.
I'll try the one a day and see what happens.   I have to say the starter performs very well just doesn't have the flavor.  I make beautiful looking loaves  but they are missing that tang.   I have tried retarding them overnight to no avail.  I'll try once a day feeding for a while and then report back. I currently have a packet of Austria & one of Bahrain culture that I don't want to activate and then suffer the same consequences.      Thanks again.
Trosenberg

Offline Grimaldi

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #71 on: March 24, 2012, 09:57:49 PM »
I made the mistake of taking the rubber seal off my sourdough jar and it changed my culture. I had read on the Breadtopia site that he recommended taking the seal off the jar - I should have stuck with what worked for me for 2 years. Luckily, I had a small amount of my original culture in a small jar and was able to revive it.

My culture is from Mustang Grapes. I've made 1000's of pizzas from it and it has always preformed under all conditions - great oven spring and flavor.

    

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #72 on: March 24, 2012, 10:28:28 PM »
trosenberg,

Sounds like a good plan. Actually, I often prefer the muted, milder aspects of sourdough, but like being able to tweak the variables under my control to move the flavor dial as I please. Experimenting with this stuff is so much fun. I find it amusing that my failures today are better than my successes of a year ago.
 
You will enjoy the Austrian starter once you get around to activating it. I do use it for all kinds of breads and pizzas, but it really shines in rye breads.

Why don't you start a new thread on your attempts to crank up the tanginess. I'll move the pertinent posts from this thread to your new one.

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #73 on: March 25, 2012, 12:58:37 AM »
I made the mistake of taking the rubber seal off my sourdough jar and it changed my culture. I had read on the Breadtopia site that he recommended taking the seal off the jar - I should have stuck with what worked for me for 2 years. Luckily, I had a small amount of my original culture in a small jar and was able to revive it.

My culture is from Mustang Grapes. I've made 1000's of pizzas from it and it has always preformed under all conditions - great oven spring and flavor.

    

Grimaldi, your post is a bit confusing.  Did you mean to say that you had read on breadtopia and the site recommended to NOT take the seal off of the jar?  It sounds like you did and your culture changed?  

Can you describe in what way?  Was it a flavor change, leavening strength, or both?   And again, just to be clear, everyone using starters is familiar with the differences in flavor and acidity levels depending on when you use the starter, early versus late, young versus mature.  It is still the same startrer but can vary quite a bit in flavor depending on when you use the starter.   To get a good idea of where the starter is at, especially if you can not tell by looking at it or smelling it, is to actually taste the raw starter.   If you do this often enough, you can actually pinpoint how active your starter is and when you want to use it.  

I myself, have never gotten sick from tasting raw starter, but I only taste with the tip of my tongue.  I am not actually recommending that anyone eat spoonfuls of the stuff.   :-D

I'm just tossing that out there, so folks can understand why their starters may taste different at different times.  BTW, none of my 5-6 starters are in jars that seal.  I use regular glass jars without sealing lids and have yet to have a contamination or take over problem.  

Also I have kept both a cake yeast and IDY starter for the purpose of testing for "take overs" and have not seen it.  I create these commercial yeast starters by mixing flour + water + CY or IDY.  Let it get active and feed and maintain as any other starter.   I used both side by side and maintained them for several months without any contamination issue.  That is both stayed true to their lack of sour dough flavors while providing good leavening strength.  

If yeast from the flour can "easily" take over starters, then I would have seen some flavor change in these 2 (CY and IDY) starters over the 2 months.  Now I will say that if I left either one of these out at room temps long enough without feeding, both will develop acids and taste acidic.  BUT if I discard 99% of it, refeed, and allow them to come back, they are as flavorless (CY slightly sweet) as day one at their active state.  After several months, I was satisfied with my results and have since gotten rid of these starters to make room for others.   I am not discounting other people's experiences, just sharing my own.  

Chau
« Last Edit: March 25, 2012, 02:13:59 AM by Jackie Tran »

Offline David Deas

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #74 on: March 25, 2012, 03:48:23 AM »
I think this all says it isn't the yeast we should be so worried about changing.  It's the bacterial portion of the colony that we should be more focused on.

I've done some mixing and matching in the past as well with different strains of pure yeast.  When I add a new strain to a preexisting sourdough culture the effect seems to be rather minimal.  

And doesn't that make good sense?  Isn't it the bacterial colony that actually makes a sourdough, well, a sourdough?  The effect *should* be limited to more leavening power and milder taste.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2012, 04:02:26 AM by David Deas »

Offline Grimaldi

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #75 on: March 25, 2012, 11:24:07 AM »
Chau, I use one of these hinged lid jar's with a rubber gasket for my starter:
http://www.breadtopia.com/store/sourdough-starter-jar-blue.html

I was watching one of Eric's bread making videos (or reading - can't remember exactly) and he mention that you should remove the gasket for storing starter so it can breath - I had always kept my gasket on (and in the refrigerator) and just would open the jar regularly to relieve the pressure. So I gave it a try - the only thing different was I kept it out on the counter and regularly fed it for awhile - that is when it changed. It became more sour and less active - unpleasantly sour.

My regime is to store the starter in the frig and feed it at least weekly. Before I make dough, I bring it out and take a portion and start multiplying it (in a plastic click and seal container). The culture had always stayed the same until I removed the gasket.  



 
« Last Edit: March 25, 2012, 11:26:45 AM by Grimaldi »

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #76 on: March 25, 2012, 11:50:33 AM »
Grimaldi, thank you for the the added detail.  So the starter seem to change when you kept it out at room temps.  It got progressively more sour and less active.   

Are you talking about overall here?  Even when you dumped most of it and refed, when it becomes active again, it is more sour and less active? 

or are you talking about it just becoming more sour and less active sitting on the counter without feeding?  Sorry, just want to clarify to get to the bottom of this.  If it is the later, then this is normal.  All starters will eventually become more sour and less active with time, and higher temps.  This happens a lot faster at room temps than in the fridge. 

I suspect you are talking about the first scenario, whereby over time, the starter seem to change even with feeding, become progressively more sour and less active. 

I was just talking in PM with another member who said that he suspected starters are more susceptible to takeovers when kept at room temps as oppose to maintaining at cold temps.  There may be truth to this which would explain why members are experiencing changes in starters. 
I will say that though I have a hard time believing the take over scenarios, it does seem plausible that starters are more suspectible at room temps.  I have mostly kept my starters in the fridge and have not experience any takeovers in 2 years. 

I only briefly experimented with keeping sponges and bigas at room temps, but for my schedule and b/c I'm too lazy to feed daily, it is easier to keep it in the fridge. 

Offline Grimaldi

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #77 on: March 25, 2012, 12:06:23 PM »
Chau - it might have been because of not feeding it enough while at room temps. I didn't have a feeding schedule but fed it when ever I thought about it (maybe every 3 or 4 days). My past experience has been rapidly multiplying the starter at room temps - not just letting it just sit out.

I'm back to keeping the starter refrigerated and sealed - and only keeping it at room temps when multiplying.

I got into using a starter without much research about the how's and why's. I just took a bunch of the wild grapes from a vine 50 feet from the house along a fence line and added water and flour - it became active overnight. It is now 2 years old.

Thanks for your reply's.   

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #78 on: March 25, 2012, 12:23:52 PM »
Grimaldi, I'm the same way.  Like you, I have just learned what works and doesn't work over time.  I leave most of the science upto the smarter members of the forum.

Your starter became active overnight?  those are some powerful grapes and the fastest new starter I have heard about.  Maybe takeovers are more common than what some are seeing on this forum!   Thank you for your input as well.  The more information we can get, the better we can understand this mystery called sourdough.

Offline Grimaldi

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Re: do all sourdough starter cultures become the same?
« Reply #79 on: March 25, 2012, 12:36:14 PM »
Grimaldi, I'm the same way.  Like you, I have just learned what works and doesn't work over time.  I leave most of the science upto the smarter members of the forum.

Your starter became active overnight?  those are some powerful grapes and the fastest new starter I have heard about.  Maybe takeovers are more common than what some are seeing on this forum!   Thank you for your input as well.  The more information we can get, the better we can understand this mystery called sourdough.

Just to clarify - not fully active overnight, but bubbling by the next morning. I knew I had something at that point, and it smelled like wine!