Author Topic: The Italian starters are here!  (Read 22534 times)

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Offline Pete-zza

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #40 on: November 10, 2005, 10:53:18 AM »
Christopher,

In my early days when I first started making and using natural preferments, I ran into the same problem as you did recently. I was using the preferment to make sourdough bread, the real tangy kind with a lot of acetic acid. There were times when the preferment just didn't work. Ultimately I was able to get the preferment to work properly and I ended up with some really great sourdough breads.

I have discovered that when the question of flavor comes up, especially when you read posts of our members, including me, about how great the flavors are from using natural preferments, the issue of expectations also comes up. I personally don't like the really sour flavors, such as those associated with the San Francisco-style sourdough breads which have a lot of acetic acid, which is essentially vinegar. I like the flavors for sourdough bread but not for pizza crusts. For pizza, I prefer the more subtle flavors that come from lactic acid, as the result of bacterial action (lactobacillus). So, the degree to which you will like the flavors that you get from your preferment will depend where you would like to be on the scale from really sour (acetic) to mild (lactic). I gather that the sourdo.com starters are more to the right of the middle of the spectrum. Once you get your starter to a fully functional condition, you will get a pretty good idea of where it sits on the spectrum and the extent to which you can move the needle in one direction or the other to best suit your personal preferences.

Peter


Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #41 on: November 10, 2005, 10:55:34 AM »
Yes, the final dough tastes great, especially pizzas made with the Camaldoli starter. The baked dough has a wonderful flavor. The longer I allow it to retard in the refrigerator, the stronger the flavor. It is more than a hint, but far from explosive. I always stir in the hooch. I've only been playing with Marco's Italian starters for a few months, so I'm still learning too. I'm not even close to consistent results.

Bill/SFNM

Offline Christopher

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #42 on: November 10, 2005, 11:13:32 AM »
thanks, guys,
it is good to know that it is a matter of experience and not that i am not doing it "right". i agree that a pizza should not have a San Francisco sour to it, i prefer a deeper more mellow flavor in my doughs if that makes sense.
thanks,
christopher

Offline JF_Aidan_Pryde

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #43 on: November 10, 2005, 11:42:04 AM »
Chris,
Try giving your dough a room temperature overnight rise. It should rise significantly and be usable the next day.

Offline OzPizza

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #44 on: November 10, 2005, 06:48:39 PM »
Chris,
Try giving your dough a room temperature overnight rise. It should rise significantly and be usable the next day.

Hey James, being as I'm on the sourdo.com starter bandwagon as well, day 4 (slow but seems to be alive and kicking, sourdough aroma), when you say overnight rise are you talking for a neopolitan recipe or NY? I don't want to find I'm suddenly subverting towards Neopolitan when my goal is always NY.
Founder of B.R.N.Y.P.O.Z. - The bring REAL NY pizza to Oz movement!

Offline JF_Aidan_Pryde

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #45 on: November 11, 2005, 02:59:36 AM »
Hey James, being as I'm on the sourdo.com starter bandwagon as well, day 4 (slow but seems to be alive and kicking, sourdough aroma), when you say overnight rise are you talking for a neopolitan recipe or NY? I don't want to find I'm suddenly subverting towards Neopolitan when my goal is always NY.

Oz,
I don't think using a overnight counter rise will subert your goal toward NY pizza. NY pizza is more characteristed by size, topping philosophy and crust texture. All of these do not conflict with a well managed overnight counter rise.

Offline Christopher

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #46 on: November 11, 2005, 10:46:41 AM »
Hey, guys,
thanks for all the suggestions! last night i dumped all but 1.5 cups of starter filled with water, and fed the starter and after about 5 hours it totally foamed up! :o i am hoping to give it a go this weekend in a small recipe, maybe two 10 inch pizzas to not waist more flour until i get this thing fully fired-up. hopefully when i get some good looking pizzas i can post photos.
thanks,
christopher

Offline OzPizza

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #47 on: November 12, 2005, 06:36:57 PM »
Oz,
I don't think using a overnight counter rise will subert your goal toward NY pizza. NY pizza is more characteristed by size, topping philosophy and crust texture. All of these do not conflict with a well managed overnight counter rise.

I've seen that there are variations on the type of rise which people like Pete have tried, so I'm sure I'll find a style that works well with hi gluten flour. I also don't want to switch to '00', then I'd be heading towards the so-called 'elite NY' style, which shifts the emphasis a bit too close to neopolitan for me.
Founder of B.R.N.Y.P.O.Z. - The bring REAL NY pizza to Oz movement!

Offline Christopher

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #48 on: November 15, 2005, 11:19:32 AM »
alright, guys,
i am having issues with my starter not re-activating. when i got the culture started originally it foamed up, i fed it and into the fridge it went. i have two jars going and they both smell good and developed hooch over a few days, the yesterday we took them out to restart them for dough and followed the instructions for reactivating. they were stirred up, got rid of all except 1.5 cups, filled to top with 85 degree water, stirred vigorously, emptied out all but 1.5 cups, refed per instructions, into the proofing box it went.
it has been developing hooch pretty quickly. i have my wife working on it today. it has shown only slight bubbles on top, then turns to hooch within an hour or two. i told her to repeat the process as soon as it gets the hooch on top. is this correct or should it just be fed?
i m having her keep with it all day until it foams and then remove some into a container for me to use tonight.
questions:
it has been in the fridge a few days with out feeding, how any times of reactivation could it take to get up and running?
is the hooch forming because it is already out of food?
should we repeat the re-activation instructions when the hooch forms or let it go the full three hours?
can it form hooch and still become foamed up or ist depleted by then?
when it does foam up and is ready, do you stir it up and then take what you need or just leave it foamy and take what you need?
i am completely frustrated by this whole thing :-[
any help or suggestions would be appreciated.
thanks,
christopher

Offline Arthur

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #49 on: November 25, 2006, 10:58:00 AM »
Began activating my Camaldoli starter today.    I'm continuing on with this thread since I'm just posting my progress.  I've tried to read most of what people have written about starters in this forum but I'm sure I missed some points so I'm open to advice.

I created my own proofing box.  Just bought a lamp kit from Home Depot ($6 or so).  Took 5 minutes and added a 25 watt bulb.  I use some scissors at the opening (you can use anything) to let enough heat out so the temp is about 85-90 depending where you put the wide mouth can.

0 hours - mixed the camaldoli starter with caputo and water as per directions.  Used a throw away plastic spoon to mix.

« Last Edit: November 25, 2006, 11:00:15 AM by Arthur »


Offline Arthur

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #50 on: November 25, 2006, 01:45:37 PM »
After 3 hours things are starting to happen.  I took it out of the proofing box to snap this picture.  Afterwards I mixed vigorously (like the instructions suggested).  I guess it's obvious that I don't have much to do today  :-\

« Last Edit: November 25, 2006, 01:56:21 PM by Arthur »

Offline Arthur

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #51 on: November 26, 2006, 09:43:51 AM »
24 hours later....I think I'm contaminated  :-\    What do you think?

The smell is not really bad or good - just like wet cardboard (can't really think of anything else).


Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #52 on: November 26, 2006, 09:56:21 AM »
Contamination and washing are par for the course. In my case, contamination was always accompanied with hooch in the middle and a bad odor - kind of like foot odor (not that you would know what that smells like. As a reference point and for your ongoing education is sourdough activation, go to your nearest YMCA and find someone who has been playing basketball all day in dirty socks.....). If your starter doesn't smell bad, maybe you don't have contamination. You may want to feed it a few more times. Of all of my starters, Camaldoli has the most pleasant aroma.

Bill/SFNM

 
 

Offline Finnegans Wake

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #53 on: November 27, 2006, 03:55:43 PM »
Arthur, I'm sort of new to the starters, but I think your photo series looks fine, nothing to necessarily indicate contamination.  I've had mine going for about a month and a half now, and take them out of the fridge on weekends to make them happy. 

I even mistreated them badly recently, not feeding them for close to two weeks.  The hooch layer got really thick, and I took them out and fed them... But had to make room in the fridge and off the counter due to turkey day.  So into the garage they went, ~38F at night for two days.  Oh, they were pissy after that.

Really, a lot of it is intuitive, I've found.  You just get a sense of how happy they are, and your nose is a great indicator of that happiness.  I have the Camaldoli, the Ischia, and the French, and I was afraid there could be contamination between the various starters, and I'd wind up with three identical ones unwittingly.  But my nose says otherwise.  The French remains the mildest, the Camaldoli has almost a sweetness to it, and the Ischia is my workhorse. 

I never made a proofing box, but found a seedling starter mat heats the starter well enough.  When the starters are really grumpy, I'll get them back to happiness by literally sweetening the pot a bit, giving them about 1/2 - 1 t. honey, depending on how grouchy they are.  After that, straight feedings.  Just started proofing a pizza dough from the Ischia, and despite the abuse, by morning it was bubbling with zeal.

Just be patient, don't freak out, and allow yourself the insanity of anthropomorphizing them slightly, letting them seem to have personalities.
Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge. --
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Offline Arthur

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #54 on: November 28, 2006, 09:56:55 AM »
I think it was contaminated so I washed it over 2 days (probably 3 times) and then I got the hooch back on top.  Now I'm continuing with the activation steps (by mixing, adding flour and water).   I don't think much is happening and it starting to seem like the hooch is going back to the middle   :-\

Offline Finnegans Wake

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #55 on: November 28, 2006, 11:06:25 AM »
Maybe a senior member can explain these various layers in more detail.  The Ed Wood book is good, but it lacks pictorials to correlate to the text.

My sleepy starters usually have the bottom layer, the pancake batter consistency, and a layer of hooch on top that can be anywhere from a wispy 1/4" to a growly 3/4", depending on how long I've neglected it.  When I reactivate them, I follow Wood's advice and stir the hooch back in, then pour off the requisite amount, and add flour and water and, as mentioned, a bit of honey if they're really grumpy.  What I have over the next few hours is the pancake batter bottom layer, and the active, fluffy layer on top.

Now, depending on timing of feedings, what happens next can be that either I feed again before much hooch can develop, or the fluffy layer will subside as a layer of hooch grows.  I have had the hooch in the middle, and eventually the fluffy layer goes away as the actuve yeast gets increasingly dormant.  The idea of a layer of hooch in the middle automatically being contaminated is, I think, misleading.  The hooch is a natural by-product, and as the active yeast eats up more and more of its food, it will lose that fluff and add more hooch.  But there is often a period where the hooch is growing in the middle of an active and healthy starter.

Now, perhaps if there were hooch in the middle for a long time, say more than a day or two, then I might think that the top layer is somehow off.  But there seem to be cycles to the feeding and hooch, and I've had that hooch in the middle and simply revived the starter and used some of the dump off in successful doughs (the few I've done so far).

Perhaps someone could clarify the idea that hooch in a middle layer is always bad.
Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge. --
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Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #56 on: November 28, 2006, 11:15:53 AM »
Perhaps someone could clarify the idea that hooch in a middle layer is always bad.

The only thing I can say is that hooch in the middle was always accompanied (eventually) with a very bad odor. I washed, the hooch in the middle and the bad smell went away, and the starter then activated as expected.

Bill/SFNM

Offline Arthur

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #57 on: November 28, 2006, 01:25:12 PM »
Yep, I got the hooch back in the middle.  The instructions say that once you wash the starter you should continue washing the starter until you see activation - so I'll guess I'll go back to the washing until activated since washing seemed to "work" for me - i.e., less smell and hooch on top.

Offline Finnegans Wake

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #58 on: November 28, 2006, 01:52:49 PM »
I guess I don't necessarily see hooch as a bad thing per se.  It's a by-product, so it indicates your yeast is eating and producing waste.  If you let it go a while, the hooch level will show you that there's been a lot of by-product and it's time to feed again, but the hooch just means something's working.

And the layer on top seems to me to be the active layer.  I think of it as almost being a big pool, where the fishies come to the surface to frolic and feed, and after a while they sink down to the depths to snooze.  The fluff layer is frolic, the hooch is their waste, the bottom is sleepy yeast and the flour/water that's been processed.  Maybe I'm wrong.
Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge. --
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Offline Arthur

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Re: The Italian starters are here!
« Reply #59 on: November 28, 2006, 05:15:26 PM »
OK, here's where I'm at and I'm looking for advice.    I fed the starter about 10 hours ago.  In 2 hours I will probably feed the starter again (then 6 hours, 4 hours, 4 hours...).  The instructions say to continually wash every 6-12 hours but I'm not sure I should do that.

I have 2 jars that with the same starter and look and smell the same.  It smells a little sweet but there's still a scent of gym sneakers.





 

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