Author Topic: Starter is eating itself  (Read 1104 times)

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Offline Biz Markie

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Starter is eating itself
« on: May 22, 2013, 04:27:38 PM »
Having some wild starter (white flour) issues so figured I'd bounce this off the collective braintrust here on the forum!  Been a while since I posted anything.

I've been using the same culture for a year or more with no problems, until just a few days ago.

I've attempted to use the starter in four different doughs and it's painfully obvious that the culture has become extremely proteolytic for some reason.

It's totally digesting the dough in pretty short order.  Nothing else seems wrong with the starter - it doesn't smell bad or look bad (other than being soupier than it should be).  I read others mentioning an Acetone smell but that is not the case here.

I'm pretty freaked out because I've been using this culture for a long time with no hint of excessive protease activity in the past.

A note on how I use my culture:  I keep a small amount of 100% hydration barm in the fridge, then when I want to bake, I will take a small portion from the fridge and feed it/build it out at room temp to the amount I need for the recipe.  I may even do a second build to a "firm starter" before mixing the final dough.
So the Mother stays in the fridge, in other words.  Usually every 2 weeks or less I will just about run out of cold Mother so I will just make a new batch expressly for replinishing, and put it back in the fridge. 
This may or may not be ideal, but it's worked extremely well for me and for my liking (as you can guess, my breads are barely sour if at all, and I like it fine that way).

So my questions are:
1.  Can the culture be saved?  If so, how?
2.  Out of curiosity, any thoughts on why this happened?

Thanks guys and gals,
Biz

« Last Edit: May 22, 2013, 05:33:14 PM by Biz Markie »


Offline Biz Markie

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Re: Starter is eating itself
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2013, 01:21:14 PM »
Where is the love??   :P 

Well, thought I'd provide an update and also pose another question.

I decided to just start completely over and grow my own culture, following the method in Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, which is how I got my self-digesting starter.

So far so good on the new starter.

However - here's my question:  Is it wise to use spring water straight out of the ground from a local spring when feeding the starter?  There is undoubtedly bacteria in the water, but I am not worried about that when it comes to drinking or cooking or in a final dough mixture.  But could undesirable bacteria from the water have been the cause of the starter going proteolytic?


Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Starter is eating itself
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2013, 12:30:43 AM »
I don't think anyone was intentionally not showing the love. I just doubt anyone has an answer to these questions. I know I've never heard of enzymatic activity spontaneously increasing like that. 

Many, if not most, SD cultures produce proteolytic enzymes that will denature the gluten matrix at some point, but in my experience, the activity level has stayed relatively constant and predictable.
Pizza is not bread.

Offline Biz Markie

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Re: Starter is eating itself
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2013, 03:49:37 PM »
Thanks, Craig!  Yeah, it was pretty bizarre.  Out of nowhere my starter just became lethal. 
With my new starter, I'm having issues getting it strong enough. ... when I feed it it seems lively enough, I guess, but I've made 2 doughs and both were very slow to leaven.  I'll keep at it.

Offline JimmyG

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Re: Starter is eating itself
« Reply #4 on: July 23, 2013, 08:05:10 PM »
Ha I have actually experienced this myself with a Kansas starter I cultivated many years ago. Unfortunately, I got rid of that starter several years ago when I moved from KS but do remember that I lowered the hydration from 100% to 50% and added some sugar (<5% but I don't remember the exact proportion) to rectify the problem. I can't remember my logic at the time for utilizing these methods, as it has been some time since I thought about this starter. I could look into the mater if for some reason you're still interested in an answer.

Jim
Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.

Offline Biz Markie

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Re: Starter is eating itself
« Reply #5 on: July 23, 2013, 08:09:45 PM »
Good to hear your feedback, Jimmy!!

I had to believe that I wasn't the only person in history to experience this.  Plus it was SOOO frustrating.  I was so mad when my doughs kept failing. >:(

If you're willing, I would love to hear more about what you did to correct your starter situation.  It would be a great contribution to the furtherance of Pizzology.

Offline JimmyG

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Re: Starter is eating itself
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2013, 08:46:05 AM »
So I did check through my notes and honestly, I couldn't find any entry on why I did what I did to correct the starter.  If I had to take a guess, I was hoping to alter the population structure (evolution term meaning some strains will die off and other will survive) or the metabolism of the starter micro flora by removing oxygen from the dough (hence 50% hydration and a more anaerobic environment) in hopes that it will shake things up a little and change their feeding behavior.
Sorry I couldn't be of more help.
Jim
Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.

Offline The Dough Doctor

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Re: Starter is eating itself
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2013, 09:29:27 AM »
Biz;
It certainly appears that you have "lost" your starter. This can and does happen from time to time to even the best of us.
There are some fungals that can form in a starter that will induce the exact thing you have described. These fungals (molds) could have been introduced with the flour used to feed the starter, or just through contact with the air , or they might have even been on a spoon or whisk used to stir in the flour. Hopefully you had a second reserve starter going in the fridge as a back up? But from the sounds of things possibly not. In that case your only recourse is to begin the task of making a new starter and hopefully you can achieve a similar microflora to give you a similar flavor and performance. Remember to always back up your starter/sour in at least one different location so if you lose one, you can use the other easily grow/culture a new one having the same microflora.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Offline Biz Markie

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Re: Starter is eating itself
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2013, 01:56:03 PM »
Don't sweat it, Jim!  Thanks for speaking up and making me feel less like a failure  ;D

Tom - Thank you very much for your input too!  As you guessed, I did not have a backup starter in this case, so I have started a new one from scratch.  So far it is doing well.
Your comment about molds is particularly intriguing because I think we have maybe more issues with molds than other folks due to the age of our house and its lack of a tight envelope.

I will have to work on creating a better "starter continuity" plan!

Offline The Dough Doctor

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Re: Starter is eating itself
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2013, 02:29:51 PM »
Biz;
Over the years we have noticed that we seem to get more calls regarding off flavors or performance issues with starters during the warmer months of the year in states where they have a seasonal change. We have attributed this to one of two things: Forgetting to put the starter back into the fridge in a timely manner (if it is a refrigerated starter), during the times when the room/kitchen is warmer can result in a shift in the microflora or contamination through exposure to unwanted wild yeast or mold spores which are more prevalent during the warmer seasons of the year. If you are in a location where snow cover is common during the winter, mold counts are really down during the winter, but as soon as the snow melts, mold spores in the air can really spike. When I was young, and living on the farm we used a starter to make all of our breads. It was stored in a glass jar at room temperature with cover consisting of a piece of paper secured with a rubber band. The cover was removed, the jar was "swished" around a little and an appropriate amount was poured out where upon the lid was immediately replaced on the jar. The doughs were always prepared in the evening and allowed to develop overnight for use on the following day. We only made fresh bread twice a week but when we went into town (about every two weeks) we brought back "store bought bread" as a treat for the women so they wouldn't need to make bread for a couple of days as the commercial bread remained soft and fresh for several days, even back then.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor


Offline Biz Markie

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Re: Starter is eating itself
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2013, 06:02:25 PM »
Good stuff!  Yes I wonder too if the very wet year we've had in Middle Tennessee has attributed to more mold.  I actually just threw out a loaf of bread today that molded astonishingly fast. ..as did my previous loaf. .so something may be afoot!


 

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