Author Topic: Choosing a Starter.  (Read 2961 times)

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Offline nickr

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #25 on: November 19, 2013, 02:45:09 PM »
I had already been questioning my purchase but I thought it was due to the fact that I was adding other strains via my feedings. I never took into account the temperature and certainly was not aware of the mortality rates.

I guess the real question is whether it even matters to the final dough in terms of rise, texture, and flavor. Especially given the success each of us have with our own starters.


Offline arspistorica

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #26 on: November 19, 2013, 03:01:20 PM »
I had already been questioning my purchase but I thought it was due to the fact that I was adding other strains via my feedings. I never took into account the temperature and certainly was not aware of the mortality rates.

I guess the real question is whether it even matters to the final dough in terms of rise, texture, and flavor. Especially given the success each of us have with our own starters.

I have found it matters.  Lb SF-based cultures produce a better-tasting product, and, like most people on these boards, I have kept cultures under every imaginable circumstance (in terms of feeding cycle, temperatures, hydration, inoculation rates, grains, etc.).  Again, that's my own opinion (though the few studies done on the flavour of sourdough products reinforce the idea Lb SF-dominant cultures taste better, for a variety of reasons; this is why I adhere so stringently to the regimen I do).

Ultimately, though, it's up to the individual!
« Last Edit: November 19, 2013, 03:05:42 PM by arspistorica »
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Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #27 on: November 19, 2013, 03:06:49 PM »
Usually a simple answer contains an answer to the question asked. Iím hoping for your thoughts on a specific question not a bunch of largely irrelevant paraphrases from various articles. Let me try to make it clearer.

If I use the culture in my fridge to inoculate two new identical cultures, so long as I feed them the same thing, the same, way, every three days at the same time, hold at the same temp, etc., we should expect them to remain the same. Maybe something will overtake all or part of the flora or maybe it won't but we should expect the same thing to happen to both. Over the course of several months of feeding at a 3-4 day interval, I don't notice any changes.

Now, I stop feeding one for a week while I continue to feed the other every three days. After a week, I go back to feeding both identically every three days. Based on a distinctly different aroma in the two cultures, it seems to follow that something else has become dominant in the culture where I changed the status quo.

If I start a third culture in the exact same manner as the original two, it will be functionally the same as the culture that did not experience the break in feeding.

You have made this claim with respect to a culture such as Ischia:

Quote
They will cease to be the dominant culture after one refreshment, replaced by autochthonous species and/or strains, and likely cease to exist in your culture, even as a tertiary lactobacilli, after four to five refreshments.

I have an example of a culture that appears stable under a wide range of environmental conditions and appears to resist being overtaken unless starved or otherwise weakened by some stress other than cold. 

QUESTION: How do you know Ischia (and other purchased cultures for that matter) is not similar in this regard?
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Offline Serpentelli

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #28 on: November 19, 2013, 03:11:01 PM »
Ian ,

I really enjoy reading your posts. I wish that I had 1/100th of the enthusiasm that you have for yeasts that I could apply to other areas of my life. I would definitely be a better person, and who knows --- the world might be a better place! :)

In all seriousness, please know how much I am enjoying your posts. Just when I thought this site couldn't get any better, you start posting. What a great world we live in!

John K

EDIT: I should have included "....how much I enjoy reading your posts, and the lively discussions that have ensued!"
« Last Edit: November 19, 2013, 04:21:56 PM by Serpentelli »
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Offline arspistorica

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #29 on: November 19, 2013, 03:35:04 PM »
Usually a simple answer contains an answer to the question asked. Iím hoping for your thoughts on a specific question not a bunch of largely irrelevant paraphrases from various articles. Let me try to make it clearer.

If I use the culture in my fridge to inoculate two new identical cultures, so long as I feed them the same thing, the same, way, every three days at the same time, hold at the same temp, etc., we should expect them to remain the same. Maybe something will overtake all or part of the flora or maybe it won't but we should expect the same thing to happen to both. Over the course of several months of feeding at a 3-4 day interval, I don't notice any changes.

Now, I stop feeding one for a week while I continue to feed the other every three days. After a week, I go back to feeding both identically every three days. Based on a distinctly different aroma in the two cultures, it seems to follow that something else has become dominant in the culture where I changed the status quo.

If I start a third culture in the exact same manner as the original two, it will be functionally the same as the culture that did not experience the break in feeding.

You have made this claim with respect to a culture such as Ischia:

I have an example of a culture that appears stable under a wide range of environmental conditions and appears to resist being overtaken unless starved or otherwise weakened by some stress other than cold. 

QUESTION: How do you know Ischia (and other purchased cultures for that matter) is not similar in this regard?

ANSWER:  I don't for sure!  It's a probabilistic argument that, in my experience and based upon what I know about the science of these organisms (both published and unpublished), holds true.  I take the word of those researchers who have dedicated their lives' work to these topics seriously.  Again, as I've said before, the burden of proof does not lie with me, but those who peddle these cultures.  Why do I think this?  Because even starters initiated with a selected strain, such as Ischia, undergo the exact same three-phase evolution as one started from scratch:

"As in the case for backslopped laboratory sourdough fermentations, starter culture-added backslopped sourdough fermentation processes are characterized by a three-step evolution of the LAB communities." (De Vuyst, et al., 2013, as above)

These kinetics cannot simply be ignored; the introduced starter strain still has to compete with autochthonous species and/or strains under the same circumstances that produce those species and/or strains that are better-adapted to the conditions put before them.  Coupled with the fact that documented experiments done with introduced starter strains has shown that the majority (sometimes all) fail against autochthonous species and/or strains, my above claim makes sense.

Here's an alternative explanation for the events you've witnessed:  you mix in Ischia; it peters out after five or so refreshments, approximately the same number of refreshments it takes for spontaneous fermentations to undergo and set the proper environmental conditions necessary to create a stable colony of the more highly-evolved sourdough-typical organisms (the complex heterofermenters most often recovered in the sourdough niche).  After the correct number of refreshments necessary to arrive at a stable culture (typically five to seven), you have repeatedly created the exact same native culture every time, thinking it was Ischia, etc.  (Before you make the counter-argument that you've created more than one selected culture from scratch and they're different, please see my argument about placebo above.  There's only so many aromatic profiles the sourdough microbiota can create, and, as I said before, we can go over specific examples.)
« Last Edit: November 19, 2013, 03:40:51 PM by arspistorica »
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Offline tinroofrusted

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #30 on: November 19, 2013, 03:37:50 PM »
I've been experimenting for over a month with the "Cape Fear Sourdough" culture sent to me by member Mmmph. That culture is markedly different from my other "regular" sourdough culture.  The Cape Fear culture has a much different aroma than my pre-existing culture. It leavens better as well.  For me there is a big difference between the two. Perhaps over time it will "merge" with my other culture, but I have dried samples of the Cape Fear which I can always rehydrate if need be. 

Offline stonecutter

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #31 on: November 19, 2013, 03:38:16 PM »


In all seriousness, please know how much I am enjoying your posts. Just when I thought this site couldn't get any better, you start posting. What a great world we live in!

John K

+1  couldn't have said it better.
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Offline arspistorica

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #32 on: November 19, 2013, 03:46:02 PM »
I've been experimenting for over a month with the "Cape Fear Sourdough" culture sent to me by member Mmmph. That culture is markedly different from my other "regular" sourdough culture.  The Cape Fear culture has a much different aroma than my pre-existing culture. It leavens better as well.  For me there is a big difference between the two. Perhaps over time it will "merge" with my other culture, but I have dried samples of the Cape Fear which I can always rehydrate if need be.

It is much easier to explain away differences between two spontaneously-created starters (as those with selected starter strains are) through variations introduced by the person who created and maintained the starter rather than because of an introduced culture.

My argument isn't that some introduced strains do not survive; it's that most will not, and there's no way any of us can tell for sure without looking under the hood, so you're better saving your time and money and produce one from scratch (which will be better adapted to your circumstances).  The only definitive way would be to use the culture-independent methods mentioned elsewhere to test the introduced culture against the one created.  There are companies that will do this for you, if you're willing to pay.  Otherwise, it's all needless speculation.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2013, 03:53:50 PM by arspistorica »
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Offline Mmmph

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #33 on: November 19, 2013, 04:03:31 PM »
I the late summer of 2010, I was hiking in the woods along the banks of the Cape Fear river in NC.  Somewhere between Fayetteville and Elizabethtown NC, I came across a patch of wild Muscadine (Actually, white Scuppernong) grapes.  Beautiful and quite surprising, as birds and squirrels generally pick these clean by that time of year.  I grabbed the best looking bunch (probably 12-14 grapes) and made a beeline back to the car, as I knew what I wanted to do with them (Silverton method).

They sat on newspaper in the car and I took the bunch inside when I got home.  I keep cheesecloth in the kitchen, and I wrapped up all of the grapes that were whole (not damaged or overripe) in a double layer of cheesecloth.  I placed them in a plastic 2 qt pitcher and used a long wooden spoon to crush them up until I could see a good amount of juice in the bottom of the pitcher.  I added 200G of water and 200G of KAAP.  I stirred until it all came together and left it on the countertop, checking a couple times a day. After 3 days, I noticed some bubbles.  I let it go for one more day and pulled out the cheesecloth bag.  I added another 100g of water and 100g of flour.  The next day I took 100G out and discarded the rest.  I added 200g water and 200g flour.  I continued washing this culture every day for a month in an attempt to "purify" or isolate the active bacteria/yeast combo.

Been using it since for pizza and bread. I refrigerate it for a month or more.  It settles down forms a golden hooch on top.  The smell? Heaven.  Like Muscadine wine.  The taste?  Like sweet Muscadine wine.

I revive it and wash it a couple times and continue using it to bake.

I've let it sleep for months, always reviving it easily, over a couple of days, to be used at my convenience.

Been using it since for pizza and bread.  It has a great flavor and can range in sourness, depending on the temperature it's proofed.

It's an active, reliable culture that performs as well as any commercial yeast I've used.
When I proof it like I always do, it has the same flavor and baking characteristics as when I first captured it.

I've started five cultures and bought two (Ischia and Camaldoli). I've found them all to be distinctly different. I don't believe my techniques in handling these cultures varied so much as to cause these differences. I always weigh, measure and record.
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Mal

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #34 on: November 19, 2013, 04:09:11 PM »
I've initiated sourdough cultures using all manner of different grains - spelt, rye, whole wheat, white flour etc. under many different conditions (temp, fridge, hydration, pineapple juice, exposure to air/environment etc.)

Without fail, I've found that once I move to a regular feeding schedule with bog standard roller-mill white flour, the result is the same. They all basically act and taste the same.

The ONLY exception I've found to this are "raisin" starters which seem to behave quite differently to cultures of grain provenance. They seem to act much more like commercial yeast.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2013, 04:15:16 PM by Mal »

Offline arspistorica

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #35 on: November 19, 2013, 04:20:08 PM »
I've initiated sourdough cultures using all manner of different grains - spelt, rye, whole wheat, white wheat etc. under many different conditions (temp, fridge, hydration, pineapple juice, exposure to air/environment etc.)

Without fail, I've found that once I move to a regular feeding schedule with bog standard roller-mill white flour, the result is the same. They all basically act and taste the same.

The ONLY exception I've found to this are "raisin" starters which seem to behave quite differently to cultures of grain provenance. They seem to act much more like commercial yeast.

Fruit-based starters invariably have an elevated yeast load in the beginning but only during the first ten or so refreshments; after, I find things settle back to normal, as per your observation.

The thing about this topic is people don't want to divorce themselves from their long-held romanticism given the "source" of their starter, and I do not like to discount a person's experience.  Who the hell am I to rain on somebody's parade?  But the way a starter's maintained matters infinitely more than the way it began; process parameters and material determine the composition of a culture, not how or what it is was started with.

Here's the real source of the dominant organisms:  you, that which is around you.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2013, 04:23:19 PM by arspistorica »
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Offline Serpentelli

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #36 on: November 19, 2013, 04:32:15 PM »
Two questions:

Is there some sort of "Sourdough Syndicate" in Europe (or elsewhere) that I am not aware of? A group making tons of money from the sales of "proprietary cultures"? My financial dealings with Mr. Ed Wood have certainly not made him rich!

Assuming that there is not such an organization and millions of bakers throughout the world are not being swindled by no-good culture peddlers, then isn't the natural conclusion of this discussion that we will have to agree to disagree?

Well I would like to know the scope of the "problem" posed in my first question, if anyone knows...
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Offline arspistorica

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #37 on: November 19, 2013, 04:43:08 PM »
Two questions:

Is there some sort of "Sourdough Syndicate" in Europe (or elsewhere) that I am not aware of? A group making tons of money from the sales of "proprietary cultures"? My financial dealings with Mr. Ed Wood have certainly not made him rich!

Assuming that there is not such an organization and millions of bakers throughout the world are not being swindled by no-good culture peddlers, then isn't the natural conclusion of this discussion that we will have to agree to disagree?

Well I would like to know the scope of the "problem" posed in my first question, if anyone knows...

There are of course companies associated with the baking industry that sell cultures, particularly in Italy, Germany, Russia, and throughout Northern Europe.  Of course, it's not the only thing they do, but I think looking for a financial motive (greed) is irrelevant to the science, personally.  Whether or not these companies exist is beside the point.  My aim is only to be guided by the science in an attempt to discover the truth, and the more research that is done into this area the more it reaffirms the conclusions I am pointing out.

If people choose not to believe, that's cool.  The way we understand the microbiotic world (and even evolution itself) is undergoing massive chances right now, and not just those who study the microbiology of fermentation.  My daughter will be raised in a world where a different understanding will be taught.
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Offline Serpentelli

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #38 on: November 19, 2013, 05:04:12 PM »
Ian,

Believe me, my question was not meant to be offensive. And I do think that there is value in this type of research and discussion.

In my line of work I've been fascinated by how prominent a role gut bacteria plays in both the  maintenance of health as well as the treatment of disease.

If you told physicians 10 years ago that you could minimize the severity and duration of ventilator-related pneumonia by treating patients with "probiotics" administered into the GI tract (not the respiratory tract) you would have been soundly mocked.

More recently it has been shown that the very same bacteria that causes zits (Propionibacteria acnes) also lodges itself in the intervertebral discs of some patients with chronic back pain. Of even greater interest is that these patients can be "cured" of their back pain with a 100 day course of a cheap antibiotic.

Anectdotally, I have been taking a daily probiotic supplement for the past two years (and have been promoting family members and patients to do the same). Whether or not it is related, I have had none (ZERO, ZILCH, NADA) in terms of my biannual 2-3 week phlegm-riddled bout of bronchitis since I started that regimen....

So just these three examples to show you why I think this type of discussion is great. Keep it up!

John K
« Last Edit: November 19, 2013, 05:07:12 PM by Serpentelli »
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Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #39 on: November 19, 2013, 05:52:28 PM »
I take the word of those researchers who have dedicated their lives' work to these topics seriously.

I take the research seriously as well, notwithstanding, you canít simply dismiss as romanticism, multiple consistent observations made by a significant number of unrelated individuals.

Quote
Again, as I've said before, the burden of proof does not lie with me, but those who peddle these cultures.  Why do I think this?


Iím not here to defend the culture peddlers. I have no dog in that fight. Iím here to challenge the science that, as you have presented it, I do not agree is correct based on my observations and the observations of others I trust. Science in a lab doesnít always represent what happens in nature. As a skeptic, all I need to do is poke holes in your theory at which point, you can tell me where Iíve introduced material error or reformulate your hypothesis.

Quote
These kinetics cannot simply be ignored; the introduced starter strain still has to compete with autochthonous species and/or strains under the same circumstances that produce those species and/or strains that are better-adapted to the conditions put before them. 

may be better adapted - ever hear of an invasive species?

Quote
Coupled with the fact that documented experiments done with introduced starter strains has shown that the majority (sometimes all) fail against autochthonous species and/or strains, my above claim makes sense.

And my direct observations refute your claims.

Quote
Here's an alternative explanation for the events you've witnessed:  you mix in Ischia; it peters out after five or so refreshments, approximately the same number of refreshments it takes for spontaneous fermentations to undergo and set the proper environmental conditions necessary to create a stable colony of the more highly-evolved sourdough-typical organisms (the complex heterofermenters most often recovered in the sourdough niche).  After the correct number of refreshments necessary to arrive at a stable culture (typically five to seven), you have repeatedly created the exact same native culture every time, thinking it was Ischia, etc.

No Ė go back and reread what I wrote yet again. I was very deliberate NOT to assume it is Ischia. I only noted that I had a stable culture. (BTW Ė do you think ďevolvedĒ is the right word to use here?)

Once again, you completely missed the question which was simply how do you know Ischia and others are not stable like the culture you just described? You donít.

Quote
(Before you make the counter-argument that you've created more than one selected culture from scratch and they're different, please see my argument about placebo above.  There's only so many aromatic profiles the sourdough microbiota can create, and, as I said before, we can go over specific examples.)

I don't know how many different aromatic profiles they can create, but I'm quite certain I've smelled two of them, and if they are being produced by the same flora under substantially the same conditions, I'd live for someone to explain to me how that works.

I agree the placebo effect is real, but I also know that if I chew two sugar pills, one of them is not going to taste like an aspirin. I didn't do this experiment looking to come up with a result to disprove your claims. This happened well before I ever heard of you, and in fact, I even described it to another member of this forum at the time.
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Offline Steve

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #40 on: November 19, 2013, 09:29:22 PM »
On what other sites  have you followed his work?

I don't doubt he has some knowledge. I'll withhold judgement whether or not PM is fortunate to have him as a member.

Why the hostility? Seriously.

Offline arspistorica

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #41 on: November 19, 2013, 10:17:37 PM »
I take the research seriously as well, notwithstanding, you canít simply dismiss as romanticism, multiple consistent observations made by a significant number of unrelated individuals.
 

Iím not here to defend the culture peddlers. I have no dog in that fight. Iím here to challenge the science that, as you have presented it, I do not agree is correct based on my observations and the observations of others I trust. Science in a lab doesnít always represent what happens in nature. As a skeptic, all I need to do is poke holes in your theory at which point, you can tell me where Iíve introduced material error or reformulate your hypothesis.

may be better adapted - ever hear of an invasive species?

And my direct observations refute your claims.

No Ė go back and reread what I wrote yet again. I was very deliberate NOT to assume it is Ischia. I only noted that I had a stable culture. (BTW Ė do you think ďevolvedĒ is the right word to use here?)

Once again, you completely missed the question which was simply how do you know Ischia and others are not stable like the culture you just described? You donít.

I don't know how many different aromatic profiles they can create, but I'm quite certain I've smelled two of them, and if they are being produced by the same flora under substantially the same conditions, I'd live for someone to explain to me how that works.

I agree the placebo effect is real, but I also know that if I chew two sugar pills, one of them is not going to taste like an aspirin. I didn't do this experiment looking to come up with a result to disprove your claims. This happened well before I ever heard of you, and in fact, I even described it to another member of this forum at the time.

I appreciate your sophist nature, as I think it's healthy to have scepticism, but, at this point in the conversation, we are circling back around to questions already raised, along with answers already provided.  Whether or not you accept those answers is up to you, but I, for one, do not feel like unnecessarily pulverising an already-dead horse any further. (For the record, I know you do not accept the answers provided or even think the questions have been answered appropriately; I think they have been.)
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Offline arspistorica

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Re: Choosing a Starter.
« Reply #42 on: November 19, 2013, 11:52:04 PM »
Ian,

Believe me, my question was not meant to be offensive. And I do think that there is value in this type of research and discussion.

In my line of work I've been fascinated by how prominent a role gut bacteria plays in both the  maintenance of health as well as the treatment of disease.

If you told physicians 10 years ago that you could minimize the severity and duration of ventilator-related pneumonia by treating patients with "probiotics" administered into the GI tract (not the respiratory tract) you would have been soundly mocked.

More recently it has been shown that the very same bacteria that causes zits (Propionibacteria acnes) also lodges itself in the intervertebral discs of some patients with chronic back pain. Of even greater interest is that these patients can be "cured" of their back pain with a 100 day course of a cheap antibiotic.

Anectdotally, I have been taking a daily probiotic supplement for the past two years (and have been promoting family members and patients to do the same). Whether or not it is related, I have had none (ZERO, ZILCH, NADA) in terms of my biannual 2-3 week phlegm-riddled bout of bronchitis since I started that regimen....

So just these three examples to show you why I think this type of discussion is great. Keep it up!

John K

Sorry, I did not think you were doubtful; I was merely trying to say the companies and people who sell these cultures are irrelevant to the overall argument in my mind.

I follow this microbiotic world broadly as well, and the implications are simply stunning in their implications, breadth and depth.  The idea moves beyond just our health to the microbiotic world's impact on and in plant, soil, and even entire ecosystem health; to how these seemingly simple creatures modulate and regulate their hosts; to how our understanding of natural selection has changed in the past ten years; etc.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2013, 12:09:30 AM by arspistorica »
"Senza il mio territorio sarei solo un panificatore."
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