Yes it was noticeably sweeter. Not so much so that it upset the balance of flavour on fairly simple pizzas, but unmistakably there.
I guess what I meant by "completely effective" was: Can you make pizza with it? absolutely without a doubt. You can even make great pizza with it. But yes in comparison my regular starter produces a crust that I prefer.
Here's where my lack of knowledge kicks in, and perhaps someone else might chime in with an answer? I went into this experiment with extremely limited understanding, but enough curiosity to try. In fact had I known more I might not have bothered to experiment at all. Ignorance is bliss. And occasionally fruitful. Anyway, anyone have thoughts on this?
The use of yeast owes more to a byproduct of history and modern tastes than anything else, and is borne of the same desire that has also caused millers to disregard 20 - 22% of cereal grains for animal feed or as industrial food filler. Where once the cycles of food ecology were whole, local and subsistence-based, they are now the inverse, wherein foodstuffs are highly refined and broken down into their constituent parts, and agricultural trade has become global and surplus-driven with a high rate of inefficiency and leftover waste.
The sourdough microbiota has evolved over tens of thousands of years to its external conditions, which includes an enormous set of selective pressures in the human-mediated biome, including but not limited to our physiology and taste; the physiology of those animals commonly associated with the human biome; the other microbiota in this biome; human agricultural preferences and practices; and, lastly, the sourdough matrix itself. Ever stop to consider why Lb sanfranciscensis
has evolved a diurnal metabolism that reaches its late stationary phase bordering on cell death at precisely
24 hours regardless
of fermentative conditions?
Yeast, along with most lactobacilli, are not unique to the sourdough niche. Only Lb SF
and a few other closely-related lactobacilli strains lay claim to that title. As far as solid-state starch fermentations are concerned, yeast are an afterthought in the culture and are defined by the lactic-acid bacteria present (this is not true of other food-based fermentations). Once, all bread (and beer) was made with natural starters, before the advent of leftover brewer's yeast from Europe's beer industry. As Thom Leonard, one of North America's premier bakers, writes, "I question whether that what we make when we use baker's yeast instead of natural leavening can be called bread at all." The same can be said for pizza, if by pizza we mean a hearth-baked flat bread.
Humans have invariably wanted whiter, lighter breadstuffs; this tendency can be seen dating back to Egypt and Rome, running right through the documented history of bread, with the related products become whiter and lighteras they approach the modern era. The exclusive use of yeast -- an intensively selected and bred monocultural strain
, from one of many strains from one of many species in sourdoughs -- parallels this tendency. So much so, bakeries or pizzerias that use commercial yeast as well as sourdough (if even for different products) tend to contaminate their sourdough with a wild mutagen of S. cerevisiae
. (Researchers have now allotted a new "stable" relationship that exists due to this phenomena commonly occurring.)
The simple answer to your question is you can't.
You cannot have a starter without yeast, at least not using normal propagation techniques. Type II sourdoughs (such as those found in the production of rye breads in Northern Europe) use temperatures for starters above which yeast cannot grow, so none are found, but these methods also select for homofermentative bacteria. At the same time, you cannot have a type-I sourdough starter without lactic-acid bacteria, either, much to the chagrin of many Italian bakers!