Author Topic: Questions about sourdough culture  (Read 6488 times)

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Offline bakerbill

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Questions about sourdough culture
« on: July 07, 2006, 08:28:09 AM »
I recently joined this forum and find it fascinating. And my wife thought I was carried away with my pizza experiments!  Though I have been baking pizza in a brick oven for three years, I am always looking to improve the product and inspired by a posting on sourdough culture, I decided to make the plunge. Despite buying "Classic Sourdoughs" and a booklet, "Italian Sourdough Cultures" along with two Italian cultures, I am having a lot of questions.  I began the procedure but it was soon apparent that it had become contaminated. I have begun the wash procedure and after three washings, things seem to be improving,e.g. the hooch was at the top this morning. Here are my questions: 1) How can I tell when it has been sufficiently cleansed? The booklet says when the culture "becomes active 2-4 hours after the last feeding."  What does active mean?  2) If it is cleansed, now what? Where do I jump back into the culture activation process?  I find that using book to make this culture is almost like using a book to learn how to dance. Any help would be appreciated.

bakerbill


Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2006, 11:40:43 AM »
You can tell if it has been sufficiently cleansed if there is no longer any off-smell and the hooch is on the top. Then you can resume normal activation procedure. You may need to continue the regular feedings for a week or even more.
 
I usually give my cultures about 4 hours to become fully active after feeding. The volume of starter will have about doubled with a nice head of bubbles and a fragrance to die for.

Bill/SFNM

Offline PizzaDanPizzaMan

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2006, 10:08:40 AM »
bakerbill,
I have the same cultures and started with the Ischia. I too ran into the contamination issue shortly after starting but after following the instructions regarding washing it was only a matter of a few days and soon I had a good supply of Italian starter. I don't have the fragrance that Bill was talking about (there is definately a distinct and fragrant aroma but I don't have the intensity that I think Bill is referring to) and I am not convinced that what we cultivate at our individual homes is going to be the same, even though we supposedly all start with the same product, there are so many variables such as quality of water and airborne bactieria that I believe we all have some sort of "hybrid" of the original. I am very happy with what I have however and I have made dozens of bread loaves and pizzas with the stuff and it is definately a worthwhile effort. Another thing, once you do get these cultures active they seem to be virtually impossible to harm.

By the way, most of us on this site really love to see pictures from other members projects, whether it be pizza or the ovens that bake them. We would sure love to see that brick oven of yours and some pictures of the products it produces.

Good luck with the starters, they will work out for you I'm sure.

Dan

Offline bakerbill

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2006, 05:27:27 PM »
Thanks for those replies. They were helpful. I have done the washing and all signs point to a proper cleansing. The aroma is pleasant. Now I am patiently feeding the culture every 12 hours. This is the fourth day since cleansing and while there are some bubbles on top, how much is enough and what is the typical amount of time, if there is such a thing, for the culture to be ready?
I have attempted to attach a few pictures.   By the way, yesterday I made 15 pizzas from 3 recipes: Neapolitan (with Caputo flour), New York style from Diane Morgan's book(without the olive oil) and NeoNeapolitan from Peter Reinhart using KASL. I found that 5 minutes at about 600-650 degrees works best in the brick oven, and I was pleased with all the results though each type has its own character.


bakerbill

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2006, 05:56:42 PM »
How much is enough and what is the typical amount of time, if there is such a thing, for the culture to be ready?

Bakerbill,

Here is a photo of a fully active Italian culture. It was fed 4 hours ago and has increased in volume about 75%. Hope this helps.

Bill/SFNM

Offline PizzaDanPizzaMan

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2006, 10:20:06 PM »
It looks like you've got it right where you want it! Id'e say get to baking!!

BTW the picture of your pizza looks great, is that with the Italian starter?

Dan

Offline bakerbill

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2006, 11:20:44 AM »
Thanks for the response. My culture looks somwhat like the picture you supplied, but it has increased no where by 75%.  It's a very thin layer of bubbles.  I am wondering how long I continue to feed it before throwing it all out and starting over again. It is now in its 5th day.

As for the pizza picture, it was from a NY style recipe in Diane Morgan's book and did not use the culture . Use of the culture appears off in the future as of now.

bakerbill

Offline scott r

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2006, 11:26:29 AM »
Bakerbill, please don't give up and throw it away.  Activation can sometimes take a very long time, but since you see bubbles you are going to end up with a vibrant culture eventually.  You will be rewarded for your perseverance I promise! I have gone through this twice and both times my culture was contaminated at the start.  Now I have powerful and flavorful wild yeast.

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2006, 11:40:21 AM »
I am wondering how long I continue to feed it before throwing it all out and starting over again. It is now in its 5th day.

bakerbill,
Some of my cultures have taken almost 2 weeks for the initial activation. This style of baking requires a special commitment that is well worth it. Scott is absolutely right.

Bill/SFNM


Offline PizzaBrasil

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2006, 12:38:43 PM »
bakerbill,

The best temperature for rising the sourdough culture is 29 C 84,2 F.
You would like to maintain your culture growing up at this temperature.
The sourdough culture is tolerant to lower temperatures, however it will die over 35 C 95F.

Luis

Offline bakerbill

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2006, 03:57:54 PM »
Thanks for all the reassurances. I will keep at it and will let you know.  I tried to post three pictures the last time, but only the pizza showed up so here is an attempt to get a piece of the brick oven in the picture.

Offline Kinsman

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2006, 03:08:26 PM »
A bit late here, but-
I'd like to echo the previous posts, and add some thoughts of my own:

It does take a bit to get the things going. My first couple of weeks I sat on the culture like a mother hen and in retrospect it probably was contaminated, or at least slow to get going. After that, the thing really took off though, and there was no question about it.

Once you have the culture really established, it will take quite a bit of abuse, like being left alone for a week on the counter, and still recover quite nicely. Once or twice I thought I had killed the little buggers and I spent another few anxious days watching and waiting. I simply fed the culture daily whether it needed it or not and in a few days I had it roaring right along again.

I now keep two cultures going: one in the fridge which gets fed every two weeks, need it or not, and my working stock (just lives on the counter) which gets used at least twice a week. I also like to take a sample of it when it's really at full kraeusen, pour a thin layer onto foil, dry it then grind it up in a food processor. Then I have a dry culture which can be shared (or stored for if I ever really do kill it).

I have had this bunch going for over four years and I don't see why it shouldn't last forever. It is really wonderful stuff: Pizza, bread, tempura, fixes trucks, cures colic, works on stains.........did I mention it makes great pizza the world's best pizza?
Chris Rausch

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Florence, Montana

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2006, 04:42:06 PM »
It is really wonderful stuff:  Pizza, bread, tempura, fixes trucks, cures colic, works on stains

Tempura? Really? Please elaborate. Thanks/

Bill/SFNM

Offline bakerbill

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2006, 04:35:37 PM »
Eleven days ago, I started up the Ischia Island culture after having washed it. The aroma is still very pleasant, but the layer of bubbles is thin. I was encouraged by members of this forum to stay with it for a while, and I have.  However, at this point, I am thinking of putting it in the refrigerator and then taking it out tomorrow, going through some of the activation steps as outlined in one of the posted messages and trying it out in a pizza recipe despite the odds that it is sufficiently developed. The other alternatives are 1) keep feeding or 2) throw it out and start again with the second Italian culture. Any thoughts would be appreciated.  By the way, I appreciate the interest members of this forum have shown about my culture.

bakerbill

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2006, 06:32:33 PM »
but the layer of bubbles is thin.

Are you seeing any kind of increase in the bubble layer with each feeding or is the situation pretty much static?

I would guess that your starter isn't strong enough to be used yet.

Bill/SFNM

Offline bakerbill

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2006, 05:23:19 PM »
The situation is static as far as I can tell.  Any ideas as to the likely outcome?

bakerbill

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #16 on: July 18, 2006, 06:24:45 PM »
The situation is static as far as I can tell.  Any ideas as to the likely outcome?

I can't predict your outcome, but in my case, even for those cultures that required a long time for initial activation, there was visible improvement with each feeding.

Bill/SFNM


Offline Christopher

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #17 on: July 19, 2006, 12:44:16 PM »
Hey, Bakerbill,
i had many issues with my starter in the beginning and i would say it took a few months to really get going and be used for baking. hang in there, the flavor is worth it.
Christopher

Offline Kinsman

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #18 on: July 24, 2006, 12:10:37 PM »
For tempura I just get a big starter going and wait until it's mostly done with the active phase and getting sour and thinner....then I add a bit of flour, and use that.  Sometimes I might add some salt, sugar or other top-secret herbs and spices but it's pretty good all by its lonesome.

It makes a really light and fluffy coating, perfect for fish or shrimp or onion rings or pickles or.......
Chris Rausch

Long Riders BBQ
Florence, Montana

Offline varasano

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #19 on: July 30, 2006, 02:16:46 PM »
Here's a short video of my starter and how it looks when I use it:

http://www.think2020.com/jv/Dough/CultureFoam.mov

and my main set of instructions on how to use it:

http://www.think2020.com/jv/recipe.htm

Offline dcervone

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2007, 02:08:29 PM »
I have a quick question about using a sourdough culture:

When the culture is active enough to be used, what's the best way to measure it? Should I stir it all back first, and then measure out the grams I will use, or just pour from the top? Or, should I measure a small amount of starter in a separate container before it's active, feed it some flour and water until it's active enough, and then use this mix?
-Dan

Offline Finnegans Wake

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #21 on: January 23, 2007, 12:46:09 PM »
I was recently wondering if my starters needed to me "more active."  I use Peter Reinhart's receipe for dough, and he outlines making a firm starter that is then added to the other ingredients, and goes through cycles of rising and ferment. 

But my last dough, I altered two things.

First of all, I accidentally used the Camaldoli starter for bread and the French starter for the pie dough.  As it turns out, my wife and I both loved the French starter, maybe even a little more so than the Italian ones, for whatever reason.  But I think you can switch 'em up from time to time for something different, anyway.  (And my French is perhaps a bit punchier than some other French starters described elsewhere... the sour notes were definitely discernable.)

Second, I didn't just add starter to flour and create the firm starter.  Instead, I took a cup of starter, added a cup of flour and 3/4 cup water and let it bloom, and then from that used my 1 1/4 c. starter to then make the firm starter.  It was so much more active, and the resulting dough had great rise in the cornicione, better bubbling than I ever experienced.  It also showed more bottom char for some reason, although I did also experiment with blasting the stone with the broiler for a couple minutes just before putting the pie in.

Another thing with the dough was that it hand-stretched nicely, but even after sitting at room temp for ~90 minutes, I couldn't get it stretched as big as my usual pies (12-14").  These were 10" pies at best, but the dough may have been the best as well.  On the second pie I really blasted the broiler and finally got the oven to 600F, rather than the usual 550-575F.  It was interesting that 25-50F could alter the crust so dramatically.  Not only did it char better, but there was what I referred to as a real separation.

I use about 4 oz. of mozz, maybe 2-3 oz. of sauce, and a sprinkle of parm for the basic pie, all eyeballed.  The first pie was very good, but the second you could more distinctly taste the crust, and the sauce, and the cheese, all separately but all working together.  My wife liked the second pie better as well, but I don't know if she got what I was talking about with separation. 

Other notes: had some trepidation over using Polly-O mozz due to other threads, but used it here and it worked great.  Also, used 4 medium white button mushrooms sliced to 1/8" to cover both pies, with a small amount of salt and pepper on top.  Not a bad idea but really have to watch the salt, it was on the edge IMO. 

So back to the question: try blooming it, using the bloomed starter to create a firm starter (if called for), and then just pour any excess back with the mother batch.
Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge. --
Mark Twain

Offline grovemonkey

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Re: Questions about sourdough culture
« Reply #22 on: April 03, 2007, 05:45:02 AM »
About 2 weeks ago I started a starter cause the pollen season was in full bloom and it was quite warm here in Tokyo.  My results after about 2 weeks look exactly like what you have produced, Varasano, in your video.  The odor is very unique and quite strong.  I'm really curious how this, "Tokyo Starter" is going to perform.