Author Topic: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"  (Read 27477 times)

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Offline varasano

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #25 on: January 28, 2005, 10:08:58 AM »
Hey Guys,

I know I said I'm not writing for a while because I'm too busy, but let me put in my opinion here. You can't start a while yeast culture from commercial yeast.  I heard someone say that you start the starter with commercial yeast and that over time it 'goes wild'.  This is like saying that you are starting your lawn with grass and hoping over time it 'goes tomatoes'.  It's the exact same thing. Grass will not morph into tomatoes unless it evolves into it in a million generations. Biology does not work like that.

This is not a chemical process. This is a growth process. You reap what you sew. You can 'trap' wild yeast by putting out some food. But which yeast you get is a total and complete crap shoot. It could be great. But you won't know and it may discourage you from the whole idea. Your lawn is more likely to 'go dandelions' than 'go tomatoes'.

If you want to grow tomatoes buy some tomato seeds and plant them.

On another topic, 40% of my dough is starter by weight. Ed wood does about the same.

Jeff


Offline Steve

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #26 on: January 28, 2005, 11:49:54 AM »
Jeff,

Quick question. I purchased some sourdough starters from Ed Wood and am curious about the name. The "sour" dough starters... will they produce a tasty, full-flavored, non-sour bread/pizza? Or will my breads turn out sour like the classic SF sourdough?

The reason I ask is that I can't find a plain old "starter" ... everything is called a "sourdough" starter. I purchased two Italian cultures and one French culture, plus I'll have the one that you're sending (I bought Ed's book, but it hasn't arrived yet.)

So, back to my question... are all starters called "sourdough" even if they don't produce a sour tasting bread?  ???

Offline varasano

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #27 on: January 28, 2005, 12:02:57 PM »
The term sourdough is just a term for all starters.  There is a wide variety of outcomes and diversity in starters, just as mint is different from basil, from taragon, from rosemary, etc. All sourdoughs will produce some acidity and alcohol which gives rise to the term 'sour' dough. But the one I'm sending you is very mild and not at all like Ed's San Fran.

Even with Ed's you can control the overall strength of the effect that the yeast gives by adjusting times and temperatures of rising and chilling, etc.

The more I'm thinking about it, the more I realize there is a LOT to know. It took me years, but I really had no one to ask so hopefully you'll get quicker results.  I will get that out to you next week. I will say this:  it''s only now, after 2 1/2 years that the pizza REALLY tastes like Patsy's. I could always smell the patsy's in there, but the taste never showed through until I had everything else right. But hopefully you will go much much faster with my recipe and a bit of Q&A

Jeff

Offline Giovanni

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #28 on: January 30, 2005, 11:05:42 PM »
This is the best thread i have seen on these forums in a long time. When i go to my favorite local pizzeria their pies looks exactly like what i make at home but their crust has such a great yeastly flavor. After reading all of your posts on this 'starter' and different yeast strains i'm almost certain this is their secret. They must be doing something similar to obtain that extra flavor in the crust. That's the only thing my pie's are lacking on. I can't wait to see what your results are Steve.

Offline davtrent

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #29 on: March 18, 2005, 12:49:46 PM »
Sourdough starters have significantly improved the flavor of my pizza crusts and I would encourage other pizza enthusiasts who have not tried them to do so.

The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, who also wrote American Pie , was my first introduction to explaining how preferments  could markedly improve the flavor of bread.

Nancy Silverton, in Breads from the La Brea Bakery, provides a very good overview of her process for starting and maintaining a sourdough culture from the wild yeast and bacteria present on grape skins.  Some may find her directions too complicated and time consuming but I think it's worth the read.

I  highly recommend  Dr. Daniel Wing and Alan Scott's book, The Bread Builders--Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens .  In addition to being the "bible" of wood oven construction, the book provides a thorough discussion of natural levens and doughs.  They state that  "there is little reason to start a culture if you have a friend who has one, or you can afford to buy one from Sourdoughs International or King Arthur".  But they  provide a process anyway for those who may wish to culture their own.

I've been maintaining two cultures for a couple of years now which I originally purchased from King Arthur.  I'll be glad to send anyone a free culture of either if you send me a SSAE.   "Pain de Campagne" has a slightly more subtle tang than than "French Sourdough" but both are excellent.

I NEVER contaminate the cultures by adding commercial yeast,  but will  sometimes "spike" the dough with instant dry yeast prior to overnight retarding.

Regards,

David Trent

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #30 on: March 18, 2005, 01:16:55 PM »
David,

I originally made a sourdough starter based on Nancy Silverton's instructions. You are right about the complexity and time involved. I think I went through a bag of flour just to get the starter going. When I ended up with more than I could use, I spread the excess out on a baking sheet and let it completely dry. Then I broke it up into pieces and put the pieces in a plastic storage bag and into my pantry. It stayed there for some time. Much later, to see if it was still viable, I took a piece of it, added some water and flour and made a new starter. It worked. I also gave a piece of the dried starter to my brother, who also resuscitated it. God only knows what wild yeast were in the final starter. The starter may have picked up different wild yeast while drying or during rescuscitation.

Peter

Offline davtrent

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #31 on: March 19, 2005, 12:45:37 PM »
Peter,

It is truly amazing to me that yeast can dry out, generate spores and go dormant for months or years until they "awaken" when a more favorable environment (rehydration) presents itself.

I've read that local, "native" yeast have a tendency to dominate a culture over time.  If so, I'm not really sure how to practically protect the genetic integrity of a  culture, apart from re-establishing it from pure stock and enjoying it until it too, is eventually dominated by the local yeasty boys.

Now if someone would just market a combination laminar flow cabinet /proofing box...  :)

Regards,

David Trent

Offline pizzanapoletana

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #32 on: March 19, 2005, 10:08:10 PM »
If you keep the culture in the garden, or open to the wind, there is your chance that your culture will get dominate from the Local one. I am using,  in London UK, a culture here from Ischia (An Island in the gulf of Naples, Italy), believed to be 200years old. " years have passed, and it still produce the same flavours, work as always, etc. I am also using 2 more cultures (of which one is from a 300 years old pizzeria) and they all work differently and produce different tastes. It is just a matter of culture management.

Offline Nathan

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #33 on: March 20, 2005, 06:01:22 PM »
Hey I don't know if anyone has seen this or is even interested but check it out if you want.  You can get a free starter from this site: http://home.att.net/~carlsfriends/

"Carl T. Griffith, who gave a sourdough starter to anyone who asked, or who sent him a self-addressed stamped envelope, died early in the year 2000 at the age of 80. He is known for his generosity and the high quality and vitality of his sourdough starts, which came from a sourdough culture carefully nurtured and preserved in his family for over 150 years."
"Pizza with pineapples?  That's a cake."


Offline MTPIZZA

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #34 on: April 08, 2005, 07:35:26 AM »
I have this starter and it works great...just more work with feeding it to keep it alive...just make sure you use a large enough container to start with as you have to use a good deal to make the dough react and be able to rise. You will notice that the dough when stretched will have a "spidery" web--why the gluten fibers react this way I don't know...maybe Pete-ezza can explain... but the taste is worth it when baking..pie has no yeasty smell and a fresh dough smell...yummy!

Offline pyegal

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #35 on: April 23, 2005, 11:45:07 PM »
Just wanted to report in with my results of the pizza I made today using my sourdough starter:

The starter is the Oregon Trail Sourdough Culture from Carl's Friends on the web. I've had mine going for about a year and a half now.  The dough recipe was as follows:

1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup filtered water
1 t. yeast (IDY)
2 cups all purpose flour

Mixed together and put in fridge for 24 hours to ferment? I'm still learning the language here.

Then today I added to the dough:

1 1/2 t. sea salt
2 TB self-rising cornmeal mix (I like the crunch)
1 t. sunflower oil
1 t. olive oil
additional 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour

This made enough dough for 3 smallish (12-14") pizzas.

I kneaded the dough for over 10 minutes with the KA mixer dough hook, tried the windowpane test (not completely certain what I'm looking for when doing this :-\ but I did it anyway), then kneaded by hand for another 5 minutes. The dough was really easy to stretch out by hand, although I need more practice at getting a nice, round pizza. I had some voids in the crust edges like I've seen in some photos here, but overall, I thought the crust was a little tough.

I made an uncooked sauce with some canned tomatoes from Walmart, pear tomatoes in strips with puree and basil (yeah right, exactly 1 basil leaf). But actually, these tomatoes were pretty darn good for a WMart brand. I mixed them with 3 oz. of tomato paste (Hunt's), fresh grated garlic, a little sugar and salt, oregano, basil, and marjoram, black pepper, red crushed pepper, and 1/4 cup grated Romano. I will make  this sauce again! It was spicy and very flavorful.

Put some cooked Italian sausage and Poly O whole milk mozzarella on the pie, cooked it on tiles in a 500 degree oven until it looked done. Not too much browning on the crust, but some slight char on the bottom. The cheese was maybe sliced too thin, it melted into the sauce too much I thought.

There is an Italian deli near where Son #1 lives and they sell La Valle canned tomatoes. I plan to try those very soon.

I have to admit that I'm a more than a little intimidated to post photos of today's pizza here. Maybe next time? :-[

I'm completely open to any criticism or advice you care to give on what I could have done different/better with this pizza today. :)

Offline varasano

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #36 on: April 24, 2005, 12:02:43 AM »
Hey pyegal,

I was just thinking today that there is not a single woman on this forum and then you posted.  It's nice to have you :-) 

If you click over on the little globe icon under my name you will see some photos of windowpaning along with a procedure for mixing the dough which will act as a pretty good guide for mixing the dough properly to achieve this.

Jeff

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #37 on: April 24, 2005, 10:19:42 AM »
Pyegal,

Welcome to the forum and thank you for posting your recipe.

Judging from your recipe and the technique you recited, it looks like you are using a refrigerated version of a sponge to make what appears to be a same-day dough. From your description, it appears that once you combined the refrigerated sponge with the rest of the ingredients, you did not let the resulting (kneaded) dough rise before shaping. If that was the case, then that might well explain the toughness of the crust and its minimal coloration. Next time, you may want to let the dough rise after kneading for a couple of hours, or until doubled, before shaping. You can also punch the dough down again and let rise again until doubled. These actions will help release the natural sugars in the flour to contribute to browning and will also help achieve much better gluten development through biochemical action.

The windowpaning you mention is a technique often used to determine whether a dough has been adequately kneaded. The term is also often used (as Jeff often does) to describe the transparency/translucency characteristic of a dough at the time of stretching. In the former case, once the dough has been kneaded for a while, you should break off a piece of dough about the size of a walnut and flatten and stretch it thinly in all directions. The dough should not tear and you should be able to see light through it. If it tears, then that usually means you need more kneading.

I think your recipe is amenable to several variations. For example, instead of refrigerating your sponge, you can leave it at room temperature for several hours, or even overnight, before using. You can also use it (refrigerated or unrefrigerated) to make the final dough and refrigerate the dough overnight, or even longer, before using. You will have to experiment with these alternatives to see which gives you the best finished product for your tastes since each approach may yield a different flavor profile, with some being more potent than others.

Peter
« Last Edit: April 08, 2006, 08:38:21 AM by Pete-zza »

Offline pyegal

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #38 on: April 24, 2005, 11:08:50 AM »
Thank you for your suggestions, Peter.

I did let the dough rise (on the counter, under the mixing bowl) for at least an hour after adding the additional ingredients, the rest of the flour, and kneading by dough hook and hand.

Re the windowpane test: I did test it first and it tore after a bit of stretching, so I kneaded the dough again by hand for about 5 minutes and re-tested. It stretched better the second time. I expected the tearing to be in the middle of my small sample of dough, but it tore on the outer edges.

After reading Varsano's web site on his trials to replicate Patsy's pizza, I think maybe my dough had too much flour in it and I think I need to let it rest a bit more and not be in such a hurry. I have a tendency to really get impatient with sticky doughs of any type and maybe I add too much flour to correct what I perceive as a problem. ::)

I will continue to experiment and practice this craft.

pyegal

Offline MTPIZZA

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #39 on: April 24, 2005, 11:22:08 AM »
heres a pic of my dough using mostly starter and a pinch of IDY...cool rise in basement no frig... ready to bake today should have pics later...

Offline varasano

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #40 on: April 24, 2005, 12:13:12 PM »
Hey pyegal,

When I have dough that fails a windowpane test I really feel it needs to go back in the machine, rather than be hand mixed.  I have never, (and believe me I've tried) seen much improvement in a hand knead. In fact, oddly, it seems to make it worse. I've never quite determined why, but I've certainly tried a zillion times.

I don't break off a tiny piece to test. I test using a full dough ball size piece.  Again this is from experience.  Some try to make a little 1 inch by 1 inch square and if it looks translucent they think it's ok. To me test test is to see if the dough will go full size without breaking.

The truth is that after a few experiments you have to be able to advance to a different level of testing anyway.  The dough may come off the hook not testing well, yet after 15 minutes it would test great. But by then you don't want to stretch a piece because once you stretch it out and roll it back up, it will never quite spring back the same for the pizza.  So for now I'd make a bit extra and test that and toss it. But really, after a while you can just tell what it's supposed to be like at the hook and so you never test at all.  The overall smoothness, satininess and blistering of the dough balls is the indicator that the dough is in great shape.

When the dough is done mixing, sprinkle a tiny bit of flour on it and feel it. It should be SOOOO soft and smooth, even if the areas that had no flour sprinkle were sticky and not so smooth.

This is a lot easier to show in person...

Jeff

Offline pyegal

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #41 on: April 24, 2005, 01:58:29 PM »
"Just like a baby's bottom," right Jeff? LOL! That's what I used to say about how bread dough should feel when I was teaching breadmaking classes.

I used AP flour (KA) yesterday (because that's what was the closest to hand) but I've got KA bread flour in the pantry also. I think I will use that next time for pizza dough. And maybe use one of the recipes here for the crust, no sourdough starter.

What I would like in a pizza crust is chewiness without being tough and a good flavor, thin w/o being cracker-like. I think flavor is of prime importance. When I buy a pizza, I usually get the handtossed from Papa John's or a regular Neapolitan style from a good local Italian restaurant, Sal's.

I like sausage pizza over pepperoni and have been making my own country breakfast sausage for several months. So... maybe I'm ready to try making a batch of my own Italian sausage?

Teresa, aka pyegal


Offline varasano

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #42 on: April 24, 2005, 02:19:01 PM »
Hey teresa,

I wouldn't drop the starter. The best recipes here use a starter, in my opinion. I haven't tried Carl's but have heard good things about it on other sites. I use one from Patsy's pizza.

Jeff

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Sourdough Cultures or "Starters"
« Reply #43 on: April 24, 2005, 04:28:15 PM »
Teresa,

I agree with Jeff on the use of starters. The best tasting crusts I have made have come from using a natural starter along with 00 flour, specifically, the Caputo 00 pizzeria flour, in a scaled-down version of a recipe originally posted by pizzanapoletana. If you go to the Caputo thread (at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,986.0.html) where I reported on the results of my efforts using those ingredients, as well as some other variations, you might find some helpful tips for producing a crust with the characteristics you mentioned.

Peter
« Last Edit: April 24, 2005, 04:33:19 PM by Pete-zza »


 

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