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Old 12-23-2012, 04:47 PM   #1
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Tips for Culturing Wild Starter and Creating Your Own Sourdough Recipe

. I come from a family of food people: my grandfather, a Master French Chef, food inspector and dietician, his father and mother were a charcutereur and a master baker respectively. Many recipes that I use were handed down from the turn of the century, but not for bread. My grandfather and grandmother gave many recipes to my sister and I as children, but said ‘When it comes to bread, you’re on your own.’ Basically commercial yeasts are all different and local wild strains mutate.

Let’s face it, if you live in Arizona, your chances of culturing a local yeast will be slim to none. Fortunately, I live In the NYC area where the local strains are highly active and fabulously abundant
Just a few tips I’d like to give out if I may:

First: beware of online recipes that you randomly Google up. Many are corrupt from the start. Bakers are, understandably, very protective of their secrets, I am too. If I took months and hundreds of dollars in ingredients to come up with a perfect bread or pastry, I’m only going to tell my kin who bake. But why, I ask, would you bother to post anything bogus online unless you wish to discourage people. You can detect these fake recipes if you are an experienced home baker and know which proportions look hopelessly wrong. I also believe that some reputable sites get hacked by jerks. Any commercial baker worth his salt would not be worried about the home baker. If his goods pass muster, even the home baker will buy them periodically and recommend them to their friends who don’t bake, as quality items. A baker who fears sites like this one will hurt his business are charlatans. Remember this: when a bakery changes hands and keeps the same DBA and all the goods are the same as they were before, they are not bakers, they are copycats.

Second: there are excellent websites out there for those who wish to culture their own wild starter. Don’t be afraid to try a few at once, (in separate parts of the kitchen!) but (see rule three) keep meticulous records of exactly what you have done, even the little errors, ESPECIALLY THE LITTLE ERRORS. Oftentimes the best technique or proportion is discovered through mere serendipity. When it does, it means the baking gods are smiling.

Third: Keep meticulous records. Remember, while you are trying to create your own recipe, you are a microbiologist and biochemist. When you finally have a recipe that you can repeat four times successfully, then you are a baker again. Thank God for that.

Last: Anyone who tells you that you can’t add a little commercial yeast to boost the final rise or two is lying. The strains will not fight in the bowl or the loaf. Wild cultures contain many strains existing harmoniously in nature and in the dough or starter. You don’t need much, I find a teaspoon of dry active in a three one pounder batch works fine and dandy.

Merry Christmas and
Happy Baking

Spearmint

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Old 12-23-2012, 05:31 PM   #2
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I have made my own yeast from grapes and blueberries. It can be done with any food that has a bloom on it. It is not that hard. You just have to remember to feed it.
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Old 12-23-2012, 06:21 PM   #3
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Absolutely Addie, Grapes, raisins and blueberries all attract the same strains and they are very easy to do, but now you have to get the grapes out of the culture if you want to make, say, a rye sourdough bread unless you are not masticating the grapes, which is what you may be talking about.

The reason for my post is to encourage people to start trying to come up with their own recipes and not fear experimentation.

With a new dust bowl looming large in the future, bread prices will skyrocket. Poor people will be forced to pay through the nose for crappy commercial breads that they have become accostomed to. Different parts of the country will call for different techniques and recipes depending on the strains that they can wrangle because commercial yeasts will be almost like gold.

The biggest problem I foresee is lousy pseudo bakers spreading misinformation about flours, yeasts, proportions and baking techniques.

People also have become dependant on ridiculous machines to make their breads. Count on those gizmos to cost double what they do now.

Merry Christmas and
Drink a toast for Auld Lang Syne

Happy Baking

Jim
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Old 12-23-2012, 10:23 PM   #4
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Maybe you can answer something. It seems to me that, unless your flour is put through some chemical process that destroys them, the predominant yeast present will be those with an affinity for wheat in the regions where it was grown. How much yeast is present in flour? I see no reason why it wouldn't be present. And I would think that a yeast distributed throughout the flour would have the best advantage when water was added.

Whether that would be Candida milleri or not, I don't know, but it seems likely. And I would think that the same sort of yeast would have been responsible for the first discovery of leavening when a wet mixture was simply left out uncooked for a while, since these yeasts would have a greater affinity for wheat than brewing yeast or it's descendant, commercial yeast. Is the notion of wild yeast floating around the kitchen really valid, or does it just come with the flour?

As I write, it occurs to me that fungicides are used on wheat to control leaf rust and other problems. I don't know if they persist or are used so late that they affect the yeast load on the corns, but perhaps to use the natural yeasts in flour we need to use organic flour and unchlorinated water.
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Old 12-23-2012, 11:54 PM   #5
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I used King Arthur unbleached AP Flour and filtered water from my tap. AudreyII (my starter) is growing gangbusters. AudreyI was tried with a starter from elsewhere and quickly went bad...conflicting yeasts??
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Old 12-24-2012, 12:31 AM   #6
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Hi GLC,

Well, you should be able to answer some of those questions yourself if you are a microbiologist and have the species names at your fingertips. I also sour my own sauerkraut, but I do not know which lactobacillus I use, I should ask the little buggers. I'd like to think that it's something trendy like acidophilus, but I really don't know for sure. I had trouble making a gram stain in advanced biology in high school so I'm not really the one to ask. I can simply share, however, what I know. All atmosphere, especially near sea level contains microorganisms like yeast and the lactobacillus that goes along with it to make sourdough. I know for certain that my sourdough is not the San Francisco species because that does not occur where I live and I does not smell as sour. There will, as you say, be yeast and bacteria in the packaged flours, as there is air in there with the flour occupying the space in between the tiny particles of flour. So that's a bit of a no brainer. Water helping the process is a bit of an understatement as without it, nothing happens.

As you also know, and I don't know why you ask if you seem to know, processes such as bleaching will inhibit the ability of the baker to start up a culture. Organic flour may work better. Honestly I have not tried it due to the fact that they cost so bloody much. My everyday starter is half rye and half AP baking flour. I can tell you that it was much easier to wrangle a culture with a whole grain involved. I make sourdoughs because I have limited funds and use commercial yeast as sparingly as possible, but I do like it when I'm in a hurry or when I am making a specific recipe that I like that calls for it.

As I said above, I encourage people to try to culture their own yeast. The prices for commercial yeasts will rise and I'd like to see home bakers have a jump on things. It appears that the third seal might have been broken with the dust bowl coming.

Have a very Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year

Spearmint
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Old 12-24-2012, 12:53 AM   #7
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Hi Princess,

When I name a culture, I usually name it after the specific location it was started. My everyday Rye culture is called HERMAN. It was started on the window sill of the kitchen. We have a grape vine and mulberries in the back. It's a family tradition that goes way back. It insures a very active culture.

I don't know the difference between AudreyI and AudreyII other than you said you used a starter from elsewhere for AudreyI. I would guess unsuitable climate or altitude more than conflicting microorganisms strains. If you're in MT, you got all kinds of little microclimates going on. Who knows. I've had HERMAN totally die on me once but I always split the starter in two when it gets going. So I just fed the backup twice and I was rolling again. I just had to blame it on the evil pixies that visit now and again.

Merry Christmas and
A very Happy New Year
Love that Big Sky

Spearmint
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Old 12-24-2012, 01:29 AM   #8
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Audrey I and Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, "Feed me Seymour!" Because it's funny, to me at least. Nothing more than it makes me giggle.

I do know that Audrey II has a distinctly different flavor than the starter I grew in Wyoming, which did not last long here, either. Difference in beasties and altitude was too great. Poor Audrey I tried, but turned a sickly red on me after three days. Not sure what got into it, her starter was imported from Vermont.

Nice thing about starters, you can get back up and running in a couple of weeks.
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Old 12-24-2012, 08:35 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GLC View Post
As I write, it occurs to me that fungicides are used on wheat to control leaf rust and other problems. I don't know if they persist or are used so late that they affect the yeast load on the corns, but perhaps to use the natural yeasts in flour we need to use organic flour and unchlorinated water.
That's a good point, but I don't know if that matters all that much. My impression is that fungicides will affect some strains but not others. I grow grapes and fungicides are also applied in the vineyard (primarily for control of botrytis, black rot, and mildews). However, the grapes will nevertheless begin to ferment naturally once the skins are broken and the juice comes in contact with the yeast bloom.
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Old 12-24-2012, 09:48 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spearmint View Post
Hi GLC,

Well, you should be able to answer some of those questions yourself if you are a microbiologist and have the species names at your fingertips.
No such luck. I just noticed the difference between the commercial strain and the environmental strain and wanted to make it clear which I was talking about.

Quote:
I know for certain that my sourdough is not the San Francisco species because that does not occur where I live and I does not smell as sour. There will, as you say, be yeast and bacteria in the packaged flours, as there is air in there with the flour occupying the space in between the tiny particles of flour. So that's a bit of a no brainer.
That's kind of why I was wondering. I don't like the sour part of sourdough. If I culture from the combination of flour and the environment, I'd like to know which source is contributing the most. ...

Quote:
As you also know, and I don't know why you ask if you seem to know, processes such as bleaching will inhibit the ability of the baker to start up a culture. Organic flour may work better. Honestly I have not tried it due to the fact that they cost so bloody much. My everyday starter is half rye and half AP baking flour. I can tell you that it was much easier to wrangle a culture with a whole grain involved.
Perhaps the yeast also like the virtues of the whole grain, as we do. So, I guess it's time for a little experiment. Seeing about culturing with organic unbleached, with minimal exposure to the environment, and see what develops.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Kroll View Post
That's a good point, but I don't know if that matters all that much. My impression is that fungicides will affect some strains but not others. I grow grapes and fungicides are also applied in the vineyard (primarily for control of botrytis, black rot, and mildews). However, the grapes will nevertheless begin to ferment naturally once the skins are broken and the juice comes in contact with the yeast bloom.
No doubt you're right, and I may try the fllour-yeast-only experiment with regular unbleached first, since there's a great savings if it work well.

Someone's probably done all this before. I just haven't found it written up.
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