sourdough starter : LUSENET : FAQ : One Thread

I was given a recipe for sourdough starter and i mixed it up on tuesday. It is suppose to sit on the counter covered for 5 days (and has potato flakes in it). And I am to stir it everyday. Today is the 4th day since mixed and I am concerned with what it looks like. The solids have separated from the water, similar to how oil and water does. My gut tells me to scratch it and start over. Please advice. Thanks

JMyers (someone who so desperately wants to learn how to make homemade breads, but continues to come up short).

-- Anonymous, January 05, 2001


Without looking at the formula, I cannot speculate on this individual instance. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind.

Traditional sourdough starters are not cultivated with commercial bread yeast alone. (Sacharromyces Cerevisia) Starters are a combination of wild yeast with a bacteria. There is evidence that the two even protect each other on a biotic level.

One of the most notable teams is Lactobacillus Sanfransisco/Sacharromyces Cerevisia, which will produce a Sanfransisco sour. These particular strains are common in the air around the San Fran area. The bacteria and the yeast form a symbiosis, changing carbohydrate into sugar, which in turn fuel the energy and development of the culture. The by-products of the activity are organic acids and esters which if given time, will accumulate to the point of being "sour" Isolating these can be difficult in some areas, especially households where the necessary strain does not exist. Due to the sanitation levels of our society, we have all but removed these "little beasties" from our homes and lives. If you are thoroughly idealistic, keep trying. It may take many tries to get what you want. You are creating a medium of food, setting it out like a fisherman's net, then pulling in the harvest. It may take time to find what you want, and certainly the results will vary from place to place. Think like a fisherman. Where do fish hang out?

A true sourdough is even different according to where you live in the world. A Saudi Sourdough is different from Egyptian, which is different from a Yukon. All have different characteristics.

The bubbly starter you desire (also known as a poolish) will be busy at room temp, and will have a notable sour or acidic smell after a few days of fermentation. It will also need to be fed regularly. You are essentially dealing with a small society. (Think SIMS the game) If you need a reference, maybe visit a local baker to get a feel for what it should look like. Keep in mind that as a scientist, you should feel no shame in using references for ideas and possibly obtaining isolated cultures that are ready to use. It can be done naturally, but you will never be able to naturally start a San Fran sour in Ohio, (unless you have someone from San Fran take a bath in your starter perhaps!) The time you spend isolating these cultures could also be spent starting different cultures from around the world to examine the wonder and nuance of each, rather than fighting to get one started. Answer this for yourself, but many companies have starters that are isolated and ready to use. SAF Yeast comes to mind, but Sourdough Internat'l is another.

-- Anonymous, January 05, 2001

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