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is sourdough starter a waste of time, a critical thinking question

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

is sourdough starter a waste of time, a critical thinking question

This is a serious question.  I know there's a whole bunch of science behind this such that the knowledgeable folk of TFL can shed immediate light on my internal debate.

I'm a pretty hot and cold baker. I go through bouts. I'm torn between my love of Artisan Bread, my fear of carbs and my distaste at the idea of raising any more wild creatures in this house. The two tiny feral humans I'm legally and ethically required to keep alive keep me busy enough.

But oh, I've got the itch. It happens every 18 months or so and I just have to get a sourdough starter culture going again. Yes, I could have dried the last one...but I didn't...okay? After I scratch that itch for a month or two, my starters usually die a slow, neglectful death in the fridge and I just don't have the stomach for drying the stuff that looks black and decrepit, nor the patience to freshen it up. So, even if my particular "Fred" isn't 100% dead yet, it gets chucked.

Currently, I'm on day 3 of a new culture but I am also torn...cause...pre-ferments made from commercial yeast are awesome. And I'm all about the 80/20 rule. In this case, it's like 90/10. I can get to 90% of the result with 10% of the effort with a fine poolish. But let's not debate these numbers...I know you want to...because that's not what the question is about.

Here's the crux of it. How many of us spend all this time raising and keeping up a sourdough starter only to have it dominated by Saccharomyces cerevisiae (commercial yeast species) anyway? Well, if the Rob Dunn Lab Project is to be believed -- the answer is A LOT. I mean let's face it, it's kind of a crapshoot. Our particular yeast population is probably determined by the flour we started it with. I think we have dismissed that old wives' tale that the yeast are captured from the air, have we not?

Okay, so I know, there are sub-strains. I know that starter cultures are not all made up of one strain, necessarily. But looking at the RDLP, a heck-of-a-lot of them are dominated by the same species as commercial yeast. So, we've already started with the question of whether or not the flavor differences warrant the effort at all, and now we add to it the likelihood that we might just be raising the retail stuff anyway...it seems like the law of diminishing returns is in full-effect.

Of course, I know some people live for this and keep five starters at the same time, and I bow to you. But for us non-full-time-bread-nerds, those of us who aren't doing it for the love of keeping a starter pet, who haven't read Trevor Wilson's book three times (well, I read it three times but I only had one kid back then)...is it worth it?

Please, consider this an open question, not a statement. What am I missing here? I can't see why inoculating and building a levain from hand raised yeast species that is the same as commercial yeast would be different than using freeze-dried retail yeast of the exact same variety? Why would the LAB act any differently? Does sub-strain really matter? Does 2% of another strain make such a big difference? My instincts tell me that flavor is going to be more affected by how you build a levain -- time, temperature, etc. over whether or not you have 2% diversity of a different yeast strain in your mother.

If we're talking about digestive benefits, I suppose the question becomes why start a starter from scratch when you can just start one from commercial yeast and then maintain it like a starter...(again, assuming statistically, most of us are raising commercial yeast species anyway).

I've often said this is the nicest place on the internet. I think I might be testing that theory with this question. Let's see.

Abhi_Mahant's picture
Abhi_Mahant

I just use starter from previous dough which has 3% oil also added to it, currently whole wheat with approx 90% hydration, what I see is that the starter gets mixed up earlier than oil(which I have observed helps with flavor), so in my case it's not extra effort.

Rempejek's picture
Rempejek

Interesting premises

My gut feeling is that it is different. But I don't know.

I'm just posting so I get notified of replies

Abe's picture
Abe

Is not the yeasts per se but the presence of Lactic Acid producing bacteria. Just because Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the more common yeast it is not the only species and wild Saccharomyces cerevisiae is not the same as bakers yeast. I waste no time in keeping a starter and prefer sourdough to regular yeast bread by far. I think a lot of your interpretation of the information you've given is more about seek and you shall find. It may be because you think keeping a starter is difficult or you really don't wish to take care of one so you've come to this conclusion. Lot's of misinformation in your comment. For example...

What am I missing here? I can't see why inoculating and building a levain from hand raised commercial yeast would be different than using freeze-dried retail yeast of the exact same variety"?

A levain doesn't use commerical yeast and it's not the exact same variety.  

Isand66's picture
Isand66

Keeping a starter is not time consuming once you have it developed.  I’ve had the same starter going for over 20 years and it sits in my refrigerator nice and content,  I use a little piece to make a fresh starter in the same time it takes to make a commercial yeast preferment.  In my experience you cannot achieve the same flavor profile using commercial yeast as you can with a natural starter which is a huge difference.  Also, I’m not a scientist but I’m pretty sure my natural starter does not have the same exact strain of yeast as a commercial yeast does.

Abe's picture
Abe

Many overthink the process. If it's bothersome they're doing it wrong. Like you, making a pre-ferment with yeast takes exactly the same effort as making a levain using starter. 

It's the equivalent of saying wolves and dogs are the same thing. 

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

We'll have to agree to disagree that maintaining a starter is as easy as using commercial yeast.

If it's any consolation, I kept "Abe" the starter I named after you alive the longest. He did good work. And in that case, it was absolutely worth it because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had a unique strain. So, entirely different animal. I even dried Abe but the hubby accidentally threw him out not knowing what it was.

I also figured out that the vast struggle I was having with starter at the time (which both you and Dan were helping me with) was related to my water. I had long dismissed the "chlorine-tap-water" as a potential problem since so many people claim to use tap water without issue. Well, as soon as I revisited that idea and started using bottled...voila...all my problems disappeared.

Just a side note...

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I'm referring to building a levain with a carefully built and maintained starter that ends up being the same strain as commercial yeast (so, yes a levain) versus simply building a pre-ferment from commercial yeast. So, the term is accurate here.

But I am interested in your assertion that s.c. is not the same species as baker's yeast because everything I've read uses that scientific name to indicate baker's yeast. So, obviously, if I'm wrong there (though I do call out the existence of sub-strains) then we have a different conversation.

HeiHei29er's picture
HeiHei29er

I agree with you on commercial yeast and the quality of breads you can make with it.  I regularly switch between ADY and my sourdough starter.  I think the crux of your problem is this…

distaste at the idea of raising any more wild creatures in this house.

As mentioned already, the time it takes to make a levain is no different than the time it takes to make a poolish.  I’m guessing then that the issue becomes the time it takes for sourdough maintenance, especially if you’re only baking once every 2-3 weeks.  The challenges are real, especially with little ones under foot and the time it takes running them all over as they get older. 😁

Once your starter is established, it can easily survive in the fridge for two weeks.  The black stuff on top… that’s just hooch and can be poured off.  The extra beasties you’re raising are fine underneath it.  Pour it off and do a refresh.  They will be fine.  It will probably take one or two refreshes to get them back up to strength.  Use the discard to make pancakes or cookies for the upright beasties in the house. 😉

With that, if you bake every 4 weeks and only refresh once every two weeks, there’s only one “maintenance” refresh in the cycle.  The other refresh just happens as part of baking a loaf of bread.  

As mentioned already, it’s not just the yeast that makes a sourdough starter unique. It’s the bacteria and multiple strains of yeast (even if they are there in tiny amounts) that give SD breads their unique flavor.  It does take another level of commitment, no doubt, but if you can find a way to give your starter a little TLC once every 2 weeks, I think you’ll be able to make the time commitment manageable.

Good luck!

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

I agree with all of the above (i.e. it takes almost no time to maintain an established starter, and LABs in sourdough are the main interesting part, not the yeast). But also, if it's not for you, breads made with CY can be delicious, as you said yourself, no need to push yourself.

Just to note, if you decided to bake high % rye bread, you basically have to use sourdough, or you need some other source of acidity.

Econprof's picture
Econprof

I know I’m stating the obvious, but rye starters are very low maintenance.

Creating a new starter is a lot more work. I wouldn’t like to do that regularly. 

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

+1 forgot to mention that, with rye it's easier!

alcophile's picture
alcophile

Another +1 for rye starter. My 1-year-old 100% rye starter survived six weeks without feeding because of surgery. It's still happy and usually only gets fed about every two weeks.

pogrmman's picture
pogrmman

Unlike most, I keep a firm starter, and I’ve had it last 18 months in the fridge without refreshment. It was back to full strength after ~4-5 feedings or so. Firm starters tend to keep longer than more liquid starters, but I wouldn’t recommend letting it go that long. It’ll pop right back after just a couple refreshments if it’s been under 6 months or so.

I settled on a firm starter because that’s what I was taught by my father and also, with some experimenting, I’ve found it to be a bit more forgiving than the standard 100% hydration most people keep. It doesn’t matter so much if you miss a feeding or two and it keeps well in the fridge. I also like kneading the starter and find it less messy than a liquid starter.

I do agree that you can bake really good bread with a commercial yeasted preferment — as long as you have a slow fermentation, it’ll be pretty tasty. But, I also like sourdough because it adds another layer of complexity to the flavor of the bread. I don’t personally find it to be any more time consuming than a slow fermented bread with commercial yeast. I do have to refresh my starter, but that’s maybe 15 minutes of time for each batch of bread I do spread across two days.

I think a big part is finding a baking schedule that works for you. I also bake in starts and fits, so my starter spends a lot of time in the fridge. I end up doing bread maybe 10-20 times a year.

What I typically do is take my starter out of the fridge Thursday morning for a Saturday bake. It gets fed Thursday evening and Friday morning, and I make the preferment and feed again on Friday evening. The starter goes back in the fridge when I go to bed and I bake the next day. If my starter has been in the fridge more than a month, it comes out a day earlier. 

I think if you’re not making a new starter each time you get into sourdough, it’s much more rewarding. Making a starter from scratch is variable and they don’t really settle in and become strong until they’ve been going for a month or so. But once you have it, if you’re able to keep it going it’s very straightforward.

I’ve done a side-by-side test before with a sourdough and a yeasted preferment. The breads were identical — an overnight firm preferment with the same formula and a similar fermentation time. They were both really good, but the naturally fermented one was notably better in flavor and, to a lesser extent, texture and keeping ability.

In college, I baked a lot of slow-fermented yeasted breads (basically, my old sourdough recipes but the sourdough preferment was replaced by a yeasted one) and got bored rather quick because while the results were god, they were just missing that special something. So, I started baking sourdough instead and was immediately much happier with my bread. 

The other thing I’ll note is I’ve found almost all whole grain breads are much better when done with a starter than with yeast. Rye definitely needs a starter, but even whole wheat comes out a lot better with a sourdough fermentation. I don’t bake any sourdough breads with 100% white flour because the flavor is much superior with a little whole grain.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

So, the side-by-side test is really something I need to do once I get my starter going. Because really, only I can decide for myself if the difference is worth it or not.

I'm considering investing in a freeze-dryer. One of the things I could do is freeze dry my own starter. I mean, I know the commercial yeast has the big lungs, but I don't see any reason why would couldn't freeze dry other species of yeast and the LAB that lives with them.

That's a good point about the whole grain. When I do decide to taste test this, I'll make sure to include that as a variable.

So, given your results, I have to wonder about a lazy sourdough starter. So, this is yet a separate consideration. Thus far I've talked about:

1. Commercial yeast sold in retail stores, used to make a pre-ferment

2. Sourdough born and maintained at home that ends up being dominated (by mere chance) by the same species as commercial yeast. 

3. Sourdough made and maintained at home that is not dominated by the same species as commercial yeast (it seems everybody assumes this is what they have at home though the studies don't back it up)

4. Another consideration: lazy starter inoculated by commercial yeast but maintained over a long period of time like any other homemade sourdough starter. This one is obviously going to be dominated by c.s. species. But this is by design rather than luck as is the case for item 2. Here, if the LAB have the time to mature and develop in a way that a preferment doesn't the results could be much closer if I were to repeat your experiment. It defeats the purpose of not wanting to maintain a starter, but it would answer some questions about what's going on.

 

Econprof's picture
Econprof

When you try the side by side test. I would be interested to know what you think. (Not looking for any particular result, just curious.)

clevins's picture
clevins

That's the simple answer. It's yeast (and perhaps several strains?) and bacteria. It's more complex than commercial yeast. 

For myself a weekly bake is very little effort but I don't have little kids. I take my starter out of the fridge, feed it a couple of times, mix some flour(s) and water, autolyse. Then I mix everything for a few minutes in the KA and dump that into a bowl. 3-4 stretch and folds over the next couple of hours, another couple of hours sitting covered, then a quick preshape and shape. Into a pan if I'm doing it that way or the banneton. Cover, into the fridge. Next morning I preheat the oven, shove the dough in and bake.

There's a lot of time but most if it's not active. You need to be around for a couple of hours for the stretch and fold sets but other than that, it's hands off for long stretches.

All that said, iif you don't want to bother with it, that's fine. I think the issue is more 'do you want to bake' and it's not clear that you want to (or can?) with any regularity. If, for whatever reason, you bake and then don't for months, I'd say it's better/easier/fine to just create preferments and use yeast to bake when you get the urge. 

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

To get to the answer that "it's more than just yeast" we have to assert the following:

- We have diversity in our starters. It seems a lot of people actually don't or don't have much. And are you one of the lucky few that has some diversity and uniqueness? How would one know?

- Does that diversity make a discernible flavor difference? Or is the real difference found in inoculation%, time and temperature? If it's the latter, then we can do that with retail yeast.

The question only really matters if you are looking for the best bread with the most efficiency. That's what I'm trying to do. Perhaps I'm talking to the wrong crowd because I know this group is made up of passionate enthusiasts who are happy to put in more effort to increase the result to as close to the ideal as possible.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

There is no question that any SD starter contains lactic acid bacteria, and potentially also acetic acid bacteria. They are the main drivers of sourdough flavour, i.e. higher acidity compared to CY breads. Not necessarily the yeast, as you say most SD starters that have been studied indeed have the same species of yeast as you can buy in the shop.

You can "cheat" by adding some kind of acidic product to your bread leavened with just commercial yeast (vinegar, lactic acid, yogurt, whey, or other soured dairy products, etc). It's up to you to try that and see whether you like this more, less or same as sourdough, or CY preferments.

I have a feeling you already made up your mind though, and it's your bread in your home, who are we to tell you what to do? :)

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I'm currently starting a new starter right now, so, indeed, I haven't made up my mind. And to be clear, I've used every low-maintenance starter method out there. Of course, it's not THAT much time in the grand scheme of things. But it's just another spinning plate in a world of a lot of spinning plates.

Yes, those are great suggestions. I think a lot of people could benefit from such methods. I've used Kenji-Lopez-Alt's method of adding beer and vinegar to the loaf and I found it lacking in complexity. I prefer to use a preferment and a high hydration. I think the lactic acid produced is more complex rather than the acetic acid hit from just straight vinegar. Commercial bread makers use the vinegar trick a lot. I always check the ingredient list on a loaf of "sourdough." 

I know LAB creates the flavor but LAB come to play anyway. So, I'm still left wondering if the flavor differences are all that great when we can use inoc %, time and temp to manipulate flavor very effectively, and we can do that whether its home-grown or retail.

I'm a serious bread-lover. But one can be a serious bread-lover/baker and be short on time. Two things can be simultaneously true.

alcophile's picture
alcophile

I'm totally with you on the sourdough question. I resisted for a while because it seemed like so much work. But I wanted to make high% rye breads and bit the bullet. I use the starter for the ryes because I have to, but I like the predictability of IDY when I make a whole wheat sandwich loaf.

What about a hybrid, where the levain is made with a starter, but then IDY is added to the final dough to shorten the BF and proof? The levain might take the same amount of hands-on time as a poolish, but the IDY would improve the predictability. Maybe the best of both worlds?

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

My plan with infant starter is to do 2 loaves a week. One with the levain and another with the discard and commercial yeast. I think that will help me get through the waste. I'll probably also do the scrapings method. NMNF is great but I don't have the patience for a 3-step levain build.

But yeah, with rye, the question is completely moot. Starter all the way.

And please, nobody point out the obvious thing, which is that in the hour it takes to write about all this stuff, I could have spent 2 minutes a day maintaining a starter for almost 2 months.

clevins's picture
clevins

As above, aside from the length of the bulk ferment being 4-6 hours, it just doesn't take me that much more time to do the SD version vs dropping in some SAF Red so I'm not sure I get that part of your argument. I don't see a great difference between doing a couple of feedings of the starter the day before I make the dough and starting a poolish the night before I do the same. 

As to whether my starter is really biologically that much more complex... got me. I think it might be but I'll admit I'm going off popular sources like Pollan's book etc vs rigorous studies or testing. Since the starter is easy to maintain and use, I do. But I also bake weekly, more or less, so I don't have to worry about long term maintenance issues.

At this point, it just sounds like it's easier for you to use commercial yeast. When the rugrats are in school, maybe baking more often with a starter fits better. Heck you could even compare, then. 

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

Here's the video channel of the guy who got me out of the bread machine, and taught me about long fermentation, Steve Gamelin.

http://www.youtube.com/user/artisanbreadwithstev/

All his baking is with instant yeast. It's a "straight dough," no preferment. I think the best loaves use an 8 to 12 hour bulk rise, and a 1.5 hour proof.

It's the most "hands off" method that I've come across.

Here is my favorite, a 50% WW with honey:
https://wwwzyoutube.com/watch?v=vcmS7uahscI

It's all no-knead, but you get a thinner crust on the WW loaves if you do some kneading up front.

mariana's picture
mariana

Sourdough starter has a lot to do with you as a baker and with the people you love.

If you do not like sourdough baking then of course it is a waste of your time. There are bakers that like to make unleavened breads, those who like baking soda breads, yeasted breads and sourdoughs. We all have something that we prefer. It's similar to beer brewing and wine making, they are very different and one relies mostly on yeast and another involves bacterial fermentation as well.

Also, if your loved ones and you yourself like to eat sourdough breads you will bake them even if it's a bit troublesome or a lot of work, time consuming, interferes with your normal schedule, etc.. You will simply find a way to minimize the trouble and maximize the enjoyment of it. There are many ways to deal with that issue of starter maintenance, we all find something that suits us perfectly. Again, it is similar to beer drinking and wine drinking. Some people are into cold beers and others prefer warm wines and we find ways to get them.

I like every other kind of baking except sourdough, and like you I prefer yeasted preferments, but both my husband and I love sourdough breads we've been eating since we were children. They are not sold in our neigbourhood's bakeries, so I have to bake them myself or else nostalgia will kill me. So I do keep a starter quietly sleeping in my fridge and I like my starter, it never goes bad or "dark" even after months without refreshment and it springs back to life right away. But that is not why I like it. I like that it makes our daily bread, bread that my family likes to eat.

But if I were you, in your shoes, I would skip sourdough starter maintenance and sourdough baking for sure, at least until ready to use starters will be as freely available in stores as varieties of yeast, baking powders, soda and other chemical leaveners are.

alcophile's picture
alcophile

I've seen powdered "sourdough starters" advertised in Europe that can be used like a packet of dried yeast for a single batch of bread. Have your ever used anything like that? I've never seen that here in North America.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Available in every supermarket here in Switzerland! I think it's also easy to get in Germany everywhere. Haven't tried, since I have my own starter...

mariana's picture
mariana

I had a few, they had liquid SD culture inside, but I did not know how to use them, they come without instructions, so after a while I had to discard them. 

alcophile's picture
alcophile

Lallemand also produces flavor enhancing aromatic yeasts and other sourdough cultures. Are you familiar with these products? The yeasts are especially intriguing.

https://www.lallemandbaking.com/en/canada/our-products/brand-finder/

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I always appreciate your insights. Well, the fact is, I love sourdough bread. My husband is half German half French and living in the U.S., so he wallows in retail bread hell. So, I do not lack appreciation of good bread. I lack time. And I will absolutely grant that sourdough is the ideal. But if I can get at near-ideal and save a ton of time, this is a phase of life where I need to do that.

I think my verbosity has buried the headline of the question, which really is, are we getting such a different result, scientifically speaking? Are many of us raising a commercial yeast strain in the end, accidentally? If that is the case, what's the difference?

Well as flavor is subjective and probably highly biased when we are raising our own sourdough culture, the question is really a scientific one. What exactly is going on with the LAB and flavor compounds that are different when different yeast strains are at play? And cannot the levers of inoculation %, time and temperature which seem more powerful to me be used to manipulate the end result such that it's not so different after all?

Complicated questions. Maybe there is a simple way to answer in the negative because the commercial bread industry would have scientifically experimented with all of these things and pulled the right levers by now to increase efficiency. And let's face it, bread from the store, at least an American one, still stinks.

clevins's picture
clevins

would be lab testing where enough of us submitted samples that we could see what our starters are composed of. Or, of course, a study where that's been done with a variety of starters. 

Failing that, I don't think it's answerable in a rigorous sense and it comes down to preference. 

alcophile's picture
alcophile

Here's the study you wanted:

https://elifesciences.org/articles/61644

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

This study has been done and the results are why I'm asking the question. I refer to the study in the post, though I was too lazy to cite it which I should have done. Please note in the right-hand corner how the strain which shares the scientific name of commercial yeast is dominant. Now, whether or not that means something significant is what I don't know. Saccharomyces cerevisiae indicates a genus and a species.

Abe, a far more experience baker than I, asserts that sharing the name of commercial yeast doesn't mean it's the same. While I agree that this is a highly likely possibility, I'm trying to get at the why. And further, even it's not the same strain, does that mean we can't get to a very similar flavor? After all, lots of people use their wild starter to bake breads with lots of different characteristics using time, temp, etc.

Yes, the LAB are crucial, I recognize that. So, if they behave in remarkably different ways in the environment of a preferment vs a LEVAIN that has been made from a home-grown starter that is dominated by commercial yeast species (not because commercial yeast was used, but because many starters just turn out that way) then this is significant and a reason to go with the longer process.

https://robdunnlab.com/projects/sourdough/map/

Abe's picture
Abe

It's not commercial yeast. It's wild yeast and two strains of wild yeast to-boot. 

Dogs have been bred from Wolves. Are dogs wolves? No they aren't. 

Wild bananas are completely different to the bananas you know today. 

Same here. Even the commercial [domesticated] Saccharomyces Cerevisiae has different strains. Not just bread yeast. There's Ale yeast, Wine yeast, Cider yeast. All different to bread yeast and to each other. All Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. Some are better at making CO2 others are better at making alcohol. They have different alcohol tolerances which means they metabolise sugar at different rates. Some are better for different flavours, i.e. they keep more fruity aromas. 

Just seeing the name Saccharomyces Cerevisiae doesn't mean it's exactly the same thing. And then there's a multitude or different yeasts and bacteria in sourdough starter. Making it far more complex then adding bakers yeast. 

If you can't manage a starter and don't have time to bake then stick to bakers yeast. But if you go down a poolish or biga route it's just as much work. I spend next to no time maintaining my starter. Takes 5 minutes to feed every week or two. Just five minutes in 7-14 days! 

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

What you are saying is that Saccharomyces Cerevisiae is too broad a label to have much meaning. That's precisely some of the information I was after.

The study doesn't have all that much meaning, if that's the case.

Abe's picture
Abe

With bakers yeast. It was to see how starters around the world compare. When it comes to sourdough, or anything for that matter, it's all down to what you like and if you're able to make it. 

To keep a starter to make sourdough once every 18 months is really not worth it. So either be content with bakers yeast or find yourself a good bakery that makes sourdough for the odd occasion you want some. You can always make faux sourdough by adding in lactic acid by way of yoghurt for example. I'm sure there are other ways too. 

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

But if the categories are as broad as you say, it's not a useful comparison tool in that context either.

I'm not really looking for practical solutions, just knowledgeable folk to muse this out with.

I definitely got that. Thanks all.

 

Abe's picture
Abe

We are cultivating a wild strain. Two different strains. And the wild strain is accompanied by a variety of different yeasts and bacteria. 

mariana's picture
mariana

Well, SD starter is not just yeast, it is 100 cells of bacteria per each 1 cell of sourdough yeast in them.

In yeasted dough there is a huge number of yeast cells and very few lactic bacteria cells (they come from flour or compressed yeast). 

SD starters are not used to make a well aerated bread, for that we have commercial yeast available, they are used to combine leavening with serious acidification. I was unable to reproduce some of the best yeasted breads from artisan bakeries with yeast alone, I had to add a bit of sd starter to them in order to have the same aroma and taste. And not all SD starters will achieve that effect, only those that smell like yogurt or milk, or cream. 

Overall, SD yeasts are not as reliable as commercial baker's yeast strains, they vary in aroma and gassing power a lot, some starters are very slow since birth, others are way too fast, etc. 

Also, in SD starters, some flavors come from yeasts, some - from lactic bacteria, and aromas require presence of both yeasts and bacteria in the same dough. 

For example, sourdough yeasts alone produce the following flavors: 

- alcoholic

- fusel-like, burning

- rancid butter

- sweaty

- unpleasant, capra-like

- aromatic, sweet (acetone)

- green, fatty

- fruity

- green apple

- apple peel, banana

- malty

- roasty

But only in mixed lactobacterial/yeast fermentation the following aromas are detected

- butter

- bittersweet, pear

- rum, pineapple liquor

 

Commercial baker's yeast strains produce their own aromas in bread, mostly apple (green apple, ripe apple, overripe apple, calvados, cider aroma), alcoholic and acidic smells, and some strains are twice as fragrant than others. 

 

There is a good article about various yeasts, i.e.as in the main species of "wild" (non-baker's) yeast in such and such starter, living in SD starters depending on their circumstances

Get to know your sourdough yeast

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

A long, slow preferment wouldn't bring enough acid to the party then?

I know, inherently, that that is true. We build multi-stage levains because time brings better development and we regularly note how older cultures out-perform cultures that are a month or so old.

But my brain wants a graph of some kind. Do you know if anybody has done a study on the production of LAB over time in a culture with any variety bake-able yeast? That could help me find a sweet spot.

I feel like Dabrownman may have shared something a long time ago along those lines, but it's just a faint echo in my brain.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

So, I'm looking around for information on what accounts for the pleasant and distinctive sourdough taste in my commercially yeasted poolish bread. It's hard to search this because the terms lend themselves to other results. But at least, I'm not the only one who is asking this question. That's all I could find.

 

https://dawghousebakery.com/2020/08/10/fake-sourdough/

alcophile's picture
alcophile

Possibly getting closer to what you want:

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2019.02113/full

Lots of info in this one. I have only skimmed this for now, but it looks interesting.

alcophile's picture
alcophile

Here's an older thesis, so some of the info on commercial yeasts may be obsolete, as yeast production has improved over the years:

https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/downloads/5425kd08z?locale=en

 

alcophile's picture
alcophile

Not exactly what you are looking for, but here is a document on pre-ferments from Lallemand:

https://lallemandbaking.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/3_15PREFERMENTS.pdf

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

It's basically exactly what I'm looking for. But the sentence " In short preferments inoculated with only commercial baker's yeast, the low levels of bacteria present in the yeast and flour do not have much of an effect" leaves me wanting more.

This seems to imply that a longer preferment does have an effect and the graph appears to show as much, but they do not say so directly. The TTA levels continue to rise over time, which is used a primary indicator of fermentation activity, but nowhere do they outright say this is the result of LAB. They mention organic acids as precursors but no mention of what end-result creates the higher TTA. I'm admittedly at least 25% out of my depth attempting to interpret this information.

Thanks for sharing.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

The commercial yeast in a poolish doesn't bring any LABs to the party as a sourdough starter does.  That is why long-and-slow fermentation with a sourdough starter creates sour, but a poolish inocculated with commercial yeast does not (at least not as much) unless you add LABs from another source as mentioned by others above: yogurt, whey, buttermilk.

The LABs we build up in our starters are highly concentrated compared to what naturally occurs in flour.

 

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Something about a long poolish makes it pretty sour and flavorful, and I'm not sure what that is if it's not the proliferation of LAB. But in any case, this is a convincing enough argument that justifies my present effort of raising a new culture.

In the end, I'll just have to bake side by side, do a taste test and make a judgment call on the overall value vs the time investment vs the hassle of less predictability of wild yeast. 

loaflove's picture
loaflove

Interesting post.  Funny as my niece who was an avid sourdough baker and has two young ones suddenly seemed turned off by sourdough baking.  She's only using commercial yeast now.  She just doesn't have the time.  Its not so much about maintaining the starter but it's the wait time from start to finish to get a loaf of bread.   I think she's a millennial.. instant gratification LOL.  She says if she ever starts up again, the local flour mill gives away free starter.  Maybe you can go to a bakery and see if they'll share if you get the itch again

alcophile's picture
alcophile

It's also a boomer thing. I just had a frustrating experience with a SD recipe that specified 2–2.5 h bulk fermentation and 1–1.5 h proof. My experience: 6.5 h BF, had to put in fridge 'cause too late to bake, then 3.5 total proof. Not how I like making bread.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Well, when you have little ones even brushing your teeth and taking a shower is hard to fit in. Never mind sleep. So, all these "it doesn't take that long" responses make me smile.

You can love bread be a serious bread baker and just be in a phase of life where a starter isn't feasible. Or if you're going keep one up, you gotta make sure it's truly worth the while. Is it worth the while is the question. The question is not whether or not I love sourdough bread or know how to bake it.

HeiHei29er's picture
HeiHei29er

This might be a way to help fit your schedule and still get a SD bread.  Instead of building a levain, do a low inoculation and let time be your friend.

Below is a method that uses that.  Put the kids to bed and then do your mix.  Maybe one or two S&F at 20-30 minute intervals.  Let it slowly ferment overnight.  Do a S&F in the morning.  Shape it when ready. (Throw it in the fridge if the kids are getting ready for breakfast).  Bake it when you have a window.

Alternatively, start it in the morning and just tend to it periodically throughout the day.  It goes slow enough that you don’t have to watch it closely and worrying about it overproofing.

Not sure if that helps, but I really like this method.  It’s really flexible for those of us that are busy throughout the day.

https://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/69828/overnight-heirloom-red

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

So, what I do now works really well for me and that's why I even wonder about this (as I build my new starter culture).

Honestly, I keep talking about pre-ferments but I often don't even use them. I just do a low inoculation and a long overnight. I also only do 2 stretch and folds the night of mixing (and that's only if I find it convenient. I've done it with one and it still works). The next morning I do a pretty hard shape which gives the dough more structure after the gluten has developed. (No-preshape).  Proof. Score. Bake.

It makes really great bread. But still, I gotta have it all. I want a sourdough culture! I've started one and I'm wondering why the heck I'm putting myself through it when I've got it so good.

I totally get why people think my motivation is to knock on sourdough starter. It's actually kind of the opposite. It's like I've got a really great guy. He's reliable. He's cute. He's dependable. But I still covet the sourdough starter. He's exotic. He's what bread society tells me is desirable.

Really, this is an exercise in me trying to convince myself to stick with what's working and not to covet thy neighbors starter. But still, I'm doing it. It's day 4 and I'm dancing with temptation, here.

GaryBishop's picture
GaryBishop

It would bring some LAB to the party.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

from Amazon.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I've seen Kenji Lopez-Alt use acetic acid, but I never though of adding lactic acid. Interesting though. Be worth trying to see if it adds anything to the flavor that a preferment or a low inoculation of commercial yeast and a long rise doesn't.

alcophile's picture
alcophile

I've tried this a couple of times using TFL member doughooker's method and I just haven't had any success. I also tried the Mezzoni Sourdough flavor also with no success.

You can also find lactic acid at a homebrew store and avoid The Beast.

GaryBishop's picture
GaryBishop

I tried several times with his suggested combinations of acids. WIth all white flour I could make bread that tasted OK but I never got it quite right.

Sugarowl's picture
Sugarowl

You can buy fresh sourdough starter from King Arthur. If you want to start again from scratch, do it with very little discard. Only build it enough for a loaf and to have a little left over. I started mine with only 1 tablespoon of flour and 2 tablespoons of pineapple juice. There's no reason to discard huge amounts every time. I also kept mine kinda thick and in the refrigerator. Feedings were only once a week. When you get  burnt out, just spread it out really thin (after a feeding) on parchment and let it dry until it flakes/cracks off easily. Then store it in a jar. I have two kids (one is a bit special) so I get it. My dried starter is 3 years old now. I revived some last year with no problem. I'm going to revive some more this year. I only start with an ounce of it so I have a back up if something goes wrong. If I start getting too much, then I'll dry it or use it in muffins or pancakes. My kids scarf down muffins like there's no tomorrow. I may skip the reviving part and buy the fresh stuff and just build that for a while. (shortcut!)

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

Warning: Meta-discussion ahead.

With two rug-rats, I hope you and the hubs have regular date-nights (weekly preferred, monthly at a minimum) before something like this happens:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHuOOv-K9AE

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I remember that commercial.

jwilbershide's picture
jwilbershide

Life is short. If you don’t want the bother of maintaining a culture I wouldn’t mess with it.  Maybe you can use a neighborhood app like Next Door and find someone with an active starter who will share with you. If you were in Minneapolis i would give you some of mine.

 

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Every minute must be spent in the pursuit of something useful at this point in life. So, more like I need to challenge the sacred status of the sourdough to make sure it's truly sacred. Believe it or not, I'm more than eager to worship it.

rondayvous's picture
rondayvous

If you are making rye bread, you need to add something to lower the PH of the dough, or you're going to have a sticky mess. If you're making whole wheat, unless you start with sprouted whole wheat (with the attendant gluten issues), you will be eating bread that is bitter and won't taste as good as one that has had all the harsh bits predigested for you.

Then there are several different workarounds developed by the Russians, CLAS is the first to come to mind. There is also another one that I use that starts with Onion, ACV (apple cider vinegar), caraway seeds, commercial yeast and whole grain rye flour fermented at 96 degrees for 12 hrs two refreshments and you are ready to bake in 48 hrs.

rondayvous's picture
rondayvous

Once done with CLAS or its cousins, it keeps for several weeks in the fridge for the next loaf. Might be what your looking for? Super low maintenance; use yeast for rising.

Econprof's picture
Econprof

Why the CLAS folks hadn’t chimed in yet ;)

rondayvous's picture
rondayvous

We are not welcome guests at this sourdough party. The only thing missing (flavor-wise) is commercial yeast vs. wild yeast. I know from my beer-making days that yeast can have a flavor profile (there are literally scores of different yeast strains to choose from. I know some beer yeasts tolerate acidic environments and lower temperatures. At some point I will add a few different beer yeasties to my CLAS to see what ferments ;0)

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

rus brot has tried using beer yeast, he really liked the results! I've been meaning to try it too.

http://brotgost.blogspot.com/2018/12/beeryeast.html

rondayvous's picture
rondayvous

I would think ale yeasts would work better, since they are bred (snicker) for fermenting grains.

Abe's picture
Abe

To be more efficient at producing alcohol. Whereas bread yeast are bred to be more efficient at producing CO2. It's not about the types of sugar per se. All yeast will eat sugar in grapes and grain. And different strains will have different alcohol tolerance plus some will be better at retaining certain types of flavours. 

Even when re-using the same yeast for long period of time would produce new strains I would think. Studies have been done on ale yeasts in breweries who have been cultivating their own yeasts for the beers they make and they are unique. 

I do like your reasoning though and i'm sure there's more than a grain of truth in it. Makes sense that a yeast which grows naturally on grain would be more suited to grain. But that doesn't mean a grape yeast won't work as we know from fruit yeast water. 

rondayvous's picture
rondayvous

Beer is typically a lower alcohol product than wine. Many wine yeast regularly advertise alcohol tolerance in the 14% and above range, while beer is typically in the 7 to 8% range or lower. Some beer yeasts are comfortable in VERY acidic environments and ferment comfortably at 60-70 degrees - perfect for my home in the wintertime (I like to keep my home cool)

Don't all these attributes suggest that beer would be a better source of yeast than wine? Unless, of course, I am missing something that is not so obvious.

joe_n's picture
joe_n

Hi,

I apologize for not reading every entry above and please forgive me for repeating something already said.

I can really appreciate your schedule and also wanting to bake, bake, bake.

What I do is get a rye sour ready and make a batch of clas ( concentrated lactic acid sourdough starter, used in the dough  with a bit of commercial yeast). I make portions of each and freeze them. The night before baking, I start thawing them on the kitchen counter. (By the way, you can make clas in a thermos in 24 hr!)

It works so well for me. I could have the "itch" to try something and have even started thawing these at 2pm in the afternoon and gotten a bake out by evening.  Sometimes, I just get the dough through the bulk ferment and don't want to stay up all night and so put the dough into the refrigerator or cold garage.

The next day then is getting back to room temp and going from there.

I hope this helps. 

rondayvous's picture
rondayvous

And ready to make bread.CLAS

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Curious about your setup, do you create CLAS in this cup? How do you keep the temperature?

rondayvous's picture
rondayvous

Anything you can make yogurt in would work. The jar is just a mason jar with a fermentation lock to prevent O2 from entering. Yes, I made it in the jar, was ready to go in 18hrs. If I were making a high percentage rye bread I would refresh again and use the second refreshment. Smells great!

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Sounds good! You don't have to refresh actually, it's only needed if it was in the fridge previously. Maybe I should make a new CLAS again...

rondayvous's picture
rondayvous

is needed for high percentage rye breads to lower the PH.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Not really, freshly created CLAS should be very sour already, and can be used directly

http://brotgost.blogspot.com/2017/06/borodinskiy30h.html

But the quality of the bread might get better after a refreshment.

rondayvous's picture
rondayvous

like solod. The estimate for the first pass is a PH of about 4.0. Okay, but more acidic is better for high percentage ryes, as you noted.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I'm not very familiar with this and I'd like to learn more. Is there a useful tutorial somewhere on this site?

joe_n's picture
joe_n

To make clas, I  use one of two methods:

1) a water bath and temperature controller and the original formula by rus brot

or

2) a thermos (easy!!)- The thermos recipe is

25g rye malt flour, 75 gr whole rye flour, 10 g vinegar (5% acidity), 290 gr water (45C).

Warm up the thermos first with some 50C water - 15 min. 

Empty that water from the thermos and pour in the "diluted" version (300% not 190% hydration) of clas with a funnel.  There is no need for plastic film -  giving the thermos a shake every few hours  helps to avoid mold growth.

Initial temp inside the thermos of this clas was 42-43C; after  24 hr, it was around 37C (pH4).

Done!

joe_n's picture
joe_n

Hi,

I can see that the plug is something at a brewer hobbyist supply store but I couldn't find the mason lid you have.

The plug sucks the air out? I use that size jar too!

rondayvous's picture
rondayvous

and look for Mason Jar Airlock lid.

Dave Cee's picture
Dave Cee

You are approaching this from the wrong direction and short-sightedly I might add.

Don't think "tiny feral humans".

Think "future assistant bakers".

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

What a cutie!

They braided this challah yesterday with very little help from me. Even a toddler can grab a strand and put it where you tell her. They help just fine and we're not drowning...I just have a love of hyperbole.

 

 

Econprof's picture
Econprof

It is very admirable of you to let your kids help with complicated baking projects. I swear part of my love of those projects comes from the fact that my mom would never let me do anything but fetch ingredients and whisk flours together :)

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Trying to keep their hands off it is more work than acquiescing! But I do think they will cherish these moments, as do I. My little man was a baker for Halloween.

 

Econprof's picture
Econprof

And adorable photo!

Sabina's picture
Sabina

I don't know or care enough about yeast strains and stuff like that to be able to chime in on those topics.

The desire to make sourdough bread, though, that is important in and of itself. Personally, I keep my starter going because I just love the thought that I'm doing it myself, that I can use homemade yeast instead of relying on the store for it. I know I still buy the flour and salt, but at least yeast is one ingredient for which I don't need to rely on someone else.

For me, the bigger question is why do I bother making homemade bread at all? And it's actually a pretty daunting question, because I love making my own bread, but my family prefers store-bought. We can afford to buy bread, even fancy-schmancy bread, so maybe it's not worth the effort to make it myself. Maybe making it just because I can isn't a good enough reason to bother.

Anyway, there are reasons to keep up with your starter other than just that it makes better or different bread than can be made with commercial yeast, but they still might not be good enough reasons for you. I know when my kids were younger I barely had time to make myself a sandwich let alone a whole loaf of bread!

 

Dave Cee's picture
Dave Cee

"

 

I don't know or care enough about yeast strains and stuff like that to be able to chime in on those topics.

The desire to make sourdough bread, though, that is important in and of itself. Personally, I keep my starter going because I just love the thought that I'm doing it myself, that I can use homemade yeast instead of relying on the store for it."

 

You certainly speak for me. Thanks for saying it. Best wishes. Dave

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb


Such an interesting discussion you’ve started here. Thanks for that.

Did I read you right that the Dunn lab has reported commercial S. cerevisiae strains in many or most homegrown starters? I’ve not seen those particular data from them but it’s not all that surprising, commercial strains having been bred for such vigor and perhaps inadvertently competitiveness as well.

But I will cast my vote in favor of SD use IF you and yours prefer the flavors it generates. The bacterial members of any starter community synthesize and contribute favorable (to some palettes) flavor components that yeast do not. At least that’s how I understand the workings of starters in generating the bread we enjoy. But CY bread, enriched especially, has its place: toasted with jam for breakfast for example.

The approach to SD baking that has served us well for many years now and applies to your time-constrained baking space is to settle on one thoroughly satisfying formula that you bake identically week in and week out. You quickly memorize the formula and process, instinctively track ingredient supplies and know where and when you can pause, refrigerate, delay, extend, rest etc as parenting obligations/distractions/annoyances require. It’s what we do, but it’s definitely not hobby baking -- just getting a basic domestic chore done with rather more gratifying results than laundry or hoovering.  And starter maintenance is effectively infinitely forgiving, as others have noted.  Minutes per week, or two weeks, or three weeks, etc.

Good luck and happy baking -- and parenting.

Tom

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Not not that the substrain was the same as commercial yeast but the species. Part of my question in the post was if sub-strains matter. According to the chorus, they do.

thoroughburro's picture
thoroughburro

Consider that a bell pepper, a jalapeño, a poblano, and an anaheim are all exactly the same species and subspecies: Capsicum annuum var. annuum. According to your logic, you should be able to use those interchangeably… that is obviously absurd, so you need to check your assumptions. A species, even categories below a species, are still very broad. 

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I asked that question.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

The discussion about S. cerevisiae in starters gave me a thought. Wonder whether actually they appear in starters from contamination of actual commercial yeast? Like, you used to bake with CY, then made a starter and since you have tons of yeast on the surfaces after using CY, they start up a colony in the starter? Have they checked this in any metagenomic studies of starters?

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

Dunn's metagenomics would have certainly have answered this.  I assume CY strains were highly selected specifically for vigor in performing fermentation duties under dough incubation conditions, but not necessarily for competitiveness with other genotypes in mixed environments.  It is entirely possible that Red Star and Fleishmann's strains are super champions at fermentation until a wild and -- for whatever reason -- more competitive genotype enters the room.  A street-smart wild cerevisiae might bring the commercial strains to their knees.  Like green revolution genotypes of maize or wheat that perform fabulously when pampered with nitrogen and other essential inputs -- but scatter them in a prairie with native grasses and they're history after one season.  A sort of genotype x environment interaction.

Tom

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Need to read the papers... But it depends on what part of the genome they sequenced, and whether is variable enough between strains or only between species.

This scenario is possible! But also possible that CY grow so fast that they just outgrow any competition. Needs experimentation, I don't think we can answer it just like this (maybe already has been done, need to check).

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

There are hundreds of strains of Sac Cer. As Mariana mentions above, they are not all equivalent in taste or performance.

I don't believe any of the above quoted studies indicated that any/many of the wild SD strains of Sac Cer were the same strains as commercial yeast Sac Cer.  Did they?

(If they were, think of how much easier it would be to create a new starter, a little yogurt/buttermilk/probiotic-capsule, a pinch of commercial yeast, and boom-off-you-go.

@BreadBabies:  I am unsure of what you are thinking, but your comments seem to indicate that you believe that wild SD Sac Cer is equivalent in taste and performance to commercial yeast Sac Cer.  My understanding is that the strains are so different, that your assumption (if I read you correctly) is not true.

Mwilson seems to be our biology expert, maybe he can state it better, and offer clarification.

And... as the home beer brewers have already chimed in, home-brewing suppliers sell scores of "beer making" strains of Sac Cer, and they all taste or perform differently, and they're mostly Sac Cer.

So... yes, "it's the LABs" but it's about the Sac Cer strain too.  Isn't it?

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I specifically asked in the post, do substrains really matter? Apparently, according to just about everyone, they do. What I said is that the species is the same as commercial yeast, which is indeed true.

But I'm also getting some conflicting information about whether or not there is LAB in a fermented poolish. Some say very little, some say none at all. But it's clear that the poolish gets more sour and flavorful as does a direct dough method if you go low and slow. So, the status of LAB in a commercial yeast dough remains a bit of a mystery to me. I haven't yet caught up on the attachments people have provided, so maybe the answer is in there.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

I just remembered mwilson's post of a yeast metabolism diagram.

It indicates that a yeast cell, unspecified species/strain, can produce at least some acids.

https://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/61674/back-uni-first-lecture

Anyway, it looks cool.

rondayvous's picture
rondayvous

The bacteria that naturally inhabits all flour is affected by two things (primarily) temperature and competition with yeast for resources. The CLAS I started yesterday with rye flour reached an acidity of around 4.0 in 18hrs. Certainly an extreme example, but it illustrates the point.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I don't think all the different yeasts are substrains of sc, I think they are literally different species, if I read it correctly.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

In the link mariana provided it's indeed different species. However there is also a huge variety of S. cerevisiae strains, exemplified by all the different varieties of beer yeast, and lots more to be found in nature.

Abe's picture
Abe

Different strains of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae in my fridge right now...

1: Lalvin 71B™ has been isolated and selected by INRA Narbonne (France), for its ability to produce a high level of esters (isoamyl ester), allowing it to reinforce the aromatic profile of wines fermented from neutral varieties. Lalvin 71B™ has the capacity to absorb polyphenolic compounds on its cellular wall which limits tannin structure of young and fresh red wine. Grape must inoculated with Lalvin 71B™ will easily go through malolactic fermentation, as 20-40% of malic acid can be metabolized by this yeast strain during primary fermentation. Lalvin 71B™ is the perfect choice to create young, fresh and fruity red, rosé and white wines that are easy to drink. It is also a good choice for late harvest wines. [14% ABV]

2: M05 MEAD YEAST - 10G

    A high ester-producing strain conferring fresh, floral esters, especially when fermented cool. This yeast has high alcohol tolerance [18% ABV] and ferments well over a wide temperature range.

    3: Raisin Yeast Water...

      Produces a good rise and works best in warmer temperatures. Makes lovely bread and can be used to make wine but the alcohol tolerance is around 9% as supposed to 14% ABV for the Lalvin and 18% ABV for the mead yeast. Most probably a strain of SC except it is a wild strain as supposed to the cultivated Lalvin and Mead yeast. 

      4: My Starter... 

        Now while I cannot say for sure (that's why it's possibly 4 - it might have some other dominant yeast) there is a good chance it has some wild variety of SC as part of the symbiotic culture. Works very well in cooler temperatures and I wouldn't use it to make alcohol unless it's a low ABV beer like drink. At a guess it won't go any higher then 4-5% ABV at a push. It is a strong reliable starter and makes delicious bread. 
          There you go... 3, possibly 4, SC varieties but very different. 
        alcophile's picture
        alcophile

        Have you ever used yeasts #1 or #2 for bread baking?

        Abe's picture
        Abe

        I've used them for wine and mead but not bread. I could always try it and report back. An experiment for a later date. Have to do the Buckwheat Community Bake first and still finishing off a loaf before I start on that. Perhaps in a week or two. 

        If you make wine a lovely recipe is Grape Juice (find a good quality pure grape juice with no sulphites etc) + Agave Nectar (to bump up the sugar - enough to make a 14-15% ABV) + Lalvin 71b. 

        It ferments very fast and clears rapidly. Very drinkable and tasty within a month. Surprised at speed and how good it was without much aging. This might explain why...

        "Lalvin 71B™ is the perfect choice to create young, fresh and fruity red, rosé and white wines that are easy to drink".

        BreadBabies's picture
        BreadBabies

        Speaking of starting starters...here's day 6 and I've never seen a starter divide between a hooch layer before. It was all stirred down and fed ww yesterday. 24 hours later, this is what I see. I've observed it all day. It's not as if the bottom rose, collapsed and the hooch worked its way into the middle. The layer beneath the hooch never rose at all.

        Not worried, just curious. I'll just stir it down and feed it again.

         

        Ilya Flyamer's picture
        Ilya Flyamer

        Is it possible that the temperature of the bottom part is very different that the top?

        BreadBabies's picture
        BreadBabies

        It's sitting on a rack in a Brod and Taylor set to 78.

        BreadBabies's picture
        BreadBabies

        Just a curiosity. I've stiffened it up a little and given it a bigger feeding.

        idaveindy's picture
        idaveindy

        This topic of a watery layer has been discussed in a couple posts recently.

        The concensus of "the regulars" is:  at this early stage of the starter's development, it is water separating from the flour, not hooch (as in alcohol).   The starter's ability to form a layer of hooch/alcohol comes later.

        And you did exactly what is recommended - stirring and thickening it up.

         

        Mini Oven's picture
        Mini Oven

        what aromas are you picking up?

        Type of water? 

        wally's picture
        wally

        I’m having a bit of trouble seeing your angst here, no offense. Wild yeast strains and commercial yeast strains are different. And studies have shown that people suffering from gluten intolerance have a higher tolerance for sourdough than commercial bread. And sourdoughs, because of their higher acidic content, don’t stale as quickly as commercially yeasted breads.

        But more to the point, I feed my levain/sourdough which lives in my fridge only once a week: 1/4 cup of water to 1/2 cup flour. What’s so difficult here? And instead of throwing away the discard, I use it to make either pancakes or waffles.

        Preferments like poolish are great. All my focaccia is poolish prefermented. But in no way is my 10 yr old levain a hassle to maintain. For nearly 5000 years bread was made using levain. If it was rocket science it never would have survived. Honestly, I think you’re overthinking this. 

        Wally (retired baker)

         

        rondayvous's picture
        rondayvous

        I think the issue here is pretty straightforward. How much of the benefits from a traditional sourdough (wild yeast and LAB) come from the LAB, and how much comes from the yeast? And is a leavening sourdough culture necessary to get those benefits?

        This is a trick question. The answer is here and below.


        My take on this is that most benefits come from a long fermentation (no matter the leavening agent) and the LAB, which introduces most of the acidity. The long fermentation reduces the phytic acid and aids gluten development, and the acidity from LAB adds flavor, determines the physical state of the gluten, influences the activity of yeast and controls the growth of other microorganisms, among other things. Yeast, on the other hand, is primarily a leavening agent. Sure it can contribute to the final flavor of the dough, but I think it is easy to argue that other things affect the taste more.

        clevins's picture
        clevins


        The idea that wild yeast is somehow better is belied by the fact that so many different yeast strains inhabit wild sourdough,

        But...that's the advantage of starter, that it's not a monoculture.

        so what might be beneficial in one instance might be harmful in the second.

        If there was harm to the taste, efficacy or to our health people wouldn't use starter. This seems specious to me as long as we're talking about well-maintained, healthy starter cultures

        Of course, it has also been established that there can be different bacteria in the LAB - I don't think that distracts too much from the question of which contributes more.

        Again, this diversity is an advantage. 

        On the one hand we have a monoculture of one kind & strain of yeast. On the other, a diverse set of different yeasts and bacteria. There are certainly advantage to the former, but, like Wally, I've seen talk about people who are better able to tolerate SD fermented breads, that they're healthier and that they last longer. I don't think we'll ever be able to reliably quantify the relative importance of the various cultures in a starter to the final product.

        I get that most of this thread is simply exploration but I'm with Wally - I don't see that there's very much overhead in SD baking so it seems to me we're back to where we were when I last posted on this thread - if someone wants to use SD, do that. If not, do that. I get the pressures of small kid, but this is just one of those things everyone needs to decide - is the marginally more work worth it? Or not? 

        rondayvous's picture
        rondayvous

        I think the OP should look into CLAS. It eliminates the maintenance issues of a leavening sourdough and produces comparable bread.

        clevins's picture
        clevins

        Comments like 

        Even within the confines of "sourdough" and "wild cultures" there are ways of making bread that don't require keeping a pet and IMO produce essentially the same results.

        Aren't the topic. Sure, raisin water etc exist, but the comparison isn't to those but to commercial yeast and my comments hold there. One is a diverse culture of yeast and bacteria. The other is a monoculture of one yeast. 

        As for supposed bad starters... sure they happen even ignoring spoilage etc. Unless the environment causes them to be infected, though, you just start over. If the starter is too acidic or not enough there are methods to rebalance it. And of course if someone simply doesn't like the flavors from even a well balanced, well maintained starter, then use commercial yeast. 

        At some point all of this just feels like reaching. If, for whatever reason, a given baker doesn't want to maintain a starter... don't. Trying to justify that by convoluted 'what if' logic just feels silly to me. Plenty of good bread is made with commercial yeast either straight or with preferments. IF someone wants to use that, they can and should and no justification needs to be made.

        But let's not pretend that it's a huge amount of labor to feed a starter weekly and do a few stretch and folds and take a bit of extra time to bake. It's not. It's just... not. 

         

        alcophile's picture
        alcophile

        But let's not pretend that it's a huge amount of labor to feed a starter weekly and do a few stretch and folds and take a bit of extra time to bake. It's not. It's just... not.

        I have spent more time babysitting SD than IDY. That's the issue with time. The OP stated that 90% of the flavor was achievable with a yeasted poolish. She was asking if it was worth it for the extra involvement to get that last 10%.

        This is similar to what I did for a living. In fine chemical maunfacturing, it often wasn't too hard to make a compound 90% pure. But the cost tended to rise very rapidly in order to approach 100% purity. And usually the material had all the performance characteristics that were required at 90% purity.

        Early in my career, a chemical engineer advised that a product should have "customer driven specifications." By analogy, if the customer is satisfied with a yeasted poolish, should I insist on SD at added expense that the customer doesn't necessarily need and isn't going to pay for?

        clevins's picture
        clevins

        I have spent more time babysitting SD than IDY. That's the issue with time. The OP stated that 90% of the flavor was achievable with a yeasted poolish. She was asking if it was worth it for the extra involvement to get that last 10%.

        That's a trivially obvious question. If someone feels that a poolish get them 90% of the way there, then no, a levain bread isn't worth it for personal use. But in my experience it's not a one dimensional thing - that you get precisely the same flavors from a poolish as a levain just slightly less - they're different. If that's the case then the question is whether the differences matter. 

        I just don't see the reason for the angst. There are several good ways to to make bread. People should use the way that works for them. But that doesn't mean the other ways have no value and it's slightly offputting for that to be the implication. 

        alcophile's picture
        alcophile

        I had no intention of an off-putting comment. I'm sorry if it came out that way.

        Conversely, many of the comments here about SD seemed to me to have the same tone—that a yeasted bread is somehow inferior to SD. I view SD as another tool that I use when needed to achieve a particular result.

        The passage I quoted was in the same way slightly off-putting to me. It put a value on how I want to spend my time. Maybe I don't care for the idea of multiple S&Fs, etc. It may not seem like that much more time to you, but the way we want to bake may be different. And that's OK!

        clevins's picture
        clevins

        The passage I quoted was in the same way slightly off-putting to me. It put a value on how I want to spend my time. Maybe I don't care for the idea of multiple S&Fs, etc. It may not seem like that much more time to you, but the way we want to bake may be different. And that's OK.

        As I've repeatedly  said here, of course it's OK. It's fine to bake anyway one wants and to mix and match various techniques. What I object to (and not really from you, btw), is the idea that one way that many of us use is characterized as a 'waste of time' just because someone might not have the time to use it. 

        I don't care how you use your time ( I don't mean that badly - I wouldn't expect anyone else to care how I use my time :) ). If you prefer not to mess with SD, fine. But my point is that it is not a lot of active time so when I hear that SD is so hard to manage, I think we need to divide active from passive time. The active time needed to maintain a starter is trivial. However, the slower ferment can be a scheduling issue for people. To a degree that can be managed by amount of starter, dough temp etc but if that doesn't work for you, fine. But let's not pretend like it's a lot of active work. It's not. 

        Anyway, I'm done with this discussion. Some of the technical points were quite interesting and the linked study was fascinating but when it comes down to it, it's bread. Everyone should bake if they want and however they want. That doesn't mean all techniques are equivalent or lead to equivalent results, just that there are many paths to good bread.  

        BreadBabies's picture
        BreadBabies

        5 minutes is not a lot in absolute terms. But the number of minutes is beside the point. Time is a currency. Its value isn't determined by the number, it's determined by what it can buy. 5 minutes (plus all the adjacent sourdough tasks) buys me a lot these days. A minute will be worth more or less depending on my phase of life. Supply and demand you know? I may very well choose to spend those precious minutes making a starter, but I'm comparison shopping right now. Cause minutes are tight and commercially yeasted breads are on clearance. I'm just asking y'all to be my personal shoppers and show me around the store and tell me what you think of the options.

        Abe's picture
        Abe

        So don't do sourdough. 

        BreadBabies's picture
        BreadBabies

        We're beating a dead horse. I appreciated the scientific explanations around yeast strains. It does help me outline the potential of sourdough.

        clevins's picture
        clevins

        If your time is so tight that 5 minutes are material, don't do SD. Hell, if your time is that tight, fine a local bakery and don't bake at all (if you can find a good local bakery that is). Bread should be a positive thing you want to do  and if it's not (or SD baking is not)... just don't do it. That's perfectly fine.

         

        Yippee's picture
        Yippee

        I know what you mean. When the kids are young, it's even more complicated. The physical and mental exertion we endure daily is too much for us. We can't wait to eliminate any unnecessary burdens imposed on us. Fortunately, you don't have to give up sourdough baking. You can bake with another type of sourdough - Concentrated Lactic Acid Sourdough (CLAS) - and be assured of excellent results and enjoy breadmaking all over again.

        Yippee

        rondayvous's picture
        rondayvous

        LAB: Dough fermentation with lactic acid bacteria (LAB) increases bread shelf life, improves flavor, and its nutritional quality, mostly due to its high organic acid production capability, and positive changes in the rheological characteristics of dough, like increased elastic-like behavior.

        Wild Yeast: Leavening. Consumes carbohydrates and transforms them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The main advantage of wild yeast is that it is often contaminated with bacteria (LAB) and other microorganisms that can contribute to flavor. Different yeasts have different ratios of alcohol to carbon dioxide and tolerance to acidic environments.

        Anyone looking to make bread that has the qualities of a pet sourdough can use CLAS. with commercial yeast.

        clevins's picture
        clevins

        I can't speculate on your question because that's all it would be, speculation. I'd guess that both play a part and that the various strains in a starter are also important.

        I also don't CARE because I get both in a levain. 

        However, welcome to the ignore list.

        alcophile's picture
        alcophile

        I'm going to sir the poolish, here…

        Starter maintenance can be as much or as little as you want. Hamelman says he feeds his once a day. Some here say they feed twice a day. I feed my rye starter maybe twice a month, and have gone longer. But there are other time factors in baking sourdough than maintaining the starter.

        What I'm referring to are the long and often unpredictable bulk fermentation and proof timings. Many sourdough recipes I see or have baked have been much more time consuming than doughs leavened with yeast only, even though the hands-on time may be the same. I just made the Whole Spelt Loaf from Leader's Local Breads and the BF was almost seven hours instead of 2–2.5 h. Because of that, I had to shape, proof briefly, and refrigerate the dough overnight, then had to wait over 3 h before it had risen in the proof. Others here have reported the same issue with that recipe. My starter was fine, but maybe the spelt starter I converted it to with two feedings just couldn't cut it. But there's the rub—I felt trapped by the dough, waiting and watching.

        I also made the Workday Bread from Hamelman's latest edition and all I can say is that I'm glad I wasn't working, because the timings would never have worked fpr me if I was. Speaking of working, I have read of people taking their doughs with them to work so that they could manipulate the dough while there!

        Breads I have made with only IDY have relatively short BF and proofs, generally less than an hour each. With those timings, I can plan better to fit it into my schedule. I love Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads methodology. I get the benefit of the long fermentation of the cold yeasted biga, the long soaker, and reliable BF and proof. I also have on my short list the Approachable Loaf from the Bread Lab. I'm excited to try this because it has a convenient overnight sour sponge and a final dough that has short BF and proofs facilitated by the addition of IDY.

        clevins's picture
        clevins

        can be an issue, especially for people with very cool work areas. It's not an issue for me anymore since I bought a proofer but, yes, it's there. As I noted elsewhere, I bake once a week and do it on the weekends usually so I have time to deal with a ferment that goes for 6 hours vs 4 or something. Long ferments also seem more flavorful to me, but that could be confirmation bias.

        Of course, there's another way to help this - add a little commercial yeast to the dough. And, of course, you don't need to always make a levain fermented bread. A couple months ago I wanted a bread and my starter was being annoying, so I made a poolish the night before and used that. The bread was great. I've not made a straight dough for a while but if I needed bread and didn't have the time, I would. 

        EDIT: On starter maintenance... Hamelman is a pro and likely bakes more than once a week or so. Other people who bake infrequently but feed daily *choose* to do that. But it is a choice. It's a trivial amount of time to feed every few days. Might one's starter be a bit better if fed daily? Perhaps. Is it required for good results? No. 

        Ilya Flyamer's picture
        Ilya Flyamer

        I actually find that long and slow fermentation can be an advantage. As long as you are not on a deadline for the final product. I think it's easy to fit a sourdough process into any schedule, since it can just go into the fridge at any point, and sit there for a while, u til you are ready to deal with it again.

        But yeah, a proofer also helps to speed things up if needed, especially after the fridge, since it takes forever for the dough to warm up on its own in a cold kitchen.

        Mini Oven's picture
        Mini Oven

        when you like to.  If the waiting is too time comsuming, and waiting does mean stress, then skip making sourdoughs for a while. Dry the sourdough starter on cookie sheets and pack the crumble bits into jars for dark cool storage.  Bring it out when the kids are older and you have time to play.  You can use the crumbs ground fine into yeasted doughs.  Play with the poolish recipes.  When you get into high rye breads, then you tend to get into maintaining a rye sourdough.  Mine is sitting compact, low hydration and sleeping in a floured jar in the fridge.   It waits to be awaken into a levain. Sometime.  I have both handy. Rye starter for me and instant yeast for hubby's white breads.  I seem to have more yeast waters at the moment than sd starters but also have sourcream, yogurt, and buttermilk handy.  Not quite the same as sd flavours but pretty darn close.  We have plenty of very good toppings for the bread, both savory and sweet.  Bread is very versatile at the moment.  

        JonJ's picture
        JonJ

        So well written.... I know I'm late to the party and folks much more knowledgeable than me have commented!

        You know you're incredibly funny, almost can imagine you're a professional wordsmith. Those jokes about the kids are funny, yet cutting. The trouble with little kids is that they turn into bigger kids who then end up providing unnecessary and unwanted feedback about the sourdough bread you bake. And they're your main customers for the loaves you make so you listen. The next thing you know, bread with spices and pumpkin or sweet potato in it is right out and you're baking loads of 'white' bread variations. Oh what the future holds.

        Think the people here have already covered the bit I could possibly have contributed about S. Cervisae, in that there is a lot of variation at the sub species level. Especially since yeast (and bacteria) go through generations so rapidly, and can reproduce both sexually and asexually dependent on nutrient stress. Even within a single culture of relatively pure yeast, there may be sufficiently diverse genes/heterozygosity so that there is still a lot of variation or potential variation that will express itself as the environment changes.

        Which is what attracts us to the tiny jars with different cultures in them, they're not homogenous or boring. Long may this be.

        Not sure why no one has mentioned fridge fermentation for developing flavour. A lot of us do fridge retards for final proof, and that is when my sourdough develops most of its flavour. Generally, I like a quick fast room temperature ferment, but if I were to bake that straight off without the fridge the flavour is usually less pronounced.  And you can do more than just the final proof. I've made 4 or 5 day fridge breads, and have a friend who exclusively makes them. She's more patient, and the bulk and final ferment are done in the fridge, but it is important for those long ones to have a fairly cold fridge for the longer durations, and to not go shopping frequently too (which warms up the dough). I ramble, but the fridge may be another, and potentially easier, way to get the flavour profiles you seem to want and to also fit it in with the lifestyle.

        Finally, I'm a fan of the semi-dehydrated starter. You basically rub your starter in flour and then bury the starter in that flour, and if you want you keep it in the fridge (I always add a desiccant pouch too). It has a couple of benefits, my starter seems to come back with strong vigour, plus it is a method of storage that works for me - less painful than a full dehydration of the starter, and if you forget about it after six months in the fridge you won't open the fridge to find the starter covered in kahm yeast. And I keep different starters this way so that they stay distinct, or at least I kid myself that they do. The only catch is, I have to plan ahead a little more than if I had a daily fed jar - if I want to bake on Saturday morning I can't really leave it later than Thursday night to start to revive the buried starter.

        Hope by now we've affirmed your faith in the goodness of our little Shire of the internet.

        squattercity's picture
        squattercity

        fun convo and great Curtis Mayfield reference.

        I'm a little concerned, though, how quickly it morphed from 'is sourdough starter a waste of time' as in 'is it any better than commercial yeast' -- which is perhaps a critical question -- to 'time is a currency and we don't have a lot of it' which is a statement of fact for most of us.

        I'm no scientist and so can't answer questions of yeast and acid strains. And I certainly can't speak to anyone's time constraints. But I do know this: the sourdough breads I bake taste better than the yeasted breads I bake -- sometimes way better, sometimes minimally better. But definitely better. 'Worth it' better? Not always. But most of the time. For me.

        And there are other things I treasure about sourdough that have nothing to do with taste or chemistry.

        -- I enjoy the feeling of creation out of nothing ... that a dollop of a concoction that is just flour and water pampered and aged a short time can leaven a loaf of bread.

        -- I like the idea that I brought a bit of NYC sourdough to Switzerland and gave it to my brother-in-law (who has in-turn gifted some to an Italian friend) and I fancy that, with minerally Swiss mountain water, the breads it produces taste different than in NY.

        -- I like the idea that I am connecting with my Eastern European peasant roots, making ryes that might resemble the breads my grandparents ate.

        -- I like the that these breads are offerings to family and friends.

        -- I like learning about different countries' cultures through their baking.

        These are inchoate things. They have nothing to do with time or money or flavor or chemistry. And, of course, they're idiosyncratic and personal.

        Rob

        alcophile's picture
        alcophile

        Thank you for posing an interesting question. I found some of the ideas presented were interesting, and it also stimulated my thinking about other ways to tease flavor out of the four elements: FWSY (not Earth, Air, Fire, Water, but close).

        Good luck and Happy Baking!

        rondayvous's picture
        rondayvous

        All the great soured rye taste, just on my schedule, Ferment of CLAS, Ferment of Bulk and final rise all at my convenience with the predictable leavening of commercial yeast. This was made with CLAS, yeast, firstclear flour, sprouted rye flour and salt.

        CLAS Sandwich Rey

        squattercity's picture
        squattercity

        beautiful rye!

        joe_n's picture
        joe_n

        Is there a economical source for the clear flour?

        I am not a rye fan yet but the loaf is so airy-very tempting!

        rondayvous's picture
        rondayvous

        This is primarily a commercial product. I bought a 50lb bag at the start of the year. I vacuum packed it in 5lb bags. Only two in my house but am almost done with all of it. I think I paid less than $50 including shipping.

        First clear makes a chewier denser loaf than bread flour.

        semolina_man's picture
        semolina_man

        Sourdough does not fit my schedule, and I don't prefer the flavor of sourdough bread.  I have eaten German bread in Germany on countless occasions, and consider the deutsche Brotkultur to be the standard of comparison globally. 

        German bread in my experience over decades is not overly sour, in fact sourness is often not present at all. 

        I therefore use commercial yeast because it fits my schedule, and because it is my preferred flavor profile, which means absence of sourness.  

        rondayvous's picture
        rondayvous

        just because one adds an acidifier to the dough, doesn’t mean the bread becomes sour. My rye was intentionally made to taste sour. If I were making a white bread I would have reduced the amount of lab added to the dough to almost a quarter (or less) than what I used. The acids produced by LAB don’t need to make the bread taste sour to provide benefits, as I have outlined earlier. Digestability, better tolerance by those who may be sensitive to gluten, extensibility, shelf life etc...

        No one is telling anyone how to bake their bread, or what they should like. Facts, however, remain stubbornly intractable.

        Yippee's picture
        Yippee

        "My rye was intentionally made to taste sour." 

        How?

        Thanks!

        Yippee 

        rondayvous's picture
        rondayvous

        8oz of a very sour CLAS like starter that had been sitting in my fridge the last three weeks added to 3 oz of Rye and only 12oz of first clear. Bulk fermented @ 100 degrees made for a very sour and flavorful bread.

        Yippee's picture
        Yippee

        If you don't mind sharing.

        Thanks!

        Yippee 

        alcophile's picture
        alcophile

        @ semolina_man…

        How do you mitigate the "starch attack" on high % rye dough with yeast only?

        rondayvous's picture
        rondayvous

        Whey, buttermilk, yogurt, there are several options. depending on the percentage of rye starch attack might not be much of an issue with a long term preferment.

        But I’d like to hear @.semolina_man answer the question too.