Bakers vs Stoneground flours?

Gday everybodySorry if this has been done to death on here, but I have a kinda odd situation. I am sure that it has been caused by nutrient poor flour or similar, but I have no idea how or why, so I will run you down on my experience. FWIW, I have been using Demeter Farms stoneground flours for all my breads, along with rye flour in my starter only. After a shaky start, I am now getting great loafs that rise well and have plenty of oven spring.Being a bit of a tightwad, and just getting back into sourdough after finding this very informative site, instead of spending loads on xmas gifts, I gave friends and family a loaf of fresh baked sourdough each, along with 100g of sourdough starter, instructions on how to care for said starter, and recipes for bread, bagels and pizza dough. Problem has been, that my parents, neighbour and a mate (the only 3 who have done anything with the starter!) all went out to the supermarket and bought a 5kg bag each of Unbleached Bakers Flour, rather than the Demeter farms stuff from the health food shop that I recommended. All 3 have had very small, flat loaves, and after refreshing their starters with the bakers flour, have had no rise or anything in the starter jar.SO, I went over to my neighbours, and showed him how to make the sponge and then the dough, and then went over again the next morning, pulled the dough out of the fridge, stretched, folded and eventually shaped, and told him it should be ready to bake when it is doubled in size - 3 to 4 hours. It took nearly 7 hours to double in size, and it wasnt very sour. The same thing happened when I went to my mates place and tried to bake a loaf there - we baked it in a bread tin, and we managed to get a 1kg loaf that was 1" high and 2" wide, very dense and not really sour. It had not risen even slightly 4 hours after shaping.My loaves get taken out of the fridge, stretched and folded once, then shaped and left for 3 to 3.5 hours, and have always close to doubled in that time (I have also found out that 4 hours gives me an overproved loaf). Is there a simple logic or something here that makes bakers flour bad for sour yeasts? Any advice will be muchly appreciated, as I would like to be able to give definitive answers rather than conjecture. And if it means anything, the bakers flour is 12% protien, and the stounground stuff 13%.Apologies for such a long post, but that's just me....All the bestTrent
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Millciti's picture
Millciti 2009 January 30

Maybe you could test some other super market flours for them.  I originally started my starter with organic white and rye flours, but they were from the supermarket here.   I usuallly have to give my white starters a little bit of rye now and then to keep them happy.  But most of my starters are pretty content with the non organic unbleached flour I feed them.   At first they didn't seem to rise quite as well, but they have adjusted now.  Occasionally I get a good deal on organic and they do seem to get pretty excited if it is a really good flour. 

You could also offer to do a flour co-op with your family, since buying in bulk is usually cheaper.  Or you could try blending flours, part organic and part non organic.   Someone there in Austrailia can probably recommend a good supermarket brand.  I kind of suspect that the brand they used, may not be bleached but may still be adulterated in some way.  Some of the "bread" flours here have a lot more ingredients than flour.  I usually avoid them.  I bought some bread flour at an Amish market only to realize that it is bromated... yes, bleached.  The following is an interesting educational site about labeling, and may help to make better choices.

If your family has to work too hard at getting flour to bake they may not keep baking.   So see what the stores have to offer and help them to make it as easy as possible.   Once they get hooked it will hopefully get easier...



davo 2009 January 30

I use unbleached bakers flour (Laucke "Wallaby") and wholemeal rye flour (usually at 20%rye  & 80% bakers). It works well.

One thing I have been advised is that any white Australian wheat flour whether organic or not is apparently likely to be low in amylase enzyme which (I think) breaks down the damaged starch to maltose which is then utilised by the bugs. WHolemeal flours don't have this deficiency, but if you use any form of white flour, the best way to ensure good activity is to add a tiny bit of diastatic malt. I gather this is simply some barley that's been soaked, sprouted and then dried and ground - so it's a stoneage level product, and not anything other than a natural grain product.

You can get it here.

I happen to know that Wet (see blog link) uses Laucke "Wallaby" flour (same as me) with the diastatic malt at the recommended rate and gets good results from it in his all-white loaves (I have yet to bake a white loaf with no rye/wholemeal in it, but I add malt at the rate for the amount of white unbleached bakers flour in the mix).

Lamp has a Blog on here and I know uses the same ingredients, he has a blog here showing his white bread crumb and bursting oven-spring.

It works out about 5 cents or so per loaf, for the malt , I think. Brewing malt is not the same.

lily 2009 January 30

Hi Trent,

As usual I'll try to help with my experience as I'm not a trained baker an can't be definitive!

I reckon your friends are using completely different flour to what the endememic bacteria and yeasts are used to.  It'd be useful to know if any kept dough eventually did rise.  A common observation seems to be that white doughs behave most predictably on white starter and this is certainly what I have found.  When I began keeping an off shoot hybrid mostly white starter ( always with a bit of rye added) my white loaves behaved beautifully each time (4 bakes a week)using predominantly the same flour between starter and finished dough.  Before this I getting similar-sounding results to your friends using rye starter, and blaming the fresh flour, room temp, water quality etc.

So, I reckon try refreshing the starter three times with the household flour before trying again.

As with all sourdough mysteries, keep some of the original, do comparisons and keep notes. 

By the way I've baked using Laukes Wallaby, Defiance, Lauke Organic, also refreshed starter using plain cake flour and baked using any of the above and the bread's always risen and been sour.  I put it down to a tenacious starter used to around the same ash content each feeding time.

Good luck, you're a diligent friend!

trentmaier 2009 January 31
Gday everyoneThanks for the responses - it is very heartening to know that people have succesfully used bakers flour for sourdough, it kinda makes sense to refresh the starter a few times to get it used to the new flour, I wish I had've thought of that!I will certainly offer to buy larger bags of the organic flour, and split it with them, and recommend the diastatic malt if they need any extra zing to their bread. I have no idea about the amalyse contents in flour, but I know that the australian wheat malt for making beer has enough diastatic power to self convert, even up to 100% of the grist. If people are getting good results using the diastatic malt, though, then it is definitely worthwhile getting my friends onto it, so thanks for the heads up. I think that the brewing malt that is not the same as diastatic malt would be the dried malt extract, but I could very well be wrong on that! Brewing I know, baking not so much!Thanks again, my friends will be very happy to have some answers, and I will be very happy to have them baking good bread.All the bestTrentPS - Davo, since I followed your advice and let my loaves prove for a shorter time, or shaped them then fridged them, I have been getting well proved, or just slightly underproved loaves that rise well and have a great crumb texture. If it weren't for your advice, I would still be making flatbread and thinking I needed to learn to shape better! So cheers, if I ever meet you, I will buy you a beer. T.
davo 2009 February 2

No worries, Trent. The fact that I can actually add advice that makes any positive difference whatsoever is amazing enough to me - a year ago I'd never even started a starter. Actually that would be about 9 months ago...

If your loaves are sometimes a bit under proved, just leave them warm up a little longer! I must say, when they have been in the fridge, I now go on a case by case basis, banetton by banetton - it would seem there are warm spots and cold spots in the fridge, so sometimes a loaf needs 1 hour out at room temp, sometimes it needs 2 or more... Often if I shape four loaves at night, then bake two in  the next morning and two the next night, the morning ones will need a good two hours or even more out of the fridge, while the evening ones just need warming up (Wet suggested it might be my little kids opening the fridge too much; he's probably right!)

By the way, you can buy that diastatic in 200 g bags, but if you are going to divide some up, I know that Wet and Lamp have bought a kilo each (enough for about 100 kg of flour = 170 kg of bread!). They keep it frozen and bring out small bits as they use it, as I gather it otherwise loses its punch. This keeps down the delivery cost per bit of malt, and makes sense if you are going to bake a fair bit.

Wheat malt might have enough diastatic in it for brewing - but you are baking with flour from unmalted grain, so it's not the same...

If we ever meet, a Cooper's pale or any home brew would do fine!


john mc gettigan 2009 May 27
hi  looking to make a sponge starter does anyone know where to get diastatic malt in sydney 

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