Starter Questions


Iv'e made my first sour dough a couple of days ago using a starter of 1 cup water 1 cup rye flour.
Many recipes say to leave the starter for 2-3 days before using.
I left my starter over night and in the morning it was bubbeling and frothing and I therfore began to make a proof - the resulting bread was great but only slightly sour.
Would it be better to have refreshed the starter a couple of times before using to get more of a sour taste?
I'm living in the tropics in Australia so the median temperature at present is about 28 degees does this mean I need to make adjustments to many recipes on the net?
Iv'e seen some sour dough yeasts for sale on the net from sourdough international does using these result in a big difference in taste?
Is it possible to bring them into Australia?

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wadada's picture
wadada 2007 March 15

Hi there, welcome to the world of sourdough!
First off, I would be wary of recipes from the internet, and recipes in general. More important are methods. It's good to have an understanding of what you are trying to acheive in making naturally-leavened bread.
A few things that might help: start using weight measures instead of volume. It's much more consistant.
Get a good baking book. It's important to learn the how and why of this craft in order to get good results. There are lots of books out there that can help. I think [u]The Bread Builders[/u] by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott is a good one to get started with sourdough. They go through a bit of the science, tell you how to start a culture, and how to maintain and use it. It also will familiarize you with baker's math, which is very handy.
Don't put too much faith in recipes. Get a feel for the dough, and learn how to make it do what you want. Flour varies quite a bit from lot to lot, so one bag will absorb much more or less water that the last. You have to learn to be flexible and adaptive. If the dough feels to dry, even if you made it the same way last week, are you using a new bag of flour? Adjust! A recipe is a good starting point, but I almost never follow one to the letter anymore.
Now for your starter. If you are making sourdough rye, it's good to use an all rye starter. But if not, you can start a culture with rye flour, then start feeding it with wheat flour. It's good to get into a routine of feedings every 12 hours, or even every 8 if it's warmer. 28c is a little warm, so you might have to feed more regularly or maintain a stiffer starter if you don't have a cool spot somewhere. I think 23(74f) is pretty ideal. Your starter should be bubbly and domed when it's ripe and ready to be used, maybe just starting to sink a little in the middle. If you see a line where it's risen and then fallen back down, it's too late. It will still ferment dough, but not as well.
If you store your starter in the fridge for a little while when it's not in use, you should feed it at least 3 times before you ake with it to wake it up and balance it out.
I've never used a mail-order culture, but I'm sure it would work fine. However, I think you can get great results from your a homemade culture of local yeast. It's a matter of learning how to keep it healthy and knowing when it's ready to use.

Barry 2007 March 15

Thanks, that's one of the books I've ordered, and it's great to hear 'm on the right track.In the mean time it seems I'll need to feed the starter more often because of the higher temperatures.
I'm currently experimenting with Dan Lepard's method starting with 25g of rye flour and 50ml of water and slowing building it up over many days feeding every 24hours.
It's the second day and there is a nice fermenting smell and some bubbles seems to be comming along nicely. Would decreasing the time between feeds be recommended?

baxter SA 2007 March 24

It's great to see your giving it ago. Stick at it and you'll get there. It's an art to make a natural levined sourdough. like any art it comes in time. Read as much info as possible and stick with it. Temp Control is a big problem. Keeping it at aprox. 21c and feeding every 24hrs is the ideal but hard to control. I've tried some packet starters and found that it's somtimes better to start your own. I will admit i haven't tried loads of them. Trying a local bakery that makes there own levain might be a good place to get your hands on a nice one. They might not want to hand it over in a hurry though.

Well Good Luck And Hang in There.

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