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capabilities of a starter(mother)

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I was wondering if anyone out there knows if you can freeze a sourdough stater? If so are there any adverse reactions in leavening your yeast?

chef bryan
post #2 of 9
I've tried freezing starter a few times, and tried drying it as well. I think drying is easier and better. Freezing worked 4 times out of 6, with the following method going 3/3. Both of these methods are pretty common.

To freeze, feed your starter half a meal of 50/50 flour and water before freezing. That is, if you have 1 cup of starter, a full meal would be 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water; and a half meal would be 1/4 cup of each. It seems to freeze best in small pieces, so use ice cube trays.

When you're ready to use, thaw the starter and feed it the rest of its meal. It will take about a day on the counter for the starter to recover its potency.

To dry, spread a thin coat of starter on a baking sheet covered with parchment or a silpat and bake in a very slow oven (200 or below) until dry. Crumble it up and store it in a sealed jar in the refrigerator (why the refirgerator? Because it's dry).

To reconstitute, mix the dried starter with an equal volume of flour and twice the volume of water, and stir a few times over over a one hour period to make sure the starter is fully hydrated. Recovery takes about a day on the counter.

Good luck with your sourdough. I don't have a culture going anymore. I think a poolish or biga is a lot easier unless you're baking sour all the time. Give a poolish an extra four hours, i.e., enough time for one extra feeding, use an altus, and it's as sour as most home starters.

Hope this helps,
post #3 of 9
I read about starters in one of my baking books but am still a bit confused. Can someone go into depth about it for me?
It's a wonderful thing to be spoiled in the way of food.
It's a wonderful thing to be spoiled in the way of food.
post #4 of 9
A starter is a "pre-ferment." That means the yeast, or some of it anyway, has been given an opportunity to run through its life cycle of eating, reproducing and dying. The longer and harder the yeast works, the more of a tang it develops.

There are a lot of different kinds of yeasts used in baking. Some of them are particularly suitable for sourdoughs, because they're so hardy. Many of those are "wild" and given the opportunity will colonize an appropriate dish of food (food for yeast, anyway). Others have been saved and are given away and sold. Those are called "mothers."

Starter is made by mixing a mother with flour and water, and allowing the yeast to run through its life cycle -- feeding as necessary to keep a healthy colony alive. The longer the colony goes, the more sour it becomes. Some of the sourness comes from alcohol the yeast produces as it nears the end of its life cycle.

Usually when we think of starters we think of the kind of sourdough culture one keeps going for years -- continually feeding and using it. But there are other kinds which are more commonly used -- like "poolish" and "biga." Breads based on these pre-ferments aren't as tangy as a real sourdough, but they sure have a lot more going on than a typical American loaf.

These can be given a little extra ripening to get nice and sour. If you want to try a sour bread in the European style, which doesn't involve quite as much effort as a true American sourdough, try this:
It's a good education.

Almost every baker wants to try her or his hand at real sourdough at some point. If you do, I suggest buying a mother rather than trying to start your own from wild yeast. It can be a little hit or miss, and it's no fun wasting two weeks. In the meantime, great mothers can be had for the price of a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Carl Griffith Sourdough Page

Good luck,
post #5 of 9
Just a small addendum to BDL's post and about sourdough starters in general. Eash starter tastes different depending on the area of their origin. If you keep the starter long enough, the flavor will change, representing the taste of your locale. The starter I brought back from Alaska, or example, was stronger than the San Francisco starter at first, but after a few months it "mellowed" and tasted more like the home town starter.

FWIW, I've used starters from Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, as well as Alaska and San Francisco. They all had their own unique taste.

post #6 of 9

What luck have you had growing your own mothers from wild yeast. I think that's very regional too. When I lived in Venice (California), I got them going without any trouble at all. I've tried a few times to get what going in Monrovia but can't.

post #7 of 9
Well, it's been at least 10 years since I've played around with sourdough, and the Alaskan experience was in 1993, so my memory isn't real sharp, however, I recall having mixed results, none satisfactory (but I was looking for a more Acme Bread-Cheeseboard flavor), and a fair number of outright failures.

It's funny about baking bread - La Farine in Oakland is one of my favorite bakeries, especially for their rustic baguette and their brioche. However, when they opened their new bakery on Solano Ave in Berkeley, I noticed a difference in the taste/texture of my favorite items. Jim Dodge, the owner, swears that everything is being done the same as in the Oakland bakery. I believe him, but I also believe that the environment in the two places is different, giving slightly diferent results. I have noticed a slight difference in the breads now from the time the bakery opened with all new equipment and in a newly built building. I believe that as the bakery and the equipment have aged, and become seasoned, as it were, the results have improved slightly, and the breads are more like the Oakland bakery.

post #8 of 9
I used to work for a chef who preserved his starter by leaving a portion in his flour bucket. After three days, it dried out. When he wanted to use it, he would just crumble it and add it to the wet ingredients.
post #9 of 9
Perfectly fine: just toss some into a ziploc baggie and into the freeze she goes. Now, reviving it is a little different. Be prepared to feed it daily for one week, maybe 2, before it regains full strength. I have genuine SF starter, made in SF from my CCA days; it only requires a couple of days to become totally strong and ready to go (course, it has been at least 5 years in Berkeley, so it may not technically be SF sourdough starter...).

Note that real sourdough bread is tough to do correctly, even for B&P professionals. Suggest you first become proficient with regular yeast (you know: I give you a bag of flour, a pinch of salt, a packet of supermarket yeast, and as much water from the tap as you want) and you make a loaf of heavenly bread w/o a recipe in front of you. Then, check out 2 books:
Silverton's: Breads from the La Brea Bakery
Reinhart's: The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

Good luck. If it works, let us know how and what.
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