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Maintaining a leaven?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hi - it's been a while, I don't seem to get to play much at the moment. :(

Not surrendered my ambitions altogether though, and I have just begun a leaven which is now on day 5 and appears to be pleasantly active.

Q. I understand about feeding a leaven to maintain it, and if necessary re-establishing a leaven that's been chilled for a while. What I'm not sure about is - can an active leaven ever become unsafe for use?

As always, any additional thoughts/comments appropriate to wider subject are very welcome.

Tks
Andy.
post #2 of 17
Anything is possible, but I think it is fairly unlikely. If you starter does become contaiminated you are likely to see pink/orange colors. Grays and browns are OK. I'm curious as to why you think yours might go bad.

Kyle
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hi Kyle and thanks.

No expectation, just information seeking. One day I'm sterilizing a jar, next I'm adding and stirring. Before you know it, I'm not just adding and stirring, I'm pouring off a percentage of the existing leaven and wiping the inside of the neck with a paper towel before topping up and resealing.

I know leavens can last for many years, some reputedly many decades, being passed around as starters for other people to use and develop further themselves.

The fairly immediate and ongoing interaction led me to become interested with the variety of paths an original culture might take.

That included whether or not an active leaven's environment would be hostile to unfriendly bacteria, while allowing the friendly cultures to develop and enrich the leaven - or was it possible for an established leaven to fall foul of unfriendly bacteria and lose it's usefulness.
post #4 of 17
Sour doughs and starters definately can become contaminated- sometimes its quite a challenge making the starter as hospitable as possible for our "good bacteria". However once they settle in they acidify the dough (don't mean to patronise; but thats why they call it sour dough) which makes the environment a lot less hospitable to food poisoning bacteria- but still not impossible. Things to watch out for are moulds (as previously said) and also making sure its not air tight at room temperature at any time (airless environments with plenty of warmth and nourishment tend to grow particularly nasty forms of food poisoning bacteria which are toxic enough to kill- such as botulism bacteria.), and trying your best to encourage good starter bacteria to grow and acidify your starter- until they do, your dough's in the "red zone".
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks Chris. I've been following a recipe that's illustrated using a parfait type jar for storage.

I'll look at alternative storage options - maybe glass jar with loosely fitted screw top lid?
post #6 of 17
Sure, a jar is ok (actually anything hollow will do), but keep a loose lid like you said (i usually use a mixing bowl with cling film- which is not air tight) ...also when acidified, keep at fridge temps, it'll slow down the bacteria, but it keeps it in a much safer environment.
I usually allow my sourdoughs to acidify very slowly at fridge temps by first adding yeast, starving it, allowing the yeast to die before feeding the dough... I always get a much more flavourful dough that way.
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks Chris. :thumb:
post #8 of 17
Yeast is a sourdough starter? Isn't that heresy? :)
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
post #9 of 17
I like the flavours generated by the slow fermentation of the yeast, after starving, I will then feed the starter to encourage a wild culture.
I like to use after only lightly acidified, before getting too sour... thats another reason for keeping it in the fridge for slower reactions.
post #10 of 17
Great advice, Chris. OP...look up anaerobic bacteria. Very nasty and can contaminate any food and will go crazy in the absence of O2. Totally preventable if you keep a clean kitchen and wash your hands.
post #11 of 17
I'm a big fan of firm starters maintained at cold temps. They deliver nice big flavor.
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
post #12 of 17
Kyle...would you mind posting your recipe or at least providing a link or book title? Chef Tony B. (No Reservations) speaks of his crazy friend the pastry guy and his "mother" in his memoirs and I have been fascinated and eager to try it ever since.
post #13 of 17
I have used a lot of books to learn about bread. A few of the importan ones are listed here.

The Reading Room

There are many ways to get a culture started. In The Bread Baker's Apprentice Peter Reinhart gives about the most basic; Flour + Water :) It's a lot easier than all the grape nonsense. Once the culture is viable you can adjust storage temp and consistency to play with levels of flavor.
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
post #14 of 17
Thanks for sharing...I will see which ones are available at my library and take it from there. I am especially interested in the all encompassing CB with input from 13 amazing bakers.
post #15 of 17
Be aware that some locales will not start a starter, especially at some times of year. While at least some wild yeast spores are nearly everywhere all the time, they're isn't necessarily enough of the desirable sorts.

In my experience, no matter what you use to start the starter will eventually be taken over by local spores. It may take weeks or it may take decades, but it's always seems to happen -- at least to me.

Fortunately, you can buy or otherwise obtain a starter culture to start a starter anytime. If you want a sure-fire starter of the highest quality, you can get one for free (plus an SASE) from "Friends of Carl." Carl Griffith Sourdough Page It's not the word's best website, but it's one of the world's best groups with one of the world's sweetest sour missions. Visit them. You could learn something.

Usually you can get a starter started by starting a poolish -- just keep breaking it in half, feeding half, and using the other half. You'll taste it growing increasingly sour as wild spores begin to take over the colony. Usually takes about two weeks to go from poolish to sourdough starter -- which oddly enough is about the same time it takes a starter to ripen to the point of usability.

If you cover the starter's vessel tightly, you run the risk (probability) of something a lot more interesting than mere infection.

My starter's home has a a few, wee holes in the roof.

Starters are like keeping wild animals as pets. It helps to have a sense of humor, and it's good to bear in mind that the relationship might not be permanent.

Most people keep their starters pretty darn slack. That's why they're starters and not bigas. In turn this makes for a very slack dough. The trick to kneading a slack dough like sourdough, or ciabatta dough, or just about anything similar, without using a ton of bench flour that will upset your ratio, is to repeat the "autolysis/french-fold" process two or three (count them, 2 or 3) times, at ten minute intervals, before kneading. It doesn't dry out the dough, but does stiffent it and make it a lot less sticky. The knead to "windowpane" will go a lot faster, too.

Hope this helps,
BDL

PS. I just learned that a few months ago watching a Peter Reinhart video; and will adjust my olive bread and onion-dill bread "technique" sections accordingly -- if you're baking either, get in touch.

PPS. That's Reinhart for you. Always coming up with something to make it take more time.

PPPS. Finally, if you don't get what I'm talking about with autolysis/French-fold at all, PM, email me, or post it here, and I'll start a thread on it on grounds that if one person asks, a baker's dozen want to know.
post #16 of 17
There is a fairly strong body of opinion that believes most of the wild yeast developed in the starter process comes in the flour used and not from the environment. I have developed viable starters from scratch, at various times of the year, using various methods. My results were all the same.
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
post #17 of 17
I've found that orange juice helps for the first couple of feedings. it lowers the ph enough to inhibit the growth for "bad bacteria" and make it more suitable for the good stuff. rye and wholewheat works a lot better then white flour when starting your culture. if you want white you can always transfer abit from the rye start and feed it with white flour . after a couple of feeds it would be so dilute it should show no difference from a regular white starter. if you know you're not planning to use it for a while just turn it into a stiff starter ( if not already) and you can just stick it in the fridge. I've heard of stories where people left their stiff starter for over a year and after 2 or 3 days of feeding its back to normal.
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