Maui culture sourdough bread

finished Maui sourdough loaves

fermented Maui sponge

forming loaves Maui sourdough

formed loaves


dough in a hot cloche

Ach, meine Güte, look at me and see if I can stand it.

Using a new cloche designed for long loaves, and I must say, we are now playing in a whole 'nuther league.

Not shown: the starter salvaged from the bowl of the last batch of Maui sourdough down there ↓ a few posts. I forgot to reserve a wedge of dough and had to scrape scraps from the bowl which had been soaking. This presented a problem. The 1/2 teaspoon of watery dough was all that was left of the second Maui culture after the bread was already baked. Reviving that remnant with fresh flour introduces foreign yeast/bacteria culture present on the flour. What to do, what to do. I watered the dough further with filtered water, fed it with a 1/16 teaspoon of sugar and let it sit a few hours. Observed it. It foamed loosely and weakly. I fed it 1/2 teaspoon flour. I visualized a war between the tiny reinvigorated army in the slurry of Maui culture with the tiny dehydrated hibernating army of organisms piggybacking on the flour. Surely Maui will win, no? And having now been fed, the Maui army is now even larger and stronger, albeit still tiny, no? And so it went that first critical half day, hour by hour, feeding the tiny Maui army with fresh flour that contained its own hibernating army until I had a full blown proper culture. But still, I live with the uncertainty that this is now not the Maui culture that I knew, but rather one that had been permanently altered by conscripted mercenaries that were revitalized along with the Maui remnant. I'll know for sure once I actually eat it.

Another thing makes this bread pictured here different from the Maui bread described in the post below is for that previous batch I ran out of white A/P flour and used instead up to 50% of whole wheat that I milled here from grain, so that freshly milled flour had 100% of the grains' particles, unlike whole wheat flour that you buy already milled. This altered the loaves significantly. It cause them to not lift as much as we usually prefer, they're more dense than what could be used for, say, sandwiches. But their flavor is so extraordinary and so unusual that they're still very much worth keeping around for things like soups, and to have with cheese, or to just taste. A little goes a long way. Honestly, you must eat this to know what I'm on about here, and having eaten it you'll be forever changed in your attitude about what real historical artisan bread actually is. It'll knock your socks off and there'll you'll be, improperly shod, thinking, "Da'yum! Now this is bread!" It's what the ancients ate, save for the portion of refined flour.

So the starter is not shown because it's already shown enough in other places all over this site, nor the sponge being built up, nor the dough being worked.

The photos pick up where the sponge is removed from three days in cold storage. The dough being stretched, dampened, salted, and folded, the formed loaves, the cloche that was used, a loose wet stretched loaf set in a rocket-hot cloche and slashed, finished loaves (first photo).

These loaves contain approximately 1/3 whole wheat. You can see the difference in lift that difference in percentage of whole wheat makes, from 50% down 30%, the oven rise as they say, the crumb and the crust are altered completely. I could feel these loaves are not as light or as hollow as 25% whole-wheat loaves by merely lifting them from the cloche. They will be more dense than ordinary sourdough loaves, but not nearly as dense as the previous batch, and that's a good thing for their intended purpose.

These loaves will be for a dinner party tonight. The one thing the host knows how to cook is chili, so that's what we're having. I'm bringing this bread in lieu of wine, because honestly, to take wine there, although always welcome, would be tantamount to bringing Newcastles™ into Newcastle, if you know what I mean. At any rate, dense intense bread would not do, guests would think something went wrong instead of knowing something is right.

Making your own sourdough culture.

For the record, once again, here is how you can collect your own sourdough culture of yeast cells and bacteria. The two methods are similar to one another and they're both quite easy, child's play, actually.

1) Make a slurry with flour and water. Cover and keep at 95℉ / 35℃ for 24 hours. Done.

2) Make a slurry with flour and water. Cover with an open fabric like cheesecloth, or a woman's nylon. Set in the open air for three days. Cover and keep at 95℉ / 35℃ for 24 hours. Done.

What? Sound too easy?

1) Make a slurry of flour and water, say, 1/2 cup each or 1 cup each, doesn't matter. It should be about the viscosity of pancake batter. Cover it with a lid to the jar, a plate on the bowl, plasticine wrap, whatever. Take it to a spot that is consistently warm or make a spot that is consistently warm, say, with a light bulb of low wattage and a towel covering both the light and the jar. Target temperature is 95℉ / 35℃, not to exceed 100℉ / 38℃. If the contents in the jar does exceed 100℉ / 38℃ then everybody DIES and the project is ruined !!!!!eleven!!!!111111. I'm kidding.

Ed Woods of Sourdough International renown (scientist) suggests using a cardboard box with a weak lamp, but I find that complication is not necessary. He's concerned the freeze-dried cultures he's marketing are successful -- customer satisfaction, and all that. I turn the stove to low and drape a towel over the burner that's a chimney for the oven, the towel also covers the jar. Setting it directly on the burner, the heat coming up from the oven is too hot, and leaving it uncovered, the air is too cool. I check it occasionally to make sure the temperature underneath the towel is about right. The method has never failed. Within 24 hours bubbles WILL appear, if not actual foam, and you can consider yourself successful. You can proceed with adding water, flour, salt, and get on with making a bread sponge to be either aged in cold storage for a few days to ferment, or made directly into bread dough. Be sure to save a portion for the next batch.

Naturally, this method captures and develops the flavors inherent in the combination of organisms that are already present in the flour which is most likely a combination of grain from several sources. The same thing can be done with single-source grain. In that case, take wheat grain (bins at Whole Foods) and process it to dust in a coffee grinder or a mill, use that for the flour in the same kind of slurry. The result will be specific to the source of that one particular grain, most likely a single field, possibly even somewhere nearby, like a neighboring state. Isn't that neat-o mosquito?

This need be done only once. After this, any additional water/flour added to the mixture can be done at room temperature. A small portion of the mixture, say, 1/2 cup or so should be saved in the refrigerator to start new batches of sponge or dough at room temperature. Usually, bakers like to reinvigorate the sponge for a day or two through successive feedings to bring the culture to full activity, rather than sluggish putzing around. Come'on, if cowboys could make this work, you can too.

2) You can make a slurry out of flour and collect airborne yeast for a few days in your location and build up enough organisms in your slurry that they collectively overcome the organisms that are in the flour. Cover a bowl of slurry with cheesecloth, a metal strainer, splatter guard, woman's hose, anything to keep bugs and debris out. Three days in the open air will certainly do it, even in winter. A hot windy day is best, my theory is, unhappy airborne organisms that are dislodged from their origins are shoved with great force directly into the slurry by the motion of the air. You can collect enough on a good windy day within a single hour. Then heat for 24 hours the same as the first method.

3) You can experiment yourself and compare the results from the airborne culture in the slurry you collected with a plain slurry straight from the flour bag. Heat them together but in separate jars and have a race. I've found the collected slurry is actually slower to culiminate, and the differences in the resulting cultures, how they bake, rise, the resulting crumb, crust, the speed the yeast works, etc., along with how they taste ultimately, is very distinct, enough so that the separate cultures need to have their own name.

Do this with your kids, and amaze their impressionable little minds permanently.


Anonymous said...

I am curious. Why is the high temperature (95 F) needed for the elaboration of a culture? I have usually heard that a temperature between 75 F and 85 F is good enough. When you did this method, did the culture have any problems rising again on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th feedings?

Chip Ahoy said...

Anonymous, that is a very good question. It appears to be the perfect temperature for the aggregate yeast and bacteria organisms to thrive.

Presumably, room temperature is somewhere around 72℉ / 22℃, yeast and bacteria do thrive, but not as perfectly. The slower rate of reproduction of a fully saturated culture is desired for bread.

[Commercial single-organism yeast also reproduces at room temperature just fine, but much more slowly. For the sake of speed manufacturers recommend putting the dough in a warm place because its ideal -- for the yeast, not for the bread.]

This might be wrong, but over time I tried to look at what's going on from the point of view of the yeast cells. Why was it on that grain of wheat in the first place, or how did it get airborne? Something happened to cause it to become dislodged from wherever it was born and presumably happy, Otherwise it would stayed right where it was and never gone into stasis and would have been airborne or be blown anywhere .

I have collected yeast culture when the temperature was that hot and the process begins immediately in the collection bowl. I visualize organisms in hardened self-protecting survival stasis blown through the air until they land in an environment they can use.

There are two ways yeast cells can divide, all by themselves in which a full set of genetic information is duplicated by budding, or another way with a corresponding member of their species. In that case, the new yeast cell produced contains two complete sets of genetic information. Yeast is both haploid, and diploid cells, plus that ability to form a shell around itself and separate itself from its environment to be carried off until that moment it's presented with a suitably wet environment with food. Then BANG! They go like crazy for as long as the environment holds out.

Here's a brief animation I drew.

Here's another animation I drew based on a graphic I read in Spanish.

Similar to wine. Grape collectors noticed the grapes on the bottom of their baskets tend to get crushed causing the liquid within the grapes to come in contact with the yeast/bacteria on the surface of the skin. By the time they get back to dump their grapes, fermentation has already began.

But once a culture is active and foaming up the jar, saturated with sufficient organisms to hold its own, then it can be left at lower temperature and still maintain its identity as a complete culture with no elements lost.

That's why freezing a culture does not kill it outright, but it does kill some species of organism that comprise that original culture, so what remains is still a culture but different from the one before it was frozen.

Baking does the same thing. Kills most but not all the organisms. Some people have started their cultures by using pieces of bread from the center of a purchased loaf under the belief they're getting the whole culture. They able to get a sourdough culture started, but I doubt it's the original thing by 100% -- too many species perished through baking.

Carl said...

Hi Chip Ahoy,

Thanks for your comment. The only thing I want to ask is did your culture rise on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th feedings? The reason I asked is because when I start a culture, it rises from the very beginning...over 2x, but when I feed it, it doesn't rise on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd feeding. It just lies dormant.

Chip Ahoy said...

Yes, they do rise on the 2nd, 3rd, feedings, ad infinitum, forever, until the end of days.

Even after being stored in the refrigerator for two weeks and revitalized, and built up incrementally. The trick, if there is one, is to understand your particular culture. Watch how it rises at room temperature, peaks, then falls back. That tells you whether to feed it at eight hour increments, nine hour increments, ten hour, possibly even twelve hour increments. The more consistent you are the better the results. Double the amount of water and flour each each feeding. However it turns out, that defines the character of your particular culture.

I've owned three separate San Francisco cultures and they were all the slowest, least vital, least foaming cultures of all, for whatever that's worth. The strongest most foaming, fastest, and interesting was cultivated from whole wheat grain from the bins at Whole Foods.

In my case, I have so many cultures and I consume so little bread (those last two loaves were given away) that it's impractical to keep them feed with any regularity. So I just go ahead and use a little heat to speed up the yeast portion of the culture, then hold the sponge in cold storage for a few days to allow the bacteria portion to impart its contribution through fermentation. That's what makes it tangy. If I baked more often using a single sourdough culture I would just keep it active at full power and at room temperature. Consistency is the key there When I did that it involved a lot of waste since I was doubling what I kept on the counter with each feeding, I had to pour out a lot of it down the drain so the next feeding wouldn't be so bulky, until I was ready to bake again.

When the saved wad of culture is pulled from cold storage, reawakened, feed in increments until sufficient sponge is created for baking, and that sponge is put in the refrigerator and then removed and reawakened from cold storage, it's nearly bread and it seems happy to be at room temperature which at that point seems like warmth. Redistributing the yeast cells by stretching, it gets back going expanding immediately at room temperature.

Using a rocket hot cloche, unglazed ceramic vessel, cast iron pot with a lid, something like that, is the key to successful loaves, along with an exceedingly wet dough. Lifting the dough into the dangerously pre-heated pot is like lifting a dead puppy. Apologies for the imagry, but that's what it feels like.

For a super demonstration of this idea see a video titled NYT bread on Youtube. One thing about the video, they leave out a 20 minute resting period between folding the dough and inserting it in the oven. Of course, he's using commercial yeast and you're interested in sourdough culture.

Good luck with your cultures.

Carl said...

Hi Chip,

Thanks again for your response. I'll have to give this culture elaboration method a try.

deborah said...


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