toast, Maui sourdough

This loaf will be the last of the Maui starter for awhile. I am retiring the culture to dry cold storage again in favor of the Denver culture. That way I won't have to be so careful about not introducing too many local organisms that they overtake it and change it forever, and to have just one in circulation. The whole business gets out of hand.

The sponge was formed into a loaf and fermented for 2.5 days and so not very strong. It is still interesting and complex and much different than ordinary commercial single-cell yeast bread. The toast is so good I made two of these plates before I was satisfied. The combination of faint tang with sweet preserves is intriguing. As soon as my plate is empty I want more.

My experience with yeast cultures is the yeast and bacteria organisms are present on the wheat when it is milled and there is nothing to the process of milling that kills it.

But the organisms got on the wheat out in the field in the first place by airborne means. The organisms thrive with moisture and heat, hot summer days being perfect. And the wheat is as much solid as liquid, a good but not great place to thrive. Organisms attack the young budding grain when it is at the most tender and vulnerable. Organisms also attack germinating plants for the same reason ,when they are warm and wet and that is why malt works so well feeding yeast cultures. It is present in the air that you breathe. It takes up on your body and thrives in the warmest most moist places. It grows within hours to the extent you can smell it. So you know that it is there and it is growing rapidly. 

So yes, it is on the plants, and that can be used for a culture. But not in such great numbers as when fat and happy in a warm wet environment where they cultivate in overwhelming numbers.

I raced cultivating starters in two jars, one from flour straight out of the bag and another culture by slurry that captured and collected airborne organisms. The sample from the flour won that race and it became a strong and decent culture but the sample from the slurry capturing airborne organisms, pollen, viruses, pathogens, what have you, was stronger, eventually faster working once cultured, more complex more distinct, unique when baked. It too contained the same flour. Faced with new organism in larger numbers a war between them ensued and the greater numbers of mixed organisms prevailed. My theory is that accounted for the slight delay in getting started, relative to pure flour.

That time. 

My last collected culture was much faster because it collected much longer. 

That is my experience from some twenty years now of experimentation with various sourdough cultures that I collected myself and that I bought from around the country, and bought online from around the whole world. Sourdough cultures have distinct characteristics and those differences arise from airborne organisms that are also present on the flour of those places.

So then, the conceit that most of all this comes from yeast in the flour is right in its way but wrong by other considerations. 

And, goodness, people are so hard-headed.

I searched by browser [colorado sourdough starters] and ended up here where a woman asks for a quick starter and is answered. Then re-answered. Then the new answers are challenged. Then commenters pull out all the stops and lay down the law citing academic authory-tah, historic magazine articles, historical cookbooks, biblical exegesis, professors, PHDs and the like. Their presumptions. Their conceits spread out in full display. Only scantly their own personal experience, on to some eighty-five responses to a simple question. 

One commenter begins, "I used to think as you..."

Another commenter begins, " *sigh* " 

Good Lord, how arrogant. Begin spewing your academically acquired knowledge, and stating your sources of academic information, pffft, with a sigh and then rely entirely on argumentum ab auctoritate to bluster with zero real live experience cited. 

Most individuals through history did not have their own ovens. Any home baking would be a rudimentary affair in a pot at a fire. If they even had their own pot. Either communal ovens were used for flat cakes slapped onto the inside wall of a communal clay oven or procured from a town baker. Throughout history bread is associated closely with beer, basically two forms of the same things, one solid the other liquid. Nothing was known of microscopic organisms. Nothing. And little was known of chemistry. Even Isaac Newton was trying through alchemy to change base metals to gold. Few people could read, so whatever was written in olden times was hardly intended for widespread distribution. Even the word "leaven" could mean something that puffed up naturally by exposure to water (infected but they would not know that) and air, or some combination of readily available substances, but few people would be privy to chemical processes. Certainly not the home cook. That certain leaven compounds and plants were available and even sold commercially does not imply they were known and used by everyday cooks. Not as we think of today. So when the Bible is translated "leaven" that does not imply chemical leaven. It could be anything that make things puff. Even egg.

One commenter asserts the San Francisco and Klondike sourdoughs used chemical leaven, and named them, not natural airborne organisms. Yet the term "sourdough" refers to the men who stank of sourdough culture as they held a small sample in a pouch close to their bodies to prevent it from freezing. Their entire bodies then were sourdough cultures, they stank of it a mile away. The term refers to people who stank their unique stink, not to bread dough, then the term changed to refer to the bread itself over time. 

Commenters talk about success rates. I found that odd. None of my attempts failed. They all worked, some better than others and I am still learning what makes them great. I am learning too that greatness can go too far. Cultures can become too fast, too strong, unpleasantly acidic, loaves too tall and too airy.

None of the commenters discussed their cultures as sponges fermenting, nor how long to develop flavor.  None of them mentioned different baking techniques. None of them mentioned what they do with their culture, how they go from culture to sponge to dough, cold storage, warm proofing.  All of those things affect what would be considered successful sourdough loaves. Yet there they are for all to read, egoists all, just so certain their little corner of understanding is all that is needed to know.


Synova said...

Hi. I was certain that you had a post describing and showing how to collect a sourdough culture. My search using the term "sourdough" didn't bring up nearly as many entries as I was certain there were.

I was teasing my son who lives in the Seattle area that he should collect his own culture. Did you ever get one from Seattle?


Synova said...


Chip Ahoy said...

No, not Seattle. But I do have one from Concord near San Francisco and collected carelessly by my brother who neglected it, let rain water get into it, squirrels get into it and his dog get into it and that turned out the best collectionuntil I did a similar thing in Denver. I still have both of them.

Urge your son to try it. He'll be amazed.

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