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    You are in: Home / Community Forums / Breads & Baking / Sourdough starter question/controversy
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    Sourdough starter question/controversy

    MEAN CHEF
    Sat Mar 05, 2005 6:43 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    I have read this in a number of places and I distinctly recall hearing the same thing from pour bread baking expert in Culinary school. I would just like to know what you experts think:

    "People who think that sending sourdough starters all over the country are just kidding themselves. In every new location, local wild yeast invades the starter and you no longer have what you began with"

    DISCUSS!!
    Donna M.
    Sat Mar 05, 2005 10:23 pm
    Forum Host
    I am by no means a sourdough expert! I have been baking with wild yeast sourdoughs for about four years. Most of the information I have learned has been from the book "World Sourdoughs From Antiquity" by Ed Wood. Ed Wood is a pathologist, biologist, wild yeast expert, and master baker. In 1993, he was invited to participate in a National Geographic project to reproduce the first leavened breads at an excavated baking site in Egypt. He has traveled to many countries, collecting sourdoughs wherever he could get them.

    There is a lot of controversy about sourdoughs reverting to the local yeasts in the environment. I haven't found that to be true with the four different ones that I have been using. They all smell differently, taste differently, and rise at different speeds.

    In Ed Wood's book he writes, "Many home bakers use more than one sourdough culture and worry that one may contaminate and displace the organisms of the others. In general, I don't believe this is a significant problem. Stable cultures are characterized by organisms that have become dominant over extremely long periods of time with symbiotic relationships that are difficult to disrupt. In spite of this, however, you should use some precautions to prevent gross contamination. Do not bake with different cultures at the same time. Avoid contaminating the culture with commercial yeasts or chemical leaveners. The symbiosis between wild yeast and lactobacilli is very stable, but it can be destroyed by man-made yeast mutants or chemicals. Dont risk it by adding them to your culture."

    I would like to know if anyone else has any observations based on their own experience with multiple starters. Have they maintained their own unique characteristics in your environment over a period of time?
    Chipfo
    Thu Mar 10, 2005 8:07 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    I am by no means an expert at sour dough or bread making, but Mean has an interesting point, I was always good in biology and science however and would like to add my thoughts.

    OK, in creating a large culture of micro-organisms from a starter as in yeast bread, you are introducing a certain strain of yeast to a virtually fungus free environment (compared to the starter) and giving it the nesassary nutrition to thrive and reproduce (splitting or budding), so while other strains may be introduced through this proccess the starter strain is overwelmingly dominate so it is going to reproduce at a greater speed than the "native" wild strains indirectly introduced, therefor the starter culture being the dominate starter strain in the begining.

    Now, the question would be - How strong is the starter strain compared to the native wild yeast? I would think the native yeast would have to be overwelmingly strong to take over the starter yeast, there will be native yeast introduced into the starter culture, no stopping that, but is the native yeast so much stronger than the starter yeast that it can take over? It would be like sending an army of 1000 to defeat an army of millions.

    So , that brings about another question, can the starter yeast and the native yeast live together? If they can live in harmony then everytime the starter is used and/or replinished with nutrients then not only will more native yeast be introduced to the culture but will have a chance to multiply along with the original starter yeast and existing native yeast already in the culture. But , can the native yeast actually take over completely?

    My guess is that if the two (or more) strains cannot live together then the millions of starter yeast would keep any of the "introduced" native yeast from reproducing, it would be too overwelming. However, if they can live together then I think the most that would happen is that eventually there would be an equal population of the original starter and native yeast. Now, (I am not finnished yet icon_biggrin.gif ) if they can live and reproduce together but one strain is stronger than the other and has the capability of (non-aggressively) overtaking the less significant by, lets say "overpopulating" the other out then I can see one being the victor and if the starter was the stronger then it would never get that far but, if the native yeast was the stronger, then.......

    So, my question is: Can different strains of yeast live and reproduce together or will there be a battle?
    CobraLimes
    Thu Mar 10, 2005 10:57 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    Considering that the starters are covered and/or refrigerated at all times, wouldn't the incidence of contamination from other airborne yeast strains be so minimal that it would be insignificant? At any rate, I just used a new starter (from another area of the country) that yielded a flavor unlike any I've had before. I'll get back to you in the next couple of years and let you know if the taste has changed. icon_razz.gif
    Donna M.
    Fri Mar 11, 2005 12:57 am
    Forum Host
    Chipfo wrote:
    I am by no means an expert at sour dough or bread making, but Mean has an interesting point, I was always good in biology and science however and would like to add my thoughts.

    OK, in creating a large culture of micro-organisms from a starter as in yeast bread, you are introducing a certain strain of yeast to a virtually fungus free environment (compared to the starter) and giving it the nesassary nutrition to thrive and reproduce (splitting or budding), so while other strains may be introduced through this proccess the starter strain is overwelmingly dominate so it is going to reproduce at a greater speed than the "native" wild strains indirectly introduced, therefor the starter culture being the dominate starter strain in the begining.

    Now, the question would be - How strong is the starter strain compared to the native wild yeast? I would think the native yeast would have to be overwelmingly strong to take over the starter yeast, there will be native yeast introduced into the starter culture, no stopping that, but is the native yeast so much stronger than the starter yeast that it can take over? It would be like sending an army of 1000 to defeat an army of millions.

    So , that brings about another question, can the starter yeast and the native yeast live together? If they can live in harmony then everytime the starter is used and/or replinished with nutrients then not only will more native yeast be introduced to the culture but will have a chance to multiply along with the original starter yeast and existing native yeast already in the culture. But , can the native yeast actually take over completely?

    My guess is that if the two (or more) strains cannot live together then the millions of starter yeast would keep any of the "introduced" native yeast from reproducing, it would be too overwelming. However, if they can live together then I think the most that would happen is that eventually there would be an equal population of the original starter and native yeast. Now, (I am not finnished yet icon_biggrin.gif ) if they can live and reproduce together but one strain is stronger than the other and has the capability of (non-aggressively) overtaking the less significant by, lets say "overpopulating" the other out then I can see one being the victor and if the starter was the stronger then it would never get that far but, if the native yeast was the stronger, then.......

    So, my question is: Can different strains of yeast live and reproduce together or will there be a battle?


    Excellent post, Chip! In my research on the subject in red--NO, they cannot live and reproduce together. Quoted from Ed Wood's book, "The yeast and the bacteria have a symbiotic relationship; that is, each provides something essential to the other. Some yeasts do not use certain carbohydrates found in flour that are required by their bacterial partners. The bacteria, in return, produce antibiotics that protect both the yeast and the bacteria themselves from destruction by other organisms."

    The stronger, or most dominant yeast/bacteria combination would win the battle and overtake the weaker one if you were to mix two strains of sourdough together.
    Chipfo
    Fri Mar 11, 2005 7:26 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    Donna M. wrote:
    Excellent post, Chip! In my research on the subject in red--NO, they cannot live and reproduce together. Quoted from Ed Wood's book, "The yeast and the bacteria have a symbiotic relationship; that is, each provides something essential to the other. Some yeasts do not use certain carbohydrates found in flour that are required by their bacterial partners. The bacteria, in return, produce antibiotics that protect both the yeast and the bacteria themselves from destruction by other organisms."

    The stronger, or most dominant yeast/bacteria combination would win the battle and overtake the weaker one if you were to mix two strains of sourdough together.


    So, if you mix two strains together equally the stronger will prevail. I would have to agree with Donna's first post about Ed Wood and Cobralimes' post. The introduction of native wild yeast to the culture would be so small that it would never stand a chance. But that would just be my hypothesis according to what knowledge I have about micro-organisms in general and Donna's posts here. As long as you don't intentionally introduce a large amount of a different type then I feel your original culture will be safe by it's own defence.

    So, Mean Chef, other than bringing this debate up for questioning, what are your personal thoughts and/or overall outlook on this subject? icon_biggrin.gif Do you agree with the bread baking expert in Culinary school? Was this (in your post) their opinion or did they have any scientific data to confirm their beliefs?
    MEAN CHEF
    Fri Mar 11, 2005 7:41 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    Chipfo wrote:
    Donna M. wrote:
    Excellent post, Chip! In my research on the subject in red--NO, they cannot live and reproduce together. Quoted from Ed Wood's book, "The yeast and the bacteria have a symbiotic relationship; that is, each provides something essential to the other. Some yeasts do not use certain carbohydrates found in flour that are required by their bacterial partners. The bacteria, in return, produce antibiotics that protect both the yeast and the bacteria themselves from destruction by other organisms."

    The stronger, or most dominant yeast/bacteria combination would win the battle and overtake the weaker one if you were to mix two strains of sourdough together.


    So, if you mix two strains together equally the stronger will prevail. I would have to agree with Donna's first post about Ed Wood and Cobralimes' post. The introduction of native wild yeast to the culture would be so small that it would never stand a chance. But that would just be my hypothesis according to what knowledge I have about micro-organisms in general and Donna's posts here. As long as you don't intentionally introduce a large amount of a different type then I feel your original culture will be safe by it's own defence.

    So, Mean Chef, other than bringing this debate up for questioning, what are your personal thoughts and/or overall outlook on this subject? icon_biggrin.gif Do you agree with the bread baking expert in Culinary school? Was this (in your post) their opinion or did they have any scientific data to confirm their beliefs?


    My "bread instructor" just laughed and said it was complete folly to transport starters. I do not know the right answer. I just thought this was worthy of discussion.
    Chipfo
    Sat Mar 12, 2005 1:48 am
    Food.com Groupie
    I agree it is worthy of discussion. I never thought about it until you brought it up and I am in the middle of recieving a culture from across the country so it sparked my interest, I never realized that there are so many different strains of yeast. A very interesting question indeed.
    CarrolJ
    Thu Apr 07, 2005 10:13 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    Granted compared to Donna I am still a novice at wild yeast sourdough baking having done so for only a portion of the past year.

    But I can't help but agree with her that the flavors of the 3 starters I have acquired from her are extremely different from each other in the way that they proof, smell and taste.

    They are so distinctive that no matter if I use the same recipe for them, they all taste different and have a different texture.

    I find it hard to believe that they would lose their original wild yeast organism or they would begin to act, smell and taste alike. Which they most definitely do not.
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