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Foods -- Breads and Grains
How safe is an Amish Bread Starter that includes flour, milk, sugar, and yeast?
The process to making a bread starter is similar in theory to fermenting cabbage to make sauerkraut. The starter mixture - flour, milk, sugar, and yeast - selects for naturally present lactic acid bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria produce lactic and acetic acids, which reduces the pH of the dough. The low pH prevents the growth of harmful and spoilage microorganisms. The addition of yeast speeds the fermentation process. It also contributes to the volume of the baked product because it produces carbon dioxide during the fermentation. One continues to add flour, milk, and sugar to maintain the culture, otherwise it will use up all the nutrients and die off. Care must be taken to avoid off-flavors and odors resulting from the incubation of undesirable microorganisms in uncontrolled cultures. Thus, store in a clean container, use clean utensils to feed new ingredients to the existing starter, and keep it covered. Because E. coli 0157:H7 has been shown to survive, but not grow, in acidic foods, make sure that no cross-contamination occurs with the culture. However, E. coli is easily destroyed in a baked products so it would probably not present a great threat.