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Sourdough starters are fermented mixtures of flour, water and environmentally sourced microorganisms. It is well known that these microorganisms play an influential role in the fermentation process as they influence the development of flavor, smells and texture. In addition, the use of ingredients, baking technicalities and geographical location has been shown to influence these microbial communities. Therefore, these factors have a direct role in influencing the overall fermentation process. However, one factor that has not been fully explored is the influence of water quality upon microbial communities involved with traditional sourdough fermentation.
Here I perform an investigation into the effects of residual chlorine disinfection upon the microbial communities found in sourdough starters. As an indicator for water quality, residual chlorine is used as a final measure to ensure eradication of harmful bacteria. In the context of sourdough fermentation, how much harm is the chlorinated water to the microbial communities?
By pairing together culture-independent and –dependent methodologies, I was able to reveal the possible harmful effects of chlorine upon microbial communities important for sourdough fermentation. Reductions in diversity of several important operational taxonomic units were observed with high chlorine treatments, but seldom seen in lower treatments. In addition, we observed a shift in the microbial communities depending on the treatment used. Overall, the results of the study provide a stepping stone into the considerations needed for preparing fermented foods, and the microbial communities that drive these processes as well.
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Lau, Pearson J., "A Metagenomics Analysis of the Effects of Chlorine Upon the Microbial Communities Found in Sourdough Starters" (2017). Senior Projects Spring 2017. 93.