The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Rye Sourdough Starter Questions

  • Pin It
Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Rye Sourdough Starter Questions

I have a few questions regarding rye bread using mature rye sourdough starter.

In using my starter for SF style sourdough breads, JH 5 Grain Levain breads, baguettes, etc.  I have found a pleasant amount of sour/tang come out in the finished loaf - or none at all with baguettes, which is what I would expect.

Recently, trying some rye breads such as a 40% rye, I find the end result a bit TOO sour for my liking.

1. What is the best way to tame the sour in a rye bread?  Understanding that retarding the proof usually enhances the sour, my rye breads are never retarded in fridge, so this is not an issue.

2. Will decreasing the fermenting time of a rye sour preferment help?  If preferement in recipe calls for 12 - 16 hours at 76-80 degrees, will sticking to the low end 11 - 12 hours help decrease the sourness?  What about the temperature related to time?

3. Is the type of rye flour a factor?

Thanks all.



Fred Rickson's picture
Fred Rickson

The sour comes from bacteria, and the more bacteria you have, producing acid, the more sour you have.  Think of it like quart jar of rye starter is very sour.  If I make it into a single loaf, the same sour will now be bread.  But we usually dilute the flavor and sour of our starter with water and flour to various degrees.  If I make up enough dough to make a single loaf and only use a tablespoon of my starter, not much flavor or acid will be found.  

So to cut the acid you can cut the amount of starter or cut the time you allow for acid production.  But, you need a good population of yeast for both flavor and gas production, and that means the bacteria and their acid will increase also.  Just play with all of that....cooler ferment to favor yeast, and maybe a shorter ferment time to not allow the bacteria to really get going.  Sourdough is always going to be a balance between flavor and acid, so it is how you develop the dough, over time, that gives your loaf its  final characteristics.Over the years I have used various rye flours and grinds, and the final loaf characteristics always come down to how I manipulate the build.  I like sour so my build is over three days at room (72) temperature.
Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Fred Rickson.  Thank you for the feedback.  I will play around with my formulas as per your above suggestions.  Here's another odd one for you:

That very same loaf that I made was derived from a final build that was divided into 2 seperate loaves.  The very sour one in question proofed for about an hour at 78 degrees.  This loaf not only turned out very sour but also had a compressed crumb structure, leading me to believe it was underproofed.  Now the odd thing is, the 2nd loaf that I made from the same dough, proofed at 78 degrees for about 2 hours and is LESS sour than the first loaf that proofed for an hour.  Also the crumb structure was more open and even - which doesn't surprise me.  What surprised me was the difference in sour.  Wouldn't you think that the one that proofed for a longer duration would turn out MORE sour than the one at less duration??


dabrownman's picture

sciene on LABS and yeast you might find interesting John.