The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread's just a little too sour.

CarmenC's picture

Bread's just a little too sour.

I made a loaf of sourdough with my OR Trail Starter on Monday, and it turned out just a bit too sour; not inedibly sour, but a bit stronger than I'd like. Here's what I did:

Sunday morning: Took starter out of fridge (it had been there for a week), gave it a 1:2:2 feeding.

Sunday evening: Gave starter a 1:3:3 feeding, so I'd have enough extra to make dough Monday morning.

Monday Morning: Gave starter a 1:2:2 feeding, used the excess starter to make dough:

  • 33% starter
  • 50% bread flour
  • 25% white whole wheat flour
  • 25% whole rye flour
  • 66% water, filtered
  • 2% salt

Mixed the dough, let it rest for 20 minutes, then kneaded it for a few minutes and set it in a covered bucket to rise while I was at work.

Monday evening (between 10 & 11 hours later): Got the dough in the loaf pan, let it proof for two hours, then baked it at 350F until the internal temperature was at least 200F (I need a better instant-read thermometer). This took about 55 minutes, I think.

The crumb's good (sorry, no pictures), but it's just a little too sour for my taste. I've made bread with the 1:2:3 starter:water:flour ratio before, and it was perfectly tangy. Thinking back to that batch, I come up with these differences:

  • No whole wheat flour; I used about 2/3 bread flour and 1/3 rye
  • The starter had been on the counter for a week (I had just revived it after a long period of neglect).
  • The final feeding had been 1:2:2 instead of 1:3:3
  • Last time I had mixed up the dough the night before and shaped it in the morning. The initial rise was probably between 8 & 9 hours instead of 10 & 11.
  • I shaped the first dough into two little boules instead of one loaf and baked them at 400F for about 20 minutes.

Do you think it was the extra rising time or the change in flours that caused it to be a little too strong?

Yumarama's picture

People who aim for a more sour result would do two things, usually:

1) do a very slow retard, put the dough in the fridge for 16 hours, maybe more. This cold temp allows the yeast to slow production down and let the lacto build up - it's acids is what give the bread the sour tang. A fast(er) rise in a warm place is better for the yeast as it's more vigorous while the lacto doesn't keep up so well. 

2) Whole wheat: it adds qualities that, again, are preferred for the acid development.

So from your comparison list, the most obvious change is the addition of whole wheat. The increased time is only 2 hours, not significant enough to make a huge difference in acid levels.

The bread shape is unlikely to affect acid levels at all.

I'm unclear if you said the starter was on the counter (not refrigerated) for a week - I'm assuming it was being fed twice daily during that time, not just sitting unattended? 

I don't think the final 1:2:2 vs 1:3:3 feed ratio would affect the acids terribly much since you're not really changing the flour and water amounts (50-50 vs 40-60 etc.) and making a dryer or wetter starter. Someone else may be able to give more details on that. And again, on the counter at room temp, you're more in favour of the yeasts, less so the lacto/acids. Of course, if you have a quite cool kitchen, that changes this point.

I might add, as well, that i use the Oregon Trail starter too and I also have a home-grown starter. The Oregon Trail, fed exactly the same as the home-grown over the period of several months and under exact same conditions, has a somewhat more pronounced tang to it that home grown has never attained. So it may simply be that your starter is just inclined to be a little tangier by nature because of the specific culture that it contains.

CarmenC's picture

Yes, when the starter's out of the fridge, I feed it twice a day; Carl the OTS starter is quite active. The kitchen is pretty cool, but it was just as cool for the earlier loaf, if not a bit cooler.

I suppose the next thing to try is to make another sourdough loaf, removing or reducing the amount of whole wheat but keeping the slightly longer bulk fermentation (it's so easy to fit around my work day), to see if the level of sour goes down.

And now that I have some experience with what a starter's supposed to look like, I could try growing another one from scratch.

And thanks for your help.