The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Waaaay to Sour! Help!

Mylissa20's picture
Mylissa20

Waaaay to Sour! Help!

Ok, I am a SD newbie and on my 6th unsuccessful loaf.  This last loaf showed the most amount of promise, but I have determined that my start must be waaaay to sour.  Everything smells good during the process, but by the time the bread comes out of the oven, you can smell the overpowering sour.  Is there a way to tone down my starter without starting over? And what is a good WW SD recipe?  I am feeling frustrated and very close to calling my SD quest quits.  (I can't stand to waste all that flour on bread that is too sour to use for anything)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I see you've posted another Question and didn't get an answer.  Well, we won't let you fall through the gaps in the cooling rack...  Six loaves!  My goodness!  That's what I call determination!  Good for you!


"Way too sour" indicates long rising times and several other things that could be going on but I need more detail about your starter, recipe, timing and temperatures to make an educated guess as to where the problem lies and how to get things working for you.  Have you got that oregon trail sourdough starter going?


Meanwhile... your question about sponges, yes, to the beginner the term is strange.  I don't like to use it myself.  I dive, and to me sponges are creatures under the sea but I quess it's the bubbles that appear in a sponge that give its name.  The purpose of a sourdough sponge is to have a good amount of active yeasts and lactobacteria in it to flavor and raise the dough and then to use it when it is most active.


Everyone is different and so are their starters to a certain degree.  Some keep a runny one, others firm, some 100% hydration, some 50% some 200%  (Hydration, that's the weight of water divided by the weight of flour and converted to %)   Each has his favorite and some keep a variety.    Some are kept at room temp, others in the fridge.  When a starter is prepared and used in a recipe it goes through a name change and becomes a "sponge."  The trick is to match the starter to the recipe while keeping the starter healthy and this can be done in a number of ways.  Easiest is just to match whatever hydration you have to a recipe requiring that hydration.  This all sounds so complicated but in reality it is not. 


Your turn,  Mini

Mylissa20's picture
Mylissa20

Ok, here is my SD profile.  I am using the Oregon Trail start, which seems to be alive and well (it doubles in volume between each feeding).  I have about 1 cup start that I feed 1/4 cup water and 3/8 cup flour each feeding per instructions for maintaining a start on the Sourdough Home.  Math is not my strongpoint so I couldn't tell you what hydration % is.  I currently keep my start in a spot in my kitchen that maintains 75 degrees. 


My first loaf was baked using the Sanfrancisco Sourdough recipe on Carl Griffiths Oregon Trail brochure.  My bread came out with good crumb and moderate spring, but no flavor other than the overpowering sour.  The taste was similar to eating an unleasantly sour white flour paste- no richness or flavor.  So I decided to convert my start to WW through each feeding, thinking that the WW would add more of the richness of flavor I was looking for and thinking it might balance out the sour.  Last night I decided to use the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book Whole Wheat Sourdough recipe that calls for a 12-18 hour sponge, and then a normal rise series (90, 45, 25).  Now let it be known that i am a SD addict, and have never found a loaf that was too sour for my personal taste.  I can't adequately describe the nature of my start's sour, but I guess I would compare it to eating plain yogurt, it's very tart in an unapetizing way. 


One confession: I am the mother of 2 very small children (2yrs and 1yr) and I don't always feed my start right on the 12 hour mark (but usually within a 2 hour window).  There have been 2 times I have missed feedings since I reconstituted my mailer start.  I don't know if that could affect the sour.


thanks for being willing to help!

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Mylissa, 1 cup of starter is too much for 1/4 cup water and 3/8 cup flour. As the sourdoughhome page you linked to says, you need to double your starter at feeding, and I would interpret that as at least double it. That means you should reduce the starter you are feeding with those amounts to 1/2 cup or less. That's a good start toward reducing the sour. If that doesn't tone it down enough, you can reduce the starter even more (increase the refreshment rate), feed it more often, firm it up, keep it in a cooler spot, or a combination of those four things. Give it at least three days, maybe even a week or two to adjust to a new routine.

Mylissa20's picture
Mylissa20

Thank you so much! I went back and looked over the instructions and found where I misread the instructions.  How embarrassing! :)  I read them over so many times but I guess I had "1 cup" so ingrained in my brain it affected my vision.  Will making that adjustment also help the spring of my SD loaves?  This last batch seemed to rise well at every stage except for in the oven.  I took some photos but couldn't figure out how to upload them from my computer, so lets just say I could fit my hand around 3/4 of the loaf after I took them out of the oven.  You had mentioned that finding the right recipe for my particular starter's hydration would make a difference, what is the best way to pick a recipe? 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

everything else will just rise to the occasion.  

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink


Will making that adjustment also help the spring of my SD loaves?



It could. It certainly won't hurt. Underfed starters can get very proteolytic, which will hinder oven spring. As you know, gluten is a protein, and when that breaks down too much, there goes both rise and oven spring.


Lactobacilli have complex dietary protein needs, which they get from amino acids in the flour. When free amino acids run out, some can produce proteases to extract amino acids from proteins in the flour to get at the nutrients and building blocks they need to build new cells. Enzymes don't quit when the bacteria do, so they can continue on doing their damage. The organisms in a well-fed starter have less need to make these enzymes, and so you can flush them out and reduce their effect with a good feeding routine.


In addition, there are proteolytic enzymes naturally present in grains and flours, which are pH-activated. As the LAB increase the acidity of the starter, it turns on these enzymes as well. Most of the cereal enzymes are removed from refined flours, but they are present at full strength in whole grain flours, which is one of the things that makes whole grain sourdoughs that much more challenging. (Underfed starters tend to be more acidic.)


I know it's only been a couple days, but have you seen any improvement in your starter yet?


Oh, P.S.  Last week I firmed up my starter and reduced hydration from 100% to 60%. It went from tangy to very mild. I don't like refreshing the firm starter as much---battery is easier, but I do like effect.   -dw

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Mylissa, glad to help.   The first observation:  "I have about 1 cup start that I feed 1/4 cup water and 3/8 cup flour each feeding..."  Unless that one cup is a typo, the instructions to Sourdough Home uses 1/2 cup of starter.  That would mean that your starter is underfed and contains too many sour byproducts.  That would explain a lot.  


For maintenance, either reduce the starter to 1/2 cup or double the amounts of water and flour.  That should straighten things out.  I would strongly suggest that with the next evening feeding, you reduce the starter to just one tablespoon (keep the old starter for backup in the fridge) and add the 1/4 c water & 3/8 cup flour.   Return to the maintenance program in the morning and continue as you have but using only 1/2 cup of starter. 


The feeding time difference of 2 hours before or after 12 hours is not too important.


Mini

Mylissa20's picture
Mylissa20

It worked! Despite my aprehensiveness, I went ahead and tried a new loaf with my improved start, this time with the recipe from the King Arthur Flour whole Grain Baking book.  I still need to make some modifications to get the spring perfect for the whole wheat factor, but it was delicious and had much more spring than my previous bricks.  Thank you thank you for your patient help and advice!

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

The last ww bread I made with my flour/water starter was also way too sour, and I ended up pitching it out.  Up till then, any bread I'd made with this starter (liquid) had been fine, barely sour at all.  I was wondering if it would make a difference if I fed it for a couple of days before making the bread; would it be less sour?

Soundman's picture
Soundman

PaddyL, what's your feeding routine? Do you refrigerate and use direct from the fridge? In other words, more details will help.


David

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Sorry to hear you are having trouble with over sour bread. Since sour is a matter of taste and past experience, this could be a matter of your expectations of the sour flavor. As Mini said above we can't be of much help until you post the recipe and tell us how you are feeding your starter, and how you are fermenting the dough.


Eric

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

 


For starters, (haha ...love saying that) note that a wetter and warmer proof will help reduce the sourness.  Try feeding and proofing at 85-90 F.  Also, any whole-grain flour that I've ever tried always increases the sour as well, especially rye flour.  I'd switch back to a pure white starter and maybe try a couple of different brands of white flours as well, and all-purpose versus bread flour too.  Each will vary in what nutrition it provides the starter and the flavor will vary a bit as a result.


 


How long have you been keeping your starter alive?  If it's longer than a year, then it may have been influenced by local flora.  If not, then maybe that's good.  You can always start your own (while not feeding both near each other or at the same time) and see how that one tastes.  I started one here in Fairbanks, Alaska about 18 months ago and it's the most vibrant starter that I've ever owned and I've been baking with sourdough for 35 years.  My complaint is that my sourdough HAS NO SOUR unless I specifically try to eek it out of it!  I have to use what I call a 'dry' starter (dough-like, not liquid), keep it down to 76-79 F while proofing, and allow the finished loaves to proof overnight in the fridge ...just to get an acceptable sour in it.  Makes good bread though.


It's good that you have patience.  Keep in mind that flour is cheap.  One of the cheapest hobbies you'll ever have is the feeding of sourdough.  If I were you, I'd start a new one on my own.  Also, I'm a firm believer in abusing your starter to some degree.  Don't kill it, but whether you are starting a new one or experimenting with your Oregon Trail one, it's good for it to receive a variety of treatments ...proof warmer sometimes, sometimes cooler, sometimes for only 8 hours, sometimes for 16, refrigerate for 2 or 3 weeks or longer once in a while with no feeds, feed it continuously for a few days, etcetera.  These things will mature your starter and all the 'weaklings' (yeast and lacto-bacillus etc) will die off while the strong take over.  The result will be a robust and resilient starter that you can be a lot more flexible with, and the flavor will mature as well.  Depending on local factors, a new starter can be started and going well enough to make bread in as little as 2 weeks, or it may take several months.  Just resolve up front to not quitting, and your robust and good tasting starter will be yours before you know it.


 


Brian


 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Brian you sound like a tough love kinda guy. What doesn't kill ya makes you stronger. Your advice is sound in my book if you allow a few days at each stage to allow for the population to adjust.


I also think she is under feeding it or starving it at refreshment time. I like to start with 50 grams (1 heaping T) of old starter and add 75 grams of flour and water each. I refresh once a day in the evening when I prepare the following days bread.


Eric

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

There's a connection between



My complaint is that my sourdough HAS NO SOUR



and



I use what I call a 'dry' starter (dough-like, not liquid)



Lactic acid bacteria don't grow as fast in a firm starter. In keeping it this way, their numbers drop off, and with them goes your souring potential. Try increasing the hydration and see what happens :-)

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

1. Nope ...I'm not a tough-love drill instructor!  I just noticed long ago, after being lazy with feeds and also when comparing constant feeding versus giving starters refrigeration cycles, that the starter got a lot better ...faster rising, more resilient.  So, when starting a new starter now, I give it a chance to get going, then start "giving it exercise" to help things along (and yes, it's always good to give it a few days to 'adjust'.)  After that, the stuff is very abuse resistant and works very well.


 


2. No sour v. hydration:  Nope, been there and done that.  With normal hydration, say 1 cup starter to 1 cup water and 1-1/2 c. flour for feeding, the starter had only a mild sourness to it ...more like an aftertaste that arrives 5 minutes after your last bite :).  Switching to a drier starter immediately improved it and gave it more sour.  Cooler proofing temperatures, both when feeding and when proofing loaves, took it further.  If I want a loaf to have even more sour, then I make a rye blend.  Whole wheat makes it more sour too, but not as significantly.  My personal guess is that the types of critters living up here with us (home is about 100 miles south of the arctic circle) just produce a milder product unless you do something about it.  I've heard the same from others around here and have yet to meet someone with a real sour starter (in this part of Alaska that is.)  I don't have a good explanation for it though.  Hmmmm......


 


Brian


 

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I was reading Glezer's remarks yesterday on why refrigerated doughs ferments taste more acidic. I knew this was so, but I didn't understand until I read what she had to say about it. What she says was a real eye-opener for me.



A great way to stop your bread making is to refrigerate your dough immediately after shaping it .... for up to 12 hours.


This works because in the cold, the enzyme activity is greatly reduced so the dough ferments at a very slow rate. However, as the dough chills, it does pass through the 50º and 60ºF temperature range, which is optimal for acidic acid production. Therefore, doughs that have been chilled taste more acidic than those that have been proofed at room temperature and will often have many blisters on their crusts. This increased acidity is a good thing for some breads and bad for others (sourdoughs, especially, can become almost unbearably sour) (Artisan Baking, pg. 15).



I'm not placing this post in exactly the correct spot, but it seems like it belongs somewhere in this thread.


--Pamela

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

some of the alcohols created in the fermenting process have turned into acidic acid in the refrigerator.  Ah ha!  So to avoid overly sour bread one should avoid that temperature range.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

That's what it sounds like to me, Mini. I just can't tell you how many light bulbs went on in my thick skull when I read that passage!


So you are getting sour from the starter, which is more or less sour depending on how firm it is, what temperature it is kept at, how often it is fed, even how it was constructed in terms of what DW says about establishing a coexisting climate for yeast and bacteria, etc.


And, you are getting sour from how you are handling the bulk fermentation and proofing (either or both might be in the refrigerator).


--Pamela

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Thanks Pamela, good catch. 


So Mylissa, how is your starter today?  It should be pumping yeasts now...  It might even burst out of it's jar.


Mini

Mylissa20's picture
Mylissa20

Well, I'm pretty aprehensive I must admit, but I think i'm getting ready to try another loaf with my improved start.  It's hard to know whether or not it is what it should be since I have yet to experience SD zen, but I guess there's only one way to find out.  My start is much firmer now and still doubling nicely.  I've been feeding it regularly and reducing it back to 1/2 cup with each feeding so that I am sure to be feeding it enough.  All this feedback is wonderful and I really hope to be successful this time.  One thing though, it seems like with each feeding my start gets just a little bit more dry.  I keep my start container enclosed in a plastic bag on the counter, so no moisture could be escaping, but I don't know if I should add a little bit more water or not.  It is thick enough now to maintain a fairly good lump in the container after feeding but not nearly thick enough to be able to knead or anything.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If you feel it should be a little wetter, by all means add a teaspoon or two.  Make it the way you like it.


Mini

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

You're getting some sour from the starter, yes (if your starter is sour), but more importantly, the starter provides the potential for sour to be further developed in the dough. That potential depends on there being enough souring bacteria present to make the sour. They grow and multiply quicker in warm wet conditions.


They will produce a higher percentage of acetic acid in cool dry conditions. But they can't do very much very fast if they're not there. Strength in numbers. So wouldn't the best strategy for increasing the sour be, to give a period of warm and/or wet in your starter, preferments and/or bulk fermentation (to increase the LAB population) and then cool it down to kick them into acetic acid production?


The problem or advantage, depending on which side of the sour fence you sit, is that continuing to refresh and maintain a starter cool and/or dry, reduces the LAB population, and its sour potential. It won't matter that each organism can produce more acetic acid if there aren't enough organisms to produce it in the given time.


Starter and dough require different strategies.


 

xaipete's picture
xaipete

So, since my starter is sour, by making a preferment with it and letting it sit out at room temperature for a number of hours before refrigerating makes it have the potential to be more sour. And, then using the same procedure when I use it in the dough (the dough sits out for a while before getting refrigerated) also increases it's potential sour. It that what you are saying?


--Pamela

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Yes, as opposed to refrigerating the whole time, or retarding the bulk ferment and proofing at room temp. You'll get a different effect. Because if you refrigerate early, when there aren't as many organisms... well it's like trying to run a production line with only a fraction of your emplyees.


Heterofermentive bacteria do not grow faster at lower temperatures (that was a big myth). Remember how many days you had to leave your dough in the fridge to develop any sour before? Because you didn't have a large enough population to do the job any faster :-)  And because the cold temperatures kept them from multiplying.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

There is just so much to learn about the whole process if one wants to understand what one is doing, and I want to understand.


--Pamela

Mylissa20's picture
Mylissa20

Would that be another reason to feed your start for a few days after  a long refrigeration?  Does that help bring the acidity to "normal" levels?

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I'm not sure exactly that "normal" is the right term here. My normal might be way too sour for your normal. Do you see what I mean? What Debbie is saying, I think, is to make your starter more hydrated when you feed it. If you feed it with a higher amount of water and use bread flour, it ought to be less sour. You might have to do that several or even many times, perhaps without refrigerating it. I'm sure Debbie will chime in here again soon.


BTW: it has taken me months to get my white bread starter as sour as my whole wheat starter. I'm constantly rejiggering (love that word!) the white bread one, but it is really coming a long.


--Pamela

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Firm it up and use all white flour for less sour.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Wow, I had to go all the way up this thread to figure out where I was because one person wants it more sour and the other doesn't. This sure is a tricky subject!


So perhaps if I kept my white starter a little wetter I might not have to rejigger it so often to keep it sour.


--Pamela

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Try it and see what happens :-)  A little whole grain or rye may give it more kick too.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

That is what my rejiggering has consisted of. Sometimes when I feed it I throw in a little of the whole wheat starter and some rye and/or whole wheat; other times it is a different mix; then, I might try it again with all bread flour.


All I know is that is has gotten more sour with time and my rejiggering.


I could try a little more water and see what that does. There's no risk here. I feel comfortable enough at this point that I can fool around with it without causing any permanent harm.


--Pamela

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Higher hydration, warmer temperatures, higher extraction flours, are three factors to increase the LAB populations and souring potential. Forget about lactic vs. acetic for the starter. You can manipulate that later, when you have enough organisms to manipulate.


On the flip side, cooler, drier, firmer, lower extraction rate, are factors that help keep LAB in check.


It's the continuous nature of the starter that makes it vulnerable to natural selection and sets it apart from the rest of the process. The strategies are separate for starter and dough. For starter, it's about maintaining the desireable populations. In dough, it's about optimizing their metabolic by-products.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Today's my rebuild day. Thanks, Debbie. --Pamela

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

before it went into the refrigerator.   I think if the starter has not fermented very much before being refrigerated, there is little chance that the acids can bild quickly.   A starter that is ready to use and is placed into the refrigerator continues to ferment also but in a short time has exhausted the food it was given and starts to weaken and it looks like its acids get stronger tasting too as the temperature sinks through the 50's° F range.


Mini

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

I think she meant acetic acid (acidic acid is redundant). LAB need co-substrates or 5-carbon sugars to produce acetic acid from maltose. The most important co-substrate in lean bread doughs made with white flour, is the fructose that is locked in the complex carbohydrates of the flour. Fructose becomes available to the LAB through the enzyme action of yeast. 50-60º is that optimal range where the LAB slow down enough, but the yeast not too much, so that there is enough fructose available to process with the maltose they are metabolizing. If they have only maltose, they produce only lactic acid, or lactic and alcohol. But if they have both maltose and fructose, they will make acetic acid and lactic acid. Acetic acid packs a bigger punch.


dw

xaipete's picture
xaipete

My typo: apologies to Maggie Glezer and thanks for the catch, Debbie.


--Pamela

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Uh oh... More questions.  If say, a fellow wanted to make a MORE sour starter, then I wonder if you can feed with a little powdered fructose mixed in as well?  Wouldn't this side-step the issue about whether enough fructose was available from the flour?  I should make 3 or 4 tiny recipes that make only 3 or 4 rolls each, and try comparing the addition of nothing, the addition of fructose powder, the addition of durum flour, and the addition of rye, and the addition of whole wheat.  The problem is that it would be hard to guess what relative sizes of each addition would need to be so that you were comparing modifications that were just different in type, not amount.  I'm rambling...


 


Brian


 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Well, powdered fructose probably won't get approval from the artisan bread world, but if you want to try it in something, add it to the dough, rather than your starter. Trying to make your starter sour presents its own problems.


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2#comment-58735


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2#comment-61025


Citric acid is another additive that some use to increase sour in bread.


Rye is a good choice because it is rich in 5-carbon sugars, or pentoses, which are locked in the pentosans. (There are pentosans in whole wheat as well.) Pentoses also increase acetic acid production, if you have lactobacilli that can utilize them. If you want to invite those organisms into the mix, try providing some pentoses with your maintainence feedings by adding some rye flour.


Whole grain and high ash flours will help you get more sour. I don't know where durum flour fits on the spectrum. Ash content provides a natural buffer system, which allows LAB to produce more acid before the pH becomes a limiting factor for their growth. Lots of factors to look at. This thread may give you more ideas:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10375/lactic-acid-fermentation-sourdough

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Thankgs again, Debra!


The bold "5" and "pent" finally made the connection for me! (Finally I understand a little bit why rye works so well at enhancing the acetic acid in my bread.)


David

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Ash?  There's ash in flour?  Is this a chemical term, not what it sounds like to my untrained ears?  What should you look for on a label, or should you just look for a particular type of flour (as you listed)?


 


Thx,


Brian


 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Ash is a term for mineral content in flour (what is left behind if you were to burn it). 100% Whole grain flours have the highest ash content, highly refined flours have the least. Minerals provide a natural buffer system, sometimes referred to as buffering capacity of the dough.   -dw

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

I try to rephrase things now and then to help show the connections between the scientific terms and their practical meanings. Pentosans are chains of 5-carbon sugars (namely xylose, with or without arabinose attached to the side), in a similar way as starches---amylose and amylopectin---are made up of chains of glucose. Take a look at Hemicellulose and Arabinoxylan on this page:


Click here: Carbohydrates - Chemical Structure (Page 3 of 3)


Lactobacillus plantarum is fairly common in sourdoughs. It is a facultative heterofermenter (meaning it also homoferments) and many strains can utilize pentose sugars (unlike L. sanfran. and yeast, which cannot). Because it is facultatively heterofermentive, it is always producing two acids for each molecule of sugar---either two lactic acids through homofermentation, or one lactic and one acetic through heterofermentation.


In contrast, an obligate heterofermenter like L. sanfran. is only producing one [lactic] acid for each sugar, unless it has oxygen or fructose available to make acetic acid. Without co-substrates, it makes alcohol and lactic acid instead of acetic and lactic acids. Alcohol is driven off in baking and doesn't contribute to sourness.


If feeding with rye promotes growth of L. plantarum, or another organism like it, you can see how it would give you a bigger bang for your buck :-)


dw

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

...Yeah but, I read somewhere that lactic acid doesn't give much bang for your buck when it comes to the sourness in sourdough, that it is acetic acid that give it 'that sourdough flavor' type of sour that we know and love.  Comments?


Brian


 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Lactic acid doesn't have the sharp sour aroma (an important component of flavor) that acetic has, but both contribute in their own way to overall tang. The majority of the acid is lactic, regardless of how much acetic is present. These are lactic acid bacteria, after all. Can't really get around that :-) The ideal flavor balance is supposedly about 80% lactic to 20% acetic, give or take a few percentage points. But that's different from total acid concentration, which is how the tongue gauges sourness.

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Debra, It's all making more sense now (I think!). I suspected my rye starter had, over time, developed signifacantly more L. plantarum (or a similar LB) than my wheat starter. By feeding my duo of starters different flours, consistently, the microbial mix in each has become quite different from it's mate at this point, though I started with the same culture for each.


The rye starter now develops a nicely acetic smell in 12 hours or less, and I can either refrigerate it for another 12 hours or refresh it and it will remain potent for sour-producing sourdough. I didn't realize before that pentosans are a sourdough baker's friends!


As for my old friend the Scientific Psychic... that page will require more time for thought!


David

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

All kinds of light bulbs have gone on in my head too!  (I might need to go back and re-write some entries.  Yikes!)  I was especially wondering about that multi acid interaction and how to best manipulate starter and dough.   I was suspicious that rye is good food for LAB as well.  The LAB is always there ready to multiply when I need them although I'm aware that I reduce their numbers from constant firm refrigeration, I do give them recovery time and their numbers bounce right back.


Now to refine my nose and tongue to tell the difference between lactic and acetic acid.   What would be the best examples for comparison? (1)


Earlier when I added vinegar (acetic acid) to a rye dough to help sour it and send it in that flavor direction it was only for an emergency and I had limited knowledge of information to do otherwise.   Since I maintain a sourdough starter, I prefer not to use vinegar in recipes.   I have also noticed that as my starter goes beyond a certain maturity, the sour taste becomes yucky sour or too sour,   Is this the acetic acid flavor dominating the lactic acid flavors? (2)


Mini


 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

I can't say that I have a highly developed palate either, so I don't really have the answers. Distilled vinegar is the clearest example I can think of for acetic acid, although it's so concentrated, it can overwhelm your nose straight from the bottle. Lactic acid is found in fermented dairy, although there are more aromas in dairy products than just LA (which really doesn't have an aroma on its own). I know that there is a powdered form of lactic acid... not sure where you can buy it though.


Wouldn't it be great if there were kits available for learning bread flavors and aromas, like the ones they make for wine tasters? Hmmm, there's an idea for someone :-)  There are lots of organic acids, esters, and other flavor and aroma compounds in the crust and crumb of bread.


In regards to question 2, it's also a possibility that the LAB start producing undesireable substances when their preferred nutrients run out. When they become starved, they turn to alternate metabolic pathways that are much less "tasty."

Mylissa20's picture
Mylissa20

I was going to ask what you meant by proof (as in, proofing a sponge, loaf etc) but I think you were referring to your starter proof between feedings, not bread, so I get it now.

Ricko's picture
Ricko

Mylissa,


I'd kill for your sour starter! This is coming from someone who can take a tablespoon of cider vinegar straight! With that said, I believe you have received some good advice on how to tame the starter you have going. I wouldn't give up, just experiment and make some adjustments and you should be okay. I wouldn't feel bad as there is another post by us that are currently trying to figure out how to increase the sour of the starter we currently have!



Mylissa20's picture
Mylissa20

How about lets trade starts :) I guess we don't have to because you have my perfect recipe for absolutely too sour starter at the top of the page so there you go!

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

More spring?  I don't think starter manipulations will help with that, but I'll tell you a different secret ...which is good especially for those that don't use a machine and don't necessarily have the strength or patience to knead dough thoroughly enough or long enough.  Here it is:  When the dough is at the 'mud' stage, not too thick to stir but not thin either, this is when you want to build your gluten foundation.  If using a mixer, just let the flat blade run at a medium speed for several minutes.  If mixing by hand, just keep beating the batter for awhile with your wooden spoon and rest if you need to.  Take advantage of the fact that it is still thin enough to stir.  Be observant.  The 'mud' will start out with a particular texture, but will get gooier after awhile (some say like ...uhh, snot-like?).  If it's a whole wheat recipe, you'll also notice that the color changes slightly  and becomes more whitish.  If you stir it with a spoon and stir in one direction only, then when you stop, you'll see the batter 'unstir' itself in the opposite direction.  These are all signs of the gluten becoming well developed.  As you finish the rest of the loaf, do not hurry the process of adding flour.  That goes double for whole wheat since it's fiber absorbs liquid more slowly than white flour.  If you build this initial gluten foundation and don't rush the additions of flour, or make them too large too fast, then your bread will will work well.  That said, note that some sourdough starters, especially the sourest ones, seem to break down the gluten if allowed to rise too long.  Dough that should've been stiff enough, with gluten well developed, to support itself will want to flatten out and spread if allowed to rise too long.  The dough is over-mature at that point.  If your starter does this, and I've only had one that acted like this, it just means you have to again, be observant and get the bread in the oven before it starts flattening out.  Another option, one that I didn't try at the time, is to experiment with warmer/cooler proofs to see which allows the dough to rise enough while not getting to the point where it's breaking down and flattening out.  Hope this helps.


 


Brian


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Oh Brian, you're a bit goofy with the wild yeasts but I gotta give you credit on Gluten development and recognizing overproofing!   Love the "mud" description and couldn't have said it better.  I'm sending you a big warm hug from sunny Austria!   


Mini

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Thanks. As far as goofy goes ...I think you are referring to exercising the starter (my terminology)?  I dunno ...But I've observed a few things, have been through various periods of interrupted schedules or laziness, etc and have found that such things do help your starter get better.  I have to assume that there is a mixed gene pool of yeasties and bacillus creatures out there and that weeding out the weak leaves more food/environment for the stronger varieties to grow their population.


What's the best book for the science side of sourdough?  I've already got "Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes" by Jeffrey Hamelman on the way...  and I own Ed Wood's stuff as well.  In any case, after baking bread for 3-1/2 decades, I've decided to get more educated and move on to something more advanced rather than just being a recipe follower.  Don't ask me why it's taken so long... :)


Brian

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Thanks, All.  Looks like I've got years worth of learning and experimenting ahead of me.  I'm shocked and amazed at the level of knowledge and experience here at TFL.  Noting that I've been (embarrassingly) been baking for 35 years or so, most of that time with sourdough, and many times taking breaks for a couple of years and what not, that my learning went to a certain degree and no further.  I was happy just making "regular old bread with my free yeast that tastes good."  I moved out of Alaska for awhile (to Oregon) and then back to Alaska a few years ago and then last year, 'got the bug' again and decided to fire up another starter.  In the bad ol' days (pre-Internet), there was very little information available on sourdough and most of the knowledge that one could find was empirically derived and not scientific.  It's great that so much more information has become available now and that people are sharing it like they do here!  I'm very much looking forward to entering a new phase of learning and experience with this fun hobby!


 


Thanks!


Brian

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I was putting around until I found this site almost 3 years ago.  That's when I hit the curve in "the learning curve" and it just keeps going.  Always something new to discover or re-discover.  A few weeks ago I was trying to find something from way back so I typed in 2006 in the search machine, soon I was typing months and years and just reading through the old posts.  It is interesting to see how the same themes keep popping up and how some of the answers change.   


The "goofy" refers to where the wild yeasts come from.... they come from the flour, off the grains.  They are not floating around in the air and if they are, they are in too few a number to make any difference. 


Mini

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Brian, there's an exellent chapter on ash in the flour treatise at The Artisan


Here's a direct link to that section of the site.


Happy reading.

marieJ's picture
marieJ

Hi! Thanks to all who've shared such a lovely wealth of experience and advice here. I've been baking with sourdough for some time now and still consider myself to be a distinct 'learner'. I have had  great success with my old starter (which I've since discarded due to a long period of disuse), but I never had good oven spring. I'd actually decided this was the nature of my particular starter culture. Only once did a loaf rise in the oven and I just put this down to the sugars in the dough - it was a walnut and prune loaf.  Also this particular load was a little 'young'.


I always bake my loaves at 230-250 C for the first 15 minutes to get as much activity going 'before death', then turn the temp down to 200 - 220 C depending on the type of bread.


I'd love some advice as I'm still a novice and had just accepted that my culture wasn't going to ever rise much once in the oven. I'd tried not to expect the same yeast/dough reactions as compared to commercial yeast. In fact, to obtain loaf height I had compromised by providing a mould around the dough during an extended second proof, then removed the mould right before scoring and baking.  This gave me ataller loaf.


Cheers, Marie

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Actually that's what made the oven spring.  Try getting the loaf in the oven sooner or risk overproofing.  Most of the rising occurs in the first 15 min and your temps are right on.  A mould is a good idea, another trick is to use a banneton or cloth lined basket (sieve or colander) all are dusted with flour. After shaping the loaf, it rests in this form and allowed to rise upside-down.  After rising 3/4 invert onto parchment, score and bake.  You could use your mould and drape with a floured cloth making for an easier flip.   What do you think?


Mini

marieJ's picture
marieJ

By the way I've just created a new starter and look forward to a happy relationship with it.............it has alot to live up to.....

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

on the new starter!


(About spelling corrections.... if the "edit" option appears on the entry, click on it and correct then save.  You can also change all the content.  If someone "replies" to your statement,  it can no longer be edited.  If you wish, you can edit the box below and use it for any more questions you might have.  It was just a little typo.  You're allowed 3.  :)


Mini

marieJ's picture
marieJ

load = 'LOAF"...........

marieJ's picture
marieJ

Hi Debra!  I am very intersted in your comments on LAB. Above you stated "The problem or advantage, depending on which side of the sour fence you sit, is that continuing to refresh and maintain a starter cool and/or dry, reduces the LAB population, and its sour potential."


I'm having trouble develping any sourness at all in one of my new starters (I have started 2 separately, in case one failied). There appears to be some sourness to my rye starter. When I refreshed the other into a white starter I have lots of activitiy and a wonderful rise & airy sponge/honeycomb structure that is visible through the glass bowl, but the aroma is almost dull and dull bread-like.  Not a hint of any acidity whatsoever.


I've tried, just yesterday, to add copious warm liquid.  Thsi mroning the bulk had doubled, but no trace of acid.  I have created a starter before and just  loved the stunning apple cider aroma that greeted me every time I lifted the cling film. 


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.  Do you think a good dose of rye flour may provide a better interim environment for the cultivation of bacteria?  the white was initiated and refreshed 3-4 time with rye, then rye & wholemeal flour before the transistion.  At this stage I'm planning to persevere and see what happens. 


I should mention that both these starters have been created with quite a lot of warmth.


Cheers!


 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi MarieJ,


No matter what you do, don't expect instantaneous results. It takes time for populations to shift or re-establish, and to reach a new equilibrium. But, rather than writing a chapter on all the things that could be influencing your results, let's start by examining what is, and go from there. Tell me exactly how you've been maintaining it (before yesterday's deviation), and we can troubleshoot and tweak your routine.


1. How old is this starter---days, weeks, or months?


2. What flour(s) are you feeding it?


3. When you feed, how much starter, water and flour are you using?


4. How many times a day do you feed it?


5. What is the general temperature of the spot where it sits between refreshments?


6. Are you refrigerating it, and if so, when and for how long?

marieJ's picture
marieJ

Also, does the act of repeated refreshment prove detrimental to the bacteria population because we're removing large quantities of the colony each time we use a quantity of starter.  Or once fed, does the bacteria colony bounce back with the provision of fresh food?