The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

sourdough bread

readermom's picture

sourdough bread

I made a sourdough starter following the Labrea bakery original recipe. I was very excited when I finally got it ready. But my first bread was extremely sour. Almost inedible. What went wrong? Now I'm very intimidated. Any ideas on how or where to star?

flournwater's picture

Did you use the La Brea bakery sourdough starter or did you build your own?

rick.c's picture

I'm curious to know how you did that, as I am sure many other tflers are.  I'm not familiar with the labrea method of creating a starter, but, the usual complaint is "my sourdough isn't sour enough."

There are many factors that affect the sourness (flour type, hydration, proofing time & temp, etc)  So, knowing the way you created the starter and how you made the bread from it would be helpful to have someone tell you what to try next time.

Without knowing what you did, I would suggest a shorter proofing time at a higher temp to start.

Please let us know what you did do though, if you want more information, look at posts about not sour enough sourdough, or start here and work your way through... 


a different kind of pain's picture
a different kin...

the excess acid, likely acetic, probably happened during your sourdough build, and not during the fermentative process, as higher amounts attributable to fermentation would cause the dough's structure to break down.  most likely, you waited too long between refreshments, and stored the starter at too high (or low) a temperature, resulting in conditions that favoured lactic-acid bacteria growth rather than yeast production.  refresh often, especially before you bake.  i would just create a new starter, rather than resurrecting an old one.


readermom's picture

I have the book "Breads from the LaBrea Bakery" by Nancy Silverton. I followed step by step her recipe to build a starter using grapes, flour and water. It's a 15 day process. I checked the temperature and everything. Maybe I need to try a new  starter. Thanks for the ideas.

logdrum's picture

is from that same book, 15 years old and lay dormant for the last 5 years. In july I resurrected it & it is performing wonderfully. Make sure your flour is unbleached, unbromated, too.


readermom's picture

Thank you

clazar123's picture

That is, for the initial rise and then how long did it take to final proof the loaf before you baked?

Does the La Brea method have you discard and feed? What did the starter taste/smell like when you used it? Nail polish? Vinegar? Yeast? Cheese?

Many people want the sour taste so that is why the immediate interest in what you did to inadvertantly achieve it.

readermom's picture

Yes, the recipe I followed asks for three feedings daily for a total of 3 1/2 pounds of flour. Next day all but about two cups are discarded. It's a 15 day process and the feedings start on day 10. My starter smells like nail polish. The recipe I tried is called Country White and is a two day bread. The starter looked really bubbly. For the second rise though I might have waited longer than recommended, but only likr half an hour. Maybe that was the problem. I'm trying again  this weekend, I just got the starter out to revive it. Wish me luck!

readermom's picture

I forgot to tell you. In the book it says that starters get stronger flavor (acidity) when left at room temperature and skiping feedings.

maddy bondi's picture
maddy bondi

i think we're getting ahead of ourselves here, it is the first loaf.

My first loaf, 3 years ago was way sour! Almost inedible! My starter was only 5 days old, but I was impatient!


Keep feeding your starter, cultivating it and growing it. Try again in a month. Depending on your climate, these things take time.

You can expect to be baking really great loaves in 3 to 6 months.

The alternative is to borrow some starter from someone. I'm in Australia, otherwise I'd send you some of mine!


readermom's picture

I'm trying again this weekend. I don't know anyone tha bakes their own bread. I've been asking around. But KAF is coming to our town and maybe then I'll meet someone. Thanks.

Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

I made Silverton's grape starter two years ago and that starter is one of my healthiest and best-tasting.  I think it's important to use organic grapes, since to wash too much of the yeast-producing residue off the grapes before starting the process probably affects the fermentation. There used to be a youtube video online of Nancy Silverton demonstrating the building of this starter on a Julia Child show, but I can't seem to find it.

Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

I found it.  Here Nancy demonstrates step by step how she makes her grape starter. In the second part of the video, she uses the starter to bake a rustic loaf.

readermom's picture

Thanks, I'll watch it.

Irwin Weller's picture
Irwin Weller

Last Novenber I decided that, since I coulden't find "any" decent sourdough bread within 60 miles of where I live, I would try and figure out how to make my own. Having made that decision I went surfing the web.

What I found was that I could build my own starter using just unbleached flour and water. This was a 5 day process of reducing by half and then adding a half cup flour and a half cup of water.It wasn't to long before I had a starter that was producing a "houch" that smelled almsot good enough to drink. Unfortunetly, however, the bread was not coming out very well.

That is when I found "" on the web. They had a "SanFrancisco Starter" that was just some kind of powder in a small envelope that they sent me in the mail. I made the starter with 1 cup flour and 1 cup of water and added the contents of the envelope. Again, the process was an everyday event of reduce by half and add flour and water.

I'm not going to tell you that I had really great sourdough bread right away. It took all of December and most of January before I finally started to realize a decent loaf of bread.

At this point I get pretty good results everytime I make a batch of sourdough bread. It has been a process, but overall I must say it is coming together nicely. I am very pleased especially since I had never in my life made a loaf of bread.

pmccool's picture

Isn't it marvelous how something with such simple ingredients can be so delightful?  You seem to be making good progress as a baker.  I hope to see some pictures of your work.


agordo's picture

Following up on the thread,  I once made starter using Nancy Silverton's method (using grapes), but I think it is just as easy to get wild spores from organic fruits and vegegtables.  When starting, put some of your flour in a plastic bag and throw in a dry, unwashed organic cucumber or a dry orange (or both) and rub the flour into the skin.  This, together with spores in the air, will give you all you need to start your levain.  I learned this "jump-start" method from Daniel's Rustic Bread.

metropical's picture

I made a Silverton red grape starter 10 years ago and somehow killed it this past summer.

Has anyone made one with white grapes?

I made some recently from tiny end of the season white grapes.  So far no thril.

Jo_Jo_'s picture

Just a thought, if your loaf was undercooked it could get a sour taste that is really hard to stomach. In my early days of baking sourdough, particularly when I made it with any whole wheat flour in it, I would get impatient and not allow it to cook as long or at as high a temperature as it said.  This caused the center of my loaf to not cook and it made it extremely sour.

I have had many starters over the years, and sometimes they pick up bad stuff from the air around them, but you usually can tell by the color of your starter.  Having hooch is a good thing, it means it is actually working, but it also means you need to strengthen your starter by leaving it out and feeding it up to two times a day till it gets stronger.  The starter should look like dough that you bake with, it shouldn't be grey or pink.  If it looks normal (kinda like pancake dough) and bubbly a few hours after feeding just keep working it.  My last one took 2 weeks to get going well enough to bake with, but I have had some take as long as a month to get established.  I have a good nose on me, so I find that I can actually smell when the starter is ready to bake with.  It will smell sour, not like hooch, but possibly with a very small alcohol smell to it.  I feed my starter 74 grams of AP Flour and 74 grams of water (about 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup flour).

Hope this helps...