The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Today's sour sourdough

sam's picture

Today's sour sourdough


A few days ago, I brought in a sample of one of my sourdough mash/soaker breads to a coworker.  He said he enjoyed it, but also noted, "I like my sourdough breads *very* sour".  My usual preference is a lighter or medium-of-the-road sour.  I feel a very strong sour tends to dominate the palate too much.  That said, from time to time I do like a strong sour for a mostly-white bread.  When my coworker told me of his preference, I thought to myself: "Challenge accepted".  :-)  

I know there are many ways to achieve a strong sour.  This was my attempt.  It is 10% rye, 90% white bread flour.  Normally, I reserve 20% of the total flour to be my liquid levain, and usually ferment it at room temp.  This time, to borrow a phrase from freerk, I decided to divert all power to the sour :) (I've never made a pie), and dispensed with the soaker and mash because all the water was going into the levain. 

First, I spiked my liquid white-flour starter with a little bit of rye for a couple of feedings prior to the levain build.  For this bread, I kept my usual 68% overall dough hydration and liquid levain at 125% hydration, but increased the levain to the max possible amount -- 54% of the flour was acidified in the levain.  In addition, I cold fermented the levain at 46F for 24 hours, to delay yeast fermentation with the intent to build up more acidity from the LAB in the levain.  The levain had not completely ripened after 24 hrs in the chiller, and needed appx 3 more hours at room temp to ripen, which was perfect because I wanted it to be at room temp anyway when mixing it into the final dough.

The dough with 54% levain was noticeably different than other doughs using only 20% acidified levain flour.  This dough was a lot more extensible and took many more stretch+folds to build elasticity/strength during bulk fermentation, and also relaxed a lot quicker after the S+F's.  I did a bulk ferment for 3 hours at room temp, with S+F's every hour.

I got a nice tight boule after shaping, and debated whether to do the final ferment free-standing or in a brotform.  Even though the dough was relaxing a lot during bulk-ferment, I decided to go for it and not use the brotform.  After an hour, as expected, it had relaxed a lot, more so than usual.  I was sure I was going to make a hockey puck.

To my surprise, it did get some upward spring, not a total puck.  Yay!  Though not as springy as others.  I also tried a new (for me) slashing pattern.   The bread came out very blistery (again).  I don't know if I am doing something wrong but seems most of my breads are very blistery.  I have not cold-retarded a final dough in a long time, so it doesn't seem to be related to cold retarding final doughs.

The result - crumb was pretty much closed but not dense. It is chewy and nice. It did shrink a little bit after cooling.  The flavor:  Pucker up! :)  To me it is boldly strong sour, but fortunately, not inedibly sour.  (I have made an inedibly sour bread before, by both cold-retarding a levain and cold-retarding the final dough made from the cold-retarded levain).  This bread's sour flavor lingers as an aftertaste for quite some time.  I actually like this bread -- maybe not something I would have every day, but it's neat.  I will make it again for my co-worker who likes the super-sour.

This is the recipe, all weights in grams:

Total Dough Weight: 950
Total Dough Hydration: 68%
Total Dough Flour Weight: 565
Total Dough Water Weight: 385

Levain Percentage: 54%
Levain Hydration: 125%
Starter Percentage: 20% of levain
Starter Hydration: 125%
Salt Percentage: 2.0%

White Bread Flour Weight: 224
Whole Rye Flour Weight: 54
Water Weight: 348
Starter Weight: 61

Final Dough:
All Levain
White Bread Flour Weight: 260
Water Weight: 3
Salt Weight: 11


First, the ripened liquid levain.   There is something very satisfying about a nice ripe liquid levain.


The bread:







Happy baking!


sam's picture

A few books I got in the mail tonight.

I am eager to read the 'Handbook of Dough Fermentations'.


Mebake's picture

I think you nailed sour - sourdough, gvz! all the procedures shaow clearly that you know what you're doing. it looks wonderful. I must admit, though, that i hate sour bread, probably a remnant memory of my early sourdough failings.

Yours look wonderful, gvz!

sam's picture

Thanks Mebake.

Yes, it is quite sour.   So, mission accomplished in that sense.   I admit, it is a bit of an extreme case.   :)   I was trying to maximise things.

The level of openness in the crumb was a little bit of a disappointment, but not the texture.   I am chalking the closed crumb due to the high acidity (over half the bread in a long 24 hrs levain).    But the goal was achieved.   It actually tastes pretty good to me.   Call it "San Francisco Sour" or something.   Hehehe.   :)     (Which is partially true, I live an hour's drive away).