The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

"Cheating" on the sourness

GregS's picture
GregS

"Cheating" on the sourness

Happy New Year to all!

I've read and experimented with numerous approaches for getting a more "sour" starter and resulting bread. None of my attempts have produced anything approaching the "tang" of genuine SF-type bread.

Has anyone had experience in supplementing their sourdough-leavened dough with either citric acid or lactic acid? The lactobacillus produces lactic acid, but I can never seem to promote its vigorous growth in my starter. ...I'm ready to "cheat".  What about sources? Citric acid seems to be vitamin C, but the only lactic acid supplements are for skin peels!

Any help welcomed.

GregS

Darxus's picture
Darxus

There's also acetic acid, produced by acetobacter, a genus of acetic acid bacteria.  Acetic acid = vinegar.  I read somewhere that (some of?) the bakers of the famous San Francisco sourdough add vinegar to increase sourness.

Crider's picture
Crider

I got malic acid and lactic acid from a home-brewing/winemaking supply store. I also worked with vinegar and citric acid. Lactic acid is weird because it doesn't have much of a smell. I didn't get the results I was looking for. 

King Arthur sells a fake sourdough additive in quantities suitable for the home baker. You can read this article at Baking Management for the horrible truth about how your local supermarket's  'sourdough' bread is probably made.

I settled on getting sour by long fermenting times -- adding starter at only 5% to 10% quantities.

spthan's picture
spthan

What is the source of your water? Is it highly chlorinated? Try using filtered water or clean well water. It might make a difference especially in your starter.

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

agreed - another way is to use boiled cooled water.

Mylissa20's picture
Mylissa20

FoodFascist, I had done a bunch of reading lately about the microbiology of starters, and the one thing that seemed most agreed upon was that sourdough bakers should never use boiled water in their baking.  The reason stated in the research was that it turns out that the great majority of the yeast and LAB microorganisms are found in the water itself, and greatly add to the populations.  I can find the source if you want it, but I didn't bookmark it so it might take some looking.

 

Darxus's picture
Darxus

I'm interested in that source.  Can always use more science about this stuff.  And it seems strange to me that more yeast would show up in chloriminated city water than on whole grain flour.

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Um. Agree with Darxus, that does seem rather unlikely. Besides if the boiled water is stored uncovered (mine is), wouldn't a certain amount of microorganisms end up in it anyway?

I would have thought, if population numbers are all we are talking about, a longer fermentation time should sort that. Whereas chlorine in the water will indiscriminately kill everything, good or bad.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Ascorbic acid is Vitamin C    

Citric acid will give you a more sour tasting loaf.  Also called Sour salt in the supermarket.  Yes, some prefer this method of flavoring their dough.

I prefer not to take chances adding chemical ingredients into my dough.  I don't think these get quality tested often enough.   

Have you tried a starter build using  1:10:10 (starter:water:flour) to get more sour into your loaf?  

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

you could try kefir grains. I got mine from eBay for a fiver or something. They are a culture that contains a host of bacteria and yeasts, but mostly various strands of lactobacilli. Both my starters (wheat and rye) were started by mixing flour and water and dipping in half a teaspoon of grains. Fed daily for 3 days and on day 4 I was baking bread with them. Been going strong for a number of months, although I've just decided to start another rye starter after my old one suffered lots of neglect over the past few weeks.

You could just pop a few grains into your existing starter to add sourness to it, maybe wrap them up in a piece of clean cloth to save you having to fish them out later.

Doesn't quite make sense getting grains though if all you're not actually planning to make kefir as well.

There are also commercial kefir starters which are powdered, lab manufactured strands of bacteria. For making kefir, they're not as good or as strong as grains (also who knows what "other ingredients" they might have in them) but for your purpose, might just do. 

Or you could try a capsule or two of probiotics - there's a thing called "acidophilus" which typically contains Lactobacillus acidophilus and a few strands of Bifidobacteria. Since they are manufactured as food additives, one would hope they should be quite safe.

leostrog's picture
leostrog

Exactly wrigth! Adittion of dry culture  - it's a wonderful way to enriche starter wuth lactobacilli and and make the process of formation and growth of  starter "microbially controlled".

GregS's picture
GregS

Thanks to everyone for the informative replies. From those and other research, I plan to try the least artificial solutions and work up from there.  A question to Mini Oven if she sees this: How long does it take a 1 10 10 to ferment fully? Is it days?  And when I use it in a levain built from that, do I need to expect longer rising times for the loaves?

Thanks again.

GregS

pointygirl's picture
pointygirl

What style of loaf are you making?  If it is a sandwich bread that contains dairy,  using yogurt instead of milk will make it more sour.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:)  Send me a private note if you want a reply quickly, sorry this took so long but the title "I guess I'll stay natural" didn't flag me right away 'cause I agree with you.  Guess you figured it out by now...   :)  

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

in non-trivial amounts it may  have  very unexpected side effects. A friend of mine experimented a bit with it and it had a "melts--in-the-mouth" effect as soon as the crumb was in the mouth. He always used tiny amounts of it, so ... be careful!

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

You could add some active yogurt to your dough.  I add 4 oz of plain Oikos Greek Yogurt to my pre-soak, which sits overnight on the counter.  In the morning, the pre-soak is soft and pliable, and smells wonderful.  I also "let" a little of the yogurt get carried over into the starter by stirring the pre-ferment with an un-rinsed spatula that I had used to mix the yogurt with water for the pre-soak.  I don't know if this did anything.  My starter really only smells like yeast.  I use the Oikos brand because it lists more varieties of active LAB on the label than Dannon does.

I used to use kefir whey, from making kefir cheese, from kefir that I cultured, in my pre-soak.  This was very tasty.  However, kefir does not like the hot summers in the midwestern USA, nor does it seem to like being shoved into a 30F refrigerator for a part of each day.

 

doughooker's picture
doughooker

On an impulse, yesterday I picked up a demi baguette of my local supermarket's house brand of sourdough. I first gave it the sniff test and on the basis of smell, decided it was worth a try.

Having tried several packaged sourdoughs in recent years, this one impressed me. It's not the old-school sourdough San Franciscans are accustomed to, but I thought it had pretty good flavor nonetheless. It lacks a crisp, dark-brown crust. The crust is light brown and somewhat soft.

The ingredient panel lists wheat flour, malted barley flour, the usual list of B vitamins and iron, water, 2% or less of sea salt, fermented wheat flour, wheat germ, yeast, fumaric acid, sodium diacetate, lactic acid soybean oil.

Sodium diacetate is a salt of acetic acid. We know lactic acid is produced by L. San Fran. I'm not familiar with fumaric acid.

It looks as if they are using some kind of starter but also baker's yeast, together with this three-way blend of acids.

Sparkie's picture
Sparkie

In many many commercial ryes and "sour dough" , that I sampled many years ago, all had vinegar in them. I simply read the package.  You can also try letting a little bit of good beer, (nothing that In Bev produces), go bad. If you have vinegar with a mother in it, take 1/4 cup of beer add a spoon of vinegar from a live mother, stir or shake. Keep nicely warm in about 3 days (if it is too cool it could take 2 weeks), it will be stinky and ready for use. If you want to use a wine, water it down to make it 5 -6 % alcohol then pich in a mother, keep warm

doughooker's picture
doughooker

If anyone is still following this thread, after many, many, many test bakes I have had great success making sour bread by adding lactic and acetic acids.

I am quite the San Francisco sourdough snob and I find the bread with added acids quite satisfying and easier to make. In my judgment it compares quite favorably to the old-school sourdoughs I grew up with.

It is "cheating", yes, but I have no problem with it and am satisfied with the results. The microorganisms in S.F. SD starter produce lactic and acetic acid, so you're adding acids which would be present anyway in naturally-fermented sourdough. As they are the two main acids found in fermented sourdough cultures and are mainly responsible for its tangy flavor, those are the only acids I use. I refrain from using fumaric, malic, ascorbic and citric acids typically used in the manufacture of sour foods as they are not present in significant proportions in San Francisco sourdough cultures.

The quantities are minute so a good digital scale is a must. I treat the lactic acid powder as another dry ingredient and dribble in the acetic acid (white vinegar) with an eyedropper. Lactic acid powder is readily available from on-line etailers such as amazon.com.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

for say... each 100g of flour?      

(Yes, I still follow every thread I ever contributed to.  Easy, any new comments pop up in my  account "track." )    :)

doughooker's picture
doughooker

As I said, I did many, many, many test bakes to get the flavor just as I remember it from the 1960's and 1970's in the San Francisco bay area.

It is basically a yeasted loaf with acids added, but there is one absolutely INVIOLABLE rule: you MUST, MUST, MUST use "instant" or "rapid rise" yeast. Active dry yeast will give it an awful yeasty aftertaste, so "instant" or "rapid rise" yeast is a MUST!!!

I make it to 64% hydration with the vinegar taken into account, but this is not inviolable. I add the lactic acid powder and salt to the flour and mix them together with a fork or whip. I also make a cocktail of water, yeast and white vinegar. Another inviolable rule is that the ingredients be measured as precisely as possible.

I have only made this with white wheat flour, either bread flour or all-purpose. Making it with ww, rye or some other flour would change the flavor and it would no longer be authentic. As there is no live culture, there is no contention between the yeast and a lactobacillus for maltose. It is important to emphasize that except for the calcium lactate in the lactic acid powder, we aren't adding any ingredients that wouldn't be found in a live S.F. sourdough culture, such as fumaric, malic, citric, ascorbic, etc. acids.

Here is the formula in baker's percentages:

Flour: 100%
Warm water: 63%
Salt: 2%
Instant yeast: 2.4%
Lactic acid powder: 1.75%
White vinegar: 1.0%

Final hydration: 64%

Here it is in grams as I make it:

Flour: 146 g
Warm water: 92 g
Salt: 3 g (1/2 tsp)
Instant yeast: 3.5 g (1/2 packet)
Lactic acid powder: 2.6 g
White vinegar: 1.5 g (I find it helpful to use an eyedropper)

The dough is allowed to proof for 2 hours on a linen couche, towel or what have you. One advantage of this recipe is that the proofing time is dramatically reduced. My cousin and I made it for a dinner party and it took less than 4 hours from start to finish: 1/2 hour for prep, 2 hours to proof, 1 hour to bake and 1/2 hour to cool.

It is also very important to maintain the ratio of vinegar to lactic acid powder as we're empirically trying to replicate the balance of acids found in a real sourdough culture. More of either acid than specified in the formula will result in a peculiar-tasting bread.

I must give special thanks and kudos to doc.dough for posting the documentation of the San Francisco sourdough process here several years ago. In addition, here is a paper in which the acidic composition of S.F. sourdough was studied:

http://www.aaccnet.org/publications/cc/backissues/1978/Documents/chem55_461.pdf

Lactic acid powder:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0145KH3AK/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&th=1