The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How Not to Make a Larrabura Sourdough

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

How Not to Make a Larrabura Sourdough

I was somewhat concerned with the long fermentation times and moderate to high temperatures in this recipe, but I had time on my hands, so I made the Larrabura Sourdough.

I didn't have a piece of old dough or stiff starter, so I made one with these quantities and let it ferment overnight at room temp.

  • 40 g bread flour
  • 20 g water
  • 20 g white mother starter

I used 45 g of this old dough to make the stiff levain (sponge) and let it ferment for (what I thought to be a ridiculous) 9 hours at 85 F. 

  • 90 g hi-gluten flour
  • 45 g water
  • 45 g stiff starter

I used all of this stiff levain to create the final dough (for 2 loaves) and let it bulk ferment for (what I thought was a really, really, really ridiculous!) 3 hours at (an unbelievable!) 105 F:

  • 1067 g hi-gluten flour
  • 640 g water
  • 21 salt
  • 180 g stiff starter (all of the above)

It was already 11 pm by the time the bulk ferment was done, so I shaped the loaves, put them in linen-lined bannetons, wrapped them tightly in plasti-crap, and (here's the error:) put them in the refrigerator for an overnight retardation at 35 F.

They were just beautiful when I took them out of the refrigerator. They had that certain feeling dough gets when you know it'll hold its shape, score beautifully, and rise perfectly–and they did: They are beautiful loaves with those gorgeous retardation bubbles and all. 

And they tasted of nothing!




I followed the Larrabura process (that Doc.Dough posted) as close as I could (until adding the retardation step) and really believed that a (1) overnight-fermented piece of dough followed by a (2) 9-hour ferment stiff levain at 85 F followed by a (3) 3-hour ferment at 105 F followed by a (4) 7 hour retardation would produce (5) really flavorful sourdough loaf; that it might even be especially sour (not something I particularly like, but it's edible if not paired with anything).

I knew the retardation was pushing things (and was a break with the Larrabura process), but I would have never expected it to result in no flavour at all. After all the fermentation, nothing? No taste?

I don't have an explantation for it either, other than perhaps my starter is Lactobacillus free (or the 105 F bulk killed the lactos). (No, I don't really believe that.)

The yeast didn't exhaust the food, because they browned nicely.

I just don't know what happened.

I do know, however, that breaking the Larrabura process by including a final retardation is a good way to produce beautiful loaves that have no taste whatsoever. Or that by adding the retardation step, I simply didn't make a Larrabura loaf. 

ehanner's picture

Yes, there is a lot of mystery in that formula. I've done it twice now and I do get a mild tang in the moist crumb. I like to take a sip of water as I chew on the crumb to give me a better appreciation of the sour. For some reason that helps my sour sense.

Your crust looks great. David said his flavors came up the next day.

I'm trying to look at this formula not so much as a guide for my SFSD bread, because they were running production and needed to hurry things along. I suspect the flavors being pushed with this are the mild LB that are encouraged by the 2 stage pre ferment in a stiff form at 85F. The 105F stage favors the yeasts to the extreme. I've had trouble getting the dough temperature up there during the final dough mix. My last batch the final dough water was 120F and the temp after mixing was 95F. I couldn't bear to use hotter water knowing I might be killing the yeasts. Never the less, they do spring in the oven.


thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I hadn't thought of it that way, but I was impressed with the smell of the 85 F. I think that's why I'm surprised the final loaf had no taste at all.

I didn't think of pushing the final dough to 105 F, just forming it with the 85 F and room temperature ingredients and letting the proofing environment bring it up to 105 F. Another mistake, I guess, but with the retardation I added, probably a lucky one.

I noticed that dmsnyder is taking another couple of wacks it, so will see what he comes up with as well.


(Another thing I find strange is that I can smell the sour in the final loaf. It smells as a SFSD does, but has no apparent taste. Strange that.)

dmsnyder's picture

I don't suppose there is any chance you forgot to add the salt. That's the most common cause of flat tasting bread. The second possible cause is over-mixing. 

I never have made this bread following the reported Larraburu procedure exactly, as you may recall. I explained my reasoning in the blog entry. The first time, the bread was not at all sour, but it did have a nice sweet, wheaty flavor - like a classic French pain au levain, not like a SF Sourdough. It was not "tasteless." 

I can't see how your retarding the loaves would result in less flavor. It should result in more sour flavors that mask the sweetness. The fact that you didn't get sourness suggests your procedure didn't foster LB growth and/or acid production, which is what I feared would result from the very high temperature fermentation.

I'm not particularly inclined to try the "original" Larraburu procedure. Your results tend to support my reasoning. Thanks for reporting on them.


thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

That was my first thought too: I'd forgotten the salt; but, I have a distinct memory of measuring 21 g.

That could still be the problem, though, as I used a tared scale. It says it measures 1 g increments, but I don't completely trust it for small measures, especially when I tare the scale with a bowl full of ingredients on it. 

(I've also been burned too many times by adding too much salt all-sourdough loaves (slow, slow fermentation and dead doughs), so I'm very stingy with salt when making loaves like this. Perhaps the scale + my reticence = far too little salt).

 It makes passable ham and cheese panini when I schmear the bread with a bit of olive oil and salt, so not all is lost. 

PiPs's picture

A thought?

I wonder how much it has to do with the flour ... perhaps it's ash content ... especially since the formula calls for only white flour.

I went through a phase trying to get some sour into my bread ... I found one particular organic plain white flour would give a much more assertive flavour than a medium strength white bakers flour. To look at them side-by-side the organic flour was a creamier colour. I didn't spec sheets on either so I am just assuming here. 

Never tasted a 'true' SF sourdough so I am shooting arrows in the dark.


thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I used King Arthur Sir Lancelot (14.2 % protein, .52 percent ash) for the stiff levain and King Arthur Sir Galahad (11.7% protein, .48% ash) for the final dough, neither of which is particularly high in ash.

I don't know enough about how ash affects sour. (Or anything about the affect of ash really.)