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The Sour of the dough

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sustainthebaker's picture
sustainthebaker

The Sour of the dough

I have had a healthy starter for almost a year and half now. I bake a loaf and in turn this feeds my starter. I get a good rise out and my loafs come out nicely but there is just one thing, the degree of sourness is not apparent in many of the loaves. I just baked off an oatmeal sourdough sandwich loaf and it came out with a good crust, crumb, and texture. But the sour was lacking. I have had this problem in the past. I feed my starters with bread flour and rye flour and sometimes whole wheat flour. I use fresh organic flours to ensure the aquirement of wild yeast. I know when you add other ingredients beyond the basic flour, water, starter, and salt, this will take away from the overall sour flavor of the dough, but I only added some soaked and strained oats.

Any ideas, suggestions, or comments?

Thanks
Keep the baking baking.

Syd's picture
Syd

Check out this thread. There are a lot of good ideas on how to get a sourer sourdough.  Hope this helps.  Perhaps you could also add what ratio you feed your starter at, how often you feed it and at what temperature you keep it.  Some indication of the recipe you are using will help, too: percentage of starter, bulk ferment time and temp, combination of flours, etc.  

Best,

Syd

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Unfortunately that thread is out of date and some of the pointers are inaccurate.

Keeping a starter stiff will actually discourage sourness.

Long and cool really helps with flavour but it's actually the 'long' factor that helps sourness by extending the rise. Cool will favour yeast production and acetic acid. So if using retardation use it later in the process e.g bulk fermentation.

In the baked bread lactic acid is the acid responsible for the sour taste and it's in warm, wet conditions that it is produced in larger quantities.

Have a look at this thread where a poolish starter made with a small amount of sourdough was the answer.

Michael

Syd's picture
Syd

Have a look at this thread where a poolish starter made with a small amount of sourdough was the answer.

Thanks for that. :)  I missed that thread.

but it's actually the 'long' factor that helps sourness by extending the rise.

I definitely agree with this statement.  I made an all-white sourdough pain de mie last weekend that had a 12 hour bulk ferment @ about 23C to 25C and a 9 hour final proof @ about 25C.  It was the sourest tasting loaf I have made in a long time.  It was unintentional and happened just when I was about to categorically state that it was impossible to make a sour all-white without cheating and adding some wholegrain.  (I think the reason it took so long to ferment was the inclusion of more than 10% sugar in the final dough.  High fat content might have had something to do with the slow rise, too, although I am not sure).  But, whatever the reason for that long ferment, in my mind, it was undoubtedly the time factor was responsible for  a distinct sour.  Mind you, it wasn't a harsh sour.  It was a smooth sour and really appealed to me.  The bread had a lot of other flavours, too and the crust was reddish brown with small blisters.

Keeping a starter stiff will actually discourage sourness.

I think it has less to do with how you maintain a starter and more to do with how you build from that particular starter.  I have made sour sourdoughs which have been elaborated from both stiff and 100% hydration starters.  However, at least one other person would disagree.  Sourdough Baker claims the dry sourdough method (similar to the desem method) makes for the deepest, richest sourdough flavour of all.  

In the baked bread lactic acid is the acid responsible for the sour taste and it's in warm, wet conditions that it is produced in larger quantities.

I thought it was the other way round.  I have always read that the lactic acid has a smooth, yoghurt-like finish whereas the the acetic acid has the harsher taste.  

I think the reason why the poolish method with a small amount of starter works is because the small amount of starter requires a longer time to fully ferment the dough.  Longer fermentation seems to equate to a more sourer taste.

Cool will favour yeast production and acetic acid. 

Cool is a relative concept and while it is true that the optimum temperature for the yeast is cooler than the optimum temperature for the Lactobacillus, it is nevertheless still quite high at 27C (80F).  I only point that out because I wouldn't want people to think that by putting it in the fridge it is going to rise better. :)

Thanks for bringing my attention to that thread.  I learn something new the whole time. Right now I am experimenting with David Snyder's original recipe (which also appears in the Handbook of Dough Fermentations) for San Francisco Sourdough.  It uses a small amount of prefermented flour (11%) and requires an 8 hour final rise.  I haven't had any success with it, yet.  It states that the pH of the stiff biga should be 3.9 before mixing the final dough.  The preferment should take 8 hours to ripen, too.  I have found that 8 hours is not enough to drop the pH to 3.9 and have just invested in a hand held, digital pH meter to check my suspicions.  Whether the pH of the biga is going to have any effect on the final dough remains to be seen.  I will start experimentation this weekend.  This will be my fourth or fifth attempt.  All previous attempts, following the recipe to the "T" have failed to produce any sour at all.  

All the best,

Syd

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Hi Syd.

I think it has less to do with how you maintain a starter and more to do with how you build from that particular starter.

Of course all stages matter but the beginnings set the path.

You can use a mild starter to make a more sour bread.

But it would be very hard to use a naturally sour (high lactic acid production) starter to make a mild bread.

Yeast can can cope better in an environment low in free water. Just add salt to a starter add you'll see what I mean.

 

I thought it was the other way round.  I have always read that the lactic acid has a smooth, yoghurt-like finish whereas the the acetic acid has the harsher taste.

I used to think it was the other way around too but there's more to the picture. Both acids taste sour in the dough but acetic acid is more volatile than lactic. This means that the acetic acid is baked-off but the lactic remains. I don't know how much cooking you do but if you add any vinegar to a hot frying pan the acid soon fills the air and your nose with acidity.

Acetic acid smells apple-like in the dough and tastes sour in small quantities but in the baked loaf only smells acidic, enhancing flavour.

Lactic acid is indeed yoghurty in aroma but in large quantities is shockingly sour on the tongue!

Cool is a relative concept and while it is true that the optimum temperature for the yeast is cooler than the optimum temperature for the Lactobacillus, it is nevertheless still quite high at 27C (80F).  I only point that out because I wouldn't want people to think that by putting it in the fridge it is going to rise better.

I don't completely trust that graph. My experience shows refrigeration early in the process allows the yeast to get ahead indirectly countering sourness. There is also the point that in a period of low activity lactobacillus produce acetic acid and I guess, less of the sour inducing lactic.

Whether the pH of the biga is going to have any effect on the final dough remains to be seen.

A lower pH doesn't mean more sour but it will mean more strength contribution to the dough.

As you've picked up a long fermentation is key to sourness. Leaning towards large feeds will encourage sourness significantly.

Good luck with you bread.

Cheers,
Michael 

wally's picture
wally

The fact is, unless you live in the San Francisco area, where a particular combination of wild yeast endemic to there, along with similar lactobacilli live, your sourdough (or levain) simply isn't going to produce very sour bread.  In that sense, sourdough is something of a misnomer, because it really isn't very sour.  (And interestingly, Jeffrey Hamelman has recounted that the French don't much care for San Francisco style sourdough, because they think the sourness masks the delicate flavor of the baked bread).

You can, however, achieve a more sour dough through many methods.  For my money, the simplest is overnight retardation of the dough - either as a bulk retardation or a retardation of shaped loaves.

Don't allow the absence of sourness to obscure what is most important that you mentioned in your post: a finished loaf with good crust, crumb and texture.  That's the goal!

Larry

 

 

mwilson's picture
mwilson

How true this is I don't know! But I'm sure I've read that lactobacillus sanfranciscensis isn't unique to the San Francisco area. I live in the UK and I can make eye-wincingly sour bread if I so choose.

As I've said many times it's the keeping of a starter that determines its characteristics.

Michael

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Looks like I was right.

In this article it makes mention that the prevailing LAB in Italian sourdough L.Brevis has a subspecies which is synonymous with L.Sanfrancisco. I just so happen to keep an Italian style starter, which I created in the UK and it's from this, with a few adjustments that I can make very sour bread.

I believe most people on this forum keep their starter in the fridge refreshing weekly. This will likely not make for a sour bread.

My Italian starter is refreshed at 80-85F regularly. 

Temperature is key!

Michael

Grenage's picture
Grenage

I was wondering how scentifically it had been investigated, and how it would be great to read something really in-depth; They say you should be careful what you wish for!  I joke, but it's a good read.

It would seem odd to me that a particular strain of any bacteria or yeast (which are very tolerant and virulent) are endemic to a particular area of the world.  One might assume that there are near-indentical strains everywhere.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

If you would like to read more. Debra's thread on lactic acid fermentation is worth a read and would be the place where I first read that L.Sf isn't native to San Francisco.

Grenage's picture
Grenage

Great stuff, thank you once again!

Maverick's picture
Maverick

If you post your formula and technique, we might be able to help a little tweak it. I find adding rye makes my loaves more sour. Also, increasing the percentage of starter can help. Of course, retardation of the dough helps as well.

May I suggest you try this recipe and see if it is to your liking:

http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2008/11/05/more-sour-sourdough/

or the original Jeffrey Hamelman’s Vermont Sourdough With Increased Whole Grain recipe that this is based upon.

Simisu's picture
Simisu

and it was TOO sour for my liking, this thread has helped me a great deal to understand just why (i think i can blame it on the cold retard and the long poolish like build of the starter (overnight))

will post about that bread in a while (got some great photos, it looks heavenly ;O)

 

TastefulLee's picture
TastefulLee

...use less sourdough. I learned this basic principle and at first, it is confusing - but then when you consider that less leaven = longer fermentation, it makes perfect sense! Please share the recipe for Oatmeal Sourdough Sandwich bread if you will...thanks and happy baking!

sustainthebaker's picture
sustainthebaker

Thank you all for the dialogue. I have recently a rye loaf from a stiff starter, which I built up a few times over two days, about every 12-16 hours. It set out around 65 degrees F, mostly, and led to a good rise and a good flavor. I have a bit more remaining I am going to make into a boule. I remember from my initial studies in sourdough, the retard phase was key to sour and my previous results worked best when I retarted the shaped loaves overnight and baked them in the morning. So for me, it is back to the baking board.

 

Cheers!