The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bland sourdough... is it my starter?

ndechenne's picture

Bland sourdough... is it my starter?

BLAND Bread!

I've tried a numberous number of recipes, keep coming back to bland sourdough. I caught part of a blog entry that mentioned maybe the good bacteria in my starter has gone toast? Interested in any information on how to diagnose a good starter. Right now I'm refreshing weekly a high-hydration starter made with bread flour (King Arthur). Regular tap water. It goes like crazy as it (should), doubles well and has not gone to hooch ever. But yet... kind of bland bread. have done long ferments, short ferments, added citric acid. Tastes ok... not WOW. Starter (Niles) is going on 4 months old...


hungryscholar's picture

Taste can be so subjective. Is bland not sour? If we weren't talking about bread I'd say bland means not enough salt.

How long have you done for long ferments? Another couple of factors to consider are temperature and food. To coax the bacteria to develop flavor it helps to have a period of warm temperatures, 80-86 F or more, and also to have at least some high ash flour( whole wheat, rye, high extraction flour) in the formula.

Hopefully some other folks will chime in with their thoughts.

Cooky's picture

Hungryscholar, I believe you are correct on both points. (A) Don't fear the salt, and (B) totally, add some good rye flour to your original mix. It is a natural host for a rich variety of the little critters -- both wild yeasts and bacteria -- that you want chugging away in your starter.


davidg618's picture

I had your experience early on baking sourdough bread. I've improved the flavor of my breads gradually over the last three years mainly by fine tuning the four subject variables.

Time; Two ways:

Building Levain (I use 3 progressive builds) With my seed culture (refrigerator stored) I get more acidity extending builds--1 or 2 of them-- from 8 hours at room temperature to 12 - 16 hours at room temperature.

Retarded Fermentation: Typically, 15 - 17 hours.

Temperature: I don't try to make 'tangy' sourdoughs because my wife doesn't like them. However, ocassionally I bake a loaf or two just for myself. I ferment one or two levain builds at 89°F to increase lactic acid.

I've never noticeably increased acetic acid flavor, although I've tried.

Retarded Fermentation: at cool temperatures.

Salt: Recently I've begun adjusting salt between 2% and 2.7%, earlier I never exceeded 2%. I've found increased salt gives more 'brightness' to flavors without an increase in a perception of saltiness. I still use 2% most of the time, but I've increased salt in a couple routine formulae with improved flavor resulting.

Flour: Quality white flour makes a difference. Adding 5% - 10% Whole Rye to mostly white flour doughs adds a piquant flavor note.

Of all these I've found long fermentation at reduced temperatures--I've settled on 54°F because that's ambient temperature in my wine closet--develops the more complex flavor profiles than anything else singularly, or combined bulk fermented for shorter time spans at room temperature.

I frequently bulk ferment straight, commercial yeast leavened breads retarded, at low temperature, with excellant enzymatic induced flavor improvement.

David G

Davo's picture

I don't know about more than 2%b salt, but anything much less than 2 % can be pretty bland. I once recall estimating by volume (in teaspoons) and later found out that salt was about 1.4-1.5%. It doesn't sound much less than 2% but man it was bland bread.

Davo's picture

Also you could try whacking in a bit of rye like 10-15% and you might find this give a bit more complexity and sourness. Personally I find straight white a bit bland even when it's well made.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And what temperature is it?   What does it do during the week? 

Have you experimented with active malt?