The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A not-so-sour sourdough?

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

A not-so-sour sourdough?

My husband loves sourdough bread.  I can't argue with the quality of the bread, but it's usually too sour for my taste.  So, while it may sound crazy, I'd like to be able to make a less-sour sourdough.  Are there things I can do to accomplish this? 

I'd like to make my own starter from wild yeasts, and would prefer to bake mostly whole grain breads. I have absolutely no sourdough baking experience - and little enough with any bread. 

If I do manage to make a less sour bread, will it still have the lower glycemic impact of sourdough? 

BlueDevil0206's picture
BlueDevil0206

I think if you do a firmer starter, lactic bacteria will dominate and leave a less sour dough compared to the acetic dominated wet starter. I think proofing temperature also has something to do with it....cooler -> less sour?

 

Yes I think the GI will still be lower relative to non sourdough since there is still bacteria eating up the simple sugars....it just depends on what strain is doing the work.

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Hooray!  That sounds like things I can control.  If you had told me something like "feed the starter every 2 hours" I think I'd have forgotten the idea. ;~)

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Not quite, Bluedevil ...

 

A firm barm, less frequent feedings at lower temperatures with less 'food' promote a more sour barm.

 

The development of lactic acid is favoured in warm environments and loose dough conditions, acetic acids develop more rapidly in cool and stiff conditions.

 

BROTKUNST

BlueDevil0206's picture
BlueDevil0206

Well I definitely do not want to argue. My comment was purely based on what I read (or thought I read) in "Crust and Crumb"

 

 

"This is the starter for classic French levain breads and Flemish desums. It uses a firm mother rather than a sponge, which promotes the growth of the less sour lactic bacteria rather than the acetic bacteria that thrive in the wetter medium of the barm (see page 73)...."

 

 

And about the temps., I had no idea which way but I knew it had something to do with more or less sour starter :).

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

This may end up to be confusing for KipperCat but you have a reference that would contradict what I stated.

 

However, my statement can be confirmed in J. Hamelmann's 'Bread' book, R. Calvel's 'Le gout du Pain' and last but not least P. Reinhard's 'BBA', the author of the earlier book 'Crust and Crumb'.

Maybe there is something in the context of your and my sources that mends these apparent contradictions together .. not sure.

 

Either way, I don't maintain a firm starter precisely because I am not in favour of an overly sour loaf ... if I would have to stand corrected I will have to change my starter(s) as well. If I want a more sour loaf I play with the parameters I mentioned above (feeding cycle, temperature and modification in hydration)

 

Again, I don't insist to have the correct answer. I will research this a little further, hopefully coming up with a more scientific explanation rather than just citing my sources.

 

Until then Kipper ... more frequent feeding with a larger multiplying factor will yield a less sour barm for sure .. or will it :)

 

BROTKUNST

BlueDevil0206's picture
BlueDevil0206

Again, didn't want to sound condescending.  Just referencing what I read....I'm sure you are quite right due to experience regardless of what a book says.  I am definitely going to try a firmer starter to see it for myself......well I guess I should get my wet starter to work first :).

palaupalau's picture
palaupalau

Either Reinhardt did not carefully check the galley proofs for Crust and Crumb or, at that time, he actually believed what he was saying about acetic bacteria "thriving in the wetter barm (p.79)". Three years later, in Bread Bakers Apprentice, he says exactly the opposite. As both statements cannot be true, I prefer to believe what he says in BBA because it coincides with my own experiences.


Trouble is, once a book gets published, and there are no further reprints or editorial revisions, the old book stays on the shelf, errors and all. I guess the old saying, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing," still holds true.

jimhaas3's picture
jimhaas3

That's a pretty interesting comment, Brotkunst. Especially the "less 'food'" part.

I've had the understanding that one way to return lost sour taste (that's my problem right now) to the breads is to consider adding a higher whole grain content (as a percentage of total flour) to the starter. This could as be a little extra bran. This was recommended by Mike Avery.

Lately here in Eastern Europe (that is 2nd half of September), we've had very cool wet weather, and my pain au levain (based on Hamelman's formula) seems to have completely lost the sour taste that it had earlier. I make it in quite large batches twice per week; I use the stiff levain culture that Hamelman recommends, though a bit less hydration so as to achieve the desired consisency (which may or may not be a mistake; I want to get that consistency that allows me to cut the levain into those "fist-size chunks" to which he refers...)

I have had a tendency to give the levain culture 12hr feeds starting 36 hours or so prior to the final bake. Furthermore, I give it a good knead to fully incorporate the ingredients. Maybe THIS is something that I shouldn't be doing!

In short, my problem is not enough sour rather than too much.

Cheers

Jim Haas, Kyiv Ukraine

tattooedtonka's picture
tattooedtonka

Since I have not yet had any posts with you, let me first say- "Welcome" from one member to another.  Now as for your not so sour-sourdough.  I hope bwraith wont mind me using a paragraph from one of his earlier posts, since I think it may help you a little.

bwraith states- "Recently, I've been experimenting with feeding ratios for a 12 hour room temperature maintenance schedule. I have found that feeding 1:10:11 (for a slightly thicker consistency I'm using 90% hydration), results in a 12 hour cycle. The starter will double 8 hours after the 1:10:11 feeding, and then I stir it down and let it ripen some more. If I feed every 12 hours on this cycle, the starter is at full strength from about 8 to 12 hours after being fed (all this at room temperature). When you feed a starter routinely at higher ratios, like 1:10:11, it will ferment for longer periods of time at higher pH. The result should be that the starter will have relatively more lactobacillus in it compared to a starter maintained with a 1:2:2 feeding ratio, since the lactobacillus thrive in a slightly higher pH environment (around 5 pH).  I can't say what the effect on flavor would be, but it makes sense that the aromatic compounds and acids produced by the lactobacillus would be more evident in the one maintained with the high feeding ratio. Although this is not at all scientific, I do think that the starter I've maintained with a 1:10:11 feeding ratio has a more intense aroma than the one fed with a 1:2:2 ratio."

Again, I hope he doesnt mind, but I find his information very useful, and accurate when it comes to sourdough.

Good day,

TT

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Hello TT. I've enjoyed several of your posts here.

After my first read-through of bwraith's quote I didn't understand anything! Reading through a 2nd time, I realized it was just the ratio figures that I didn't understand. Reading some more forum posts has cleared that up for me. Fortunately I've got time to do some basic reading before I begin.

Will I have any problem beginning a starter in the summer? Room temps range from 72 to 76 or thereabouts.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

I do notice a more aromatic quality to my firm starter, compared to my liquid starter, even the one fed at a somewhat higher ratio similar to susanfnp's style of maintenance. However, I've made bread that is not sour from either firm or liquid starters without any problem. At least for me, the two things that seem to give a sour flavor are longer slower fermentations at cooler temperatures around 65F or just letting the fermentations go on for too long.

Just looking through my notes, the most mild results have been when using about 10% of flour coming from the starter with temperatures around 76F.

Bill

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Bluedevil wrote that Reinhart says in Crust & Crumb:

This is the starter for classic French levain breads and Flemish desums. It uses a firm mother rather than a sponge, which promotes the growth of the less sour lactic bacteria rather than the acetic bacteria that thrive in the wetter medium of the barm (see page 73)....

 

However, he says exactly the opposite in BBA (p. 234):

Acetic bacteria prefer the denser, less-aerated environment of the firm starter; lactic bacteria prefer the wetter sponge...

 

In both my experience and my "book learning," it's the latter statement that's true, all other things being equal.

 

KipperCat, your warm summer room temps should be great for getting a starter going.

 

Susanfnp

BlueDevil0206's picture
BlueDevil0206

Ok, good to know.  I thought I was going crazy.....I was re-reading that passage multiple times to make sure it was saying what I thought it was saying :).

firepit's picture
firepit

So for more flavor the consensus is:

- Lower hydration

- Cooler temperatures

- More time between feedings

-"Larger" feedings (higher ratio of flour and water to starter)

 

...the cooler temperatures and more time between feedings seem to go hand in hand, but the bigger feedings seems counter-intuitive to me. I'm just starting out with this, so I have no experience to argue with, but it seems like more flour and water would lead to a less potent starter. However, if I'm understanding Bill correctly, he's saying that the higher ratio feedings raises the pH (because the acidic starter is diluted with neutral food) and this more neutral environment allows the lactobacillus to thrive, promoting more flavor.

 

Does that all seem to be on track?

bwraith's picture
bwraith

The problem is that there are a lot of things going on. The maintenance routine for the starter is one issue. What temperatures and rise times you use for the levain and the dough is another. 

What I was talking about in the quote TT mentioned above was just a starter maintenance routine. If you maintain your starter differently, then the lactobacillus and yeast will come into a different balance. It may well be that a starter maintained with low feeding ratios and high hydration ends up with different more acid tolerant organisms from a culture maintained with high feeding ratios and low hydration. It would make sense the flavors could be different in those two cultures. If feeding at 1:2:2 (starter:water:flour by weight) every 6-12 hours or feeding 1:3:5 (firm starter) every 12-24 hours, it may be the same organisms would be in the culture, but the relative proportions of the organisms would be different, since the lactobacillus and yeast have different tolerance for pH, and the feeding ratios have a big effect on the average pH that prevails in the culture over time. As I said before, I've made mild, not sour bread from starters I've maintained in very different ways from firm to liquid from high feeding ratio to low feeding ratio. All the starters made good, mild sourdough bread. I've also made bread that was unpleasantly sour on a few occasions, again with starters maintained very differently.

All the above can be summarized by saying that starters maintained with different routines and culture hydrations will probably have somewhat different flavors, but I don't think that difference is very big. It's like the difference between Costa Rican coffee and Columbian coffee.

What makes a much bigger difference is the rise times and temperatures of the levains and doughs. That is an issue separate and apart from how you maintain the starter.

Here's an experiment to think about. Make a test dough and split it into 4 parts. Put two in 65F and two in 80F temperatures to rise. Let them all double. Of course the ones in 65F will take much longer to rise by double. Then, shape and proof them. Let one of the two in each temperature range proof a couple of hours longer. Bake them all and let them cool completely. Put on a blindfold and order them from least to most sour flavor.

I haven't done it, so don't ask me how it comes out. I'm going to do it one of these days. But, if you discover the answer, I'd love to know what you found out.

If you did that same test using a firm starter maintained with a high feeding ratio and long rise times between feedings instead of a liquid starter maintained with a low feeding ratio, it would surprise me if you could tell much difference in flavor between doughs that underwent the same temperatures and rise times but had a different starter. Again, I haven't done the experiments - only made different breads over time. It seems to me that low temperatures and long rises result in more sour breads. Also, just letting breads proof longer results in more sour breads.

Bill

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Firepit,

 

this is true if you equal 'more flavor' with a 'more sour' taste. Some individuals may agree with that equation, other may say that (at some point) the sour flavor overpowers other flavors in the barm.

I don't think that there is a definite answer because we are talking about taste ... for sure you will have a more sour flavor with the parameters you mentioned in your post.

 

BROTKUNST

firepit's picture
firepit

First, I want to apologize to KipperKat, I didn't mean to hijack her thread and take it in exactly the wrong direction. But the good news, KipperKat, is that since I'm trying to figure out how to get some sour into my sourdough, you can assume that it is possible to make not-very-sour sourdough. It sounds like you should just work towards the opposite end of the spectrum - warmer temperatures and shorter rise and proofing times.

 

Second, many thanks, as always, to Bill and Brotkunst. Bill, I like the coffee analogy and the idea for testing out the temperature and timing hypotheses. I come from a very scientific background, so your "let's isolate the parameters and see what each one does" approach to baking really resonates with me. I don't have the time (or a cool spot in the house) to test things out now, but come fall, I should be able to play more.

 

Brotkunst, I hear what you're saying about flavor and I agree, but right now I'm in a spot where you would only know the sourdough is a sourdough if you were really paying attention while you tasted it, so I think I've got plenty of room to add sour flavor before things get out of balance, at least for my taste.

 

I'm pulling both Leons out this morning to start the feeding and build up for this weekend's bread. I'll do my best to keep it cooler and longer and we'll see how things go.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Firepit,

I agree that it seems easy to make "not sour" or mild sourdough bread. I love that flavor, so I don't worry too much about how to make my bread more sour. In fact, a few times I've sat back wondering what I did "wrong" when I get more sour flavors. My son loves the more sour flavor, so he thinks I did something "right" while at the same time I'm studying my notes trying to figure out what I did "wrong" that time.

I'd be curious what type of science you've been involved in. You find so many people with science, engineering, or other technical backgrounds who are interested in baking.

I'm very interested in doing some flavor testing to really check out the differences between liquid and firm levains and also, for the same recipe, starting with a "storage starter" maintained as firm or liquid. However, every time I do some test doughs, it's a day-long painstaking process if you want to really do it just right. I still want to do some comparison testing one of these days, along the lines described above plus a few others, too.

Please let me know how it goes with your "cooler longer" bread. Maybe you could do a blog entry and post something so I'll know to come visit.

Bill

firepit's picture
firepit

Bill -

I do need to set up a blog...I'll try to vary the temp and rise times for a couple of simple loaves this weekend. If all goes well I'll come back here and post a link to some blog entries...

 

 

firepit's picture
firepit

 

If you don't want to read the gory details, the short version of the results are below...

 

The "fast" loaf had its rise and proofing at room temperature, totalling about 5 hours. The "slow" loaf had it's rise and proofing at about 50-55 degrees, totaling about 13.5 hours.

Neither loaf turned out great (for reasons unrelated to flavor), and there was virtually no difference between the flavor of the two loaves...Neither was more than only faintly, only-notice-it-if-you're-really-looking-for-it sour. Bummer.

 

 

 

 

 

rideold's picture
rideold

There is a good section in "The Bread Builders" about getting a very sour sourdough.  He uses two stages.  The first leaven is left for 72 hours and is a stiffer mix (I seem to remember from somewhere that stiffer leavens are bettter for long ripenings but he doesn't specifically say that here) and the second is an 8 hour.  He says the first leaven brings the acid and the second the yeast (more or less).  Anyway, its on page 68 if you want to read more.  If you reverse the syllogism you get less sour.

 I also remember reading somewhere that the yeast grows faster than the acid.

 Don't know if that helps.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi rideold,

I think the "Very Sour Bread" discussion in "The Bread Builders" (pg. 68) is another example of rise times being more important than the "storage" starter. It's the fact he makes a firm sponge that will constitute a large proportion of the overall dough that contributes the extra sour component. Then, in order to still have the dough rise properly, since he allowed the firm sponge to get very ripe (72 hours at room temperature), he adds in a more optimally risen 100% hydration levain that will have more healthy and active yeast in it, which should help raise the dough. It's a little like a "hybrid method", where you make a very ripe sourdough sponge but then add instant yeast to the dough in order to raise it, since the very ripe sponge will bring too much acid and not enough healthy organisms to raise the dough properly if it is a very large percentage of the total flour.

You could do that "very sour" method starting with a firm storage starter or a liquid storage starter, and it would still create a sour bread. Conversely, if you make a dough with say about 5-10% of the flour contributed by a starter, allow it to rise at about 76F, shape, proof at 76F, and bake it, you should get fairly mild bread. The bread will be "mild" in sour flavor whether you use a firm or a liquid starter. The flavor contributed by the starter itself is not huge, since the flour contributed from it is a small percentage of the overall flour, and the rise time and hydration of your dough will be the main determinant of the amount of acid that develops in the dough during the fermentation. Whether you use a firm or liquid starter won't matter that much in either of those cases, although I'm sure some qualitative difference is there because of the variation in organisms and balance of organisms that you would get in a firm starter vs. a liquid starter.

One important caveat of all this is that the storage starter has to be healthy. I think a lot of beginners have problems with starters that haven't become active enough and stable enough. Those starters will have unpredictable results, often making unpleasantly sour or just unpleasant flavors generally, which are a symptom of the starter not being ready, rather than anything about the recipe itself.

Bill

rideold's picture
rideold

Bill:

Thanks.  That clarifies greatly what he was saying in his book.  I suspected the firmness of the started was not as important.  What I am wonderning now is first, does retarding the fermentation in the refridgerator slow the yeast and the acid or just the yeast (i.e. does retarding create more sourness) and second, if a larger percentage of leaven is used with the result of a faster fermentation does the loaf become less sour or does the larger presence of starter make it more sour.  With that said I guess too much leaven will cause the fermentation to go too quickly and result in loss of flavor.

I guess I need to make a few loaves from the same batch and experiment.  I have to admit that I've been hesitant to experiment too much lately since my results have been inconsistent so I wonder how much is from the experimentation and how much is from my technique.  Its hard to hold everything constant and muck with one element when my baking is not terribly consistent anyway.

Thanks for the clarification. 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Rideold,

If you have a leaven that is a large percentage of the overall dough, then if you let it get nice and ripe and acidified (you can get more total acid with a firm leaven but it works with either a firm or a liquid one), it will bring all that acid to the dough, which should contribute sour flavor to the dough. However, a very ripe leaven should also have a declining health and quantity of yeast and lactobacillus. So, if you take it too far, you will get "gluten rot" from the high acid and not enough activity and the dough won't rise well.

The whole acid level of firm vs. liquid starts is confused further depending on the exact way you measure it. For example, it may well be that a firm leaven will have more units of acid per total weight of the leaven, but per flour weight, it would not be as big a difference. If you look at percentage of flour contributed by the leaven to the total flour weight of the dough, the differences aren't as pronounced. So, you might find a firm leaven to be more aromatic and taste more sour, but after you dilute it to be the same water content as a liquid leaven, it will be harder to notice the difference.

If you use a less ripe leaven, for example one that has just peaked or maybe a little less, rather than allowed to ripen well beyond the peak, it will contribute less sour flavor and have more active organisms. In that case, it will act more as if you had just put a small percentage of starter in the overall dough in the first place. I tend to do this if I have an intermediate leaven, since I want my bread to be more mild.

I think retarding contributes to sour flavor, but I don't do that much retarding of my sourdough breads, so my experience with it is very limited. Yeast is more inhibited at low temperatures than lactobacillus, so it probably makes sense that the sour contribution rises very slowly in the refrigerator. Since there are probably all kinds of other things going on in the lower temperatures, the bread may have flavors in it that are just different - maybe better, maybe not, depending on your particular preferences.

Bill

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Thanks so much, everyone!

I've learned a lot from all of this discussion, most importantly that I can probably make a sourdough bread that we both like. It will be a month or so before I'm ready to try it.

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Why would you have to wait a month ?

 

BROTKUNST 

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

I've got lots of other things going on in the near future, including a brief trip.  I was also allowing a week or so to get a good starter going.

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

I'm thinking this nomenclature has probably misdirected us all. Maybe we should just call it a starter, rather than Sourdough starter. Aren't we all growing a natural yeast, how we prefer its flavor is up to our technique (timing?)

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

I absolutely agree with Paddyscake. For most of what we are doing, surely "starter" is what we are using! Naturally leavened breads have been made for thousands of years and from what I can gather, a lot of effort was made to reduce the sourness - our fascination with a sour flavour could be as much a reaction to the awful, bland 'factory made" breads as much as anything else! The term sourdough has spread and become pretty well ubiquitous, but isn't it a fairly recent term?
Andrew

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

just posted from San Fran.  It says how to make more and less sour right in it.  Download for later.   --Mini Oven

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi MiniOven,

I couldn't find the article. Could you post a link and/or say which issue and page it is on?

Thanks, Bill

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Article on using whole grain flour..just recently posted...in the forum topic menu.  I don't know how to make a link yet.  sorry maybe you can do it.  I think page 3 or 4. Mini Oven

rideold's picture
rideold

Bill:

The winter 07 issue.  The text on fermentation starts on page 8 and is continued on page 10.

http://www.sfbi.com/pdfs/SFBINewsWI07.pdf

Sean 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I also prefer a more mild sourdough flavor.  I have to disagree with some of the things I've read regarding a firm starter based on my personal experience.  I keep a firm starter which I prefer for several reasons but recently (with bwraith) I conducted some very interesting experiments one in which I converted my firm starter to batter and kept it for a short time and baked with it.  I was surprised to find that it made bread taste more sour than I had been used to (but still delicious, btw).

In addition, I had created a new liquid starter from scratch using the Hamelman recipe and then maintaining it later at 100% rather than the 125% that Hamelman prefers.  That bread I also felt was more sour tasting.

I also agree with Bill about the scent of the firm starter.  My firm starter has a heavenly aroma and smells so much more fragrant and mild.  It is the method that works the best for me and I love the bread it produces.  Again, not even remotely on the more sour end, in fact, I regularly retard shaped loaves overnight in the refrigerator which is supposed to create a more sour loaf than even retarding bulk dough overnight.  I have never gotten a single loaf this way that tasted too sour or even hinted at overly sour.  Based on the things I'd read about firm being more sour I was always surprised but this is the truth of how my starter makes bread taste.  And now my comparisons of using a liquid starter showed me first hand the differences.

I just felt this was important to note, only based on my personal experience using a firm starter, because most people that I know about do not keep a firm starter.  I think often things are repeated rather than trying them first hand and so perhaps you should create both and see for yourself.  There may be something I am doing with my firm starter that makes it so mild and aromatic and your mileage may differ.  That's precisely why I wanted to create the liquid or batter starters because I'm naturally very curious and wanted to find out for myself.

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

I don't think that all prior statements contradict each other that much .. therefore there is no real disagreement.

It's a fact that acetic acids develop more rapidly in cool and stiff (dense) conditions .. that does not mean that a stiff barm necessarily has to be 'sour'.

We all learned about an arry of parameters that influence the composition and development of a particular barm. A stiff starter and cool environment simply favours a more 'sour' taste. Other factors may weigh against it enough that a firm barm mild and not 'too' sour at all.

BROTKUNST

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Sorry if this is presuming too much, but I thought it could be useful to summarize some main points so far. Of course, I'll fail to state them just as everyone would like, but hopefully it's not way off.

I agree with Brotkunst that there wasn't much contradiction above. However, I also agree with ZB, that in practice I haven't found that firm starters make more "sour" bread. However, I also think the fact that both ZB and I noticed the more powerful aroma of the firm starter is good evidence of exactly what Brotkunst is saying, in that acetic acid and probably other aromatic compounds would be more prevalent in the firm starter. I think the resolution of that conflict is what Brotkunst said earlier, which is that "sour" doesn't always equate to "flavor" in these discussions.

Here's my attempted summary.

1) Firm and liquid starters can both make mild bread.

2) Firm and liquid starters can both make overly sour bread.

3) Firm, cool conditions in a starter favor lactobacillus and acetic acid production. That doesnt' equate to "sour" bread, which is a function of the quantity of acid in the dough, and is probably more affected by the actual rise times and temperatures of the dough. It just means the aromas and flavors of firm and liquid starters will be somewhat different - more like different flavors of vanilla ice cream than like completely different foods.

4) The differences between firm and liquid "storage starters" don't affect flavor or sourness (especially sourness) as much as the temperatures and rise times of levains and dough.

5) There is a difference between "sour" and "flavor". A bread can be flavorful without being overly sour.

6) The Bread Builders suggests making "extra sour" bread by creating two levains: one a firm levain and allowing it to ripen for a (very) long period (72 hours) and the other a normal liquid levain ripened normally (8 hours) that would contribute more active culture to raise the dough. Both levains would be combined along with some additional flour and water to create an extra sour dough.

7) A reasonable formula for mild sourdough bread would be something like: create a levain that is ripened normally, i.e. a just peaked liquid or firm levain, that contributes something like 10% fermented flour as percentage of total flour weight to the dough, which is allowed to rise by double, and then shaped and proofed, but not overproofed.

Bill

browndog's picture
browndog

this summary is a big help, Bill. I've been checking in now and then but you guys get so nitty-gritty sometimes it makes my eyes cross...I prefer a milder loaf myself, this is useful and interesting. Now I have a curiosity, or maybe it's not, but this is what happened to me: my starter has consistently been rather more sluggish than perky since I stopped feeding it junk food and tried to use it properly. After several loaves of varying quality I tucked it away and ignored it for weeks, pulled it out to see if it was alive and found that over a couple days I could get it back to doubling in about 4 1/2 hours. Fine, I tucked it away again for another stretch, woke it up last week and it practically launched itself out of bed with a snappy salute and its boots on. Doubling dramatically in less than 3 hours. Is this because it looked at the calendar, or is it the fates deciding to flash me a grin? I was keeping it in the oven with the light on or over the woodstove before, so I don't think its toes were that cold. I am feeding it Gold Medal Harvest King.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Browndog,

I'm glad to know you still have that starter. I was wondering if you were still harboring some of the descendants of the thugs that raised the VT sourdough. It sounds like the fates have smiled upon you, and you have a whole new hard working, refined bunch now. Maybe the unicorn brings you luck. ZB and Andrew both say their Glezer firm starters eventually and dramatically sped up after simply feeding them repeatedly. They seemed to think that just letting them sit and ripen more helped make the final transition to a more vigorous starter. I'm still waiting and hoping for that flash, but nothing so dramatic is happening here, although I think my firm starter has picked up some speed recently. Mine has been very happy and healthy feeding it 10g:45g:50g (starter grams:water grams:flour grams) at room temperature every 12 hours, which is very similar to what susanfnp says she does leaving hers out at room temperature, for what it's worth. I've been trying this new "leave the starters out at room temperature" routine for about a month now.

Bill

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Bill, after talking to Susanfp a couple of days ago I started maintaining a 125% hydration starter at room temperature, feed every 12 hrs (10g:25g:20g or 2:5:4). I have to say I like that one more than my cold-stored 100% hydration starter which I keep in a larger quantity with less frequent and -in proportion- smaller feedings (2:1:1).

This connects  to the core of the thread since I can attest that with my liquid 'cold' barm I create a quite 'tangy' sourdough if I choose and my 'warm' barm creates a mild, nutty flavor instead. (Of course 'warm and 'cold' are not the only factors that determine the individual flavor here)

 

BROTKUNST

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Brotkunst,

I'm wondering if you are saying that the "tangy" flavor is unpleasantly sour, or just a nice kind of tangy that you would associate with good sourdough bread. I haven't tried the higher hydration and refrigeration in the way you are describing. I have used approximately a 1:2:2 feeding ratio for a long time, which sounds very similar to what you are doing with the 2:5:4 feeding, although I refrigerate and then revive it when I want to bake. I usually refresh it a couple of times at room temperature, and I store it in the refrigerator after letting it fully double, so it's probably fairly close in flavor to one I had maintained by leaving it out at room temperature. I've also been very pleased with the mild nutty flavor that comes from that starter.

Now I'm trying something like Susanfnp's 1:5:5 every 12 hours at room temperature, but I don't have enough experience making breads with it to tell you much, although it may be resulting in a little more "tangy" flavor. That could make sense, since it would be at higher pH for longer, a little like a firm starter. That's why I headed that direction initially with it. I wanted to see if I could maintain a liquid starter in a way that would make it similar to my Glezer firm starter, another one I've had going for only a month or so, due to ZB's enthusiasm with it. Again, I would say the one fed with a high ratio makes a slightly "tangier" flavor so far relative to my old 1:2:2 starter, but with only a couple of breads made with it, I'm still not sure how it is different.

I'd still say those differences for me are more like variation in coffee beans or like different flavors of vanilla icecream.

Maybe it would make sense to distinguish with terms of pleasant vs. unpleasant. That's what made me think about asking you if "tangy" in your description was unpleasant or not. We could talk about pleasant variations (of course there will be those who say that what I think is unpleasantly sour is just great) vs. unpleasantly sour or other imbalances that would be unpleasant. Roughly speaking, I've found that a bread I do that is similar to the VT sourdough has a pleasant flavor using any of the starters I've been maintaining, whether they are firm, high ratio feeding, low ratio, stored in refrig or not. I'll have to try making some side by side breads and comparing one of these times, but I haven't found a great time to do it yet.

Bill

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

No Bill, 'tangy' is not unpleasant in my opinion ... I use this word for a sour taste that is well developed, noticeable but not overpowering to me.

 

My famliy (and most of our friends) prefer the sourdough somewhat milder, nuttier - so that's what I am baking when I use my sourdough. At times, especially when I bake bread for paninis, I like to throw in a more 'upscale' tangy, borderline 'sour' batch. I think it goes then well with cheeses and salami because the bread is more assertive in its taste in these combinations (and it complements perfectly a good beer)

 

I baked the Vermont Sourdough (Hamelman) last night and I was pleasantly surprised. I was sceptical if the relatively short fermentation and proofing would yield a full bodied loaf - but it absolutely did. It was the first batch I bake with my modified 2:5:4 barm. The crumb was very open - not quite as 'airy' though as Susanfp's nice loaf recently. I added a larger than originally called for portion of whole grain flour. Currently I have a batch in bulk fermentation that uses a mixture of white flours. One of the loafs I plan to retard over night and bake early in the morning.

 

BROTKUNST

ejm's picture
ejm

on June 13, 2007 - 1:43pm, in the comment entitled harder to make sour bread than not..., bwraith wrote:
> it seems easy to make "not sour" or mild sourdough bread.

 

Well, rats, I wish this were true for me! I find exactly the opposite. It seems easy to make "sour" wild yeast bread. I would LOVE to make mild wild yeast bread!

 

I'm very glad to see this thread here but will have to read and reread it several times. But right now I'm guessing that the reason my bread is so sour is that my starter is not quite active enough and/or the kitchen temperatures are too low. (Ha. That's what I keep saying as I put yet another sweater on!!) In the winter, we keep the house pretty cold by most peoples' standards (around 15C).

 

Even putting the starter and/or proofing dough in the oven with only the light turned on doesn't seem to be warm enough - not to mention that if the oven is required, whatever is bubbling has to come out and sit on the cold counter. I wonder if I'm going to have to build a proofing box.

 

In the meantime, I've started playing with the feeding schedule. I don't have a very good scale so am using volume measures. Feeding was 2Tbsp starter, 2 Tbsp water, 2 Tbsp flour every 48 hours and storing the starter in the fridge. I was consistently getting a liquid layer on top. The starter is always bubbly but doesn't really smell like anything at all.

 

I'm now switching to 2 Tbsp starter 2 Tbsp water 3 Tbsp flour in hopes of keeping the liquid split from happening.

 

Do you all stir your starters between feedings the way that Silverton suggests?

 

-Elizabeth

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Elizabeth,

I'd say your feeding ratio is too low. Even though it's cold, the culture still needs to be relieved of the acids created during fermentation. I would suggest that you leave it on the counter at 15C and feed it 1 tsp culture, 2 tbsp water, 3 tbsp flour (maybe an extra tsp of flour, if it is still very thin with 2tbsp water, 3tbsp flour) every 24-48 hours. If you don't plan to do any baking for a while you can store the culture in the refrigerator for periods of time, where it will slowly lose strength, but you need to let it revive before baking to become fully healthy at room temperature by feeding repeatedly (2-3 feedings at least) and leaving it at room temperature during that time. I would try to feed it repeatedly at 15C as described above for about 2 weeks, if you can. See what happens. It should do better after a few feedings. At 15C it will take a long time to rise by double, maybe around 14 hours when it's working right.

Ideally, if there is some place that is more like 20C, above the refrigerator or near a coffee machine, for example, the whole process will be easier. However, at 20C, you will probably need to feed every 12-24 hours.

When the temperatures are warmer, let's say around 78F or 26C as in summer, you can use 1/2 tsp starter, 2 tbsp water, 4tbsp flour and make a very thick paste or dough. It will need to be fed about every 12 hours when temperatures are warmer.

It should be fed after it has risen by more than double (maybe around 3x or 4x would be normal with bread flour) and has stopped rising for a while, and has a nice flowery aroma.

Bill

ejm's picture
ejm

Thank you for your reply, Bill.

 

I should probably clarify: when I talk about feeding the starter, I'm talking about simply maintaining it. (Oops, should I be saying "culture"?)

 

When I want to bake with the starter, I have been taking 2Tbsp of the sludge in the fridge (discarding the rest) adding 2 Tbsp water and 3 Tbsp of flour and letting that sit in the warmest place I can find for about 6 hours. Then repeating (and using the leftover sludge in muffins or something - I can't bear to throw it away)  Then 6 or 8 hours later when it has doubled I add 1/3 c water and 2/3 c flour and leave it overnight. It is quite bubbly and active and has doubled by the next morning, when I use it. It still doesn't really smell like much though. In the summer, I remember a lovely smell reminiscent of yoghurt; now it just smells like flour and water paste....

 

- Elizabeth

 

P.S. I don't think there is anywhere in our kitchen that is even close to 20C in the winter (except the oven with the light turned on) Our house is quite old and full of drafts. 

 

 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Elizabeth,

Your process sounds fine, but I'm suggesting fine-tuning the feeding ratio and the timing.

In particular, the culture grows much, much more slowly at 15C as opposed to around 25C in the summer (just guessing). At the same time, you have to relieve the acids to allow the culture grow, whether in warm or cold temperatures.

I think of the culture in two modes, "refreshment mode" and "storage mode".

In refreshment mode, you could feed the culture along the lines of 1 tsp culture, 2 tbsp water, 3 tbsp and 1 tsp flour. The amounts are for a paste consistency, so you can adjust the amount of flour up or down for your flour to get a paste consistency. With that feeding at 15C, the culture should double in about 14 hours and have some good aroma around 24 hours. You can probably feed it at 24 hours or let it go another 12 to 24 hours, if you want.

In storage mode, feed the culture as above but make it thicker, maybe another 1-3 tsp such that it forms a dough. Place the dough in the refrigerator immediately.

When you want to bake, take the starter out of the refrigerator and let it rise, which will take 14 hours or more at 15C. Feed again, as you would in your process above. At some point, if you want to build a larger amount, you can scale up as you do above, adding the larger amounts of water and flour and letting it rise overnight. If it just doubles by morning, which sounds right at 15C, it won't have much aroma. A few hours later, it should develop that aroma, and that's a great time to use it.

It's probably true that the rise times for your recipe need to be quite long at 15C, and low temperatures may contribute to a more sour flavor. However, I've made breads at lower temperatures without getting an overly sour result following the procedure for refreshing the starter and storing the starter described above.

I do get away with only one rise of the starter and one "build" overnight straight out of the refrigerator, if I've stored as above. However, I would still feed the starter itself a couple of times more, as long as I've taken it out for baking, to ensure it has risen at room temperature through a couple of feedings. Also, at 15C, the time involved is just much longer. I'd take the starter out of the fridge two nights before bake day, let it rise overnight, feed it in the morning, let it rise all day, and then do your "build" the second night and let rise overnight.

Bill

ejm's picture
ejm

Many thanks for this advice, Bill. I'll give it a try when I next make bread.

 

-Elizabeth 

larry876's picture
larry876

I just joined this, and may have missed some in my skimming, but I achieve sours I really like.  I use a one to one mix in feeding, and use the starter straight in the dough, about 1/2 to 1 cup -- scoop it right in.


This give a lot of sour. I use whole grains, and may want to temper the sour.


The sour is mainly a source of bacteria, and there seems little use in second growth. But I am sure to use hours after feeding.


Am I missing a scientific reason for mixing the sour with flour and dumping, etc. I simply replace what I have taken in bits, 1/2 cup of mix a time, and the sour has been healthy. I never throw away unless the yeast becomes funny. Hot weather, forgot to tend.... 

Ricko's picture
Ricko

I am perplexed by my inability to produce a strong sour loaf of bread. I have several starters that I maintain by storing in the fridge when not in use and fed on a weekly basis. I bring them out of the fridge Saturday night and give them a good feeding to double the amount. Then again Sunday mid-morning. Once I see a good rise by Sunday evening, back into the fridge they go. These I keep at 60% hydration.This process is repeated before using to build up to the amount of starter needed should I decide to make bread.


I have experimented with retarding dough in the fridge for various lengths of time up to and including 24 hours.


I have tried using as much as 40% of the flour called for in the recipe to produce a 60% hydrated stater which I then proofed in a 90 degree proofing box for 8 hours before putting into the fridge for retarding. I've retarded these batches of starters for as much as 3, 5 and even as long as 7 days without any noticable increase in sour taste when used with the remaining ingredients of the recipe. I doubt that the flour used has any bearing, but just in case, I use a combination of All Trump and KA Bread flour.


My next experiment will be to add some vinegar to the starter before it goes into the fridge for a good retarding. Other than that, I use sea salt and well water which is on the hard side.


I'm just amazed at how some folks have just the opposite problem with what they consider too much sour. Maybe I'm expecting too much, is there such a thing as lip puckering sourdough bread? In all the variations I try, I notice no difference in sour taste. I certainly would welcome your suggestions on how to increase sour!


As a final note, I should mention that I have tried adding WW flour in differing amounts without any success.

ejm's picture
ejm

I am equally perplexed that people cannot get their bread sour enough, Ricko. I finally gave up on wild yeast because, for most of the year, the bread I made was consistantly and insanely sour. It got sourer the day after being baked as well.


My guess is that the reason my wildyeast bread was so ridiculously sour was the air temperature. (And who knows? Maybe our household is a particularly sour household. ;-)) The kitchen temperature in winter is between 10C and 15C.


I've measured with a digital scale; I've measured with cup measures; I've fed more frequently; I've fed less frequently.


So if you want really sour bread, maybe you can achieve it by following one of my recipes:



-Elizabeth, who accidentally, on purpose, murdered her wild yeast starter in December 2008 and hasn't had the grace to be even vaguely remorseful.


 


edit:  cleaning and tidying the fridge (what I did with my wild yeast that I fed and babied from July 2007 to December 2008)

dlstanf2's picture
dlstanf2

I would not use salt in your starter. It slows yeast development.


I was having a bad problem with my starter and one of the members really help me out. I was not allowing my starter to mature enough. I would take it out of the fridge, feed it, let it double and then put it back in the fridge. Since it was a yeast haven, I would experiment by adding either or few drops of vinegar or pineapple juice to help the acidity of the starter and the starter would really get active then. This told me that I had a very healthy yeast, but no sourness or rather acidity to my mother. Basically what I had was a great baker's yeast.


Here's how I fixed my problem. I took my mother starter, 50% hydration, and created a daughter starter. I started out just feeding the mother starter with only pineapple juice. To 50 grams mother starter I added 25 gr PJ, (to make a 100% hydration starter), a pinch of WG Rye, about 5 pellets of ADY, and 4 drops organic honey. The pineapple juice was to increase the acidity, the pellets of yeast was to boost the yeast count a little, the honey was to add a little extra boost of food for the yeast, and the WG rye was to provide a few natural microorganisms. Then I would leave this on the counter and let it fully consume it's food source. Patience is Required. Let it mature. After it looks flat, with no activity or bubbles, feed it again, this time with 50 gr Bread Flour & 50 gr Water, a pinch of WG Rye, and a few drops of the organic honey. Let it rise and go flat until there is absolutely no yeast activity. Continue feeding this daughter starter in this manner until you have about 300 gr. Leave this starter on the counter, covered of course. In a week or so, taste it. It should have enough acidity to it to make you want to spit it out, similar to a straight taste of vinegar. A good starter will have a pH between 3.4 & 4.1 with an acid smell versus a smell of yeast.


Once your daughter starter has gotten it's acidity level, you can began to use it for you baking and also to feed your mother starter. Do it much the same way you began your daughter starter. Leave the mother starter out on the counter to ripen as well. I also added a couple drops of vinegar to my mother starter to drop it's acidity. But just a couple of drops!! Too much acidity will kill your starter. Acid is produced by the yeast consuming the food supply, it also produces alcohol and too much alcohol can kill your starter as well.


Now when I need to freshen up the mother starter, I use some of the discard to feed the daughter as the daughter is where I do my baking from. I feed the mother with 50 gr BF & 25 g water, a pinch of WG rye, and a drop or two of organic honey and knead this in which sometimes takes a while to take in the flour. I keep about 200 gr of mother starter. That's more than many members, but I consider it insurance in case I mess something up. I did not want to kill my mother starter as I've had it for 7 months now. I really want it to be a crusty ol' codger.


Here's a link for some more info on starters; http://everything2.com/title/sourdough+starter


Keep us posted on your progress.

Ricko's picture
Ricko

I'm not so sure that kitchen temp plays that big of a roll. In the winter my kitchen runs about 20C and at the moment it is 31C. As I mentioned in my first post, I use a fridge in the basement that runs around 6C for my retarding. I also use a large insulated proofing box that I can adjust, but usually keep around 31C for yeast build-up. My bread tastes the same year round.


I do have one wild yeast starter that I created in the fall of the year. My others were purchased from Sourdoughs International which I started going in the fall of the year also about 2 years ago.


To be honest, there is no difference in taste between all these starters. The only difference I've observed is how fast they expand after feeding. I believe my Bahrain starter comes to life faster than all the others, but again, no taste difference.I'll also mention that I'm very meticulous in feeding my starters as not to cross contaminate them.


It would be great to fully understand the workings behind the sour factor. Then one could bake sour or not so sour loaves on demand.


Frankly, to me, my sourdough bread tastes like homemade Wonder Bread! Everyone I give a loaf to loves it, yet I'm very disappointed in my inability to develop a strong sour taste. I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet!



ejm's picture
ejm

There is a marked difference between 20C and 15C. I still think it was temperature that caused our wild yeast bread to be so so sour.


-Elizabeth


If I weren't so lazy, I'd try capturing wild yeast again and experiment with feeding amounts.

tgrayson's picture
tgrayson

The easy way to control sourness is to alter the way you refresh your mother starter.  If you double the amount, the resulting bread will be more sour than if you quadruple it.  Clearly, the latter procedure will dilute the sourness.  And if you perform the refresh the day before you use it, the resulting bread will be less sour than if you refreshed 3 days before.   So if you want very little sourness, quadruple the starter the day before.  If you want maximum sourness, only double it and wait a few days before making bread.


I'm most happy with doubling it the day before.


 


 


 

JessicaT's picture
JessicaT

I recently made a loaf of sourdough with a rye starter as opposed to my usual whole wheat or white, and WOW did that make a world of difference. 

Ricko's picture
Ricko

When I do refresh my mother starter, it is usually never more than double the amount. If I'm going to do a larger number of loaves (more than 4) I do my build over a period of three days before it goes into the fridge.


Instead of throwing away half and feeding half, I took half and built it up using 40% of the total recipe flour. This is a 60% hydration and I'll keep it in the fridge for 10-14 days before using it! Then I'll add the remaining amount of water and flour, and we'll see if that makes the difference!


The longest I kept it (the larger amount of starter) in the fridge before using it was 5 days, and there was no noticable increase in sour.


Basically, this is just keeping a larger amount of starter on hand. In my case it's 6 1/2#'s as I make 7 loaves that scale out at 2# each per baking session.