The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Making less sour bread on hot climate

Anarchean's picture

Making less sour bread on hot climate

Hey, guys! I'm new on TFL, I've been baking bread for about 7 months, reading posts here about 5 and I created my account quite recently, I knew I'd need some help eventually :P

So, here is the thing, I'm from Brazil and I'm baking whole grain breads using a sourdough starter, which I took me about 3 weeks to get tasting good. I keep a firm starter, approx. 55% hydration, feed it with white flour, 1 part starter, 1 part water, 2 parts flour, although that's is approximate, since I don't have a scale right now.

And here, summer is coming on, and it is hot. My city gets from 29°C to 38°C (84°F - 100) almost every day in the summer.

My SO doesn't really like sour bread, I don't really mind some sourness, but it's a weird concept here in Brazil, sour breads. We are used to sweet breads (we call them Pão Caseiro - similar to Portuguese sweet bread), and commercial yeast breads like Pão Frances - French Bread (which is supposed to be a cheap copy of a baguette, but, man, it tastes good).

Tuesday I made one bread:

  • 60% WW
  • 40% white
  • 57% water
  • 8% olive oil
  • 3% salt
  • 35% starter @ 100%

For this bread, I took out of the fridge & fed my starter Monday night before going to bed and then in the morning, let it grow for about 5 hours, I think it was just beginning to collapse.

My bulk fermentation was about 3 hours, my proofing time was about 1.5 hours. Short time, I think. But after baked it had an mild sour taste and a stronger ― stronger, but I wouldn't call it strong ― sour aftertaste. Maybe it was the wetter starter or something, still I think the temperature is not helping my yeast, but it is helping the bacteria.

For the next loaf I would like the sourness to not be that clear. I know it's doable, I've done this before. I was considering not letting the whole fermentation happen at room temperature, but instead, let it ferment some time at room temperature, put it in the fridge for some time.

I'm already using a high percentage of starter (35% is basically craziness :), I can't AC my kitchen, and I don't really have cold corners :(

Do you guys think that would work to fight the high temperatures?

If you live in a high temperature climate, what do you do?

chefcdp's picture

I once worked with a chef located in Bangkok (Internet conversations) with his problems with sourdough and the climate.  The end answer was to have all of the fermentation except the final rise under refrigeration.  Right after the mix the dough went into the walk in cooler and spent  the time there until forming and the final rise.  For some formulas the ingredients were also cooled before the mix.  It will take some experimentation to get the desired results.



Anarchean's picture

I mean, if someone can do this in Bangkok I can do it here. Bangkok is certainly hotter.

One thing I'm afraid is putting it directly into the refrigerator and it taking too much time fermenting and accumulating too much acid too. But I'll certainly give a try tomorrow.

I know there is a lot variables, and the end result that I want defines some of them, but can you throw a guess of how much time the bulk fermentation should take in the refrigerator?

And thank you, Charles. This is very useful information, I'll be sure to experiment with it.

barryvabeach's picture

Can you afford a small cheap, or used, wine cooler?  They can be found here used fairly inexpensively, and will let you set temperatures much warmer than you would want your home fridge.  Since my quest is as sour as I can get, I can't give you much more support than to suggest you look at this table.  

Anarchean's picture

I can't afford it right, but I'll certainly look into keeping some money for it.

Thank you!

clazar123's picture

Is your kitchen 29-38C  or is that the outdoor temp? That is a challenge.

I hope some of the sourdough gurus here will chime in because it may help to adjust the feeding of the starter but I don't have the expertise to advise you. The feeding schedule can have a great deal to do with the sourness of your bread and many people WANT to have that. My starter (poorly maintained-first to admit) yields sweet and not at all sour bread, but my "method" is to feed every few weeks (it is kept refrigerated) for a few days prior to use.

I have also heard of using salt in the starter to help retard the explosive growth when used in tropical settings.

Happy baking!



bikeprof's picture

While those temps are pretty hot, that shouldn't be a particular problem for mild bread as fermentation should be vigorous.

A few things I would do...cut back on your starter % (I often use around 12% of the total flour weight in my levain, and my room temps are about 68F and my doughs finish mixing at about 76F).

Next, you want a vigorous starter that is refreshed regularly before using it (yes, you can make great bread without extra fussing, but)...I would give it at least 3 refreshments after it has been in the fridge.  I would also keep it liquid (100% hydration) and refresh just before it collapses...stiffer starters (and cool temps) will give a bit higher ratio of acetic to lactic acid, and acetic acid has a sharper flavor.  This matters much less than how you do your levain, since only a small portion is used, but is a point worth mentioning.

Finally, you can use your levain when it is a bit younger...which both carries less acid load, and will favor yeast over LAB's (the latter have a longer lag time in their growth cycle, the yeast, shorter, so you catch the levain when the yeast are relatively more dominant favoring more leavening and less acid production).

I'll leave devising a routine that makes the process controllable and repeatable to you (which is a big part of successful baking), and that may require some cooling at some point.

Good luck...

Anarchean's picture

Do you think 35% is adding to much acid in the final mixture?

I'm using a stiff starter based on a Debra Wink's post:

And about using it a bit younger, I'll pay more attention to that.


bikeprof's picture

I would cut back on your levain %...experiment using less and see

Try a younger levain too, regardless of the hydration.

Those two things, along with practice, should be enough for a can play with levain hydration later...

Anarchean's picture

Ohhh, this time I didn't use salt in my starter, but before I was using. Maybe this really was the difference.

Thanks for the tip

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

do more levain building with smaller ratios and go  as high as equal starter flour weight to final flour weight.  Let each flour addition ferment and use while still doming or peaking use last levain build just before peaking. You will soon discover how long the levain takes to peak.  The last builds may get less hydrated as the recipe water is used up in the levain.  The last mix or final dough has only one short rise so shape soon. Shape within 20 to 30 min of mixing up final dough.  Your results may vary.  I've found that flour sold is plastic bags tend to require more water/higher hydration in final dough.

I found that if not using the refrigerator for the dough temperatures warm, above 85°F

  1. Premeasure total dough flour. Divide flour in half.  Use half to feed the levain.
  2. Divide salt among flours, blend in well.  Use whole flours in the levain first or soak several hours in the refrigerator and use as levain feeds.  Example: recipe calls for 1000g flour, half would be 500g starter.  So you want to use about 500g of flour in the levain
  3. Take 20g refrigerated starter and feed (s:w:f) 1:1:1 or 20g:20g:20g to get 60g levain (or start out with 60g chilled starter)
  4. Feed again 1:1:1 or 60g:60g:60g and to just peak) to get 120 g.  
  5. Feed again  120:100:100 to get 320g levain.  (Or 120:120:120 if starting out with 60g chilled starter then weigh out 320g to use in next feeding.)  
  6. Feed again   1:1:1  or 320:320:320 to get 660g starter    And make the final dough just as the starter peaks.  It should still have a nice dome.    Flour used in levain build  20+60+100+320= 500g
  7. Combine 660g levain with rest of the liquids and 500g flour, nuts, fruit seeds, fats etc.

There are many tricks to slowing down fermentation and go ahead and use them. Ice water, cold flour, salt, Bags of ice water on top of dough. A second ice water container under the dough. Have fun!!!  :).

Anarchean's picture

WOW 50% huh?

It started raining on and off the last few days, so temperature is down. I did bake a batch of lean rolls, they ended up good, but the temperature helped and they were 100% white.

But when it gets hot again I'll try it out.

As for the tricks to slow fermentation, I'll probably use that too. Ice water seems very feasible.

Anyway, thank you for the help!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

that works for temperate zones but eventually a small amount of starter starts making a very sour loaf.  Elaborating the starter in several steps makes for a milder sourdough loaf.