The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Levain and sour-level questions

Shappzero's picture
Shappzero

Levain and sour-level questions

Hi all,

long time lurker on these forums, but a first time poster. I’ve been baking sourdough for 4-5 months now, with varying success. I’ve been looking at lots of recipes on this site, and had two question (which are maybe related). There is so much great knowledge shared on this site, so I thought I would reach out. 

1. I see many recipes call for multi-stage levain builds (where the levain has various flours and water added to it at different intervals before going into the final dough). What is the purpose of this?

2. Maybe this isn’t specifically a levain question, but one thing I’m having trouble with is consistently getting sourness  in my breads. I’ve used a variety of whole and fresh milled grains, including a fair amount of fresh rye, but my breads usually don’t taste very sour. My latest loaf was around 60% whole grain, with 20-30% of that being fresh rye, and I used a stiff levain, so I was sure I would get some sourness. Still barely there. Are there any high level tips people would be willing to share on how to increase the sourness in my loafs?

Thanks in advance for the help and sharing your knowledge!

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Glad you decided to post.

  1. Generally a multi build levain is used because a small amount of starter needs to make a large amount of levain. For example - tonight I am preparing Hamelman’s Five-Grain Levain bread. My dough requires 485 grams of levain. I only keep about 28 grams of starter. So, I’ll make 1 build and when it matures I’ll build another using the first build as seed.
  2. Sour... Sour is subjective. What one person calls sour, another might think it bland. To complicate matters there are different kinds of sour from LAB. Acetic acid makes a sharp vinegar tasting flavor and Lactic is more smooth, think of yogurt. And there are combinations of both. Whole Rye flour will do much to increase the acidity of your starter. Also, and I think this is the greatest factor for sour, is long fermentation and warm temperatures. But that works for me, because I like the lactic flavor. You could also refrigerate (retard) your dough for an extended time to enhance the sharp acetic flavor.

Search the forum for the user named dabrowman. He has a lot of information on this subject. Sour flavor can be a deep well...

To search using your browser you can copy and paste the line below into the address bar.

site:thefreshloaf.com dabrownman starter

Dan

Shappzero's picture
Shappzero

Thanks, Dan! Glad to know I’m not missing out on something by not doing a multi-stage build. 

I’ll look to find some of those posts from Dabrownman!

jey13's picture
jey13

As Dan mentioned, sourdough becomes more sour the longer it rests in the refrigerator. Do your loaves spend the night in the refrigerator or do you proof and them on the counter? And if in the refrigerator, how long? As mentioned, taste is subjective...maybe leave the dough in the refrigerator for longer? Like 24 hours?

Shappzero's picture
Shappzero

Thanks Jey, that’s great insight. I usually bulk my dough for 4-5 hours on the counter, and then proof overnight in the fridge - around 8-9 hours at 38 degrees. I’ve had some problems with overproofing though. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m bulking too long before it goes into the fridge, or if it’s fermenting too much in the fridge. 

I also usually take my doughs out of the fridge around 30 minutes before baking. 

jey13's picture
jey13

Most recipes I’ve read have the dough in the refrigerator 16 or more hours. In theory, you can put the dough in the refrigerator up to two days, so unless you have a very warm refrigerator, it’s not likely it’s overproofing in the refrigerator. 

Mind you, I’ve only been making sourdough for three months and with few successes (a lot of failures—on the other hand, even though they’ve over/under proofed a lot, they’ve all been edible and all tasted nicely sour to me)...so, I could be very wrong there. 

Possibly your dough is bulking faster than you think and doesn’t need 5 hours? Or are you sure it’s “over proofed” not under? And you can, presumably, bake the bread straight from the refrigerator, no need for that extra 30 minutes. Presumably. 

RichLee44's picture
RichLee44

My wife and I really like sour sourdough, I generally feed my starter at a 1.2.2 ration using a 50/50 blend of AP and WW flour, before I begin the process I feed my starter twice a day for two days and on the third day I feed early morning, around 8am, I mix the flour and water at noon and autolyse for two hours and then mix the salt and starter at 2pm and 2.30pm respectively. My bulk fermentation lasts anywhere from four to eight hours depending on what flour's I have used in the dough.

I like Trevor J Wilson's approach to SD baking he generally uses between 17% and 20 % starter in his dough, so my basic loaf uses 20% 1.2.2 starter. Also, I always proof overnight in the fridge anywhere from 10 to 16 hours. In any event I do get consistently sour bread.