The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

One Step Forward, two steps back

mamagarrett's picture

One Step Forward, two steps back

I finally managed to find some unglazed quarry stones and make my faux brick oven this weekend. I was amazed at the difference in the amount of rise I got, and also the beautiful color. I was so thrilled to pull those first loaves out of the oven..

The problem is, the taste. While I used to get the most wonderful sour taste out of my sour dough bread, lately, I have noticed less and less. At this point, my sourdough tastes about the same as if I was using regular baking yeast. I have never made sourdough and regular yeast bread at the same time, so I don't know if contamination is possible, or if the yeast that produced the delightful flavor at first have now died off. Any suggestions?

Bill SFNM's picture

Every starer culture is different and has a different mix of micro-organisms. Typically, the yeast supply the rise and the bacteria supply the flavor. You can get more flavor from the bacteria by lengthening the fermentation (1st rise) period of your loaves. To prevent the yeast from exhausting their supply of food during the longer fermentation, you can reduce the temperature. This is called "retarding" and serves to slow down the yeast activity, but many of the bacteria will happily metabolize away. This is not true for all bacteria strains that co-exist with yeast.

For many of my breads that use wild starter cultures, I allow them to ferment at room temp for a few hours and then retard them in the refregerator overnight or in some cases a number of days to develop the flavor.

Perhaps the reduction in flavor you are experiencing is related to the warmer weather. Your dough is doubling faster than it used to, giving the bacteria less time to do their job. Just a thought.

andrew_l's picture

Hi. I agree with the comment above - retarding the proofing will usually increase the sour flavour. I find the most effective time to do that is after the first bulk proof, when the loafs have been scaled and shaped. Retard at that point for 10 hours or so, take out of the fridge and allow to proof for a couple of hours then bake - much stronger flavour.

What do you use to refresh your starter? Mine was originally made with rye, but refreshed after that with white organic bread flour. I find it gradually loses flavour, but refreshing a couple of times with rye periodically seems to boost the sour levels again.
That and retarding can work wonders. I also wonder if we just are amazed initially by the sourdough flavour and gradually become used to it??

faemystique's picture

Something I discovered myself is this. When I first created my starter about a month and a half ago, I would get beautiful tasting, regular white bread. Try as I might, I did not get much sour taste at all.

I abused my starter... haha... meaning I experimented, with beer and with vinegar. Then I refridgerated it, and had to revitalize it. As the refridgerating really slowed it down. So now, its been out of the fridge for a few weeks. I was feeding it every day. Then I skipped a few days. Then I fed it, and after awhile baked some bread. IT WAS SOUR!

Hmm... then after some investigation I found an article that said, when you feed it regularily you favor the yeast production, and less sour taste... if its ignored and fed less, you favor bacterial growth, hence more sour taste and flavor. This seems to be true, I ignored it for two days, fed it and it is now bubbling away and I dipped a finger in... VERY SOUR!

So, I am excited to bake some tomorrow... Hope this helps.