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Unsour Sourdough's picture

Unsour Sourdough

My sourdough bread does not have any sourness.  I need help.

I use Carl's starter, have been for a number of years, same one.  Works great except can it be the cause of unsour bread?  The following is what I do, loosely based on the Tartine book.

I create a mix to feed the starter (the feed mix) with 8 parts of bread flour, 8 parts of rye flour and 4 parts whole wheat.  I mix a relatively large amount of this so I have it available.

First, I'll start the process by feeding the mother starter (10 grams) with 30 grams of tap water (about 75 degrees) and 20 of the feed mix mentioned above.   I let it sit at room temperature, about 73 degrees for 12-15 hours.  

The second feed incorporates 10 grams of the first step output, 30 grams of tap water, same temp, and 40 grams of the feed mix.  This sits for about 24 hours at room temperature.

Third, I incorporate 50 grams of the starter from the second step above, 67 grams of tap water and 67 grams of the feed mix.  This sits for 8-10 hours

Fourth, the build uses 150 grams of starter, 335 grams of water, usually iced down to about 45 degrees, about 100 grams of a rye whole wheat mix (changes depending on the day and could be slightly more or less depending on my wife) and 320 grams of bread flour, 420 grams in total.  All flours are KA.

This goes thru a 30-40 minute autolyse and then is folded at half hour intervals (three or four intervals depending on how the dough is doing) (2 hour max) and then again after an hour and again at two hours at which time it is shaped and put in a benneton and into the fridge for an overnight rise.  I've experimented with upper and lower shelfs thinking the temperature might vary enough to make some difference.  

In the morning, I preheat the oven for an hour at 475 degrees.  I bake in a cast iron pot which has been preheated as well.  The last 20 minutes or so I take the bread out of the fridge to warm up a bit.  I've experimented with putting it in cold to letting it sit out the whole preheat hour but it doesn't seem to make much difference. 

At bake time, I pop the dough in the pot, slash it, spray a little water on top, cover it and put it in the 475 oven for 25 minutes.  When the time is up, I take it out of the pot and back in the oven on a tile (which has been in the oven), turning the oven off and leaving it sit in there for about a half hour.  


Great rise, great crumb, great color, great taste, except it's not sour.  Oh, I get the occasional loaf that has a hint of sourness on the back end (but I can't duplicate it who knows why it shows up), but I'd really like something with quite a bit more bite.  Any hints or ideas would be appreciated.


BTW, I'm not looking for something over the top.  Robertson says he doesn't like a really sour bread.  I've been to Tartine's a couple of times and Ken's in Portland for that matter and that level of sourness would be wonderful.





dabrownman's picture

of any sour using the Tartine starter/ levain method.  It is all waste and no sour..... no matter what feed I use.

Now it build levains using a 3 cold stiff starter that has been in the fridge for 3 days and build from that at 86F without throwing anything away.   I refrigerate the levain 1 hour after the 3rd build  for at least 24 hours.  It comes out of the fridge and when it finishes doubling (at 86 F)  it is ready to make some sour bread.  It won't be the mild SFSD they make today but it will be way more sour.  Your feed mix is perfect for making sour bread but the method is not that good at doing so..

Happy Baking's picture

Thanks, sorry for the long delay.  Taste is much improved thanks again for the input.  

MANNA's picture

I have had the same problem. Wonderful levain but no sour even if left to rise for 24 hours. Problem is the pH is to low and not allowing the bacteria to grow that produce the sour. Take some of your sour and feed it twice as much as its weight let ferment for 24 hours. Up the hydration to around 120%. Then do two builds at 12 hours both twice the weight of the starter. Continue this intill it develops a sour smell around 12 to 15 hours after a feeding. Its supposed to dilute the pH and let the bacteria grow that produce the sourness.'s picture

Thanks All of this imput has been very helpful

Wild-Yeast's picture

David Snyder has posted many entries on his quest for San Francisco Sourdough French Bread that provide more than a few hints at how a sour "tang" can be developed. Just search on "dmsnyder"..., 


golgi70's picture

A few things I've learned to attain sourness.  First off retarding your levain in advance will have you starting with a sour starter, ilike dabrownman mentioned.  So if you wanna keep with the same routine, maybe on your final build let it sit out for a few hours and then retard the levain overnight to be used the following day opposed to 8 hours later.  

Another thing you could do woulld be to decrease your innoculation(the ammount of starter of that build and extend its ferment to 12 hours or longer.  Your ratio on this feed is 1:2:2 which is pretty common but you say its peaking at 8-10 hours so if you decreased the innoculation to ..5:2:2 this would take at least 12 hours to peak giving it more time to ripen and get sour.  

 the clearest thing to me though is your short bulk ferment.  2 hours is quite short.  For a  Sourdough, that is mostly white the bulk ferment is usually 3:30-4 hours, but if you extend this I understand that is a great way to get a sour flavor in dough.  If you have a very cool room you could do a very long bulk ferment at lower temps.

If you don't have that you could bulk ferment the entire dough in your fridge for 12-24 hours.  then pull your dough out and let rest and hour.    tDivde shape, proof, and bake at room temp.  The cold bulk ferment not only helps with developing flavor(sour) but from what I've seen greatly improves the crumb (open).

Finally there is Manna's suggestion is also on good track.  I like to feed my starter in the morning, let it go for a few hours (until it has risen by 1.5) and then retard until the next morning.  My sour has some serious tang to it.  Less feedings leads to a more sour starter is what I understand.  More feedings leeds to a sweeter starter.  Both have their place.  

Hope this helps

Josh's picture

Very helpful.  I'm enjoying my new bread.  Thanks for the insight



dabrownman's picture

about how to make sour is that cold and hot are your friends and room temperature is not.  You want to promote Lab reproduction while restricting yeast reproduction.  So more labs and less yeast that hits yiour dough is the key.

At 36 F Labs reproduce at 3 times the rate of yeast so you want to do as much retarding of starters. levains and dough as you can, for aas long as you can,  to increase Labs while restricting yeast allowing a maximum sour innoculation and restricting yeast innoculation to the minimum when the levain hits the dough adn then retard the dough for as long as possible.

At room temperature labs and yeast reproduce at the same rate so this is the way to get the least amount of sour - the Tartine way. 

Since labs also reproduce at 3 times the rate of yeast at 88F, a hot final proof is the way to go.  So up until the final proof you want to do everythong you can to increase labs while reducing yeast (means cold) and then you want an hour at 88F to really put the sour over the top.

SD baking It is just science and math :-)

Happy baking