The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

A Taste of Sourdough Loaf

frogg's picture

A Taste of Sourdough Loaf

I sorted of cheated with my sourdough just to see what it tastes like, and I found it interesting but sour ! ( never had a sourdough bread before as I come from a well rooted background of store bought sliced white bread,so this was a very novel experience).  It was sort of tangy, but quite nice with a bit of jam. I know sourdough is an acquired taste, but I'm  wondering how long it takes to acquire the taste for it ( in different people's experience) and also what I can do to make it less sour - is at straight forward as use less of it next time? 


frogg's picture

I forgot to say what I meant by "cheated" ....I have a starter that's been going for a few weeks now and looks and smells right, but doesn't double in size .....I'm still working on building up the feeds. I added what I took out from the last feed (about a half cup) to some poolish plus my dough for the bread I made....purely to test for taste.

Are there any health benefits, and health risks, to sourdough? Family members who have tasted it today say it tastes "off"  and that it may not be safe to eat (!).

foolishpoolish's picture

There can be many variables involved with sourdough. I'm still very much a beginner myself.  There are some real sourdough experts on here who I'm sure will be able to help you further. From what you have written, I'm guessing there might be an issue with how you maintain/use the starter. 

Could you give us an idea of how you are maintaining your starter. How often are you feeding it? What are you feeding it? How much are you feeding it (ie ratio of old starter to new flour and water?   Under what conditions are you storing it (esp. temperature)?

The degree of 'sourness' that you can get from a loaf depends on many things. If you are finding results too sour you may want to try and keep the dough in a cooler place (not refrigerator) - around the 65F mark.  Too warm (eg >80F) or very cold (eg refrigerated) can also give sour results.

Generally speaking, the longer you leave the dough to ferment, the more sour you can build up (depending of course on how much you used in the first place).  Though it may sound counterintuitive, I find that using a higher proportion of starter in the final dough combined with  shorter bulk ferment time gives me the mildest results (though the bread often ends up lacking more complex flavour).

The type of flour used and how wet your dough and starter are can also affect sourness. Wholegrain flours favour sour results as do stiff doughs and starters. 

Gosh I'm being horribly vague and general here and possibly not very helpful I'm afraid.  Please do use the search function on this site.  There have been numerous threads about exactly this topic.  As you can probably gather,  I'm still learning myself.  

Perhaps the most important lesson I've learned in the short time I've been working with sourdough is to make sure your starter is 'ripe' before you use it.  'Harvest' it when it is at peak performance - not too early, not too late. If you are using starter from the refrigerator, then let it come up to room temperature before refreshing.  Once refreshed, set aside what you need for baking and allow it to reach peak activity before using it.  The rest should be left for a few hours before returning to the refrigerator.

Hope that helps. I'm sure if you stick at it, you'll find a sourdough bread that suits you, and your family's tastes. 



dmsnyder's picture

Hi, frogg. 

I think you know your "test" - adding a bit of starter to the poolish - wasn't a "real" test of either the action or the taste of your starter. You gotta make a bread that is raised with your starter with no additional yeast. The thing you are missing is the taste benefits of the slower fermentation and the action of the lactobacilli. 

I haven't made a starter from scratch; I bought one. However, if yours is two weeks old it should be well-enough established to bake with. If it doesn't seem active enough, I would look to your feeding schedule and method for the problem. 

To my palate, there is a lot more to the special flavors of sourdough breads than the sourness. Sourdough bread also has a different texture from bread made with commercial yeast. 

A taste for sourdough is acquired, I suppose. I was exposed to San Francisco sourdough at a young age and also to sour rye. So, few yeasted breads taste as good to me. In fact, I prefer bread with more assertive sourness than, for example, those preferring the milder sourness of French pains au levains. 

I suppose my point is that you should experiment with different styes of sourdough bread as you go. You will find the best match to your personal taste over time, but, over time, your taste may change too. But, if you want to start out with a milder sourdough flavor, find recipes for French-style sourdoughs. Most of the books recommended on this site have recipes (Hamelman's "Bread" and Leader's "Local Breads" come to mind.)  

There are also a number of threads on TFL that discuss how to get more or less sourness in your bread, although there is enough controversy as to create some confusion in a novice sourdough baker. 

If you want help with your starter, let us know how you made it and are feeding it. I'm confident you will get excellent advice.