Regulating the flavour of sourdough

SourDom

Forgive the silly question, I am just starting

How do you regulate the sourness of a loaf?
My 1st starter has been maturing for a couple of weeks, and is now quite lemony and strong in flavour. That results in loaves which are quite intensely (pleasantly) sour.
However I do not always want loaves with a very strong 'sour' flavour.
To make a less intensely flavoured loaf do I just use less starter? Will the loaf then rise less (do you need to use yeast then to leaven it?)

cheers
Dom

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Replies

dave 2005 October 7

Hi SourDom, how long do you rest your dough for, ie the time between kneading & shaping?

Anonymous 2005 October 7

I have mostly been working on a cycle of about 36 hours between kneading and cooking
eg
knead Thursday night
rise overnight (sometimes longer because it isn't so warm at night in Melbourne at the moment)
refridgerate the next day (ie 12-24 hours)
out of fridge Saturday morning early to warm and rise again

dave 2005 October 7

That's a very long & complicated process. Have you tried a shorter way?
I would expect the bread to be pretty sour after 36 hours.

SourDom 2005 October 7

Not for sourdough.

I am still getting the feel for what is necessary, and that was the sort of timetable that was in the recipes that I have followed (with some success).

What timetable do you use?

Dom

dave 2005 October 7

Very roughly,

Fri 4pm feed leaven
Sat 6am knead dough ~30 min
Sat ~8am shape dough
Sat ~11.30am bake

richard 2005 October 16

Hi SourDom

I use a much shorter cycle:
Fri am - get starter out of fridge and feed
Fri pm - feed starter
Sat am - feed starter
Sat 5pm - mix, knead, first rise
Sat 11pm - shape, second rise (approx 15 degrees c overnight)
Sun 9pm - bake

If I extend the rising times it does become lot more sour.

SourDom 2005 October 16

[quote]
Fri am - get starter out of fridge and feed
Fri pm - feed starter
Sat am - feed starter
Sat 5pm - mix, knead, first rise
Sat 11pm - shape, second rise (approx 15 degrees c overnight)
Sun 9pm - bake
[/quote]

Since I first posted this message I have been thinking and reading a bit more. It seems like the sourness of bread has to do with
1. The innate flavour of the starter (product of the yeast/lactobacilli that have colonised it)
2. The age of the starter and the balance of yeast/lactobacilli
3. The amount of time that the bread is proofing / maturing (in the fridge)

I haven't quite got the balance right for my sourdough fruitbread (anyone have a favourite recipe that they would like to share?)

Richard I am interested in your timetable, because I have been trying to work out the timings required for proofing/rising in a Melbourne early spring climate. I don't have anywhere in the house nearly warm enough for the sort of rapid rising that I have seen talked about (ie ~30 degrees C or 80F). Maybe more like 15C overnight (in the cupboard near to the hot water heater), and 20C during the day.

I take it that you mean 9am Sunday for baking?
You feed your starter for 36 hours prior to making the dough, is that because it has been in the fridge all week?
Is there a risk of over-prooving with leaving the dough out overnight?
Do you work to a different timetable in summer?

richard 2005 October 17

> Since I first posted this message I have been thinking and reading a
> bit more. It seems like the sourness of bread has to do with

Yes, there are a lot of variables that can effect the finished loaf. I think my experience has been more luck than science. Up to about 2 months ago I had been getting very ordinary results, the loaves were usually far too dense. I thought that maybe I wasn't letting it rise long enough so I left it out overnight to see what would happen. In the morning there was a perfectly risen dough. I didn't get much oven spring but the texture and taste were fantastic. I should also mention that I'm using a cane banneton which seems to produce a better loaf. No idea why though.

At this point what I think I know about sourdough probably isn't a lot. I am quite happy I can produce a good loaf of white 100% sourdough but I'm learning more by trial and error. I think I'll have to work in a bakery for a while before I really understand the process.

> You feed your starter for 36 hours prior to making the dough,
> is that because it has been in the fridge all week?
Yes. At that point it is fully recovered and able to almost double its volume at maximum activity.

> I take it that you mean 9am Sunday for baking?
You're right, I meant to say 9am.

> Is there a risk of over-prooving with leaving the dough out overnight?
I'm sure there is but I don't know what the maximum time is. I left it a bit longer a couple of weeks ago and the loaf was still fine although a bit more sour.

> Do you work to a different timetable in summer?
Haven't tried the long proof at room temperature in Summer. I'll give it a try. Might need to proof it in the fridge though.

dave 2005 October 17

[quote="richard"]
Hi SourDom

I use a much shorter cycle:
Fri am - get starter out of fridge and feed
Fri pm - feed starter
Sat am - feed starter
Sat 5pm - mix, knead, first rise
Sat 11pm - shape, second rise (approx 15 degrees c overnight)
Sun 9pm - bake

If I extend the rising times it does become lot more sour.
[/quote]

Hi richard, can I suggest a different feeding schedule?
I've helped lots of people improve their bread, the most common mistake being too short a time between feeding the starter- just as the starter is about to mature it gets "started" again and ends up being continuously immature and needs very long rising times (like the old story of the tortoise crossing the road and just as it's nearly across, the good samaritan takes it back to the start, so it doesn't get run over).
Have another look at my times above and you can see an interval of 14 hours between feeding and kneading, which I find ideal.
Starter is pretty dull when it comes out of the fridge, hence the Thurs feed.
You could try:

Thurs pm - get starter out of fridge and feed
Fri pm - feed starter
Sat am - mix, knead, first rise about 2 hrs
shape
you should be able to bake 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hrs later

I feed my leaven every day whether I'm baking or not, it hits the fridge once a year and then gets fed once a day for a week before baking.

I have to make up to half a tonne of unyeasted sourdough a day so my starter has to be supersonic BTW the starter is 30 years old.

SourDom 2005 October 17

Recently I've been using Brian Dixon's 1 tablespoon method for refreshing starter/making a sponge (http://www.faqs.org/faqs/food/sourdough/starters/)

That involves one feeding, and takes 24 hours at ~20C.

At the end of that time my started is frothy and filled with tiny bubbles - as Brian suggests that it should be.

The rise times for my bread seem to depend on the ambient temperature, and I have found, similar to Richard, that my bread is fairly dense. I haven't tried an overnight rise recently, but will do so.

I don't think that my starter could be described as supersonic yet (it is only ~30 days old!), but it does impart a strong sour (and pleasantly so) flavour to the bread (hence the start of this post...)

cheers
Dom

dave 2005 October 17

Hey SourDom, don't let sourdough get too complicated, it is the easiest way of making bread, no science needed, no factobacilli (pun intended).
Try feeding your leaven every day, no fridge, it'll get stronger by the day, no more dense loaves.
Also, don't make your doughs too tough, the softer the better.

richard 2005 October 18

Hi Dave

Thanks for the schedule advice. I'll try it this weekend. By the way, when you feed your starter what ratio of flour/water to starter do you use?

dave 2005 October 18

I'm not real sure richard, I make about 60 litres at a time, I stir it with a whisk and stop adding flour when I get a slight resistance while stirring, it's a pretty thin batter.

dave 2005 October 18

Oops, I just re-read your question, I thought you meant texture.
With Melbourne's great temp range, I change it all the time. When Melb. is 40C I might use old starter the size of a 50c piece to make 60 litres. in the middle of winter maybe 5 litres of old starter.
Always 14 hours though.

Anonymous 2005 October 19

[quote="dave"]
Also, don't make your doughs too tough, the softer the better.
[/quote]

Dave

how does one stop a soft dough from flattening out during its proofing/rising and in the oven... as every time I make a soft dough... which does end up in a great bread but just rather flat... it does not seem to want ot become a domed free-form loaf but more of the Turkish bread flatter style (maybe not as flatt tho')

cheers
Trevor

TrevorM-L's picture
TrevorM-L 2005 October 19

we have been lately rising it in a floured cloth in a bowl... and then upend onto a hot pizza stone and put into the oven...

dave 2005 October 20

Trevor, what proving times are you using? Generally free standing bread benefits from a longish first proof and a quicker final rise.

Anonymous 2005 October 20

the last time the first rise... still as a "batter" type sponge before kneading in the final flour... was for pretty much a day... with the final rise around 2-3 hours (we forgot about it while veging out in from of the idiot box)...

the dough after kneeding was pretty soft... much more so than the usual 100% rye one that I make... this one being an unbleached organic wheat one my wife manages...

was in Melbourne only a week ago but unfortunately did not know where to find all of the really good sourdough... did come across Macro's in Richmond and got a couple loaves of Phillipa's for the trip back to Adelaide... the orgainc white spelt and the not purely sourdough fig and aniseed

TrevorM-L's picture
TrevorM-L 2005 October 21

that was the 2-3 hours rise... in which time it rose possibly too much as the starter is very active at the moment... which is generally the amount that we rise it after kneading

dave 2005 October 21

I didn't word my question very well.
After you knead the dough, does it go straight in the bowl for it's rising, or to you give it a rise first, then shape it, & then do the final rise in the bowl?

dave 2005 October 21

Hi Trevor, that's definitely why the soft dough goes flat.Try resting your dough for,say, one and a half hours in a covered bowl, reshape and put in clothed bowl for final rise. Watch your bread defy gravity and stand up in the oven. It will taste better, too!

TrevorM-L's picture
TrevorM-L 2005 October 21

how long should this final rise before going into the oven be?

thanks for this advice Dave... very much appreciated... will definitely try it on the one that is still in the batter stage now...

dave 2005 October 21

This is where you come in, you'll have to look at size & poke it & make sure it doesn't bounce back too fast.

I would expect between 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Anonymous 2006 February 11

On my my website, www.northwestsourdough.com there is an approximate timing for the bread you see pictured there. I follow this schedule for my basic recipe:

Feed starter in morning and evening of night before making dough.

Next morning, feed early in morning at about 6:00 a.m. (about 8 hours before dough making.)

At 2:00 pm using the techniques on the techniques page, make up your dough.

At 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. make up your shaped loaves. Put in proofing bags,let rise a short while (1/2 hour to 1 hour) and refrigerate overnight.

Next day. Take out loaves from refrigerator, uncover and warm up. When the loaves feel bubbly and springy (anywhere from right away to three hours) Heat oven and bake according to directions on techniques page.
My bread does not come out dense.It has a lovely open, holey, chewey texture and crispy chewey crust.
I follow this timetable with variations depending on if my dough will have a lot of whole wheat or rye, and how sour I want the loaf, with the time of the first proofing being longer the more sour taste desired. I also make sure not to add any salt until just before making the dough into loaves, when I quickly knead it in. I hope this helps, Teresa

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