Regulating the flavour of sourdough

Forgive the silly question, I am just starting

Wink

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


27 comments

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...

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.

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?

put it into the bowl pretty much straight after it was kneaded and shaped

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!

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

Does your dough have a rise between kneading & rising in the bowl, if so how long?

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

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.

Hi Trevor, are you rising your bread in a "basket' or on a flat tray?

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...

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.

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?

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.

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

Wink

(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


[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

Smile

BTW the starter is 30 years old.

> 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.

[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?


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.

Very roughly,

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

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.

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


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