What goes up, must come down




After a first succes with my white bread I thought I could do it even better and made another SD bread (rye SD, the flour I used for the bread was roughly 3 quarters rye, 1 quarter white wheat). My bread looks ok (well, I've seen nicer ones,too) but has an incredibly sour taste. I'm going to post some pictures of everything I've got so maybe someone older&wiser can enlighten me. I know sourdough is supposed to taste sour but my bread you almost can't eat. Well, maybe if it were your only food.

I think I'm throwing my SD away, starting another one (bye, bye, rye!) and I'm grabbing that pain de campagne recipe and I'm following it to the last gram of any ingredient so that it works better. 


andrewd 2010 March 14

Rocco, your bread looks great. My 100% sourdough ryes suffer from similar cracking and from what I've read, it's all down to the right proving time which comes down to practice.


As for the sour taste, have you tasted a similar bread that someone else has made (commercially baked or not)? Baking at home can mean it's difficult to get feedback. We're often more critical of our creations than we need to be.


How old is your sourdough starter? The older it is the more acid it becomes (as far as I know) and therefore the more sour it tastes. Maybe try refreshing just a small portion (10 or 20g), leave for 12 hours, then bake with that.



Rocco 2010 March 16


Hi Andrew!

After doing lots of thinking I finally understood why my dough was sour.

You are definitely right about my SD. It is 3 weeks (maybe a little less) old, I have tons of it because I never threw anything out (you just can't throw away your new pet just like that, can you? LOL ), but kept feeding it and it's still active and smells nice. Now I've put in the refrigerator and will only use a little bit of it each time I want to bake something and reactivate it according to instructions.


As for tasting other people's SD breads - sadly enough, no one around here shares my hobby so I will have to stick with my bread. It always amuses me how people who think of themselves as open minded start looking puzzled when you enthusiastically talk about your "different kind of hobby". 


Anyway, the absolutely best thing about baking what I'm concerned is the fabulous joy that it brings both for the baker and for the people who get to eat the bread or whatever is being done.


Thanks for your reply, I really needed some reassuring!


andrewd 2010 March 16

I know what you mean about throwing starter away. It seems wrong, so you never do it and then you end up with a monster.


My epiphany came when I read Andrew Whitely's Bread Matters. In it, he explains the use of a production sourdough and how you should aim to have only enough starter to make your bread plus a little extra to start the next one.


Now, I only ever have a few spoonfuls of starter in the fridge or benchtop and that's used to make enough starter for my loaves.

Rocco 2010 March 17


LOL, I'm slowly getting there. Thursday is the day when I switch to really small jars :), and on Friday I'm making some new starter for some less sour bread. I can't wait to taste it.

What hydration would be low enough (but still ok) in order to be able to form a decent loaf that won't deflate and expand like pita bread when you slash it before getting it into the oven? It's really the sourdough that makes me hesitate because with regular doughs I am able to bake loaves but I have no experience with over night proofing/proofing in the fridge etc. I never imagined it worked. 

Occabeka 2010 March 20

Hi Rocco,


I get the same reaction from my colleagues and tennis mates when I tell them I bake for fun.


Most will say, "Why bother, when you can get commercial bread?" But then most of them have never tasted sourdough breads. I know I am not the most accomplished of bakers, but my creations are edible. Most of the time anyway. I find I actually look forward to messing around with a bit of dough and seeing the miracle that comes out of the oven afterwards.


Happy baking!

Kevin 2010 July 24

Hey Rocco,

Just wondering how you're going with your extra SOURdough.  Is the sourness more reasonable now?  I had the very same problem when I first started my sourdough.  It was quite frustrating.

RocklinBillbr 2010 December 23

Reading this has helped me understand why my attempts have been so sour! I live in Northern California, US where there are lots of great sourdough bakeries. (The daughter lives in San Franscisco, which is famous for the sourdough). That gives me a very clear idea of what I should be aiming for. So I am off to pull a small amount into a couple of new cultures and try that.

In the meantime, here was my first attempt at sourdough. It looks great but I kneaded it too much and destroyed all the great holes! The taste was good on these. I guess I caught the starter at just the right level...


First sourdough attempt


farinam's picture
farinam 2012 February 20

Hello Gemini857,

I've never seen slashes that 'deflate' bread completely.  If the dough collapses it is probably for other reasons.

If your dough is particularly soft (high hydration) or over proved, you might get some loss in height when the tension in the skin of the loaf is relieved but provided that your dough is well shot through with bubbles of gas it should rise just fine when it goes into the oven.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the scoring does not need to be too deep ( a few mm only) and should be more or less in line with the long axis of the loaf (if you are making a non-circular loaf).  You don't cut diagonally even though the finished loaf would give that impression.  The diagonalism comes from the differential expansion of the loaf.  The number and direction of the scores on a round loaf will have a significant effect on the final shape of the loaf. 

If the dough is strong enough, an undercut with the blade on an angle can give you the 'ears' on one side of the grigne (opening of the loaf) that some people find particularly attractive and desirable.  Like so many things in life this is a matter of preference and the bread tastes the same - ears or not. 

There are plenty of tutorials about on the techniques involved (including by SourDom on this site).

Good luck with your projects.


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