Starter amount, temperature, taste, and sourness; some observations over the years (too many).

Fred Rickson


 Sourdough bread (notice the word sour), does have a sour component introduced by lactic and acidic acid-producing bacteria. Various yeast-produced compounds add certain flavors.  If you have an honest sourdough starter you have both bacterial and yeast components which must be balanced to provide the flavor you enjoy in a final loaf.  Some folks like sour, some not so much.  Some folks like the yeast flavor, some not so much. The literature suggests that yeast thrive in a lower and less hydrated environment than bacteria.  Thus, play around with temperature and hydration of your bread dough, over several days, and you can have the taste you enjoy.  I understand that commercial bakeries have to do it all in a day or so (I lived and baked my bread in the San Francisco area in the 1960s), but the home baker really can take 3-4-5 days playing with a dough mix to understand a loaf's final taste.  The amount and type of sourdough starter used really does not matter if you are going to add amounts and varieties of flour, and somewhat control temperature, over a period of days.  You want sour? do it all at room temp.  You want a real yeast flavor? do it all in the fridge. This really isn't a rant of any kind, just a bit of a push-back against the idea that bread had to be finished in a day or maybe overnight at best.  If you play around a bit, over a few days, changing times and temperatures, you can really become "in charge" of the final product rather than just following directions in print.   All bread is just enjoy it all. Fred     
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susanknilans 2013 January 5

Fred, my question about playing with a dough over several days is that, how can you be sure you are not going to tire out the starter? I'm afraid of overproving a long, long dough.

Fred Rickson 2013 January 5

The starter is long are growing a culture with each addition of flour.  Just like any yeast/bacterial culture, add food and you get cell division and new organisms.  Over proofing occurs because the organisms have used up their food supply, but as long as you add more flour, you are just feeding the culture.  To be a bit silly, you could grow a dumptruck worth of dough from a cup of starter as long as you keep feeding the culture on a regular basis.  Don't get hung up on exactly how much starter to use unless you are going to bake in a short time and need a certain "amount" of organisms to get a nice rise.  Enjoy.

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