From a book entitled 'classic sourdoughs' by Ed Wood and Jean Wood, I noticed that the majority of the recipes use sugar. I am curious about the use of sugar in the making of sourdoughs. Apart from sweetening the taste, does sugar play a role in the process? I am about to make a Malt beer loaf from this book, encouraged by the amazing Caraway Rye I made a couple of days ago which worked really well. Mollasses were used in this one, which gave the crumb a great colour, and definitely added depth to the flavours. But all in all, I would like to do without the addition of sugar in my loaves. Can anyone comment?


Many thanks,



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farinam's picture
farinam 2012 October 21

Hello Olivier,

Not sure of the source of this book, but some that I have seen of American origin have been pretty heavy on sweeteners of various sorts and my recollection is that commercial bread in America (US) is pretty 'sweet' as well.

As I understand it, sugar can provide a source of energy for yeasts, in particular (vide the fermentation of sugars to alcohol in beer, wine etc) so the use of sugar could also contribute to the action of the yeasts etc in your culture.

Fairly obviously, some leavened products are meant to be sweet and it would be silly to make them without the sweetening agent.  However, if it is just a 'bread' then I would be inclined to leave the sweetening out until proven that it is necessary.

Good luck with your projects.


isand66 2012 October 22

I concur with Farinam above.

Some whole grain recipes use a sweetner to try and cut the sometimes bitter flavor that whole grains can impart.  I find that using a soaker with the grains will solve any issues with the bitterness and overall I don't think you need so much sweetner in most breads.

Some breads though do benefit with some sugar but most sourdoughs do not need it.


Olivier 2012 October 22

I wrote to the author, who promptly answered that the sugar is only for taste. Between your comments and his answer, the question is settled! unfortunately, I have another one, which I will post as a new thread.





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