Tasteless non-sour Sourdough

Salty Bear



First I have to say what a great site – really good resource – I’ve had a look through quite a lot of posts and picked up some good tips – especially on under and over proving.


I have been baking my sourdoughs for around 3 months now and really enjoy the process.  It all started off very well.  I created a simple white starter – mixing 100g of four with 100g of water at 12 hour intervals (discarding half before feeding) and after about 1 week it was roughly doubling in size.  All had been going very well for my fist few attempts- I was getting lovely crispy tasty bread.  Then I had to go on holiday and so gave my culture a feed and put it in the fridge.  I revived it about 2 days before I wanted to bake with it (so that 4 feedings) – same activity level – doubling every 12 hrs.  I carried out my normal recipe and well – it looked the same – had the same texture but …. just didn’t have any taste??  I have now carried out the same recipe several times and still not much taist???? – activity levels are normal so I am a bit confused as to what has happened (have the bacterial – which I believe is responsible for the taste – died off?).  The only difference I can think of is that the ambient temperature in my kitchen has increased by about 3 degrees Centigrade.  When I started making sourdough my kitchen was around 11-12C it’s now around 15C (I live in a draughty Glasgow tenement flat and its winter)


The recipe I use is as follows:

  1. Tip out half my culture into a bowl (around 200g) – add to this 100g of oats, 150g of strong white bread flour and 300g of water – give it a good stir and leave over night – around 10hrs
  2. Next morning mix in another 100g of oats, 200g of strong white bread flour and 10g of salt (reduced sodium).  Put in dough mixer on setting 2 until dough is ready – usually about 10 minutes.
  3. Put dough in lightly oiled bowl and then I go to work and cover top with cling-film.  It is left for around 10hr for its first prove – this is at ambient room temperature (15C).
  4. When I come back from work I tip out onto lightly floured surface and knock back.
  5. I then place in proving basket and leave for 3hr for second prove.
  6. The oven is preheated along with my pizza stone to gas mark 9 and I place a tray of water in the bottom just before placing the dough in.  Once the oven is at temperature I turn the dough out into the pizza stone and score (which I have never been able to do properly – even with a scalpel – the dough just gets stuck and I end up tearing it badly) – I don’t know if I have left it to over prove because the dough appears a little wobbly just before I tip it out.
  7. I put it back in the oven and leave on gas mark 9 for about 1hr and 30 mins – I have to leave it this long and at this temperature because by oven is from the 1970 and does not get very hot – if I turn it down or take it out early the crust does not  go the right colour

Any advice on why my bread is now tasteless would be greatly appreciated

140 users have voted.


Croc 2013 April 12

first of all I would say try all white bread just to confirm there is no problem with the oats you using or maybe how much of them you using? 200gr in total is almost 3rd of the total


i'm not expert on salt with reduced sodium but general rule is that if it something good turned to be more healthy then chances are it wont be as nice ;)

check with your doctor first but if it day comes when i can't have normal salt i will ignore all the doctor tells me and have asprin before i eat some extra salt and one the day after, i plan to die happy and with real salt shaker in my hand :D

also while still on salt, total drys are 650gr so i would use little more (and real salt) 13gr would be my normal quantity (going with the standard 2% rule)

i'm jumping little bit all over the place but going by what you said about scoring your loaf, it does sounds like your dough is over proved, on the other side of the stick under proved dough is very easy to cut and considering total amount of time you take from start to end even at your quite low room temperatures it does sounds too long.


I wouldn't knock it back, just preshape and then shape, (you mention no shapping at all?) that seem to work better and make sure you do have some tension on outter skin after final shaping, don't have to go nuts but it does make bit of difference.

also something isn't right with your baking tool, mark 9 should be quite hot, by the book 246C so that is more then enough.

maybe instead of putting whole tray of water use spray bottle and mist the oven after you put bread in and don't put bread in the moment oven hits the temperature, let it heat up your stone for good 30min if you can.

90min to bake this size loaf is seriously long time, maybe your oven needs a tune up? have you try confirming temperature inside of your oven with thermometer of some sort?

if it was me i would confirm temperature first.

with recipe i would mix all in one shot and not twice over two days, considering how long sour dough takes in 15C to grow all will be well hydrated, if you want maybe use 100ml to mix with oats day ahead?

and try that little extra salt if it wont kill you



shasta's picture
shasta 2013 April 12

It could be that your starter is not getting enough food and has degraded. However, new starters do adjust their taste as they mature.

You could try the following:

When feeding your starter, take 100g of starter and add 100g flour and 100g water for a total weight of 300g. I do this every 12 hours.

As for bread recipe, I think you are leaving it out at room temp way too long on your first proof and maybe even the night with the pre-ferment. Even at 15°C.

You also don't talk about any kneading or folding during the first proof. 

I would suggest the following:

After your preferment of 10 hours, mix the rest of your ingredients and 1st proof for only 2-3 hours stretching and folding the dough every 30 min.
If possible form your loaves at that time and cover and refrigerate overnight. Then pull your loaves and allow them to final proof for 2-3 hours like you have in the past.  The time the loaves spend in the refrigerator should give you some sour flavor.

If that still does not get you where you want I would reduce the pre-ferment time. or cut it all together. Maybe just soaking the oats a bit before use.

Good luck!


phaz 2013 April 12
I'm new to this, but I did do a little experimenting with a warm quick rise and a cool long rise (in the fridge overnight, warm at room temp next morning, which got it to rise again, temp was close to your room) and what a difference. that long cool set brought out an amazing difference in flavor (and that's what it's all about!), and aroma, and texture (a little stiffer inside with wonderful holes). the nuttiness seems to come out more with the long rise time. I should note, this was not using a starter (just got my own starter going,I hope!). this was regular old white bread and regular old yeast, but what a difference. if it made that much of a diff in white bread, I can only imagine what it would do with a sourdough.
Salty Bear 2013 April 12

Hi phaz,


Going to give the overnight second prove a go and see what happens - I can still work it round my daily routine :-)


Good luck with your starter – be warned though – once you start down this route there is no going back (good news though - I hear there are kennels for your starter if you go on holiday)

phaz 2013 April 12
I may not be able to go back, the vermonster, my starter, looks like it is going to take over the world! it is going like mad right now.
Salty Bear 2013 April 12

Hi Croc/shasta


Thanks for taking the time to respond. So:


  1. Salt = I will up this slightly – I have had a ratch around the back of my cupboards and found some Maldons smoked salt – might make things a bit more interesting
  2. Proving time = I would agree with both of you – my first prove is far too long – unfortunately I go through bread quite quickly and do need to make some through the week – it’s difficult to fit proving round work! – morning baking is also not really an option - my oven takes so long to warm up that I would probably have to get up at around 4:30 in the morning – I really like bread – almost enough to do that but not quite!
  3. Oven = My oven needs junking rather than tuning up – it is literaly from the 70’s!–  rented flat so no luck there then! – I'll just have to work round its foibles - could check its temp though although I suspect it will just confirm what I already know - it nees junked
  4. Shaping = I think it’s fair to say I don’t do much preshaping and shaping so will tighten that part of my process up
  5. My starter = Hi Shasta – I think something may have changed since refrigeration of my starter – don’t get me wrong, the bread I make is not unpleasant (in fact my girlfriend really likes it) – just no way near as tasty as it was when I started – it gets “fed” twice daily with 100g water and 100g water – and activity appears normal  - I think I will do as you recommend and have a short first prove and then place in fridge overnight – crok – I will try all white flour as well and see where that gets me!

Thanks again to both of you for taking the time respond – I shall experiment – I must say I still find it strange how flavour can diminish but I will give the above a go and see what happens

davo 2013 April 12

I vote salt. By my reckoning, you have 650 g of oats/flour. If you use 2% salt (of that total weight of dry stuff), you will have 13 g. If you only count the flour, you are around the 2% mark (slightly over actually). I don't know what low sodium salt tastes like (sounds like low H2O water, but anyway), but I'm guessing it's less "salty". Let's assume it's like 70% as salty as "standard" salt. Your 10 g would then be the equivalent of around (say) 7 g. If that's true (and it may not be), you will be short of the typical salt content. Try a bit more and see how it tastes.


Fitting into work - here's a schedule (I actually use another step in making 4 loaves, but this will work)

Evening 1 (say Sunday) remove starter from fridge and feed.after work.

Morning 2(Monday) feed again up to say 300 g starter at dough consistency (70 ish % hydration)

Evening 2 (assumes you have 3 hrs or so after work at home): Take around 250-300 g of starter ("levain", if you like), add to it 350 g of flour, and 250 g of water (approx 900 g loaf). Mix and rest for 20 mins. Then knead for a few minutes (I do french folds), mixing in the salt (around 10-11 g for this much), rest for 10 mins, short knead for a few slap and folds (15 secs of kneading), repeat the short knead one or two more times - don;t worry if you let it slide and do it after a bit longer, it's a forgiving process!. Do a couple/three stretch-and-folds over the following 2-2.5 hrs. At around 3 hrs, it is hopefully slightly airier, but not soft/billowy with big bubbles. If you cut it you should just see some small bubbles starting to form. It shouldn't be doubled (for me; otheres swear to let it double but this ends in overproving for me even if I fridge retard the proof). Just a little increase in size if fine by me at this stage.

Shape the loaf and place into floured banetton (I use a mix of mostly rye flour with a bit of rice flour - 20 ish hrs in the fridge can make it sticky in the banetton without the rice flour for me). Flour the exposed surface of the loaf (to stop sticking to bag), and place into a bag to stop drying out in fridge. Into fridge, go to bed.

Evening 3: Home from work, look at loaf. If it's looking ripe, leave in fridge and warm oven and stone. If it looks like it needs a last warm-up, take it out and warm up the oven. When ripe (hopefully around the hour that the oven takes to warm up), bake.

But here's a tip: add half a day at the start, make your levain be 1 kg, make a big batch of 4 loaves from 3600 g of dough, bake em all up on baking night (I have a wide oven and can do them in pairs)and when they are cooled, put 3 in the freezer. When you want a fresh loaf, defrost for an hour or so (or anything up to a day), and whack back in the oven for 15 mins (I wet the base a little to stop it going too dark). A loaf rebaked like this is indistinguishable from a loaf freshly made from scratch. (If doing this you might err on the ever so slightly underbaked in the original bake)...


Mainah 2013 April 12

Hi Salty Bear,

I'm new here, and new to sourdough, so take this suggestion with a grain of salt!

you mentioned that you keep your starter in the fridge, and you feed it every 12 hours, right? Or did I misunderstand? I was feeding mine every 12 hours when I kept it at room temperature, but after it matured I moved it to the fridge and only feed it once a week, or whenever I use some of it, whichever comes first. Also, I always discard or use all but 100 grams, then add 100 grams water and 100 grams flour. I then leave it out until it has bubbles throughout, and has grown some in volume. Then I put it back in the fridge. I find if I use it too soon the sour smell is very weak, as Is the taste. It just tastes like flour and water. It takes 2-3 days in the fridge to develop the smell and flavor I want. If I understand right, and you are just adding flour and water every 12 hours, are you just making it weaker in sourness? I like mine to have a nice defined acid smell, and it does. What do you think?

gongoozler 2013 April 15

Hi Salty Bear,

I'm no chemist but, as I understand it, starter kept in the fridge tends to develop more acetic acid whereas if kept at room temp lactic acid tends to dominate. I would leave your starter in the fridge for 4 to 5 days before using in a preferment. If you want to bake more frequently make two batches of starter spaced a couple of days apart. It is an undoubted fact that starter varies in performance from month to month. I don't know why but it does! A few more observations: Unless your Scottish ancestry renders it indispensible I would try leaving out the oats.I agree with others than you are using too little salt. I would also abandon low sodium unless there are pressing medical reasons for using it.As regards slashing there is, IMO, no substitute for the old- fashioned razor blade used with confidence. But note that dough seems to blunt any edge very quickly.Your baking time seems very long. I find that 40 minutes at 230C is quite adequate but this is, of course, a matter of personal judgment  - note that it's quite difficult to overbake a loaf.For what it's worth my own routine is:Mix preferment and leave overnight (12 hours) at 25CMix all ingredients, knead 10 minutes then bulk-ferment in fridge for 24 hoursFlatten quite firmly, shape and prove in banneton at 27C for approx 4 hours (do a "poke" test).Just my 2 cents' - others will disagree :-)Gongoozler 
Croc 2013 April 20

for the love of god buy NORMAL salt

you going from reduced sodium to some experimental smoked salt after almost everyone told you that salt could be the problem?

is like you just want to make it hard for yourself :)

Salty Bear 2013 May 17

Hi everyone,


Thanks for all your input.  I have been experimenting over the last few weeks (yes – changing only one criterion at a time).  The single biggest difference in flavour as far as my taste buds are concerned comes from a slow proving in the fridge.  Reduced sodium salt appears, at least to me, to make no appreciable difference in flavour (I know the majority of you will say otherwise – but you should give it a go - who knows it may even prevent you from having a stroke one day.  Hand on heart – I can’t tell a difference ... I can on my chips – but not in my bread ).


While flavour has improved from fridge retardation it appears to have had a detrimental effect on texture.  My final product looks over proved (judging from this excellent write up – which I believe someone else posted in this forum http://forums.egullet.org/topic/82234-demo-proving-bread/ ).  I do however get plenty of oven spring so perhaps my pre shaping and shaping technique still leaves something to be desired. 

It would appear however that most of my problems stem from a poor oven.  The seals around the door have literally (yes I mean literally) carbonised into hard plastic – oh well - there is not much I can do about that.

Post Reply

Already a member? Login