We all strive for that perfect balance of sourness or tangy taste in our bread. Sourdough bread that is. So how do you balance this tangy sour flavor or how do you control it?
The sour flavor originates from the acids produced by the bacteria and microorganisms in your starter and, the type of flour used also attributes to this flavor. Control the acidity and you control how sour your sourdough starter and your bread will be.
There are a couple of ways to control these acids and the sour flavor
- The ash content in the flour you use
- Types of flour
- The maturity of the sourdough starter
- How often you feed your sourdough
- How long you let your sourdough starter mature before using it
- Fermentation of your bread
Let’s examine these a bit closer and see how we can control the flavor of our sourdough starter
Flours That Produce A More Sour Flavor In Your Starter
Generally flours with lower ash content such as whole wheat and rye will produce a more sour or tangy flavor in your starter. I personally love the flavor of rye sourdough starters. Rye flour produces a strong earthy flavor and a nice tangy zing.
If you want your sourdough start to be less tangy or sour you should create your sourdough starter from white wheat flour. This will definitely reduce that tangy flavor.
If you find that your starter not sour enough then try to blend flours. Start with 50% white and 50% whole wheat or rye and work from there.
In Bread. these flours can also contribute to a less or more sour flavor depending on how long you ferment the bread.
Stirring Your Sourdough Starter Can Make It Tangier Or More Sour
The bacteria and microorganisms that are produced in your starter are the reason for this sour flavor. These microorganisms feed on the sugars and starches in the flour. They also need oxygen to reproduce.
By mixing your sourdough starter in between feeding your increase the oxygen levels in your starter which in turn will speed up the growth of the microorganisms and will produce more gases and a more sour flavor.
Mixing your sourdough starter will also make it more stable.
Sourdough Starter Temperature
The warmer it is the higher the activity of gasses and fermentation in your sourdough starter will be.
To produce a more sour flavor grow your starter at warmer temperatures. You can put your sourdough starter in your oven with the light turned on. This will bring up the temperature to around 30 degrees Celcius or 86 Fahrenheit.
You will notice your sourdough starter growing much faster. This will also make your sourdough starter sourer.
On the other hand, if you want to make your sourdough starter less sour let it mature at room temperature around 24 – 25 at degrees Celcius or 72 Fahrenheit and then store it in the refrigerator. This will slow down the acids produced in the starter.
Feeding Your Sourdough Starter Will Control The Flavor And Sourness
The more frequently you feed your sourdough starter the less time it has to produce the acids that translate to that sour flavor.
The longer you let you sourdough sit the sourer it will be. If you want a more sour starter let yous sourdough starter sit for longer between feedings.
You will notice it in the smell as well. Your sourdough starter will start to smell a bit more like vinegar. You need to be careful though not to make it too sour as the acids can eventually lead to your sourdough starter not being strong enough.
If you like to have a more mild-tasting sourdough starter then feed it more often.
Another way to get a more sour tasting bread is to let it ferment for longer. After shaping your sourdough bread it is usually put in the refrigerator to ferment for about 18-24 hours.
This process of fermentation will add that Tangy flavor to your bread. So depending on how long you let this sit in the refrigerator to mature and ferment will have a great effect on the final flavor or your bread.
Also, if you give knockback or punch your sourdough bread in the initial rising stages before shaping will increase the sour flavor of your dough.
TIP: If you do not want your bread to ferment a long time and reduce the sour flavor add some fresh or dry yeast to your sourdough bread. This will not only speed up the rise of your bread but will remove the fermentation stage in the refrigerator which will reduce the sour flavor of your final product
The Hooch in your Sourdough Starter
The” hooch” is a liquid formed on top of your sourdough starter when it is fermenting. It is usually a clear or opaque liquid that is made up of water and alcohol.
This liquid the “hooch” is commonly found when you first start your new starter but can also appear if your sourdough starter has sat for a long time between feedings or your sourdough starter matures at higher temperatures.
This liquid has a very sour taste and smells much like vinegar. The hooch will not hurt your sourdough starter.
If you mix it back into the starter and give it a feeding it will add a more sour flavor to your starter.
On the other hand, if you do not want a very sour flavor starter you can remove this liquid by pouring it out carefully and you will reduce the sour flavor
Use A Piece Of Fermented Dough To Add A Tangy Flavor
This tip or hack has been used by bakeries for years and I have not seen anyone write about this anywhere online until now.
After you have made a sourdough dough take out a small portion and set it aside in the fridge.
This piece of dough will ferment in the fridge and produce more natural yeast.
On the following day or a couple of days later when you go to make another bread add this fermented piece of dough that was in your fridge to your new dough (before mixing ). This will not only make your sourdough bread sourer but will also help it rise better and will make it more stable and will give your dough a deeper complex flavor.
How Long Your Sourdough Starter Matures Will Determine the Flavor
Sourdough starters need to be used at the right time. The time when your sourdough tarter is at its full maturity is referred to as the “peak”. This is when your starter is strongest and is best to use for your bread to help it rise.
For the purpose of this segment, I will refer to an “old” starter as one that is past its peak and a ” young” starter to one that is before its peak.
The more or less your sourdough is mature determines how sour it will be as well. So if you use a starter that is young it will be less sour and vise Versa.
You do need to be careful not to use sourdough starters that are too young or too old as it can have a negative effect on your dough and it will not rise.
Both young and old starters will not have the full power to raise your dough and you might want to consider giving your bread a bit of help by adding a little bit of fresh yeast to counter this effect.
Add More Sourdough Starter To Make Your Bread Less Sour
Yes, I know. This title can be a bit confusing so let me explain.
By adding more sourdough starter you are actually increasing the amount of yeast you are putting into the bread. This extra yeast will make your bread rise faster and will shorten the time your bread needs to ferment and proof resulting in a less sour tasting bread.
Make sure you use a sourdough starter that is based on mainly white flour. This way your starter will not be so sour and your bread will not be as sour as well.
As you can see there are many ways to balance the sour flavors in your bread. Some like it more sour and some less. I hope this article helped to educate you on this subject and that you are now able to control the sour flavor in your bread.