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Coaxing the Sour

Sometimes it seems as if you just can’t get the “sour” you want out of your starters. Yes, last Summer there was no problem, now it takes more work to get a good sour flavor. I am not sure why this is myself, I wonder if it is just the overall cooler temperatures of flour, starter, house and some people bake less, so the starter is left in the refrigerator most of the time. When I leave my motherdough starter in the refrigerator all of the time, it is a sweeter, fuller wheat flavor, definately not a more sour flavor.

Anyway, I have been working with the San Francisco starter and decided to try and coax the sour from it. I have been having moderately sour breads coming from this starter, and really great flavor and vigor. I started with a thicker preferment and fermented it for 18 hours keeping it at around 70 – 72 degrees. It looked like this:


I then mixed in te rest of the ingredients and let the dough ferment for four more hours and then shaped the dough:

shaped dough

Then I put the loaves into the refrigerator overnight for 12 hours. I couldn’t get too many pictures of the process as one of my sons was using my camera to make “Lego movies” and the camera was taped down! Anyway, next morning I took out the loaves and staggered them so they would bake at different times. I had five loaves at not quite 1.5 lbs each. Here are the results:

all five loaves

more loaves


more loaves

I sliced the one which didn’t get a good oven spring so we could try it out, it was the only one that came out a bit on the flattish side, here is the crumb:


I made the loaves on the small side so I could share with neighbors and friends as I have been getting a few hints lately 🙂  The bread came out with a terrific texture and already has a sharp taste even though the sour usually takes a couple of hours of cooling to develop completely. Although I feel the experiment with timing was successful, I do think it was at its limit. It did take a lot of high heat to get a good color with me keeping the oven at 450 longer than usual and I noticed that some of the crust was trying to tear in places, if you look closely you can see this. The dough was also more sticky than usual for the stage and hydration it was at. I think the gluten was right at the limit of trying to break down. I am thinking of doing the initial preferment at 12 hours at a warm temperature instead of 18 to see what the outcome would be. It seems to me that if you want to control the “sour” more, you might need a proofing box to help you keep the temperatures at a steady predictable warmth.

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