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Salt Fermented… San Francisco Sourdough

In my upcoming book, the feature recipe is the Salt Fermented Sourdough. I love working with this sourdough. I decided to experiment using the Power Flour from Pendleton Mills that I have been posting about. Power Flour is the flour of choice for this San Francisco style bread. I started out by…

mixing up a batch of the dough and then I divided into half. One half I used as a regular motherdough and I allowed it to ferment for a while at room temperature before putting it into the refrigerator. The other half I added the salt to and used it to make my seed dough for the Salt Fermented Sourdough.


Salt has an interesting effect on the dough. It suppresses the enzyme activity so that the actual fermentation is slowed way down. It inhibits the Protease enzyme so that it isn’t able to break down the gluten as quickly. When you autolyse a dough, you leave the salt out for a period of time so that the Protease can go to work on the gluten and break it down enough to make the dough more exstensible.


However, there are other ways of doing this in a slower manner. Dough which is made up and then refrigerated to slow down fermentation in a cold state, is often called motherdough. It can help you make some terrific bread.


The first half of the batch that I made up for the experiment, I will call motherdough, the second half of the experimental dough I will call salt dough.


Here are the two doughs after being fermented in the refrigerator for three days:

Motherdough after three days in the refrigerator:

The motherdough is VERY sticky like a glue.

Here is the salt dough after three days in the refrigerator:

The dough is nice and tight, with no sign of being broken down.

Here are both doughs:

I think you can guess which one is which!

At this point(three days), I made up a loaf of bread using part of the motherdough:

The bread turned out very nice, with a terrific flavor and thin crispy crust. The flavor was mild but complex and delicious.

I then returned the remaining motherdough to the refrigerator and waited until day six to mix up a two loaf batch of bread using the salt dough. This dough was divided in half and I bake one of the loaves of bread on day seven:


This bread was also very good, but it was mild flavored with a fine crumb, the crust was thin and chewy.

I took out the motherdough and the salt dough on day seven to compare them:

I tasted some of the motherdough on my tongue, it was bitter and didn’t taste good.

Here is the salt dough on day seven:

This dough had a tangy, zingy taste.

I shaped another loaf from the salt dough and refrigerated it until day eight when I baked it after three hours proof (even in warm weather, the dough slows way down when it gets acidic).


I used some polenta corn flour on the banneton to add some texture to the crust:



Another closeup:


The crust is crisp and chewy, it has a lot of depth with color and blisters.


Here is a picture of the crumb:


The interior had a translucent sheen and it had a creamy custardy feel to the mouth. It was featherlight and looked beautiful. It had a great tangy sour taste.


I had to put the rest of the seed dough away for the next batch. After you spend eight days producing your first loaf (day seven was only an experiment) then you can save the seed dough and every three days make up a new batch of bread.


The salt dough bread really needs the Power flour or high gluten flour to withstand the very long ferment. It is also better to have a temperature controlled proofing box because the dough really needs to be held at between 46-50F degrees to obtain the terrific sour tang. You can bake it on day nine and ten even and it will continue to increase in acidity, however the proofing gets longer.


Here was the end result of the motherdough and the salt dough:


The motherdough:


The salt dough:


Great baking everyone!

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  1. kor van lierkor van lier
    June 5, 2010    

    HI there Teresa, i have a doubt about how to start.
    you put right away in the start a piece of sourdough mother with the startdough?
    or the saltdough turn into sourdough during the proces?
    Maybe i miss the point a little because my English is not that fantastic.
    Saludos fro Buenos Aires
    Fanatic for sourdough things.

  2. MarcMarc
    March 20, 2010    

    Interesting experiment with salt sourdough. However, I have to admit that waiting 7 days after the sourdough has been fermenting in the fridge and then using the sourdough to make bread, so that it can produce a tangy and sour taste is an extremely long task. It might be useful for the home baker to use this method but not at the professional level.

    • March 20, 2010    

      The seven day wait is only to bring the initial batch to the correct ph, after that, if you save dough from each batch, it takes three days( or more if you want it more sour).

  3. RyanRyan
    March 5, 2010    

    I cannot wait for this recipe! Can’t I just send you what the price of this book would be, and you can email me the recipe in exchange? 🙂

    • March 8, 2010    

      Hi Ryan, that is certainly a show of confidence! Teresa

      • RyanRyan
        March 16, 2010    

        Phew, I tried this technique with my whole spelt bread by maintaining 2% salt content throughout the different fermentation stages. After two days of fermentation in a warm room, this bread turned out more sour than I can eat on a regular basis. The gluten was also still intact by the time the stretch-and-fold stage came around.

        Now, I just have to figure out the fermentation time/temperature to back off on the sour just a little and get it to not overproof and I’m golden.

  4. February 2, 2010    

    Hi Tom and Almostsour, you can add up to 2% salt, however you need to minus the salt amount from the total dough so you don’t end up with salty bread. You only need to add extra water for the Power flour or high gluten flours. It varies, but around 1/2 ounce of water for every pound of flour in your dough. Going by feel when you use Power flour is a good idea.

    • AlmostsourAlmostsour
      February 8, 2010    

      Thank You, Teresa!

  5. almostsouralmostsour
    February 2, 2010    

    Ditto! How much salt? How would you go about refreshing such a salted dough?

    I’m fortunate to have access to the power flour. For those that don’t, how would you modify the process?

    Thanks again for posting, T.

  6. Tom PassinTom Passin
    February 1, 2010    

    That bread (and dough) sure look good! How much salt have you been using for the salt dough? My culture, which is normally at 100% hydration and kept in the refrigerator, looks a lot like yours for 5 or 6 days, maybe 7 – but not for 8 – 10 days, though. I have been putting in just a few tenths of a percent of salt in. I have read that you only need one tenth of a percent to suppress the protein degradation enzymes. I can’t measure that small an amount very accurately for the small batches I usually keep, so I shoot for a little more.

  7. February 1, 2010    

    Teresa, you make my mouth water. Your bread is so beautiful….So, are you coming home for the wedding? Would be nice to see you. Tell everyone I love them. Linda

    • February 1, 2010    

      Hi Linda, Thankyou! We won’t be able to make it back in time.Hope to see you this spring sometime though, Teresa

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