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So You Want Your Sourdough…well…SOUR.

Salt Fermented Sourdough

I am at it again. I wanted to go after the crust and the sour of the San Francisco Sourdough. I have come up with a new technique that I have been experimenting with for a while. 

However, I want to take a moment to thank Peter Reinhart for giving me assistance with the publishing aspect, just like he promised. A real pro and gentleman he is. Thankyou Peter!

I also want to thank Randy Longacre who has so tirelessly read my manuscript as a newbie baker and professional writer. He has provided invaluable insight into problems and questions a newbie baker might have and has given me great advice.Thankyou Randy!

I have two other proof readers who are non- bakers, they also taste test my bread, their names are Ann Davidson and Carol Stibbie. For their encouragement and efforts, I want to offer thanks. Thank you Ann and Carol! 

When testing is done on the recipes, I will list the testers and give them public thanks  as well.

Now onto  SOURdough. Why do we consider San Francisco Sourdough the Holy Grail of Sourdough Baking?

Although you can bake a sourdough every bit as tasty in your own oven at home, if you don’t wish to bake at home, you cannot find a terrific sourdough very easily.  

San Francisco has set the standard in sourdough baking with their century plus, of great sourdough breads. Boudin states that the process for their bread takes as long as 72 hours! I do not know their technique or formula for their bread, however I know that in most sourdough baking, the dough would be a gooey mess by that time.


So I sat down to think about that. I came up with a process I call “Salt Controlled Fermentation”. I don’t know if it is what Boudin does, but it has worked for me. I use salt to limit the effects of the Protease enzyme.  I will cover this process in my upcoming book, but I wanted to show you what kinds of results I am having with it at this time as I am fine tuning the test results.  I use a salted motherdough and ferment the first “seed” culture for many days.


Once you have the seed culture, you will only have the shorter time of using some of the reserved older dough to start a new batch (like a Pate Fermente).  The cold salt fermented motherdough is incorporated into a batch of dough and let ferment for several days. Then when the time is right, the dough is warmed up and baked. Here is what has come out of my oven so far:

My first experimental loaf was overfermented, the color was lacking and the loaf didn’t get a good oven spring:






Also, I was not getting a consistant sour… no sour, a little sour, some sour….is there any sour? So I sat down and thought about it again and started to experiment with the only other ingredient I noticed in the ingredient list on the side of the San Francisco Bread… malt. When you see barley malt or barley malt flour added to the flour, what is being added is Diastatic Malt. Diastatic Malt has the enzyme Amylase. Amylase breaks down starch and helps convert starch to sugar with by products of alcohol, acids and Co2. So I started adding the Diastatic Malt to my dough.


Success! A nice deep sour tang was produced consistantly. So here are some of the results of my Salt Controlled Fermentation with Diastatic Malt added:

Notice the dark,deep color with red overtones in the crust:

The interesting thing about the sour is that it is at it’s fullest sour flavor the next day after baking. The sour seems to develop within hours of baking and just continually improves until the next morning. This salt fermented, malted bread obtains a deep, very tasty sour flavor.


This experimentation has been so much fun! I even bought a ph meter to be able to see what was going on during the different stages of dough development. So give me some ideas….what should I experiment with next? What are you interested in?

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  1. April 9, 2009    

    Very San-Francisco-worthy boules! I’m looking forward to knowing more about your salt fermenting process.

  2. foolishpoolish foolishpoolish
    April 9, 2009    

    Might I suggest adding a small amount of malt syrup or extract rather than diastatic malt.
    Whereas diastatic malt will break down the wheat starch and free up sugars for both yeast and bacteria, non-diastatic malt is full of maltose which is the preferred food of some of the bacteria (lb sanfranciscensis for example), not the yeast (in particular candida milleri).
    The lactobacilli will also apparently ‘excrete’ glucose which will eventually balance out the bacterial and yeast cultures. However, in the interim you have a nice build up of acids thanks to fermentation being biased towards the lactobacilli.


  3. April 9, 2009    

    Thankyou Susan and FP, I have tried regular malt syrup with many breads and have not noticed any difference in the sour tang. But I will do as you suggest and try an experiment with diastatic malt side by side with non diastatic malt and see what the difference is. Thanks for your suggestion. Teresa

    Edited to include: I did some experimenting with plain non-diastatic malt and it gave me the same results I had before with it, great flavor, but no increase in sour at all. thanks again for the suggestion though. Teresa

  4. April 10, 2009    

    Because it tastes FANTASTIC thats why? where are the beginner posts?

  5. Moriah Moriah
    April 12, 2009    

    Gorgeous! How do you get the crust so blistered?

  6. Abbey Abbey
    April 12, 2009    

    I’ve thought too about using salt in extending fermentation, so it’s interesting to see your work. I never would have guessed that the malt would have worked that way–thank you to the world wide web! Can I ask you about your pH meter: are we talking strips or a regular meter? Can you give us some more information? Thanks!

  7. April 13, 2009    

    Hi Abbey, I have a Martini Ph meter. It works well with two point calibration, but unfortunately it was engineered poorly as far as being user friendly. You have to keep the electrode moist, but it is engineered so that if you lay down the meter, the solution to keep it moist leaks out, it isn’t sealed in. And you cannot stand up the meter because the bottom is small and the meter is top heavy. So you HAVE to keep it upright and if you ever accidentally find it on it’s side, it might be ruined. Teresa

  8. April 23, 2009    

    I too would love to know how you get so much blistering on your loaves – do you do your pre-bake rise in the fridge?

    • April 25, 2009    

      Hi John, I use long cool fermentation and the roasting pan method of steaming. Thats where the blisters come from. Teresa

  9. flameofjudah flameofjudah
    April 23, 2009    

    You’re bread is … exceptional. I love the blisters. Some day …


    Is Diastatic Malt available to the kosher baker in aything less than 50 lbs? 😉

  10. April 25, 2009    

    I got a great price on diastatic malt from barryfarm.com

  11. sdbreadman sdbreadman
    May 3, 2009    

    I tested the Salted, 6–7 day ferment Mother bread formula and process.

    This is another fabulous bread. I was able to obtain the same great crust and crumb that you show in your photos, and the taste was superb. Sadly, mine did not turn out particularly more sour than some of the tries with the Griffin’s Bread formula.

    As another experiment, I used the salted mother and something more like your formula for Griffin’s Bread. I did a 2 day mother ferment, a 5 hour bulk ferment at 88°F with 4 foldings (with very good temperature control), an overnight loaf proof and a 1.5 hour warm up/final proof before baking in a 425°F oven (I use a loaf spray and heavy initial steaming rather than the broiler pan method, I have almost the entire oven covered with baking stone leaving only enough space for the heat to get around). The exception was that I used a high extraction flour (1st clear) instead of bread flour in the dough mix to get the buffering we know is conducive to greater acid generation.

    This combination gave me the most sour/flavorful bread I have made to date using the SFSD starter. While I could tolerate even more sour, I am pretty happy with this combination.

    I have failed to noticed much in the way of aromatics in my results. I have read that a ratio of 80/20 lactic to acetic acid is good starting point. To get more acetic acid, I will follow your suggestion to lower the proof temperature. If this is insufficient to produce more acetic acid via co-metabolism, I will try adding some fructose directly to the mix.

    You are providing a great service to the hobbyist SD community and have been an inspiration to me and no doubt to many others.


  12. May 4, 2009    

    FYI everyone – diastatic malt is easily homemade by sprouting wheat or barley, giving it a long, slow oven drying at low temp, and then pulverizing it in the food processor or blender to a powder – that’s it. Only tricky part is not letting it heat higher than 130 or the active elements are killed.

  13. Peg Peg
    May 5, 2009    

    Hi, Teresa,
    How much of the diastatic malt do you use in a loaf? If you mentioned it somewhere, I’m new to your site and didn’t see it. Thanks.

  14. May 7, 2009    

    Teresa can correct me on this (but she may be otherwise busy for awhile) but I have seen sev cautions on the overuse of diastatic malt in sourdough – as little as 1 tsp of the powder per reg loaf. I don’t understand the chemistry, but apparently it overdoes its work at higher amounts, and you create a slack dough as a result.

  15. May 7, 2009    

    Hi Peg and drfugawe, You use about 1 teaspoon per 2 lb loaf. If you dough turns out slack and the skin of the dough breaks down, you would have to cut back to 1/2 teaspoon per 2 lbs of dough. Some flours come with plenty of diastatic malt added, some are lacking. Teresa

  16. almostsour almostsour
    February 1, 2010    

    So… you’re pouring salt on our tongues 🙂
    Is there any guideline on what % of salt to add to a motherdough to get the desired behavior?

    • February 1, 2010    

      Hi almostsour, anything up to 2%, remember to minus that amount from your final dough. Teresa

  17. Mac Mac
    April 4, 2010    

    I know of 3 different methods to make SF sourdough bread, and they all don’t involve using salt sour or malt. Time and temperature are important and need to be observe.

    • sdbreadman sdbreadman
      April 5, 2010    

      Time/temperature is certainly critical. Some of the other additives make the process a little more forgiving.

      what time/temperature relationships do you find are the best for getting a good combination of acids for good flavor?

  18. Mac Mac
    April 7, 2010    

    Sdbreadman, I keep my sourdough at room temperature…at 75 F.

    Hmmmm….it looks like this topic was modified recently. I could of sworn the topic of salt sour mentioned about keeping salt sourdough in the fridge for 7 or 8 days. To me that is too long. I remember in class that salt sourdough was kept in the fridge for 3 days..at most.

    • April 7, 2010    

      The topic hasn’t been modified, but I think there is an earlier topic that covered this same idea. Only the initial seed dough is fermented for so long. Then the reserved dough or Pate Fermente, is only left to ferment three to five days before using. If you save the dough each time, you won’t have to do the very long ferment to start it off again. Teresa

  19. sdbreadman sdbreadman
    April 7, 2010    

    Do you mean that you ferment the dough at 75°F and then proof the shaped loaves at the same temperature. How long do you give each period?

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