Sourdough too dense - lacks 'sour'


(Chapps) #1

I’ve been baking beautiful loaves of sourdough for the last couple of weeks, but they all have a couple of things in common:

  1. They’re very dense loaves - few open holes (yes, I used the high hydration method).
  2. They’re very good tasting white bread, but they don’t taste ‘sour’.

My starter rocks - I mean, it’s now so bubbly that it looks rabid. And it smells VERY sour. So, why does the bread not smell the same? Feeding with rye flour has really made the difference here.

I use bread flour for the loaf, but it still turns out to be too dense. Maybe I need more starter? I used the high hydration method, but I have to say that the dough was pretty dry and I couldn’t initially knead in all the flour. I had to add a wee bit of water to make it softer and more absorbent. (only happened with high hydration method - regular no-knead didn’t have this issue)

Thoughts? I’d really like to replicate the San Francisco sourdough of my youth - open, airy and tangy sour bread.


(easummers) #2

You say you used the “high hydration method” but the dough was dry and you could not incorporate all of the flour. Something sounds off there as high hydration as in 72-75 % dough should not be dry. If flour to water ratio is too low, that would almost certainly give you a dense loaf with closed crumb.

Have you tried the basic no knead sourdough recipe on this site?

And just FWIW, I most often bake with 525 grams water, 700 grams flour and 150-200 grams starter. My starter is 100% hydration. I also have 1T of salt in there. I hand mix until all flour is mixed together. Room temp for 1-2 hours (my house is 62-64F). I do some gentle stretch and fold … the more whole grain the gentler. Then into the refrigerator for 18-24 hours. Warm to RT, shape, final rise and bake.

My bread was dense at the start of my sourdough experience and it was reading that lead me to draw things out for a longer bulk fermentation which solved my denseness problem AND increased flavor.

Still, there are so many variables. Hopefully others will chime in with their thoughts. After that, my advice would be to change 1 thing at a time and record what you see, feel, taste.


(Chapps) #3

Thanks for the thorough walk-through - it’s much appreciated. Yes, I’ve done the basic no-knead version of the bread on this site and got much the same results. When I did the high hydration version, my bread was much loftier but strangely still dense. I mean, it didn’t taste bad at all, and the cloche made the crust absolutely amazing. But it’s no sourdough.

I’ll try your suggestion of changing one thing at a time, to see what the problem might be. But I did pretty much what you suggested for my last loaf. We’ve been experiencing cold weather here in L.A. recently, so that might affect the rise. One thing that’s different - I let the dough rise out of the refrigerator, usually. I did try putting it in the refrigerator to ‘set’ this last time. Didn’t seem to make much of a difference, other than the greater loft.

When you say you have a 100% hydration starter … what does that mean exactly?


(Chapps) #4

Oh, and FYI, I’m beginning to think that my process leading up to the final rise in the proofing basket is flawed. Because it almost never rises in the basket - it just sits there. I recall making bread a couple of decades ago, and I always got a rise in the basket, which ensured that I would have fluffier bread. Confusing.


(easummers) #5

There is a great clue to an issue! If you are getting no rise in the proofing basket, that is an indication that the dough has been “over proofed”, it has given all its got, i.e. the bulk fermentation went too far and there is nothing left, hence no rise after shaping and dense loaf.

You said you mostly did what I outlined EXCEPT you did the bulk (primary first rise) at room temp vs refrigerated. So my best guess is that it was too long at room temp.

100% hydration starter means equal water and flour by weight, NOT volume. For example, my starter probably sits in the vicinity of 250-300 grams. I actually just weighed my fed/refrigerated starter: it is 261 grams. When I pull it out and feed in prep for baking, I “discard” 1/2, and then add approx. 80 grams water and 80 grams flour. It bubbles up and rises at about the 3-4 hour mark in my 62-64F house (Northwest Montana). At any rate, I am always feeding equal water and flour and discarding half. (I use the discard in @Fermentada Naan dough or crackers). When I make an overnight levain for baking, I use approx. 1 T of that 100% starter, add 75 g water and 75 g flour …. let sit overnight and that is my 180-200g starter for my recipe.

My advice … back to the no knead sourdough. Review the recipe and the video and follow exactly. Really, that recipe should be nearly foolproof. There are some notes on making a more sour loaf using extended frig time. However, in the spirit of “one thing at a time”, I’d suggest following the original recipe exactly … a few times. Make some notes. Maybe adjust time a bit and see what happens. When you then have some info with slight variations, you might have more clues as to what to do next.


(Chapps) #6

I had a feeling that I might have been over-proofing. Thank you so much for this. I’ll follow the no-knead vids to the letter and see what happens for two or three batches.

I guess I also have a 100% hydration starter, because I’m feeding it equal parts water and flour - by weight, of course. I was really stunned how using rye flour supercharged the starter. Whew - it’s wonderfully sour and bubbles like a salted slug! (ugh … eww)

I haven’t used a levain yet - I’ve always just used my starter as it is, and not mixed with water and flour. Interesting!

I’ll let you know what happens. Much appreciated!


(easummers) #7

Oops … my apologies for writing levain like it is something different than starter. It IS starter made from a bit of fed and active starter and then fed and left to do its thing. My overnight levain of 1T starter, 75g water, 75 g flour is no different than 180-200 grams of fed, active starter.

Levain, starter, yeast, yeast water … all are leavening things that have the “bugs” necessary to make dough rise :slight_smile:


(chickenlady80) #8

Try substituting half citric salt for regular salt, for more sour flavor and add enough water to make the dough just barely handleable, ferment in the fridge over night for more open bubbles. Be very gentle with that dough when you shape it so as not to deflate it.