Too sour or too fermented

I have baked my only (so far) sourdough bread following all the tutorials I found on breadtopia abs my bread came out flattish and super sour. Discouraged, I put my starter in the fridge and starved it. I’d like to give it a try again, but is it safe? It smells fermented and really sour. Should I toss it and get a new one? I fed it about an hour ago to see if it’s still alive.

My first sourdough was so sour it was basically inedible but I still ate my way through it while pulling faces because I made it :slight_smile:

It might be your starter is too young and needs balancing out. I suggest healthy feeds of 1:5:5 (e.g. 10g starter + 50g water + 50g flour) and allowing it to peak before feeding again. Do this a few times which should help in boosting the yeast population in your starter.

Then find a recipe which has a levain build (basically an off shoot starter with a healthier feed, but more geared to the recipe, which goes into the final dough) and see what that does.

Don’t give up. My starter makes lovely delicious bread now.

Thank you, I’ll give it a try though I am afraid my starter is dead (RIP). As I mentioned I fed it 3.5 hours ago and nothing is happening, no bubbling, no sponginess.

Just wait. Don’t do anything. Perhaps your starter was too young to use and you refrigerated it too soon. It’s been fed now do not feed again till you see activity even of it takes a few days. Keep warm and stir it every 12 hours.

Thank you. I will.

I read a very interesting article on sourdough starters today that might be of interest to you. It was written by a professional cook named Tim Chin. He compares using various types of flour and blends of different flours to build/feed a sourdough starter and gives observations on the associated leavening power and flavor notes of each option. It might be worth a read to get some more insights on modulating the strength and flavor of your starter. Also, the article is very reminiscent of those by Melissa (@Fermentada), full of comparative photos, detailed process descriptions and associated results. It almost reminds me of a well-written lab notebook. Hope this helps!

Now for the link :slightly_smiling_face: https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/05/the-best-flour-for-sourdough-starters-an-investigation.html

That’s a cool article. I’ve only skimmed so far but liked the detail, photos, and science. So much useful information in there too.

I do, however, think the final “how each starter bakes in a loaf of bread” part seemed to combine/confuse the questions of:

Do these starters ferment differently?
&
Does the flavor and strength of small amounts of different flours in these starters come through in the final loaves?

Maybe I missed it, but I think for him to be closer to testing the effect of the different starters, the total flour weight and breakdown would have to be the same from loaf to loaf. He’d have to use all the flours of all the starters in each loaf. Then he’d be looking at starter performance, and not “there’s some rye in this loaf and not that loaf.” Every loaf he baked looks gorgeous by the way :slight_smile:

Does that make sense? Did I skim too aggressively and miss something?

450 all purpose (50 of it in the starter)
50 rye
50 whole wheat

450 all purpose
50 rye in the starter
50 whole wheat

450 all purpose
50 rye
50 whole wheat in the starter

He actually tests more starters than this, so the formula would have to be more complicated, but not undoable.

You make some fair points Melissa. My impression is that his main focus was on the initial build of a starter through the point where you can start baking with it. And then when you start baking with it, is there any difference in leavening strength. It would have been more challenging to compare the relative leavening strength of each starter had he made test loaves with different types of flour, since the varying amounts of bran and gluten would have also affected the rise and crumb structure. The flavor of the test loaves admittedly does not differentiate between the intrinsic flavor of the starter (subtle variation in yeast/bacteria cultures, balance of acetic & lactic acid and other associated organic byproducts) vs flavor due to the flour. However, it does give the reader an idea of what sort of subtle differences to expect from each of the starters, as stand-alone leavening/flavoring ingredients, all else being equal. That might be useful info for determining how using a different starter in a favorite recipe could affect its flavor. It would be an interesting follow-on experiment, as you suggest, to then make the bread from the same flour combinations as the starter to see if it magnifies the flavor notes he describes.

Agree 110% and would add one thing. I think setting the hydration level at 100% for all starters is a mistake (especially for the rye). For a rye starter to be properly hydrated, it probably requires 110% or more. He is essentially setting a threshold for consistency rather than optimizing the circumstances for each starter for best results.

I agree with this:

However, it does give the reader an idea of what sort of subtle differences to expect from each of the starters, as stand-alone leavening/flavoring ingredients, all else being equal.

and this:

My impression is that his main focus was on the initial build of a starter through the point where you can start baking with it.

My suggested solution was to try to ameliorate this issue, which I think is present in the current set-up of using different starters with different bran amounts, but not compensating in the rest of the formula to equalize the different flours.

It would have been more challenging to compare the relative leavening strength of each starter had he made test loaves with different types of flour, since the varying amounts of bran and gluten would have also affected the rise and crumb structure.

Again, though, an overall amazing experiment with so much good info and beautiful photos.

Whew interesting! That would add water shifts to the formulas too. Again, doable. Ish. Do we have any volunteers? I don’t consider myself capable of managing the fermentation of so many doughs to perfect synchrony at transitions, or doing identical shaping and baking to go near this! :wink:

(I’ve never kept an all rye starter. I did an all-einkorn one for a while to work on a recipe.)

I don’t think it is doable for a home baker and certainly not someone of my limited skill.

If we wanted to make this a really meaningful scientific study, we would also need to really complicate up the sources of flour as well. Are the published test results true just for his samples that reflect unique combinations of wheat and bacteria or are they true for all rye, whole wheat, etc. of different strains and from different locations? Is a “San Francisco” starter really any different than an “Alaska” starter or a “Paris” starter?

And while I love the precision of the tester (and his oven) to maintain starters at 78-80F for days, that is not the test that I need as I do not live under those starter perfect conditions (or have access to an oven that magically maintains that perfect temperature). I need a test that shows what starter performs best when it is bouncing in and out of a refrigerator.

Heck, part of the magic of baking bread is that the difficulty of doing something like this keeps bread baking an art.

I can’t justify the price of buying Modernist Bread, but I do wonder if a treatise like that addresses issues like this.