What makes sourdough SOUR?

What makes sourdough SOUR?

The sour of sourdough.

We've learned everyone enjoys a slightly different level of sour.

A statement we often hear from people at farmer's markets is, "I don't like sourdough - it's too sour.”

Another piece of feedback we've recently received from a customer was, “I was expecting more of a ‘sour’ taste, which I enjoy.”

So why is it that some sourdough is really sour and some not so much?

While there are books written all about this very topic and the answer is very complex, here's the quick answer: It has to do with (1) the maturity of the starter, (2) the temperature of the dough, and (3) the length of fermentation.

Let me explain.

A loaf of sourdough starts with the mother starter. It is fed flour and water at a specific temperature and left to mature for a certain time, depending on the style of bread you are aiming to create. You add a portion of this starter to the dough during the mixing stage.

You always keep some of the mother starter for the next time you make bread.

There are two main acids produced in a sourdough culture: lactic acid and acetic acid. Acetic acid, also known as vinegar, is the acid that gives sourdough much of its tang. Giving acetic acid-producing organisms optimal conditions to thrive and multiply will produce a tangier finished product.

Here's a little more about the main factors that attribute to that magic tang:

Quantity of the starter. Sourdough starters are used in a variety of breads at anywhere from 5% to 50% of the total weight of the flour. Generally, the higher the percentage of starter, the more sour and fermented the flavor notes will be. However, this also depends on the…  

Feeding schedule and temperature of the starter. If the starter was fed more recently, the less sour the bread will be. If the starter is left to mature longer (past 12 hours or so), the acidity increases, giving the bread more tang. Similarly, cooler temperatures result in less sour bread, whereas warmer temperatures cause more acetic acid build-up and therefore more tang. 

The temperature of the dough while fermenting. Generally speaking, sourdough cultures are most active between 68 and 83 degrees. Acetic acid likes warmer temperatures and longer fermentation times. A baker's skill is in balancing temperature and timing.  

Type of flour. Acid-producing bacteria love whole grain and/or whole rye flours. These types of flours also provide sweetness, and therefore a flavor balance to the bread. 



Our goal at Voyageurs is to produce a balanced flavor profile in each loaf. With the right balance of tang, sweet, and savory, the bread will always be delicious! 

If you find that you prefer more tang, try our Jewish Deli Rye. It’s made with 40% whole rye and is on the menu every Friday. 

If you prefer a more mild tang, you’ll love our Country Loaf. It’s our signature classic French-style loaf made with a blend of white and whole wheat flours and a touch of whole rye & spelt.

Really you can't go wrong. Visit our pre-order menu 👇 to learn more about each loaf and start sampling!

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