How To Make Sourdough…More Sour!

The great thing about baking your own sourdough bread is that you hold the power in adjusting the tanginess of this crusty bread. You can learn how to make sourdough bread more sour depending on your personal preference. By following these tips, you’ll find yourself creating extra tangy sourdough bread in no time!

Sourdough Loaf

What Makes Sourdough Sour?

Before we attempt to create a sourdough bread with extra tanginess to its depth, we need to know…what makes sourdough bread more sour?

The sour flavor from sourdough bread comes from lactic and acetic acids.

There are several types of lactic and acetic acids alongside wild yeasts that are present in a starter. Lactic acid has a mature sour flavor with a creamy touch, while acetic acid has a sharp vinegary twang that attacks the taste buds.

What is Lactic Acid?

Lactic acid is a natural, weak, organic acid associated with milk. The acid is odorless and has a mild flavor which does not compromise or mask other flavors, rather enhancing them.

It is the natural sourdough bread acid and is found in a variety if foods including pickles, beer, buttermilk, and cheese.

What is Acetic Acid?

Acetic acid is used as a sour agent responsible for the sharp tastes evident in vinegar, pickled vegetables, and sauce, as well as a raw material for spice. This acid is widely used in the food industry as a preservative and antimicrobial agent, inhibiting both bacteria and fungi.

How Much of the Starters Flavour Relies on the Flour?

Naturally, the flour will have a big impact on the flavor. It’s the key component and the most variable.

Flour impacts the flavor in several ways:

  • The type of grain used and its growing environment enables mills to produce unique textures and flavors as well as baking qualities in their flours. Bread will adopt the flavors and smells of the raw flour, but the flavor of the bread is not that simple.
  • Flour develops into many flavors through the process of fermentation in sourdough. These flavors won’t resemble raw flour. Instead the flour provides the starting blocks for chemical reactions in which they are produced.

What Flours Produce Sour Flavors in Your Starter?

Essentially flours with lower ash content such as whole wheat and rye will produce a more sour or tangy flavor in your starter.

Rye flour produces a strong earthy flavor with a perfectly tangy zing. If you prefer your sourdough starter to be less tangy or sour, you should create your sourdough starter from white wheat flour, which will certainly reduce the intense tangy flavors.

If you find that your starter is not sour enough then try to blend the flours, starting with 50% white and 50% whole wheat or rye and work from there.

Making Sourdough Tangier

The bacteria and microorganisms that are produced in your starter are the reason for the sour flavors. These microorganisms feed on the sugars and starches in the flour, needing oxygen to reproduce. By mixing your starter in between feeding, the increase of oxygen levels in your starter will speed up the growth of microorganisms and will produce more gases and a more sour flavor.

Sourdough Starter Temperature

To produce sour flavors in your dough, grow your starter at warmer temperatures. You can put your sourdough starter in your oven with the light turned on. This will allow the temperature to rise to around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll notice that the sourdough starter grows much faster in these conditions, making your sourdough more sour.

However, if you prefer to have your sourdough with less sourness, let the starter mature at room temperature around 72 degrees Fahrenheit and then store it in the refrigerator. This will slow down the acids produced in the starter.

Should You Feed Your Sourdough Starter?

The more frequently you feed your sourdough starter the less time it has to produce the acids that translate to that sour flavor. The longer you allow your sourdough to sit, the sourness will intensify. If you want a more sour starter let your sourdough starter sit for longer between feedings.

You’ll notice the sourdough starter emanating a strong vinegar-like smell. Make sure that you do not end up making the starter excessively sour, as the acids can eventually lead to your sourdough starter not being strong enough. If you prefer a more mild-tasting sourdough starter, then feed it often.

person standing and making dough

How to Ferment the Dough

Another effective way to get a more sour tasting bread is to let it ferment for longer. After shaping your sourdough bread it is usually put into the refrigerator to ferment for about 18 to 24 hours.

This process of fermentation will add that beautiful tangy flavor to your bread, so depending on how long you let this chill in the refrigerator to mature and ferment, will have an impact on the final flavors of your sourdough bread.

You can also give a strong punch to your sourdough bread in the initial rising stages before shaping it, as this will increase the sour flavors of the dough.

If you don’t want your bread to ferment for a long time, then reduce the sour flavours by adding some fresh or dry yeast to the sourdough bread.

How To Make Sourdough More Sour?

If you’re looking for the ultimate sourness to hit your taste buds as soon as you pop that piece of sourdough bread into your mouth, then you’ll need to work on the acetic acid in your bread.

There are lots of small things you could do to add more sourness to your sourdough bread. You can choose to do them all, or just a couple, depending on how sour you want your sourdough bread to be. From how you handle your starter, to how you proof the shaped loaf before baking, there are all sorts of tricks bakers use to manipulate the flavor of their bread.

The trick to getting a more sour taste, is to look for ways to naturally increase the amount of acetic acid in the bread.

Here are a few techniques you can use to alter the intensity of the sour flavors in the sourdough bread:

  • Use More Wholegrain Flour
  • Ferment Dough Longer
  • Store Your Starter at Room Temperature
  • Feed the Starter Less
  • Add Your Starter After Peak
  • Keep Your Bread Basic
  • Add Citric Acid
  • Maintain a Stiff Starter
  • Use Less Starter
  • De-Gas the Dough

Use More Wholegrain Flour

An easy way to make your sourdough more sour is to incorporate more wholegrains into your sourdough recipes. Flour made from wholegrains like whole wheat, einkorn, and rye naturally have more bold, tangy flavors than white flour. Acid producing bacteria love being placed amongst whole grains. You can even try to switch and feed your sourdough starter with whole wheat, and rye flour, or at least a portion, you’ll find that your starter has become significantly more active this way!

The only minor setback is that whole grains can make sourdough bread more dense. Try adjusting various recipes and slowly increasing the ratio of whole grain flour to white flour. You can begin with 65% white bread flour, 30% whole wheat flour and 5% rye. Start with this, then gradually find yourself moving more confidentially when pouring a little this and that, to obtain the perfect sour, tanginess in this fluffy bread.

bowl of flour

Ferment Dough Longer

The longer you allow raw dough to proof and ferment the more lactic acid an acetic acid will develop, thus creating the ultimate sourness we love. One of the effective ways of making sourdough more sour is to let refrigerated dough sit out at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes before baking.

Store Your Starter at Room Temperature

You’ll find that your starter will change its flavors depending on how it is stored. Lactic acid bacteria prosper in a cooler environment, so refrigerated starters will be more mildly tangy. Contrary to this, keeping your starter at room temperature will more acetic acid and sharp, vinegar-like flavors. Which is why you should sort your starter at room temperature to make your sourdough more sour.

Feed The Starter Less

If you feed your starter very often, the acids that give the dough a beautiful tang won’t have the opportunity to divide and conquer. So starving your starter a little can make it sour. If you store your starter at room temperature, try skipping a few days of feeding instead of feeding it daily. But if it is stored in the fridge, then skip a week or two here and there. If it starts to develop a dark layer of hooch, stir it on, rather than poring it off, as you might normally do.

Many bakers tend to throw out the hooch that develops over the top of sourdough starter. This brownish liquid that develops when the starter has run out of food is loaded with sour flavors. Mix it right back into the starter during feedings to give your bread that excessive sour flavor we’ve all been anticipating. Keep in mind, that the more mature your starter is the more sour it will become. Be patient with new starters!

Add Your Starter After Peak

It is advised to use or add your sourdough bread starter in with other ingredients when it has reached “peak activity.” Peak activity occurs after a sourdough starter has been fed fresh flour and water, risen nicely – at least double in size – is no longer obviously increasing its growth, but hasn’t yet started to deflate. During this time of growth the yeast, and beneficial bacteria population is feeding and rapidly multiplying.

If you use your starter before it reaches peak activity , it has achieved a less bold microbial population which means that the bread will not rise as it would normally. Be patient and wait till your starter has reached peak activity before using it.

Keep Your Bread Basic

There are only 3 elements involved in making sourdough, and they are flour, water, and salt. Additional components like nuts, seeds, cheese, herbs, or olives, are quite delicious and fun, but additional ingredients – especially fats – can drive the beneficial bacteria and yeast further away from fermenting the starches in flour into sour-tasting acetic acid. So if you’re really looking forward to a tangy sourdough, keep it simple.

Add Citric Acid

Citric acid is naturally found in citrus fruits and also man made to use in foods, cosmetics, medicine and more. Also referred to as “sour salt” citric acid is often used in home canning to lower the PH and safely preserve foods. Fortunately you can also use citric acid to transform your sourdough bread into a sour mess!

Some sourdough purists might completely abhor this idea, and although it is not as traditional as the other flavor manipulation methods listed it still works! This is much more effective for those who live in climates that are simply impossible to produce the tangy, sour flavor they hope for.

Maintain Stiff Starter

A drier environment promotes more abundant acetic acid production. In an effort to increase acetic acid content, try keeping your sourdough starter dry or stiff or lower hydration ratio. Feed your starter as you normally would, then slowly incorporate more flour, a tablespoon at a time, until it has reached a consistency where it can still mix and move without turning into a solid lump of dough, but isn’t runny or pourable.

Use Less Starter

Adding plenty of starter to your sourdough can shorten the proofing time, allowing the dough to rise beautifully even in cooler conditions. However a high ratio of starter-to-flour speeds up the fermentation process which can make sour dough less sour.

But if you lessen the amount of starter added to your dough, it will force the limited population of bacteria and yeast to feed more on the dough, taking longer to proof and foster a lower hydration environment which will also make the dough sour.

De-Gas the Dough

Finally, another way to make your sourdough more sour is through de-gassing your dough. Which basically means to remove the air bubbles from the dough. Once the air bubbles are obliterated it strengthens the yeast cells, moves the microbes around, introducing them to new food and overall leads to improved fermentation.

Can You Add Salt to Sourdough Bread to Make it More Sour?

You can most certainly add salt to your sourdough to make it more sour – but you can use citric acid instead to obtain the same results.

What Does Sour Sourdough Bread go Well With?

Perhaps there’s a tangy sourdough craving tickling the back of your throat, and perhaps smearing a generous amount of bread can make this a wonderful treat, but why not widen your choices, exploring the alternatives to plain old buttered bread.

Here’s some ideas for what to eat with sourdough bread we hope you’d like:

  • Salad
  • Tomato Toast
  • Spiced Eggs

Salad

Transform your slice of tangy, sourdough bread into croutons, to accompany a delicious bowl of salad. With sliced boiled eggs, and leafy greens, topped with your favorite seasonings, what’s not to like?

Tomato Toast

Pairing tangy with sour, this tomato toast is the perfect snack to have to satisfy your sourdough bread cravings. Sprinkle some chives, sesame seeds and flaky salt with abundance, and enjoy!

Spiced Eggs

A simple breakfast consisting off eggs and plain white toast isn’t as exciting as having a super tangy sourdough toast, with buttery spiced eggs. The contrast of flavours will excite you enough to have you craving more.

Making Sourdough More Sour

There are more ways than some, when it comes to balancing the sour flavours in your sourdough bread. Delaying the fermentation process is one of the effective ways in making the sourdough more sour, because of the bacteria that begin populating the dough. Some preferring a sour taste than others.

Making your sourdough bread more tangier can be quite delicious, especially when eaten with mildly spicy soups!

FAQs

Why is My Sourdough Not Sour Anymore?

Having a high ratio of starter-to-flour speeds up the fermentation process which can make sourdough less sour-tasting.

What Ingredient Makes Sourdough Bread More Sour?

The signature sourdough flavours come from a combination of lactic and acetic acids, created as the dough rises and ferments. Refrigerating the dough encourages the production of more acetic acid, with is more tangier.

What Makes San Francisco Sourdough so Sour?

San Francisco sourdough tastes sour because of a unique local bacteria called lactobacillus.

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