Super Sour: Varying the Variables

I thought it might be interesting this past weekend to try something a little different. I haven’t quite built up to working on different flours yet (on the list… so many things on the list), but there are still variables with which I can play. First up was a slight modification to the usual levain percentage in the dough.

My typical formula for a Tartine-style loaf has been approximately 25%, or 250g of levain per 1,000 g of a mix of whole wheat, rye, and white bread flours. I’ve gotten quite comfortable with the process and this recipe such that my results are fairly consistent, and pretty tasty if I may say so. However, one of the things that has always surprised people is how little sour is actually evident in my sourdough. The truth is, the San Francisco-style sourdough that has become so commonplace is generally tangier or more sour on the spectrum than, say, a traditional French pure levain (sourdough) loaf. Sourdough itself does not necessarily need to be sour! The name, title, what have you, simply refers to the fact that the bread has been produced without commercial yeast, rather utilizing a wild yeast culture or starter developed over time. The result is a somewhat surprised face when I share my bread with people or make them Sunday breakfast. Though they do not typically say, “Well, this doesn’t really taste sour… are you lying to me?” it is evident on their faces that there is some flavour that they’d expected or become used to that is missing.

So without much research into percentages here or percentages there, I thought I might go the old fashioned route, just toss some extra levain into the mix and see what happens! What I found was that only a minor increase in levain percentage of the final build, 30% in this case as compared to my usual 25%, made a notable change in sourness. My first bite yielded the expected tang that lingers on the back of the tongue. It turns out, it wasn’t just me that thought so, thankfully, so I had support in my findings. The sour flavour came through well, but was not quite at the point of cloying. I’m certain too much more would not be that appetizing.


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