Here is the most common 17 Sourdough FAQs and Troubleshooting tips you need to while baking a perfect sourdough bread.
In my last post I described around 23 tips to make a perfect sourdough bread. In this post I am discussing few of the frequently asked questions about problems that you would encounter while making a sourdough bread and how to trouble shoot those problems. Here are 17 Sourdough FAQs and troubling shooting while making sourdough bread.
1.I started my starter with rye flour and now I cannot get hold of any rye flour, can I use any other flour feed my starter?
Yes, absolutely you can feed any other flour with your established starter. They are like pets they will work on it whatever you feed them. It does not matter which flour you started with or which flour you feed them.
2.I am not baking every day, so I keep my starter in fridge can I use the starter straight out of fridge or let it come to room temperature before I start?
Yes, you can add the starter directly without bringing to the room temperature. If you use it straight from the fridge, make sure to add some more time to your dough proofing time. Best practice is to bring it to room temperature and feed it twice before adding it into the bread dough.
3.Can I trust Float test to check whether my starter or levain is ready?
No, Float test can give false positives too. Float Test should be conducted by dropping a representative dough of about 15- 25g into water. This sample dough should be properly shaped to a ground ball so that the CO2 will not escape but will be trapped within the dough.
The water temperature should be like the actual proofing environment of the dough.
But if a 1:1 starter passes a float test; it indicates that it has grown a fair bit, and it at least cannot be “dead”. It is suggesting that the dough is ripe when it float 1/3 above the water.
Go by time and how it looks, if you see lots of bubbles and activity, it indicates that starter is ready. Depending upon how your starter doubles and triples you need to adjust timing.
4.What is role of salt in sourdough bread other than enhancing the flavor? And how much salt is need in a sourdough bread?
Yes, the main role salt in sourdough is to enhance flavor,
But also adding salt affects the texture of the dough, making it stronger and less sticky while reducing the oxidation of the dough during mixing.
To some degree adding salt also regulates yeast activity, which means that the fermentation progresses at a more consistent rate.
Adding salt to your sourdough has the added benefit of acting as a preservative to your bread.
It also enhances shelf life of the bread as it attracts water, which can help keep bread from staling too quickly in a dry environment.
In a humid environment, it can also make the crust damp as a result it can draws water to the loaf.
Salt slows down gluten development, slightly. So, it is always better if you add the salt after the autolyze. This is not hard rule you can also add salt in the beginning.
Normal, ranges of salt are from 1.8% to 2.2% of the total amount of flour, depending on the recipe and personal preference. Low salt contents can end up with bland loaves, anything over the 2.2% will likely be considered too salty.
You can use any kind of salt to make sourdough bread, but I prefer to use fine sea salt, it’s best to use non-iodized salt such as sea salt because iodized versions can impart an unpleasant flavor.
5.Looks like I messed up the hydration values can I add more flour and adjust it?
Yes, you can add extra flour if you feel your dough is very watery. Better to add that extra flour in the beginning, rather than during shaping. Shaping is always best if you use less flour.
On the other hand, if you feel your dough is dry, then try to incorporate water in small amount rather than dumping a lot at one stretch.
If you are adding any fresh fruits like blueberries, mango, peach, or olives, make sure to start with little less hydration as these fruits tend to increase the hydration in the end.
6.I want to incorporate cheese or fruits into the sourdough. When is the best time to add?
You can add cheese, or fruits or herbs you want to incorporate into the sourdough either in beginning when you are mixing everything for the dough or during the lamination. Earlier I used to add the add on just before the shaping but that does not able to get uniform distribution
7. How many times should I fold and stretch my sourdough?
Once every half hour you need to give your dough a stretch and fold. Every single time, the texture of your dough will change. It will start to look first little bit shinier, then little smoother, and finally little more supple as you continue to stretch and fold.
If you look at the outside edges of the dough in your bowl, every time the shape should get a little round as you are continuing to align the gluten strands and build a stronger gluten structure.
You need to do at least 4 stretch and fold in first two hours and then at 1-hour interval stretch and fold for next two hours and then final shape.
By the 4th stretch and fold your dough should be a lot nicer and should feel softer than when you started the process.
8.Do I need to laminate the dough?
Yes, Lamination is also a method of gluten development. This method is like stretching and folding, coil folding, hand-kneading, slapping, and folding, Rubaud mixing as well as stand mixer mixing to generate elasticity of dough which in turn results in open airy crumb and good oven spring.
9.When to do the lamination of the dough?
Lamination is one of the step during the bulk fermentation where you turn the dough out onto a wet counter and gently but extremely stretch it out to a thin sheet without tearing the dough.
Then fold it back like letter fold, creating several layers (laminations) of dough (similar way to incorporate butter into the puff pastries)
You need to do the lamination of dough early in the bulk fermentation, and that means after 1- 1 ½ hours after the mix in of starter to get better result out it.
10.What is coil fold and how many do I need to do?
Coil folding is another method of strengthening and developing gluten in the dough. In this method, lift the dough from the middle with both hands. The four fingers must be below the dough with only the thumbs above the dough. Lift the dough and place it on the container like a coil.
To perform a coil fold, you need to pick up the dough from the middle and lifts, allowing it to stretch until one end releases from the proofing container. Then lower the dough to tuck the loose end under the middle and repeats this process for the other ends.
1-2 coil fold is enough. I usually 2 coil fold while making the dough.
11. After doing all stretch and folds my dough looks like soupy and has lost it strength, why?
You over proofed the dough. Shape it and bake it. Bread will be tasty, but it may not have the shape you are looking for.
12. Can I use flour liberally and shape the dough?
No, try to sprinkle as little flour or no flour as possible at the shaping and kneading phase that if you can get away with, and this should result a lighter loaf.
13.I am running late can I bake the bread as my dough is cold proofing in refrigerator for more than 24 hours?
Yes, you can bake the bread. As normal cold retard in the refrigerator at 38°F (3°C) for 15-16 hours. You may get less rise than 16-hour cold retard loaf. Taste wise also this will be more sour taste than the 16 hour one.
14.Why sourdough bread is not sour or sourer?
Sourness of your sourdough bread depend upon lot of factors
a) Less sour bread may be due to
- a) When your starter is made with white flour and mature when fully risen and fermented at 70-76°F / 21-24°C (when not stored in the refrigerator).
- b) When your pre-ferment is made with white flour and it is ripe at or before peak rise
at 70-76°F / 21-24°C.
- c) Your bread dough contains less whole grain / rye flour and not over proofed rise to 1½ – 2 times volume when fermented at 70-76°F / 21-24°C.
b) For more Sour sourdough bread.
Your starter should made with some rye or whole wheat flour, and mature after it is full risen. It is fermented at 82-85°F/ 28-29°C (when not stored the refrigerator).
Your pre-ferment has rye or whole wheat flour and it is very ripe and it has done its peak rise. Also ferment at warmer temperature 82-85°F/ 28-29°C
If you allow the starter to rest at its peak rise height for a while before refreshing. As during the rest, the yeast population will remain steady while the acid producers (LAB) grow. Allow the pre-ferment to do the same – rest for a period after reaching its peak rise, then use it to mix the main dough. For the main dough (bulk fermentation), rise the dough to more than double its volume
Final fermentation and retard done at higher temperature retard at 40-50°F/ 4-10°C.
15.My bread is not getting high rise or oven spring?
To get high rise or oven spring you need score the dough in a pattern around 45° angle so that that will let the bread expand while baking.
Bake it in a hot oven and with steam, yes initial 10 minutes hot temperature is critical in getting the rise. In the end, it shouldincrease another 50 percent.
16. Why my bread crust is not crackle after baking?
The crust crackles during cooling as interior of the bread contracts as it cools, and the crust is too dry to absorb water vapor which is trying to migrate outward and too rigid to contract with the crumb.
You can get the bread crust crackle by letting it to sit on the baking stone with the oven turned off and the door ajar can achieve additional crust drying, but it may be that a less gradual cooling results in faster contraction of the crumb and greater chance of crust crackling.
17. I want a soft crust on my sourdough bread rather than thick one how to achieve that?
You can butter the loaf soon as comes out of the oven, slather it with some melted butter on all surfaces, and leave it on a cooling rack This will help soften the crust as it cools.
Also wrap them with plastic wrap or cloth after cooling it for some time, this will keep the crust soft.
These are some frequently asked questions you may have encountered while baking a sourdough bread. In the end you are the one who created the sourdough bread. So, you are the best judge to a wonderful sourdough bread according to your taste and how to make it with lots of practice. Always practice makes everything perfect.
This is Swathi ( Ambujom Saraswathy) from Zesty South Indian Kitchen who loves to explore cuisines from all over the world. Whenever possible I try to to give an Indian touch to several of the world cuisine, and has weakness for freshly baked bread. All the recipes you see here are created by me and approved after taste-test by my family.