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How to Make Sourdough Bread More Sour and Tangy

How to Make Sourdough Bread More Sour and Tangy

Do you enjoy a slice of extra sour sourdough bread? There are ways you can make your homemade sourdough bread more tangy. The science of sourdough is fascinating, with many factors contributing to the complex flavor profiles of each loaf!

What Makes Sourdough Bread Sour?

Sourdough is created when beneficial bacteria and yeasts transform compounds in the dough into acids, gas, and alcohol. 

Bacteria converts compounds into acids, and the particular acid that gives a more sour flavor is acetic acid. Sound familiar? That’s the acid in vinegar! The other acid in sourdough is lactic acid which has a more mild, yogurt-like flavor. 

Bacteria make acids… so what do yeasts do?

Yeasts turn sugars into gas (CO2) and alcohol. This is alcoholic fermentation – that’s how we get beer! In bread, most of the alcohol bakes off. We can thank yeast for the beautiful bubbles created in sourdough fermentation, as the carbon dioxide gets trapped in the dough. The combination of yeasts in the flour and varieties of wild yeast in the environment of the dough have an impact on the flavor of the bread, creating a slightly unique variation in differing environments. This is why the flavor profiles of bread may be slightly different depending on where you are. 

Now that you understand the functions of yeasts and bacteria in sourdough, you can better understand how to increase the sourness of your sourdough bread.

In order to increase the tangy flavor of sourdough bread we have to increase the acetic acid in the final dough.

There are a few different ways of doing this.

How to Increase the Sourness of Sourdough Bread

Increase Fermentation time

In order to increase the acids in the dough, we need to increase the fermentation time. While increasing the fermentation time, we also have to make sure it doesn’t spoil. This means we have to allow it to ferment more slowly.

So how do we slow down the fermentation?

Cooler temperatures

Proofing dough at a lower temperature will slow down the fermentation process and allow for more acetic acid in the final product. If you just keep it at warmer temperatures the whole time, the dough will start to go rancid before long. The best way to reduce the temperature is to place the dough in a refrigerator for the final proof. The longer it proofs in the refrigerator, the more sour the dough will be. You can try fermenting in the fridge for 2 or 3 days (48-72 hours), but make sure the container or plastic wrap you are storing the dough in is airtight to prevent the dough from drying out. So let the dough rest for more time in the refrigerator, and less time on the counter. 

Less sourdough starter

The best sourdough recipe for extra sour bread is one that uses a smaller amount of sourdough starter. For example, some recipes may call for 1/4 cup, and some may call for 1 1/2 cups. Using a lower amount of initial starter will slow down the overall time of fermentation. Even though we want the fermentation to be slower, always use an active starter for proper fermentation. 

Lower hydration starter

Using starter with a lower amount of water will slow down the fermentation and encourage more acetic acid in the dough. You can easily adjust the hydration of your starter by adding less water to your mixture of flour and water when feeding it. 

Use Whole Grains

The first thing I noticed when baking with freshly milled grains was how healthy my starter became. With all purpose flour it would quickly smell rancid and had a hard time being active for very long. Once I started using whole grains, it was completely different. It was so bubbly and active, and I could feed it much less frequently without it going bad. Freshly milled whole grain flour has more nutrients, microbes, and is not rancid like the flour packages at the grocery store may be. In my opinion whole grains make the best bread, with much more flavor.  I highly suggest investing in a grain mill if you plan on baking healthy, high quality loaves of bread on a regular basis. If not, purchasing some whole grain flour is going to add a lot of flavor and nutrients to your loaf of bread. 

Grains I Recommend

I do not recommend modern varieties of wheat, but rather, those that are considered ancient grains. 

Einkorn Wheat

Einkorn wheat is an heirloom wheat that is different from modern, hybridized wheat. It is still in its original wild form. It has different ratios of proteins to carbohydrates, a different type of gluten, and even different chromosomes than modern wheat. If you compare a grain side to side with modern wheat, you will see why wheat has been changed over time. Modern wheat has a much bigger grain size – meaning less work for more reward for farmers and companies. But the negative health affects of the changes in the crop are coming to light, with many people not being able to digest it well. 

This modern form of wheat hasn’t been around long, and many of our bodies are negatively triggered upon consuming this crop. Wheat can cause autoimmune flare-ups and other health issues because it is fairly new crop to the digestive system of humans as a whole.  

Choosing to consume the ancient form of wheat means choosing a crop that our ancestors (depending on your ancestry, of course) have been eating for thousands of years. 

That being said, it is also important to properly prepare the grain. It is still a grain, which means it still has difficult to digest compounds that should be broken down before consumption. 

And even after all that, you may be someone who just doesn’t digest any grains well! Not all civilizations throughout history have relied as heavily on grains as others. A diet consisting of mainly animal foods and fruits generally leads to a healthier gut. 

Side note about working with einkorn flour: einkorn flour can be discouraging to work with because it is very sticky. The best way to work with einkorn flour dough is to always use wet hands when working with the dough. I also don’t kneed the dough on a floured work surface, I keep it in the bowl and do simple “stretch and folds” instead of kneading.  

Rye

While not as old as einkorn, the rye variety of wheat has been around for thousands of years, making it an ancient grain. Adding some rye to your loaf can help increase the sour flavor of your loaf. Rye flour is known to increase the sourness of sourdough bread. This may be due to particular types of sugars it contains that encourage the production of acetic acid. 

I also love rye flour because even though it isn’t considered a gluten free grain, gluten actually isn’t formed when combined with water, like it does with other varieties of wheat flour. Rye does however still contain a type of protein called gliadin that is one of the issues for many gluten sensitive and celiac individuals – but – most of these proteins are broken down when fermented in the process of proteolysis. With an extra sour loaf that has been fermented for a long time, I would assume most of these proteins have been broken down and are much easier on the gut. 

Why Sourdough is Healthier

Grains are difficult to digest for humans. The modern method of bread-making has been wreaking havoc on the health of many for decades now, as the use of commercial yeast became the norm and the age-old methods of fermenting dough were forgotten. 

Grains contain irritating compounds like proteins and acids that can be harmful to the gut, like phytates, lectins and gliadins for example. These compounds irritate the intestinal lining, causing a wide range of health issues. 

Sourdough is the traditional method of fermenting flour. This fermentation process “pre-digests” the grains for us, eliminating many of the harmful compounds and making the nutrients more bioavailable. 

The longer the fermentation time, the more of these compounds are broken down for us!

For this reason, I think a longer fermentation time is not only delicious, but also increases the health qualities of the bread. 

If you are someone who has health issues of any kind, I encourage you to look into your gut health and determine if gut irritation may be a root cause of your health issue. A healthy gut is important for overall health, and removing irritants may be necessary for your gut to heal. 

Once you have allowed your gut to heal, you may be able to add long-fermented ancient grain bread back into your diet!

How to Make Extra Sour Sourdough Bread: In Summary

1. Begin with a whole grain starter. You can convert any starter over the course of a few days. If using the recipe below, a whole grain einkorn starter is ideal.

2. When feeding the starter, make sure you are feeding it about a 1:1 ratio of flour to water, creating a thick starter. 

3. Use a recipe that calls for a small amount of starter. 

4. Use whole grains, preferably freshly milled. 

5. Add some rye flour to your dough. 

6. For the final proof, place it in the refrigerator for 48-72 hours. 

Extra Sour Sourdough Bread Recipe

​Step One

Add starter and water to a large nonmetallic bowl, stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Use water that is about room temperature. 

Step Two

Add einkorn flour, rye flour, and salt. Stir as well as you can, forming a clumpy thick dough. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes. 

Step 3

Wet hands and stretch and fold dough in bowl 3 times at 20 minute intervals. Add more water or flour if too wet or dry. It should be wet enough to stretch, but not so wet it is too sticky to quickly form a ball with wet hands.  

Step 4

After the 3rd stretch and fold, form into a ball with wet hands, cover bowl, and let ferment for a first rise at room temperature for 4 or 5 hours. 

Step 5

With wet hands, stretch and fold the risen dough and form into a ball. Place back into bowl, seal tightly, and place in the refrigerator to let the dough rise a second time and develop a sour flavor. 

Step 6

After 24 hours in the refrigerator, check dough every 12 hours to make sure it is not spoiling due to the temperature of your refrigerator. After 48-72 hours, it should have developed a pleasantly sour taste. 

Step 7 

Preheat a dutch oven in a 450 degree oven

​Step 8

​Carefully remove dough and place in dutch oven, then cut score bread with a sharp scoring knife or other sharp utensil. 

Step 9

Cover with dutch oven lid and bake for 40 minutes. 

Step 10

Remove loaf from dutch oven and wrap in a cotton or linen cloth to prevent an extra hard crust. Allow to rest for 45 minutes before slicing. 

Enjoy!

Extra Sour Sourdough Bread with Einkorn and Rye

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes

Equipment

  • 1 Large nonmetallic bowl
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 1 lid or plastic wrap for sealing bowl tightly
  • 1 Dutch Oven
  • 1 cotton or linen cloth for wrapping bread

Ingredients
  

  • 1/4 cup thick, refreshed einkorn starter
  • 2 cups filtered room temperature water
  • 4 1/2 cups whole grain einkorn flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole grain rye flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Instructions
 

  • Add starter and water to a large nonmetallic bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Use water that is about room temperature.
  • Add einkorn flour, rye flour, and salt. Stir as well as you can, forming a clumpy thick dough. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Wet hands and stretch and fold dough in bowl 3 times at 20 minute intervals. Add more water or flour if too wet or dry. It should be wet enough to stretch, but not so wet it is too sticky to quickly form a ball with wet hands.
  • After the 3rd stretch and fold, form into a ball with wet hands, cover bowl, and let ferment for a first rise at room temperature for 4 hours.
  • With wet hands, stretch and fold the risen dough and form into a ball. Add flour if needed. Place back into bowl, seal tightly, and place in the refrigerator to let the dough rise a second time and develop a sour flavor.
  • After 24 hours in the refrigerator, check dough every 12 hours to make sure it is not spoiling due to the temperature of your refrigerator. After 48-72 hours, it should develop a pleasantly sour smell.
  • Preheat a dutch oven in a 450 degree oven
  • ​Carefully remove dough and place in dutch oven, then cut score bread with a sharp scoring knife or other sharp utensil.
  • Cover with dutch oven lid and bake for 40 minutes.
  • Remove loaf from dutch oven and wrap in a cotton or linen cloth to prevent an extra hard crust. Allow to rest for 45 minutes before slicing.
  • Enjoy!
Keyword einkorn sourdough, rye, sourdough

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My favorite einkorn wheat berries

Whole rye grains

My grain mill

My favorite low-microplastic salt

Looking for More Ancient Grain Sourdough Recipes?

See my ancient grain einkorn sourdough bread recipe, or my sourdough flatbread recipe here on the blog. Search “sourdough” in the search box at the top of the page for more!

You can also:

Check out my einkorn sourdough bread, pizza, bagels, and cinnamon roll tutorials on Youtube!

*This post does not contain medical advice.

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