Improve Your Techniques

Improve your sourdough baking techniques with Sourdough Savvy. Discover how to enhance the flavor, texture, and health benefits of your sourdough bread through our comprehensive guides and tips.


11/12/20202 min read

Improve Your Sourdough Techniques

1. Refining Your Starter Feeding Regime:

Feed your starter with equal parts of water and flour by weight, not volume. Whole grain flours provide more nutrients for the wild yeast and bacteria, leading to a healthier, more active starter. Ensure that your starter is at its peak activity before using it to bake bread. Peak activity is when the starter has doubled in volume, is bubbly, and passes the "float test"—a small spoonful of starter floats in water.

2. Optimizing the Autolyse Phase:

During the autolyse phase, extend the rest period up to 2 hours, especially for whole grain loaves, as it can lead to better hydration, softer crumb, and improved flavor. This phase allows enzymes in the flour to break down the starches into simple sugars, which are easier for the yeast to consume, and the proteins into simpler units, which later form gluten.

3. The Art of Stretch and Fold:

Performing 4-6 stretch and fold sets at 30-minute intervals during the first 2-3 hours of bulk fermentation can significantly improve your dough's structure. This process helps align the gluten strands, trap more gases produced by the yeast, and create a more open crumb. However, be gentle, especially with the last set of folds, to preserve the gas bubbles that have formed.

4. Understanding Bulk Fermentation:

Bulk fermentation is where the flavor and structure of your bread develop. It's important to let the dough rise until it has roughly doubled in size, appears domed, and bubbles can be seen just below the surface. A well-fermented dough will also be slightly sticky but should pull away from the sides of the container when stretched. Ambient temperature affects this stage significantly—warmer temperatures speed up fermentation while cooler ones slow it down.

5. Cold Proofing Advantages:

Cold proofing (retarding) in the refrigerator slows down yeast activity but allows bacterial activity to continue, developing more complex flavors. It also makes the dough easier to handle and score. You can adjust the proofing time from 12 up to 48 hours according to your schedule and flavor preference.

6. Scoring Techniques:

Scoring controls where the bread will expand during baking, preventing it from bursting at weak spots. Experiment with the depth and angle of your scoring. A cut about 1/2-inch deep at a 45-degree angle is generally ideal. For decorative scoring, use a lame with a sharp blade and work quickly and confidently.

7. Creating Steam in Home Ovens:

To replicate the steam-injected ovens found in bakeries, use a Dutch oven or a combo cooker to trap steam during the initial phase of baking. If these aren't available, place a metal pan on the bottom rack of your oven and pour boiling water into it right after putting your bread in. The steam helps keep the crust soft for a longer oven spring and gives it a glossy finish.

Remember, each of these techniques requires practice and patience, but they can significantly improve your sourdough baking results. Happy baking!