We have had a few customers mention recently that our sourdough isn’t very sour compared to some other bakeries, or that they feel our bread was more sour in the past.
There are several reasons for this so we thought we’d share a little more information about sourdough and it’s relative levels of sourness to clear up any misconceptions.
Firstly, sourdough starter culture is what defines whether a bread should (or shouldn’t) be called a sourdough. The lack of bakers or commercial yeast in the recipe and the 100% reliance on the ‘raising power’ of a starter culture (a fermented mix of flour, water and good bacteria) which necessitates a long proving time, is the essential aspect of sourdough.
The level of sourness, or ‘tangy-ness’ in the final product is variable, and not essential. Sourness levels also change according to the season – in summer when everything ferments a lot more readily, our bread is slightly more sour. In winter when cultures are less lively, our bread is slightly less sour.
Finally, the level of sourness in a genuine sourdough bread is also affected by the starter culture used to make it, and every culture is unique. As they ferment, newly created starter cultures absorb the wild yeast in the air around, and every city – every suburb! – has different wild yeast in the air, which creates a different combination of bacteria in the culture. All of this results in a slightly different flavour profile of the final bread product.
The most famous sourdough in Western bread-making culture is the San Francisco sourdough, which is very tangy. This is a reflection of the strains of bacteria which flourish in the cultures in that region, but it doesn’t mean that all over the world, all sourdough should taste the same…
Either way, when you find a sourdough you love, don’t worry about whether it ‘should’ be more or less sour – just eat it, enjoy it, relish the health benefits and stick with your favourite!