Baking with an ignored sourdough starter

There are theories that making bread was an afterthought to making beer.
(Well, not beer as we know it now, but still.)


I spent 2 years working for a guy who was a commercial bread baker for 25 years and a pizzaiolo for 40. He was firmly in the camp that better flavor, better crumb stucture, and more consistent results come with long slow raises.

Everything he made was raised in the fridge. Much of it was proofed there. Lightee airyer and softer breads and Sicilian pizza were proofed at room temp.

Might be worth playing with that if anyone’s having issues with weird hole structure.

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I have heard of refrigerated/retarded ferments used to help bump the sour flavor, or help you time your bake better, but I have not heard them recommended for a better crumb.

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Supposedly the slower co2 production leads smaller and better dissolved co2 bubbles. And flour will produce gluten in contact with water with time, same effect a lot of no kneed recipes rely on. So the longer sit means better gluten production, and the dough better holds the leavening as it expands so you get more consistent crumb. Seem to remember he said that how tight that crumb was was set by the proofing temp, shaping and how it was baked. So the same 24 hour raised dough if un proofed produced the thin pizza. If shaped into a ball and proofed at room temp produced a light soft Italian bread with airyer, varied bubbles. And if proofed at room temp in a Sicilian pan produced a fine but lofty and consistent crumb. And if you take the same dough in the same pan but proof in the fridge. You get a denser loaf, with the same even structure for focaccia.

Same volume of dough in the same oven at the same temp. It was pretty amazing to see.

In terms of the funk how do you make it less sour? I’m not a huge fan of the aggressive tang in a lot of American and west coast sour dough. But I like the depth of flavor in a lot of European and other styles of supposed sour dough. And I dunno if that’s a process thing, like maybe those are all made with sponge built on commercial yeast. Or a handling thing.


In my experience:

  • use starter earlier after feeding, before it’s fully expanded
  • use a lower ratio of starter in the dough (with longer or warmer proof to compensate)
  • shorten the proofing time (and raise the proofing temperature to compensate)

All these things seem to give less of a sharp sour flavor (but still with good complexity). But of course as you note, they can each affect the final product in other ways…


I’d always heard that Frontier starter was carried in the armpit to keep it warm. I guess that would be in Minnesota in the Winter, or course, rather than a Texas Summer.

My experience has been the same: the longer the proofing period (the first "rise), the more flavorful is the bread.

I read a book about cowboy cooking – chuck wagons and all that – and while it didn’t mention armpits, “cookie” would sleep with his jar of starter.

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Being fortunate enough to live in the SF Bay Area, I suppose we have the “true” wild yeasts in the air. Have made a starter two years running by just leaving wet flour in a jar on the counter with a paper coffee filter rubberbanded over the mouth to keep out critters. Feed when we remember, and never discard any of it – just give it a mix and use about half for our weekly pizza. Occasionally plop it in a new jar to clean the old one.

Never a problem, always delicious.


I went of a scout camp back in the 80s, where the scouters had to sleep with the cooking gas in their sleeping bags so it would be warm enough to get a brew on in the morning. :smiley:

Jason’s sourdough posts inspired me to take advantage of our Bay Area air and make a starter. (Hopefully my family doesn’t throw it away while I’m at work.)


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