The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Sweet starter process and interview

GaryBishop's picture

Sweet starter process and interview

rondayvous's picture

I thought acid was needed for both yeast activity and gluten development. This process, while successful, doesn't jive with my own experience with acidity and dough/yeast development. It makes me wonder what the PH of his final dough might be, and if it is below 5 how it got there.

fredsbread's picture

Acid is definitely not required for gluten development; otherwise, it wouldn't be possible to develop gluten with a straight dough method and commercial yeast. There's also no acid requirement for CY to leaven.

I understand that a certain level of acidification is necessary for natural yeasts to activate when building a starter, but once you have an active starter I see no reason why the yeasts couldn't work just as well as commercial yeast.

The pH of the dough at the end of fermentation could be lowered by carbonic acid (dissolved CO2 produced by the yeast), which would bake off without leaving a sour taste.

rondayvous's picture

I understand it works, I've made plenty of cinnamon buns and Makowiec. I just don't understand how/why it works and what role acidity plays in sweet bread, if any. I found the links fascinating and may incorporate the ideas into some experiments I have been toying with.

I know if I flip a light switch the lights go on, but sometimes I like to know why.

GaryBishop's picture

Benni does a stiff sweet leven. 

He might have some ideas. Bread is amazing.

foodforthought's picture

…interview our resident expert, Benito…

mwilson's picture

Great stuff and a good read. Thanks for Sharing it Gary.

On a personal level it's refreshing to read many points made by Ian that corroborate many ideas I've shared here on TFL. A real hand on heart moment.


bottleny's picture

Trying to look for the science behind the sweet starter process and found this article.
It does not discuss adding sugar part, but it's good read for understanding the process of sourdough starters.

A review of sourdough starters: ecology, practices, and sensory quality with applications for baking and recommendations for future research

Benito's picture

Interesting read.  I use a stiff sweet levain quite often in my baking when I want a bread that isn’t tangy acidic in particular, enriched doughs like my milk breads.  I don’t do anything special with my starter, but timing its weekly feed for a day or two before building the levain does ensure that it is able to ferment well in the new low hydration and high osmotic pressure environment of the stiff sweet levain.  I also do overnight builds of my levains in almost all cases stiff sweet or not.  In the case of my stiff sweet levains I usually see a rise of 3-3.5 x with overnight temperatures of 76-78°F in 10-12 hours.  A typical build of a stiff sweet levain using white granulated sugar is bread flour 100%, water 45%, sugar 31% and starter 40%.  If I’m making a largely whole grain loaf I will use brown sugar and usually 34% in the stiff sweet levain build.  When I am baking a 100% whole grain bread I will use a 100% whole grain flour to create the stiff sweet levain, it will still make bread that isn’t tangy and sour.  When the dough is very enriched I will use up to 20% prefermented flour which is more than what Ian uses, but I find that helpful especially when making brioche where the conditions are particularly challenging.

My understanding is that LAB have higher minimum water requirements, and the sugar pulls water away. Yeast are just better at dealing with having less water. As you know sugar is hygroscopic so adding it to your levains or dough will challenge the microbes.  However, the sugar just applies more negative pressure on the LAB than the yeasts because they are more sensitive to the lack of water. If you are baking an enriched dough, using a sweet stiff levain should help leavening it.  This information I learned from Debra Wink our resident microbiologist.