When you make sourdough bread, you usually want more sourdough if you are using a flour with a low percentage of gluten ( minor strength ) and less sourdough if your flour has a good strength .

Now there is a clear connection between the acidity of the sourdough and the gluten ( or protein ) in order to achieve the perfect balance: what is the actual link ?

2 Answers 2


The link you are looking for is the balance between structure provided by gluten and structure provided by starch. When there is a lower percentage of gluten, starch has to remain intact to give the bread structure. So, when using a lower gluten flour to make bread you use more sourdough starter so that you can develop a higher level of acidity. This acidity reduces activity of the enzyme alpha amylase and leaves more of the starch intact. Not developing significant acidity quickly enough will lead to a gummy dough that will collapse during baking.

  • ok, the starch gives some structural strength , but what makes the softness ? Commented May 5, 2014 at 4:04
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    Your original question doesn't mention softness. Is there a specific recipe that you are referring to? There are many possible bread ingredients that can contribute to softness. Commented May 6, 2014 at 4:00
  • indeed, but since the answer to my question is supposed to take this "perfect balance" into account the last main player that I'm missing is this property of the final bread/pizza, at least for now. I'm trying to prepare some sourdough first, using bacteria only, the "biological way", I'm making this with just water, flour and some fructose or saccharide . I'm planning to add salt, more flour, more water and some oil to the final mix for the final product ( maybe some starch if the flour is too weak, to try to give some strength ). Commented May 6, 2014 at 4:07
  • Can you give an objective definition of "perfect balance"? Sourdough is not made with bacteria alone, it is a dough containing a Lactobacillus bacteria culture in symbiotic combination with yeasts. Neither fructose nor saccharide are necessary to start a sourdough culture. Commented May 6, 2014 at 4:20
  • I didn't use any yeast, just a bit of sugar to start the reaction, at least that's what the recipe said, and it's coming up good, it is acid, with porous and is really compact and elastic, I think I will let this Sourdough going for another 3-4 days, It will be a 10 days total since I started with water and flour. I would like it to not be gummy or spongy, no tiny porous and a really compact texture like a cake, or some industrial bread, more like a nice pizza. Commented May 6, 2014 at 4:33

According to Explaining Gluten (PDF):

The ideal pH for gluten development is 5-6. Above and below pH 5-6 reduces gluten strength producing more extensible (easier to stretch) dough. Adding baking soda raises pH producing more cookie spread, and more porous, tender crumb.

  • I'm guessing that this is a Neutralization ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutralization_%28chemistry%29 ) and the porous are made as a result of this reaction ? I don't understand that " Above and below pH 5-6 " how something can be "above and below" ? Commented May 4, 2014 at 21:51
  • I don't believe it is a neutralization reaction. Some of the other sources I looked at in researching this (sorry, I didn't keep the links, but googling "ph effect on gluten" and reading everything will eventually get you there...) hint that alpha-amylose is more receptive to bonding in this pH range. As to more spongy at higher pHs, remember that there are more than one reaction happening, and CO2 production increases as well at different pHs. This exhausts my insight on the subject; for more you will need someone who knows biochemistry better than me (which is not much).
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 22:04
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    I really don't get what range you are taking into account because I don't get the meaning of "Above and below pH 5-6" . The PH is below a certain level or above it, can't be both. Commented May 4, 2014 at 22:27
  • There is no neutralization taking place here, at least not in the conventional sense of throwing soda and vinegar together. Gluten is a very complicated zwitterion with different behavior at different levels of acidity. And "above and below the pH of 5-6" doesn't mean that the same loaf of bread falls in these ranges at once. It means that this will happen if your bread is either above or below it.
    – rumtscho
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 19:54

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