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My starter is active and mature, but sometimes I don't have time to check and feed it at its optimal activity for my preferred sour (very slight). This means by the time I get to feeding it, it's getting too sour.

I don't like to discard (ie 'remove'). And I would like to bake bread every day, so it doesn't make sense to make something else while not being able to bake bread.

Should I use baking soda or another base to offset the lactic acid? (Is there a better way? Are there any caveats?)

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    you could add fruit to the bread, so the sugar balances out the sour ... might give better results than a base, but I don't know for sure. – Joe Jul 19 '14 at 1:03
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Just remove 1/2 to 3/4 of the starter and feed the remaining starter as usual. The process of feeding should reduce the sour and normalize the ph level.

You don't need a lot of starter to keep it going. Sometimes I'll just keep a tablespoon and feed it 2 oz. water and 2 oz. of flour (100% hydration). If I know I won't tend to it for a while (e.g. 3 to 4 weeks), then I'll make the starter a bit stiffer by adding a bit more flour.

As far as what to do with the excess, if your not going to toss it... I vote pancakes or English muffins. These are usually served with something that'll mask or lessen the sour taste (butter,syrup,jam).

Where do you keep your starter between baking?

  • I know I could just feed to reduce the sour but I have a specific loaf I wish to make (400g flour) and I don't wish to discard from the starter ('remove'). I only want to make bread, and I wish to use all the starter to make it. – ccsdg Jul 19 '14 at 1:28
  • Oh, and I keep my starter on the counter, or in my rice cooker on the fermentation setting. My starter is pate fermentee "old dough" and I cut off usually <1g of it, a relatively small inoculation in the first levain build (50g flour). – ccsdg Jul 19 '14 at 1:35
  • I don't have experience with using baking soda in my sourdough, though I've seen recommendations of its use to reduce "sourness". Other recommendations include a shorter rise time. Have you thought about slowing down your starter by putting it in a cold/colder place (e.g. refrigerator)? – Michael E. Jul 19 '14 at 17:57
  • Thanks. I have in the past but I've discovered that generally refrigeration doesn't fit in with my bread making schedule (which is nearly every day). Shorter rise time as in higher temperature? or less proofing? – ccsdg Jul 23 '14 at 4:06
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Baking soda can be added to bread that uses a starter in order to get a faster rise, and it will slightly offset the sourness. Usually this is done by mixing a fairly wet sponge with the starter, water, and flour, then adding the soda and salt to the final flour and mixing it in. The soda will begin to react pretty quickly, frequently allowing you to bake the bread sooner.

This method can also be used to make things like sourdough quickbreads (pancakes, muffins, etc). You would make the sponge and then add the eggs and other liquid to that, then mix that into the dry ingredients (including soda). The batter can then be used to make quickbreads with a more complex flavor than chemical leavening alone would allow.

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I added baking soda to the final rise of my slightly-overmatured-starter baguettes today. The flavour was fine, not sure if that's because the starter wasn't that sour or because of the baking soda. It didn't seem to have many adverse effects on the flavour anyway, so I would encourage anyone considering this method to try it.

One thing:

Adding during the final rise meant I couldn't mix the baking soda in without kneading, so I just rubbed it over the dough and then did a stretch and fold. To my surprise this resulted in a marbled dark brown and white baguette, in the crumb as well as the crust! I attribute it to the raised pH causing a more intense Maillard reaction in some areas. In future unless I want marbled baguettes I'll add the baking soda dissolved in water during a dough build.

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