Sweet and Sour Sourdough

Cranberry Walnut Sourdough

It’s that time of year when lots of folks around the world are baking. We are heading into spring in this hemisphere and on the other side of the world they are heading into fall. Often in the summer many people give up baking for a while, so during summer half the world isn’t as interested in baking as when it’s cold (although we still have to eat!). It is more fun to fire up your oven when it’s cool. It makes the house seem “homey” and inviting.

Which gets me to the matter I wanted to talk about in this post, “sweet” and “sour” sourdough. Many bakers are still after the elusive, “How do I get my sourdough more sour?” Or they want to know, “How do I keep my bread from being too sour?” Some people like a sour bread, others don’t. I have experimented for years with the sour in sourdough. I was strongly informed that it was the low hydration dough kept cold that causes acetic acid to build up in dough. I read that a wet starter will make a dough more acidic, but with more of a lactic acidity. It’s practically gospel that a low hydration dough, kept cold, will give you a sour bread.
Well you know what? IT DOESN”T. It just doesn’t work that way. I’ve tried it over and over and over. A cold fermented dough gives you a great sweet tasting loaf of bread. Let’s just admit it and quit with the “cold, low hydration makes a sour loaf advice.”


To get a great tasting “sour” bread, this is what I’ve found that works:

  • Warmer starter temperatures
  • Warmer dough temperatures
  • Dough with whole grains added
  • Starters with whole grains added

The opposite is true for making a “sweet” or “non sour” sourdough bread:

  • Cooler starter temperatures
  • Cooler dough temperatures
  • Starters without or with less whole grains or kept cooler
  • Less whole grains in the dough and if you want to use whole grains and not have sour bread, then keep your dough on the cooler side of things.

You can play around with hydration and how long to ferment as they also affect the flavor of the finished loaf but I find that temperature and grain type seem to matter the most. Of course many people will now take the warmer temperatures to extreme and overheat their dough to a gooey hot mess. Don’t do that. Experiment by starting at room temperatures 70-72F/21-22C and work your way up.

In my #9 course, which features extreme fermentation breads, I showcase “sweet” breads and “sour” breads and show the method to make each type.
Okay, now that I’m done with that rant, I would be happy to hear your feedback. Please comment below.


March is my birthday month. Each week in March I will discount a few of my online baking courses.  This week course #2,#3 and #4 are on sale for only $10.00 each. I will add more next week (come back and check):

Course #2: Bake Artisan Sourdough Bread Like a Professional

Course #3 Bake Classic Sourdough Bread Like a Professional

Course #4 Old Fashioned Sourdough Baking

Edited to add:

Course #5 Bake the Best Bagels

Course #6 Learn to Bake Magnificent Challah

Course #7 Make the Best Pizza Crust!

Happy “Sour” dough baking! Teresa

The photos in this post are taken from course #10, which I am working on right now.


Teresa L Greenway - Sourdough bread baker, author, teacher, entrepreneur. Join my baking classes at: https://tinyurl.com/nbe3ejd

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