Unlocking The Secrets Of Sourdough: Ratios And Science

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Sourdough with its tangy taste has been a staple in baking traditions for centuries. At its core lies a simple ingredients: flour, water. But what exactly are the ratios of sourdough that make sourdough, well sourdough? And what scientific marvels govern its creation?

Sourdough bread, an age-old tradition, experienced a resurgence in popularity after the tumultuous year of 2020. It became a symbol of comfort and creativity during challenging times. The beauty of sourdough lies in its simplicity, as it requires just flour and water. This introduction sets the stage for the discussion of sourdough bread and its recent resurgence.
Sourdough bread, an age-old tradition, experienced a resurgence in popularity after the tumultuous year of 2020. It became a symbol of comfort and creativity during challenging times. The beauty of sourdough lies in its simplicity, as it requires just flour and water. This introduction sets the stage for the discussion of sourdough bread and its recent resurgence.

The Fundamentals: Sourdough Ratios

Sourdough baking is an art, but it’s also a science. The ratios of flour and water play pivotal roles in determining the final outcome of your loaf.

  • Flour: The foundation of sourdough, flour provides the structure and food for the yeast and bacteria. Different types of flour (like all-purpose, whole wheat, rye, einkorn) influence flavor, texture, and fermentation.
  • Water: Balancing hydration levels is crucial. Water hydrates the flour, making it easier for enzymes to break down starches into simpler sugars, aiding fermentation.
Sourdough Starter
Sourdough Starter

My Sourdough Starter Equipment:

The Science Behind Sourdough

Wild Yeast and Bacteria: Sourdough relies on wild yeast (like Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and lactobacilli bacteria naturally present in the flour or the environment. These microorganisms coexist in the starter, fermenting the sugars in the flour, producing carbon dioxide gas (which leavens the dough) and organic acids (which contribute to the sour taste).

Fermentation: During fermentation, enzymes break down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars, providing food for yeast and bacteria. This process also develops gluten, the protein network responsible for the bread’s structure.

Acidic Environment: Lactic and acetic acids produced during fermentation lower the dough’s pH, creating an acidic environment. This acidity not only contributes to the unique flavor but also helps control harmful bacteria, aiding in preservation.

Hydration and Gluten Development: Proper hydration encourages gluten formation. Gluten strands provide elasticity and strength to the dough, trapping the gas produced by fermentation, resulting in a well-risen, airy loaf.

Time and Temperature: These factors significantly influence fermentation. Warmer temperatures speed up fermentation but can also potentially exhaust the yeast, while cooler temperatures slow it down. Longer fermentation times allow for more flavor development.

Carly Anne Schmitt-Sourdough bread

What Are The Feeding Ratios For My Sourdough Starter?

While understanding the ratios and science is essential, experience and intuition play a significant role in sourdough baking. Experimenting with different ratios, flours, fermentation times, and temperatures will help you craft your perfect loaf.

1:1:1 Ratio: This is equal parts of flour, water, and starter by weight (grams). For example, if you have 100 grams of a starter, you would feed it with 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of purified water. This feed will make a quick rise within 10-12 hours, and ready for baking.

1:2:2 Ratio: Again this is using starter, flour, and water but the difference is you are using 2x the amount of flour and water based on the weight of your starter. For example. If you have 100grams of starter, you would use 200 grams of flour and water. This feed is much slower to ferment and bubble and could take up to 24 hours before ready to feed. Again, always watch your starter for signs of rising or ready to be fed again. These signals from your starter will always be the sign of when to bake.

One key item to remember is you can always increase the ratios. However, the more you raise in the water and flour, the longer the fermentation process takes.

Einkorn Sourdough Bread
Embark on einkorn flour baking with this simple sourdough recipe. Explore step-by-step guidance for a delightful, homemade loaf.

What are the feeding ratios for Einkorn Bread?

For einkorn flour it is a much heftier flour and needs less water than normal modern flour (think your regular unbleached flour). Here is the feeding ratio I use. 1 part starter, .5 part water, 1 part flour. For einkorn I like to measure in cups verses by weight. So I measure out half of my starter into a new clean jar. I then will put in 1/4 cup of water, and then 1/2 cup of einkorn flour, stir and let ferment. This process of creating an einkorn starter takes longer than modern flour because of the weight of the flour. It takes longer for the wild yeast to be able to “lift the flour”, or help it support a shape and rise in the oven.

Check out my recipe here!

How Often Should I Feed My Starter?


I feed my starter daily just because I like to make a lot of bread, but you can adjust this based on the below suggestions:

  • Daily Feeding: If you keep your starter at room temperature (roughly 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit) and need it ready for baking in a day or two, feed it fresh flour and water every 24 hours.
  • Twice-Daily Feeding: In warmer conditions (ie. think summertime!) or for faster fermentation, feed your starter every 12 hours to keep it more active.
  • Longer in between feeds: If you don’t bake often or want to slow fermentation, store your starter in the fridge. Feed it weekly or even bi-weekly after allowing it to ferment at room temperature for a few hours or even a couple of days before baking.

How Do I Know When My Sourdough is Ready For Baking?

The best way to understand your sourdough is to watch and learn your starter’s behavior to decide on the feeding frequency. Below are signs of when your starter is ready to make bread:

  • It has doubled in size since the last feeding (mark on your jar with either a dry erase maker or rubber band to help make that determination, immediately after feeding it.).
  • It has many bubbles on the top and throughout the starter.
  • It appears slightly sticky and airy, almost mousse consistency.
  • It smells pleasantly sour, like a beer smell.

Sourdough baking at first always seemed too me like a lot of math and confusion, but it truly isn’t as hard as it all seems. Its really simple and consistent. If you adjust one area (starter), it will always impact the other two areas (water/flour). Give it time and practice, and soon you will be baking sourdough bread with ease!

Check out these recipes to get you started!

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