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Some quick tips on slowing your sourdough down as the weather warms up

Sourdough can get a bit over excited as the weather warms up.  Slow it down using Vanessa's tips and techniques below. Sourdough can get a bit over excited as the weather warms up. Slow it down using Vanessa's tips and techniques below.

As the weather gets warmer your sourdough might need tweaking - after all your sourdough is alive. 

Sourdough reacts to its environment, which on the one hand is wonderful because we can control how it behaves, and dreadful on the other, because sometimes there can be several factors affecting your dough all at the same time and deciding which factor to change can be a nightmare.

It’s easy to get into a routine with making your bread and for many bakers following a formula works, but when you are at home a single loaf reacts much faster to changes in ambient temperature than 100kg in a commercial bakery does. It’s simple a matter of physics because a domestic loaf is much smaller in volume and so the reaction of a home baked sourdough to ambient temperature is exaggerated for the domestic baker.

If your sourdough is over-proving because of the warmer days don’t panic and certainly do NOT change everything all at once, because you won’t know which change worked.  Try one thing at a time. Secondly if you are proving your sourdough in the fridge overnight it maybe that you just need to check your fridge internal temperature with a thermometer as the weather warms up some domestic fridges can change in temperature by a couple of degrees, although this is less likely to be an issue.

So what can  you do to slow your bread down?  

The first and perhaps the most obvious choice is the temperature of your water.  The colder your water the slower your sourdough.  A superb baker once told me that in the high heat of summer he uses ice to cool the water down to a very low temperature.  It works, but it’s quite drastic if it’s just a mild spring day, so I’d advise dropping your temperature by 3 or 4 degrees in the spring and then scaling it down from there depending on how your dough behaves as the summer progresses. Water temperature is not the only way to slow things down.  Try using less starter.  It’s obvious when you think about it, but less starter will naturally mean that the ratio of flour and water to starter is higher and this will also slow things down.

Another alternative is to increase the amount of wholemeal flour in your mix.  Sourdough loves to munch its way through refined white flour and the dough proves much more quickly as it’s easier for it to digest.  Wholegrain wheat or rye flour slows them down a little.

A more subtle way to get your sourdough to slow down is to add your salt into the water when you first mix your ingredients. Salt naturally retards sourdough so this has the same effect of slowing the prove down.

If you don’t want to use your fridge to prove in overnight you can also use a dedicated proofer to control how fast your sourdough proves such as this The Brød & Taylor Folding Proofer makes controlling your sourdough prove easier than ever with an optimum proofing environment and easy storage - it folds down to a very small size.

I love that you can set the temperature lower for a longer “cool rise” or turn up the heat to give your yeast a boost on a cold winter's day especially as my kitchen doesn’t have any heating  and the temperature of the proofer can be set from 21-49°C / 70-120°F.

A final word of advice.  Use a notebook and make a note of how your bread changed.  It is really one of the most useful things you can do and I find in invaluable to refer back to specifics when I am not in the mood to experiment!


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