Water, Oils and other Fats
We all know water is a vital ingredient in bread making. There are a number of other liquids which you can add to sourdough to make it softer, or change the crust or crumb texture. These can include things like:
Tap water will vary greatly dependent on where you live.
Water that’s high in chlorine or chloramine (disinfectants used by some cities to clean tap water) can impede fermentation.
We suggest using tap water that has been left lightly covered overnight to allow any chlorine to dissipate. If your water contains chloramine this won’t be effective and you’ll have to look into reverse osmosis filters or other carbon filters.
Tap water should be totally fine in most cases for bread recipes.
If using for starters, once you have and strong established starter you could try a portion of it using tap water.
Some people live in areas where the water has lots on additives which are not conducive to creating a healthy Sourdough Starter. If you are having issues with your Starter dying, it may be worth trying bottled or filtered water.
Bottled still water is great, but can become costly over time. We have not tried sparkling water, perhaps if you try it you can let us know how it goes.
Distilled water is water that has been boiled into vapor and condensed back into liquid in a separate container. Impurities in the original water that do not boil below or near the boiling point of water remain in the original container. Thus, distilled water is one type of purified water.
It’s worth considering that distilled water has no minerals in it, and the minerals in spring water and drinking water can really help when creating a starter.
Oils and Other Fats
Fats work as tenderizers in breads by coating some of the proteins that form gluten, preventing them from hydrating and linking up to form large networks that would lead to toughness.
This dairy product made from separating whole milk or cream into fat and buttermilk is often used in brioches and other enriched doughs.
Adding butter (unsalted) in small quantities to bread results in a higher rise, a crisper crust, and a longer shelf life. When fat is added in large quantities, such as for brioche, it results in a softer texture and less volume.
Use unsalted butter
Eggs added to dough help with rising and enrich the dough.
A bread dough rich with egg will rise very high, because eggs are a leavening agent (think genoise or angel food cake). As well, the fats from the yolk help to tenderize the crumb and lighten the texture a bit. Eggs also contain the emulsifier lecithin.
Adding Olive oil (or vegetable oil) in small quantities to bread results in a higher rise, a crisper crust, and a longer shelf life.
Often added to pizza dough.
Buttermilk brings a pleasant tang breads whilst adding very little fat. Like yogurt and sour cream, this acidic ingredient also helps tenderize gluten, giving baked goods a softer texture and more body. Plus, it helps quick-breads rise.
Yogurt can be added to tenderize dough and to add flavor. The most common bacteria in probiotic yogurt brands is Lactobacillus acidophilus, which produces the same tangy flavors as the lactobacillus varieties in sourdough culture.
Yogurt, because of its acidity, will relax the gluten, thus, making the bread more tender. It’s a common trick to use if you want bread more tender, without changing the taste or whatever and without using fat (like oil, butter, etc).