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:

  • Oils
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Buttermilk
  • Butter
  • Yogurt

Water

Tap Water

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.

BAKERS TIP

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 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

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.

Butter

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.

BAKERS TIP

Use unsalted butter

Eggs

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.

Olive Oil

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

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

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).

Disclaimer: Whilst we hope the information provided is helpful and informative, we cannot guarantee that all details will be 100% accurate.  There are many schools of thought and conflicting ideas on many of the sourdough processes and methods.  This site is simply meant as a broad guide to baking sourdough, and is not a scientific reference.

Also, please forgive the mixed US and UK spellings throughout. We have a team from various countries working on this site.This site may contain affiliate links. 

Contribute to the site.

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Made with Sourdough ❤

Lame

noun

A special sharp knife, or tool which holds a razor blade, in a curved or straight manner. You use it to score the dough before baking.

Dutch Oven

A Dutch Oven is generally understood to be a covered earthenware or cast-iron container for cooking casseroles. They are ideal for bread as they can accommodate bread dough and be covered to help generate the steamy environment requiredto encourage the dough to rise. Enamel roasters with a lid, covered pyrex dishes, or even a flat tray with a bowl over the top of the dough, are equally effective.

Bakers’ Percentages

Sometimes called baker’s math, this is a method to express the different ingredients as a percentage of the total amount of flour. It makes scaling a recipe or building a recipe very easy once you know the total weight of the flour, and also allows you to know the ‘hydration’ of your dough.

Example: If you build your dough with 1000 gram flour, 670-grams water, 20-gram salt, and 8-gram yeast. According to bakers percentages, that will be 100% flour (the amount of flour is always 100%), 67% water, 2% salt, and 0.8% yeast.
You divide the amount of the different ingredients with the amount of flour.

Banneton / Brotform / Proofing Basket

A type of basket or container used to provide structure for shaped loaves of bread during proofing. Banneton baskets are also known as ‘Brotform’ or ‘proofing baskets’. It is normally used for doughs that are too soft or wet to maintain their shape while rising. They come in a range of sizes and shapes. Look for ones that fit the size of loaves you want to bake.

They are often made of natural rattan, or wood fiber. You can also use any container lined with a well-floured tea towel.

Oven Spring

The final burst of expansion of dough upon being introduced to a hot oven and where the yeast activity is increased during the first few minutes. At approximately 60C/140ºF degrees the yeast is killed off, but up until that point, dough can expand in the oven in the first phase of baking if it’s not over-fermented and still has dough strength. Many factors can impact oven spring including the length of fermentation, gluten development, and the hydration of the dough.

Stretch-and-Folds

An alternative to traditional kneading used to develop gluten. The process is performed periodically in the bowl throughout the bulk fermentation. Take a side of the dough and gently stretch it up and over, to fold it upon itself, rotate the dough 90º, and repeat, then turn the bowl 45º and the same stretch and fold. Once all four corners of the dough have been stretched and folded, gluten development and a smooth, elastic dough are underway. Also, see ‘Folding’ and ‘Coil Folds’.

Bulk Ferment

Most loaves have two fermenting cycles. One before and one after the loaves are formed. Bulk fermentation is the first cycle, with a long fermentation period of the dough after the initial mixing of flour, water, starter, and salt and often comes during and after a period of kneading or ‘stretch and folds’.During this stage we are aiming to create dough strength, structure and flavor. The dough should feel alive, strong, airy, spongy and the surface shouldn’t feel sticky.

The bulk fermentation generally takes place at room temperature, unless otherwise noted in the recipe and is a longer period of time (4 -12 hours) than the final proofing period. This step may be referred to as the first prove or first rising. Acetic acid, an organic acid is produced by bacteria in the sourdough culture during the fermentation process. The presence of acetic acid helps to gives sourdough its characteristic acidic tang. The warmer the environment, the faster the development of the dough will be

Window Pane

The window pane test is one of the best ways to tell if you’ve sufficiently stretched and folded your bread dough. Pull a small piece of the dough and using both hands and your fingers stretch the dough very thin if it holds its shape without tearing the gluten is well-developed and your dough is ready to be pre-shaped, shaped and rest for it’s final prove.

Starter / Starter Culture / Sourdough Starter

A mixture of flour and water used to leaven bread that contains bacteria, yeast, and organic acids. Made either by inoculating with an established colony of bacteria or by capturing wild bacteria and yeasts over a longer period. Sometimes also called Leaven / Levain.

Autolyse

verb

Autolyse (pronounced auto-lees) is a process in which a portion of (or total) water and flour in a bread recipe are gently pre-blended and set to rest for a period of time.

This resting period gives the dough special processing characteristics and improves the overall quality of the baked goods.

During autolyse process, several events can occur in the pre-mixed water/flour mixture:

  1. Continued flour hydration. Water molecules work their way into damaged starch, intact starch granules and proteins.
  2. Protein bonds continue to develop as a consequence of adding water, creating more gluten strands without mechanical work. This leads to better gluten structure and gas retention.
  3. Flour enzymes (mainly proteases) acquire time to adapt and work on the gluten by breaking down protein bonds.Protease activity is higher at low pH (acidic conditions). This is why autolysed doughs that contain yeast or pre-ferments (e.g. poolish) often experience greater protease activity. Such doughs are more extensible, weaker, softer and show less resistance to deformation than autolyzed non-fermented doughs.2
  4. Finally, as a result, the dough feels less sticky and very smooth after the autolyse.

As a general rule, the longer the autolyse time:

  • The shorter the dough mixing time (less mechanical development of gluten-forming proteins in needed). This means less energy consumption during mixing.
  • The shorter the dough stability duration
  • The less tolerance to overmixing. Breakdown is more pronounced once peak (maximum strength) is attained.
  • The smaller the P value in the alveograph test
  • The more extensible and less elastic the dough becomes at the end of autolysis
  • The better the sheetability and machining of dough during lamination of croissants
  • The easier and faster the dough expands during oven spring (better volume)
  • The lower the need for dough conditioners
  • The better the flavor and aroma of the finished product
Leaven/Levain/Sourdough Starter
noun
  1. A substance, in this case a wild yeast starter, that is used in sourdough baking to make dough rise.
  2. Some methods of baking, such as ‘Tartine Method’ require a sourdough leavening agent be made from a sourdough ‘mother culture’ (aka your Starter). This technique is often employed to boost the yeast activity of the sourdough starter by feeding a small amount of starter a larger quantity of flour and water. For instance, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sourdough starter, a leaven can be prepared 8-12 hours before the dough will be mixed by combining 1 Tablespoon of sourdough starter with ½ cup flour and a scant ½ cup of water. This leaven can then be used as the sourdough starter and will be quite active come baking time.
verb
  1. cause (dough or bread) to rise by adding leaven.