Does your starter smell like nail polish remover or battery acid?
Is your bread turning out flatter than usual when you bake it?
Or is the dough turning into a pile of sloppy goop?
We’ve all been there. Baking sourdough in the middle of summer, with a high ambient temperature around the clock, can be a completely different ball game than baking in the fall and winter. But with a few helpful tips, you’ll be back on track with springy, beautiful loaves.
Sarah and I just moved down to Las Vegas where she’ll be starting law school in the fall, and suddenly we’re experiencing high temps between 110-120 degrees, with lows in the 80s or 90s. Quite an adjustment from the northern summers we’ve grown used to! We’ve had to change the way we take care of our starter, as well as tweak the handling of bread dough before baking.
So, what steps should you take to counteract the heat?
- Maintain your starter at a lower hydration. In simple terms: feed your starter with a higher ratio of flour than you would at cooler temps. As your starter is speeding up the fermentation process, this gives your yeast more food to consume which will prevent your starter from turning unbearably sour.
- Similarly, feeding your starter and mixing your dough with cooler water will counteract the ambient heat and slow down fermentation.
- While your starter is out at room temperature, make sure to feed it at least twice a day. The faster fermentation means that your fresh feedings will be consumed at a much more rapid pace. If you’re not baking as regularly, keep it in the fridge and feed weekly.
- Store your starter in a cooler place in your home. This could be a basement, cellar, or garage. If you’re in a Las Vegas condo like us and there is no such thing as a “cooler place”, you can create a micro climate by storing your starter in a cooler next to jars of cold water.
- Keep in mind that your dough will proof much faster when out at room temperature, so the fridge will be your best friend! If your home temperature is in the mid to high 70s, you likely only need to proof your dough for a couple hours out at room temp before transferring it to the fridge.
By making a few of these adjustments to slow down the speed of fermentation, you’ll be well on your way to successful summer baking.
What other tricks have you learned? I’d love to find out!