ISO less sour sourdough bread

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recipe: Wild Bread with Malt, based on the recipe for basic sourdough in “Piano Piano Pieno” by Susan McKenna Grant

(click on images to see larger views and more photos)

wild bread with malt This is the bread I made the day after making Faux Stowe Crackers. I must say it looks pretty good. Better than it has looked for a while. And at least it rose this time!

I was so pleased at how it had risen that I even tried slashing one of the loaves (while it was proofing, it had a little bird cookie cutter balanced on top – even before baking, it was impossible to see the bird design!)

I just don’t know how you others do it. I admit it; my slashing technique stinks!

wild bread with malt I think I’ve mentioned that I like to balance cookie cutter(s) on top of the just shaped bread to etch a design in top of the loaf. For the loaf that was unslashed, I used 3 star shaped cutters. (I remove the cookie cutters just before baking the bread.) But there was so much oven spring that, as you can see, the star shapes are barely visible.

But what I have really been struggling with is getting our wild bread to be less sour. This time, I added malt powder to give the dough a little sugar rush. I contemplated adding a bit of baking soda as well to bring the acidity down. But not really knowing the science of it, I decided against it. One experiment at a time….

I also added a tiny bit (1/16 tsp) of active dry yeast to the bread, because I’ve been getting so much flack about flat bread.

It is less sour tasting. Even though the taste is pretty good, I’d still like to make a completely unsour wild yeast bread – without using even a trace of commercial yeast.

Here is what I did for this particular bread:

Wild Bread with Malt
based on the recipe for basic sourdough in Piano Piano Pieno by Susan McKenna Grant

wild yeast starter . wild yeast starter buildup . bread

wild yeast starter buildup

  • 2 Tbsp wild yeast starter
  • all purpose unbleached flour
  • water*


  1. Day before Baking – Morning Take 2 Tbsp of wild yeast starter (discard the rest) and stir in 2 Tbsp water and 3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour . Cover and leave in a warm draftfree spot (counter in summer, oven with only light turned on in winter) til midday.
  2. Day before Baking Midday The mixture should have doubled and there should be lots of bubbling. Take 2 Tbsp of above mixture (reserve the rest to add to focaccia dough, crackers, or muffins). Stir in 2 Tbsp water and 3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour. Cover and leave… etc.
  3. Day before Baking Evening Stir ⅓ c (85ml) water and ⅔ c (170ml) unbleached all-purpose flour into ALL of the above mixture. Cover and leave… etc.
  4. Baking Day Morning The mixture should have doubled and be a bubbling mass. (Remember to reserve a portion for future bread making!)


  • ⅓ c (85ml) lukewarm water**
  • 1/16 tsp (0.25ml or 0.25gm) active dry yeast
  • ½ tsp (2.5ml) malt powder
  • 3 c (720ml)*** unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ c (125ml) wholewheat flour
  • 1 c (250ml) water
  • all of the researved buildup from above (about ¾ c (185ml))
  • 2½ tsp seasalt


  1. In a small bowl, add the yeast, some of the malt powder and ⅓ c lukewarm water and whisk together until til creamy. Set aside.
  2. Put the rest of the ingredients, including the rest of the malt powder, into a bowl that is large enough for the mixture to triple. Stir together with a wooden spoon until the flour is incorporated. Add the yeast mixture, which will probably have started bubbling. If it hasn’t, don’t be overly concerned. The dough at this point will look a bit like slightly stiff oatmeal porridge. Allow it to rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto an unfloured work surface.
  4. Wash and dry the mixing bowl.
  5. Kneading: Without adding extra flour, knead the dough until it is smooth and silky (5 to 10 minutes). Let your dough scraper (a spatula works) be your friend if the dough is sticking to the board. One hand scrapes the dough and the other kneads. Under no circumstances should you add more flour. If you find your kneading hand is sticking to much, just scrape off the excess with the scraper and continue. Don’t worry when the dough doesn’t resemble a pillow. Use the dough scraper to squoosh the dough into the clean bowl. Cover with a clean damp tea towel (or use one of those elasticized reusable plastic covers that look like shower hats) and allow to rise in a draftfree area of the counter for 30 minutes or so.
  6. After 30 minutes has passed, very lightly dust the work surface with flour. Carefully turn the dough out (try not to disturb any bubbles). Using the bread scraper and still trying not to disturb any bubbles, fold the left side into the center, then the top into the center, then the right side, then the bottom. As you lift it into the bowl, fold it in half once more. Try to place it in the bowl smooth side up. Cover. Let it ferment at room temperature for 30 minutes again.
  7. Repeat the above step. On this final time, the dough will look more like the smooth soft pillow that is described in books. The amount of dusting flour used in these folding maneuvres is not much more than tablespoon and probably much less (sorry, I haven’t measured). Allow to rise at room temperature until the dough has just doubled.
  8. Shaping: When the dough has doubled, sprinkle a small amount of flour on the work surface. Gently turn the dough out, disturbing it as little as possible. Cut the dough in half. Gently fold (try not to disturb the bubbles) the left side into the center, then the top, then the right side then the bottom. Fold in half. Turn it over. Continue to fold it underneath itself to form an even tight ball without actually deflating the dough. (When I shape the dough, I hold it the way I would hold a wild bird – firmly enough so it won’t escape but gently so as not to harm it.) Place the shaped bread seam side down on a parchment covered peel. Balance a cookie cutter on top of the shaped bread and sprinkle generously all over with flour. Cover with a clean damp tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for an hour or more – until the dough is about doubled. To test, flour your finger and press gently on the edge – it should very slowly spring back. For comparison, try pressing early on to see how it quickly springs back when the dough has not risen enough.
  9. Baking: Thirty minutes before you are going to bake, put the baking stone on the middle rack of the oven and turn it to 450F.
  10. At the time of baking, gently remove the cookie cutters and spray the top of each boule liberally with water. Put the bread in oven and immediately turn the oven down to 400F. Bake the bread for a total of 40 to 45 minutes or until it has an internal temperature of about 210F. Half way through the baking, turn the bread around to account for uneven heat in the oven.
  11. Turn off the oven. Put the finished bread back in the oven and leave with the door ajar for 5 or 10 minutes. Then, remove to cool on a rack. Wait til the bread is cool before cutting it. It is still continuing to bake inside!****

*Tap water is fine to use – just make sure that it has stood for at least 12 hours so that the chlorine has dissipated.

** Under no circumstances should you use water from the hot water tap. Water from the hot water tap sits festering in your hot water tank, leaching copper, lead, zinc, solder, etc. etc from the tank walls… the higher temperature causes faster corrosion. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? Heat the water in a kettle or microwave and add cold water until it is the correct temperature (use the baby bottle test on the back of your wrist – your fingers have no idea of temperature!)

*** Please note that a Canadian cup holds 250ml. When I measure flour, I really fluff it up in the bag before scooping out flour to roughly fill the cup.

**** If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after it has cooled completely. To reheat unsliced bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.

wild bread with malt Even though it has been decreed that this is one of my more successful attempts, I am still feeling defeated and just about ready to pack it in and toss the wild yeast out. It was devastating (well, maybe not “devastating”… perhaps a little “deflating” would be a better choice of word) to have to buy bread at Christmas time because my bread was so sour.

I have to admit that baking bread with commercial yeast is WAY easier!


This post is partially mirrored on The Fresh Loaf: adding malt to sweeten sour sourdough


This entry was posted in baking, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, food & drink, posts with recipes, wild yeast (sourdough) on by .

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3 responses to “ISO less sour sourdough bread

  1. "Puzzled", aka bing

    I’m wondering what ISO is that this bread doesn’t have, making it “ISO less”. Hmm, but if you had meant “less” in the sense of “sugarless”, you would have said ISO-less or ISOless. Double hmm …

    To clarify: “ISO less sour” (at least I hope that’s a clarification!) -ejm

  2. "Puzzled", aka bing

    No, that’s worse. “ISO less sour sourdough bread”. I just can’t make that scan.

    I’m afraid that I’m feeling obtuse. Here’s another tack:
    InSearchOf sweeter rather than sour bread that was made with wild yeast.
    Is that better? Or is it still too much like mud? -ejm

  3. "No Longer Puzzled", aka bing

    In Search Of … Ahhhhhh … I haven’t seen that acronym before. Makes sense now.

    Now I’m curious to know what you thought “ISO” meant! -ejm


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