In this article, we are going to discuss how to tell when sourdough bread tastes bad

Without any extra butter, cheese, or oil, take a bite of your sourdough bread. Bitterness should not be a prominent spice in sourdough breads; it should taste salty, sour, and sweet.

Sourdough bread tastes bitter when its ingredients have gone rancid; fats and oils contained in sourdough bread, such as vegetable oil, butter, whole grain flour, seeds, and nuts, grow rancid and bitter over time.

It’s simple to tell whether any of the ingredients have gone rancid, and there are a few simple techniques you can use in your baking to keep your ingredients fresh.

1. Sourdough Bread Containing Rancid Fats and Oil

Some sourdough recipes call for the addition of oil or butter to the dough before baking.

The most popular cause of bitterness in sourdough bread is that the fats (oil and butter) used in the baking process have gone rancid; rancid fats and oil have a rather unpleasant bitter taste when consumed.

Bitter-tasting bread should be avoided because the rancid fats and oils in the bread are toxic to your liver and can be carcinogenic; not to mention that it tastes awful.

Overexposure to air, light, and heat causes oil and fats to go rancid.

Store your oil and fats in a cool, dark place to prevent rancidity, and avoid combining various types of oils if at all possible.

By smelling it, we can tell whether fats and oils have gone rancid; rancid fats and oils smell off, like crayons.

If you’re still not sure, heat the fats and oil in a pan and take a whiff again.

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2. Sourdough Bread with Rancid Flour

Even if your sourdough recipe doesn’t call for any extra oil or butter, it can still go rancid because sourdough flour contains fats and oils.

Since whole grain flour includes the germ of the grain, while white flour does not, whole grain flour is more prone to rancidity than white flour.

The embryonic heart is the kernel’s germ. While it only makes up 2.5-3.5 percent of the kernel, it is high in vitamins, minerals, and fats. The germ appears to turn rancid due to its high fat content, so whole grain flour containing the germ is more susceptible to rancidity.

If you bake with European flour, you’ll find that it’s distinguished by its ash content, which shows how much of the grain is milled into flour; a higher ash content indicates that more of the grain’s bran and germ are used, and therefore flour with a higher ash content is more likely to go rancid.

The ash content of whole grain flour is about 1.4 percent, while white flour has an ash content of about 0.5 percent.

Smelling the flour is the easiest way to tell if it’s gone wrong.

Flour can normally smell odorless or slightly nutty, but it will smell oily, sour, or musty if it has gone rancid.

Whole grain flour should be refrigerated to prevent rancidity, and bakers should rotate their stock to avoid using old flour.

3. Sourdough Bread with Rancid Seeds and Grains

Seeds, nuts, and grains are a perfect way to add vitamins, nutrients, and flavor to your sourdough bread, but since they contain a lot of oil, they can go rancid and make your bread bitter.

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Stale and rancid seeds, nuts, and grains have a similar odor and taste to stale fats and oils; take a small bite to see if they’ve gone bad before using them in your bake.

There are a few things you can do to keep your seeds, nuts, and grains from going rancid and thereby extending their shelf life.

Whenever possible, purchase whole and raw seeds, nuts, and grains; chopped and toasted varieties expose their oils to the breeze, which can easily turn rancid.

Overexposure to air accelerates rancidity, so keep your seeds, nuts, and grains in airtight containers.

Refrigerate your seeds, nuts, and grains because the cold delays the chemical reactions that cause rancidity.

Check the expiration date and purchase the freshest seeds, nuts, and grains available.

To avoid using old products that have gone rancid, buy seeds, nuts, and grains in small batches rather than in bulk.

4. Toppings and crust that has been burned (grains and seeds)

When bread is baked at a high temperature for an extended period of time, the crust and toppings will burn, resulting in a bitter loaf.

Typical oven temperatures for sourdough baking are between 230 and 240 degrees Celsius for around 25 to 40 minutes. If you’re baking for more than 40 minutes at a temperature above 240 degrees Celsius, it’s possible that your crust and toppings have burned; reduce the temperature and/or baking time.

When the sourdough recipe calls for added sugars, fats, or oil, which may be added in the form of honey, milk, oil, or butter, the loaf is more likely to burn; keep an eye on it in the oven. Reduce the temperature by 5-10 degrees Celsius for the remainder of the bake if it is darkening too quickly.

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Before adding seeds, nuts, and grains to the mix, they are typically soaked or toasted. If the seeds, nuts, and grains are used to cover the outside of the loaf, they should not be toasted until putting it in the oven. If you toast it before coating it, it will re-roast in the oven, become burnt, and have a bitter flavor.

Final thoughts

The rancid fats and oils in the ingredients used in the bake are the most popular source of bitter sourdough bread. When some vegetable oil, butter, whole grain flour, seeds, nuts, or grains are included in the recipe, the loaf is more prone to rancidity.

Before using your ingredients, sniff them and see if they’ve gone rancid; rancidity looks like crayons, off, and stale.

Before purchasing ingredients, check the manufacturing and expiry dates, store them in a cool, dry setting, purchase in small quantities, and rotate the stock to ensure that the ingredients used in the bake are as fresh as possible.

It also adds to a sour taste when the loaf is burnt. If you’re using sugar or oil in your bread, keep an eye on it in the oven and reduce the temperature by 5-10 degrees if it begins to turn brown.

Seeds, nuts, and grains used to cover the outside of your loaf should not be toasted because they can quickly burn when loaded into the oven.


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