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Sep 15, 2008 03:00 PM

Does sourdough ever make for a good sandwich?

Ok, I'll probably get bashed for this, but I don't like sourdough as a sandwich bread.

I love a good sour sourdough bread on its own, but for a sandwich I prefer something more neutral, like whole wheat or 7-grain. Sometimes I can even go for rye, but rarely if ever do I find a sandwich to be better with sourdough.

I find the tartness of the sourdough to really clash with the everything else that is going on in the sandwich. Instead of complementing the ingredients, sourdough almost fights for the attention of your tastebuds.

My bread preferences for sandwiches ...

Roast beef: 7-grain or rye
PB&J: Texas Toast, or whole wheat
Turkey: whole wheat
Tuna: rye
BLT: whole wheat or white

Are there sandwiches people actually prefer with sourdough bread? If so, which ones?

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  1. I have to agree, love sourdough for toast but for a sandwich...not so much, too tart and kind of dry really.

    1. I love it for ham, meatloaf or steak sandwiches, good salami as well. You do have to pick your bread carefully; I'm not crazy about the super-sour loaves, and I want a crust more crackly than leathery. Where I want sourdough before anything else is in any grilled sandwich: grilled cheese (in any of its variations) attains heavenly perfection, as does a good patty-melt. During the winter I'll keep a loaf in the freezer (since I use white bread so seldom) just for grilled sandwiches or for weekend toast.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Will Owen

        I do caramelized onions, smoked gouda, ham, butter lettuce with a little dijon on sourdough. Also prosciutto, pear and havarti - something about the bread brings these sandwiches together.

      2. Sourdough doesn't have to be very tart. Much depends on the temperature and length of fermentation. If it is proofed at a high temperature (over 81 F) the bacteria grows faster than the yeast and you get more acid. Cooler fermentation favors the yeast, and you get milder flavors. I prefer the 70 to 76 range. Much below that and the rising time increases a lot. But I find it strange to think someone might like a rye sandwich bread, which is typically far more sour, or much of the whole wheat we get, which often is high in tannic acid. I don't dispute preferences, but maybe sometimes it is simply that people haven't actually tasted a particular combination. And, of course, you can make sourdough versions of all the breads listed in ipsedixit's preference list. The big advantage of sourdough is that it is more nutritious and actually more digestible, as the bacterial fermentation denatures toxins found in wheat to the extent that celiac sprue patients can sometimes eat sourdough with no adverse side effects. Also, sourdough can be used to bake loaves with big holes so that mustard, mayo or PBJ drips through it, and it can be made into bread with a fine, soft crumb. Some of the ingredients typically used to make the crumb finer also alter the flavor. So a sourdough made with a bit of egg and milk solids might actually fit the bill for you. I have made a sourdough version of pain de mie which makes nice sandwhich bread.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Father Kitchen

          thanks for that great primer, father kitchen! cheers!

          1. re: Father Kitchen

            Father Kitchen, always enjoy your posts and have learned a lot from you...question below.

            Ipsedixit (one of the great ironic Chowhound names), sourdough can be made in varying degrees of sourness. If a bread is too sour (actually this is a matter of preference), then it's just like any food or beverage that's out of balance -- the sourness in the bread overwhelms the taste and enjoyment of the bread and becomes a one-note experience. You could say the same about an over-oaked wine (all you taste is oak), or a dish that has too much of a single spice and so that spice flavor eclipses and erases all the other flavors.

            Sourdough bakeries can easily control the amount of sourness in their breads by manipulating the variables that contribute to sourness. And those are: added acids, fermentation temp, length of fermentation, type of sourdough bacteria, age of the starter, choice of flours and degree of hydration in the dough.

            Added acids: Perhaps most revealing is that large-scale sourdough bread bakeries, even in San Francisco, use high-tech air filters that filter out *all* airborne microflora. So “San Francisco” sourdough is a sourdough but not a genuine *San Francisco* sourdough — since it’s not made with the indigenous airborne lactobacillus sanfranciscensis and wild yeast (candida milleri or c. humilis). It’s a marketing gimmick.

            In those cases, the “sourdough” flavor often comes from an acid that is added -- vinegar or citric acid or lactic acid -- to get the sourdough flavor. More acid added = more sour. After all, the sourdough lactobacillus bacteria (there are several kinds) give off acid as waste products, and it’s that acid that that makes sourdough sour. Sometimes, commercially grown l. sanfranciscensis — the lactobacillus in genuine San Francisco sourdough — in a powdered form is added, but the powder can contain no active bacteria.

            Different kinds of lactobacillus: There are several used in to make sourdough, and each produces different types and quantities of acid. Without going into too much detail — some lactobacillus produce only lactic acid and some produce both lactic acid and acetic acid. So a difference in sourness comes from the type of lactobacillus.

            Temp of ferm:
            << If it is proofed at a high temperature (over 81 F) the bacteria grows faster than the yeast and you get more acid. >>

            Father Kitchen, I have a different understanding -- and I am happy to be corrected -- of the fermentation temp and how that affects the bread's sourness. In the case of true San Francisco sourdough the wild yeast c. milleri favor 27 C, and the l. sanfranciscensis 32-33 C. Meaning, a hotter ferm favors the production of the lactobacillus and more sourness in the flavor.

            But in commercial applications that are not using the airborne wild yeast c. milleri, the lactobacillus can pump out oodles of lactic acid and acetic acid at a lower temp than what would cause the yeast to pump out lots of carbon dioxide, which would begin the rising. Meaning, a cooler ferm favors the lactobacillus, not the yeast. Once the ferm gets hot enough that the yeast produces large amounts of carbon dioxide, there is a only a limited time that the lactobacillus has to pump acid into the dough. So less sourness is produced at a higher temp. Cooler ferms, often in the frig, makes a more sour bread. Cooler usually means longer, also.

            So, take that too far — a too-long ferm — can produce sourdough bread that is too sour. The lactobacillus have had too much time to pump out acid.

            Age of starter: Newish starters are less sour than older starters.

            Flours make a huge difference. Organic, whole grain and rye flours have lots of wild yeasts and enzymes that give a starter tremendous oomph.

            Yet another variable is dough hydration. A wetter dough favors the yeast, a drier dough favors the lactobacillus and formation of acid or sourness. This is separate from the slack, wet dough most artisan bread bakers favor and that produces the crumb with the big holes.

            And by the way, ipsedixit, a freshly baked loaf of sourdough eaten in the morning will taste more sour than the same loaf eaten at dinner. I don't know why.

            So, FK, if you could please help clarify, that would be great…


            1. re: maria lorraine

              Great question maria -- I'm curious about this as well.

              Just to clarify again. I really do enjoy sourdough, but just not as a sandwich bread.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                Maria, at one point in my life I got my starters from wild yeasty beasties from a rooftop near the Berkeley hills, and they made really wonderful breads. Some of the best were the ones risen once it got cold, which were often quite sour, but with a much more floral flavor than that one-note sour you get from mass-market SF sourdough. And I have to say, they made great sandwiches, although I mostly ate them with meals rather than surrounding meals.

                1. re: tmso

                  "wild yeasty beasties" -- oh my, that's good......

                  I've found the microflora of the Bay Area to be very interesting -- especially from starters made close to the Pacific Coast. Lots of
                  wild yeasty beasties coming in on the ocean breezes. I've heard this
                  also from home bakers and artisan bakers in western Sonoma County.

                  Tmso, from Berkeley to Paris, hmmm..two of my favorite cities, and I've lived in both. You lucky dog.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Yeah, I think it was everything blowing in through the Golden Gate that made the Berkeley stuff so great. It was actually a friend's roof, as I was living in E Oakland and Lake Merritt at the time, where the beasties weren't as tasty.

                    Yeah, elle est belle, la vie, I have to admit. I could certainly have made more money with a different choice of cities to live in, but ... no way.

                2. re: maria lorraine

                  Clarification and correction.

                  Clarification about temperature and acidity:
                  I mentioned above that there are two types of lactobacillus in sourdough -- one produces both acetic acid (sourness) and lactic acid (complexity more than sourness) and the other type produces only lactic acid (which contributes complexity to the flavor, but not acidity).

                  Those two types of lactic acid bacteria have different temperature ranges in which they do their thing. The first type, called heterofermentative) likes lower fermentatiion temperatures, so a lower temp does produce a more sour bread.

                  At higher ferm temps -- higher than 86 degrees F. -- the other type of lactobacillus (homofermentative) thrives, the type pumps out lactic acid only. So less sourness at a higher ferm temp.

                  The sourdough yeast provide very little in terms of flavor to the bread. Moreover, the wild yeast (c. humilis) die above 85 F, and so the non-acid producing lactobacillus is the only active microflora. This type of lactobacillus doesn't produce carbon dioxide, so another yeast has to be added if the bread rising hasn't finished.

                  Correction: Production of carbon dioxide.
                  In traditional sourdoughs, the lactobacillus that pumps out both acids, the heterofermentative type, produces the carbon dioxide that makes the bread rise, not the sourdough yeast, as previoiusly thought.

              2. oh....sour dough is my "go to" sandwhich bread. I think it goes great with fewer ingredients so you taste the "sourness" of it. BLT...salami with a spicy mustard.. It actually seems a lot like rye...the strong taste of the bread is an important part of the sammie. Well you have excellent taste otherwise, Ipsedixit. I will overlook this transgression. :)

                1. I love sourdough for a 'thanksgiving' sandwich..leftover turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayo..