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How to bake sourdough on an industrial scale?

27 Oct 2020


The reputation and demand for sourdough bread has never been higher than it is now. Bread, made with sourdough has become one of the most preferred bread types, particularly during this Covid crisis, as part of a healthier diet.  We are aware that this upsurge in popularity has raised questions from industrial bakers around the world, as demonstrated by the number of requests on how sourdough bread should be made industrially. We thought it useful to tackle this topic in a long format blog.

Establish your own version of premium bread

With sourdough soaring in popularity, the premium bread category is gaining importance. Just like with other premium-fermented products like cheese and chocolate, complex flavours and texture bring added value — to both the baker and the consumer. Before moving forward, it is worth thinking about the interpretation you wish to bring to ‘premium’.  We believe there are four key aspects you should consider and/or amplify when exploring rustic style sourdough breads: 

  • the artisan look,
  • the flavour & texture,
  • the storytelling, and
  • the health aspect.

You can easily produce a very good, everyday toast bread using your existing high-speed lines by making just minor twists to the look and taste. Or you can go premium and develop both crusty and soft classics from the past, like baguettes or good old’ fashioned burger buns. Whether you are considering adding a rustic-style twist to your current bread range, or want to go further upmarket by launching a new and differentiating sourdough bread range, you will find all the ingredients and expertise you need to help your business grow more sustainably at Puratos.

What is sourdough?

The world of bread is virtually unlimited, particularly now that it has embraced a wealth of textures, recipes and traditions. Its roots are quite simple, as it all starts with flour, water and fermentation, in short … with sourdough.  Although, the simplicity is deceiving, sourdough bread has been bread’s seed of life for centuries. Thousands of different wild yeasts and lactic bacteria thrive in it, with each bringing their own characteristics, creating their own flavour. Puratos’ own Sapore and O-tentic ranges reflect the variety that sourdough has to offer, thereby letting you grow your business with true signature breads. Sapore is Puratos’ offer of different sourdoughs that can be used with every type of dough — the range varies from mild creamy sourdoughs to fruity sourdoughs that bring a new tanginess to your bread.  Easy to use and based on natural ingredients, O-tentic is at the start of all your breads. It’s also highly reminiscent of the good old days: meaning tasty, fresh and extremely high quality.

Baking sourdough on an industrial scale

Baking premium ‘old fashioned’ rustic breads in industry comes with all sorts of added complications and so many things to think about, including: food safety of long fermentations, a shortage of skilled labour, space, time, consistency, quality, cost of goods and sale price. Successfully baking — and launching — your rustic style breads is a challenge that incorporates many facets.  

Typically premium sourdough breads come with a rustic look of the crust, and with a more open crumb that has a cohesive, moist and elastic-like texture. It’s the result of a longer fermentation process and higher hydration dough, fermented with sourdough. Achieving this ‘waxy’ textured, tasty bread is a delicate balancing act between the right processes and ingredients. 

During fermentation, the dough is naturally filled with gas to create a consistent, open structure that’s full of flavour. Here, temperature and time control is vital  with more rustic bread characteristics as you ferment longer time. Once the dough is fully fermented, it is important that it is handled very carefully. To deliver handmade style breads, bakers must adapt their baking technologies to the handling of stickier, more gaseous, long-fermented dough.

And what if you consider making everyday toast bread using your existing high-speed lines?  This should be possible just by making minor twists within the boundaries of your line. You can add some dusting flour or decoration grains and make an incision prior to baking to get the look.  Adding sourdough will elevate the taste and may help on your storytelling. Sugar and fat levels typically should be lower to better express the fermentation flavour of your sourdough.

Ingredient-wise, regardless of whether you make everyday or premium breads, improvers are required in the industrial process to raise the tolerance level of the dough, and ensure that the resulting bread remains fresh and moist. This is where industrial precision comes into the story. It takes skill to perfect the texture and freshness and deliver a fantastic, value-added result that meets the consumers’ demand for more premium breads, while not compromising on the everyday convenience of packed breads.

What to communicate?

Your packaging can make or break a product launch; so how do you make the most of this valuable wrap around your bread? Your packaging can make or break a product launch; so how do you make the most of this valuable wrap around your bread? You can use your packaging to tell your story, highlight traditional parts in your process like 'stone baked' or '12 hour recipe' for example, and use keywords (when applicable) like 'no additives' or 'sourdough'.

Our best advice: adapt your sourdough communication to the local culture.
Research has taught us that in many places, e.g. Italy, sourdough has a connection to ‘sourness’ and words related to ‘sour’ should thus be avoided. Other countries, like the United Kingdom, are less familiar with the term sourdough and so there a link to ‘naturalness’ is known to work better. Cultures with a better understanding of the ingredients offer you the opportunity to talk about sourdough in more detail and let you use more specific related words like ‘bacteria’, and ‘(long) fermentation’.*

Moreover, consumers are increasingly requesting, especially in the rustic-style segment, clean(er) and more natural ingredients. To meet this demand, Puratos has launched a whole new generation of enzyme based innovations. It’s a range that allows you to achieve more — short bite, softness, better tolerance — by putting in less.

Are you interested to know the recommendations for your country? Reach out to your local Puratos representative. 

*Consumer research FEDIMA ‘Understanding the consumer towards sourdough and sourdough bread’ May 2019

Join the tradition, create your future

In conclusion, it is possible to control every facet of the process when preparing rustic style breads using the industrial baking process. Our range of sourdoughs delivers the tradition of sourdough while letting you create breads with your own flavour profile, appearance and story. And an extensive range of cleaner label Bakery Improvers makes it much easier to meet consumers’ expectations on texture, tolerance and freshness. And if you are keen on convenient dosing at the mixing bowl, we can offer all key ingredients in a bakery mix.

Puratos, who firmly believes that the future of bread lies in its past, is always willing to share its expertise and know-how in this domain, both when it comes to choosing ingredients, as well as starting up production. Don’t hesitate to contact your account manager if you’d like to talk with one of our experts.