How Sugar Can Help Your Sourdough Rise Even More

sourdough loaf
sourdough loaf - Muratkoc/Getty Images

We all know a sign of good sourdough bread is a good rise. While the tip we're about to reveal isn't one of our 15 absolute best tips for working with sourdough, using it will help your sourdough bread rise even more — and it doesn't involve raising the oven's temperature, or sifting the flour first.

To help your sourdough bread rise even higher, use a sweetener such as granulated sugar, brown sugar, or agave syrup. Starches, such as corn or potato starch, can also work. If you're stumped and don't know which sugar to start with, we've explained the differences among 18 types of sugar.

Add the sweetener of your choice, about one to two teaspoons, to the bread-proofing bowl, and the sugar will feed the sourdough starter, a mini biome filled with yeasts and beneficial bacteria. These microbes will happily feast on the added sugar, and release more carbon dioxide or gas after their sweet meal. Essentially, microscopic "farts" from these sugar-high yeasts and bacteria will make your sourdough lighter and rise higher at a faster rate. Don't believe us? Well, try this sugar trick the next time you make our fresh-baked sourdough bread recipe.

Read more: 30 Types Of Cake, Explained

Be Mindful Of Sugar's Effect On Gluten Development

baking sourdough ingredients
baking sourdough ingredients - Melica/Shutterstock

Tasting Table spoke with sourdough aficionado Kelson Herman of @starteright on Instagram, and asked if there were any drawbacks to adding sugar to your sourdough starter. Herman first noted that while sugar can indeed help the sourdough rise faster and higher, it can also hinder gluten development. Your resulting sourdough may be less toothsome and chewy. "Also[,] the crust can burn due to the added sugar," Herman added. He also pointed out that sugar makes the sourdough less sour, and that most sourdough bakers don't use sugar unless the sweetener is an inclusion. Herman did throw us a bone and stated, "Some people do use pineapple juice to get [sourdough] started."

We also wondered if lining the bread-proofing basket with sugar could help the sourdough bread rise. After all, lining your ramekins with sugar ensures soufflés rise evenly. " ... [I]t will change the texture [of the sourdough] a little and hinder the rise," Herman explained.

So, while adding sugar or a sweetener can help your sourdough rise even more, it may come at the expense of gluten development and texture. Consider judiciously experimenting with different sweeteners to achieve the desired balance of rise and flavor in your sourdough bread.

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