1st Sour Dough Pane Francesca


 After a couple of weeks of gettin my starter working great, I finally baked a couple of loaves.  Questions are:

1.  The kneading processes, do you add flour, it appeared to be too sticky, so I kneaded with flour.  Is this right or wrong?

2.  The amount of starter 100% was great & I didn't realize on the 4hr prove it would actually expand and be enough for two individual loaves, so I split it the next day.  Was this ok to do?  If so, should I have left the doughs to individually rise for another day?

Im fairly new to using this type of starter method & don't want to make mistakes!

3.  When turning out the 1st loaf onto the hot pizza stone, it started spreading, I quickly placed in the oven & didn't get much rise.  Again, because I split the dough again, should I have waited another day before I baked?

4.  The second loaf I baked, was actually a perfect ball, however not much rise!

I couldn't resist trying the 1st loaf tat I baked, it was delicious, crust was crunchy, the holes in the bread not large as other posts I have seen although they are small and look Ok.  The taste was great!  I sort of know where I went wrong!  Any tips would help with the next lot I bake.



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Old Possum's picture
Old Possum 2011 December 5

Hi Mimi -

We would need a little more information about amounts and timings before we could give you an answer but a few things spring to mind.

If you knead with flour use as little as possible to avoid changing the hydration of your loaf. You can try a little oil or even just water. I tend to work with very sticky high hydration doughs and I knead and fold using wet hands and on a wet bench. I then using flour when I'm shaping to help promote a good "skin".

It sounds like you were proving the loaves for more than 24 hours in the fridge (yes?) which is a very long time and the loaves were probably overproofed and that's why they didn't rise much - the yeasts and beasts had run out of food.

500 grams of flour with 180 grams of 100% hydration starter and 320 grams of water will make one nice sized loaf. Scale up or down from there depending on what you want.

I find that Sour Dom's technique of baking in a large casserole or covered roasting tin gives fabulous oven spring and you don't have to muck around spritzing water every couple of minutes for the first 10 minutes. Check it out on this site or on Youtube - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=bwv89Vjw5yw

I have made some very much less than perfect loaves but I've never had to throw one out - they all taste good, even when you know you can do better, so just keep trying. Stop worrying about making mistakes - it's actually very difficult to completely ruin bread - there are just many ways to achieve the desired result. I have a memory like a sieve and I've set dough to autolise for 30 minutes and remembered it 2 hours later. Just added the salt, pummelled it briefly and did a few stretch & folds with less time between than normal and it survived, rose beautifully and made a great loaf. Stop worrying, start relaxing and try again

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 December 5

Hello mimig,

A little flour on the bench is not a problem to get you started (though you really shouldn't need it) but resist the temptation to add flour to the dough.  However, you should find that as the gluten in the dough develops the stickiness will disappear with very little tendency to stick to the bench.  There are some excellent videos on the web showing various kneading techniques if you want to get some pointers.

I don't quite understand the second point where you talk of a 4hr prove and splitting the next day.  I would envisage that you would bulk ferment (first proof) for (say) 4 hours at which stage you shape your loaves (one or two - or a dozen if you are making rolls) and then prove for (say) 4 hours before baking.

The dough will often spread/collapse a bit when you turn it out but usually the oven spring will take care of this.  If the dough is high hydration this will be more noticeable.  An over proved/developed loaf will also do this as the gluten has started to break down.

If you preparation times were as long as indicated from your text, then it is a possibility that the dough was overproved.

Keep on practicing.


mimig64 2011 December 5

 Just to confirm, I followed the SourDom recipe up to the part where it said to split the duo in 2 (which I thought the dough was not big enough, do I kept as 1).  After I let it sit on the bench for a couple of hours, it expanded to 3 times it's size.  Thinking this is too big, I refrigerated as suggested over night.  In the morning, I decided to divide carefully in 2 so I had two loaves, of which I let sit at room temperature to see if I could get a doubling.  I got a slight rise in both, but nothing major.


I heated the pizza stone in the oven for 1hr, then I carefully turned out the first dough onto the stone, it started spreading, so I popped in the oven real quick.  I did get some rise, bu nothing huge.

My second loaf, I left the baking paper on it without wasting time peeling it off a d it did rise, but nothing like I expected.


Its my first attemp, I love the taste and the holes in d loaf look great, not massive bubbles but good enough for the first go,

Looking forward to making another two loaves, this time I will split them in two and then prove!  I think this is where I have gone wrong as such as I have disturbed the doughs by splitting them!

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 December 5

Hi Mimig,

If it more than doubled in a couple of hours you have a mighty active culture on the go there.  If that performance is repeated then you might have to look at something like 90 minutes bulk ferment - shape and prove 90 minutes - then bake.

Fundamentally you have to go with what happens with the dough - if things happen quickly, then you have to shorten the times to suit and vice versa.  Alternatively, if for some reason you want to slow things down a bit, then refrigeration is the way to go.

I think that your dough was overproved before you got to the refrigeration stage and the extra time and handling just made it worse.

I'd definitely try the shorter time frame (no refrigeration) and, as I said before, you will probably need to make a number of batches before you get the feel for it and your technique improves.

Let us know how you go.


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