Dough does not hold it's shape


Whenever I want to bake a bread without a tin the dough does not hold it's shape during rising.


I use

1 cup 100% hydration starter

1 cup water

3 cups flour




What must I change?



206 users have voted.


eyendall 2011 March 26

 If your starter is made from equal measures (1 cup each) of flour and water, then by my rough calculations you are ending up with a dough with around 94%hydration  which is much too high.


My advise is to stop using volume measures (cups, spoons etc) and start weighing them. 

TedinOz 2011 March 26

I don't think you problem is one of hydration as eyendall suggests. Based on the average weight of a cup of flour being 130g, your formulae inputs 250g of water (1 cup) to 390g flour (3 cups), this being 64% That when added to a cup of 100% leaven (assuming equal weights of 125g each of water and flour), would produce an overall hydration of around 72% which is not a loose dough. The comments about weighing is not however invalid as it will give more control over % inputs of your recipe. I normally limit my leaven input to 25% of the fresh flour weight of the batch, so you may want to check this in your process once you decide how much leaven is required to make your dough work best.

I think all you need is some form of containment of your loaf during the proofing time, maybe a couche or banneton. See point 9 here for using a couche..

This one is for baguettes but works fine for any size or shape loaf. It's important to proof them seam side up and gently roll over onto your choice of baking sheet before slashing/baking. I'm sure there will be lots more online guides on how to best use a couche.



eyendall 2011 March 28

My math was a little off but I have assumed Lisette calculated her starter hydration based on equal volumes rather than equal weights since the rest of her recipe is given in volumes. In which case, with

1 cup water equals 240g, and

1 cup flour equals 120g (estimate since different flours have different weights), then

if I calculated your hydration on the basis of volume (1 cup water to 1 cup flour) , 1 cup pf your starter would be made up of 120g water and 60g flour for a hydration of 200%

Adding 1 cup water (240g) and 3 cups (360g) flour would give you a  finished dough made up of 420g flour and 360g water for a hydration of 85%. That is way too high for keeping any shape to a free-standing loaf. I would expect to have difficulties even at 72%.


The 1:2:3 suggestion is right on and is one I use often along with a good digital scale.

Karniecoops's picture
Karniecoops 2011 March 28

Definitely always measure ingredients using weight.  And eyendall's 1:2:3 ratio of starter:water:flour is just the ticket, but use weight not volume.  When you start using different flours, the same volume will have a different weight so you won't get a reliable loaf.  The best thing I did was invest in a set of inexpensive digital kitchen scales.  Do you use a "couche" to proof your loaves, or do you just leave them sitting by themselves?  A couche will help stop loaves spreading whilst proofing, unless of course it is a very wet dough (like a ciabatta) and then there is almost no proofing step.

Maybe try one of these recipes:

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