Dough won't rise

Hi, there.  So I've just spent the past few weeks making my first successful (I think) sourdough starter.  When I feed it it gets bubbly and smells like sourdough, and I've even made a couple loaves and they taste awesome.

My problem is, my dough never rises very much, and certainly doesn't double in size.  I've made yeast bread before so I know what to look for in terms of rising, and my sourdough seems to stay in a dense little lump, even in the hot weather or when I leave it in a closed/warmed oven to rise.  The result is tasty but very dense and not fluffy or porous at all. 

Any suggestions on what might be going wrong?  My process has been to take my starter out of the fridge, feed it again and let it proof overnight, and then make the dough in the morning.  Am I letting it sit too long before making my dough?  Am I missing a crucial window when I should be forming the dough and/or baking it?

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LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2008 August 27
After you mix the stater with the dough how long do you let it rise for?  I found the the times in the books were to short.  When I started letting the dough tell me when it was ready to bake then I made much better bread.
TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 August 27
^ Yup, what LD said PLUS,

How do you develop your dough? What's your kneading technique?


p.s. Your site is so fascinating! One day, I must pick up knitting again.
ristretto6 2008 August 27
Well at first I was letting it rise for a couple hours, because i usually do three hours for my French bread, and then it seems to stop rising and plateau from there.  But I didn't notice much growth with the sourdough, so on one occasion I even left it all day (from about 10 a.m. to 7p.m.) and put it in the oven when I came home from seemed to have plateau with its rising after that first hour though and was still a dense little ball.
ristretto6 2008 August 27
Usually I spend about five minutes playing wth the dough until all the flour is incorporated smoothly, including squeezing/pressing against the counter/kneading with my fist.  Then for about five minutes I try to emulate a technique I saw in a class once where I press the dough flat, fold it over onto itself, press it down again.  Could it be the kneading that's preventing the rising? 

i wouldn't be surprised actually, because i notice with my yeast breads too that although they rise, they don't rise as much as I would expect, especially if I punch it down after the first 2 hours--sometimes I skip this step altogether because it makes my loaves small and wimpy!)

Is there a better technique, or a rule of thumb to know if I've kneaded it enough or correctly?

(And thanks for the comment about the store!  If you're ever in Portland and find yourself hankering for some yarn you should definitely come check it out :))
TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 August 28

10 mins will work only if it's intensive mixing using a machine. I'd like to point you to Dom's remarks about the intial stages of dough-handling. Some of us not only knead (a forceful action of digging the heel of our hand and folding over), we also do stretch and folds (something like what you described...a gentler action). Check out this tutorial and I'm sure your breads will improve considerably!

p.s. Mail order is more likely if I do find my needles...
ristretto6 2008 September 3
Hmm, now I'm beginning to think that it might be my starter.  I just tried a loaf this morning and kneaded it as per the demo video, and that certainly made the dough taste better and a little fluffier after it was baked, but still not much rising happening.  The final loaf is barely any bigger than when I finished kneading it. 

I didn't get a chance to put the starter in a glass container like you suggested, but I do notice that even though there are bubbles in the surface, they don't seem as big as the ones in your picture, and the starter itself doesn't seem to double in volume like it's supposed to.  How can I revitalize my starter aside from feeding it? 
LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2008 September 3
Feeding it is the best way to invigorate it.  The best tip that I found is to feed the starter every 12 hours until you get it double in size or better.  Another tip that I used was to feed it some rye flour also.  You really don't need to be using large amounts of flour to do this either.  

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