Third attempt - Please Help!!


Hi everyone, just baked my third sourdough loaf and still it comes out quite flat. I used 450g flour (300 whitel, 100 wholemeal 50 Rye), 300g water and 150 gr of starter ( which is 60%white flour and 40% rye). My starter has been going really well so I dont think that it is the reason.


So I mixed the starter in with the water and then added the dry ingredients, kneaded it for a few minutes to make sure it was all well incoorporated. I then let ir rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes and started to stretch and fold and hourly intervals for three hours. The dough was lovely to work with (the  best yet, as the others always seemed to dry). So then I shaped the loaf into a batard and placed it in a floured banneton, put  a tea towel over the top and placed it in a plastice bag overnight in the fridge. (this is where I went wrong last time and I had not placed a tea towled over to absorb the moisture and the dough was really wet). Taking it out in the morning my dough had risen by at least a third. I then placed the banneton in a warm and humid environment (as it says to do in the Bourke Street Bakery book). It stayed there for 3 hours and did not rise at all. I decided to slash it, at which point I realised that the outside of the bread had become somewhat hard..... I put it in the oven at 250degrees with some water for steam and turned the heat down to 200 after 15 minutes. In all the bread baked for 40 minutes.


Please if someone can help me out. The bread tastes beautiful, the crust is a little hard but still ok to eat. I think I am doing something wrong in the final proving stage....? maybe it is something else. i really want to get this right and maybe I have to just bake a white sourdough and then start to add other flours.....

297 users have voted.


TONYK 2011 February 17




Muff 2011 February 17

As I read your descriptions I thought along the way that you are doing everything right, and in fact you're getting a good loaf even if it isn't just so just yet. But when you got to the end and suggested that you might better simplify the process and cut out the whole grains until later I found myself agreeing. I think it would help. The whole grains don't contribute as much gluten (and the rye doesn't contribute any, for practical purposes) and coarse grains are accused of cutting gluten fibers. Don't know if that's true, but it may be.


So yes, take your own advice here.


My other thought is that your bread was taken to the oven a little past its peak activity. You gave it plenty of opportunity for age, and in fact it probably had run out of the more readily available fermentables when you shifted it to the banneton. So I think Tony is probably right, except I don't use the term "proof" in quite the same way. We can talk about that another day. Point is, the bread probably should have been moved to the banneton before going to the fridge and baked right out of the fridge without any additional age.


Thick crusts are often due to baking too long. Large loaves take longer baking- it's handy to split them up a little sometimes.


Good luck,



mlucas 2011 February 17

I agree, try baking a loaf that is about 90% white, you can use 10% rye (or 5% rye 5% wholemeal) if you like. I actually think your crumb isn't too bad for a 33% whole grain loaf.

You should also not knead before autolyse, at least as I understand it. You only want to just barely hydrate all the flour, I think on this site it's referred to as a "rough, ragged mess". Then you let it rest, and if you're doing it properly you add the salt after the autolyse, not before (although it is more work to get it evenly incorporated this way).

A really good beginning sourdough recipe, especially if you have a 100% hydration starter, is here:

After you've mastered that you can start adding more whole grains.

Do you have a baking stone? That would help with the oven spring.

davo 2011 February 18

Looks OK to me, maybe don't be so hard on yourself!

I agree with starting out with a predominantly white loaf, so maybe 5 or 10% rye only.

You have in comparison to my mixes a relatively small percentage of starter/levain in your final bread dough, so while I would have thought your times were a little longish and suspect overproving, in fact I don't think this is the case.

The loaves will tend to be a bit flatter if you are using a stone and don't really really warm it up (give it a good hour before loading), and if your slashes are more along the loaf. If you make your slashes a littel more across the loaf, it will tend to lengthen rather than spread sideways, and stay a little "rounder" in cross section. But hey the profile of your loaf looks typical to me!

If you go prediminatly white, you might want to add some diastatic malt - it's no weird chemical, just ground, dried sprouted barley - that a neanderthal could make. If you are in Australia, Basic Ingredients homebread in qld will post it to you (I have no affiliation, just a customer!). Otherwise you might get a less than optimal rise.

Also I do a "non-genuine" autolyse - with the salt in - I've done both ways and noticed no discernible difference. I've had people tell me it really does make a difference, but invariably they haven't actually tried with the salt in!

The main thing I would say is that the oven-readiness of your loaf is determined not by recipes/times. becasue your kitchen is different to mine and so is each batch - you have to feel the dough, and learn the kind of spring back you get when it's just right (which is slow and partial) for baking. If there is zero spring back on poking a floured or wetted fingertip in the dough, then get that oven warm, put the loaf in the fridge until it is, and get it in with no slashing!

Other things - make sure the starter is well active when using it for dough, not unfed/sluggish/straight from fridge. And don;t muck around getting it in the oven. Turn it onto a peel slash it and get it in within seconds - don't go answering the phone. And don't look at it for at least 25 minutes.

In the fridge (in the placcy bag, I don;t put a tea towel over- as this is just likely to stick to it and suck out it's own moisture anyway. I just give that top (ultimately the underside of the loaf) a light sprinkle of flour and tie the bag so it sits (largely) off hte dough. And when warming out of the oven - if it's for a lengthy period, keep it under plastic or at a pinch spritz the exposed bit - if it dries and goes hard, there's a bit that won't expand...

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