Where am I going wrong?

Sarniagirl's picture

Finally I have the time to learn about sourdough, so I made a starter using Dan Lepard's recipe, which looked pretty good comparing it with his photos. (It went downhill after that.) I followed his recipe for white leaven bread. It looked OK but it just refused to rise on the final prove. I finally (in desperation) put it in the oven after 8+ hours, it rose quite a bit then, but the crumb was really dense and rubbery, with huge holes. The crust was OK, nice and crisp and the flavour was good too...any suggestions as to what I'm doing wrong?

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LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2011 May 31

 Ir is hard to say without knowing what you did at each step.  Pictures can help too.  The rubbery part might be from it not being cooked long enough.  Do you have any more details?

Sarniagirl's picture
Sarniagirl 2011 June 1

Sorry, LeadDog, I should have put the recipe in. Here it is:

200g white leaven (18C (40%)

325g water 16C (65%)

500g strong white flour (100%)

1.5 tsp salt (2%)


My kitchen was quite chilly when I started off in the morning, probably no more than 16-17C - would that have been too cold? The leaven was at room temperature, not out of the fridge and I had refreshed it the night before and it was day 6 for it, it looked quite nice and active. I used digital scales to measure everything.

I'm used to making yeasted doughs, so I suppose I may not have been gentle enough with it?  I've taken a photo, (not pretty!) but being a bit of a computer numpty, I couldn't insert it in my post.

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2011 June 1

 The recipe looks good so that isn't the problem.  What is the hydration of the 200g of leaven?  You also said that your leaven was only 6 days old?  It might need more time to mature like another week.  A cold room temperature just slows everything down so you have to judge by your senses when the dough is ready to bake.  Sourdough does much better if you are gentle with it.  The huge holes means that something was fermenting so that part is working for you.  Try again and see what happens this time.  One of the best ways to learn sourdough is to make the same bread over and over until you get it right.  Just plain trial and error sometimes.

Sarniagirl's picture
Sarniagirl 2011 June 2

The leaven's last refresh before I used it was 80% - 100g water and 125g of flour. I'm about to refresh it after taking it out of the fridge, the recipe advises 80% hydration for this refresh as well. I'll keep feeding it and try it again in a week or so.

I'll try not to treat the dough too roughly (after reading some of the other posts I think this may also be my problem) and meanwhile I'll retreat back to my yeasted bread and lick my wounds. Thanks for the advice!

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2011 June 2

 Was the starter 6 days old?  And you were keeping it in the fridge?  The starter would need to be fed at room temperature for a couple of weeks before you can store it in the fridge.

80% hydration starter would be good with the above recipe.

Sarniagirl's picture
Sarniagirl 2011 June 2

I followed Dan Lepard's instructions for the starter to the letter, it had been kept at room temp for 6 days and fed daily. It was looking OK, but maybe it wasn;t really mature enough. I've sinced removed it from the fridge and refreshed it at 80% hydration, and also used a little organic rye flour to help things along. I'll see how it goes over the next week or so, and repeat the recipe.

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