The Fresh Loaf

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Question about a little too dense sourdough loaf

cfiiman's picture

Question about a little too dense sourdough loaf

Hey all,

I seem to have perfected my recipe (after researching tons on the internet and trial and error for the last couple months) for sourdough bread.  I can make fairly consistent loaves with good shape, texture and taste.  My question is while my crumb is "good" and open and irregular, it is still a little too dense for my taste.  Don't get me wrong I love the chewiness but the loaf seems just "heavy" compared to say a Panera Bread or something.  I've tried different flours (more gluten vs less) and that does make a difference but still they are always just a little too dense for me.  I've tried different hydration and kneading techniques but I seem pretty consistent on the "good" loaf with "good" crumb and as everyone knows the enemy of a great bread is a good bread :)

So I thought I would ask experts and post my tried and true recipe and all info I can to see how I can start modifying it to get where I want to be ----> a great bread!


3 cups flour (King Arthur or Gold Medal)

1.25 cups warm water

1.5 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup starter

My method:

1. mix/knead everything together and then let it rest for 30 minutes

2. knead/shape then rest for 30 minutes

3. knead/shape then rest for 1 hour

4. knead/shape then rest for 1 hour

5. knead/shape then final shape and proof for 1 hour

6. Put into a hot 450° oven covered with a pan misted with water for 20 minutes

7. Remove pan and back uncovered for 10-15 minutes or until desired brownness (I like them less burnt)

8. Turn off over and crack door for 15 minutes

9. Remove from oven to cool completely on rack

When the dough is resting I try to keep it in an 80° place or more (oven with light on usually).  My starter is several months old and easily doubles in 4 hours.  

As you can tell from my process this is a total of 4 hours from initially mixing the ingredients to putting it in the oven.  Now I came up with this 4 hour rule b/c I read it on a forum from a professional who said 2 hours maximum with commercial yeast or 4 hours total with an active sourdough starter.  I believe he baked professionally and so I thought why not give it a try, and when I did I had more success than ever before with rising/texture etc.  I've modified the time by a half hour more to see what would happen with no great change.  This again is my tried and true method that will give me a consistently "good" product when finished, but I want something great!  Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.  I basically bake bread every couple days b/c I always like having fresh bread vs. store bought so I'm willing to try anything, if it doesn't work out it is no big loss as I'll get another shot in a couple days :)  Thanks for any help, here are some pictures of different "consistent" loaves I get:

Flatter one :(


jackie9999's picture

Is 4 hours long enough for 3c flour and 1/2 cup starter? I usually mix up my starter with a good % of flour and leave overnight to double/triple...then I take about 4 hours from mixing to retarding in the fridge for baking next day.

Had a dig around and found the recipe I've always used with good results,

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

add a few more folding (at 45 min) instead of kneading, kneading implies degassing which you wouldn't want to do aggressively at this point.  Pop the large bubbles but try not to knead, stretch out carefully and fold the dough instead.   Don't let the dough tear, stop and rest the dough when tearing happens.  Respond to the dough, not the clock.  Build the crumb structure by folding.  Try and see if that makes the difference.  

Bravo with the high hydration dough (77%?) try not to add extra flour after the first initial mixing.  That might also be where the heaviness lies.  If the dough is too wet, and kneading works in lots of flour, start out one tablespoon water less.

ldavis47's picture

The nice thing about stretch and folds in addition to being gentler on the dough than kneeding is that you can wet your hand and do the stretch and fold rather than using more flour. Also it is very difficult to accurately measure flour by volume. Your dough may be a lot less hydrated than you think. Try using a scale with gram measures. 


DoubleMerlin's picture

I think the key thing preventing your dough from being lighter than store bought is the kneading. Your gluten should be developed before the first rise, unless you do stretch & fold, then it'll develop as your dough develops. Otherwise, do one set of intense kneading after your autolyze, and then be gentle.

According to one of my professors, kneading makes for more air cells. I disagree. I think up to a point, kneading will give you more air cells, after which you just hit a plateau. Also, more air cells does not equal better bread.