The Fresh Loaf

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sourdough lack of rise

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savvymegs's picture

sourdough lack of rise

HI, all,

   I posted earlier and really appreciated the responses. I did feed my king arthur starter around my schedule, and made bread using the extra tangy sourdough bread recipe last weekend.

    The bread came out pretty tangy, with a good sour flavor, but with relatively little rise during the proofing step. I live in the northern us, so I often have to proof in the oven to provide a warm enough environment. I noticed in all the steps this bread developed a bit of skin on the dough - could that have prevented the rise (I noticed it did expand some in the oven after I slashed it)? If so, what are some easy ways of preventing what I'm guessing is the drying-out that causes the skin?

    I did notice after now a little under a week my starter is doing pretty well. I have a small plastic container of it at 'room temperature' that I feed twice a day and seems to double in several hours. I am wondering if I tried again after a week of feeding if that would make a difference, the starter seems more vigorous, it doubles quicker.

   I guess - could the skin prevent it from rising? And would the starter being seemingly more active make it rise better?

    I plan to use the starter building technique described to prep for baking, but it probably won't be till this weekend or next week that I can do it. Trying to plan for the next try. :)


Bakingmadtoo's picture

Well done on achieving a nice loaf. Like you I have to proof in the oven at this time of the year. I usually do an overnight retard on the counter though and bake in the morning. If you want to prevent a skin forming you can use some oiled wrap, a damp tea towel, or I just use a plate to cover the bowl and find the humidity from the jug if hot water I put in the oven is enough to prevent a skin.

I did try using the oven with the light on once and it got too warm and did form a nasty thick skin and dried out bits.

I certainly wouldn't want a skin to form on the bulk ferment, however, I do like a bit of a skin to form on the final proof, I find it helps the loaves hold their shape when I turn them out of the banneton and makes them easier to slash. How thick is the skin and when is it forming?

It is possible if you think that you didn't get enough rise, that either, the dough spread when you turned it out of the banneton (or did you use a tin! I am not sure?), and personally I find warm dough much more likely to do this, or it simply needs to proof for longer. I repeatedly under proofed when I began. Don't forget that when you are working in a cold kitchen, your flour, bowls, probably your hands, possibly your starter are all colder than normal, unless you are compensating for that with warmer water and a degree or two extra when proving that your dough could take a lot longer to rise.  I have just been reading Ken Forkish's book and he talks of the importance of final dough temperature when mixed and how just a degree or two off can make a vast difference to rising times. Establishing when my dough is proofed just right is something I find very difficult. But so far, however long I leave it I have not over proofed, proving Mini Oven right!

I am suggesting this because your answer seems to imply that you didn't see much rise in the dough before putting it in the oven? I hope I have read correctly. I am guessing though as slight under proof should give huge oven spring.

The great thing about baking though is that you eat all your mistakes, which generally taste great, and hope for improvement next time!



ElPanadero's picture

Hi Megs 

I too use the oven to aid proving esp during winter.  It's important to maintain a moist environment to prevent skins forming.  For 1st proving my dough will be in a large plastic bowl with a smaller bowl upturned on top which maintains a moist environment.  For second provings (after loaves/rolls have been formed) I pour boiling water from the kettle into a small loaf and put that in the oven which creates hot water vapour and prevent skins forming.  For my bannetons I have muslin elasticated covers which prevent skins forming but wthout those I would just put the bannetons inside a supermarket carrier bag to achieve the same thing.

Sounds like your starter is doing well and is nice and lively so no problems there causing your lack of proving rise.  Are you leaving the dough to prove long enough (no patronisation intended here).  When I first started sourdoughs it took me a while to really appreciate how much longer it takes to prove than when using baker's yeast.  Minimum 4 hrs for me usually, sometimes more depending on room temp and other factors.

Anyway, good luck with next attempts !  :-)

savvymegs's picture

Thanks for the tips!

*I did not use a banneton. I used a glass bowl for the first rise; for the second a loaf pan for one half of the dough and proofed the other on a cookie sheet.

*I did not get great oven spring but I did get some.

*I got some skin on the bulk ferment sadly and then a fairly thick skin on the loaves, definitely a bit dry.

*I think for the bulk ferment I did about 4 hours and maybe 3-4 for the second proof? But I guess maybe it needs even longer. I can let it rise longer next time. I don't think this weekend as I am having wrist issues that would make kneading difficult but hopefully soon. I will let it proof longer - our apartment gets pretty cold.

I also have the starter doing better than when I first attempted so hopefully that will make a difference as well.

Thanks for the input! I'll be more patient next time.