The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

First SD loaf - some disappointment

maswindell's picture

First SD loaf - some disappointment

I'll post some photos when I get home but here goes. I used this recipe:


I haven't tried the NYT No-Knead recipe, although I've read some of the discussions on The Fresh Loaf along the way. Based on some questions from KipperCat about the amount of starter that should go in a sourdough conversion of the recipe, I decided to give converting this recipe to sourdough a try.


  • 15 grams (1/2oz, 1 tbsp)of 90% to 100% hydration white flour starter or 12 grams of firm Glezer style starter or similar.

  • 346g (12 oz, 1.5 cups) water

  • 450g (16 oz, 3.25 cups) bread flour, should be stronger flour if possible.

  • 9g Salt

I followed this recipe very close, the dough fermented about 14 hours, kitchen temps were in the low 70's and had doubled in that time frame. However it was still a shaggy mass. I proofed for about 5 hours in a Romertopf baker until doubled. I pput the baker ina cold oven at 450 for about 45 minutes, internal temp was 200. Crust was a very light brown, crumb was dense and chewy and nice sourdough taste. I was hoping for a more open crmub and better crust. Where di I go wrong ? I have noticed from other other recipes that some use AP flour instead of bread flour , will this make a difference in crumb, or is it all technique involved ?

Thanks for any help


flournwater's picture

My first suspect would be the 5 hour proof.  Did you do a finger poke test at any point?  I suspect your loaf might have been overproofed.  I also suspect you lost any chance for oven spring with a cold oven start.  The recipe recommends heating the cooking vessel before depositing the dough into the cavity.

hc's picture

Admittedly, I'm very new to baking in general and sourdough in particular, but I have consistently failed to produce anything but a massive hockey puck when trying a sourdough version of the no-knead bread (both the version you posted and the one on Now that I can make a reasonably good "sorta-knead" sourdough loaf, I don't especially care that I wasn't able to get the no-knead to work with sourdough (though it IS awesome with commercial yeast).

Ambimom's picture

I've been perfecting my own sourdough no-knead bread for months and am happy to report consistently good results at last! Believe me, it didn't happen overnight.

 I adapted a combination of Jim Lahey's method and the America's Test Kitchen "almost no-knead" method. I'll share my recipe here, but I think like everything else, you have to find what works best for you. Keep trying! It is so worth it!  I had to learn to recognize how things were supposed to look because I'd never worked with sourdough before.  That was the key for me.  Then I just experimented with stuff.  Each failure taught me something.

1 cup very active starter (I measure this by volume)

330 grams white bread flour

110 grams whole wheat flour

10 ounces of water (don't add another drop.)

1 TBS kosher salt (this is to taste)

Mix thoroughly until all the liquid is completely flour left on the bottom of the bowl.  Let sit in covered bowl anywhere from 8 to 18 hours.  (Mine usually starts to rise in about 2 hours, but I wait about 12 to 14 hours before shaping.)

After the intitial rise, the dough will be puffy, full of holes and somewhat sticky, but easy to handle.

I scrape the dough onto floured board and knead for 10 or 15 turns.  {This will make all the difference in the rise.}  I shape the dough ball and then place it in a round skillet that has been lined with oiled parchment paper.  I cover it with kitchen towel.

I let it rise anywhere from 2 to 4 hours before baking. Once I had to wait 5 hours.  It depends on the weather, et. al. (It will spring back when you poke a finger in it.  That's when you know it's ready.)

I pre-heat covered Dutch oven 30 minutes at 500F before baking.  When it's ready, I slash the top, drop the risen dough (parchment and all) into the heated dutch oven. Cover and bake 30 min (lowered to  425 F)

Baking depends on oven, but mine takes 30 min covered and about 22 min uncovered.  Internal temperature is 212F.

hc's picture

*notworthy emoticon goes here*

Seriously, that looks really yummy.

LindyD's picture

Would be nice to see what the crumb looks like.

maswindell's picture

Thanks for the reply. I think I'll have to try again with your recipe. I probably made a mistake by not really shaping a loaf and dumping the mixture into the pot. But  others have done this with luck so who knows. The finger test always resulted in a tip full dough so perhaps I should have waited for the final rise.

At least this test was moderately successful. If you or others would chime in, why is there such a variation in starter quantities ? Some use 1/8 cup others 1 cup. Am explanation for newbie would be very helpful.


maswindell's picture

I used this recipe over the weekend and bead came out pretty good. I baked at the perscribed temp and pulled the romertopf at 205 after 30 minutes covered and 25 uncovered at 450 degrees. The crust was light tan and crumb fairly dense but did have a good taste - slightly sour.

I used all KA all purpose flour and fermented for 12 hours on the counter, and proofed for about 2 hours also on the counter. To get larger holes should I add more water and fold more often ? The folding wentwell at 10-15 times both prior to proofing and afterwards.


AndyM's picture

It can be done!  I've been making almost nothing but sourdough no-knead breads for the past year or so.  Here are a couple of pictures of loaves from that process (it's my first time posting pictures here, though, so my apologies if they don't turn out quite right...):




My conversion of yeast measurements into starter is:

Approx. 300 g. starter replaces approx. 1/4 tsp. yeast.

My starter is firm - typically about 65% hydration. 

I also use more salt than the original Lahey formula - more like 1-3/4 tsp. per loaf (when a loaf has a total of 3 C of flour).

The only modification in mixing I use is to "dig into" the dough as it is coming together a bit more to attempt to distribute the starter more evenly.  But honestly, I think this attempt is superfluous - I used to make my starter with all whole wheat flour, and when I would make white bread with it, the final crumb would have swirls of brown in it, indicating areas of undistributed starter; the bread was fine even with these swirls. 

I notice that 12 g. of starter sounds like not very much.  There has been some discussion on this board before about how much prefermented flour should be used, and I gather that different people's experiences have differed substatially.  My experience is closer to that of Ambimom, who uses substantially more than 12 g. starter per loaf, though she measures in volume (truth be told, I usually use volume these days too, as heretical as I know that is - sometimes I just can't be bothered).  What I notice in the development of the dough during the first fermentation is this: when it is first mixed, it appears pretty shaggy and not terribly "dough" like.  So I walk away and leave it for 15-30 minutes (this is not technically an "autolyse" as the dough has all of its ingredients in it, but it accomplishes one of the main purposes of an "autolyse", which is to allow the water to incorporate fully into the flour).  When I return, the dough has a different look to it.  Parts of the top surface are still glistening, almost as if they have a thin sheet of water on them, and other parts have started to look like real dough:  they appear more integrated and elastic, and with a quick turn of the dough, the whole mass stretches and comes together.  For me, the "right" hydration is achieved when, after this 15-30 minute rest, a quick turn produces stretching where the sides of the dough seem to want to stick to the sides of the bowl, but after stretching gently, they "choose" to come with the dough rather than staying back with the sides of the bowl.  The bottom of the dough might really stick to the bottom of the bowl, and this is still fine.  After this quick turn, the dough really looks like a dough, albeit a wet, sticky dough.  This, I think, is more stiff than Lahey calls for, though I usually use more water than he calls for.  Then the dough sits, and I move to the next step when the dough is fully fermented (I look for a dough that has lots of little pock-mark looking holes on the top of it - it usually looks quite a bit wetter than it did at the end of mixing, and it feels stickier and needs more coaxing to come away from the sides of the bowl, though with gentle stretching, you can still pull a section out into a small "windowpane" before it tears).

Your 5-hour final proof does seem rather long - going this long after the final shaping might lead to a significant slackening of the dough, so that it does not have enough strength to support the oven spring.  Following a full first fermentation, my sourdoughs usually proof for about 2 hours - the fingerpoke test is the one I use.

I agree completely with flournwater above, who notes that starting with a cold oven could be affecting the results - I would be sure to pre-heat the oven and the pot that the bread will bake in for a minimum of 30 minutes.

I also make a modification to Lahey's process when I bake sourdoughs: I have found that a higher oven temperature gives me more of the results that I like, so I tend to bake at 475-500 F, whereas I bake yeast breads at closer to 450 F.

I haven't listed a specific formula because I don't really use one.  I have found sourdough baking to be just as flexible and malleable as yeast baking with this method, and I have used higher hydrations and lower hydrations, rustic shaping techniques and artisan shaping techniques, free-standing proofs and proofing in cloches/rising baskets, all white flour and mostly whole wheat flour, bulk fermentation in one period and "punching down" the dough to get a second period of bulk fermentation, and many other variations.  The no-knead process has worked quite well for all of them. 



Nomadcruiser53's picture

I love seeing all the breads you folks are making. Thanks for the tips and insights. It sure helps. Dave

flournwater's picture

After reading your initial post, I decided to try again to make a worthy loaf using only my wild yeast sourdough starter; no other yeast at any point.

My wild yeast starter is 100% hydration; I wanted to make a single one pound loaf.

I first fed the starter, allowed it to double at room temp., the refrigerated it.

Next day:

150 grams 100% hydrated starter

204 grams bread flour

111 grams tepid water

5 grams salt

(Finished dough hydration approx. 67%)

Put all ingredients in stand mixer, mixed with paddle until fully combined, kneaded with dough hook on medium/low speed for ten minutes.

Placed into lightly oiled bowl

Use bowl scraper to raise and fold up and over itself at 90 degree angles, four folds each cycle for two cycles.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 24 hours.

Remove from refrigerator and allow to rest at room temp. for 4 hours or until 70% to 100% rise occurs.

Stretch/fold the dough once more, using four cycles.

Set aside to proof (dough will be quite sticky, almost fluid)

Place Dutch oven (or similar vessel with cover) into range oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

When oven reaches temperature, uncover the Dutch oven, drop the dough into the vessel, cover and bake for 15 minutes.

Uncover and continue baking an additional 20 minutes until golden brown and internal temperature reaches 195 - 200 degrees.

Place on cooling rack for one hour.  Slice and serve. 


Perhaps I should have slashed it, but the dough was so slack that I decided to try it without that step.

(Click on thumbnails for larger view)

bassopotamus's picture

We've been baking between 12 and 16 loaves of no knead SD a week lately, and had a fair number of things go wrong, but have really hit the stride lately. I see a couple things above that are right on the money, so I'll just reiterate them.


1. You are probably over proofing. From making breads with commercial yeast, I was used to the shaped loaves more or less doubling during the proof. This doesn't happen with SD. The first batches I made, I was letting proof too long, and they were flat, lifeless, and not very brown. We've cut the proof to about 3 hours, and that is plenty. They don't grow much during the proof but have lots of spring.


2. You should preheat the oven and the baker. What gives oven spring is that fast shock of heat right away where the dough springs up before yeast die and the crust hardens. We preheat the oven for over an hour before the first loaves go in, and do the water in cast iron bit to steam. You can use a baker instead, but it needs to be hot too, or it is going to act more as insulation.


3. That is a really really small quantity of starter. I don't have a ton of experience with other recipies (I have had good results with the first one I tried and am sticking to it until farmers' market season is over), but to make two loaves my recepie calls for 2 oz of mother(it isabout 67% hydration, but I think that is beside the point), which is then built into about 15 oz of a starter which ferments about 8 hours, which is then built into about 3 lbs of dough. Part of your problem may be that you just don't have enough microbe action happening.

maswindell's picture

I'm going to try again this weekend and see what happens. It sounds like I over proofed the dough from what i have read. I waited the extra time because the finger poke test never happened, the finger always came away with dough sticking to it, so i went ahead and baked.

I folded the dough about 6 times so this might not have been enough to build and tension in the dough. I'll use more starter this time and preheat the baker and the oven to see what happens.

With regards to my starter, I fed with 3/4 cup Ap flour and 1/4 cup water into about a tablespoon of the original starter. After 12 hours at room temp it has doubled, but I'm at work so I don't how much more will happen until I get home. It's always been bubbly but never really active as I've seen with other posts.

The starter is Bahrain from Sourdo and after activation I kept 1/4 cup in aonther jar in the frig as a backup. As a novice it just seems the strter shouldbe more vibrant - it smells like sourdoiugh with no hooch, just not real active.


flournwater's picture

Your "feed" mix for the starter, based on your figures, is about 33% hydration.  You may find it a bit more active if you hydrate the starter a little more.

Assuming you added that to an equal amount of your 100% hydrated starter, (170 grams flour, 57 grams water to 227 grams starter) your final hydration would be about 61% for the final dough.

maswindell's picture

Thanks for the reply and help. After this last feeding the starter appears to be quite healthy, nice and bubbly with a good sour scent. I'll feed again tonite with the new information on hydration and proofing and see what happens come Saturday afternoon.

Thanks to all for your help, especially us newbies