The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough no-knead --diagnosis?

Mason's picture

Sourdough no-knead --diagnosis?

I just tried my first attempt ever at a higher-hydration dough, and at not kneading all the CO2 out before shaping.  Bwraith's discussion of adapting the NYT no-knead to sourdough seemed like a good one to try:  I have a very healthy mature 100% hydration sourdough starter, just reinvigorated the previous night.

The loaf that came out is amazingly tasty: nutty, chewy and soft with a great crunchy-chewy crust.  (Almost half of it has just made a very enjoyable lunch, accompanied by good olive oil, cheddar and black pepper.)

But it had almost no oven-spring at all.  None.  I had slashed it a little, but the cuts didn't open at all.

I so want to try replicating this taste.  But the shape seems like a failure.

The only changes I made to Bill's recipe was to make about 1 cup of the weight of Flour stone-ground whole wheat (Bob's Red Mill).  The rest was good reliable KA bread flour. 

I started late morning and couldn't stay up to see the process through on the recommended timing.  So after trying a couple of french folds and fermenting for about 14 hours to get it doubled, I shaped it as gently as I could and set it in the refrigerator (under inverted bowl in mega-sized Ziplock bag) to retard overnight.  It was baked in a well-preheated Teracotta crock after sitting out at (65°F) room temp, after sitting out for a couple of hours.

I suspect over-proofing, though from my limited experience with over-proofed bread (I'm usually too impatient), I would have thought that would make the top of the loaf collapse.  I don't see that in the crumb.  But the shape does dimple in at the center a little.

But I also suspect that my hand was too much velvet and not enough iron.  I have some very massive holes in the crumb. perhaps the yeasts needed to be redistributed a little?

Or perhaps I just used too much Whole Wheat flour. My conscience troubles me about baking purely white bread.  Perhaps I just need to get over that.

Any advice on how to retain this taste but improve the shape and size would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance,



flournwater's picture

My gut reaction would be overproofed dough.  I'm not qualified to speak to the affect of the whole wheat flour but if Don Snyder shows up bere, he'll have that answer for you.

LindyD's picture

Do you mean David Snyder? 

As Jason Mraz sings, our name is our virtue.  ;-)

flournwater's picture

Embarrassing as it is to admit it, I seem to have a lot of trouble getting "David" into the string; this is not the first time I've made that mistake.  Thanks for correcting my faux pas.  You will understand, I'm sure, how deeply embarrassed I am about this error if you know that I taught a course on inter-personal communications many years ago and that I spent some of the class time on the importance of addressing people correctly, by name. 

My apologies to you, David.  I will make every effort to honor your name in the future.

margieluvschaz's picture

 I'm not Dave but...

I think that you don't have enough starter to get lift  I use 3 more TBL of starter
I have used this recipe with great luck


  • 1 cup (5 oz.) whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 cups (11 oz.) white bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups purified water
  • 1/4 cup starter

sometimes I add a bit more flour & my bread rises more beautifully

It's from www.breadtopia

Mix dough- put in bowl & cover roomtemp for 18 hours

turn out on floured board fold over rest 10 min

shape in loaf put on sprayed parchment paper  in bowl- cover with plastic let proof  1 hour- turn oven on with dutch oven or la cloche in it  at 500

after 30 min check by pressing finger gently in loaf- if it stays indented it's done

slah, sprinkle with flour put in baker bake 25-30 min with lid- remove drop oven to 450 bake until reaches 200-210 degrees 

good luck!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

In the morning as it's warming up.  Not only do your hands warm up the dough, you can feel where the big bubbles are growing and pop them.  You had a chance to reshape after refrigeration and another fold up might have made all the difference.  It doesn't look overproofed just week structure.

When the surface tension is tight, the slashes will open better.  Good that it tastes good.  yes! Make it again! 




hutchndi's picture

Looks tasty, but  the proofing times you describe sound excessive, unless I am reading them wrong. Especially with the substitution of the wholw wheat flour, a factor which changes the proofing time that your dough can withstand, and creates a dough that can benefit from a somewhat shortened proofing time compared to a full white flour recipe. 

Mason's picture

Thanks for the advice, everyone.

I'm tring again this morning, abandoning the "no knead" approach, and using more starter.  The amounts Margie suggested seem about right.  But I'm trying to develop the gluten more.

I mixed it and did a few french folds, ten kind of graduated to kneading it on the counter with my dough scraper.  I'm now letting it autyse for 20 minutes and then I'll do some more french folds to finish the gluten development.  

I'll let that rise a while --I'm expecting it will double in 12-18 hours.  I'm in Florida, but in the middle of an unusualy cold snap (outside this morning it's right at freezing point; we keep the house at about 65° when we're home and let it get lower when we're out or in bed) so room temp is low right now.

Hutchindi, you suggest that whole wheat flour would not handle such a long ferment/rise.  What makes it so?  I have not seen that written anywhere.  What happens to over-fermented ww dough?

The technique for the final shaping is obviously going to take some practice. I'll try to squish out the bigger bubbles when I do that shaping, and try to get a better surface tension.   I think last time I stretched the very outer skin of the dough tight, but didn't develop well the rest of the structure. Inside it was still a floppy mess.

Thanks again for all your advice.  I'll let you know how the next batch turns out.  It's time to fold the dough.

avaserfi's picture

Check out the thread below, I had the same issue long ago and documented my efforts with the help of some members on the board.

Mason's picture

I'm half way through reading over that very long and detailed thread you referred me to and learning lots.  Dan's feedback to you seems to apply well to my case too.

It does seem that my problem was over-fermented dough from too long an initial ferment (weak structure, very sour taste).

I'm fermenting at a rather cold temp (the room is about 65°F).  But I'm not going to expect the 18 hour ferment that Margi suggested.  I'll keep a closer watch on it.  

I expect that it could be ready to shape early this evening sometime, with slightly more starter than last time.

To get the good sour taste, though, I think I will retard it overnight again to slow the yeast and help the bacteria along.  Or can that make the dough too acidic?

I'll also take more photos.  I always have trouble seeing when it has doubled in size.  Photos can help with the process, as well as with documenting it for next time.

Mason's picture

In case anyone cares, I tried the amounts that Margie suggested, but had a timing problem.  I had to leave the house for a few hours (so I thought), but it wound up being about 7 hours (Unavoidable delay in my return).  The dough was so obviously over fermented that I'm not even going to try to bake it. 

Lesson learned.

I'm starting again right now, with the aim of retarding shaped loaves in the fridge and baking tomorrow.

margieluvschaz's picture

Hi Mason-


Where do you live?  The reason I ask is temperature has a lot to do with proof time.  I  just moved from Idaho to Arizona this July.  My first rise times on warm days can be 8-12 hours instead of 18.  If you can arrange a day where say you make the dough & be home after 12-18 hours I think you'll be really happy with that recipe.  I add a bit more flour maybe a 1/8 cup and the loaves are really nice looking.  I think if you can arrange it you'll be really happy with it.   good luck !


Mason's picture

I'm in central Florida, Margie.  But it's very cold right now (below freezing last night).  The temp in the house overnight gets into the 40s (we like it cold while in bed) and then we raise it for mornings and evenings.  Loweer in the day when we're not home.

It was probably in the 60s most of the day.  But still it lost all shape and structure after just over  8 hours.

Maybe my starter is more vigorous than yours?

margieluvschaz's picture

I love Florida.  We lived in Davie Florida for a few years before we moved to Idaho in 07 & here in AZ in July. 

Maybe it is the starter ?  mine is the King Arthur one.  I've had it for over a year  leave it on the counter & feed it 1-2 times a day baking about 4- 8  loaves a week for us & neighbors/ friends.   It seems pretty healthy. 8 hours is really fast! You must have turbo starter.

Let us know how your next batch turns out!   

Mason's picture

After reading much more about sourdough, from many of the discussions on this site, I'm going to try to adopt what various people describe as Hammelman's method to this recipe.  It seems sensible to have a long pre-ferment with just white flour, and then add the WW flour and more white, develop the gluten and ferment more briefly.


Levain  (mixed this evening):

100% hydration SD starter:             28g

Water                                     150g

Bread Flour:                         150g

(I adjusted the water down from 170g and flour up from 136g, since H. uses 125% hydration starter that has more water and less flour than mine).

Hamelman's recipe for the Vermont SD is designed for about twice the amount I want to bake while experimenting (I'd rather make one-loaf batches), so I'll try to cut it in half. and shoot for amounts closer to Margie's for the overall dough.

Tomorrow afternoon, I'll add some Whole Wheat Flour, more bread flour and water. (I'll figure out amounts in the morning.  It's too late to do the math just now.)

Mix briefly (adjust hydration if necessary) then cover, let autolyse 20 min.

Then add salt, knead in Kitchen Aid 2 mins.

Bulk ferment 2 ½ hours, with two or three folds during this time.

Shape, retard overnight.

Next morning: Rise about 2 ½ hours, and bake.

So if all goes to plan, I should have results on Saturday.  

Mason's picture

I tried adapting Hammelman's Vermont Sourdough method to a part whole wheat.  Details of the amounts and such are here where I posted a question about folding.

I'm happy with how the results look, smell and feel:

Now it should have cooled enough to taste.