The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

1st Sourdough, No Success

oskar270's picture

1st Sourdough, No Success

Into my 1st sourdough and have no success, wonder what I did wrong

I copy this recipe, Norwich Sourdough, from this forum and I'm using half the recipe (all quantities divided by half). My starter is 6 days old and has double in volume with a frothy top and very nice sour smell.

The dough from step 3 onwards was very liquid, like a Jell-O, and very sticky. I'm at step 9 now and the dough after 2.5 hours has not risen at all. Ambient temp. in kitchen is about 72 F. I will keep it another hour and if nothing happens, well I have to scrap it.

Any ideas what I did wrong?


900 g white flour (I used Heartland Mills unbleached malted all-purpose)
120 g whole rye flour (I used KAF pumpernickel)
600 g water at about 74F
360 g ripe 100% hydration sourdough starter
23 g salt
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flours, water, and starter on low speed until just combined, about one minute.
2. Let the dough rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.
3. Add the salt and continue mixing on low or medium speed until the dough reaches a medium level of gluten development. This should only take about 3 or 4 minutes.
4. Transfer the dough to an oiled container (preferably a low, wide one so the dough can be folded without removing it from the container).
5. Ferment at room temperature (72F - 76F) for 2.5 hours, with folds at 50 and 100 minutes.
6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Divide it into 400g - 500g pieces. I usually make four 400g loaves and refrigerate the rest to use for pizza dough later. Preshape the dough pieces into light balls.
7. Sprinkle the balls lightly with flour, cover loosely with plastic, and let rest for 15 minutes.
8. Shape into batards and place seam-side-up in a floured couche or linen-lined bannetons.
9. Slip the couche or bannetons into a large plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap and proof at room temperature for 2 - 2.5 hours. Alternatively, the loaves can be proofed for about 1.5 hours at room temperature, then refrigerated for 2 - 16 hours and baked directly out of the refrigerator; this will yield a tangier bread with a lovely, blistered crust.
10. Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 475F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
11. Turn the proofed loaves onto a semolina-sprinkled peel or parchment. Slash each one with two overlapping cuts that are almost parallel to the long axis of the batard.
12. Once the loaves are in the oven, turn the heat down to 450F. For 400g loaves, bake for 12 minutes with steam, and another 15 - 18 minutes without steam. I leave the oven door cracked open a bit for the last 5 minutes of this time. The crust should be a deep brown. Then turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for 5 minutes longer, with the door ajar, to help them dry. Larger loaves will need to be baked longer.
13. Cool on a wire rack. Don't cut until the loaves are completely cool, if you can manage it!



LindyD's picture

A six-day old sourdough culture is pretty immature, so you can't expect your dough to react the same as Susan's (Wild-Yeast), who modified this recipe from Jeffrey Hamelman's Vermont sourdough, and who has a very mature sourdough culture.  Yours is just taking longer.

It would be wasteful to scrap the dough - why not retard the loaves in the refrigerator overnight?  They will continue to proof there, albeit slower.  In the morning you can pull them out and either bake immediately if they are ready, or give them the necessary time before baking.

The Vermont (Norwich) sourdough is not a sticky wet dough.  Perhaps there was an error made in the division?  Whatever, do give it a chance and try the overnight retarding.  The flavor will be much better than if baked tonight.

Good luck and let us know how it turned out.

oskar270's picture

Thank you so much, I will do as you say and post the results tomorrow

oskar270's picture

Well this morning the loaves were as flat as you can get them.....LOL

Looking what you said about the dough consistency, I checked again my ingredients and indeed I made a mistake with the flour quantity; so I decided to scrap the loaves (we all learn with experience and there is a price to pay to get it).

So I started again this morning and so far the 2nd fermentation is up to 4 hrs (recipe calls for 2.5 hrs) and the loaves have risen just a bit. The dough now is much better so I guess I'm going in the right direction.

You mentioned that my starter is not mature enough. When a starter is considered mature?


LindyD's picture

Hi oskar270,

I'm curious if you tried baking the bread - or did you just ditch it after taking it out of the cooler?

I personally don't think a new sourdough culture is mature until it's about two weeks old - regularly fed during those two weeks.  While a six or seven day old culture may raise bread, that extra week allows the culture to develop strength and better flavor.

Hope these turn out for you and taste wonderful.

oskar270's picture

As I said in the above post, the dough which came out of the cooler this morning was as flat as it can be and therefore I ditch it.

The new one I made this morning, after 6 hours of 2nd fermentation, it turned out beautiful

Thanks for your help


LindyD's picture

Until you bake it.

Example:  Last night I decided to try David Snyder's Bouabsa baguettes with sourdough (the beginning of my baguette journey).  After mixing and folding, the dough went into the fridge for 20 hours, where it sat and never budged an inch.  It looked the same coming of the cooler as it did going in.

Ever the optimist, I followed all the instructions, divided the dough, preshaped, bench rest, then stretched it into rustic shape and let it proof for an hour in my couche.

All the dough did was flatten out, resembling three mollusks.  It was way too wet to even attempt scoring.  At the end of the hour, into the oven it went.  Twenty five minutes later, it looked like this:

Not the prettiest of baguettes, but certainly edible.

Moral of the story: you can't judge a loaf until you've baked it.  

Congrats on your own happy results.  Am glad the second bake worked out for you.

Niashi's picture

I'm going to have to agree with the comments about a starter. I have to say I'm a lot more knowledgable than I was when I started my Sourdough journey and it can take a while for your starter to develop. It took about 2 weeks for mine to. Along the way, I learned what my little yeasties like to eat, what their schedule was like for growth, etc. On the 6th day for me, I was still killing off the the unwanted bacteria that made it look like my starter was very active, when it was a false positive if you want to think of it that way.

I make this recipe every weekend. Everyone's experience is very different with this dough it seems. For me, the dough is wet and a bit sticky and reminds me of hmmmm.. what's a good way of putting it..... rubber maybe?

Anyway,  is my husbands Flikr account, shows me making it. The end result is always very very tasty and sour for me.  It makes excellent loaves. HPIM0992 is mislabelled, that's step 4 (Transfer to oiled container).


I always thought that my dough was just about right for the recipe. The texture and consistency shown in the Video that Susan made for the folding technique matches my dough, so I figured I was doing it right.

I'll move the pictures over to my Flickr account as and put up finished result pictures when I can find my darned USB cable.