The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dry dough = dense bread, wet dough =dense bread, help!

KT's picture

Dry dough = dense bread, wet dough =dense bread, help!


I've had a fairly good starter going since about mid March, but after about 20 attempts, I can't produce anything but bricks. I know the starter is active and healthy because it bubbles vigorously and rises nicely, but I have never been able to get the light open crumb I see in so many pictures here.

I've tried using wet dough and doing the tri-fold method, dry dough fermented for up to 2 days in the fridge, and many variations in between, but all I get are very dense results. The taste of some of them are pretty good, but structurally, they are like glorified potting clay. The main probblem I seem to be having is that I have no idea how to transfer the risen dough to a peel without it collapsing. If I make the dough stiffer, you could use some of my attempts as paving stones. When I make it wet, even though it's nice and stretchy, as soon as I transfer it to a flat surface, it spreads out into a pancake. I'm at my wits end as to how to make a wet dough keep it's shape, or how to make a stiffer dough have all those nice airy bubbles. Are there any good video sources that show, from start to finish how to bake a nice airy loaf of bread?

Mechanically, I just can't see how it's possible to transfer a light fluffy raised loaf to anything without it completely collapsing.

Any help greatly appreciated

GlendaLynne's picture

I'm no  expert, but could you be over-proving?

I'll be interested to see what others have to say.

MmeZeeZee's picture

I am having trouble myself, though when my loaves flatten, they rise a bit in the oven and I get very wide but open crumbs.  That said... I just don't transfer them.  I rise them on the baking sheets.  I figure, once I get this levain thing down, I can practice one loaf with a transfer and bake the other one safe on its sheet, and eventually move towards a more authentic method.  Because it's hard enough to get the rest of it right, the last thing I need is to get it right and then deflate it at the end, kwim?

shazron's picture

why not try rising in bread tin it works fine who said what shap they have to be!

jpchisari's picture

Without seeing the loaves, 3 issues come to mind.


Underdeveloped gluten (undermixing)

Poor shaping.




Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

how long the loaves took to rise or helpful details.

With sourdough, the sourdough starter has to be in good shape first, then go from there.

Ok, so the starter is in the bathroom closet.  A closet starter.   72°F   I've got 7 questions for you.   How long does it take to rise? What do you feed it and how often?

How much of the starter is fed and roughly how much flour do you feed it?  What is its Hydration or water weight divided by flour weight?

How much starter do you use in your bread?  I suggest sticking to one recipe until you get it working than trying all different recipies.  Easier to figure out what the problem may be.  Oh, and what is your rising temperature?

Bricks? Show me one, please with a crumb shot if possible or a picture of the poor animal that ate it!  (I wondering if my idea of a brick matches yours.) 

Mini  :)

KT's picture

I'm heading off to work now but will answer more completely when I get home tonight.

flournwater's picture

Just a comment on the "transfer" issue.  If you put a piece of parchment paper on your peel and use that surface  (dough covered of course)  for your final proof you can slide the loaf onto your baking stone when it's ready without having to move it to the peel.

If I understand you correctly, you're working with a wild yeast formula and not adding additional yeast.  That can be a bit tricky and the tendancy when using that approach is to overproof in the final rise.  If you're using a whole wheat or rye formula it can be even more problematic.  Just don't give up and be sure to keep good notes on ANY change you make in the process.  I'm sure you're weighing your ingredients so I won't badger you about the importance of that for consistency.

cursedwyvern's picture

Sweet! You found a technique for making hardtack! (Camping bread) Just need to figure out how to make it very low moisture so it stays  unspoiled for longer, like making beef jerky.



KT's picture

... and today's loaves were much better. I made two experimental amaranth/spelt/AP flour loaves with honey, salt and hulled hemp seeds.

I had the whole day to keep a sharp eye on how the dough was rising and it seems to be that my starter is just slow. It took 12 hours on my countertop for the dough to double in size. I think I should have put them in the oven around the 10 hour mark, because they were a bit flattened out, but the crumb was my best to date. Structurally, holes averaged around the size of BBs, with some larger ones sprinkled throughout. Slices were much lighter and fluffier than anything I've done before, with just the right chewiness and mild sour taste.

Not sure why my starter is so slow, but it has a nice taste and eventually gets the job done. On it's terms, apparently, not mine.