The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How do I improve Oven Rise for my No-Knead, Sourdough loaf?

Stephanie Dammer's picture
Stephanie Dammer

How do I improve Oven Rise for my No-Knead, Sourdough loaf?

Hello there!

My name is Stephanie and I've been quietly observing this website for a couple weeks now. I love this forum!

So here is my dilemma: I am not getting the kind of oven rise everyone else keeps talking about so I'm going to include some pictures and explain in detail the method I have been using and hope some of you wonderful, experienced bakers can point me in the right direction!

Ingredients for Sourdough Recipe: (from the book The Urban Homestead)

8 oz. sourdough starter

13 oz. unbleached white bread flour (I've been using King Arthur)

3 oz. whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons wheat bran

8 oz. cool water

1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt


No-Knead Technique: (I followed Breadtopia's video here)

Mixed the ingredients

Covered with plastic bag for 15 minutes

Let ferment for 18 hours

Streched and folded (It seemed to be a great consistency. Not too soupy but not dry enough to handle easily)

Rested for 15 minutes under plastic

Shaped into boule (I am having difficulties getting the hang of this)

Let proof in a bowl lined with a floured towel for 1 1/2 hours (I think maybe this was too long? What happens when you over proof?)

Inverted boule [seam side ended up] into a dutch oven that had been preheated to 500 F (This is where I started to get worried. The dough had a lot of room to spread laterally on the bottom of the dutch oven)

Baked for 30 minutes then removed dutch oven top and reduced heat to 450 F

Baked for another 15 minutes and then let it cool




So my basic concern is getting a better oven spring. I'm also curious if anyone has any possible explanations for why my crusts turned out so light. Does that mean there wasn't enough moisture?

It tastes fantastic and I'm really happy with the ingredients but I'm looking for ways to refine my technique and timing so that I can get a loaf that has risen really well and has alot of the characteristic sourdough holes.

Any assistance is appreciated!



neoncoyote's picture

Hi, Stephanie -

Here are my observations, after six short months of bread baking.

Concerning oven spring, I've found the most crucial factor to be proper shaping; that is, creating a "tense" surface on your loaf, prior to the final proof. Of course, other factors also come into play, such as the hydration of your recipe, and proper gluten development (multiple factors there, too), but I notice really great oven spring in my sourdough when I've taken particular care with my shaping. There are lots of great videos on this site and on You Tube regarding shaping. It's really an art, and I'm not yet consistently great at it.

Concerning the lightness of the crust, I have two thoughts: possibly too much steam and overproofing. When I used to leave my steam pan in the oven for the duration of my bake, my crusts were quite light; when I removed the steam pan half-way through, my crusts started to brown very well. Perhaps, for the recipe you're using, there is too much moisture created by baking in the covered dutch oven? That's just a guess. I've also noticed that my crust does not brown as well if I overproof my dough...IIRC, there's something about "spending" all the sugars needed for a brown crust with a too-long proof. Since you're proofing longer than one hour (this is my max, if my room temp is on the cooler side), you might experiment with shorter final proof times.

Whatever you do, consider only altering ONE factor per batch experiment...It's much more difficult to determine what's responsible for a great loaf if you change up multiple variables in the same batch.

Good luck and welcome :)


LindyD's picture

Tells us about your sourdough culture.  How old is it?  What is the hydration?  How often do you feed it?

Rick D's picture
Rick D

Hi Stephanie,

I'm no pro, but if I read your recipe correctly, there is just one S&F.

I'd recommend adding at least 2 or 3 more, spacing them out about an hour each, before the long proof.


ananda's picture

Hi Stephanie, and welcome to TFL!

good comments above for general improvements you have asked about.

First step is as Rick advises.   I'm not a "no-knead" baker, but I do understand that you really need to get a sequence of S&F into your bulk proof regime to have any hope of developing strength in your dough.   Above all else, this is crucial to the increased oven spring you are seeking.   It will bring great improvement to every aspect of your crumb structure.

Best wishes


margieluvschaz's picture


I make no knead bread all of the time with great results.  I use the bread topia's Sourdough nk recipe with a few variations. Feed starter 8 hours before making bread-  I add more flour  anout 1/4- 1/2 cup so it isn't quite as sticky. If I don't add the extra flour my loaves look like the one in your picture.    I live in Arizona now  so I only let it ferment 12 hours. I'm not sure where you live but it could be over fermenting.   When you shape it get a really tight surface- Turn it over pinch the bottom together a few times- place it with pich side down on a parchment paper sling & proof in a bowl for 1 hour- or until dough holds the impression of your finger.Then leave it in the sling & place it in your baker-( maybe your deflates a bit when you putit in baker?    I score my no knead bread also  with a triangle on top & a few slashes coming out of it like a sun- not sure if you score yours?  Good Luck!


Stephanie Dammer's picture
Stephanie Dammer

I'm so excited for all of these comments I can't wait to try them out!

@Carmen: I will definitely search this site for shaping videos and tips. It seems to be one of the subtleties of baking bread that really improves the quality of the loaf. I didn't use a steam pan but it is good to know that over proofing can affect the crust quality. Thank you for that piece of information. And your tip about changing one aspect of the baking process per loaf is great! I try to do that as well as keep a consistent record of how I baked the loaf. Thank you!

@LindyD: My sourdough starter is only about 3 weeks old, 100% hydration and so far I've fed it every day in the morning. It smells wonderful, like apples! Can this have an affect on oven spring?

@Rick and Andy: Great advice! Would you suggest including another S&F before proofing? How many times do you S&F for a no-knead loaf?

@Margie: I live in Arizona too so your suggestion about reducing the fermentation to 12 hours could be the ticket! Thanks!


I'll do my best to post an update with the improved bread that I'm sure I'll get once I try all of your great tips!

Thanks all!


Rick D's picture
Rick D

Here's what I get with 3 or 4 stretch and folds. I'm still working on my technique, but this was last weekend's efforts! (disclaimer - I do kneed to some degree here, but not much)


legso's picture

Hi Rick, I am a sourdough newbie and am having trouble getting oven spring. The bread looks and tastes fine, but is pretty tough to cut and spreads out quite flat like Stephanie's. I am using a very similar recipe to Stephanie too, although not quite so hot and I also let it cook for a bit longer without the lid for a browner crust.

Your bread looks like what I'm aiming for! I was wondering when during the process you add the 3 or 4 stretch and folds?

Ps. I have just realised your post was over 2 years ago, but hopefully you are still baking and (probably) making even better bread by now! Perhaps you have some more tips for me from your experience?!



Rick D's picture
Rick D

Hi Legs, I do my stretch and folds during the first proof. With a no kneed technique this would come after all the ingredients have been mixed. For my kneeded bread I usually do a stretch and fold every 30 minutes until it seems the gluten is well-formed, usually 2-3 times. For a no kneed bread my bet is this would take several more. Also, part of the key to avoid a frisbee or a UFO is shaping. Good luck. Happy to elaborate later but right in middle of watching Giants beat down the Tigers.



legso's picture

Thanks, I'll give that a go now! I think the tricky part so far is getting it into the dutch oven without losing its shape... I think I'm going to try lifting it on some baking paper and putting that in too. Fingers crossed!

LindyD's picture

 My sourdough starter is only about 3 weeks old, 100% hydration and so far I've fed it every day in the morning.

Hi Stephanie....a 100 percent hydrated sourdough culture needs to be fed more than just once every 24 hours.   At a minimum it should be fed at least every 12 hours - or every six to eight hours,  depending on when it peaks.  Only you can judge that, but here's an excellent photo by professional baker and teacher Dan DiMuzio, which shows three different ripe preferments.

Nor should you be refrigerating it on the day your mix your dough.  Take it out of the cooler (if that's where you keep it) the day before and give it several feedings.  I think that, and some of the above advice, will make you happier with the results.

Do keep us posted!

AZBlueVeg's picture

I disagree with those who say that dough needs to be stretched/folded 2 or more times at one hour intervals. The whole point of no-knead bread is that it doesn't require this much manipulation. I have been making no-knead bread for a while now, with my own home-made starter, and I simply do ONE stretch/fold after the dough has finished fermenting, let it sit for 15 minutes, then form a ball ensuring there is a nice gluten cloak on the outside and let it rise for 2 hours before baking. Additional stretching/folding doesn't do anything to improve the bread, at least not in my experience, and adds unnecessary steps.

The reason your loaf ended up dense and light colored has nothing to do with your recipe. The dough is over-fermented. This happened to me a couple of times when using home grown starter, especially sourdough. The acids in sourdough starter break down the gluten much faster than commercial yeasts. The more starter you use, the less fermentation time you have to play with. I use the basic Sullivan Street no-knead recipe, simply substituting 25 grams of 100% hydration starter for the yeast. Everything else stays the same. I ferment the dough until it has doubled in size and no more. With 25 grams of starter and average temps of 72-75 this time of year in Arizona, a 12-hour ferment does the trick. Any longer and I would risk over-fermentation and dough collapse. With more starter, your fermentation times will be shorter.

I made a 1-2-3 recipe the other day - 1 part starter, 2 parts water, 3 parts flour, all by weight - and the maximum fermentation time I could sustain was about 5-6 hours. If you want more flavorful bread, reduce the amount of starter and increase the fermentation time.

PeterS's picture

That recipe has a pretty good amount of sourdough starter for something that ferments 18 hrs at room temperature or higher. Initially, the presence of the sourdough and its acids will strengthen the dough, but over a longer period of time they will break down the gluten structure leading to breads that look like yours. For evidence of this look at your starter, initially when you feed it is pasty, then it starts to get firmer and tacky, eventually somewhat dough like. Leaving it longer, it then starts to get pasty/creamy like with a loss of volume as the gluten breaks down. 

Whole wheat flour and the added bran also are going to favor a more compact crumb.

I would try baking off the dough at 10-12 hours, giving the dough a fold or two just before it's proofed. If that gives you a better result, but you want to ferment for 18 hrs (for convenience) you could cut down on the amount of starter or use a starter that is not as ripe.

I have also found the no-knead recipe (as published in the NY Times) to work better at 75-80% hydration, i.e. the water to flour ratio is 0.75:1.

How long did you preheat your dutch oven?