The Fresh Loaf

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[Norwich] Sourdough tastes great, but won't rise enough.

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wynk's picture
wynk

[Norwich] Sourdough tastes great, but won't rise enough.

A bit of background on me: I've been baking bread using the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day "no-knead" method since the book first came out.  So, I guess about four years now...with probably 90% fantastic results (after a short breaking-in period).  Recently I got the bug to try sourdough and I wanted to do it properly.  I've been reading The Fresh Loaf for a while and there were such good things said about the Norwich sourdough that I thought I'd start with that.  My goal was, pick one recipe, master it, learn how things change if you tweak this factor or that factor, and then move on to some other recipes or tweak till I find out what I like best.


Well, I've not gotten very far down that road.  I started my starter about two months ago, initially a rye starter but I've been feeding it with white flour so it's mostly white at this point.  I'm keeping it on my counter (probably about 70-72 degrees in my kitchen right now) and feeding it once a week.  It looks happy and bubbly any time I peek at it, and after I've fed it, if I stir it down I can see that it's bubbled up quite nicely.  It smells good, too, except for the occasional hooch, but I deal with that.


I should note that every time I've made this I've halved the recipe.


My first loaves were actually pretty decent:


 


 



first sourdough by mellowynk, on Flickr


 


But I only did the 2.5-hour proof on the counter and they didn't taste sourdough-y, so the second time I proofed them overnight in the fridge and baked in the morning.  These were gorgeous:



Sourdough take 2 by mellowynk, on FlickrAnd I took them to work.  I was really happy with these.


This is when things started to go downhill. My third batch, I did something stupid, so we won't count that. My fourth and fifth batches, I went back to the original recipe (what I did for batch 1), and they all turned out as flat as a pancake. Awful.  I didn't even take pics of these, they were so bad. After batch 5 I got annoyed and decided to feed my starter again, and try again the same weekend (I had a lot left).  So I tossed out half, fed it, waited for some healthy bubbling activity, made another batch of dough, and this time proofed it on the counter a bit and then overnight in the fridge like I did with batch 2 (which was awesome).



Sigh by mellowynk, on Flickr


Okay, so we got some rise, but still not a ton.  The only difference here is that I did a boule shape, but everything else should have been the same.  


I haven't cut into these yet, I popped them on the cooling rack and ran out the door, so if a picture of the crumb is helpful I'm happy to take some.  They smell good though, nice and sour.


 


I guess what I'm wondering is, why the lackluster rise? The first rise looks like it does okay, but after I shape the loaves it's very meh, and I get almost no oven spring (or in some cases none at all).  Am I not proofing it long enough? I did the poke test and it filled out about halfway or so, and that was on one of the flat loaves.  


Making bread the "real" way is all very new to me so while I understand the theory behind it, the reality is a lot more complicated. :)

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Fed "once a week".


I'm sure that feeding schedule(at room temperature) will raise eyebrows, and questions.

yy's picture
yy

feeding once a week while keeping your starter at room temperature is definitely not enough. My house is around the same temperature, and I thought I could push the feeding schedule to once every three days. As a result my starter turned proteolytic on me - it transformed what would have been a nice Tartine dough into a pile of goo. If you want to only feed it once a week, keep it at a lower temp in the fridge. There's plenty of good advice here on how to maintain a fridge starter.

wynk's picture
wynk

REALLY. I could count on two hands the number of pages (not here) I read that said to feed it once a week to maintain (immediately after saying I could keep it on the counter). Now I am annoyed.  But that'd definitely explain why it was doing so well in the beginning and why it did a little better this last time. Grrrrr.


 


Ok. So. How often should I feed it if it is going to live on the counter?

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Twice per day. Approximately every 12 hours or so.


It will certainly be a lot happier, and healthier, than 1/week.


Again, lots of threads here for "maintaining a starter". Search.


and welcome.


Short summary from a member, pro baker, and a resident legend here:


http://www.sourdoughhome.com/maintainingastarter.html

wynk's picture
wynk

thanks. :) Argh! I didn't find this place til after I had the starter going and was looking for dough guidelines. Could have saved myself some wasted flour. Oh well, this is part of learning, right?


Now to get home and feed my poor starving yeast! 

wynk's picture
wynk

I am happy to report that after a week of intensive feeding, my poor starter has been revived and has made a couple of successful loaves of bread as well as some very lovely English muffins.  Thanks to everyone for the help and now I can resume experimenting and perfecting my loaves!


 



Norwich Sourdough by mellowynk, on Flickr