The Fresh Loaf

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Flat but tasty sourdough

mroberts2404's picture

Flat but tasty sourdough

Just getting started with sourdoughs, I made a tasty but relatively flat loaf. I have a few thoughts on what may have caused this but would appreciate any feedback or suggestions for improving my process.  Background info: I used an active (more liquid than firm) starter, unbleached King Arthur flour, followed a recipe for SF Sourdough from Ortiz's "The Village Baker", and produced two loaves - 1 free form (the one that collapsed), and one in a loaf pan, which rose nicely (though I haven't tasted that yet; had to freeze it due to a business trip).

1) Ortiz's book suggests taking a small piece of dough from the first proofing/fermentation, putting it in a jar of water at room temp and when it rises to the surface, the bread is ready for baking. He suggests two proofs/rises with a total time of about 10 hours: first rising 1 hour, second 8-9; OR, first rising 6-8 hours, second 4-6 hours. I followed the latter, but 1 hour after putting the dough in water, it rose to the surface. I decided rely on the 10 hour total time suggested in the recipe, and ignored the floating dough helpful hint. How reliable is the floating piece of dough as an indicator that the dough is ready for baking?

2) Trying to achieve larger holes, I used a wetter version of the dough than I'm used to. It rose nicely in a banetton but when I turned it over onto a tray (to slide onto a baking stone), it ended up half the (vertical) size, appearing almost collapsed. Is this a consequence of working with wetter doughs or might I have done something wrong with the transfer out of the banetton, or both?

3) Is there a point where a second rise can go too far, where I may have missed the peak point? I realize that at some point I need to develop my own feel but for now I'm following instructions and recipes. What happens if I let the bread rise too long in the second proofing? Can it be fixed or is it best to start over?

Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.

Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

Of course there are many things that can go wrong. Without a photo, what does "relatively flat" mean? I've seen a lot of country/peasant breads from levain in Europe that some people would say are "relatively flat" so maybe its just a difference of aesthetics?

I think most likely is that you didn't get your loaf shaped tightly. Since your pan loaf did fine, it seems loaf shaping is to blame. Possibly you were a little rough in handling after you overproofed the loaf.

Just guesses with little info to go on...

mroberts2404's picture

No photo, sorry, I said it was 'tasty'. What I meant was that it seemed to be twice the vertical height in the banetton before removing it from the banetton. The dough felt very delicate to begin with so I tried to be careful. Do you have any suggestions re handling an overproofed loaf?

G-man's picture

I've never used the floating test, so I can't speak to its accuracy. On to the next questions.

If your dough collapses, it's either an issue with gluten or overproofing. Did your dough stay together and just deflate like a balloon, or did it almost come apart/melt?

There is DEFINITELY a point where your rise can go too far. The yeast in your dough need food, and they can't move to get to new food, so if they eat all the food in their vicinity they're done. If there's still food left, you can mix the dough and see if you can squeeze another rise out of it, but it's kind of iffy. Best bet is to not miss it the first time! Don't go based on time, since the time your dough takes to be ready will change because of any number of factors. Go based on height (about 1.5x starting height) or the finger poke test (if it bounces right back, not ready. If it collapses, too long. If it slowly springs back, just right).

Good luck.

mroberts2404's picture

The dough stayed together but spread out a bit on the board, losing most of the vertical height it had achieved in the rise. I just have to make enough mistakes so I can self correct. Thanks for the tips. Was having a very wet dough also a contributing factor? I've read that if doughs are too wet you can add flour to firm them up, but that seemed contrary to the goal I was trying to achieve - large irregular holes. Thanks.

Doc.Dough's picture

With a good high gluten flour, a 75% hydration dough that is will developed will give you big holes if you allow it to bulk ferment properly and treat it gently.  I hardly proof at all - maybe 10-30 min bench proof while the oven is getting ready then in and steam on.