The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

help! I need to save my loaf.

burngirl's picture

help! I need to save my loaf.

Hi guys,

After snooping around on this site for years, here is my first post - I could really use some help. I couldn't find an answer to my predicament in my search for past posts.

Someone gave me a sourdough starter (apparently it's a few decades old, from a local baker) last week, and I've been dutifully feeding it as per her directions. It seemed very active. I've already fed it three times this week, and it always at least doubles within 6-8 hours in my kitchen.

I used some yesterday, after I noticed it had doubled, and made some dough using this recipe:

I followed the directions, and kneaded the dough really well until I could stretch it and see light through it. But at step 11, while proofing, I noticed that the loaf hadn't risen at all. I let it go for a total of 1.5 hours, then, to see if it would perk up, but it didn't. Maybe this is normal, I thought, so I put it in the fridge to do the retarding overnight. This morning I took the loaf out of the fridge, and still don't see signs of rising. 

Is there anything I can do? This loaf is my first that's entirely made with wild yeast so I'm not sure what to expect. The last loaf I made fairly successfully with a bit of packaged yeast in addition to the wild.

Yerffej's picture

My quick comment is that you tackled one very difficult recipe for your first sourdough outing.  Shiao-Ping  is one great baker with lots of experience and she makes this bread look easy.  It is not. 

Go for a very simple recipe using mostly (or all) white flour and do that until you become friends with the sourdough.


breadforfun's picture

This is a difficult recipe for a first loaf.  However, a few things you may want to be aware of.  Sourdough starters are much slower than commercial yeast, and they seem to be more sensitive to temperature.  You didn't mention the temperatures for your bulk ferment or your proof after the retard in the refrigerator.  I happened to make a Tartine country loaf yesterday and today, and my BF time was 4.5 hours, into the refrigerator overnight, then another 4-5 hours, some of it at elevated temperature (80˚F) before I popped it in the oven.  You may not be used to the long times required.  Try to put the loaves in a very warm place for several hours to see if the yeasts wake up.



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

you should see signs of life now if your dough temp is over 23°C.  Warmer => faster    How's it coming along?

About your starter, if your starter is doubling in about 8 hours that should tell you how slow it works.  Compare how you feed with the recipe.  It certainly won't rise faster than it does in a feeding unless you combine starter with flour at a ratio less than the feeding ratio.    


burngirl's picture

Thanks everyone. I'm still not sure what happened, as I gave the dough a total of 18 hours (10 of those being in the fridge) to rise. Room temperature was probably between 19 - 20 degrees celcius, and in the last two hours I tried to get it to rise in the oven which I'd briefly turned on and then off. In the end, it didn't really rise much if at all, but I baked it anyway. It tastes really good! At least there's that ;)

Is there a chance that the walnuts may have affected the rise (or lack thereof)?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The first sourdough loaf always seems to take forever.  I remember mine taking 6 hours before any sort of rise, if you could call it that.  Then I started to fold the dough as it fermented and started to get slack.  Until it starts rising, there really is no need to fold it.  

I think that in your case (and maybe the next loaf) after waiting  8 hours for it to get up and go, I would boost the yeast count by flattening the dough out, sprinkle with a few teaspoons of instant yeast or smear on a paste of yeast and water, and roll the dough back up kneading for half a minute to work in the yeast.  Then time it like a instant yeast dough from there on out.   Then you get the benefit of flavor and rise.  With time your new starter will acquire the strength to raise a loaf on its own without going too sour.

It's not cheating to rescue a dough with yeast.  It would be a crime to let the dough fall apart before you could get a decent loaf out of it.  All that retarding and slow rising does improve flavour!  The added yeast will not steal that away from your loaf.   Your cool temps and naturally a new starter have more to do with the slow rise.