The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Overproving - help for an obsessed new baker!

ravk's picture

Overproving - help for an obsessed new baker!

Hello everyone,

 I’ve tried to read several posts and to get the information i need but am struggling so i look forward to replies here.

I’ve been baking, virtually every day, for the past 2 weeks and am obsessed!! This is no mean feat given I’m also looking after 2 kids under 2! J My daughter loves bread and this is what got me started. It's ok now whilst on maternity leave but soon i'll go back to work and just want to get it right so it can become a breeze for the week-ends! that's the plan anyway...

 So I’ve started with Paul Hollywood but much prefer the brilliant Dan Stevens bread book (River Cottage). My breads come out good but they are just overprooving, once I left a sourdough rye in the fridge for only  6 hours in a banneton and it was spilling out! (a Paul Hollywood recipe). It was a big ball of air but i cooked and ate it anyway. I just reshaped it into a ball and slung it in a hot over and prayed for the best. i hate wasting flour.

 I use 100% hydration starter with white flour only.

 My questions are:

 -      What should i do with regards with the overprooving? Use less starter from the Paul Hollywood book? Or just prove once after kneading and put the loaf in the oven once i get the spring back from the dough?

- how come Daniel Stevens says just use a ladleful of starter and P. Hollywood says use 500g!!! what a big difference. the D. Stevens rye sourdough wasn't rising as much but that's expected from a dense dough, it doubled with 3 one hour proves and a final 1 hour prove in a colander and a banneton (i'm yet to order more baskets!!

-      I have starter on my countertop, once refreshed I typically use it the next day or 2 days later, is this ok? Should I try and catch it at its peak and bake then? would this give me a better flavour?

I’m getting slight sour taste when using 100% white flour, it’s good tasty bread with plenty of airy holes.

-      Is there a good method for substituting yeast with starter? i just want to bake sourdough but different kinds, i.e. rye, spelt, seeded.

 Thank you!



Ford's picture

I do a bulk proofing then after scaling and shaping I proof until the dough passes the finger poke (two fingersleave a slight indentation).

A ladle full is rather indefinite, and 500 g of starter sounds right for about 900 g of flour added to the dough.

Starter should be used at about the peak of activity, give or take a few hours.  This is for peak rising power.

When I make sourdough, I do not use commercial yeast.

Some use commerial yeast with sourdough starter to get better control of the timming of the commercial baking.  Commercial yeast is unecessary with sourdough starter.

I am unfamiliar with the two authors you mentioned so I cannot comment on them.

I hope this helps.



ravk's picture

Hi Ford

I'm in London, UK and the 2 authors are well known only here.

thank you so much for your response. I don't use commercial yeast either and will try the poke test along with using the starter at optimal state!



phaz's picture

How much salt are you using? I also use a white flour starter and at room temperature i can get a doubling in size after 6 hours. This is using the starter when it's at it's peak activity. In the fridge it's  more like 12 hours, or longer to double. Salt will retard the yeast giving longer rise times, and i have to admit, I'm not afraid to add salt. 

hanseata's picture

the recipe and the overall procedure it's difficult to give any sage advice. If I notice a too fast rise of my doughs, I reduce the amount of leavener the next time, and write down what I do. To get constant results, and know what went wrong or has to be changed, it's better to use a scale anyway.

And, since I sell my breads and need a reliable rising time, I'm not above adding a small amount of commercial yeast to my sourdoughs. I'm in good company there, Peter Reinhart does, too.


dabrownman's picture

when retarding SD in the fridge overnight I like to use 10-20% of the total weight of the flour and water in the bread.   IF the total flour is 500 g and the water is 350 g for a total of 850g.   I would typically use 15% of the total amount 128 g for the stater amount.  I would build this amount from 10g of 100% hydration starter from the fridge over (3) 4 hour builds.  The first one would double the starter amount in flour and water or 20 g each making a total weight of 50 g.  Then next feeding in 4 hours we would add 25 g each flour and water making a total weigh of 100 g.   The final feeding after 4 hours would be 23 g of flour and 5 g of water getting the hydration closer to the hydration of my typical bread 75%.  It should double in the last 4 hours and be ready for bread.

If I want the bread to proof faster in the fridge I just move the amount of levain to 20% and If i want to proof slower  I move it down to 10% levain.  Longer cold time time and lower amount of levain means more sour.  I have learned that 14% levain will always give me at least 12 hours of retard time - either bulk or already shaped.  My starters are very active and always near their peak - even if refrigerated for 3-4 days when used.

It just takes some experimenting around to see what amount and method works best with your starter to give you a normal retard of the dough with no surprises.

BigelowBaker's picture

I like to keep my sourdough's simple -- it's really easy to go overboard with measurements and ratios. Especially when you have little one's to look after, figuring out some good rules of thumb to experiment and have fun with can take some of the stress out of working with sourdough, imho :)

First, though, you should be commended for having an super-active starter -- usually people have difficulty getting their starters active enough!

My favorite simple sourdough recipe is called 1-2-3 -- I found it in another post on this board years ago. Basically, for every part sourdough starter you have (100% hydration), add 2x the water and 3x the flour. Then, about 1% of the total weight as salt.

So, if you had 100 grams of starter around, the recipe would be:

100g starter
200g water

300g flour

Total would be 600g, so 6-10 grams of salt should do it.

I've found this recipe to be EXTREMELY flexible and forgiving when it comes to rising and proofing times, which is awesome when you have other things to do.

And the bread is a lovely lean french bread style -- perfect for just about any use.

Also, I often use this ratio when converting non-sourdough recipes I like to sourdough -- basically figure that 1/6th of the total dough weight should be starter, and then adjust the flour and water accordingly. Usually works very well.

Good luck!

ravk's picture

Hello everyone,

Thanks so much for the advice. BigelowBaker, i like the simple conversion very much! Simpler the better.

I tried seeded sourdough yesterday from P Hollywood, recipe is 450g white, 350g wholemeal, 500g starter and 15 g salt. As i needed to refresh the starter i had i used half the flour and water from the recipe to make a sponge, once that was active I made the dough. The recipe called for 500ml water and i used 400ml in the sponge and about 150 when getting the dough together. It doubled in 4 hours (recipe said 5hrs). Upon shaping the recipe says to leave for 14 hours!! The loaves were ready in about 5 hours. It is very much test and see, I'm making lots of notes along the way :- )

I'm looking forward to making more sourdough and converting recipes, whether the dough is a disaster or not I bake them, the hubby will eat anything!!!  :- )

Thanks again everyone!



Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss


Of what I've seen of Paul Hollywood (Bakeoff etc, I don't own the books) he uses rather a lot of yeast in his recipes.

Remember the bakeoff technical challenge: an 8-strand braided white loaf in 2 hours, from start to finish!

I am baking a lot of sourdoughs with mixed wheat/rye flours. Usually I use 0.3% to 0.7% of instant yeast, that would translate to 1.5g to 3.4g instant yeast per 500g of flour, or 4.5g to 10g of fresh yeast respectively.

Cheers from Brighton,


PS. With your degree of obsession it might be time to look into textbooks like Hamelman's Bread or DiMuzio's "Breadmaking"