The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread "rises" out, not up

immigrantstable's picture

Bread "rises" out, not up


I have been silently following this forum for a while, and I am always impressed by people's depth of knowledge and willingness to help. So I figured this would be the perfect place to go with my sourdough questions. And I have a few...

1) My main question is that most breads I bake with my starter tend to expand and rise a bit, but not much. I also find them quite dense, and they harden quickly. Why would this be? I have a few suspicions, but I'm looking to pinpoint things properly... These are some of the potential causes:

2) First off, my starter SEEMS active and nice (ie, it bubbles, smells tangy, and increases in size, doubling after a feeding and 12 hours out of the fridge), but I tend to not discard any past what I use (and I don't use it THAT often). I have a big bowl in the fridge. Could this be causing my problem? Do I need to start discarding some with every feeding? And how often should I be feeding it if it's in the fridge (I feed it once a week at this point)?

3) I always mix whole wheat and white flour in my recipes. Is this another problem? I use a 60:40 ratio, usually, removing a tablespoon of whole wheat flour off of every cup (which has worked for me with other conversion baked goods before I started playing with sourdough, and they weren't dense). Is the whole wheat causing the density? Is there a way to make part-whole wheat bread, but not have it so dense?

4) Another thing I suspect I'm doing wrong is that I let my dough rise too long on that first rise, usually 8 hours (instead of the 2 recipes call for), and then another 5-12 hours when the loaves arte shaped (this varies based on the recipe). The reason for that is that I live in Canada, and my kitchen isn't too warm in the day, so I've been giving my sourdough extra time to develop... But maybe I'm causing it to expand a lot and then deflate, and I'm missing the perfect point? I find that my dough does expand during the initial long rest, but it doesn't really grow during the second ferment, and that's when my loaves turn out a bit lacklustre. What am I doing wrong?

I've documented some of my baking experimentation here (,, and I finally reached a breaking point when I made this lovely-looking challah by Zolablue (, and got some deflated looking loaves (photos attached). So I decided to turn to the experts....

Your advice would be highly appreciated!


ccsdg's picture

In as far as what little I know: whole wheat can be nearly as fluffy as all purpose, it just takes more kneading to achieve the same strength as all purpose flour. From what I've read on this forum, the bits of bran have a tendency to cut the gluten strands before they have a chance to develop. Accordingly when I do a whole wheat loaf I've been kneading longer to get a good windowpane and gotten light fluffy bouncy loaves so far. A stronger gluten network will also get bread rising higher before it starts deflating.

I think rising "out" instead of up is due to shaping as well as dough slackness. Not an area I can give advice on, though.

clazar123's picture

First of all, it would be helpful to see your recipe and what you do to make the dough. There are some issues going on there, I suspect. I will address the usual ones briefly.

Whole wheat flour and dough acts totally differently than making dough with white or all purpose flour. WW needs a little extra hydration and then it needs time to sit and absorb that moisture into the bran bits. If you don't let that happen before baking, it will happen after and the bread will dry out and crumble quickly after baking.

It also sounds as if your starter may be a bit sluggish. It should be very active when you go to use it. Take a quantity out of the refrig a day or so ahead of time and give it at least 2-3 feedings. Then use it in the bread.That may make the bread rise faster-even in a cooler kitchen. You might want to use the search to see how some people rig up homemade proofers. That might help.

Knead well enough to develop the starches and encourage the gluten network is also a good idea. Telling us how you make your dough will give us some clues on that.

I usually keep about 1/2 c starter in a pint jar in the refrigerator and bake weekly. It stays active enough that it really needs only 1 feeding before it is ready to go. If I don't bake, I feed it and put it back in the refrig a few hours later.

The proof after shaping into whatever loaf right before baking should only last as long as the dough needs to relax and rise. Search for "finger poke test" to see how to determine that. Riseing for too long will cause the loaf to fall and be dense. It is "overproofed".


immigrantstable's picture

Thanks for the advice! I will definitely knead more and keep less starter in the fridge. Thanks for the windowpane test and finger poke test advice! I think both of those will be key to getting my dough in order. We'll see this week, when I take on my next baking project!