The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Flat sourdough bread

Njchoat's picture

Flat sourdough bread


Recently I have begun to bake sourdough bread. I have been having success when baking with a tin, however when I to bake free form, it always goes wrong because as the dough is so wet, as I turn it out of the proving basket it Splays out everywhere. My most recent loaf has just come out the oven almost as flat as a pancake. 

The dough is about 75% hydration. I kneaded it until it was fully developed, then left it to rise in the fridge overnight. The next day I shaped it into a ball, bench rested it, shaped it again and then transferred it to the proving basket. I deliberately made sure to make the ball as tight as possible, as I thought that this was where I went wrong last time. The dough was then probed at room temp for 12 hours until doubled In size.  I then attempted to turn out the dough.

is there any way of preventing this from happening? I just want to be able to get a bit of height on the bread, just as I see in some of the sourdoughs posted on the website.

Thanks for your help!

PetraR's picture

Maybe you should try a lower Hydration.

I use 60% for a free form one.

I now bake in a Dutch Oven wich is great if you work with the Higher Hydrations.

I am sure the Experts here will help you.

WoodenSpoon's picture

your hydration is to high at all, I just baked two 82% loaves on my stone and it worked fine. It does occur to me that maybe that 12 hour proof is eight or so hours longer then it needs to be. over proofing leads to lack of oven spring which in turn leads to flat loaves. maybe its something else though. 

PetraR's picture

I wondered about the hydration because of how it was described as splaying out everywhere.

That happened to me in the beginning when i worked with a higher hydration dough.

I have still a lot to learn too.

cerevisiae's picture

How much starter are you using? I think WoodenSpoon makes a good point about overproofing as a possibility. If you're seeding it with a small enough amount of starter, the timing you're currently using seems feasible.

I think if you're using 10% or more, overproofing is likely. For the amount of time you're giving the dough, I think about 7% starter might give you better results, although I'm interested to see if others on here think similarly.

LynnDot's picture

My free form loaf is about 70% hydration and is pretty hard to work with sometimes. Do you actually knead the dough? You could try doing the stretch and fold method instead, which I find a lot easier and less messy considering how sticky high hydration dough gets. You can just Google it or search these forums for details on stretch and fold methods. Doing stretch and folds a few times will stop you from overkneading, which may be why it isn't rising very well.

I also second the dutch oven suggestion. I bake mine in a preheated dutch oven and it gets great oven spring and rises nicely. If you don't have a dutch oven you could also try inverting a pot (that can withstand those temps of course) so it's like a big lid over the dough. 

And if you just aren't very comfortable with high hydration does I'd try lowering to 70% or even 65% until you get used to it.

ghazi's picture

Baking with higher hydration is defiantly a good challenge, it is very satisfying to get a tight mold on something so wet, and of course the texture of bread is  a delght. I know that the oven has to be fiercely hot for these doughs

The stretch and fold technique seems to be the best way to work with such hydration giving more structure to the strands. When I bake I have preheated bricks that I put in my oven and they get very hot so this adds to good oven spring even if loaf wasn't shaped tight enough. Which for me shaping is sometimes yes, sometimes no

 I always use a tiny amount of leaven, this brings out more flavor of course and you skip the chances of having overproofed dough which might be the case as wooden spoon has said. Maybe it was over kneaded, I think doughs over worked tend to go loose and sticky have had that a couple of times.

I've got a long way to learn though, wish I could give you better advice.

All i can say is im sure you'll get there with the expertise on this site.

cerevisiae's picture

Ghazi  - what amount of leaven do you use and how long do you proof your dough for?

ghazi's picture

Oh I really go low, I take a 1/2 tsp measure and put a tiny bit. half baby fingernail. This is for 500g flour

Im talking commercial yeast here though

I really let it go directly in the fridge for about 2 days, then bring it out to room temp until it reaches peak, which takes a full day

I have yet to use only Wild starter, still getting to grips with the whole adventure

cerevisiae's picture

I think that's still useful feedback, even with the different yeast - it's a concrete example of what kind of ratios someone uses to successfully make bread using a slow method.

PetraR's picture

If you feed your Sourdough Starter regulary * I have to feed my Wheat Starter every 12 hours, my Rye Starter only every 24 hours * your starter will soon be strong enough to leaven a bread without the help of commercial yeast.

You will be surprised how strong Sourdough Starter really is.

When my Starter was only a couple of weeks old, my bread was quite flat, it scared me and I thought I should use yeast, but I just carried on and in no time my bread was lovely risen.

dabrownman's picture

do it and get much less spread is to do the gluten development and then shape it and put it ina basket and do the final proof in the fridge for about 8=12 hours depending on the temperature and how active your starter is.  Then you van either choose to let it warm up on the counter in the morning as the oven and stone preheats  then unmold slash and bake - it will still be very cool and not spread much of you are at 85 proof.

Or you can bake it cold right out of the oven too if it over proofs a little in the cold as you sleep  Much less spread a way more spring this way - 75% hydration isn't too much for a white bread.

Ot just takes a little bit of experimenting to find out what works best for you.

Happy Baking