The Fresh Loaf

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lack of oven-spring

lbb's picture

lack of oven-spring


I have a problem getting oven spring with a recipe from Andrew Whitley’s new book ‘Do Sourdough’ (which I can recommend by the way). The attached photo shows the resulting loaf.


Total dough = 980g

Hydration = 71%

Flours: 68% stoneground wheat/32% self-milled wholewheat

Starter = 30% of total dough

After a 30 min. autolyse, the dough was kneaded for 5 mins, after which there were definite signs of gluten development (although I didn’t do a windowpane test).

After preshaping, plus a 5min. bench rest, the dough was placed in a banneton for a final rise of almost 4 hours.

The dough was then placed in a preheated baking dome @ 240°c, slashed in a square pattern and baked for just under 30 min. (temp. reduced to 220°c after 9 mins. and lid of dome removed after 20 mins.).

After removal from oven, core temp. was 99°c.

I was worried as soon as I tipped the dough into the baking dome, as it ‘pancaked’ out to the edges of the dome bottom almost immediately. These worries were confirmed when the lid was removed to reveal a flat loaf.

While the taste of the loaf was ok (average – have made better, and worse), the crumb was slightly ‘rubbery’ in texture.

Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

Baker4life's picture

method of SD if your procedure was exactly as you described then you didn't give it enough time to ferment before bench rest, shape,etc.



BreadBro's picture

Am I reading correctly that you did not do a bulk rise? One 4 hour rise would not be enough, especially for a sourdough bread.

golgi70's picture

I too am unfamiliar with the book.  But with 100% Whole Wheat and 30% milled by you (Why only 30% and was it fresh milled? or aged?) 71% hydration seems quite low.  But the bigger issue is the lack of bulk  fermentation and dough development.  When the mix has finished does the book call for going straight to the shaping?  I'd think a 1 1/2-2 hour bulk ferment with a few folds to build strength are in order.  If you do this the dough will be stronger thru folds and fermentation.  5 minutes rest after preshaping is also quite short and doesn't give the dough enough time to relax for a good final shape.  

If you add this time the dough will be more lively with much more strength and your final proof time should be shorter than 4 hours.  Probably almost cut in half.  

Thats the biggest thing missing but I'd also suggest a significant increase in hydration as 71% is typical for a White Dough and 100% Whole Wheat is much thirstier.


lbb's picture

Hi, and thanks for the replies.

Apologies if my post was unclear:

The starter (which made up 30% of the total dough), was mixed as a preferment and allowed to ferment 11 hours before being mixed in the dough. (Was highly active when mixed in).

32% of the flour used was wholemeal wheat, which I milled approx. 2 hours before using it. The remaining 68% was stoneground (not by me - shop purchased) wheat flour at 80% extraction.

Baker4life's picture

Preferment mixed into your new dough i would think a ferment stage is neccesary to trap those precious and much needed gases prior to shaping and proofing. This,to me, is the reason you are getting zero rise from your loaf.A severe case of underproofing.

adri's picture

I'm still not sure what you did. Could you please repost/rewrite it with a) including the preferment and b) a general centre of reference. (Total flour weight = 100%)

If it was not starter, but active levain (what you call preferment?), if 30% of the flour was in the sourdough (-> 60% sourdough, given 100% hydration) it should be enough for a 2 hour warm rise and well enough for 4 hours. With my starter It would overproof.

With sourdough preferment there is no need for a bulk fermentation if there is enough preferment (levain).

If it was 30% of dough weight, it would just be 17,5% of the flour weight (30% / 171%). If you don't have a very (very!!! 40C/104F???) warm kitchen and a very active starter, this is not enough time. How much did the bread rise in the banneton? Did you do a poke test?

I think, 5 minutes also was very little kneading time. With my Bosch I definitely need more time even after 30' of autolyse.


dabrownman's picture

is that the gluten isn't developed properly, the water amount is insufficient and it over proofed.  For a 30% whole grain bread with the remainder 80% extraction, this would be like working with at least a 50% whole grain bread.  I would like to to be at 80% hydration with a 2 hour autolyse - no salt, no levain.. 

You don't mention what kind of 'kneading; you do but I would do 3 sets of slap and folds onn15 minute increments of 6, 2 and 1 minute followed by 3 sets of stretch and folds, from the 4 compass points, also  on 15 minute intervals.  By then the gluten is fully developed.  I don't think that 5 minutes of any kind of kneading  will get the job done.

I too don't do a bulk ferment and just preshape and shape and put in a basket but It them goes in the fridge for 8-12 hours until it hits 85% proofed.

 In your case, if the kitchen is warm, you could easily over proof the bread to more than 85%.  A basket is hard to judge where 85% is since the bottom is concave and just an inch of rise of the loaf on top will be easily 85%  even though it looks like 50%.

I'm guessing this combination is what caused your pancake because I have been there and done that.  Thankfully it is easy enough to fix.

If you aren't retarding your bread then a bulk rise of just and hour or 2, before shaping and final rise on the counter, will improve the flavor of the bread greatly and improve gluten development even further.

Happy Baking

cerevisiae's picture

@dabrownman - A bit off topic, but I wondered if you could clarify something you said, regarding your kneading times.

You state that you would do:

3 sets of slap and folds on 15 minute increments of 6, 2 and 1 minute followed by 3 sets of stretch and folds...

I think I'm a bit confused as to what the 6, 2 and 1 refer to. It sounds like you are doing some slap and folds for 6 minutes, then 15 minutes later for 2 minutes, and then for 1 minute 15 minutes after that. Is that the correct interpretation? It's such an information-dense sentence that I'm not sure if I'm parsing it correctly.

dabrownman's picture

fold sessions are for 6, 2 and 1 minutes - 15 minutes apart.  there are also 15 minutes between the stretch and folds too.  Only 4 stretches, from each compass point and then fold over.   

Happy Baking

golgi70's picture

The only dough I've ever skipped or had very short bulk fermentation with (excluding Rye Breads) is one with a very large proportion of pate fermente (115%).  This got just a short 30 minute bulk before being divided and formed.  I've never skipped this stage otherwise.  I'm under the understanding it's crucial for both flavor and dough development.  I'd think the total PF to skip this stage would have to be quite high.  


dabrownman's picture

long ago when all of my breads were over proofing in the fridge while doing their 12 hour retard after bulk ferment and then shaping.  By keeping the levain to less than 15% of the total flour and water and no bulk ferment I can get to 8-10 hours of retard and if the levain at 12%  I can get to 10-12 hours of retard.

I think the problem for me was two fold.  My levain is very active and will double in 1 -2 hours after the 3rd feeding and it is always so warm here whether it be winter or summer and ferments move faster. 

I used to bake like Ian does, doing a 1-2 hour bulk ferment on the counter, then bulk retarding the dough and then shaping it in the the morning after it warmed up and letting it go for 1 1/2 to 2 hours of proof on the counter.  The only difference i can tell doing it this way is that there is 6 hours more counter time.  2 for the bulk rise, 2 to warm up in the morning before shaping and 2 hrs  after shaping for proofing - but it works.  The crumb isn't as good though and the crust doesn't get as bold as i would like before the inside hits 205 F

The way I do it now saves the 6 hours and I can bake straight out of the fridge if I want or let it warm up on the counter as the oven heats.  Easier to slash wet dough or dough with bits in it and, since the dough is cold, the crust really gets bold since the bread takes longer to bake before the cold interior gets to 205 F.

I can't tell any difference in taste between having a 2 hour bulk ferment on the counter or not.  My bread is pretty sour because of the way I treat the seed and levain with the seed possibly having a 6 week cold retard and the levain being retarded 48 hours after the 3rd feeding.  The higher whole grain % usually packs plenty of flavor too.

I suppose to keep from over proofing in the fridge, I could do a 2 hr counter bulk ferment but would have to cut the levain amount to 8%  to get a 10-12 hour retard but I don't think that the flavor would be different doing so. I'll give it a go this week and test is out with the MG bread we made two Friday's ago that we know very well. 

Another interesting topic to play with. . 

golgi70's picture

And many have proven it does.  But once I exceed a certain point of whole grain I find long cold final proof in form is not ideal.  But that is my experience.  And the reason you never see my Farmer's Market bakes being 100% whole grain loaves.  I'd have to divide the batch in four and do a cold bulk ferment.  Pull One divide preshape rest shape and 1 hour later do the same and again two more times while having to preshape shape and bake the ones front.  I'm sure I could win the battle but it sounds a bit chaotic for my small space.  I won't deny giving it a try hasn't crossed my mind though.  It would also require me to start at midnight and go through the morning as each would need to proof.  Essentially the reason you switched to cold proofing.  

With your preferment already low and cutting the bulk I'd have to guess your overall product may be getting short changed so to speak.  I wonder how your loaves would come out if you cut down to maybe 8% overall and added the bulk.  But then again you add flavor via wholegrain and retarding of the levain so maybe its a wash anyway.  

I'm certainly not saying your process is wrong. 

Cheers DAB


lbb's picture

Hi again.

My complete process:

00:00  Mix what Mr. Whitley terms a production sourdough:

  • 125g 100% hyd. sourdough starter (wheat)
  • 75g water @ 33°c
  • 62g wheat flour (80% extraction)
  • 62g wholemeal wheat flour (self milled)

Ambient temp. 22°c

11:00 Mix dough (excluding production sourdough)

  • 280g water
  • 100g wholemeal wheat flour (self milled)
  • 300g wheat flour (80% extraction)
  • 9g salt

11:30 Add (300g) production sourdough, 'traditional' knead (not fold) for 5 mins., bench rest 5 mins., into floured banneton. Stored at 23-26°c.

15:20 Into oven and baked as described previously.

dabrownman's picture

that the preferment flour and water is 28% of the total flour and water.  A normal amount for me would be half that.  This leads me to believe that things were possibly moving very fast over the 4 hours of proof and it over proofed before getting in the oven.  I would watch the dough and not the clock and make sure it gets in the oven at 85-90% proof.  It's not too wet - that is for sure at 71% hydration.

Happy Baking 

lbb's picture

...for the input. some good points to consider for my next attempt.

Wild-Yeast's picture

Always watch the dough - the clock counts but the dough rises.


jimw's picture


First, I think Josh nailed it. There's no bulk fermentation? But, I'm not an expert so .....

Second, and this is pure conjecture at my part, but the amount of flour on the final loaf makes me think you might have overhandled and de-aerated the loaf. That much flour in the basket makes me think you were nervous it would stick. For me, the best handling of a wet dough when you're anywhere near baking time is with quick and confident movements. Even if things don't go perfect in forming or transferring, and my confidence was not quite well deserved, I found I'm MUCH better off leaving it "imperfect" than trying to fix it.

Last, and I think this is what Wild-Yeast was referring too was that if it was over proofed, it will collapse. I've also found that with a loaf that was proofed more than I expected, I'm better off not slashing it but baking it as is. I think the surface tension of the loaf stops it from spreading and falling. 

To my mind if the dough has "fully" proofed in the basket it can't proof or spring in the oven. I've had good success with a lot of loaves that I thought might be under proofed but I needed to bake for time reasons.

My advice is to experiment like crazy. Make dough, divide it, do different things with it, purposely under or overproof it, cook it at too high or low a temp, too short or too long, put it in the oven cold or warm, etc.. What's the harm and there is no better way to learn.