The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Artisan bread problems: what the hell am I doing wrong?

Dú's picture

Artisan bread problems: what the hell am I doing wrong?

Hi folks, I´m from Brazil, and it´s been around 3 ince Itrying to bake artisan bread with starters. The problem is, I´ve never succesfully got to the real thing, the bread always comes out a total shame, even though I´m perfectly fine with baking other kinds of breads, indeed I work at a bakery :P. I´m posting some photos from the latest (and almost certainly, one of  the worst) bread I´ve made with my starter (50% hidration). The recipe follows along with the key points I´m trying to understand... Thanks


300g flour (withe, 9% protein - unfortunately the only kind of comercial flour here)

190ml water

6g salt

3g instant dry yeast

45g starter


mix everything and knead. Rest until double volume, knead, shape, rest until double again (although I use the "poking with finger" test). Bake in prehetead oven (220°C) with steam (using a shallow pan with wet towels), lowering to 180°C after firtst 10 minutes. The result was these monsters. 

Point 1: Why so pale, even with the steam?

Point  2: why the crust was dry but not cruchy, It is strange but the crust seemed somehow elastic but dry. 

Point  3: during the kneading, the dough seemed ok, but at the final proofing it didn´t held it´s shape properly, like if it was spreading too much on the pan. 

Point 4: It tasted absolutely like... nothing.


Aprecciate any help, thanks. (Sorry about my poor translation).



ElPanadero's picture

an anemic looking loaf ! In the picture there is another loaf just beside it which looks brown. Were the 2 loaves baked separately? Are they different doughs?

yozzause's picture

Hi Du

i'm afraid i didnt get any pictures with your  post so can't comment on the look of the bread, but from the dough formula it appear that you are using dry yeast at the rate of 1%, so would suggest that the dough is more like  a commercial take on a sour dough rather than the reliance of the starter being the source of fermentation.

Is your starter at its peak when being used,i prefer my starter to be at 100% hydration, it allows you to gauge its active state as it should peak at least twice a day and require feeding to maintain that vigour. truth be known it could take 3 feeds but that is a busy schedule to maintain.

You state that you allow the dough to double but have not given any times that it took to do that, with no photos showing i dont know the shape that you were wanting or what support the loaves were being given in the  final fermentation period.

i can only suggest that you try a higher hydration with your starter, equal amounts of water, flour and starter will soon give you a 100% hydration sarter after a couple of feeds, and probably cut out the dry yeast if you are after a better ("Artisan") loaf.

I do cringe a little at this over used term. Try the 3:2:1 formula 3 being Flour  2 being water and 1 being (peak) ripe starter   so your dough formula would be 

Flour 300g

Salt 6g (2%)

water 200ml

starter 100g

This will be a reasonably wet dough that will simply show as 66% hydration but in reality be 71% if taking into accont the flour and water values of the sarter. Mix well and then do 3 x stretch and  fold techniques every hour over a  4 hour period  taking the dough on the 4th hour. scale and shape or in this case as a small batch  shape, you then decide whether to allow fermentation to continue in some form of support be it a tin or banneton or linen couch and either allow to continue until ready for the oven or retard in a cool room before baking either the next day or longer the choice will be yours.

very good luck and  kind regards from Australia    Yozza




PetraR's picture

I do not think that you will ever get the propper Gluten Structure with a 9% Protein flour.

I once use an 11.5 one and that was the worst bread I ever baked, it was very pale indeed and just did not rise propperly.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

was more descriptive on flour packages, too much is left to the imagination.  Getting a spec. sheet from the miller might be better.  See if you can find one online or call the manufacturer/distributor.  Then you may find out which proteins are in the flour and how much actual gluten it contains.  

Nine percent protein is generally low but there are plenty of ways to get around it.  Adding ingredients with plenty of proteins/ amino acids is one way and hope that some extra bonding occurs and the dough improves.  Adding egg white or milk  into the water measure could be just the push your dough protein need.  Or combining with a high protein flour like quinoa or bean flour might help.  (I'm not a fan of vital gluten flour.)  Experimenting would be involved.  I don't think you want to push for long extended fermenting times or long retardation without the added protein as the dough may fall apart, ripping before a final rise.  

Follow Yozza's advice first, then after a few loaves,  try substituting part of the water with a small egg white.  See if that improves, but get the sourdough basics down first.  (gentle folding the dough during bulk rising to maintain shape)

Lack of crust color could mean there was too much (sourdough & commercial) yeast activity eating up all the natural sugars in the dough.   Might want to add some malt or a tiny bit of brown sugar for browning into the recipe if the problem continues.  Just a teaspoon or 5g would help boost crust color.  

Dú's picture

Thanks for your advice, everyone. I´m trying just with my sole dedication, once here is difficult to find good quality ingredients and even professioanls who could teach me something. But I study and try to bake a lot, so I hope someday I can get good results. :)

BetsyMePoocho's picture


The flours here in Baja (Mexico) are also low in protein.  If I have to use any of them I am forced to us the flour "as-is" and to help get rid of the pale color I add about 2.3% to 3% sugar to the dough.  Works and adds a little flavor to the low protein flour.

yozzause is correct about using your starter only.  But, I'm confused, is you starter a real mature starter?  Or are you using a "preferment"?  So, I'd follow his advise and try his recipe if you have a lively real starter.  But I'd maintain it at 100% hydration, feeding it every week and keep it in your fridge in-between usage.  Still adding the sugar to the dough for color.

If your starter is "immature" I'd try some of Mini Oven's good suggestions and try to get some age on your starter at 100% hydration for future use.




Dú's picture

Thanks everybody for the help. I´çç keep trying. One more question: does naturally leavened bread obligatory need a proofing basket? Because my dough always tend to become very wet and flat, even tough I´m testing recipes for bread to serve soup (so, a very crusty and dry dough, inittialy), but I´m not currently using a banneton, could it be it?


Thanks in advance.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

loaves, anything you put into a bread pan doesn't need to be risen in a basket.  The basket is just for support during the final proof.  then the risen dough is flipped out gently and placed on a peel to move to the oven.  It is a form of transportation and storage for the rising loaf and makes loaves easier to move around from the proofing location to the baking area. They even stack nicely to save space.

The purpose of the basket is to absorb some of the dough moisture creating a memory skin, sort of an exoskeleton kind of idea to help the loaf keep it's shape.  Thicker skins need some slashing or scoring but that is pretty much up to you.  Scoring comes after the dough is gently flipped out onto the peal or baking tray and before it goes into the oven.  That is with most loaves.  Predominantly Rye loaves are often slashed before the final proof, the slash appears to rise shut only to re-open while baking.  :)

Tigre1852's picture

that baguettes,ciabatta are not risen in baskets.