The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough loaf = failure!

barraboy1's picture

Sourdough loaf = failure!

Can someone please help? I bet you have heard this a thousand times but here goes:

I recently purchased a sourdough starter via Ebay, I activated it with equal parts flour and water and after a couple of days it appeared to be working. I continued this for 5 days and then set about preparing my first loaf. I followed a proper recipe and all went well, first prove took some time but produced a good rise. Once I had knocked the dough back I placed the dough in a floured cloth inside a mixing bowl and covered with cling film. I left the dough overnight. The next morning the dough had risen above the top of the mixing bowl, " jobs a good un" or so I thought. I heated the oven to 220c including a metal baking tray, when the temp was reached I carefully tipped the risen dough out of the bowl. To my horror the dough collapsed like a deflated balloon, not deterred I decided to bake it anyway in the hope that the loaf would rise, it didn't and came out looking like a cap mushroom without a stalk!!

So what went wrong, this was my third attempt at this sourdough lark and as you can imagine I am getting pretty peed off. Can anyone tell me what went wrong??

Yerffej's picture

Your dough was over proofed after sitting out all night.  This causes a rise and fall in the oven.


sandydog's picture

If you give us the complete recipe you followed - with all the timings and temperatures you held the dough/loaves at - I feel sure we will be able to give you specific and helpful advice. If the recipe is that of a well known baker (Please tell us) then it is more than likely that dozens of our members will have baked it. Without the full details it will be merely guesswork on our members behalf.

Don't be discouraged - We all had to go through a steep learning curve to make great bread.


isand66's picture

Per Jeff, it sounds like you over-proofed the loaf.  Also, in SD baking you should not be knocking the dough back like you do sometimes in traditional yeast baking.  Please provide the details of the recipe and we can help you further.


barraboy1's picture

I was following a recipe by Patrick Ryan:

500g Flour, 300g starter, 250ml water, 10g brown sugar, 10g salt

mixed together, need ( I use a food mixer with dough hook ), leave to prove for 2.5/3 hours, I probably left it longer because it had not doubled in size. Turn out, knock back and place upside down in proving basket ( I dont have one and so used a floured tea towel in a large mixing bowl. The recipe says leave for a further 2.5 hours but Ieft it overnight as it wasn't rising. The recipe was for two loaves but I left the mixture as one. Hope that makes sense?


Ambimom's picture

Your starter was active __ check

You're bread was properly mixed __ check

Instead of letting it rise in the bowl again, you should've formed it into loaves, placed in baking pans, let it rise again (anywhere from 2 to 8 hours) until ready to bake.

Don't give up.  We've all been there at first.  FYI, this is what I do.  My starter is kept in the refrigerator until the night before I'm ready to bake.  I mix my dough (starter, flour, water); feed my starter with equal parts water and flour to replace what I've just used.  After I knead my dough a bit, I cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. 

Next morning I form the cold dough into loaves.  It is thoroughly rested and typically easy to handle.  I like to add bran and flax to the loaves at this stage but that is totally optional.  I place the loaves in oiled bread pans, spray the tops with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and set to rise (typically 6 hours at room temperature) or however long it takes for the bread to rise above the pans a couple inches.

Then I bake in a 425F oven for 45 minutes.  Voila.  

dabrownman's picture

rise 30% on the counter the first time and then do the 2nd proof in the fridge overnight and then bake it the next morning after it warms up on the counter for 1-2 hours and proofs to 90% - no more,  you will be rewarded with a fine bread.  Your first shot was ovenproofed and you 2nd one will be great.

Happy baking

barraboy1's picture

Many thanks, will keep trying! One more question, I have the starter in a plastic sandwich type box with a sealable lid, would it be better in an upright glass jar?

dabrownman's picture

container the frosting came in when too lazy to make frosting for a cake.  Some prefer glass but after breaking 2 of them I went to plastic and have no worries.about breakage ever again.  

PetraR's picture

Happened to me too, we all have to learn and we learn best from our mistakes:)

It sounds to me as though you over proofed your dough.

Once your first rise * bulk fermentation * is done you should gently degas your dough and shape it making sure that the surface is nice and taught.

I do not let mine proof more than 2 - 2 ½ hours in the banneton which is well floured.

If you use a bowl with cloth in it you should make sure that the cloth is very well floured to avoid sticking which could deflate your dough too.

I keep my Starters, firm and wet, in Mason Jars in the fridge, I find that Glass is easier to clean, but that is only me, others keep theirs in plastic containers or bowls.

When I keep mine in the fridge they are closed airtight, in the Winter month I keep them on the kitchen Counter loosely covered.