The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Soudough and Proofing

strattor's picture

Soudough and Proofing

I have just started making sourdough breads, and have tried the recipe for Vermont Whole Wheat Sourdough from Hamelman's Bread a couple of times. I am experiencing a strange situation where there is practically no rise during proofing. I have tried proofing both at room temperature and overnight retarding and it's always the same. However, when I stick the bread in the oven, I get a huge spring, and the bread triples in volume. The end product is great, but I am confused as to what's happening during proofing.

 My question: is this a peculiarity of this recipe or my starter, or is this typical of all sourdough.

Thanks for your help. 

JMonkey's picture

I'm not sure why Hammelman's sourdoughs are like this, but IMO anyway he tends to underproof his sourdoughs so that they get a tremendous, visually appealing oven spring. A 2.5 hour bulk rise at room temperature won't let the dough double, unless you've got some kind of super-powered starter. I think 5-6 hours is more like it for doubling.

Bill Wraith is the expert, though, when it comes to proofing time and the percentage of innoculation. Bill, do you think this is right?

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I had a similar issues with a few sourdough breads.  There were two major causes  

First, any sourdough starter weakens gluten.  An abused starter can do so spectacularly.  If you don't feed your starter regularly, you can get into all sorts of interesting problems.  Along those lines, I am starting to like starters created with whole wheat flour better than those created with rye.  If your starter is getting very liquid between feedings, that is a hint that it could be degrading the gluten too much and that it is time to start, or buy, another starter.


Next, there is the hydration, development and strength of the dough.  Some doughs will rise better than others.  The three topics are interrelated.  If you are measuring by volume, be aware that "Bread" as errors in it.  I prefer to use the bakers percentage numbers in his recipes and turn them into appropriate gram weights.  With a bad offender, I found dropping the hydration by 5% was enough to let the bread rise.


Good luck,





JERSK's picture

  Temperature is also a big factor. If you live in the north ,chances are your house is cooler Many people use a higher percentage of starter in winter vs. summer. If you can't create a warm enviroment for sourdough proofing, say in the mid 70s F, there are a couple of things you can do to raise the temp of your dough. The easiest is to raise the temp of your water. I have a formula for that vs. room temp and ingredient temp, but I'm not sure where it is. You could easily add 90 degree water to other ingredients when mixing to raise the dough temp and then keep the dough well insulated. Also you can put proofing dough on a heating pad or your proofing container in a larger bowl filled with warm water. Or just try to find a warmer spot in the house,a sunny window, top of the fridge , by a heater...

    Another likely culprit, if temp isn't a problem, is the activity of your sourdough starter. If you don't use it much you have to make sure it's properly refreshed before adding it to your mix. Subsequent feedings help especially if you're making large amounts of bread. i.e. feed it 2 or 3 times until you build up to the amount of starter you want, making sure it is nice and active before the next feeeding. In any event bringing it back up to a high activity could take from 8 to 16 hrs. So plan ahead and get it active before using.