The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


richmac's picture




I'm just getting started with sourdough and having some troubles. I'm following the 'overnight country blonde' recipe from Flour Water Salt Yeast. My problem is that after my bulk fermentation, my dough is so slack and lacking in structure that i can't shape it at all. its a goopy mess.

Here's what i've done so far:

recipe: 804g white flour; 26g wheat; 50g rye; 684 g h20; 22g salt; 216g levain.

i start by mixing my levain in the morning at 8am. it took a while for a spoonfull of it to float in water so i wasn't able to mix the dough until 8pm. my kitchen is around 70F, but maybe that's too cool? this seems like a long time to wait for the starter to raise. 

after that, i autolysed the flour for 20 mins then mixed in the levain and salt. i folded the dough 4 times and it seemed to be getting some structure by the final fold.

After mixing the dough at 8:30pm, the dough maybe doubled by around 3pm, to roughly 2.5 quarts. when i tried to shape the dough, it was a mess at this point. now i'm letting it rest on the counter thinking perhaps i didn't let the bulk fermentation go for long enough (the book said the dough should triple in volume).

anyone have any advice? if the problem is that my fermentation last long enough, is my house too cold? i waited a pretty long time for the fermentation.

all help is greatly appreciated!

hreik's picture

Hydration.  And can be very frustrating to do. Especially if you are just starting out. I started out with his book also, 2 1/2 years ago.  I'm just beginning to really understand.

May I suggest Trevor Wilson's 65% hydration? :

I did one yesterday.  The crumb is very open. 

Trevor has an enormous amount to teach.


Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

So a hydration you're able to handle. And watch for the fermentation. Forkish is overly generous and many of us have to cut back on the timing. It's a common problem you'll find being asked on these forums. 

richmac's picture

Thanks. What do you mean by "cut back on the timing?"

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Looks like you already did! Recipe calls for tripling in volume and you did double. Already more cautious so sounds like a hydration issue. But for future reference watching the dough and getting a feel for when it's ready is a better gauge then time or volume. When the dough feels areated and billowy and there are visible signs of bubbles just beneath the surface then the bulk ferment is done. I do find many of Forkish's recipes takes the dough to the outer limits and it's very easy to go over. 

Try dropping the hydration by about 5-10% and see if that helps. You can always keep this water on the side and slowly add it if you think the dough needs it. 

Also make sure you're developing the gluten properly. Give some extra stretch and folds if needed. And go for stronger flour if the bread you're using is too weak. 

tgrayson's picture

You can fold a lot more than four times if you need more structure.