The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Experimenting on Proofing Time: Simple Seeded Sourdough

Elsie_iu's picture

Experimenting on Proofing Time: Simple Seeded Sourdough

Recently, I read some comments on an old discussion topic here about the length of proofing time required for whole grain sourdough bread. Dabrownman mentioned that it is easy to over-proof whole grain bread because of the high bacterial, yeast and enzymatic activities. I wonder if I was letting my bread to proof for too long sometimes such that the oven spring was minimal at times, so I deliberately cut the proofing period by 20 minutes this time to see what its effect would be.


Simple Seeded Sourdough


Dough flour:

270g     90%      Whole wheat flour

15g       5%      Dark rye flour 

15g       5%      Whole spelt flour


For leaven:

10g       3%      Starter

10g       3%      Bran shifted out from dough flour

10g       3%      Whey


For dough:

290g     97%      Dough flour excluding bran for leaven 

290g     97%      Whey 

34g      10%      Leaven

10g       3%      Vital Wheat Gluten

5g       1.7%      Salt

3g        1%      Dark barley malt powder 



20g       7%      Toasted mixed seeds (10g white sesame seeds,7 g golden linseed and 3 g poppy seeds)


310g     100%     Whole grain

310g     100%     Total hydration


Shift out the coarse bran from the dough flour, reserve 10g for leaven. Mix the rest back into the dough flour or soak them in equal amount of whey taken from dough ingredients for a minimum of 4 hours.

Combine all leaven ingredients and let sit until doubled, about 6-10 hours.

Roughly combine all dough ingredients and let ferment overnight for 10 hours. Fold in the mixed seeds and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Construct 3 sets of stretch and fold over a 1.3 hour proofing period (20+30+30), shape the dough after the last set of stretch and fold and let rise untouched for 30 minutes (part of the 1.3 hour). At the same time, preheat the oven at 250°C/480°F and pre-steam at the last ten minutes.

Score the dough and bake at 250°C/480°F with steam for 15 minutes then at 230°C/446°F without steam for 15 minutes more or until the internal temperature reaches a minimum of 205°F. Let cool for at least 3 hours before slicing.

I felt the dough need longer proofing time but I still decided to bake it for experimental purpose. The resulting loaf turns out to be under-proofed indeed but the oven spring was really impressive. That’s enough to convince me that most of my loafs were slightly over-proofed. I would try cutting the proofing time by 10 minutes next time to see if it would produce a loaf with both great oven spring and open crumb.


I’m very pleased with the browning achieved for this bread. I think the dark malt plays a role in it. Although the blisters are not huge like those you find on the crust of white sourdough, there are a lot of them so it’s more than acceptable to me.


This bread actually tastes quite nice despite the slight denseness of the bottom of it. I really like the addition of dark malt, it reminds me of cocoa powder but in a sweeter and more complex way.


Sometimes I forget a simple loaf like this can taste amazing, it’s not a bad idea to bake some rather plain bread from time to time. Happy baking everyone!



GaryBishop's picture

I've been thinking that there must be some measurements we could do to know when bread is properly proofed. With the strong dependence on temperature it seems unlikely that strictly basing it on time can work well in anything but tightly controlled circumstances. 

I fantasize that I could configure a Raspberry-Pi with a camera attachment (about $50) and have it watch my dough rising to predict the optimum time for shaping or baking. I could estimate the volume and rate of change of volume with simple image analysis. 

Elsie_iu's picture

I totally understand that time is an unreliable measure for the proofing state of bread since it's affected by variables like preferment used, temperature, whole grain % etc... So for this experiment, I try to keep the above factors the same as the previous bread I baked. I was not talking strictly about the time when I said I cut 20 minutes proofing time but it's more about how firm the dough felt to me.

You're really serious about baking that you'd watch the dough with the camera! That surely works better than my naked eyes so I might try it out someday. Thanks for the suggestion!

GaryBishop's picture

It really more an excuse to play with a little toy computer but I think it could conceivably make my baking more consistent.