The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Bushturkey's picture



I've been baking for many years but, until recently, have been using the old "knead for 10 minutes on a floured surface, let double, knock back and prove a second time  then bake" method. Time between mixing and baking typically around 1 hour!

After reading Dan Lepard's "The handmade loaf" and Peter Reihart's "Crust and crumb" and "The bread baker's apprentice", I discovered the "slow rise" method and using wild yeast as my leaven. It now takes me at least 2 days to properly create a loaf. Time well spent too. I haven't eaten any store-bought bread for 3-4 months now and my wild-yeast culture is alive and well.

I've added a thick garden ceramic tile in the oven, I have an oven thermometer, a pan to put water in and I spray the loaves and the oven walls with water in the intial minutes.

My problem is when rising dough in improvised bannetons (wicker bowls, which I've lined with muslin. I dust them liberally with flour before putting my dough in them).

When I turn the dough out just before scoring and baking, it deflates to about half its pre turn-out height. The holes in the crumb after baking are small and the texture is denser than I'd like. The bread tastes excellent (well, compared to my previous baking technique), but I'd like to improve the crumb structure. There is a good oven spring, but not to the initial height. I use a bread tin (the "pullman" shape), but this means I can't put a loaf directly onto the baking tile

I use bread-baker's flour (11.5% protein), but always with a bit of rye, wholemeal (or both). Should I add more gluten? I can't imagine 100 years ago, baker's would be adding extra gluten to flour.

staff of life's picture
staff of life

It could be a number of things, or a combination of a number of things, which can be maddening. :)  First, are you deflating the loaves when you turn them out by being a little too rough?  I always use a 1:3 or 4 ratio of rice flour to wheat flour to dust my bannetons.  Using rice flour means the dough will virtually never stick, which is a happy situation.  Secondly, your dough might need a few folds to get enough strength to hold its shape when you turn it out of the banneton.  Finally, and I think this is the core of the problem, you might be overproofing a bit.  When I was having trouble deciding if a loaf had proofed enough, I decided to make a batch of about 4 or so loaves, and put each in the oven at a slightly later time than the previous loaf.  I also examined each loaf when I turned it out: what it felt like when I placed my hand on it, how quickly the dent from my finger filled in.  I also checked to see how far it had crested over the top of the banneton.  I really quickly got an idea of when a loaf was ready to go in the oven.


Bushturkey's picture

Thanks SOL. I made a couple of loaves today. I've folded the dough a few times. I'll repeating the folding during rising.

I dusted my proving baskets with 1:3 ratio of rice flour to wheat flour and I've got them rising in the refrigerator to bake tonight or tomorow morning.

I also added extra gluten to the flour to bring up the protein content to 14%-to see what happens.


nbicomputers's picture

i agree you are over proffing the bread which will cause the bread to fall back since it does not have the foundation to support it's self

also the flour is of a lower proteen count.  a good hi gluten flour has a proteen count of 14.2 percent will allow for greater proff and expantion without the bread falling back.  you will get more oven spring as well

remember to alow for more development of the gluten about 15 minutes or more but do not over develop or you will tear the gluten and will get a very dense loaf

GrapevineTXoldaccount's picture

Bushturkey, I'm relatively new to the sourdough breadmaking part, but have been baking bread, especially sweet breads, challah and dinner folls, for many years now.  Just recently I have begun to add a bit of powdered dry milk and have found that my breadmaking has improved significantly.  Initially, I had tried experimenting with sour cream, buttermilk or creme fraiche, to give more character to my dough (I know, I know, you die-hard sourdough folks are rolling your eyes, LOL), and I found that although they added a bit of something extra, they weren't the magic bullet.  Then, having read about others using a bit of powdered milk, I tried that route.  Voila!  I'm a very happy camper. 

In a typical recipe calling for three to four cups of flour, I would add a quarter cup of dry milk.  I NEED TO WARN YOU.....I veer from recipes and don't actually follow any 'set in stone' formulas, so I am constantly 'playing' with my food. 

I have found that my bread rises and retains its moisture better.  Please remember, I'm relatively new to this, so please heed caution and consider my words as 'just an idea'. 

Happy baking to you!

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Obviously, overproofing is a very real possibility.


Also, if your dough wasn't properly developed, it will be more fragile than a well developed dough. Loafing techniuques are far more important than many people think.


When a loaf is overdeveloped, skipping the slashing can be a very good idea.


Another issue, which hasn't been addressed, is how are you turning out your bread onto your peel? If you have a dense, well developed dough that hasn't been over proofed, you can turn over your banneton and drop the dough onto your peel. However, if your dough has high hydration, wasn't well developed, and/or was over proofed, that is a recipe for trouble. I prefer to put my peel over my banneton and then flip the two over.


I have some pictures of this at


Hope that helps,



Bushturkey's picture

My second attempt was much better.

I added extra gluten to the flour. I folded the dough a few times during proofing. I presume the folding incorpotates big air pockets that become filled with CO2.

The rice flour/wheat flour mix was amazing! The dough did not stick to the muslin of my baskets.

I tiped the dough directly onto the hot ceramic and I was more liberal with spritzer. I could see the dough ballooning up! I feel much more encouraged now!

 I was really quite excited about (the holes of) nothing!Second attempt: I was really quite excited about (the holes of) nothing!

Bushturkey's picture

The photos are of two loaves I baked today:

  Today's loaves.Loaves in baskets: Today's loaves.

 Holes not so big. Am I to obsessed with the holes? The bread is great-tasting and the crust was awsome.Crumb structure not so holey!: Holes not so big. Am I to obsessed with the holes? The bread is great-tasting and the crust was awsome.

 Sorry about the quality of the images. They were taken with a mobile phone.

I feel I'm obsessed with holes! I'll keep trying of course, but I see baking as an art and an essential skill seems to me to be the ablity to create a  more open structure in bread. I don't know, yet, how to achieve this. It looks loke a well-risen loaf, though.Maybe I should've waited a little longer.

Formula: Starter

  1. Barm (100%),
  2. bread flour (100%),
  3. water: a couple of tablespoons to make a soft, non-sticky dough. Left to rise 4 hours, then refrigerated "overnight". I use quotes because I refrigerated it for  8 hours from the morning until evening, when I made the final dough.

Finished Dough:

  1. Starter 100%, broken up into pieces
  2. Bread flour 83%
  3. Gluten flour 7%
  4. Wholemeal flour 10%
  5. Water 60% + a little bit more
  6. Salt 2%

I hydrated the flour and salt then added the starter. Ikneaded for 10 minutes + until Iwas satisfied with the window-paning. I let the dough rise for 4 hours then in the fridge overnight (until this morning).

Then scaling and diving and shaping into a batard and a boule. I left the loaves into baskets for 4-5 hours, then into a 500 (Fahrenheit) oven, directly onto the tile.

Baking time: about 30 minutes (with turning the loaves 10 minutes into baking).

The internal dough temperature reached 207 degrees F.