The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ken Forkish Sourdough problems

SaraBClever's picture

Ken Forkish Sourdough problems

Hi all, I have not been on this forum in a long time but am trying to get back into sourdough baking.  I recently bought Ken Forkish's book and am enjoying, but am having trouble with the sourdough breads.  What I'm wondering is I'm doing something wrong with respect to his fold and pinch method, because while the dough rises during the proofing phases, it flattens out entirely while I'm baking it.

So my thinking is I'm doing something wrong earlier by not doing enough turns and not developing the gluten sufficiently, or by not forming a good 'boule'.

On the other hand, I don't seem to have this probelm when I make the hybrid levain breads (commercial yeast + levain).  I get nice round loaves.  So that makes me think it's not my technique but something with my levain. 

Yet, the levain seems quite robust, and it doens't seem to be that there's a lack of yeast, but rather that it spreads sideways while baking.

I've been baking in my new Emile Henry Cloche which has otherwise been wonderful!


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Sara.

Have you searched TFL and read about the problems that other members have experienced with Forkish's methods?

His formulas have made my very favorite breads over the past few years, but his timings are wrong, more often than not. Most folks, most times of year, in most locales find his fermentation and proofing times are way too long. So, my guess is the reason your breads are collapsing is that you have over-fermented and/or over-proofed them.

If you pay attention to the dough and not the clock, you will probably experience greater success with those breads.

Take a look at this posting: Multi-grain sourdough bread made with home-milled flours August 12, 2018

This bread is based on Forkish's "Field Blend No. 2." The relevant piece is my Procedures. You can change the flour mix and hydration to your taste, but the procedures I document will work for any of Forkish's sourdough breads that have a total of 1000g of flour and use 360g of his levain.

I hope this helps.

Happy baking!


MichaelH's picture

At one time I was tempted to buy Forkish's book but after reading so many posts on this site about the problems members had with his recipes I thought better of it. True, they usually found ways to make the recipes work, but an author whose breads are considered good only after the baker makes several changes to them does not strike me as an author whose breads I wish to try. I fail to understand his appeal. Tartine Bread, The Baker's Apprentice, Hamelman's Bread and several others are superior in my opinion.

Levaineer's picture

I always have better luck with a lower hydration. Usually I will use his recipes as a guide and bring the hydration down to 70-72%. This range strikes a good balance between wet dough and dough that's easy to handle. Definitely agree with previous comment about proofing times as well.

cfraenkel's picture

I actually learned a lot from Forkish's book, and have no issues with it at all.  It's my go to fall back place for simple bread recipes. You do have to Pay attention to the dough, but he tells you that, along with photos of how the dough should look at all stages. 

My guess is shaping combined with bulk ferment time. Watch some videos of shaping online, and make sure you're really forming a very tight ball. Sourdoughs usually proof longer than mixed doughs, so the shaping has to be tighter.  I live in a cooler climate so I always have to add time to Forkish's suggestions.  I started marking a straight walled container (ice cream bucket) with tape when I start the bulk so I *really* know where the dough started and needs to finish.

Hope this helps.

SaraBClever's picture

Appreciate your thoughts.  My proofing times are usually slower than the cookbooks say, so it didn't occur to me that I might be over-proofing, in particular the sourdoughs.  Overcorrecting, perhaps.

I have Tartine and looked back, he only expects a 30% increase in volume during bulk fermentation which is quite different to Forkish.

I will check my boule technique.  Again, they were turning out better with my commercial yeast doughs so I hadn't considered the technique point so it makes sense.

Right now I'm trying to revive my starter but hopefully will be able to put your tips into action this weekend.  It froze a bit!