The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Whisperers... help?

Joceheartssourdough's picture

Sourdough Whisperers... help?

Hi TFL Community!

In April I took a sourdough workshop and the instructor challenged us to make the same recipe 50 times to master it. The starter for loaf #44 is currently bubbling away! I've learned so much through this practice but there are a couple things I can't seem to figure out.


1. Every once in a while I get a loaf that is flat, but is perfect crumb inside. Here's a link to an example. 


I'm stumped as to what is causing this. Is it under-proofed? Does my starter need more TLC?

2. Shaping! I have a good method for shaping but my dough can be very sticky. I do a cold over-night proof and in the morning I do a pre-shape, wait 30 minutes and do a final shape. The crust almost always cracks and I'd love to have dough that I could score with pretty designs. 


Welcome your thoughts!

BaniJP's picture

1. That usually happens with my breads when I don't develop the gluten during mixing enough. So in the end the gluten network isn't strong enough to hold everything together properly. Happens to everyone, really normal.

2. I would rather do an overnight final proof. So first bulk-ferment the dough at room temperature, pre-shape, final shape and then put it into the fridge overnight. 

Joceheartssourdough's picture

Interesting! Simply mixing it more could wrestle that gluten into place?!

I prefer the method you like too, Bani, but this dough is very wet and much easier to shape when it is cold.  

jey13's picture

Do you use one of those big scrapers—made for spreading paint and plaster—with a handle? If not, I suggest you get one. That would help you shape the dough before refrigeration. Check out this video:

See the biggest scraper he’s using. I have one of those. They make dealing with wet dough WAY easier. Also, do you have water on hand? Water can always help you deal with a sticky dough. Wet the scraper and your hands. 

Finally...I can’t say how well this would work, as I’ve never done it...but have you thought of giving the dough a little time in the refrigerator prior to shaping? Take it out of the fridge, Pre-shape, rest, shape, into the basket and then back in the refrigerator for the overnight? That would let you shape chilled dough, but still give it that overnight refrigeration *shaped* and ready to go in the morning. 

clazar123's picture

The problem you are experiencing is not so much a sourdough problem as a dough development problem. Use the search box to look up "windowpane". This is a simple test to know if your dough (gluten and starchy gel) are developed enough to have a nice feathery crumb.