The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How to make my sourdough bread rise (more)

Felix's picture

How to make my sourdough bread rise (more)


I have started baking with my own rye sourdough about a year ago, on and off. In my current line of experiments I have reached loaf #16 and this one has, to me, the flavour and the crunchiness of crust I had been looking for. My most recent step was to use a dutch oven instead of a pizza stone. This yields, to me, the perfect bread. But...

Either way, the loaf turns out a bit flat. My general approach to all things cooking is to try to find out as many things that don't work as possible by myself. Fail hard, fail as often as I can so that afterwards I truly understand what works and why. But with the flatness of the loaf I am not getting anywhere with this approach. The loaf does rise in the oven and my impression is that is the proper amount.

I tried searching but did not find a proper troubleshooting guide for this issue.

The crumb is great, I would not necessarily want any large holes that just swallow butter. What caught my attention several times was the limpness of the loaf after overnight fermentation. I thought there should be quite some tension in the surface but this is more or less just a lump of dough.

So, is there a list of things that cause lack of rise during overnight fermentation?

My method in summary is: mix dough for autolysis around 5pm, knead around 8pm, ferment, bake around 10am. If I am not mistaken this is a reasonable schedule.

Could you point me to a place to look for clues or help?

Thank you. And also please let me know if this post is inappropriate in this forum.

(edit: changed 10pm to am)

BaniJP's picture

Can you give us your ratios/recipe so we get a better idea?

But what I can say already without the recipe is that - if it contains a considerable amount of rye flour, you can't expect a huge rise and surface tension from it. Rye has quite little gluten with poor quality (compared to e.g. bread flour), which will affect the final volume as well as the stickiness of the dough. It contains pentosans, which form some kind of gel when mixed with water.

Your post is very welcome here, it's exactly for these kind of troubleshoots, but also successes :)

Felix's picture

Thank you BaniJP.

I had planned to post the full recipe and dont know how I forgot.

I use a 65% hydration dough:

  • 80g Rye starter (40g Water/40g Rye 1150)
  • 200g Wheat flour (or combinations like 180g wheat 550 + 20g whole grain spelt)
  • 115g Water
  • 5g Salt

I had used all spelt instead of regular wheat but found the dough way too sticky. Annoyingly sticky. And it stuck to the cloth in the basket even though I covered it in three layers of rice flour. Is that common behaviour of spelt?

What kind of volume increase would you say I can/should expect after a night of fermentation?


BaniJP's picture

I'm not really familiar with spelt, all I know is that it seems to have less or poorer gluten as well. Tried a 100% spelt bread once and it was just dense, though proofed enough.

Since you are using only about 1/6 rye flour, I would expect some rise, but not as much as a regular wheat bread. I did a 60% rye bread once and it rose somewhat. But in general, if your dough contains rye or whole wheat flour, make sure to handle it more carefully because the gluten strands are somewhat weakened.

Maverick's picture

Your timeline has me confused. You mention an overnight fermentation, but I don't see it in your timeline. How long is your bulk ferment? Are you retarding (refrigerating) during the bulk or final fermentation? Do you add the starter to the "autolyse"?

Felix's picture

Sorry, that was supposed to be 10am, not pm. Bulk fermentation is a couple of hours between mixing and kneading/shaping. I do not retard fermentation at all but rather have started to add some warmth during final fermentation recently which seems to do the trick.
I add the starter durinf autolysis.

My most recent loaf (with increased temperature during final fermentation rose higher than the ones before and had better "oven spring" if that's the right word. It still felt a bit lump-y when putting it into the dutch oven but the end result is fantastic.

Thanks for your thoughts on this!