The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


mjacob4154's picture


So this is something I’ve experienced many times before and I have no idea what’s wrong!


I started out with a 45 minute autolyse of 365 g of water and 400 g AP flour and 100 g of whole wheat flour. I added 100 g of my active starter to the dough, let it rest 30 minutes and then added 13 g of salt. 

it rested about 3 hours on the counter at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit and then was placed into the refrigerator for about 18 hours at 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

when I took it out of the fridge, there was bubble action along the side (there could have been a lot more, but I didn’t want to wait too much longer). I shaped the dough using a pre-shape and a final shape method for a batard loaf. It then rested on the counter for 5 hours, at which point it passed the poke test. I poked into the dough in multiple locations about 3/4 an inch deep and it slowly sprung back leaving a slight indentation. 

I placed it into an oven preheated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit onto a pizza stone with a pan underneath to put water. I baked at this temperature for 20 minutes and then removed the pan of water. I then turned down the temperature to 450 degrees and baked for another 30 minutes. 

please help me! Most of my loaves turn out like this often having very large tunnels at the top of the loaf and very dense structure at the bottom.

Blazingarrow's picture

Looking at your method, the weights of ingredients look ok but salt is a fraction high, you could cut that back to 10g. 
I noticed you haven’t developed the gluten structure with a mix or folds- that would explain the density of the crumb. If you do sets of folds about every 30 mins over that 3 hrs and then a 1 hr rest after that, the dough probably has had enough fermenting time before going into the fridge.
If you were going for a no knead bread like Jim Lahey’s no knead recipe then the dough needs a longer bulk ferment at room temp, try 12-18 hrs.

Good luck!

mjacob4154's picture

Thank you so much! I’ll try that out with my next loaf. I usually go for developing gluten with 3 or 4 stretch and folds over 2 hours but was trying to do a no knead. I know my starter is active, I just don’t think he (my starter is named Charlie) likes the temperatures he’s in he is normally pretty slow (about 6-8 hours to peak when fed 1:2:2 but holds peak for about 2-3 hours)

i personally like the salt to be a little higher (~2.5%) because I find that at 2% it doesn’t bring out the vibrant flavors of the starter as much. 

I’ve also done overnight final proofs in the fridge which have similar results so I will definitely try out a 12-18 hour bulk ferment for my next loaf! 

thank you again so much!!!

Blazingarrow's picture

No worries, there are more experienced bakers here that can help you on the finer points but it’s a start. I’ve made the no knead bread before and it’s brilliant for how little you actually need to handle it. But it does need a much longer first ferment to develop flavour and get its gluten web going.

Ps. My starter goes by Gigi and ‘she’ is loving the temps at the moment, finally hit sourdough friendly temps just before winter in Australia ;)

SeasideJess's picture

Just keep in mind that the recommendations for times might be wildly inappropriate depending on the strength of your starter and the temperature of the room. 

MTloaf's picture

The low profile and lack of bloom and oven spring and the tunnel under the top crust. Indicate an overproofed loaf. The 5 hours on the counter seems like it was too long. In my opinion the poke test is not the best indicator for sourdough bread. It works well for yeasted breads that have more strength and tension. I prefer to use visual clues like amount of growth and a domed surface.  I my use your fingers to gently feel for the general sponge like resistance in the loaf rather than a single poke. Try cutting the 5 hours in half to see if it helps.