The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie problems

golddustpeak's picture

Newbie problems


 I need some help in understanding my failures with my sourdough bread.


 First I apologize for the rambling way this may seem to be laid out.


 My outcomes are a light airy nice open crumb with little oven spring and with a brown crust; additionally I have noted that there have been a few batches where my slashes have healed (gone back together).


The taste has been very mild with little sour taste.


 My process for the last six weeks or so is as follows:


 Remove the starter from the refrigerator (after 5 to 6 days) and feed it a 1 to 1 ratio of white flour to water and let it rest overnight on the counter.


 Remove some starter and feed it again with a 1 to 1 ratio of flour to water and wait until it doubles in size (usually 3+ hours.).


 I make small batches based on the following using 500 grams of flour:

Flour (white 13.5% protein) 100%


Water 70%


Starter 33%


Salt 2%


 I start by combining the starter, most of the water and mix until thoroughly combined.


Add flour and autolyze 40 minutes.


 Add salt and remaining water and thoroughly mix.


 Proof (ferment) 3 to 4 hours with a group of four turns each being four folds 30 minutes apart.


 Pre shape and rest 30 minutes.


 Shape and transfer to banneton.


 Proof (1/2 to 1 hr.) until poke test slowly fills hole (this seems to happen quite quickly).


 Put in Dutch oven slash and bake.


 I’m looking for a more sour taste with more oven spring and ears.


 Any help WILL be appreciated.








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Mr Immortal's picture
Mr Immortal

Hi, Goldie!


If you happen to have any pictures of one of your loaves (including a shot or two of the crumb structure), that would be super helpful for troubleshooting.  Without pictures, or at least more information, any advice we can offer will be only guesswork.


A couple things I see in your post brings up a few points that could use a bit of clarification:

  1. When you say that you feed the starter on the second day and wait for it to double, are you letting it double, or are you letting it peak?  Those could be two different things, and may be having some effect on your finished loaf.
  2. By adding your starter in with the flour and water during your “autolyse” step, you’re actually jump-starting the bulk fermentation.  Is it possible that you’re not counting that 40 minutes into the bulk ferment, and therefore overproofing?
  3. I don’t see anywhere where you mention temperature.  The temperature of your dough, as well as the ambient temperature in your kitchen, play a vital part in the bulk fermentation process, and can affect all of the things you are looking for (oven spring, sour-ness, ears, etc).
phaz's picture

Well, if I got the timing right - I see about 5 hrs from mixing ingredients to baking. And the issue appears to mainly be lack of oven spring (the slash trouble is due to lack of oven spring so we'll add it in here). 

I would look at reducing starter % - this would give more time for 2 things - gluten development and flavor/sour. Lack of oven spring can be from a few things, poor gluten is always high on the list of most likely things. Slash problem is just cuz the loaf isn't expanding in the oven. 

I would note - this is if starter is in good shape. It sounds like is in ok shape, but what concerns me is a week cold storage and 1 feed at room temp. A week is right on the edge of a 2 day/3 feed recovery for me in most cases. This may be something too also look at. But I'm still gonna throw a c note on the gluten trouble.

An easy thing to try - do everything the same, except add in an overnight rest (10+ hrs) in the fridge. Shape it, into the banneton and into a plastic bag so it doesn't dry it, into the fridge. Next day remove, let warm and proof till ready (it will take longer as it will warm slowly), bake. Lengthening out the process to something like 20 hrs should give good gluten development - at the very least a lot better than what it was. You should also notice a difference in flavor - and it may be a big difference. A few hrs isn't much time to get sour. I like a mildly sour note noticeable after a couple chews - 20+ hrs gives me that. You have that already so you may have to hang onto your socks if ya try this test. Eh, it may not be that much a difference, but it should be noticeable, at least. Keep us informed and Enjoy!

Grant Y's picture
Grant Y

Hi Golddustpeak,

Your process honestly sounds VERY similar to mine. There are two things I think you could do to improve oven spring, sour flavor, and getting an "ear" on your final loaf.

1. Strategic Shaping and Scoring - Try shaping your dough strategically so that there is quite a bit of tension on the top of the loaf. This is what will allow the bread to burst open in the oven right along your score mark, producing an "ear." Check out my video linked below to see what I mean by the shaping and scoring.

2. Cold Proof - After shaping and moving the dough to a banneton, move it straight to the fridge for an overnight cold proof (or "retard"). I find that this process slightly increases the sour flavor and it helps me with oven spring. Plus it's easier to score the dough when it's cold. The next morning I just preheat my oven, score the dough with a long slash, and put it straight into the dutch oven to bake. I don't even wait for the dough to come up to room temperature and it works fine.

I hope these tips are helpful in getting you a more sour flavor oven spring, and an "ear." The reality in bread making is that there are a million ways to do something right and get great results. So when you find something that works for you, just go with it! Happy baking. (The video with my scoring and shaping techniques is below).




golddustpeak's picture

For my next attempt after reviving the starter I removed enough to make up 30% when combined with equal amounts of flour and water.

When it reached it's peak I again did a 40 minute autolyze and then moved on to a batch of three three turn groups every 30 minutes, for four total times.

Four hours after starting the autolyze the dough had grown by about 50% so I did a rigorous preshape and bench rest.

After the bench rest the dough had collapsed but I did a very rigorous shaping to create tension and placed it in a banneton.

30 minutes later I tried the poke test and found that the hole did not pop back up in a timely manner so I slashed and baked it.

As you are probably guessing, again I got no oven spring but a reasonable crumb that was in no way dense.

BTW pictures are a problem for me.

In my next attempt I will further reduce the starter to 10%.

Could my poke test at 30 minutes just have been too soon as I could not detect any growth in size?