The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter Issues?

dgav's picture

Starter Issues?

Hello everyone! First post here and a newbie baker but getting a bit obsessed during these weird times :D

Basically no matter what I've tried my dough goes slack after adding my starter.

I generally go around 80% hydration, 20% starter with strong white bread flower and a bit of wholemeal. I do a couple of hours autolyse, about a 6hr prove with 4-6 stretch and folds  every half hour after adding the starter and salt.

After the autolyse the dough is in relatively good nick but after adding the stater, it goes more and more slack. I've done some reading and I think that my starter may be too acidic and this is affecting the gluten formation. 

Most recently I tried a 111 feed using half rye and white bread flour, but Ihave tried all sorts up to a 144. Whichever I go for, the starter rises well, usually tripling after about 4hrs. 

Does this make sense? If so how do I fix it!? 

Thank you in advance for your wisdom

ciabatta's picture

80% hydration is not an easy dough to work with. Especially if you're just getting into bread making. and if you're saying 80% and then you're added in your starter (which i assume is 100% hydration) you are really above 80% hydration, because you have to count the flour and water in the starter too.  80% dough is very slack, very wet and very sticky.

Start at around a 70% hydration.   your description of the process is a bit unclear on the sequencing. but it should be something like:

- flour and most of the water, mix well, autolyse
- mix in starter well
- mix in salt with remaining water, rest
- sets of stretch and folds until dough passes window pane test
- rest until 20%-50% increase in volume (depending on formula and process)
- divide and pre-shape, rest
- shape
- final proof or cold retard (length depends on process)
- score and bake with steam in hot oven
- bake without steam
- remove from oven and rest until cooled

a couple hours of autolyse sounds too long, may be difficult to mix the starter/levain in.  6 hours of bulk fermentation sounds too long.  water and ambient temperature is very important here.

your feed ratio just determine how soon your starter matures. what's important is to use the starter when it's mature


kjgeraci's picture

There is a chance that you are over-Autolysing your dough.  This just happened to me yesterday. 

I would reduce your autolyse time to no more than 60mins.  The experts that I have watched on youtube, talk about the gluten structure developing during the autolyse process, can be broken down by an over acidic starter or over proofing.  This video was helpful to me.

Also make sure you are calculating your hydration correctly.  [Water+(Starter/2)] / [Wheat + (Starter/2)]


dgav's picture

Thanks both!

Okay, so next time I'll try these three changes:

- Lower % water

- Lower autolyse time

- Lower bulk fermentation time

And thanks for the vid!