The Fresh Loaf

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Sourdough bread having trouble rising

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DakotaRose's picture
DakotaRose

Sourdough bread having trouble rising

Hi!  I have a sourdough starter that is now almost a year old and have noticed that over the past few weeks my loaves don't seem to be rising very well at all.  I was disappointed at how slow they have been.  They only use to take a few hours to rise up nicely, but now they take closer to 5 hours or more and still nothing all that great.  I was buying the same flour the whole time, but I did discover that the rye I was always buying before was not full rye the last time.  They told me that they had an over run and I actually got half and half rye and wheat.  I am not sure if that is the problem or not, but I didn't notice the problem till the last few weeks and that was when I purchased new flour.  I would prefer to grind my own, but with an organic mill in our town I figure why bother.  Any suggestions on why the sourdough might not be rising well anymore.

Thanks,
Lydia

GrapevineTXoldaccount's picture
GrapevineTXolda...

that starter.  I ran into the same problems earlier this summer.  Initially, I thought it was the increased temp in my kitchen, even with the A/C running it's presets, I knew something was up when the dough lacked it usual vigor.  I found that by discarding almost all of it (fret not, just reserve some and keep it if your attempt to revive via this means goes astray) say, but a tablespoon, and rebuilding it slowly over the course of a few days, I was able to gain back what I had lost.  Looking back, I think the reason my starter began to fail in the first place was due to its own hunger.  I now add a teaspoon of flour, sip of water, and give it a quick stir when leaving it in the fridge over three or four days.  I usually bake at least once a week, but this household is a bit chaotic this summer; the teenager has all my attention.  Hopefully, next week the college studies have all of HERS.  ;)

DakotaRose's picture
DakotaRose

 Hi!  Thanks for the suggestions.  I did do that last week when I first noticed the problem.  I thought that maybe the sourdough was not getting enough food so what I did was toss away everything but 2 tablespoons and then fed it 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour.  I did this three times a day for the first two days beings it seemed like it was eating it up as fast as I could feed it.  Then I went to 2 feedings twice a day and then finally to one big feeding before putting it back in the fridge.  Each time I fed it I dumped off everything, but 2 tablespoons of starter.  It always bubbles up really nice, but not nearly as fast as it use to and it doesn't stay looking that way for very long.  Before it took about 2 hours to get really bubbly and then it would hold its own for 6 hours or more when left out on the counter.  Now it takes 6 to 7 hours to get nice and bubbly and falls back on itself after an hour or so.  Even in the fridge it takes a day or so to get bubbly and then falls back on itself after two days.  When I have it in the fridge I feed it at least once a week.  I am really getting frustrated.  I have never had this problem before.

 Thanks,
Lydia

 

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi Lydia,

First, some suggestions, later a question. The one thing that jumped out at me from your last post was your "1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour". That seems to me very high hydration, and your yeasties are likely to use up the fuel supply pretty quickly.

Many other TFL contributors (including me) will tell you, volume measurements are not the most reliable. But just guessing, you probably added around 4 ounces of water by weight and closer to 2 - 2.5 ounces of flour by weight. That high hydration is like a poolish is to a traditional low-hydration biga, much faster to ripen. So my suggestion is to weigh everything, including your starter, and take care about the hydration level: slower ripening comes with lower hydration. Try a liquid, 100% hydration starter: 1 oz. starter to equal parts flour and water, 2 or 3 or 4 ounces of each. The more flour and water you add, the slower the ripening.

Also, you may want to try changing your hydration level depending on the season. In summer, when your starter will ripen more quickly, you might switch from a liquid starter like the one you are using to a firmer one. That would mean, for example, adding 2 ounces of water and as much as 3 ounces or more of flour to your 2T (=1 ounce) of starter. In winter you could go back to the 100% hydration (liquid) starter.

Beyond seasonal changes, I can only conjecture as to why your starter is different now. But your current results may not be so out of the ordinary. Using my own starter as a guide, your earlier results were the extraordinary ones.

Now the question. Is the final levain build you use in your dough the same as your starter? Everybody handles this issue differently, but your problem is in not getting enough lift, currently, from your starter. That may result from too little flour in the final levain build. I am in the habit of making the final levain with a small amount of starter (1 ounce) and adding 5 ounces of flour and 5 ounces of water to it. That makes for a slow ripening of the final levain. It usually provides enough lift to get a good oven spring as well as an open crumb.

Good luck!

Soundman (David)