The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Timing bread rise+proof from starter rises

rexineffect's picture

Timing bread rise+proof from starter rises

I have problems with over/under proofing my sourdough breads.

To me, it seems like I could use the information gathered from feeding my starter out on my counter and apply it to my bread:

For example....

My starter takes 6 hours to rise completely, at 7 hours it is JUST begining to fall.

So based on that when I make bread with this starter, around the same ration or starter-to-flour, how should I set up my rise and proofing?


If anything it seems like I wouldn't want my total rise+proof to be over 6 hours right? Is there anything else I can take from this?


Any ideas/comments/questions are appreciated, thanks.

Seems like there should be a formula for this, because the starter rise+proof must be directly related to the breads rise+proof time, right? At least with same flour-starter ratio...

ElPanadero's picture

It's an interesting question and I don't really have a definitive answer as there are always variables.  I'm certain for a start, that different flours will react differently and thus result in differing proofing times.  From experience I know that when I create a new starter from scratch, I get the quickest and most reliable results using rye flour.  If I create a rye starter and a white wheat starter from scrtach side by side, the rye will always develop first usually by 1-2 days.   So I would guess that the timings for your rise/proof times will vary to some degree with whatever mix of fours are in your dough.  Temperature of course will also be a factor and probably humidity.

I doubt you will get any hard and fast rules here.  You have to get the feel for it, be able to recognise how much the dough has increased in volume and do the finger dent test a few times until it feels right (i.e. until the dent doesn't spring back). 

There are also a plethora of different recipes and each will have its own proving regimes.  A very simplistic sourdough recipe might require you mix the dough, let it rise for an hour, shape it then let it prove for 3-6 hrs then bake.   A more complex recipe (like the Tartine) might say, mix, autolyse 20mins, stretch and fold, rest 30 mins, repeat S+Fs and 30 min rests 5 more times, then shape, then rest another 2-3 hrs then bake.   Lots of permutations out there so it comes down to your skills in recognising volume of the risen dough and things like the finger test.

Sorry. . . Not sure that's really any help ! 

tchism's picture

From my own experience, I typically use the stretch and fold technique. That hands on technique allows me to know by look and feel of the dough when the dough is ready to form into loaves. 

The he same goes for final proofing.

My point being, I learned to judge by look and feel of the dough and now only use the times in a recipe as a general guide.

the best way to learn this is to make small adjustments (30 min) either on the first or final proof time until you get a specific recipe down and are happy with the results. Then repeat that same recipe until you learn the feel and look of the dough at the end of the proofing cycles. Once you get that down you can apply that to other recipes. 

Bakingmadtoo's picture

I am not sure to what extent how long your starter takes to rise will be helpful, there is probably a very complicated way of working it out. The length of time it takes your starter to peak probably gives you a minimum. I think, and I may be corrected, the starter will only begin to fall when it has eaten all its food. When you make your final dough you are giving your starter a lot more 'food' than you would on a normal feed or build, so I would have thought that would mean that your final dough should take a lot longer to peak than your starter. I could be wrong.

And unless you have complete control over all the other variables, not just flour, but temperature, humidity, etc. there can only ever be a guideline.  It is something that I am still learning. 

I find sourdough very forgiving on the whole and have to say that however long I have left it, so far I have never over proofed a loaf. Many, many have been a bit under proofed. But my house is very cool. I like this for my sourdough as I feel it gives me a much longer window to work with, and as like you I am still learning the way a properly proofed dough looks and feels, I find this very useful. On the odd occasion when I have tried using my oven to proof, so that I can try and stick more closely to recipe times, I have found the whole process much more difficult and find warmer, stickier dough much harder to judge. Whereas, I can be fairly certain that a dough left retarding overnight for 12 hours will bake up fine, even if a little under proofed still.

MostlySD's picture

From my experience, using freshly milled and organic flours also may make a big difference. I noticed that this week with a rather sluggish starter fed on regular unbleached whole wheat and stone ground rye. I fed it with some organic whole wheat and what looked like freshly milled rye (not organic) and it grew almost like crazy.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Watching your starter and getting to know it, experimenting with it, helps you with your bread times.  I have to agree.  I use them all the time.  I let my starter be my teacher time and time again.   Even more so if you feed and bake with the same flour you are gathering valuable experiences.  

The first rise of the starter does not mean all the food is gone.  It means the mixture can no longer trap the gasses being created by the bacteria and yeast.  When it falls, it collapses onto itself and strengthens it's trapping abilities and will rise a second time.  That falling can be compared to stretches and folds in the fact that the gluten matrix has been reinforced. So if you stir the starter before it peaks, it will rise even higher before the matrix starts to release gas and fall.  

If you treat your dough the same as the starter, not folding it or touching it, letting it bulk rise until it falls, the dough has a weak matrix, stretches too far, exhausted structure can no longer trap gas, it falls.  It will bake out as a pancake or a space ship, frisbee, etc.  We know this.  Watch it longer after the second rise, the starter turns to goo, not unlike long over-proofed dough.  Bakes out as bricks and solid sour crumb.   It is all the same thing starter and dough only dough is on a larger scale.  Anyone who fails to see this, needs to realise it.  Fermenting times then get manipulated or changed, slowed down or sped up with flours, ingredients, salt, malt and temperatures and hydration but a base line is there.

Try this, you know the starter takes 6 hrs to rise, straight shot to the top.  It was fed in the same ratio as the planned bread.   That would be too long for a single bulk rise of sourdough and if your starter rises more than double, you know you have lots of yeast in there.  Here is the only time I can think of "double" having good meaning.  When the starter is at double and not at peak, stir the starter or punch it down.   Then let it rise to peak.  How long does it take?  Try again doing it twice or after the double is double again, work at exhausting both the matrix gas trapping structure and running out the food.  Don't forget to note the changes both in the feel of the dough and the aromas given off, time, temp, everything!