The Fresh Loaf

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Sourdough - problem

dart73's picture

Sourdough - problem

Hello all,


I've been trying to make the simple white sourdough from Emmanuel Hadjiandreou's book. I'm baking it inside a pan (rock pan) at ~230 C degrees. It's got a good crust inside but looks like the inside is a little raw.

What would you say from the pictures?





Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Tell us about the starter, looks like slow yeast and the rise was rushed.

Also did you do any folding during the bulk rise?  How long and at what temperature was the dough rising?

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)
  • page 23: Step 24 reads, swivel the dough  and 180˚ then repeat Step 22. It should read, Swivel the dough 180 and then repeat Step 22 and 23.
  • Page 44: Pecan Raisin Bread: spelling mistake golen should read golden.
  • page 47: Beer Bread: In the list of ingredients, 10g/1 teaspoon should read 10g/ 2 teaspoons
  • page 61: Bagels: In step 1, add the softened butter to the dry  mixture
  • page 65: Armenian Flatbread:  Step 9 reads. Cover the bowl again and let rise for 30 minutes. It should read: Cover the bowl again and let rest not rise for 30 minutes, as there is no rising agent in the dough
  • page 81: Gluten-free Bread with two variations: read "potato starch" instead of "potato flour"
  • page 82: Gluten-free Cornbread: read "potato starch" instead of "potato flour"
  • page 94: Levain de campagne Bread: replace "150 g warm water" by "250 g to 300 g warm water" (the author cannot be more specific as a lot depends on the capacity of your wholegrain flours to absorb water. Generally speaking American flours are stronger -have a higher protein content- than their British equivalent and therefore require more water;
  • page 109: Beetroot Sourdough: In step 3, add the oil to the wet mixture
  • page 115: Potato Sourdough Bread: In the list of ingredients, proofing/ dough rising basket (500g/ 1-lb. capacity) should be 1000g/ 2-lb. capacity.  Step 17: Should read Bake for about 40-50 minutes, or until golden brown. (M: shows 2 small loaves one made with raw, grated potato & another made with roasted potato;)
  • page 129: Semolina Bread: In the list of ingredients, add 15 g of olive oil for folding
  • page 138: Croissants: Step 23 should read, Remove the dough from the refrigerator and repeat Steps 17-22 (not Remove the dough from the refrigerator and repeat Steps 17-21).


Keep this for your notes. The bread you are making doesn't have any "corrections & clarifications" but this is always handy to have for when you attempt other recipes.


dart73's picture



my starter is smelling like alcohol. It floats on the water. How can I test it to assure it's growing enough? Something about doubling its size but i'm not sure how to do it.


I did fold as Emmanuel stated in his book getting the borders and pressing it into the middle 3 times, resting 10 minutes between each time.

The dough rest all the night so ~8 hours of rest at ~ 25 degrees C or 77 degree F.








dart73's picture

I mean, fold 10X from border to center, then rest 10 minutes, then did all this again 2 times more.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

decided to make your own home brew, eh?

How are you maintaining the starter?  It should be getting the same or more weight in flour than the starter (water can vary from half the flour weight to the same or more)  and depending on the temperature, the starter should be fed after it rises to maximum height.  

Whoops, how did I end up between you two guys? 

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

I find I'm not developing the gluten enough. When you initially form the dough give it a 5-10min knead. Let it rest for 10 minutes then proceed onto stretch and folds as normal. 

dart73's picture

Humm.. maybe a misunderstanding here?  The portuguese transation of the book is strange... Emmanuel does a very liquid starter so I followed another recipe.

When he says to add 75g of starter in the dough is it the bare starter or it's mixed with something else?

Are my starter underfeed?



AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

I just have a look at how much starter he wishes to be used. It's always 100% hydration, like my starter is, so I just build enough. Say he wishes for 150g levain.

I just take 50g of my starter and feed it 50g flour + 50g water.

He normally builds 300g and tells you to use 150g but I don't like to do this.

Sometimes I like to do two builds to make a stronger levain.

so night before i'll take 16g of my starter and feed it 17g flour + 17g water = 50g

Next morning i'll feed that 50g of active levain 50g flour + 50g water.

Now it'll be much quicker (4-5 hours) and stronger.

Then I proceed onto the recipe.

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

In my book he'll say something like

Take a teaspoon of your Starter and feed that 150g white flour + 150g water. Use 150g in your recipe.

I'm guessing, from the sound of things, if he's asking for 75g of Starter he would have advised something like this...

Take a teaspoon of your Starter, feed it 75g flour + 75g water and when active use 75g of that in your recipe.

But i'm only guessing from what I've seen him explain in the other recipes I've tried.

Perhaps if you give us the recipe as he describes it we can help you make sense of it.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and used when it is very active.  That takes some time after feeding.  There are live bacteria and yeasts in it and after feeding, they go thru several cycles of growth and budding or replication and build in numbers.  It is important to use them when their populations are high.  A freshly fed starter cannot be used until it shows lots of activity.  

While you are figuring this all out.  Take some time to feed the starter.  One tablespoon of starter to 3 Tbs water and enough flour to make a paste, like tooth paste.  Cover and let rise in a clean tall narrow glass.  Mark the starting level. When it reaches maximum height it is ready to feed or use in a recipe.  If it doubles ok, but let it rise as high as it can before taking a spoon out to add 3 spoons of water and enough flour to thicken it up.  Cover.

How long it takes to reach the first peak? With each feeding it should be speeding up and peaking sooner.  

dart73's picture



recipe is:


- 75g levain (I was using the starter)

- 4 3/4 g salt

- 150 g water

- 250 g white wheat


My misunderstanding was related to this levain vs starter.


To make the levain he mixes 1 tablespoon (15g) of starter with 150g WW + 150ml water.

My starter is thicker than his so should I use i.e 25g starter + 25g WW + 25g Water?



dart73's picture

 150ml of water not 150g.

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

150ml water = 150g water


AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

Levain is activated Starter used in the recipe.


Take 25g of your Starter from the fridge.

Feed it 25g of white flour (I believe for this white sourdough he asks for white flour for your levain)

plus, 25g water


Leave that at room temperature overnight or 12 hours. When all nice and bubbly, which means its active, use this in your recipe.


75g of active starter in the recipe is your levain!


How much starter do you keep in the fridge?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:) later ...

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

pulling from fridge and feeding 1:1:1 and leaving at room temperature 12 hours give or take. But of course the correct answer is "till ready" :)

Can one catch a starter everytime at the EXACT optimum moment? Well only if you stand over it.

Get as close as possible and overtime you'll also get to know your starter.


dart73's picture

Just one more question before trying it again,


is it bad to leave the levain rest too much? Will reduce its activity?

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

Levain, activated starter which has been fed and risen, should be used when it has peaked and is very active. Waiting too long and allowing it to fall back before it's used is not advised. We activate it for a reason.

If you are talking about your starter which you keep going indefinitely, where do you keep it? how long between feeds?

Mine will keep quite happily in the fridge for a few weeks between feeds.

But the more a levain is fed the more active it is. So when I pull my starter out of the fridge to build the levain I sometimes do two! builds, or more, to make it more active.

For example...


I keep around 100g - 150g of starter in my fridge.

I need 150g of active! starter (levain) for the recipe.

I'll portion off 16g from my starter and feed it 17g water (17mls) + 17g flour. Allow that to bubble up overnight and become active.

Next morning I will feed this 50g of activated starter with 50g water (50mls) + 50g flour and allow that to bubble up. This time it will take much quicker as it has had a feed already.

When all nice and bubbly it is ready to use. I'll put this in my recipe as the levain.

doughooker's picture

When it reaches maximum height it is ready to feed or use in a recipe.

Use it in a recipe. If you manage your starter properly you'll save yourself from endless cycles of feeding and pouring pound after pound of flour down the drain.

The trick is to refresh your starter a short time before baking, use the new starter to bake, then put the surplus in storage (in the refrigerator) for your next bake.

In my baking I have found it takes bout four hours for the refreshment to be complete at temperatures above the mid 70's F.

dart73's picture

What about the appearance of my starter? I don't think it was like this when I did it.

This looks like very active?



AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

When it looks like that it would be good to use in your recipe.

When you feed your Starter, or when you make a pre-ferment, it'll feed, bubble-up and rise. Once it has reached it's maximum height (or as close to it's maximum height as you can time it) that is the perfect time for your starter to go into your recipe. Means it is active and strong enough to make your dough into leavened bread.

The active Starter that goes into your recipe becomes the levain (the starter that changes your dough into leavened bread).


dart73's picture

Hello guys,


I've tried it again. Follows below the main points:

- Levain active

- Dough increased by 2X when resting

- When I've got the dough from proofing place to slash it for bake... it flatted down a lot... why? So, got a flat bread..

- The crust is nice but too thick for this size of bread. Why this happens? Too much steam inside the pan? Or something related to the flour?

- Taste is good and crunch.


Please see the pics below:









Thanks guys!


AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

I have one question and some thoughts...

Question: How exactly are you baking it? In a stove top pan?


I think the recipe is as follows...

  • 250g white flour
  • 150g water (150mls)
  • 75g active starter
  • 4g (I think!) salt


I haven't followed this recipe but if like all the others it'll go something like...


  1. Mix flour and salt in one bowl (dry mixture)
  2. In another bowl stir active starter into the water till evenly distributed (wet mixture)
  3. Add dry mixture to the wet mixture and form dough
  4. Let rest for 10 minutes
  5. 4x stretch and folds etc....


Whenever I have tried his sourdoughs I have always had the problem of not enough gluten formation.

At step 3, adding dry mixture to the wet mixture, once the dough is roughly formed tip out onto working top and give it a good old fashioned knead for 10 minutes or so until it stops sticking to the table and your hand. Do not be tempted to add any more flour. If little bits of dough fall off and stick to the table while kneading just scrape them up and carry on. At the beginning you might think it'll never work but carry on and eventually it'll come together. Once it more resembles a dough then proceed as normal. 

Of course you could knead it this way till gluten formation is properly done and then go straight into an overnight bulk-fermentation if you wish. You'll know it's properly done when "veins" appear in the dough. Or just knead to give it a good start and then proceed onto rests + stretch and folds.

Emmanuel doesn't really explain how to shape. He just says "now shape and final proof into banneton". There are pictures but doesn't really help. Take a look at some youtube videos on how to shape dough and score sourdoughs.

And finally be careful not to over-proof. Emmanuel says till doubled but just a little under doubled is ok too. If you wait till doubled you might misjudge it and over-proof.

See what happens... let us know!



dart73's picture

Using this kind of stone pan:

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

How long do they take to heat up before putting the dough inside?  

They look Korean.  

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

A Dutch oven inside your electric oven. 

Is stone a good heat conductor? 

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

Pizza stone. 

I've never used one of these before. 

dart73's picture

These are made with some brazilian stone. It really heats a lot and was burning the sole of the bread so I reduced the oven temperature from 230C to 200C and this solved this burning issue.


Oven is a gas oven. Not so good as electric oven.




Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

have to do the same with metal.  Have you tried using cold dough in a cold pot in a cold oven?

dart73's picture

No cold dough. What's the deal about it?

I saw that some of you let the dough overnight at the fridge. Would this improve something?


Can I leave my dough resting the whole night in the fridge and them bake it in the next morning?



gerhard's picture

That is how I do it.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I meant, if you know how your dough is proofing (you've done it before with the same recipe and conditions)  Put the dough into the cold pot 30min before it would proof "ready" for a hot oven. (About the time it takes to pre-heat the oven.)  

Put the lid on (you can soak your rock pot or spray the lid) set it into the oven and turn on the heat.  The pre-heating time becomes the proofing time and the loaf starts rising and baking as the temp climbs.  You can watch the oven reach temperature.  Then about the time the dough springs, check on it and take the lid off so it can dry and brown and finish baking.   Can be done.

Retarding tends to distribute bubbles in the crumb nicely.  Retarding is used to delay fermentation, slow it down for more flavour, and make bread baking fit into a schedule.   I will let a sourdough start to rise about a third with some folding, then retard the dough (so I'm not baking at one in the morning) shape when I want to bake (the dough can become quite stiff and this is sometimes desired for easy handling) and wait for the rise when I have time to watch it.  Some will retard earlier or later.  If the dough is chilled far into the fermenting, chilling will have less effect than when chilled soon after mixing the dough.  Chilling will slow and delay fermentation but has little effect on many enzymes, which continue to digest starches and churn out flavour.  Retarding is a big flavour booster.  

High percentage rye flour doughs tend not to retard well as rye dough stiffens much more with the cold temps than wheat flour doughs.  This stiffening and subsequent cracking will release trapped gas and the results are much like over-proofing.  

dart73's picture

Hello all,


thank you for your comments. Now I could do a much better bread. It was gone in minutes! :)


First I did the 10 minutes old handy knead and I think this helped. Left the dough in the refrigerator overnight and next day it started the final proofing. After 5 hours I did the finger test and looks like it was overproofed because fingerprint was not returning and the dough started to fall down so I did shaped it again and left it raise again for more 2 hours. Then I did the test again anf the finger print was returning softly and I decided to bake it. So it was a success! Very crusty! Good oven spring (unfortunately limited by my pan), after leaving the over the bread had a cracking sound!

Why I don't have those bubbles inside the loaf?

Now, which would be the next good recipe to try? Want more flavor now. Tasty, maybe something wheat/rye? Not too sour. Please give me your opinion.

White sourdough 1

White Sourdough 2

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

Very very nice. What a difference.

Do you want to try this again with some more tweaks or try another?

What i'm thinking is that you should try this once more and do two builds of the levain to make it really strong.

Then after kneading for 10minutes when forming the dough let rest for a bit longer, about 15 minutes, then do 4 stretch and folds 15 minutes apart.

When it comes to shaping don't take all the gas out. Gently tip the dough out on the table and shape. A certain amount of de-gassing will happen but we don't want it fully de-gassed.

Then final proof and bake.

See what happens.

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)


Emmanuel Hadjiandreou's "Levain de Campagne" (adapted slightly...)


Night Before

1st build: 16g starter + 17g water + 17g strong whiteflour


Day Of

Morning: 50g levain (from night before) + 50g water + 50g strong white flour

(wait till optimum time about 6 - 8 hours)




  • 250g strong white flour
  • 100g whole wheat
  • 50g whole rye
  • 256g water (boiled and cooled till warm)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 150g levain




In dough bowl add levain + 256g water and stir till levain is fully distributed.

Add the flour and form shaggy dough.

Cover the bowl and leave for 15min to rest.

Add 1 tsp of salt and knead for 10 min or until the dough begins to come together and you get some good gluten formation. Fully incorporating the salt.

Cover bowl and leave to rest for 15min.

Do 4x stretch and folds with 15min rest in-between.

Cover the bowl and leave to rest for 1 hour.

Gently tip dough out onto lightly floured surface and shape dough into banneton. Don't completely de-gas, we want some bubbles in there, just enough to shape.

Final proof (keep an eye on it, cant give definite time but 2-3 hours depending, you'll have to be the judge)




AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

just to confirm...

1 teaspoon of salt




Fine sea salt (non-iodised)

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

At his hydration, and using fine sea salt, you should have no problem incorporating the salt, just knead it well.

Often it is a done thing to hold back 20g of the water. Then when sprinkling the salt, onto the dough after the first rest, then wet it with the remaining 20g to help the salt incorporation.

But I don't think you'll have any problem here.

dart73's picture

Ok, starting to do the Levain the Campagne. Will have to leave the dough resting in the fridge tonight for final proof tomorrow. Is this ok right?



AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

To do everything and final proof in the fridge.

Make dough

Do stretch and folds

Bulk Ferment

Shape into banneton

Leave out at room temperature for 30min after shaping then put in plastic bag and finish off in the fridge overnight.

Bake straight from the fridge.

dart73's picture


but leaving it proofing in the fridge will let the dough rise? Or will "freeze"the whole process? Wouldn't it be needed a final proof out of the fridge for long hours?




AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

This is also why I like to leave it out for 30 minutes before putting in the fridge. I normally have no problem baking straight from the fridge but if you think it needs more time after you take it out then you can finish off at room temperature. You'll have to be the judge.

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

This is an 806g loaf.