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UPDATE BELOW- Still Messed Up!!! Can anyone help me figure this one out?

wakkyzakky's picture

UPDATE BELOW- Still Messed Up!!! Can anyone help me figure this one out?

Hello everyone!! I am new here- actually only new posting. I have been obsessively reading and learning from this site but have been (embarrassingly) too lazy to register and post. Until now, that is.

I have been learning all about the sourdough starter concept, and have finally been able to create my own and keep it alive. I have also been able to make a FEW successful breads with it. But I have made an equal number of breads that have this weird crumb with these enormous pockets of dead space. The bread in the attached pic is definitely the worst to date. 

I have read about this problem at some point and see that improper proofing may be the issue. I just dont know what the exact problem is, and would love some help.

Thanks so much, and here is the recipe and method for this last one (which was with some experimental ingredients, but the process was the same that I have done with success before).

(and sorry for no baker %'s, I am just too anxious to get to the problem)

2.5 cups bread flour

.5 cup rye flour

.5 cup white whole wheat flour

2 cups ap flour

2 tsp salt

1.5 tbsp sugar

.5 cup starter (definitely alive and smelling great)

1.5 cups water

.5 cup beer

1/8th cup olive oil

Mixed the flour w salt and sugar first

added starter

added warmed liquid combo (110f)

Spent a good 10 mins w reasonably proper hand kneading technique on table. Covered and into oven w light for maybe 4/5 hours. Took out and w a bit of water very gently folded into itself, covered and back in oven. maybe another 2 hours, put onto table and set oven (home w/ convection feature) to 550. I cut the total loaf in half, made 4 small balls (which actually baked with NO problem, perfect crumb), and a larger one (that made this reject). Waited maybe 20 minutes til temp achieved. Then put onto upside down tray at lowest rack setting. Fe minutes moved up to middle and finished there after maybe another 10 mins or so. When was sufficiently cooked, took out and cooked on wire rack for 1 hour (actually didnt open til 24 hours later- had it stored in a plastic shopping bag overnight to stay soft)


Thats it!! Thanks so much in advance for any help (and reading this far)!!


Elagins's picture

your yeast hadn't spent itself yet, so the initial blast of heat created a blast of CO2 that blew the crust. try proofing until your finger leaves a dent in the dough that doesn't spring back.


wakkyzakky's picture

Stan, thanks so much for the tip. So I am curious about 2 things:

When i opened the dough, with minimal handling, then poked my fingers over the whole surface- kind of like a foccaccia. I felt like the dents didnt pop back up. I will check that again.

But then my concern is about OVER proofing. I remember eading that when you have a lot of thin bubbles on the surface, that the dough is over proofing. 

Either way, how long should I have been (if yiu can even say without having been there)? I think the total rise was around 8 hours. When you say underproofed, would you mean the TOTAL time (8 hours) , or the last of three rises (20 mins)? Maybe you recommend a 24 hour rise? I would like to work on the slower rise, but from the action I see with this dough starter, I am afraid to be over proofed by the next day. If I go in the fridge overnight, then the next morning maybe it will be too long before its ready to bake? 

Sorry for runningnon, I really appreciate the help!!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

you shaped the divided balls of dough, the instruction with the 20 min wait sounds like making pita bread.  Also when you can feel a large bubble in the dough (lay your hand on it to find or if you feel less weight in one spot of the dough) it's good to pop that large bubble before it gets baked.  It will only get much bigger in the oven.

I would also tend to agree with the under-proofing.  I think the dough could have used another folding at the time it was divided, delaying the dividing of the dough.  Something to try.

I see your spelling checker or translator likes the word "cooked."  for "baking" and "cooling."  Funny.

Yerffej's picture

As a matter of personal education it would be good to let one batch go to the point that you believe is over proofed.  You can learn a lot by doing this.


Bob S.'s picture
Bob S.

Docking (lightly poking the dough surface with a sharp stick or with a tool known as a "dough docker") prevents pizza dough from forming massive holes. This technique might work to prevent blowouts as depicted in your photo. Docking should be performed just before loading the oven.


wakkyzakky's picture

Thanks so much for all the great ideas!! Really appreciate all this help. I think overall the waiting needs to be longer. When I do this recipe with commercial yeast, it is foolproof- 100 times I can do the exact same way with success. Obviously the wild yeast starter is a serious skill to develop. I definitely agree with the consensus that I rushed it too much- I start around 7am hoping to have cooled bread by 5pm... And Mini Oven is right on about the Pita Bread thing- this is actually how I began making breads (so that speed is sort of ingrained in my head).

So I guess now what I am curious about is (I hope this isnt beiing too greedy): What would be an ideal time frame for this recipe be (considering the starter vs commercial yeast)? Going on the assumption I am mixing in the am w a 10- minute knead, where do I go from there? 2 rises in a lit oven, or 1 hour then into the fridge til next day? I see so many different suggestions all over the place but never know which idea to choose.

Thanks to you all so much again!!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

than yeast, everything has to slow down.  There is a long lag time before the dough starts filling with gas, with the above recipe.  Depending on your situation, you can mix up the dough, let it begin to rise for a few hours, deflate and chill (12 hrs) until you are ready to divide the dough.  Then shape and use a proofer.

Another suggestion might be to increase the % of pre-fermented dough (starter) in the recipe to shorten lag time.  Start by Doubling the amount of starter  or try building the half cup of starter with the whole wheat and some of the water giving it enough time to peak in activity before using.

That's uncanny about the pita bread but that's what popped into my mind.  The rush into shaping, the undisturbed rest to form a skin to inflate.  You might want to try a different shaping method or work longer at deflating the dough.

Try extending the bulk rise before dividing. Cut the dough and check on bubble formation to compare to yeasted bread dough.

wakkyzakky's picture

Thanks so much again everyone!!

I have taken the words of wisdom to heart: Mixed my dough this morning, sat for couple hours, quick kneaded and into the fridge. Plan to pull out of fridge tomorrow in the early am, into the lit oven, maybe punch/ knead once more, then bake. I will really try to wait longer after the final balling before shaping to bake.

Thanks so much again to all. I will try to post results/ pic if anyone is interested.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

we deflate sourdoughs, they take it to heart when we punch them.  No kneading, simple folding.  :)  Happy mid-Feb!

wakkyzakky's picture

Ok Mini (and everyone else)- thanks so much once again. I promise no more punching or kneading today- only a gentle fold.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Not to confuse, but when mixing you can knead all you want to, even slap the dough around (slap and fold) to set up the matrix but later...  after or during bulk rising...    too gentle and you get your big bubbles back.  Up to you, you're in control.

I'm a notorious bowl dropper, love to use shock waves.  I get such a giggle from "punching" instant yeast.  :)

wakkyzakky's picture

Ha Mini that's funny- picturing someone giggling while punching! I get your point anyway. This is something I had only learned recently- the 'gentle folding' vs. punching method. But I am glad you clarified because I was now thinking I was supposed to go back to the old rough method vs my newer, gentler, kinder one. I plan to pull the dough out soon enough, and only hope it will rise well through the day (the last time I tried overnight fridge with sourdough I got no action).

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

That might mean fermentation didn't get a good start before chilling.  Remember that, quickly chilling can be used as a tool to delay yet have long wet times on wheat dough.  (I love long wet times but that's my preference.) Let it ferment a little bit (little bit depends on the yeast type and amount) or until you see it rising well,  chill,  it will usually be fully bulk risen in the fridge overnight.  If not, let it rise more the next time before chilling.

A lot depends on the chilling temp., the degree of ferment, the amount of dough (larger masses of dough have their own climate) and dough temp..  Other variables may include additives like malt, whole grains, sugar, warmth can speed up fermentation.  Cold water, some spices, a lot of sugar, salt, tend to slow things down. keep notes...  

Read the first line of the latest post for the 36 hr Sourdough Baguettes.  There are things happening even in doughs that look flat.  Those sneaky little yeasty beasties are slowly working away, but very slowly.

wakkyzakky's picture

Thanks for the insight. I only tried the starter in the fridge once before, but definitely hadnt waited hours before putting in. So that time was a dud. This time, as per your suggest, I waited a few hours before fridging. I just pulled out now, and see SOME rising has taken place. I feel confident there will be a rise, this time. But I am also going on yerffej idea to go to the point I think it is overproofed- just to see what that even looks like. At some point, if and when I get bubbles, I will probably cave and just prep and bake. But the idea to wait and be WAY more patient than I have been is the ultimate goal. I will also mention that I have simplified my recipe since the original post, just to get back to my baseline. I cut out the beer and rye, as those were actually just sideline tests.

wakkyzakky's picture

Hi Folks. I would have posted sooner, but have since had 3 failed attempts. Was hoping to post with a success story.

I have tried what was suggested to me, especially with the longer proofs. Last night/ today was the most recent attempt with a 24 hour rise on the kitchen counter (around 70 degrees f?). 

I was especially following Jeff's idea to go to where I thought it would be overproofed. I tried 12 initial proof in the lit oven overnight, with a light folding (not punching, thanks to Mini) and more rising. I thought that would overdo it, but still got the same reaction. 

So last night I did an entire 24 hours on the counter, figuring it would too much. It really looked great in the bowl- way more than doubled, pretty bubbles, etc. 

It should be noted that I am really trying to make and perfect this single Armenian Bread (called "Matnakash" ), and maybe it isnt quite comparable to some of the higher- rise stuff I see on the board. One other note- there are two versions, one is made on a tray w oil at a lower temp, the other in a brick oven (which is the one I am attempting now)

What I am trying to do is get it right with natural starter vs the comm yeast. I have been very successful with the same recipe using that. I have been sticking with 1/2 cup starter since it represents the roughly half packet of yeast I would use for this recipe (sorry again for no bakers %). 

What I am now wondering is if there could be some sort of issue with my shaping, or is it in the final proof or what? After the 24- hour rise, I very gently balled it onto a floured tray. It rested about 1 1/2 hours. Here is where I changed what I have been doing: usually I would ball it, then after about an hour, shape it ALMOST like a hand stretched pizza (where I just kind of open it a bit, then put it on a board and dock/ stretch with fingers). The I leave it on the paddle for about 30 minutes while the oven heats. Finally, it goes right onto the preheated tray at 550. 

Am I not waiting long enough, or is it something in the handling? The one thing I notice is that even after 24 hours, it still feels really floppy, unlike when I am working with the instant yeast. 

 Here is my base dough, which only the flour amounts vary but not total amount:

White whole wheat, Bread, and AP flour (though may use a bit for kneading): 100%

Starter (100% hydration): 29%

Water: 83%

Sugar: .03%

Kosher Salt: .02%

Olive Oil: .1%

Thanks so much again for ANY help at all!!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

On both recipes,  the first posted one in cups seems low and could be upped to a scant 1Tb. or 14g  instead of 2tsp or 10g. (heavy table salt) Flaked salt measures light so more than 1 Tbs.   I think some of the problem may be salt.  

2.5 cups bread flour                                  312

.5 cup rye flour                                            65

.5 cup white whole wheat flour                   63

2 cups ap flour                                          250

Total                                                           690  rounding up to 700g (bench flour and starter will make this higher)

2% of 700g is 14g  (2% = .02)     ( .02 x 700 = 14)    a teaspoon of small grain table salt tends to weigh 5g

The last recipe has salt way too low, something slipped with the math here, should read 2%  (not two-hundredths of a %)  Same with the sugar and oil.  I can't even measure that small.  Oil must read 10%? no, too high, 1/8 cup of olive oil weighs 26g on my scale.   26/7 = 3.7 so 3.7% for the baker's formula. 

Easy enough to take each cup of flour and multiply by 125g or 130g for each cup, some heavy flours may go to 135g.  Depends on how you fill the cup.  Shake it, it weighs more. 

So the flour weighs 700g, the water 581g,  salt 14g  and sugar 21g,  oil 26g.    Are you still using cups or have you switched to weights?   

What are the temperatures?  dough, room, refrigerator   Do they change during the day?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven
wakkyzakky's picture

Miss Mini, thanks so much again for your feedback. I better confess more, at the risk of coming off more amateur:

I basically tried (unsuccessfully) to convert to weights after I had already made by cups- thinking it would be more help than hindrance. Obviously I need to return to school for my math.

I have a very standard recipe that I have got to exactly what I want, using instant yeast. At some point I measured the weights and wrote down, but never used them because cups was faster (even though I feed my starter by weight). What is worse, I am afraid to say, is that I ended up making no changes to any proportions when I switched to starter from IY! I know this should get me kicked off the board (along with my posting skills), but I had tried this before like a year or two ago with adjustments to the recipe, and got too far from my end goal. I read everywhere that it should be easy to sub yeast/ starter by simply factoring in the amounts of water/ flour in the starter itself (which I dont).

To make matters worse, I am not confident in my FIRST post now, as I dont recall using so much flour, and therefore this entire conversation may be off. So I will stop trying to be correct, just be honest, and give the standard recipe (without rye) and see what turns out.

4.5 cups flour (a varying blend of bread, ap, and white ww)

2 cups water

1/4 cup o/oil

1.5 tbsp sugar (used to  e honey but final prod was too sweet for this)

1.5 tsp salt 

and EITHER scant tsp instant yeast OR 1/2 cups starter (100% hyd)

I realize not changing the proportions is completely wrong when subbing starter, but I usually would just add roughly a cup more ap when kneading. 

As to the room temps- I think it is a roughly stable 70 degrees +/-  I have no clue about the dough temp, nor even how to take it (afraid stabbing with a meat thermometer would ruin the rise?

Also, I checked out that ciabatta link you sent. Definitely is comparable and looks great, so thanks for it. But that seems like quite a process! I promise I am not lazy about this at all- I spend all day looking at the dough, wishing I could play with it more.... But I am sort of hoping for a 'set it and forget it'- type process. I am half- planning (dreaming) to do this for commercial purposes someday. Ideally I could mix on one morning, then process the next day. I like mixing and fridging for 3 days even, which I often do with IY. But the one illustrated in that post seems awfully involved.

And if it matters, I have been feeding this starter every 12 hours without fail, for the past 1.5 months. At one point I ran out of ap, and used bread flour for about two weeks, and have since switched back. This produced a noticeable difference in rise, which I am also not sure how it might affect things. 

Anyway, thanks so much again for reading my novels, and so much appreciate your help!!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

we like to wallow in dough.  :)  <----smiley face    

You have to bare with me, it's been a beautiful day here.   I've been sitting in the sunshine, drinking cool dry white wine and feeling like a spring flower.  Soooo relaxing!    You are a very good sd keeper.    Bread flour vs AP, well... the bread flour has more gluten & holding out power, the AP will be attacked by acids and break down sooner.  "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust" sort of thing.  No big deal.  The starter isn't there for it's gluten but for it's yeast.  

Battery low, be back later...  Mini

Sethrak's picture

Parif, I haven't made Madnakash (pull with fingers) for some time ~ but didn't use such a complex recipe, A basic french bread, well with a bit of sugar and maybe a bit of butter or oil, not much, just a touch ```

Is it possible you haven't mixed it well, I'll read the answers the other members have written you ```




Best of luck