The Fresh Loaf

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Nightmare on Dough Street

Derekfd's picture

Nightmare on Dough Street

I've had this happen 2 times now. I've been doing lots of experimenting with the ingredients and the method, mistakes were made, but I'm not sure what factor is most responsible. Before I get into the mistakes/theories, here's the method I was going for...

This is a 2 loaf recipe (Totals including 240g starter: Flours 1028g, water 740g,  hydration 72%).


380g WW Flour

390g AP Flour

138g Oat Flour

620g  Water


1-2 hours later add: 

240g Starter

76g sugar

6Tbs melted butter


30mins later add

10g salt

4 stretch and folds every 30 minutes then cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning i remove it from the fridge and let it warm up for a few hours, then divide, pre-shape, rest 1 hour, final shape and put into bread pans. Both pans go into plastic bags to rise then score, spritz with water and bake (375° for 15 minutes then 350 for 30 minutes). 

During the final rise in the pans the loaves just opened up as you see in the photo. I did not score them since they were already opening up, just spritzed and baked. Not much additional rising happened in the oven, they just continued to open up and look more and more like Freddy Kruger's face. 

Now the mistakes/theories...

Life got in the way and I wound up out of the house for about 3 hours between the preshape and final shape. The loaves had risen way too much (and had already started bursting open a little) so I degased them, pre shaped them again, waited another 30 minutes, final shaped, and put in the pans. 

The other time this happened I had had a similar unexpected delay in the fermentation process, this time during the stretch and folds. So my first thought was just that these had simply over proofed, but I havent been able to find any similar results from simply overproofed loaves. So now what I'm wondering is if my issue isnt over fermentation but actually lack of gluten development, on account of the fact that I didnt knead the mixed dough. I mix by hand so some kneading happens during incorporating the starter and then the salt but not a whole lot. I had been successfully making a couple all white flour breads with a similar method (stretch and folds but no kneading) and wasnt having this issue. I was under the impression that with the long slow rise of sourdough, stretch and folds were all that was needed to develop a sufficient gluten network. Is that not the case when doing a bread with other lower gluten flours in the mix? I was researching overproofed loaves and wasnt finding any examples of what happened to me so I started wondering if maybe I need to add kneading into this method. Any advice on this or any other elements in my recipe would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

idaveindy's picture

Weldome to TFL!

Could you please give a web link to the formula (recipe) that you were attempting? Or a recipe-name and page# from a popular cookcook?   

Also, what is your experience so far in baking bread?  What kind of loaves have you been doing successfully (or not successfully) up to now?  That will help your helpers tailor advice to your level of experience.

Derekfd's picture

I've been baking bread off and on for a few years now. Started working with sourdough when my first kid was born. Been at home for the past few months (like everybody else) and have taken to baking nearly all the bread varieties my family consumes. Have a very active starter and have baked many successful loaves in recent weeks. 

There isnt a specific recipe that I can link to as I've been slowly experimenting with it. It started as an active dry yeast recipe from the back of the Bob's Red Mill Oat Flour bag. I converted everything to grams, doubled the recipe, and ditched the yeast and substituted starter for an equivalent amount of flour and water. I adjusted the hydration up and down a couple times to get a feel for the different levels, eventually settling on 72°, for now. I was baking this loaf successfully for a few weeks but wasnt ever getting as much rise as I expected. My starter wasnt quite active as it needed to be so I got that beefed up and that helped a lot but i still wasnt getting quite enough rise. Then I found this recipe for raisin bread...

(It's amazing by the way, highly recommend this recipe as is) The method and schedule of this recipe was much different than what I had been doing for my wheat recipe, mainly the timing of folds and length of bulk fermentation. I had been timing my folds top far apart and more importantly not letting the dough rise long enough. So I started incorporating the schedule of this raisin bread recipe to some of my other loaves: after mixing, 4 folds every 30 minutes, then overnight in the fridge, etc. I successfully baked a white bread recipe with this timing and it rose incredibly well, just like the raisin bread had. So then I tried taking my wheat recipe ingredients and preparing it with this schedule. That's when the trouble started. Both attempts yielded loaves that looked like the picture from my first post. I did have those aforementioned timing issues where I had to let the dough sit longer than the schedule called for but as I said originally I'm not sure what the main culprit is. Hope that helps

clazar123's picture

Starter added to autolyse flour is time zero (0)

S&F x4 q 30 min.= +2 hrs at room temp (or warmer depending on dough temp)

Refrig overnight (12-18 hrs?) . I would check your refrigerator temp. Is it 40F or above? How much did the dough raise while refrigerated? It may have been ready for shaping/pan/short proof/bake right out of the refrigerator.

Warmed dough up for 2 hrs

Preshaped and rested 1 hr. (Life happened=+3hrs) (happens to all of us)

Panned and Rise in plastic bag- 1-3hrs? at room temp?


If life caught up with you and the dough ended up an additional 3 hrs at room temp, the dough is very overfermented and the gluten structure is deteriorating. The bonds are being broken by enzyme action and  can't hold together. This is different from a properly fermented loaf that is overproofed. An over-proofed loaf can be knocked back, re-shaped and proofed again. But once a dough is over-fermented to the point of gluten deterioration, it should only be used for pancakes. I know because I've been there!.

A lot also depends on the quality of your starter-well-fed? Very active? Sluggish?...etc.

Derekfd's picture

This makes a lot of sense. Your timing estimates for the S&F is right. The overnight time in the fridge was actually only 8 hours but I didnt see much rise during that time so instead of leaving the dough on the counter for 2 hours before preshaping, I left it for 4, which would maybe be part of my problem. Then I shaped and had that extra 3 hours on the counter (also part of the problem). 

The rise in the pan was also room temp but that dough started opening up after about 40 minutes because the damage had already been done I guess. 


Started is very active. Doubles in only a few hours, peaks at about 2.5× the post feeding level a couple hours later.


So I guess it could have just been way over fermented. 

In general is kneading necessary or common for sourdoughs with whole wheat flour (50/50)? I only wondered if that was my problem because the video that got me started with only S&F for sourdough was specifically a white bread recipe and I wondered if maybe when using flours with a lower gluten content you needed to do some kneading. Would be curious to know others' thoughts on kneading sourdough as well.  

clazar123's picture

As far as your question re: kneading and WW,  you will get LOTS of different recommendations and all could be correct. Many ways to..... you know.

IMHO, all bread needs to develop the dough to a windowpane and that can be done in many different ways. WW needs to not only have adequate hydration but the time to absorb it. All those branny bits are like twigs- it takes a long time to get them waterlogged before a bake or they will just continue to absorb the moisture from the crumb after the bake. That is when the slice crumbles in your hands just as you take a bite. Very annoying! Your autolyse takes care of that. I don't know about just 4 S&F. Was that enough? Can you stretch a windowpane?

I often made my 100% WW with a preferment ripened from early afternoon, the dough mixed by bedtime, thrown directly into the refrigerator for 12 hrs where it fully fermented (usually), shaped,proofed,baked by noon. Soft,cohesive crumb, well flavored. If it was not fully fermented from the refrigerator (doubled, at least), I would leave it out at room temp to finish.

Lots of ways to make bread. Does the oat flour make it denser? I prefer to use whole,rolled oats.

Derekfd's picture

Very helpful again, thank you. I think it's time for some more experimenting. Admittedly I did not do the windowpane test on this one and know it's something I should be checking everytime to help get a better sense of how my schedule is working. I gather that if I were to attempt after the 4th S&F and it weren't quite there I should just wait another 30 minutes and fold again, keep testing? 

I'm embarrassed to admit this but theres not a reasoning behind the inclusion of oat flour. A while back I somehow ended up with 2 bags of the stuff and had been trying to use it up. While I was getting my starter up and running in March I started making the (yeast) recipe on the back of the bag and liked it enough to make it jumping off point to start playing around with. Now that the 2nd bag is almost finished I guess I'll try tweaking the recipe again. Onward!..