The Fresh Loaf

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Sourdough flattening a bit/ hard to score

bijection05's picture

Sourdough flattening a bit/ hard to score


I'm fairly new to the sourdough game and just started making a few loaves.

I feel like i'm doing things right but my dough always flattens a bit when i take it out of the fridge after final proof and is also quite difficult to score. I'm also having some trouble with preshaping but htat might be because of my poor skills

I'm using tartine's recipe, for this one i just pushed he hydration to 78%and did 7 folds in total. The crumb is pretty nice and the taste is awesome but i feel like it is a bit flat i.e you can see the folds that is caused by the baking paper underneath.

I don't feel like i'm overproofing but most of what I've read points to that, what do you think ?. Could It be that the bowl i'm using for final proofing is too big ?

idaveindy's picture

Welcome to TFL!

"I'm using tartine's recipe, "

That's good. I'm a big fan of Chad Robertson.  But there are two bread books with "Tartine" in the title, with dozens of recipes. Could you please give the book name ("Tartine Bread" or "Tartine Book No. 3") and the actual recipe/formula name?  (Page # could help too.)

Please describe any changes or substitutions that you might have made to the recipe.  (This is one of the common underlying sources of newbie questions.)

Both the symptoms you describe and the photo seem to me to indicate too much water.

Here's the thing about hydration: It is the most common thing to be adjusted because of your particular flour. All store-bought flour has sat around a while, at distribution centers, stores, and in your home pantry. Flour can lose or absorb moisture over time. 

Also, it is unlikely you are using the exact same flour that any given bread cookbook author used. Different brands can behave differently, so that's another reason why hydration might need to be adjusted.


Another possibile cause of difficult scoring and the bread spreading out is not developing a tight outer gluten cloak or skin. This is done by the final shape procedure where you ball the dough and drag it across the counter to tighten the top.

Another factor is the proofing step. A banneton, lined or not, is intended to "wick away" some moisture to dry the skin a little.  Dusting the banneton or the liner with a 50/50 mix of AP/Bread flour and white rice flour helps this. 

bijection05's picture


Thank you for taking the time to answer my questionnings !

I'm using the basic country loaf recipes from the book "Tartine Bread". I've just pushed the hydration a bit more on this loaf, to 78% where the original is 75%, but I made several following the exact recipe before and have always had the same problem.

It uses bread and whole wheat flour and I'm using the french equivalents which are T65 and T150 flours. I added maybe a few extra folds because I thought It was the cause of my issues at some point but It doesn't seem to hurt.

For the final shaping I use the method shown in the book (fold the bottom side a third of the way up, the two lateral side to the middle,the top a third of the way to the middle and finally the bottom side covers It all up) but since i'm using a round pyrex bowl that i cover with cloth and dust with a mix of AP and rice flour I shape It like a boule using my bench scraper and adding a bit of extra tension in the process.

It's true that during final proof the dough doesn't seem to "breath", meaning that when I take it out to bake the top and the dusted flour look a bit wet.

It might be an hydration problem as you say but how do i test how much water to use for my flour ? Is It only through trial and error ? I don't feel like the dough is impossible to work with but It is true that It sticks to the bench scraper if I don't wet It first. It feels like It never does when I watch videos on youtube and instagram haha.

Have a nice day !


idaveindy's picture

"It might be an hydration problem as you say but how do i test how much water to use for my flour ? Is It only through trial and error ?"

As far as i know, Yes.

Take notes of what you do for future reference.

bijection05's picture


So after your suggestions I baked another loaf, still using the basic country bread recipe from Tartine bread but reducing the hydration to 72%.

I felt like the dough wasn't as strong as before during the shaping, maybe because I did 6 folds every 30 minutes after the beginning of the bulk and nothing for the next 2,5/3 hours. I don't really know but I felt like i needed to shape it twice (I did the stictches once and then added two i think).

Once i transfered to the pyrex bowl lined with a cloth for final proof, I did sort of like a cross stitch for extra tension because i didn't want it to flatten after the score haha.

And It turnq out It held it's shape better and didn't flatten after the score but didn't really rise that much either. The surface is also cracked in some places as you can see in the photo, any ideas as to why ? 

bijection05's picture

bijection05's picture

semolina_man's picture

Same flour used? It doesn't look like it.  The first photo looks like a high percentage of whole wheat and/or rye. The second photos look like a higher percentage of white wheat.   Please post your complete recipes.  

If the second loaf was mainly white flour, it makes sense that the dough was more slack compared with a whole wheat dough, which accepts higher hydration. 

Stick with one recipe and one method until you achieve repeatable results.  

When are you scoring the loaf?  Before proofing?  This is what your posts suggest. 

idaveindy's picture

I thought so too (higher whole wheat) at first,  but figured it was just lighting, as he did not mention any deviations or substitutions in response to my question if there were any substitutions.

I'm leaning to the possibility/likelihood that he did not match the protein of American bread flour when sourcing his T65. Some french flours get way below 11% protein and are still T55 or T65.

idaveindy's picture

These photos show the crust better than the original photo.

I've got a vague feeling based on the crust.  two things:

1. your glass proofing vessel is not letting moisture wick away like a real banneton.  So here is how to compensate:  Use two towels. the first towel,  the one against the bowl should be thick.  A second towel, the one against the dough, should be thin and tightly woven, and dusted with flour.  

This will create air space between the dough and the bowl to allow moisture to escape the dough.

Escaping moisture will help create a firmer skin and perhaps allow the loaf to hold shape better.

2. It is difficult to match local flours with foreign recipes.  T65 is _not_ the same as American "bread flour" unless it has at least 11% protein. Preferably 11.5%.

There exists low protein T65 and there is higher protein T65.  You need T65 that has at least 11%, maybe 11.5% to duplicate the flour used in the Tartine Bread book.

"T65" specifies the ash content, not the protein content. If the pacakge doesn't say how much protein, then you need to go to the milling company's web site to find out what you have.


The crust in the photo with the dutch oven makes me think your protein is too low. It looks more like a biscuit (American biscuit, that is), made with lower-protein all-purpose flour, not high protein bread flour.


There could possibly be an issue with your European flour not being malted. The American bread flour used by Robertson has malted barley flour or malted wheat flour in it.  

This possibly is in third place, after the proofing and protein issues. So I would recommend resolving those two first, and if your problems persist, then consider addiing a little diastatic malt powder or some sugar/dextrose/maltose to the formula.

Good luck and bon appétit.

bijection05's picture


I just got an answer back from the wheat farmer and apparently the T65 flour i'm using has 11% proteins in it, the T150 12,5%. I'll try using one with more protein if I can for the next loaf.

Both used the same type and quantities of flour and i scored after the proof just prior to baking.

I'll try your method for the final proof because it's true that the towel i'm using is a bit wet when i take the dough out.

For the diastatic malt powder, I don't know if I can find It in France but if some sugar does the trick I might try If the double towel method doesn't work.

Thanks again for your answers, I'll get back to you with the results !

bijection05's picture



Just made this loaf with the same recipe, 72 % hydration 90% T65 with 11% protein and 10% T150 (ww) with 12,5% protein, and It held Its shape pretty nicely.

The pyrex bowl I usually use for final rise was unavailable so i used a colander lined with cloth hoping that It would help the dough breath more/dry out a bi as you guys suggested. The cloth was quite wet when I took everything out of the fridge in the morning even though It was in a colander so I was pretty surprised. I think that's the reason why the crust is cracked a bit.

Would you know why the bread doesn't rise much through the score ? Is It because i'm not angling the blade enough when scoring or is It something else ? I feel like It rose better than the last one but still not as much as I would like.

Thanks again (and in advance) for your answers, I'll implement them on the next loaf, at least two weeks from now ;).




idaveindy's picture

at this point, you need to provide more info on your formula and procedures, your oven, your baking method (times and temperatures), stone vs dutch oven, and your steaming method.

You "say" you used the standard formula from the book, but the problem is this.... beginning bakers almost always  make changes that they think don't matter, but small changes do matter.  So that is why beginnig bakers are asked to say exactly what they did and not take a "verbal shortcut" by saying "I followed the recipe exactly" because in reality that almost never happens.  When someone writes out the details, then we see the small changes that caused different results.  So, please don't take offense.

Your loaf looks over fermented, over steamed, and too much top heat. But those are just guesses, and the additional info will help figure that out.

How old is you starter?  are these the first loaves you've made with it?  

Crumb photos would help.

Please include how much levain you are using, autolyse time and temp, bulk ferment time and temp, final proof time and temp -- type of oven, gas, electric, convection, location of heating elements, which heating elements you used, fan on or fan off, stone or dutch oven, -- if you did not use a dutch oven, how you steamed, hot water, cool water, ice cubes, how much water.  If you did use a dutch oven did you add in any water or ice cubes?

also, what country are you in please?   That helps with finding the right flour.  It is hard to match US flour in UK/Europe. 

When you used the colander for the banneton, did you use two different kinds of towels as I mentioned previously?   A metal or plastic colander is still not as good as a porous banneton.

bijection05's picture

Thank you for being so thorough with your answers I really appreciate It, i'll try to be as well.

I'm in France, I've used T65 with 11% protein and T150 with 12,5% protein for these loaves. These are my first with this starter that was made about 3 monts ago.

72% Hydration (360g), 90% T65 (450g), 10% T150 (50g), 20% leaven (100g built overnight with 9g starter 60g flour ,30g T65 30g T150, and 60g water), 2% salt (10g)

In both cases the levain was built at 22h30 and kept at room temp, around 18C (64F).

I started autolyse in the morning with water that I heated to about 37C I believe, with the levain as instructed in the book (after it passed the float test). I performed strectches and folds every 30 min during the 2 hours of bulk and one every hour after. The dough was kept at around 18C or 19C but I didn't track the temperature after the 1st fold (stupid i know).

After the final proof in the fridge, both passed the poke test and I scored and baked them directly out of the fridge. Would they pass the poke test if overproofed ?

I used a dutch oven that was preheated in a small convection oven at 240C. I reduced the temperature at 220C before putting It back in with the bread inside because the bottom of my loaves tend to get burnt if I keep It a 240C all the time even with parchment paper. They cooked 25min with the lid on and 15 off.

The heating elements of the oven are both at the top and bottom of the oven. I did not add any water or ice cubes.

For the last loaf i thought the colander would be enough so I only used one kitchen towel that was not really smart I guess. I'll go with the two towels method you suggested next time, until I get a proper banneton.

I've kept and excel file with information on the loaves i've baked so far, here's the last two's info : 

18c/FDT 28,5C at beginning of Autolyse 
After 1st fold 23C/72%/6 folds
18c/FDT 28,5C at beginning of Autolyse
After 1st fold 23C/72%/7 folds
22H3022h30      Preparing leaven
9H308h40        Autolyse
10H10 9h25        Salt added, start of                           bulk
16h0515h40      Preshape
16h4016h10      Final retard in                                   fridge after shaping
10h309h30        Baking

I'll post crumb photos tomorrow as I don't have acces to them now. 

Hope I've given you enough information ! Thank you again, your insight is super helpful

HansB's picture

Do you cover your loaves when you put them in the refrigerator? If so, leave them uncovered for the first hour or so to give them time to cool down. That will help to reduce condensation on your loaves.

idaveindy's picture

I see several things in your procedures that deviate too far from the book and are likely causing your problems.

I will wait for the crumb photo to confirm and so as to explain it all together in one message/comment.

bijection05's picture

I cover It with a lid directly as soon as i put It in the fridge, i'll try to wait an hour next time.

I didn't think that I deviated from the book, but as you said before beginners often don't really realize that they do.

Here's the photo of the crumb (the bread was a few days old) : 

Looking forward to your answer ! Merry christmas !

idaveindy's picture

Sorry for the delay.  But here goes...

1. Your T65 is not the same as american medium-strong bread flour.  Because a) your loaf is too dark. At first I thought it was lighting,  but your new photo shows the crumb too dark for a 10% WW loaf. That means there is too much bran in your T65. and too much bran means it ferments too fast.

Semolina_man made a good observation in his comment about your loaf being too dark for this recipe.

So you need to use a high protein T55 or else change the recipe to use up your supply of T65.   Or maybe the flour is actually T75 or higher, not true T65.

b) Your french T65 flour does not hold as much water as american medium strong bread flour.  We can see this because of how the crust looks. So you need a better flour.... OR .... use even less water, somewhere around 65% hydration.

2. 37 degrees C water for autolyse?  That is 98 degrees F.  Robertson says 80 degrees F, which is 26.6 degrees C.  

That higher temp is making the dough ferment too fast, and too much.

3.  6 hour and 15 minute bulk?  (9:25 to 15:40) That is too long. The book says 3 to 4 hours, unless the dough is kept colder.  and yet your dough is too warm already with the too hot water. Warmer dough ferments faster.  6 hours is also extra long because of the extra bran that makes it ferment fast.

So this over-fermented the dough too.

4.   17 hour and 20 min proof  in fridge.  (16:10 to 9:30) Again, too long. The book says 10 to 12 hours in fridge. Dough keeps on fermenting in the fridge, and even more so if it has more bran.


To recap, there are four reasons your dough over-fermented:

1. Too much bran for this recipe/formula.

2. Too high temperature of the water.

3. Too long bulk ferment.

4. Too long final proof.


Another point: the finger poke test does not work on refrigerated dough.   It only works on dough proofed at room temp, and is still not reliable even then.


So... if you need to use up your T65....

1) use even less levain,

2) use 95% T65 and only 5% T150 so you do not get too much bran.

3) use less water,

4) use 26 degree C water, not 37.

5) Bulk ferment only 4 hours or so.

6) Final proof only 12 hours in fridge.

And then it still takes experimenting, maybe 3 or 4 more loaves to discover the exact percentage of levain and the exact ferment:proof times.


Next time you buy bread flour, see if you can get T55 with at least 11.7% protein.


Bon chance, et bon appétit!


bijection05's picture

Hi, no problem thanks again for such a thorough answer. It's really helpful to be able to have a knowledgable opinion.

I do have a couple questions on what you said :

1. I agree, the T65 I'm using is significantly darker than the other on the market. I'll try changing to another one for the next loaf and see how It fairs up. 

2. and 3. Correct me if I'm wrong but what i understand from the book is that Robertson uses 80F water because that's approximately his room temperature. He also says that if It's colder where you are you can use warmer water because what you are after is a final dough temperature between 78F and 82F for a 3 to 4 hour bulk.

Since it's about 64F in my house, i used hotter water to get an FDT of 28C so about 82F. But the dough gets colder and colder as the bulk goes on because of the room temperature so I kinda go by feel for the duration of the bulk. How do you tell when It's over ? Usually I rely on a moderate increase of volume (It says 20-30% in the book but It's hard to gauge), small bubbles showing on top of the dough and the dough pulling away from the sides if the bowl when I tip It.

I'll try reducing the bulk next time since my parameters are pretty much the same, at least for the moment.

I didn't know the poke test was ineffective on refrigerated dough but now that you point It out i sort of understand why.


idaveindy's picture

If you use a clear (plastic or glass) container with straight vertical sides, and perhaps with markings, that helps judge the % rise.  


I think you get the concepts of warmer dough needing less time, and cooler dough needing more time.  So you need to use some trial and error to discover the right balance of time and temperature.  You can also adjust this balance by using less levain too.  Less levain means either longer time or higher temp would be needed.  

So there are three things you can balance.

Also, bran makes dough ferment faster, more bran causes the dough to ferment quicker, so that would be four things to balance.


But I suspect there might also be some mis-interpretation of things in the book.

Robertson give two accounts of the process -- one on pages 47-68, and another on pages 70-79, in "Tartine Bread."  It is important to study both accounts.

Also, I am not understanding your use of "final" dough temp.  The "desired" temp is the temp at the point of the start of autolyse. 

Though he does say you can use 90 F water if your room temp is under 65 F (which you say yours is)... but.... 98 F is too hot.  At 98 F you are starting to "cook" the dough to a small degree.

Dough takes several hours to cool down. Therefore, the hot insides can ferment too much.  (and you are partially "cooking" it).   Using his trick of using the oven with the oven light on, or a pan of hot water to warm the oven may work to keep a constant temp.

I use my oven to bulk ferment. I turn on the heat for 60 seconds, and turn on the oven light. Then, maybe every 1 to 2 hours I turn on the oven heat for 30 seconds.


It does take a while to learn.  I did not start to make a decent loaf until my 10th try:


Bon chance.

bijection05's picture

Hi again after this long break !

So i've implemented what you told me in this loaf.

To begin with I used a different t65 flour, whiter and with 12.7% protein (it's weirdly harder to find strong flours here) but still kept the hydration to 72% to see If It could hold up and It totally did ! I even think It was a bit too stiff.

I used 78 °F water and monitored the dough temperature all the way through (around 23°C). The bulk lasted about 4h and I stopped It when the dough came off the sides of the bowl quite easily (plus the increase in size).

The final retard in the friche was about 13h and I baked It straight from the fridge. I feel like It rose nicely through the score and didn't spread as much as It used to. The crust still cracked a bit on the side even though I used the double kitchen towel method you advised me to. I will to get a banneton for better results I think.

The crumb is OK but maybe I could get a more open one with the original 75% hydration in the recipe.

Thank you for your guidance and If you see room for improvement feel free to tell me !