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What did I do wrong?

Stephen's picture

What did I do wrong?

Ok I’m pretty sure I know what I did wrong, but I’d just like some other opinions.

so I followed the Vermont sourdough recipe from the king arther baking site. Having read the recipe after I watched the video on how to do it. I did a sort of mix up of the the two methods. 
basically using the recipe written, I used the method as a guideline but otherwise did as he says in the video, if I got confused. 
I done the 10 minutes kneading by hand once I added the salt.

then 50mins ferment and fold for ten mins , following his method and repeat. This is what I could gather from his explanation.

the difference in the written method is slight, but I would wonder if that is what made the difference.

After finishing the shaping, I turned the dough (shaped) into the fridge to do its thing; as suggested in the recipe. having done the poke test and determining it was under-proofed and safe to finish retarding. Ready to bake in the morning.

this morning I gave it a poke. It came back slowish and left a dent.... A good indication  from what I’m learning so far.

then the bake.

 Naturally I got excited when I then took the lid of halfway through baking. OMG iv cracked it !!!!!!
only to then look again and realise what’s happened.

but determined to progress, I’m adamant il get it next time. ?

the flavour is their. And it’s a good little loaf which I rather enjoy making. Not to dense, not to gummy. So I’m well on my way to finding a recipe I like.

I can think it’s one off two things that I didn’t get right, but I’m leaning more towards it being the more obvious than my other theory.

the reason I think it’s more likely to be this , is because I done a test with two different flours, the pictured loaf is made with all bread flour and as is clear.... it did have a good, though failed rise in the oven. Where as another loaf I did at the same time; but with plain flour, using the same method, came out with the same air bubble at the top but flat. Indicating (from what iv learned) a collapse of gluten structure from over-proofing.

so now il get to the point......

my first theory . am I right in thinking that this bread has over-proofed? Or is it my other less likely theory of “ a lack of development in the folding and shaping”.

I think it’s more likely to be the first theory. As I’m doing the video suggested set of folds (10 mins every 50 mins of fermenting) which leads me to believe it’s not from a lack of development that this has happened. But from the over-proof and structure collapse. From the retard stage.

is this a correct assumption? If so , this only deepens my confusion as when I gave both loafs a poke before baking, they both indicated they were healthily ready. Indicating they had both proofed nicely. Suggesting then that it’s not developed enough, which leads back to my second theory..... you see me problem. ? my lack of experience here is really showing lol.

this is not the first time iv done this recipe and this has happened, but this is the first time I used bread flour to test out how different it would turn out in the recipe. So I think il stick with bread flour in future as personal preference, based purely on gluten structure and oven spring and simply because It rose that much more than the plain flour loaf. But I’d still like to get it just right.

any advice would be excellent guys cheers.



phaz's picture

Neither theory. Don't handle the dough gently. Enjoy!

Stephen's picture

Sorry I’m not sure iv understood correctly. Are you saying I should be rougher with it when I knead and fold? As I thought the method of effectively slapping and folding the dough and being generally rough with it, was already not be gentle.
It was very enjoyable cheers. But if am to be any less gentle with it by the method I used , I’d be chucking it about the kitchen ?

phaz's picture

I should have been more specific ie rough enough to degas. Yes slap/fold is rough, but it's not done at the right time to solve this issue. Enjoy! 

Benito's picture

Hi Stephen, the photo of your crumb is helpful, it looks like it is overproofed.  The clarity of the crumb isn’t great, but based on your description it is neither dense nor gummy.  That along with the signs of gluten breakdown above with those large alveoli showing tears in the gluten tell me that your dough overproofed.  As the dough ferments too far the pH continues to drop, once it starts to get below 4 the proteolytic enzymes in the flour start to really breakdown the gluten.  When baking that weekend gluten network can no longer hold back the increasing pressure of expanding gases etc and you get large holes with torn gluten above.  In severe cases you’ll have a flying crust.

One thing to note, the finger poke test isn’t very accurate when used on refrigerated dough.  The cold dough is firmer and will respond differently from room temperature or warm dough.  The finger poke is a good guideline but not for cold retarded dough.

To avoid overproofing, you’ll want to reduce the temperature or time or both that you’re doing bulk fermentation.  Also, check your fridge temperature.  If your fridge temperature is not cold enough, say 5ºC or less, then your dough will continue to ferment even though it is in the fridge.  Check the temperature by placing a glass of cold water on the shelf in the location that you’ll do the cold retard on.  Several hours later check the temperature of that water.  This will give you a good idea of what the actual temperature you’re doing cold retard at.

Finally, without seeing how you’re doing stretch and folds it is hard to comment, but it’s not a difficult type of fold to do.  If you’re unsure and want some advice on it, then video yourself and upload to youtube and link to it here.

Hope that helps.


Stephen's picture

Cheers for the help.

iv made another loaf today, and I think this time iv gone the other way and now under proofed ?.

unfortunately I’m not able to shorten the fermentation time so I took your advice and did a colder ferment, but at 69f for about 2/3 hrs before shaping and cooling in the fridge between 2c/4c.ready for this morning as apposed to my normal ferment at 75f/82f. Other than that my method and times have stayed the same.

this time it’s risen, but not by much, suggesting it’s under proofed? 
might just be me, but it also feels a tad denser as well, suggesting again it’s under? If only a little.

given that it didn’t rise so much this time, I would wonder if maybe, had I proofed it better, it would have risen as high as the loaf previous where I’d overproofed? Or is it that the big air bubble from the previous one is given a false expectation of how much oven spring you would get, if this one had been done better?

i often forget that this is sourdough baking and not a commercial yeasted dough loaf you’d get from the shop, I’m expecting to get this big light loaf and always end up feeling (if only a little) disappointed. Despite it being probably really good (if not quite there) bread

am I expecting too much or is this how sourdoughs are in general.


........ok in the process of sending this message. The second loaf I was baking has come out with, yet again, a giant air pocket. How is this possible? It’s from the same dough batch as the first, (the recipe does two Loaves) with everything being done the same. And like with the original overproofed loaf, the air pocket has baked it higher than the other? Without the giant air pocket, would it have still risen this much? Or am I again expecting too much?

it couldn’t be the temperature again could it? I’d given the fridge and the loaves a temp check throughout the whole process.