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levain not doubling and loaf spreading out before and during baking

alessia's picture
alessia

levain not doubling and loaf spreading out before and during baking

Hello, this is my first post-I have been lurking on the site for a while and enjoying everyone else's contributions! 

So I am having issues with my sourdough...

I have a starter which is about 2 months old, a wheat starter which is 100% hydration. My routine is: I keep the starter in the fridge, and take it out the day before I want to bake: from this pot I take 15g of starter and mix it with 50g of water and 50g of flour to make the levain. I then re-feed the mother starter with 7g of water and 7g of flour and put it back in the fridge (same as I have taken out). The levain is left out overnight for about 12/15 hours. The problem I have is that my levain never really doubles...only once it did (and I am not sure why that time as I didn't do anything differently). it is bubbly, and I do the float test and it usually passes, so I use it even if it isn't doubled in size.

I autolyse 500g of flour and 350 of water for an hour or so, then add the levain, and after 15 minutes I add salt. I then stretch and fold every 30 minutes, four times. Then I leave the dough to rest until I see bubbles on top (but I am never sure when exactly I should shape...online information tells me to extend bulk fermentation for another 2-3 hours but I feel that my dough would overproof if I do that). 

I shape, and put in a banneton then refrigerate for 15-24 hours. My fridge is very cold and my loaf doesn't rise at all in there, so I don't think the overproofing happens at that stage, but my last two loaves have turned out really flat- I turn them out of the banneton and when I slash them they spread and don't rise up in the oven, the go outward. I know they aren't right as at the slashing point, the blade drags rather than cutting easily. The crumb inside isn't bad, it isn't dense and still had some big holes.

What am I doing wrong?The one time that (for whatever reason) my levain doubled, the loaf turned out amazing so I assume the issue is with my starter. I follow a no-discard routine as detailed above, so the starter is always in the fridge and fed small quantities every time I take the same amount out to build the levain.

Any advice is much appreciated.

 

 

 

 

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

I think you need to change your routine a little bit. You say your fridge is really cold, so I would guess the starter only gets diluted with time because of the small feeding you are giving, while the yeasts and LABs aren't growing much due to the cold. I'd say take a little of the starter, give a large feed (like you do for your breads), and leave at room temperature. When it peaks, repeat, and do that until it doubles robustly. Then put it in the fridge. And then continue baking the same way as now, with building a levain using a little of your refrigerated starter, but don't add anything back to the starter jar. Rather, when the starter is almost finished (or if your levain build is weak), give it a proper feed at room temperature and let it double, then put back in the fridge.

alessia's picture
alessia

When you say: repeat until it doubles robustly, do you mean each feed I get rid of all but 15 grams of the starter? 

This is so interesting, I didn't know I shouldn't have been feeding the mother until nearly run out, I thought I was keeping her fed regularly but good to learn for the future. 

I'm going to start this today! 

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

The exact amounts are arbitrary, if you like 15 g nothing wrong with that. To reduce discard in this strengthening phase you can use a lower ratio, although the first time I would give it a high feed, to make sure you are not transferring too much acid from the cold starter.

I think it's possible to do it the way you have been doing, but you need to have a good balance of feeding ratio and the fridge temperature...

Good luck! See if anyone else more experienced comments here with some other ideas.

alessia's picture
alessia

I've taken out 100g of my current starter  I'll use it for crackers :-) and will feed the rest (about 50g)  and will do it for a few days, hopefully it'll start doubling!

 

 

HeiHei29er's picture
HeiHei29er

Hopefully it’ll start doubling...

this was the hard part for me...  now that you’ve added the 50g, don’t feed it again until it HAS at least doubled.  If you have weakened/diluted your starter, you need to build it back up.  If you feed before it peaks, you will just continue to dilute it.  Feed it, give it a stir every 4-6 hours, and then feed it again after it peaks.

Good luck!

alessia's picture
alessia

Oh right, OK! Thank you. 

alessia's picture
alessia

How long should i wait for the starter to double and before i feed it again? It's now been 9 hours and it is nowhere near doubling...😕 has ever it has lots of bubbles but not much rise 

HeiHei29er's picture
HeiHei29er

Is your starter thin like pancake batter?  If so, it may not rise as the bubbles will pass through it and rise to the surface.  If it is really thin, you might want to give it another 5-10g of flour to thicken it a bit.  Don’t discard.  Just give it a little extra flour to get it close to a wet dough consistency.

alessia's picture
alessia

Well my starter looks much much better today, thanks for the advice. Now I know I need to take better care of it...! Baking tomorrow, fingers crossed for a decent loaf! 

HeiHei29er's picture
HeiHei29er

Best of luck!  Keep us posted.

alessia's picture
alessia

So I've baked a loaf now, result isn't brilliant- not as risen as I'd like :-( but. bit better than the last one...so there is that. I am feeding the starter again- I took 20g and fed it 50 g of flour and 50 of water. As recommended, I will feed again after it has peaked. My starter has never doubled before so right now I feel like I will NEVER achieve that! But I'll keep trying. 

My starter is wheat (bread flour and whole wheat mix), should I add a bit of rye to give it a push or just keep feeding it wheat as I have done from the beginning? 

Benito's picture
Benito

Alessia, it has been my personal experience that whole rye turbocharges our starters.  If you’re trying to build up or even maintain your starter, I would recommend switching to whole rye.  However, sticking with what you’ve been doing if it has been working is fine too of course.  But if you want to see if trying something a bit different might give you better results why don’t you give whole rye a try.

Benny

alessia's picture
alessia

Thank you for replying. I was unsure if I should start feeding with rye, as I have read somewhere it it is better to have a pure wheat starter and a pure rye starter rather than mixing. I did build my levain using rye last time and it rose nicely (didn't double though, as per usual) 

Maybe I will, considering that what I have been doing has not worked great so far, and my bread doesn't rise. I have so much to learn...

If my starter does not double now that I have just fed it, should I feed again tomorrow (discarding most and keeping only 20g, and feed again in the same quantities as above (maybe using rye) or leave it for a few days? 

alessia's picture
alessia

well, after refreshing my starter several times (and making lots of crackers with discard) I think I now have a good healthy starter again! baked a nice loaf today, properly risen and it was an experiment! Thank you all for the advice given. I've now reduced down my starter to 100g, and will feed it properly going forward.

My plan is to let it reduce down to about 20g and then feed it again. I have made a mix of bread flour, wholemeal and rye for the feeding as advised. 

Benito's picture
Benito

Glad to hear that you now have a nice active starter Alessia.  Happy baking.

Benny

alessia's picture
alessia

Thanks Benito, I hope that now I have understood how to maintain it properly...!