The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Everything is awful.

JohnDoe's picture

Everything is awful.

That, of course, is not true. But I haven't gotten a loaf to do what I want in many, many attempts. My most recent attempt was KABCo's Marra's Sourdough. Take a glob of starter from the fridge, through it into a tub with everything else, mix, fold, and shape and supposedly, in the words of Martin, I won't be a slave to my bread. 


20g starter

450 g KABCo AP

50 g KABCo WW

10 g salt

Mixed at 10:00 am; rested for 30'ish; stretch and fold; lamination; coil folds on the half hour for 3-4 hours; bulk for another 4; pre-shape @ 7:30; puddle of goo when it was time to shape at 8; turned into a rage monster and threw it in the trash. 

Last week: Tartine w/ starter; puddle of goo at shaping; ended up w/ pancakes that the birds look down on. 

Week before: made up Forkish w/ yeast; shaped one well and it went well; the other was a little dense, but no goo. 

Several years ago: fairly reliable Forkish breads, but mostly yeasted. 


I am angry. I thought I could do this. I make great biscuits. I make great pizza, Neopolitan (ish), Detroit, whatever. I know I need to take notes, but at the end of the day, my doughs never, ever, look like they do online. They're always weaker, shinier, and goopier. 

Sorry for the rant. My hobby is enraging me. 

JeremyCherfas's picture

I am sorry you are having such poor experiences. I have two thoughts.

First, 20 g of starter for 500 g of flour really isn't very much. It is possible that the extended ferment allowed time for some breakdown of the gluten to take place. You don't say how much water you added, but in any case, I would consider increasing the inoculant to about 20% of the total flour.

The other thing might be to focus on one recipe at a time, rather than a different one each week, at least until you get your mojo back.

Of course, you could also change your hobby, but noone here is going to suggest that.


mariana's picture

I am sorry you had to go through that. I had similar days when I had one failure after another. Sometimes on the same day 4 consecutive bakes in a row would give me bad results ending in the trash bin. It happens. Sometimes baking disasters would plague me for 2-3 weeks in a row. 

Don't give up. Just don't give up. It will get better. Return to something you know how to bake well and stay in that safe zone for a while. Me, I sometime return to breads from the bakery in our neighborhood and avoid home baking for a while. 

It will get better. Don't give up. 

semolina_man's picture

Dramatic.  You have experience.   What do you think it is? 

JohnDoe's picture

Fair enough. Next bake I'll bake off the hydration (last was 80%) and by much more aggressive building up my starter for a few days. With the benefit of hindsight, this one was too wet to shape and I then fussed with it, which turned it to goo as it lost its shape. The Tartine loaves are, I think, too long in the bulk. I'll get there, but after spending your day carefully turning and getting my little boys helping with the mix and everything it got me. 

I do wonder about the starter, since my Forkish breads were more reliable in every respect (they were yeasted).

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

1: is your starter ready and as healthy as you think it is? For instance if you feed it 1:1:1 e.g. 30g starter + 30g water + 30g flour and keep it at normal room temperature, about 21°C, does it fully mature within 4-6 hours? 

2: I'd skip any fancy high hydration sourdough and go with a very simple low hydration dough until you get it perfected. 

Christopher Hoffman's picture
Christopher Hoffman

 . . . given here. I would also suggest Robertson's Tartine Bread method. If you follow the steps closely you will make great sourdough. Personally, I would rather be a "slave to my bread" than miserably unhappy about the outcome. 

Benito's picture

As a beginner sourdough baker it is good advice to start with a lower hydration than the recipes of the pros.  Firstly your skills are still nascent and your flour and conditions are different.  I wouldn’t worry at this time that your crumb won’t be as open with a lower hydration, you can still bake a great open crumb with less hydration and your bread will likely turn out much better than you describe.  So reduce the hydration by 5% or more to start.

Second, pick a recipe that you think you like the taste of and once that you think uses procedures and skills that you want to learn and improve.  Then make that over and over and over.  Take copious notes with each and every bake.  This will allow you to learn much more quickly and see the effects of adjustments you make each time.  Try to change only one thing each bake so you can see if effects of that change.  Oh make sure you note your fermentation, proofing and dough temperatures.  Temperature is an ingredient that will totally change how your dough development goes so note that.

Starter health, yes you need to ensure that you starter is up for the task of raising a loaf of bread.  Abe above asks the pertinent questions about your starter.


alessia's picture

But used different flours (I'm in the UK) and 25 g of starter instead of 20 as my kitchen is colder than the recipe says it should (I followed the original one by the Connecticut baker, forget her name). I added less water too.

I'll find out when I get home if it has risen at all...I'm planning to put the dough in the fridge before bed if it hasn't risen and then shape, let it rise more if needed and bake tomorrow.

I know how you feel! I had a few disappointments of late and it is amazing how sad I felt over them. Considering it is only bread, but I invest so much time and energy on it, it's so disappointing when it doesn't work. 

I'm focusing on getting a strong starter now and hopefully things will fall onto place from that...