The Fresh Loaf

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First Bake - Sourdough

icarrillo89's picture

First Bake - Sourdough

I am new to this forum and am excited. I have many questions.

Starter: I used T85 flour for my starter and maintain it using a 1:1:1 ratio. Now, I have not been tracking the rises nor quantifying it. I have just been feeding the starter everyday at the same time for the past month. Starting out, how much should my starter rise before replenishing it? Is consistency key here or handled day to day? My environment doesn't change too often. 


Bake: my bakes have been frustrating because they come out looking dense. I'm not sure how to fix this issue. 

I mix 1000g of T85 flour with 750g of water. Then I add 150g of my starter (waiting at least 4 hours after feeding it). I mix the dough and let it sit for half an hour. Then I fold the dough 4 to 5 times and let it sit 30 minutes. I repeat this process 2 more times. Then I let it bulk ferment for 3 hours. It doesn't rise as much as id like. Why is that? I take the dough and shape it and let it sit for another 30 minutes. Then, after my dutch over has been in the oven for 30 minutes at 500F, I place my dough inside cooking for about 25 minutes with the lid on and another 10 to 15 with the lid off. 

I'm not sure why my dough is dense. Is it perhaps my starter or the recipe I'm using? How do you get that nice airated look?

I've attached photos of my starter and bake. The starter was fed about 4 hours ago.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

there isn't much left to that nice looking loaf!  Congratulations!  

Is T85 whole wheat flour? What is the starter temperature?  The starter looks pretty good too.

 I'll let someone with a whole wheat starter reply as to maintenance feeds. You could chill the starter after removing for recipes and feed the night before using.  I would save and dry some discard as backup starter.  


technically_bread's picture


Personally, my starter spends most of its time in the fridge, and I don't really have a regular schedule for it. But when starting out it's definitely a good idea to have a rough idea of how much it's rising and what it looks like when it's active, just so you have a general reference point.

I don't think there's any one correct answer to how much it should rise, that depends on your schedule and type of starter. But one thing to bear in mind is that if you constantly feed it before it 'matures', you will dilute its activity and end up with a more sluggish starter; if you constantly feed it when it's way past its peak maturity, it could become too acidic etc. So it's more a case of just keeping it in the general range of being active and healthy. Starters are pretty resilient so feel free to experiment. I'd probably pick the schedule that works for you, and work backwards to make the starter fit that.

Regarding loaf density, there's a lot of potential factors at play, and in bread baking it's always hard to isolate any particular variable. But a good place to start is making sure the fermentation is decently active. That's where the airiness comes from, after all. So a mature starter and an appropriately warm dough are important to getting the dough to rise and develop as per the recipe. You say it doesn't rise as much as you'd like - can you explain further?

Also note that flours with more whole wheat will tend to be a bit denser in general.