The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Back at it after years, troubleshooting techniques

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Back at it after years, troubleshooting techniques

My last post here was over 5 years ago, which is just about when I opened my own business. Go figure! So I'm getting back into baking, finally. I'm hoping to run a few things by y'all and get some feedback on where I went wrong.

My sourdough starter is still alive, but I thought for my first loaf back I'd stick with commercial yeast. I used a recipe that called for a 225g of 100% hydration starter, so I added 112g each bread flour and water. A friend just made this same recipe with her sourdough starter, and said it was the best result she's ever had.


Bread flour81273.0%
Whole wheat flour20018.0%
Rye flour1009.0%

All mixing below was done by hand:

  • Mix flours and water, autolyse 60 minutes
  • Mix in yeast
  • Mix in salt
  • Rest 10 minutes
  • Mix/knead in bowl for 10 minutes
  • Check windowpane (thumbs up emoji)
  • Bulk ferment 60 minutes
  • Stretch and fold from 4 sides.
  • Repeat ferment &fold 3 more times
  • Divide in two & pre-shape into boule
  • Rest 15 minutes
  • Final shape and into banneton
  • Proof until dent remains when poked, about 90 minutes
  • Refrigerate overnight
  • Bake right out of fridge into dutch oven

So first the results. Before going into the baskets, things looked great. Plenty of surface tension. The boules sat high and proud off the counter, and I was able to easily move them into the baskets.

When they came out of the baskets, they started to spread immediately. The surface was kind of leathery and hard to slash. When I did slash them, it was like letting the air out of a tire. Pppsssshhhhh.

That said, they both had a pretty decent oven spring. Crumb was pretty light, but not as open as I'd hope for a dough this wet. Crust and flavor were both outstanding.

So, a few observations and questions for the more experienced/smarter folks than I:

  • The way the dough behaved indicates it was way overproofed, correct?
  • I feel like the bulk ferment was too long for commercial yeast, but the dough didn't seem to do more than double.
  • I have a theory that commercial yeast stays viable at lower temperatures than sourdough, so it overproofed in the fridge when I put it in there fully proofed. Thoughts?
  • Is there anything else I should alter when using commercial yeast in a recipe meant for sourdough?

Cheers, and thanks for any advice!



HeiHei29er's picture

I think you’re spot on with the commercial yeast continuing to proof in the refrigerator.  You may have better luck with a short final proof on the bench and then cold retard, or I just did a bake that called for cold retard during bulk after about a 50% rise.  You have to punch it down 2-3 times over a few hour window as the yeast slow down.  But, just take it out of the refrigerator the next morning, shape, final proof, and bake.

Welcome back!  Sounds like you’re off to a good restart!

Benito's picture

Joe, welcome back.  I agree with your assessment, the loaf over fermented one of the more common causes of a flat loaf.  You’re correct it isn’t just a theory, commercial yeast will continue to ferment at fridge temperatures.  Also the higher your fridge temperature the faster that will be.  As Troy indicated you’ll want to shorten your bench proof if you’re going to do a similar length fridge cold retard.  You should also check your fridge temperature, place a glass of water on the shelf in the spot where you’ll be placing your dough to proof.  Several hours later check the temperature with a thermometer.  If your fridge is around 3°C it will help slow that fermentation down more than if it is 6°C for example.


Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Thank you both for the replies and welcomes, and also for confirming my theories.

One more question regarding the technique: for this recipe, the author specifically talks about being careful not to degas the dough after the bulk ferment and during the pre-shape.

A different author says to be aggressive during the pre-shape to deliberately degas the dough.

Any advantages to either practice?


Also, I opened the other loaf today. I'm seriously surprised at how airy it is inside, given the literal pancake it started as. It also makes a mean grilled cheese.

Benito's picture

Some recipes will tell you to aggressively degas the dough during pre-shaping or shaping.  This is often related to the style of crumb the recipe is trying to achieve for the bread in question.  So for a more even fine crumb, aggressive degassing is often called for during shaping or pre-shaping.  Many recipe call for gentle shaping or pre-shaping, these recipes are typically trying to achieve a more open crumb, retaining those pockets of gas.