Help me diagnose my sourdough loaf please
Hey everyone , so I just created a starter about 3 weeks ago and decided to make a sourdough loaf today. But as you can see it came out terribly. I sort of knew it was going to come out poorly because I more or less used the same bulk and proof times as my commercial yeast doughs just so I could have a baseline of the difference between them. However during the process several things about this ssourdough confused me. First was that during the bulk fermentation, the dough didn’t raise, like at all. I did 4 stretch and folds, 30 minutes apart and never saw it rise. Then I let it go for another hour for a total time of 3 hours bulk fermentation with no visible change in the size of the dough. Another thing that intrigued me was the density, when I’ve underproofed loaves before I get a nice open spring but this fella stayed a puck. Anyway here is my process so if anyone can offer some advice I’d be grateful.
1. Take about 30 grams starter(I did not feed it the day I used it) and mix it with 100 grams flours 100 grams water for a leavin. Let that sit on the counter for 7ish hours and then I put it in the fridge overnight.
2. Mixed 950 grams of bread flour and 50 grams rye flour, mixed in 700 grams of water at around 120 Fahrenheit with the levain and mixed it in with the flour and did a 40 minute autolyse. ( The temperature of the dough was around 82ish at this point)
3. Then I added 20 grams of salt into 50 grams of water and mixed that with the dough.
4. Stretch and fold every 30 mins for 2 hours + 1 more hour of bulk.
5 . Split the dough, did my preshape on the counter let it rest, did my final shape dropped it into the banneton and put it in the fridge covered.
6 next morning preheated my Dutch oven at 500 for an hour, dropped the oven temp to 450 and dropped the boule in the Dutch oven and sprayed the top with water.
So just by judging from the non change in the doughs size I would assume it’s underproofed, but I didn’t know that flatness was an indicator of that, I thought it was the opposite.
Next time don't refrigerate the preferment till it has peaked! Should be very active and bubbly. Don't give it a set amount of time but move on when the time is right.
Same with the dough. No problem in allowing it to double and don't shape till it has done so.
I think between the pre-ferment and the bulk, following the clock and not the dough, it has come out very under fermented.
An under proofed dough can rise too much but that is only in the final proofing stage by which time the dough should be sufficiently fermented. If it has been under fermented because of an issue with the starter/bulk ferment then your results is to be expected. This is why I differentiate between the bulk and final proofing, not calling every stage - proofing.
I'd keep it simple, at this stage, and not make a dough any bigger than 2lb.
Overnight, about 8-10 hours, and use when very active (not always the rule but good for this stage of making sourdough. One can use unfed starter but that is another technique. For now follow this guideline)
Do not move onto the next stage until the previous stage has been done. Be it an active preferment or the dough doubling. If this still doesn't work then we'll need to look at your starter.
Okay yeah that makes a lot of sense! When I use commercial yeast I make a poolish and the levain looked like the poolish does around the 3 hour mark so yeah you’re right in that it definitely didn’t peak haha.
Okay I will try this next and just be more patient. Any reason to skip the autolyse ? Just for trouble shooting purposes ?
Thanks for the advice I appreciate you taking the time to help me out.
Better to take out all the frills as the point is to test your starter. All we're looking for is to get a good bake which can be done without an autolyse. Once you are getting a nice sourdough from your starter then you can add back in all the fancy stuff. The icing on the cake, as it were.
When you do another bake take photos when you think each stage is done. It'll help diagnose and see where your starter is at. And if it gets cold through the night where you are expect it to take longer.
Cool cool understood. So if this bake fails again it’s almost certainly because my starter is weak right?
We'll see. However if your pre-ferment gets really bubbly and the dough doubles because you're giving it enough time then it should fail. If it is failing these two stages might not happen however long you wait. Give it your best shot and then we'll have a better understanding of where the trouble lies.
Sounds good! I’ll make that loaf and post an update soon, hope that’s not too much trouble for you to continue guiding me on my sourdough journey. :)
That allows you to measure the amount of rise. I have two containers I use (large and small) that have measurement markers on them. A lot of people just use tape which works just as well.
I have my starter in a weck jar, and I have my levain in a container with measuring lines running up the side so I can track it. But the levain is very runny so I’ don’t think I’ll see much rise anyway haha.
And at 81F too. Something is not right. And at 100% hydration it shouldn't be that runny.
Has it risen and fallen? What type of flour are you using?
the exact flour im using is this one. https://a.co/d/2diIqM9
Nope no rising or falling. I had made my starter with 100% whole wheat rye flour and it was a nice mousse like texture and constantly had rises ( but no falling) and after it seemed like it matured I switched to that bread flour for the starter and it’s been runny like that ever since.
I think we need to concentrate on your starter.
What is a typical feed now and how does it react?
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HVVQW1Z/ref=cm_sw_r_api_i_B3DMJ59BGQRD5DZ3T3JS_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1 Sorry this should work.
When was the last feed?
I fed it last night at 11pm.
Yeah it seems like it, I thought 3 weeks was a good sweet spot to see if it developed but I’ll keep it going until it’s ready. Should I adjust my feeding timing, ratio, or food source ?
Reintroduce some rye flour. Perhaps drop the hydration to 80%.
Once every 24 hours.
If it slows down and shows no activity at all then skip a feed.
If it shows some activity then keep up the 24 hourly feeds.
If it speeds up, rises and peaks within 12 hours then feed twice a day.
Any questions in the meantime please ask. If unsure then ask before feeding.
Alright I’ll follow this! I was close to just giving up but I’m gonna keep trying to see where this goes. Thank you!
Is a sign of a starving starter. very strange.
And yet it doesn't rise. While it must be fed if there are no signs of life we risk over feeding. I normally play this part by ear reading the starter and going by feel. Very difficult to do from behind a computer.
Yeah that’s what also confused me, it smelled like acetone everytime I fed it from like the 3rd or 4th day onward. I would smell it periodically throughout the day and it would mellow out and then when I was ready to feed it again it would be straight up acetone again.
I've done this at least a couple of times and works like a charm.
Bro I’m about to and just keep this one around as a weird science experiment.
I’m allergic to honey though haha.
Start on the Hamleman and keep this one going too. As long as you don't mind the extra work.
As you can see from the Hamleman Levain post I did it was very active. I was impressed.
One thing you can also do is assume there might be some issue with your water. So either use bottled or use boiled, and cooled, tap water.
How important is the honey in that method, I’m sadly allergic. Yeah I’ll create a new one and only use bottled. I mainly used bottled originally but I also used tap a few times.
You can add a bit of sugar or agave nectar if you wish.
Haha Cool thanks.
I make hard cider and beer so I have a bunch of yeast nutrient, I’m going to toss some into my failed starter and see what happens lmao.
I've dabbled in wine and mead making and have some yeast nutrient too. Never used it in a starter before though. Have fun experimenting while you make the Hamleman Levain.
Haha yeah I’m determined to get a functional starter now even if I have to brute force it.
Literally about to start the new method right now.
So update, my “dead starter” looks like this now. Like it’s completely back to normal and super active. Since this was going to be my test starter I replaced about 20ish grams of the water with lemon juice concentrate, I added maybe like half a gram of yeast nutrient (diammonium phosphate) and went back to just all rye and boom it just exploded in growth. I probably should have tested each variable individually but i honestly had zero hope any of this would even work. So I just fed it again and I’ll feed it again in 12 hours!
Keep feeding it as planned. It's also not good to keep feeding till its active. If all goes quiet then wait till you see activity. It's all about timing.
Work has been keeping me busy so I didn’t have time to post an update in a while but this is how my starter looks consistently looks after 2-3 hours. So I think it’s time to do a test bake.
Have you got a recipe in mind?
I think I’ll still try the basic recipe you outlined just in case. And then depending on how that goes I’ll move onto more advanced recipes. :)
As long as you wait for each stage to be completed before moving on. Now your starter is much stronger you can slowly increase the feeds as well.
Looking forward to your results.
Hey so I have another peculiar update. I made a levain with my starter and left it overnight. However the same result ensued. It was not very active, didn’t double, and looked very weak. So I ran a little test and I took 20 grams of my rye starter and did a 1:1:1 feed in another jar BUT I fed it with the same white bread flour I was using for the levain. And it barely had any bubbles and maybe grew a tiny bit. Meanwhile the rye starter fed with rye flour is still easily doubling. I’m so confused haha.
Make a rye loaf :)
That is a bit of a puzzle unless the rye reacts better even when your starter is predominantly bacterial.
Haha yeah maybe it’s just a sign to only make rye bread from now on.
Turn your starter into 100% rye and 125% hydration.
Will be back with the plan...
Haha okay sounds intriguing. Going to change the hydration right now.
Building 156g at 125% hydration. Wait till it bubbles up then we'll proceed. Take photos of each stage.
Alright sounds good!
Hey I’m back with bubbles. First pic is about 3 hours after feeding with the new hydration and the second pic is about 12 hours after.
This is very curious! So now you have 156g of 125% hydration whole rye starter.
Question is do you wish to try and convert this to a wheat starter?
Oh yes absolutely, whatever it takes to be able to bake some bread lmao.
Although technically keeping a starter rye is fine, and should be no problem when it comes to baking any type of loaf, your starter seems to not like being fed wheat. So I think it would be best if we tried to turn your starter into a wheat starter, getting it good and healthy, before attempting to make any bread with it.
Cool just emailed you!
Did you do a float test on your levain?
Nope didn’t test the levain nor the starter.