Sourdough Did Not Rise to the Occasion....


Hello, this is my first question here. And though I'm no stranger to bread baking, this is my first attempt at sourdough bread. I'm using Peter Reinhart's Seed Culture > Mother Starter > Barm > Sourdough Loaf method. I started last Tuesday, and on Saturday night had what I thought was a viable mother starter. So I proceeded to the barm and baked the bread today.

(All measurements were by weight and not by volume. And I used King Arthur Bread flour--but not the high gluten stuff.)

It tastes wonderful, but it's very dense and heavy. The loaves contain several large bubbles near the top of the loaf, but the rest is moist, and the crust quite clearly did not brown properly--it's splotchy, almost bruised-looking over where the bubbles are.

When I made the dough today, it seemed very wet, but I was able to handle it and make the boule shape; the loaves, however, spread out during the final proof--rather than rising. This happened despite the loaves having a very smooth and even surface.

Does anyone have an opinion as to what happened? And further, any ideas how I might fix the problem?

(I am thinking of discarding half my mother starter and feeding it, then leaving it out at room temperature overnight.)

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badge posted by: mpriola on August 23, 2010 at 10:17 pm in Baking, yeast
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reply by: pjh on August 24, 2010 at 9:47 am

I'm not familiar with this recipe, but it might simply be that since it's summer, your flour is "wet." Flour absorbs moisture from the air when it's hot/humid, and it throws off the flour/liquid ratio you might have used quite successfully in the winter. It also sounds like the acids might be eating away at the gluten; spreading rather than rising can happen not only when the flour/liquid ratio is off, but when the dough becomes too acidic, and gluten breaks down under that acidity. Lack of sugar is the cause of uneven or poor browning; and a sourdough that sits too long eventually converts everything it can to sugar, consumes it, and there's no sugar left to create the Maillard reaction - which is what makes bread brown in the oven. Hope this helps -

reply by: KIDPIZZA on August 24, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Good morning to you. Sorry to learn of your bread baking disappintment. Hopefully we can help you there.
You have asked for ideas & this is all I can give you because I was not in your kitchen when you baked this baked product.

As far as the holes near the top are concerned I believe when you did the punch down or did folds enough GAS did not escape hence it did escape during baking leaving some disfigument. You need to be more through when doing that excersize.

When shaping your bread dough you must do it in such a manner as to make the outer skin TIGHT. Press down with your cupped hands & try to push the excess dough underneath the shaped dough then go into proof cycle.... speaking about proofing your bread dough your description tells me that your bread dough was overproofed hence the collapse. It is best when doing the last proof cycle to apply the eggwash (Which will provide some semblence of steam when the cycle is at about 1/2 proof. HOW do we determine this????....well touch the outter skin gently if you push down & THE SKIN IS VERY SOFT TO THE TOUCH IT IS OVER PROOFED...IF IT HAS SOME RESISTANCE IT IS IN PROOFING MODE,simple ISN'T. iT SHOULD RESIST SOMEWHAT now slash & bake.
ONE MORE THING MY not ferment or proof in a kithten during the summer time. IF YOUR INTERNAL BREAD TEMP. REACHES & EXCEEDS 90 DEGREES, BAD BACTERIA WILL TAKE OVER & EMIT AN ODOR. You must then throw it & begin anew...& this is what caused some of your bread problems. In any event this condition is well settled.
Place your dough ball overnite in the fridge. Or else monitor it to keep it under 90 degrees internal temp. This all I have have for you.
Let us know how it all turned out for you.


reply by: mpriola on August 25, 2010 at 12:05 am

Thanks for your replies. I have some more data.

I did indeed refresh the mother starter (discard half, add by weight half flour and half water) and removed it from the fridge. As I write this it's been sitting on the counter for about 20 hours. It was very cold from its stint in the refrigerator, but I am seeing some rise--though not much. It's not doubled. It's bubbly, but not foamy.

Though it's been excessively hot here, my kitchen never got above 80. Overproofing is a possibility, I suppose, but I think I'll wait till tomorrow and see if my starter ever doubles. If that doesn't happen, I'll be tempted to throw it all out and start from the very very beginning.

reply by: Mike Nolan on August 25, 2010 at 12:20 am
Mike Nolan

Nearly two years ago, when I was struggling to get a sourdough mother culture started, Peter Reinhart (whose instructions for making a mother culture I was testing) advised me to be patient.

I started a second batch and, sure enough, within a few days the first one started percolating quite nicely.

So, I wound up with two different mother cultures, which were enough different from each other that I could taste the difference.

Sadly, after experimenting with them for several months, I decided to abandon them both because my wife and sourdough breads don't get along, they bother her stomach. I did save some of both cultures in the freezer, though.

reply by: mpriola on August 26, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Another update.

The small rise I saw was followed by a period of dormancy. And then last night, the starter began to percolate (I like that word in this context) again, and by this morning, it had easily doubled; it was foamy on the top and filled with bubbles. So I refrigerated it. And took some of it (now very wet) and made the "firm starter" that goes in Reinhart's bread.....

It's doubled.

It's also in the refrigerator.

I'll bake tomorrow.