Sourdough not rising


I have 2 loaves of extra-tangy sourdough, supposedly ready to go in the oven. They are not, all they did was spread on the pan after I made the loaves. I think this is a case of multiple mistakes. Can anyone pinpoint one or many.

Yesterday morning, I took out my starter, there wasn't enough so I fed it 1 cup water and 2 cups flour, then I called the hotline, I was OK at that point. So I left to pick up my son in NH, a 6 hour round trip - I let it sit at room temperature until I got home. I took my 1 cup fed starter, and put the rest in fridge as I had so much because of earlier in the day.

So I mixed the starter with the warm water(I take its temperature to be sure) and the 3 cups of flour. I mixed with a wooden spoon -- maybe not vigorously enough. Let it sit for 4 hours, then 12 in fridge. I had an aha moment at 8:30 this morning -- I could knead the dough in my KA Artisan mixer(I'd never used my mixer that way before) - put in my dough, added the other ingredients and I guess I kneaded the dough -- it was soft, sort of sticky, maybe smooth (it rolled up around the dough hook).

I put it in a greased bowl, covered it and put it in my living room (probably 67º-68º), but did not get to it in 5 hours, probably an extra 1 1/2 hours. I thought it was kind of puffy. I pulled it out and it was pretty sticky, made the loaves, using flour on my hands. And 2 1/2, now 3 hours later, the bread is just flat -- I'm not even going to bother baking it. There's a joke in my mothers family - "if the package is heavy, Carol probably baked bread!" That was back in the 70's -- I'm trying to redeem myself now.

I would like to know how many mistakes anyone can find - sort of like Looking for Waldo.
Thanks a lot, Carol

badge posted by: cwcdesign on December 18, 2010 at 7:04 pm in Q & A
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reply by: cwcdesign on December 18, 2010 at 9:27 pm

the saga of the sourdough continues. I went upstairs 1 1/2 hours later and the dough had risen somewhat, so I decided to go ahead and bake it. The loaves came out a little while ago and they look okay, but a very dry looking crust. I guess the taste will tell.

reply by: vibeguy on December 18, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Puffy and sticky + not rising sounds to me like under-kneading...the gluten isn't fully-developed enough to retain the gas. It's also possible that it was over-kneaded - damaged gluten won't hold gas either.

I confess, when I do sourdough, I always add a small amount of commercial yeast as rising insurance. I'm particularly fond of SAF Gold.

reply by: placebo on December 19, 2010 at 5:58 am

As mentioned in the recipe, sourdough is often unpredictable as far as timing goes, so you simply may need to wait longer. I tried this recipe out for the first time yesterday, though I halved to make only one loaf, and the bread turned out well following the timing mentioned in the recipe. The temperature here was around 72 degrees, however, so I'm thinking with the colder temps you have, you might just need to give the yeast more time to get going.

How active was your starter? Was it nice and bubbly after you fed it?

My previous attempts at sourdough have produced okay bread, though they haven't been disasters either. The taste is fine, but I wanted more rising than spreading out of the loaves. I think the problem lay in shaping and forming the loaves. The previous recipe I used resulted in a really wet dough, which made it hard to work with. KA's recipe's dough was definitely stickier than I expected as well, but it wasn't nearly as wet. I did watch some videos on YouTube on how to deal with high hydration doughs, and that helped. I tried to be really gentle with it so as to degas the dough as little as possible while shaping the batard. The important thing, I think, is to make sure the dough has good surface tension so that the loaf will hold its shape reasonably well while rising.

My loaf still spread out a bit. It didn't seem to rise a lot, so I was concerned that I was going to end up with yet another relatively thin and wide loaf. But I got a nice oven spring. I'm very happy with the way this loaf turned out. One mistake I did make was that I accidentally set the oven to 500. I threw the loaf in anyway and just turned the oven down to 425. It took 25 minutes to bake.

reply by: kittykat3308 on December 19, 2010 at 7:51 am

I maybe wrong but I think you let your dough rise for to long and it collapsed on itself and had no omph left. Also, if you are new to making bread you may want to start off with something easier and more predictable like blitz bread or white bread, the recipes that are on this site.


reply by: cwcdesign on December 19, 2010 at 4:55 pm

How do I know if I am under-kneading or overkneading? As I said in my 2nd post, it did rise some eventually.

reply by: cwcdesign on December 19, 2010 at 5:03 pm

It sounds like we are having similar issues.

The starter was bubbly, but not really active, maybe I needed to give it more time as well. I think I'm going to have to use my microwave with hot water or my oven with the light for a warm place. I can be very impatient -- not good when you're baking bread

I did bake the bread and the loaves looked pretty good. My 17-year-old thinks it's delicious and we are going to have it with soup tonight. But the texture was denser than I would like.

I think I need to practice forming my loaves as well -- they were long and somewhat thin when I formed them, but as I said, they did spread into more of a round shape. They came out about sort of thin as well. But, I will keep trying.

reply by: cwcdesign on December 19, 2010 at 5:21 pm


My loaves did end up rising somewhat and I baked them. They are not quite what I'm looking for, but I think with practice, I'll improve. The taste is good, but the texture is a little dense. It could have been several factors, including that my house is usually around 65º during the day and that I wasn't completely focused.


reply by: vibeguy on December 20, 2010 at 2:17 am

I windowpane to check for adequate gluten formation.

reply by: cwcdesign on December 20, 2010 at 9:25 am

I feel like I am learning a new language - which I probably am. What does windowpane mean?

reply by: vibeguy on December 20, 2010 at 3:20 pm

You take a blob of dough, and gently stretch it to form the thinnest possible sheet...if the gluten is fully developed, the layer that results will be nearly transparent, framed by the thicker edge, sort of like a pane of glass in a window frame.

reply by: placebo on December 20, 2010 at 5:06 pm
reply by: cwcdesign on December 20, 2010 at 9:02 pm

that was really helpful - I need to make some more bread tomorrow -- I'm going to make the rustic sourdough since that's what I'll have time for. I'm going to use my KitchenAid for mixing and kneading and I'll try this technique.

reply by: cwcdesign on December 21, 2010 at 9:53 pm

the window pane information was really helpful - I used it today making the rustic sourdough - it rose beautifully in the bowl (I used the microwave after boiling a cup of water) and then I made loaves - I don't think the room I used for the 2nd rise was warm enough - it barely rose - I put it in an oven I had heated to 145º and then turned off for a few minutes - it rose some and then I put it in the oven -- to me the loaves look smaller than when I put them in, but my husband and son say they look better than the last ones and they ate both loaves of the extra-tangy. I definitely am a work in progress.

reply by: vibeguy on December 22, 2010 at 2:11 am

I do all of my rising in the fridge after an hour on the counter or so. Granted, we're talking days between steps. I get the dough up to 80-85F through water temp and friction induced by mixing (which is enough water and heat to activate the yeast thoroughly), give it an hour, then slam it in the cold cell of punishment. The slower the ferment, the tangier and wheatier the flavor. So figure if your rise is 10F colder (say, 63 vs 73), you'll double the needed time, and a doubling for every 10F colder than that.

reply by: cwcdesign on December 22, 2010 at 7:52 am

That will be really helpful when I get into a rhythm and I'm glad to know it will work -- In the meantime, when everyone is home for Christmas, they went through 2 loaves in 2 days -- which pleases me -- right now I'm just trying to keep up - I could always throw a batch of something in the bread machine to feed the hoards -- I must say that they are much happier since I stopped buying packaged bread

reply by: vibeguy on December 22, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Yeah, the "flow" thing is tricky; I'm sure it's easy in commercial bakeries where they know what they're going to need from day to day. In my case, life intervenes and conspires to keep me from baking or doing my prep and everything goes to rat dung.

reply by: cbwhite99 on December 23, 2010 at 9:06 am

Carol, don't give up. The windowpane method is handy, but you can just go by how the dough feels. If it's elastic and feels "live" I figure it's just right.
Sometimes I just cheat. I substitute beer for the water...voila, a very happily rising bread. True, adding yeast would work too, but a darker brew gives more flavor, and everyone loves the bread. Beer is pretty much liguid bread anyway. PS I don't drink alcohol at all. Strange world isn't it?

reply by: cwcdesign on December 23, 2010 at 4:39 pm

beer would be an interesting addition -- maybe add some Guinness and make Irish sourdough - I do have some arthritis in my hands so sometimes my "feel" isn't as fine as I'd like. Thanks for the tip tho.

reply by: vibeguy on December 23, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Beer is also an excellent addition to no-knead bread recipes. If you get something that isn't loaded with hops, you'd never know it's there - it just makes the bread better. It's just a tastier form of water loaded with the flavor compounds of grain and yeast's action on carbs.