Essential Sourdough Series: Troubleshooting

Essential Sourdough Series

So you’ve successfully cultivated a starter and have even baked your first few loaves of bread. Maybe it wasn’t that gorgeous domed loaf you were hoping for, or perhaps your first loaf was a bit more like flatbread? Did you open your loaf only to discover that only a few large holes awaited you? Was your bread overpoweringly sour in flavour? We have enlisted Sourdough Sensei, Chef Kelly Syms, to walk you through a few problems and their logical solutions so you can have another go while armed with a bit more knowledge.

Welcome to our Essential Sourdough Series and let the baking begin!

Troubleshooting your sourdough

  1. My loaf didn’t rise – it was more like a pancake or flatbread. This is the problem with a dozen solutions. Perhaps you used your starter before it was fully mature. Did it double in size before you used it? If not, it may need further cultivation and feeding before it is ready to make bread with.

    You may not have developed the gluten structure of your bread enough. It may have been under mixed or not folded enough during the bulk fermentation phase. If it was sloppy and difficult to shape before its final rest this indicates that the dough did not have enough strength to support itself.

    Your loaf may have been overproofed. Overproofing occurs when a loaf is in its final stage of rising before baking. If left too long, the gluten in your loaf begins to degrade and weaken. When the loaf is turned out to be baked, the structure collapses.

    Other things to consider are, is your flour choice correct? Are you weighing your ingredients correctly? Are you being gentle when turning your loaf out and not slashing it too deeply? Is your bulk fermentation and proofing being done at the right temperature (not too hot)?

  2. My loaf did rise, but it was just a few large holes with a tight, compact crumb in the centre? This is most likely the result of underproofing. The loaves need more time to do their final rise, or the environment you’re trying to proof them in is too cold.

  3. My bread was way, way too sour! This is likely the result of excess fermentation. Regular feeding of your starter goes a long way to helping this issue – you have to begin with a  healthy starter to get the best results. An excessively long bulk fermentation can also contribute to sourness, but tackle this problem first by caring for your sourdough starter in the best way possible.

  4. The scoring on my bread never fully opened. This is likely the result of either an overproofed loaf or you did not create enough surface tension when shaping your loaf. Next time, work on your shaping techniques (start with something simple, like a cobb/boule style) and try to create a nice, springy skin on your loaf without tearing it.

  5. I ate all of my sourdough bread and now I have to make more! The most common problem there is when you make your own delicious loaves. The only solution is to feed that starter and make more the next day!
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