My bread wont rise enough


Im new to this site and sourdough breadmaking in general. I stumbled upon sourdough breadmaking on a danish website 2-3 months ago, but still I haven't made a satisfying result. My main goal is to make a whole grain bread which is light, have a moisty crumb and a crunchy crust.

I follow a recipe from the danish website:

Active starter (half water, half flour)    - 310 grams
Whole grain flour                      - 30 grams
Wholemeal flour                       - 100 grams
Normal wheat flour                   - 340 grams
Water                                     - 270 grams
Salt                                        - 10 grams

It should be said that my active starter is indeed very active, and I have used it when it topped. It more than doubles over night (the red line is where the starter was just after the last feed):

First of all the dough becomes very sticky, eventhough I follow all the kneading "rules". Knead, rest for 10 min, knead a little, rest for 10 min..... etc. But it is so sticky that it is impossible to knead with the hands, so I have used my kitchen mixer. I know I could try with less water, but I was advised not to, beacuse I would get a more moisty bread if I didn't cut down on water (although I have cutted a little bit down on water from 300g to 270g).

After kneading I let it prove in the bowl for a couple of hours. Still it is too sticky to take out of the bowl and put on the table and slash it to see if it is ready, so I just go with my intuition on when it is done proving. Usually I let it prove for 2½ hour. I fold the bread and tighten it up, and put it in my proving basket.

After a couple of hours I gently turn around the basket and place the bread on a floured piece of cardboard and then slide the bread in the oven on my baking stone (marble tile). Then I quickly pour 1-2 cups of water in a tray in the bottom of the oven. The oven has pre-heated for app. 45 min to 230 degrees C. After 10-12 min, I turn the oven down to 210 degrees C.

What I experience is, that when I remove the dough from the proving basket, it flattens out. Although it rises in the oven, it does not raise enough, and I don’t get the big air pockets inside the bread, as I want to.

I get a very tasty bread with a fairly good crust, but still I don’t think the bread is light enough, i.e. it does not have these big air pockets inside the bread.

I would like my bread to look a bit like this:

I really hope anyone has some ideas or suggestions, or maybe another recipe.


PS: I dont know why this post looks so weird with blue bars inside the text.
142 users have voted.


PeteInAz. 2009 September 20

...I come up with a 68% hydration.That could explain the stickyness.

I usualy try for a 50%hydration. If you want it moister or more tender inside try adding a bit of oil, say, 50 to 60gms.

I'm still working on proving times, so I'll let someone else address that.

Hope this helps.

jem 2009 September 20
68% is right if the starter is 100% hydration.
For myself I would normally consider 50% a very low hydration, and don't see anything very unusual about 68%.
With the stickyness, I think it is just a fact of baking at that hydration, and you will have to be coating surfaces and your hands with either oil, flour or water to work it (my preference flour in small amounts).

A lot depends on your starter, but I would suggest your total baking cycle is too short. I never bake a loaf in less than 12 hours, mostly 24. That doesn't suit everyone, but it might be worth playing with.

I usually do something like this:

~60% hydration
18% salt
~10% starter (100% hydration)

which works out something like this:
500g of flour with 9g of salt.
add 300g water and 50 g starter

leave 30 min before touching, then work a little if you feel like it. Most of the gluten development happens in the next stage, which is:

cover and leave for 12-18 hours.

turn out, stretch and fold a little and shape. Gluten is developed during the long proofing, but needs to be arranged to give some tension in the dough.

rise for about 3 hours


I generally don't get those really big holes like that, for that I would suggest you need a higher hydration than what I use - you could even go up to 80%, but i would try low 70's first.

PS - if you are new to sourdough baking you might be new to baker's percentages and "% hydration".
sorry if you already know this, but a quick explanation:
everything else is measured as a percentage of the mass of flour. eg. if you use 1000 g of flour and 600 g of water, we say the water is 60% water (60% hydration).
Starter is a bit more ambiguous, seeing as is also contains flour. It is important to know what the "total hydration" is, but also to know how much starter to add for the bulk flour. I don't know of a standard here.

tdk 2009 September 20
Hi again,
thank you for the quick answers. Thanks to jem for the quick hydration explanation. That is very usefull. I have wondered why the percentages always sum up to way more than 100%.
I think I will start trying with a longer prove time. Jem: You say you prove it 12-18 hours, is that in the fridge or just on the kitchen table?
I'll also try to add some oil directly to the dough, and then take away a little water. My experience is that the more water there is in the dough, the more the bread turns out to be moisty but also it flattens out when I take the dough out of the proving basket. So maybe a little oil instead of water could help on this.
tdk 2009 September 20

Hi, I fixed the crazy formatting. Did you paste in from Word?
Thank you. Yes, I pasted in from word. I wrote the message a few weeks ago, and it took a while to translate all the terms, so I saved a copy in word, just in case. When I pushed "Submit", the site was down... So glad I saved a copy.
jem 2009 September 20
.... to knowing what people were on about! It makes a bit more sense of starters too. Most serious bakers seem to assume a 100% hydration starter unless they say otherwise.

That 12-18 hours is out on the bench. Bear in mind ambient temp where I live is only about 18C at the moment.

I think if you want the large holes you will need a wetter dough. You basically want good gluten development to hold the gas, with some weak points to make big bubbles. I think a wet dough makes it a little weaker so it can make that big expansion.

I really don't know much about the affect of oil in bread. I still have some trials there on my to-do list. It might help to weaken the dough a little?

For a bit of background, have a look at jim lahey's (New york times) no-knead bread (the internet is rife with it!). It is not sourdough in the original form, but it is an easy way to get the kind of texture you want. If you make a sourdough with a reltively small amount of starter (like mine), you can adapt the yeast version to sourdough easily enough. main thing is high hydration, long ferment.
He also bakes in a pre-heated cast iron pot to keep up steam and help keep the shape. It works very well. You can also add a bit of extra water just before you put the lid on - really nice crust. It is possible to rise and bake in a non-preheated ceramic pot, it will get better oven spring and decent crust (no bubbles), but good luck getting it out of the pot!

The guys from "artisan bread in five minutes a day" use a large amount of yeast, short ferment, and then long retard in the fridge for a similar effect (also no-knead).

happy baking!
davo 2009 September 21

I also think your prove time might be a little short, but with your ratio of starter to new flour/water, 12-18 hrs will overprove it I would guess...

I'd stick with 68% hydration. Just learn to deal with stickiness. Try french fold kneading, and use the stickiness by picking up the dough (use a scraper to get it out of the bowl) with wetted hands, slap it on the bench, stretch it up and fold it away from you over itself. The rotate it 90 degress and do the same. Do this about 5-10 times for each of your short kneads, and I swear by the thired set of them the dough will look more like springy dough than shredded mess (esp if you let the originally mixed dough rest for 15 mins before any kneading).

It's usually called "bulk ferment" that step after kneading and before loaf shaping. Proving is after it's shaped. During that 2-3 hour or so bulk ferment give your loaf a few stretch and folds google this up if that's unclear).

Then for the final prove after shaping, for your ratios I'd go for about 5 hours give or take on temperatures, stater nature, etc. If you use a fridge step it will continue to rise a little inthe fridge, although it increasingly slows down if that makes sense. If it get 12-18 hours in the fridge, it might need only a couple of hours warming up before the oven.

teo betsy 2009 September 21

I am from Malaysia.
I am new to sourdough baking and it would be a great help if someone can share with me  the " bakers percentages " Thanks  teo



jem 2009 September 22

I'm not exactly sure what you're asking? But I will take a guess, and forgive me if I don't get the right answer.

Baker's pecentages are simply a way to write recipies (really formulas) except that you choose how much dough you will make.

A pretty normal formula might look like this:

flour 100%

starter 25%

water 60%

salt 2%


That tells you everything you need to know to make a batch of dough of any size.

The flour is always 100%. Everything else is measured as a percentage of the mass of the flour.

In this case the flour in the starter is considered as separate to the 100% for flour (ie. it is starter, not flour and water)

For example, if I want to make a batch of dough with 1000g of flour, I would also need:

25g/100  * 1000g = 250g of starter

60g/100  * 1000 = 600g of water

2g/100  * 1000 = 20g of salt

Cassia242 2009 September 22

I just joined, and I have read a lot of the posts, and I'm sure what I need is in there somewhere, but I haven't been able to locate it. I would be extremely grateful if y'all help me???


Basically, my attempts at sourdough have been flops. The first loaf rose a bit, one in a loaf pan, another as a "boule," or that's what it was supposed to be. (It ended up more like an inch thick pizza crust.)


I left them alone for hours, hoping they would rise some more, but nope. So, I baked them. And they didn't get any of the lovely oven spring I know ought to happen. They would have made great croutons, but other than that, were pretty much gross.


My starter seems active (It doubles or more after feeding,) so... Help?


Not developed gluten? Bad recipe? Not enough flour? Problemus Uknownus?



LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2009 September 22
We can help but we will need to know what you are doing.  How about posting the recipe and tell us what you did to make the bread?
Cassia242 2009 September 23

Thank you very much!

I have some experience with basic breads (Whole Wheat loaves, some honey wheat Rolls, pizza dough, refrigerator butterhorns...)

As a general rule, my breads are great. The Honey Wheat Rolls especially are a hit wherever I go, (Light and fluffy, great flavor) so I thought I had the basics down and was ready for something different. I know how to develop gluten to where its like stretchy rubber, good for the rolls and bread I've mentioned, but still, something is obviously not going good!

This is the recipe I used:


1 ½ cups of warm water (100-110 F.)
1 cup starter
3 ½ cups flour (whole wheat)
Mix until smooth and cover. Place in a warm spot (85 F) for 6-24 hours.
(I did about 26 {Yikes!} the first time, 7-8 the next)

The dough—Add the following ingredients to the sponge:
2 tsp. salt, about 2 1/2 cups of flour (white)

Here, you are supposed to "knead it until it is smooth and elastic (10-15 minutes). Add flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking." I let it rest halfway through, and then worked it some more, and thought it was pretty much there, though it refused to reach the "windowpane" stage.

Place the dough in a large clean bowl and let it rise in a warm place at least 2 hours or longer.

Gently deflate the dough and divide it in half. Shape it into loaves, either round or long.  Cover and let it rise a second time (2 hours—more or less, depending on the activity of your yeast and the temperature). Using a very sharp knife or razor blade, make 1/2 inch deep slashes at a slant for long loaves or crisscross slashes for round loaves. For a pretty loaf, cut your slashes with your knife at an angle instead of straight down.

Bake in a preheated oven (400 F).  Bake 20-25 minutes more or for a total of 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

First batch, followed instructions exact.

Second batch... After the first rising, the bread was not seeming like it had good gluten structure. It was full of holes, but was very mushy and wouldn't stretch without breaking. So... I kneaded it for 'bout 15 more minutes, and it still refused to "windowpane" for me, so I said "Oh, well," and formed it and stuck it in the fridge overnight to rise. (It was 1:00 A.M...)

Next day, hadn't risen any. I got it out, and stuck it in my warm, moist, humid outside laundryroom, thinking it had been to cold for it to rise. Hours later, not one sign of life. It was, however, oozing out of its proper shape. I kneaded it some more. (I wasn't kneading very vigourously at any stage, so I figured that may still be the problem...) Stuck it in a nice warm place to rise, left it for hours, still no move, so I tossed it.

Any ideas went wrong???

Thankful for any advice, even if you call me a dummkopf...

davo 2009 September 23

I'm no expert, but... looking at that recipe, it's got a great big sponge/levain, and a not much bigger dough. Personally I work on about a ratio of 3-4.5 for both the sponge/levain. So if I use 200 g starter (this is for four large loaves), I add about 540 g flour and 350 g water (it's a dry/stiff levain). This I let ferment for about 8-10 hrs. I would say 6-24 is a big range. 6 hrs would not be terribly active yet (for me) and 24 it would be exhausted and a lot of dead cells rather than at the peak of activity, I'd guess.

Then I add 1400 g of flour 40-45 g of salt, a bit of diastatic malt, and about 950-1000 g (give or take) of water. By comparison, your recipe hardly adds much food for the final dough, so it has a high ratio of really fermented (gluten eaten-out) sponge, and will (if it's still active) ferment rapidly indeed (or at least I'd guess ). You are on a fine line with not much gluten left to get it baked before it loses its structure, I'm guessing. Kneading isn't going to help it if its broken down through overfermenting...

Plus, I don't like purposely deflating dough after it's started fermenting - although it happens a bit incidentally during stretch and folds.

So maybe you could try this:

decrease the size of your sponge (or leave it the same just make more bread!).

Control your sponge/levain ferment. This bit can go on a bit more flexibly than the dough stage, but you want it still active (24 hrs would be too much I reckon, unless you started with a quite small ratio of starter into the sponge).

Add much more new flour/water (and salt at the righ ratio for the entire flour amount) at the dough stage. Knead as per your preferred method - personally I do short kneads by french fold about 3 times at 10 min intervals. After that, do  a couple of stretch and folds during the bulk ferment stage - this helps the gluten - but don't re-knead it. Bulk feremnt for say 2.5-3 hours (including the rest/knead times).

Then, divide and gently shape - don't deflate! Put the loaves into baettons or bowls lined with floured cloths. It should still be a pretty tight dough - albeit soft and somewhat sticky, with some (really quite small) holes starting to show. If it's all stringy or got big holes or wnats to tear, it's gone waaaay too far! Don't expect it to have doubled from the mixed dough volume by this stage - I reckon if it has, its gone too far (this is for me and my starter and kitchen, so others may disagree, but anyway). Give it between 3 and 6 hours more (or fridge it for 10-20 hours and then re-warm it for say 1-2.5 hours which is really variable depending on a heap of factors). WHen it's still got a liiiiitle bit of spring when a wet or floured finger tip is pressed a cm into it, it's about ready.

When you bake, don't look at it for at least 15-20 minutes - you might see the loaf flatten and look like it's oozing out (if its a soft dough), but by 20-25 mins it should have sprung right back up, with any luck.

30-35 mins is a small bake time unless you are doing pretty skinny baguettes, I reckon - I usually go about 40-50 mins - but depends on your oven I guess.

I reckon your loaves had little gluten left and were probably overproved given the small amount of new flour in the final dough.


Cassia242 2009 September 23

Thanks so much! I'll try adding a lot more flour to the dough after the sponge. I didn't think of i's not having eough to feed on. Also, I don't really know much about grams and all... do you have a good recipe you suggest that uses cups such???


Anything y'all can give me is greatly appreciated!


davo 2009 September 23

Nope, sorry (cups vs grams). Distill all that down to say - control the levain/sponge ferment, then add some more flour and water into the bread dough than you do now. So in your recipe say take out 1/2 cup of the water from the sponge, and add it in the dough step. And keep say 2 cups of the flour out of the sponge and add that into the final dough, as well. So that would be 2 cups of flour in the sponge and 4 in the final dough along with 1/2 cup of reserved water - although this also means your ratio of starter to levian/sponge flour is now too high, so maybe start with just a 1/2 cup of starter.

In any case, you need to be a bit give-or-take with the water until you are used to the softness you want. I like a softer rather than harder dough - if it won't knead by french fold (for instance it "binds up" - won't fold over itself - after say 3-4 folds, then it's too dry for my liking - but each to their own. If it's a soft enough dough (for my liking), it will be sticky and a bit hard to handle/shape and so on, but will give a more open bread. (I use wet hands in the knead stages, and floured hands and bench through later streatch-and-folds, and shaping). So long as it's proved in a banetton or bowl and not overproved, and slashed judisciously, it won't ooze out flat on baking. If you prove a soft boule on a flat surface with no basket/bowl, it will ooze out and flatten, I reckon. (On baking, soft loaves often look like they are going flat on the baking stone and then bounce back up and spring enormously in about the second 10 mins or so of baking. If they are overproved they look like they are going flat, and stay flat! If they are underproved, they spring like crazy, split beyond the slashes but don't get so big overall as they hadn't risen enough before hitting the oven...)

Also, I've always been advised to add water at about 70 degrees F.

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2009 September 24

Get a scale it was the single most important purchase that I made in helping my bread making get better.

I also think that you are letting the acid get to high in your dough and this is breaking down your glutten.  You can try using a lot less prefement in your dough.  Use the preferment between 8 and 12 hours, 24 hours seems to long to me.  Don't ferment your dough to long this will also cause to much acid to be made and weaken the glutten.

Cassia242 2009 October 1

Thank y'all again for your help! I really appreciate it! Sorry it has take me so long. Been very busy. I intend to try a "New and Improved" loaf very soon, as soon as immediate responsibilities do not consume my days! Again, Thankyou!



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