Weak starter - or other reason?


I've baked quite a few sourdough loaves over a period of years, but without consistent success.

This week, I've begun again by making a new starter (the last one eventually went seriously 'off').

The new starter seems to be fine and last night I made a 'sponge'. That also seemed fine and this morning I made up the simple white bread. The bread rose beautifully in the mixing bowl over about 4 hours. However, the dough was very 'wobbly' in the mixing bowl, shaking like jelly - is that normal?

I then shaped the dough and placed it in a large loaf tin (wanting to avoid the added problems of bannetons etc. until I'm sure of my basics). Now the dough is hardly rising at all! It's as though all the energy of the starter was used in the first rise. Has anyone else noticed this, and does anyone have a solution to the problem?




153 users have voted.


farinam's picture
farinam 2011 November 24

Hi Steve,

It's hard to be specific from your description.  It is possible that the four hours exhausted the food supply but would depend on your starter activity and the room/dough temperature.

I think you need to repeat the exercise and keep a close eye on the dough to get an idea of how quickly things happen.  You should 'listen' to the dough rather than slavishly trying to follow a timeline that somebody else has published.  As a guide, you can also estimate your timing from how the starter behaves after a feed.  If it takes eight hours to peak then as a bit of a guide you can work on eight hours or thereabouts from dough preparation to baking (assuming of course that the temperatures are similar).

I always recommend repeating the same basic recipe a number of times to get your technique right before trying to second guess other 'problems'.

Keep on bakin'


mozzie 2011 November 24

If you left it 4 hours without folding, try a couple of intermediate folds at say 1 hr and 2hrs. Then at 3hrs do final fold and shape, put into tin and observe. Try to gauge when its about ready (usual rough test is to poke it gently about once evry hour, and see how long it takes to recover, once it stops recovering thats about right.

Its getting warm here (AU Melbourne), and it sometimes only takes 2hrs for the final rise of ~500gm pieces.

Ruralidle 2011 November 27

Generally, a starter needs two or three weeks to become actve enough to properly leaven a loaf.  try feeding your starter for another week and then try it again.

slepax 2011 December 3

I have a few baking tins and I could never get good results when using them to bake. The bread turns quite dense and with no rise.


I use tins for shaping though, similar to bennetons. Try just letting your dough rest in the tin, but take it out before you put it into the oven and just have it free standing (if it sitcks to tin and hard to get it you can use a towl for the inside of the tin over the resting period).

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