Bread didn't rise

Connie White

Hi, I'm new at trying to make my own bread.  I have a starter going that seemed to be doing very well after I switched it from AP flour to Rye.  However, I tried to make wheat bread from it, and after the requisite 12 hours, the dough has not risen perceptibly at all.  I used a recipe that called for "shaggy" dough, and I saw the picture, but still couldn't figure out exactly how to get it there.  When I added the amounts she called for, the dough seemed very dry, so I added some water.  Could this have been my downfall?  It was at about 75-78 degrees for 12 hours.  I am on a budget (as most of us are!), and it kills me to feel like I am wasting all of this all that was used in my starter for the past few weeks, as my AP flour starter would never get going, but I kept trying.  Any advice is appreciated!

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farinam's picture
farinam 2014 May 15

Hello Connie,

I have heard reports of starters 'sulking' if you change their source of food too drastically.  Perhaps you could try feeding your starter with a blend of flours (wheat and rye).  I use 90% wheat and 10% rye.

Can I also suggest that you read SourDom's Beginners Blog on this site as this gives a good description of a relaible method of getting and maintaining a starter.  He also gives a very good basic recipe (Pane Francesa).

The main thing is that pretty much everybody takes a while to 'get the knack' and it is a matter of persevering, practicing and observing what happens at various stages of the dough preparation and development .  You might very well produce some loaves that are not particularly pretty but I have yet to hear of one that was truly inedible so try not to think of it as waste.  Just think of it as another life experience.

Have a look at this from my files and it might give you an idea of what to look out for.

As I say it is only one way and there are just about an infinite number of other ways that it could be done and I am sure that you will adjust and adapt to suit your particular requirements and environment.

Your temperature sounds about ideal and adding a bit of water is unlikely to have affected your starter performance unless there was something particularly noxious about it.

Let us know how you go and good luck with your projects.


Connie White 2014 May 16

I switched it from AP to Rye because my AP starter never seemed to "take off.  It would rise a bit for a couple of days (but never double), then do nothing for a couple of days, then rise a bit for a couple of days.  I use a whole 5 Lb. bag of flour trying to get it going, and then just used the next type of flour I had to feed it, which was rye, and it doubled the very  next day!  I kept feeding for a couple of days with rye, and it has done the same each day.  Then one day I fed one wheat and one with rye, and they both doubled again, and the next day I tried to make the wheat bread out of the one I'd fed with wheat...with my zero rise results.  Maybe I did switch it too quickly.  

farinam's picture
farinam 2014 May 16

Hi Connie,

When you are establishing a new starter from scratch, they can go through stages of varying activity as the populations of bacteria and yeasts change as the conditions in the brew change with respect to acid content and so forth.  This is why most methods talk of persisting for at least ten to fourteen days by which time things should have stabilised and you have a good stable and robust population going.  It is also why the process involves discarding and rebuilding which helps to encourage the favourable species, hopefully at the expense of the nastier ones.  Sometimes, and the reasons are not clear why, it takes a little more persistance to get to this point.  Wholemeal flours in general, and rye in particular seem to help the process along probably because of greater populations of the wild yeasts etc left on the bran and germ.  Highly processed whaite flours in general and bleached ones in particular are likely to be much more barren in this regard and could be less succesful.

Perhaps if you could give a blow by blow description of what you did (including quantities and times) and what you observed during your bread making attempt it might help with further diagnosis.  Also what is your current starter maintenance regime?

Good luck with your projects.


Connie White 2014 May 17

Hi Farinam, 

Sure, I'd be happy to give a blow by blow, so maybe we can figure out what's going on!  I started it on April 27th with 4 oz. organic AP flour, 4 oz. filtered water.  The starter instructions I was using did not have me throwing any away, and each morning I was adding 4 oz. of the same flour and 4 oz. filtered water.  Those instructions also said it should be "ready" in 5 days, and it clearly wasn't, so after 6-7 days, I read more about starters, and found that I should be taking only a little each day to feed (as you said, throwing the rest out).  So, I started taking equal part starter, flour and water (4oz. each).  It should be noted that I did not have a scale at first, but was using approximations of 4 oz. with measuring.  I got my scale and started measuring exactly on the 8th, and the consistency was much more dry, so I'm certain up until then, I'd been adding too much water.  Several times I'd had to pour off the "hooch."  When I started doing the equal portions, the starter finally started to rise a little with the AP flour, but as I said, never "double" as everyone says it will do when it's ready.  So, I kept on, until I ran out of that flour.  Then I had to go into town, but only had time to go to one store (I live in the middle of nowhere), and they only had organic rye flour, so I got that.  That was also on the 9th, and I started feeding it with rye the next day.  It immediately started rising double.  I fed it rye for several days, up until the morning before I tried the bread and posted on here, when I kept 2 going, and fed with one with wheat and one with rye.  That evening, I tried making the wheat bread, and it did not rise in the slightest (I ended up leaving it in the oven with the light on for 2 days, and still nothing), though both starters had risen equally.  The dough was very dense and as I said, dryer than I'm used to dough being.  My starter tastes very sour, and smells like alcohol, but is still rising every day.  I'm trying a different recipe today.  We will see what kind of results I get!  Thanks for any input!

LadyMc 2014 May 18

I've just switched to using Andrew Whitely's method of maintaining sourdough starters. It's economical because you don't discard any starter, you don't feed it any flour either.

With his method you take a small amount of starter straight from the fridge say about 5oz mix it with 4 oz warm, not tepid ,water making sure the starter is dissolved. Next you add 3.5 oz white bread flour and 3.5 whole wheat bread flour, mix together knead for 30 seconds or so, cover and leave for about 4 hours - longer if your room's cool. This is your refreshed starter. 

Take 10 oz of this refreshed starter, there should be a few ounces left which you add back in to your sourdough starter that you keep in the fridge this is how you maintain your starter. I then mixed one cup of water with the refreshed starter and gradually added 5 cups of flour and a tsp of salt. I gave this a brief knead less than 5 mins and cover it with a polythene bag and left it overnight. The room was quite warm so it could take longer- the previous ones I left for 24 hours. Divide into two large or three med loaf sized pieces and leave to rise for a couple of hours. In tins or proofing baskets. Pre-heat  your oven to  max put bread in oven, either in tins or gently tipped onto baking sheets, after 10 mins turn oven down 20*c- 30*f, cook until done I use a thermometer,  I think the smaller loaves take up to 40 mins and the larger ones 50-60 mins. Cool completely. 

Try it, I'm sure there must be some of his recipes online.

Dont give up on the sourdough.

i gave up on it for a while because the usual method is too wasteful but this method is much better.

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