bread going flat?


I proofed my dough overnight in fridge and took it out. It looked fine. But then I shaped it immediately, brushed on some egg and left it and I noticed it started to become flat instead of rising. So I quickly baked it. But I know it is better to rise more out of fridge. Any advice how to prevent it from becoming flat? Does it need more flour? more starter?
Thanks so much.

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farinam's picture
farinam 2012 November 24

Hello Atara,

At what stage did you put the dough into the fridge?

It sounds as if your dough was overproved.  Generally dough development and bulk ferment (sometimes called first proof) is done at room temperature though I have heard of some doing this with refrigerated dough as well.  Then the loaf is shaped and given the (second) proving in the fridge.  The lower temperature does not stop activity it just slows it down and at slightly different rates for different species in the culture which is why you can get a different flavour profile after retardation.  After retardation, the loaf should be pretty much ready for baking.  Some bake directly from the fridge while some give an hour or so to come to room temperature.

So, depending on how long your dough preparation took before going into the fridge, it is possible that your dough was fully proved and the attempt to shape it was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Let us know more detail of your methods so that we can be more sure of the diagnosis.

Keep on bakin'


atara 2012 November 24

Actually my dough only sat on the counter about one hour before i put it in the fridge overnight. I have done it before and it worked well. I am thinking maybe this time I needed a bit more flour so could be that is why it went flat?

I really cant figure it out because things come out different all the time. But if you have any ideas for me i would appreciate it. thanks so much.

petanque 2012 November 25

how well was the gluten developed?

I would shape the loaves before being retarded and then just let them warm slightly after removing from the fridge (assuming they have proved enough)

Slash/score just before baking

atara 2012 November 25

Do you mean that I should mix up the dough, let it rest a bit on the counter(maybe an hour or so) and then shape it and put in fridge? That actually might work better....I have to try that. But is that what you meant?

petanque 2012 November 26

Mix dough

Rest on bench (or in container).

Divide into loaves (or rolls).

Mould to shape and place on tray.

Let prove to about half size and place in fridge or cool place (to retard fermentation). This tends to increas the sour flavors.

Next day (or a few hours) allow to warm to room temperature and reach final size for proofing (slightly under proved is better than over proved).

Slash/cut if needed then bake immediately (steam will help oven spring if it is available in the oven).

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 November 25

Hello atara,

We would need to know what your recipe is before we could comment on the likely effect of hydration though I suspect that this is not your problem.  So if you could post some details that would be good.

One thing that you need for a good loaf is that the gluten in the dough is well developed which comes about through a combination of enzyme action, energy input and time.  When the gluten is well developed it is possible to stretch the dough into very thin sheets without it breaking or tearing.  This is the basis of the 'window' test.  The dough will also tend to spring back to its original shape/size when you stretch it (elastic).  This is evidenced by a change in the resistance to deformation when you are kneading/working the dough whether you use the 'english' method (all action on the bench), the 'french' method (lifting into the air and slapping onto the bench) or the stretch and fold.  Once you get there is is pretty obvious.  Usually you would not shape your loaf before the dough was properly developed.

No-knead methods are out there as well but I would suspect that you would need more time than an hour for that.

As an aside, I gather that it is almost impossible to over-develop the gluten with hand mixing/kneading though it is possible by machine.  It is ultimately time that is the enemy and over-proving leads to gluten breakdown and the formation of a soft sticky dough that falls flat when it is handled.

Good luck with your projects.


atara 2012 November 26

Thanks Farinam, that is helpful. But do you think the problem could be that i needed more flour in the dough? the dough was kind of watery. I added flour as a i kneaded and it formed a nice dough, easy to handle. But by the morning, after proofing overnight in fridge, it was a bit watery again. I was able to shape it but I think maybe i needed more flour? is that perhaps a factor?
Because i mixed up the dough, left it to rise for an hour or two, put it in the fridge overnight and I thought with sourdough that would be fine. That would not be over proofing would it? cause overnight slows the process anyway. and it only proofed out of the fridge for a couple of hours. so that does not seem like it would harm the gluten formation? what do you think?

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 November 26

Hello atara,

I can't really comment on whether hydration is a problem without knowing your recipe - what and how much starter you are usig what and how much flour and how much water,how you are kneading/developing the dough, room temperature etc.

From what you have said it does sound as if something strange is going on but cannot add more than that at this stage.


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