Collapsed dough


After much experimentation I managed to get a really active starter going. Here we go, I thought!  I kneaded for 15 min. The dough worked nicely and I felt I was going places at last.  I let it rest for 4 hours and it rose, my how it rose!  I transferred it to a colander, covered it with cling film and left it overnight in around 27 degrees. In the morning it was up like a balloon but as soon as I removed the cling film the whole thing collapsed. Needless to say the resulting loaf was not the best, even the ducks rejected it.


Where did I go wrong?  I guess I let the second rise go on too long but how to judge when to bake? 


I'd be glad of advice.



167 users have voted.


Thraundil 2012 July 29

 Overnight rising is definately too long for a sourdough, the hungry cultures will eat everything. And 27 degrees (assume this is celcious?) is also sourdough heaven, so you definately got an overprooving going there. 


How long to let a dough rise? It depends on a lot of things. Temperature. Humidity. Pressure (high air pressure = slower rising!). Activity of starter as you mix the dough. Its all about getting a feel of it. I would suggest the following experiment, to really get to know your starter. Seeing as how you let it rest overnight, is this a general thing you like? 


Mix dough (no salt). Let rest for a half hour. Add salt and just a tad of water, mix in, then knead for however long you want until it is nice and have well developed gluten strings. Let it "bulk ferment" at room temp for 2 hours. Now shape loaves, and do what you do with them (proofing baskets, bowls, or simply put them on a baking plate and cover it with loose film (dont tighten the film as this will hinder the rising of the dough). Put in the fridge for 8+ hours, the longer you keep it in the fridge the more developed taste. You can take them out after 8 hours or as long as 2 days. Take them out of the fridge 3 hours before you want to bake to let them have the final rising at room temperature. Do the test: sprinkle flour lightly on the loaf and press your finger in 1½-2 cm. When you remove your finger the surface should reform slowly, but decisively. Then slash and bake. Soon you will begin to get a feel of when the loaf looks right, feels right, smells right. 

isand66 2012 July 29

You let your dough rise way too long.

If you can't watch your dough due to time you can place it in your refrigerator which will slow down the fermentation so it won't overrise.  The next day warm your oven up, score your bread and bake.

Your other option which is what I do is to mix your dough for about 4 minutes on low, take it out of your bowl and let it sit on your work surface.  Do a few stretch and folds and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

Do another stretch and fold, and cover with oiled plastic wrap or a tea towel sprayed with water.

Let it sit another 10 minutes.  Do another S&F and cover again.  Let it sit another 10 minutes, do another S&F and place in an oiled bowl.  Let it sit at room temperature, 70-75 degrees F and place in your refrigerator for up to 2 days.

When ready to bake let the dough sit at room temperature for 1.5 to 2 hours and then shape your dough.  Next let it sit covered for 2 hours or until it can pass the poke test.  This means when you poke the dough with your finger it should leave an indent that springs back very slowly.  If it goes too fast than wait longer and if it leaves a big indent you may have overproof.


I hope this helps.


I have many recipes on my blog explaining this technique at

Good luck.

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 July 29

Hi John,

I agree that you have most likely very much overproved your loaf.

If you are going to work at your room temperature, I have found that if you time how long it takes your starter to peak after its preparation for your loaf, then that is about the time you should allow from dough preparation to putting in the oven for a fairly simple plain bread recipe.  Generally about half the time goes to dough development and bulk fermentation and half to proving the loaf.

Obviously this can vary with other factors as mentioned previously and also the ingredients - rich doughs certainly take significantly longer.  But at least for simple breads it can give you an idea of when to start assessing the readiness for baking.

Good luck with your projects.


davo 2012 July 29

The other factor in speede is how much starter/levain went into the bread dough. And did you have 2% salt. You can take longer times if you have small starter/levain percentage into the final bread dough. For me (4 large loaves), a 1 kg levain at around typical dough hydration, going into a total bread dough of around 3.7 kg will take around 3 hours of bulk ferment, and then (at room temp) anything from around 5 hrs straight through at room temp to bake, or overnight (10 hrs) at a cool temp around 10 deg (in our laundry which gets much colder than the house in a Melbourne winter), then 1 hr at 20 deg then bake, or fridge 20-22 hours and warm up for 1-2 hrs and bake.


If the dough is really puffy and loose it overdone. And the biggest it can rise is usually too far gone. Youy want max rise including the oven step, not before the oven. Just because it's still getting bigger doesn't mean it isn't over-ripe.



JohnF 2012 July 30

Thanks so much for taking the trouble to reply. It's very kind of everybody.


You're agreed I let it overproof. Twenty-seven Celsius is too warm probably. I'd not thought of using the fridge for overnight.  If this helps the flavour too that will be a bonus.


All this advice is a great help. I will take heed and try again.




theGove 2012 September 16



I went through the same mistakes when I was starting a few years ago.  I tried many variations as I experimented with dough. Then, about 2 months ago, my wife got me the book "tartine bread" by Chad Robertson.  After completing a culinary arts degree, he spent the better part of a decade apprenticing with natural leavening bakers in France then opened a natural leaven bakery in northern California.  I thought my bread was pretty good before I read the book.  But after reading the book and trying his approach, my bread improved dramatically on my first attempt of his approach.  I now get comments like, "that's the best bread I've had since I lived in France." and "You bread reminids me of the bread I used to eat as a child in Germany.  I've been searching in the U.S. for bread like this for more than 30 years and had given up on the hope of finding it."  

I highly recommend the book.



JohnF 2012 November 30

Thanks wife made me throw out the starter :( 

We just couldn't seem to get the hang of it.  Partly we had no proving basket so the dough sometimes resembled a fat pancake instead of a baby seal. 

The good news is that our local breadshop now employs a Polish baker/breadmaker who makes much better sourdough than I ever will.



farinam's picture
farinam 2012 November 30

Hello JohnF

You can use all sorts of things to contain the loaf while it proves.  For makning boules you can use a colander lined with a floured (preferably a low gluten one) tea towel.  For batarde, I use a long shallow cane basket similarly lined.  For baguette you can just put pleats in the towel between loaves and they support themselves.

There are more ways to kill a cat than choke it with butter so I am sure that with a bit of imagination you could find something in your house to use.

The main thing to remember is that the dough should be properly developed to give it strength.  This is helped by proper shaping.  And the dough should not be over-proved, which is one of the prime causes of 'flat' bread.

Get back into it - you just might surprise yourself with what good bread you can make.


jrfsmf 2013 March 24

John, I think your mistake was trying to bake collapsed dough.  That can only make hardtack, or worse.  And giving up on your dough too soon.  After that last collapse, you had two choices (besides making hardtack):  1) throw it away, or 2) try to get it to rise one more time so you can bake bread.  People say that it won't work, the dough and the bugs are spent by then, but is has worked for me.  Take advantage of the wisdom that's out there, but don't get bogged down with it.  Get your own techique and recipes honed, and be able to improvise and react to the unexptected, and you will be successful.

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