Dough rising


Hi All,


I'm new here and haven't really had time to scan through the forums for an answer so I thought I'd start out with a question.


I've had my starter going for a couple weeks now.  Feeding every 24 hrs, using non-bleached AP flour and water.  It smells nice and sour.  I've done the float test on the starter (put a spoonfull in room tempurature water. If it floats, it's good to go.)

I've made a couple loaves of sourdough using a no knead approach by leaving the dough covered over night.  The dough comes out sticky and wet but full of bubbles.

When I try to do the stretch and fold, the dough breaks apart instead of stretching.  it also doesn't really hold a shape well.  When I leave it to rise it basically just flattens out.  The same when I bake it, almost no oven spring.  It almost seems as though there are no gluten strings in the bread.  

I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.  I've made no knead breads without sourdough starter and just yeast and they work out fine. 


Any suggestions of why this is happening?


Thanks in advance!

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isand66 2013 February 11

Can you share your exact formula and technique with us?  It's hard to comment without really knowing what you are doing.  It would be helpful to know the hydration of your starter and the amounts of your other ingredients and then I can see if I can suggest what your issue(s) may be.

leevee 2013 February 11

Sorry.  I should have been more specific.


I started with 1 cup unbleached AP flour and 1 cup water.

Every 24 hrs I take out 1 cup and replace with 1/2 cup flour. 1/2 cup water.


To make the bread, I followed a video online.  Basically:

1 cup starter (I counted this as 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water in the recipe)

1/2 cup water

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt.

mix until just shaggy. Let sit for  24 hrs.


When I tried to take it out and stretch the dough to fold it in thirds, it didn't really stretch.  I thought it was too wet so I added about 1/3 cup or maybe 1/2 cup more flour to try get it to hold it's shape a bit.

Left it to rise for 3 hours in my oven with the light on.  Didn't rise so much as spread out.

Baked it in a Large lacrusette pot with lid for 30 minutes then with out lid for 10 minutes.  Didn't really rise.

Tastes fine but the inside seams gummy almost.  It's cooked through, but it doesn't have that bread feel.


Maybe I'm way off and not really following technique at all.  Any help or suggestions would be much appreciated.




shasta's picture
shasta 2013 February 11

Hi Leevee,

I think you may be over fermenting. The recipe sound like a no nead type bread so try this:

Add the water,starter and flour until just mixed. Wait 30 min. and add the salt. Let the dough set on the counter in a covered bowl for two to three hours folding it on itself  every hour. You will be looking for gas production and bubbles in the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic and place in the fridge over night. Next morning, take the dough out and allow to warm / rise two to three hours (most likely two). Warm you oven the last hour. I've seen it done with the pot pre-heated too but it's up to you. When ready, take the dough out of the bowl and place the dough in the pot and bake as instructed.

I think that might work for you. Let me know how it goes.

Good luck !

isand66 2013 February 12

I think you need to check your ingredient amounts.  First I highly recommend you buy an inexpensive digital scale.  Your baking will improve dramatically if you can be consistent with your measurements and there is no way to do that unless you weigh everything in grams or ounces.

Most importantly based on the recipe you posted above, it sounds like one of your ingredient amounts is off.  If you add up the flour in the starter and main dough and the water you would get the following:

3 cups of flour total

1 cup of water total

This means your hydration would be 1 cup water / 3 cups flour = 33%

Based on what you wrote above I don't think that sounds right since your bread would be so dry that you would end up with a brick and not be able to stretch and fold.  Maybe you are adding so much flour since you were afraid it was too wet and that is why you can't keep the dough together.

I don't know if this helps or not.


isand66 2013 February 12

Idealy you want your hydration to be around 65 - 70% for this kind of bread.  One of the premises of doing the stretch and fold technique is to allow you to work with wet doughs without having to add too much extra flour.  I usually put my dough in a plastic dough bucket and do the stretch and folds in the bucket with wet hands.  You can also do it on your work surface.  Use a bench scraper/dough scraper and make sure it is wet and use it to help you lift the dough and stretch it.  Eventtually after enough stretch and folds after several resting periods it will come together and you will need to use very little flour.

Also keep in mind as you experiment with different flours eventually you will notice that whole grain flours will absorb more water than AP or Bread Flour and will require extra water or liquid.

I hope this helps.


shasta's picture
shasta 2013 February 12


Ian is right!  I missed the hydration issue because I read where you thought is was too wet and added flour. You do want a wetter dough in the range Ian mentioned. For the process I gave you above, a dough on the higher end would work well.

Good luck!

leevee 2013 February 12

Wow.  Thanks so much everyone.


I'll give it another try.  


I've just put the starter in a glass jar to see if it is rising properly and it looks like it is.  


Thanks again!!  I appreciate it and I look forward to learning more from this forum and website! 



Merrid 2013 February 13

I'm not sure that hydration calculation is right - hydration is based on weight of flour and water, not volume.

I'm assuming you're using US measures (since you talk about AP flour and measure everything in cups). Based on an approximate conversion of 1 US cup flour = 120g and 1 US cup water = 240g  that would give a dough hydration of about 67%, which should be in the right range.

But in your recipe you have a step where you mix the dough and wait for 24 hours (I assume at room temperature because you don't say anything to the contrary) - that would certainly be overproved, and the gluten would have broken down so much that it wouldn't hold any shape. And then you let it prove for a further 3 hours!

Unless I'm misreading something, I would expect your bulk fermentation phase should be in the region of 2 to 4 hours, not 24, with about 3 stretch-and-folds done throughout the proving period and the aim of reaching windowpane gluten development by the end of that phase. Your final prove also may not need to be as long as 3 hours - the poke test should be your guide here.

isand66 2013 February 14 are correct about the hydration.  I am so used to working in grams and ounces that I forgot you can't just do a comparable exchange to figure out the correct hydration.  Thanks for pointing that out as it didn't make much sense that the hydration could have been that low.

If Leevee let the dough bulk ferment in the refrigerator than a 12-24 hour rest is fine, but you are correct if it is left out at room temperature.

leevee 2013 February 18

Yes, you are right Merrid.  It was WAY overproofed.  I read the post about proofing and it makes so much sense to me now.


I've just bought a digital scale and I'm going to wait until it comes for my next attempt.  


Thanks for the comments and the help!


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