Epic Fail - Sourdough Disaster

Smokin Dobro's picture
Smokin Dobro


Okay, bakers, I'm throwing myself on the sword and begging for your help. I baked my first batch of sourdough loaves in years yesterday, and I'm still chewing and choking on the outcome. I used to have an excellent sense of a dough's hydration just with feel, sight, and smell. The silky smoothness and elasticity told me all I needed to know about the gluten development. I would judge the vitality of the starter culture by smell and by bubble formation. I would form the loaves by hand, brush with a little egg wash, proof and bake at 375F.

Having not made sourdough in many years, I decided to make literal use of the most basic recipe in the book that is available on sourdo.com (the place I buy my authentic captured cultures and where I learned how to make the best sourdough you've ever tasted), using KAF Bread Flour. Surely something there would jog my memory and lead me down the path to the excellent sourdough that was once my baking hallmark. None of these milestones occurred. The starter never looked quite right (okay, it was bought 6 years ago and stored dehydrated and sealed under refrigeration) though it bubbled well and smelled perfect. The dough felt heavy and stiff, and never took on that springy feel. The skin never had that elastic sheen that I used to see way long time ago.

The outcome was terrible. The loaves didn't rise as well as expected (understatement). The crust didn't brown even with the thin egg wash applied. I used a decent sized pan of boiling water in the oven for the first 15 minutes of the bake (poor boy's steam injection system). It turns out not to have been necessary because there was absolutely no spring on placing the loaves in the oven.

What came out was a bland, almost flavorless bread that was ridiculously dense with a crumb texture that rivaled some of the finest pound cakes you've ever seen. I'm talkin' super-fine bubble structure. There was nothing close to the open, random structure I usually see in the rustic breads that I throw.

Back in my learning days I did 100% of my kneading by hand. Once I reached the point where I could recognize right answer when shown, i started to let the KA do some of the heavy lifting. I will go back to the basics if you think it will help me to relearn this old skill.

So, wise ones, tell me where I might have gotten off the path. I'm anxious to hear your thoughts on where it is I dropped the ball.

Thank you!


Frustrated baker in Savannah.   

257 users have voted.


walter 2011 October 23

I would check your culture, it sounds like it didn't rise well to start with so it didn't activate.

Ours was put through the break machine on a dough setting only, but whenit was done, it was already springy so it worked, when it first comes out its not overly bouncy but given the night to rest its reated well, and we cooked on a high oven 200°C for 20 minutes and no wash, it browned right and doubled in size again in the oven.




We used this dough mix to start up with, it took 12 days to mature and be able to make the first bread, the recipe we followed was from a Bread book from Aldi, its a really simple recipe.

In our family we cannot tollerate wheat so we use Splet Flour instead, the result we acheives was great, we have follow the guide and topped up our mother and its going away great i predict i will be able to make another loaf in 3 days.


The big trick we did was leaving it overnight to proof in the mould, we proofed ours in a 18/10 stainless steel bowl cause we didn't have the basket, since we have going to the local $2 shop and gotten two plastic baskets which have a nice pattern in them to use.

HopesHope 2011 October 25

It doesn't matter if your starter has been in "storage" for however long, what I feel the problem is, is that you didn't feed the starter prior to baking with it. 


Take the total amount of starter in the recipe and take a quarter of that from the mother, and feed it to build it up to the amount you need for the recipe.

Regarding your intuitive skills you use to use, well they're sleeping like your starter, and just need to be wakened up again.

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