Hoping for some help with my Sourdough not rising much



This is my second sourdough made from the Pane Francese (1) recipe. I followed the Slash and Burn recipe approximately mixing the dough at 10:00am and finally putting it in the (45m pre-heated oven at 17:00)

The primary problem seem to be its density. It doesn't seem to have expanded much and is very heavy to eat (although tastes great). It was cooked in a cast iron pot with the lid off and half a glass of water thrown in a tray in the bottom. Inital oven temp was 240 sustained for 20 mins and then 20mins on 220.

I was thinking that perhaps it is over proven (proofed?) since it did look a bit slack when I put it in my proofing receptical. However, I don't understand why since I used similar times to the recipe.



One the next try I managed to get a better result:

380 users have voted.


Apple 2011 August 5

 I use a cast iron pot - cooker on full whack - lid on for 30 mins lid off for 15 at the end



farinam's picture
farinam 2011 August 5

Hello SnuffPuppet

My inclination would be to give it a few more tries before you change too much.  Often as you become more practiced, the bread will come good 'of its own accord'.

On the subject of timing, you have to 'listen' to what the dough is telling you.  Time is very dependent on the room/dough temperature.  It will need to be longer if it is cool and shorter if it is warmer.

As Apple suggests, if you are cooking in a container, having the lid on will provide the steamy environment rather than the water in the tray, but either will do.

Hope this helps and let us know how you go.


snuffpuppet 2011 August 7

Hey guys,

Made some slight modifications to the recipe and had some success (new photo added to original post since can't seem to add one here)

Followed Sourdom's recipe up till the prove (checked bubble propagation was ok) then proved it in the fridge overnight for 9.5 hrs. Also managed to get deeper slashes into the dough since it was still stiff from the fridge. Pretty much went straight from fridge to pre-heated oven.

Also used a lidded cast iron pot. Result was a slightly sourer taste but wonderfully expanded dough. Popular with all the crew!


Thanks for the encouragement.



cross1242 2011 August 11

I wish I could tell you exactly what your problem is but I'm only a little bit ahead of you.  I haven't gotten the perfect loaf yet.  However, I think I know what the areas are where at least I am failing.


First of all, the dough's hydration level (the amount of water to flour) has to be very dry.  If there is a lot of water in the dough, it's tough for the sourdough leavening to lift it.  Look up "hydration" on sourdough and try for something like 60% hydration.


Second, the working (kneading) of the dough has to be exactly right.  In my novice view, apparently modern breads with instand dry yeast and such are very forgiving on the amount of working they get.  However, the sourdough culture is very old and has about no tolerance for variations in how much the dough is worked.  So, pay attention to whether the dough shows signs that the gluten has gotten to exactly the right point.  (There are various tests for this -- none of which I have mastered yet.

panfresca 2011 August 11


First of all, the dough's hydration level (the amount of water to flour) has to be very dry.  If there is a lot of water in the dough, it's tough for the sourdough leavening to lift it.  Look up "hydration" on sourdough and try for something like 60% hydration.

No, not very dry.

I sympathise that getting going is a bit of a minefield for the novice. There's an ocean of information (and misinformation) out there, and sorting through it is a herculean task. You could do worse than just stick to the information on this website from SourDom in his series of excellent blogs devoted to getting started.

I have been baking bread for less than a year, but have got to the stage where I have a pretty fair understanding of what's going on, and consistently produce bread of a good standard. Of course, I still have much to learn - there's no end to that road!

As well as finding reliable onine sources of info, such as the SourDom blogs I mentioned - one of the most helpful things I found was books by luminaries such as Jeffrey Hamelman and Peter Reinhart... actually "Bread" by Hamelman is probably the one most reliable book I could recommend. It's ultra-reliable and no-nonsense.

Back to the topic of hydration... a higher hydration (to a point) usually results in a more open crumb. There's nothing wrong with 60% (which is not really terribly dry), but I usually go for something higher - 66% even to 80% and above depending on the flour/recipe. 

Higher hydration does require better skills in folding/shaping, but it's not as hard as you might think. There are some excellent youtube videos on handling wet doughs... if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth... even more! Also, an easy crib for a new baker is to use a container so the bread doesn't end up looking like a pancake.



SourDom 2011 August 13

Hi guys


SP your 2nd photo looks great - you are obviously well on the way. Keep up the good work. The crust looks a little pale, and you might be able to bake for an extra 5 or 10 minutes to get a darker, more flavoursome and crunchier crust. Your original picture looks as if the dough might actually be underproved. The actual timing depends on the temperature and the activity of your starter. In summer, with an active starter, the time that you will need for proving may be much less than those I gave in the original recipe. In the middle of winter you may well need longer. Slashing the dough during the first stage is a great way to get a sense for what the dough is doing. Getting the time right for the second rise is tricky - but if you bake in a pot with the lid on, it actually isn't too critical to get it right. The combination of steam and even heat all around the loaf is very forgiving.


cross1242 - thanks for your suggestions. I would second Kymh's view that higher hydration rather than lower hydration is the way to go - but it does depend on what you are looking for. Stiffer doughs will tend to rise slower, and have a denser, more uniform crumb. I would also tend to think that SPs troubles are unlikely to be due to overworking of the dough. It is pretty tough to overwork dough if you are kneading by hand. You can do it in a mixer though.




snuffpuppet 2011 August 13

Thanks Dom,

I cooked another 3 loaves that didn't rise before I realised that I was radically underproving my dough. After reading Jacal10's tutorial on proving several times I finally got the connection between temperature and proving time. 4-5 hours at 30C seems about right since it took a 4 hour bulk fermentation and 12 hour prove at a room temp of aprox 10-15C (thermometer is in the mail) to get the dough to rise by 250%.  At the 3.5 hr mark it had only risen by 50% (so I went to bed :o)

The upshot seems to be that I was underestimating proving times during the Brisbane spring chills.

The resulting loaf had a nice texture and wonderfull taste.


Thanks for all the help,


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