I'm puzzled



 I recently made two loaves at an interval of about three weeks.

Both were made using identical ingredients (mainly Wessex Mill French bread flour and some white spelt). I have a warming cabinet so am able to keep temperatures constant. Timings for preferment, bulk fermentation and proof were identical as was the length of time before use that I fed my starter. Baking time and temperatures were also the same for both loaves. Hydration is around 60% or a little less.


And yet one loaf 1 came out nice and chubby with good vertical rise whereas loaf 2 (which seemed to collapse somewhat as I slashed it) came out rather flat. Both had a good open crumb and tasted fine but the interior of the chubby one seemed softer.


I deduce that loaf 2 (the flatter one) was overproved but for the life of me can’t understand why.

I’m contemplating entering a local competition in the summer and would like to be able to consistently produce identical loaves.

Anybody got any thoughts?

312 users have voted.


farinam's picture
farinam 2012 April 27

Good morning gongoozler,

One possibility is that there has been a subtle change in the biology of your starter that has changed its activity.

Another is that the flour you are using, though the same brand, is slightly different if it was not from the same bag. If it was the same batch, it is unlikely to have gone off in only three weeks.

If the weather was significantly more humid, your hydration could have been affected by higher moisture content of the flour.

Was your dough development method any different? If the gluten is overworked, the dough will become more slack.

The other thing that I advocate is to 'listen' to the dough rather than sticking rigidly to time schedules - bake when the loaf is ready rather than when the alarm goes off.

Hope this helps and good luck with your competitions. Be sure to show us your ribbons.


gongoozler 2012 April 28

 Hi Farinam,

What you say rather confirms my own thoughts i.e. that my starter has undergone some sort of change.

I have just opened a new bag of flour, which may have something to do with it.

The weather in England has been very wet recently but that is nothing unusual  So I doubt that is the cause.

As far as dough development is concerned I used exactly the same procedure for both loaves.

Your point about using judgement rather than sticking slavishly to timing is well taken, after all sourdough starter is a living thing and subject to the vagaries of life. Next time I'll keep a close watch and bake when I think it's ready.


Thanks again,


gongoozler 2012 May 9

 I've just baked another loaf using identical ingredients but following Farinam's advice to bake when the loaf seemed ready rather than sticking slavishly to timings. As a result my proof time was at least half an hour shorter than usual. I achieved good oven spring and a nice plump loaf with slight bursting and definite grigne.

Seems to me that, as with so much of cooking, good judgement is more important that precise timing.

petanque 2012 December 12

what was yoiur inital dogh teprature and was the sarter in a similar level of activity?

was there similar tension in the loaf?

could the laf be over proofed?

but it realy is hart to tell from the other side of the world

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