On my 5th failed sourdough loaf and ready to give up! Help!


I am determined to get through this Paul Hollwood Sourdough recipe before using a different one!

In summary he says to knead for 5-10 mins, first prove 5hrs, then fold on itself to knock air out of and shape, then leave between 22-24 degrees for 10-13hrs, bake @ 200

The problem is I think, is that the dough is too wet each time I put on the stone and so it is going flat. It is more like a heavy ciabatta than a sourdough should be. When I get it from the second prove it is all stringy like pizza dough and I thought it was supposed to be doubled and cob shaped??! Well it gets stuck to the tea towel (even though it's floured) and tips out onto the worksurface in a bit of a gloopy mess.

It also ends up golden brown in comparison to the good ones on here but I think I may have had the oven on too low at gas mark 4. Oops.

I had been getting a bit better but seem to have taken a step back here! I'm a pretty good cook all round so this is really winding me up.

Thanks in advance!

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shasta's picture
shasta 2014 September 18

A search for this formula turned up photos of loaves that didn't look too diffrent from yours. Maybe slightly a few more holes but over all I think your really close. What improvemrnts would you like to see in your loaves?

The only thing I see as a possable issue is the long final ferment time or maybe a little less agressive when knocking out the air.

jesstaylor1603 2014 September 19

Great idea about the knocking back... I will try folding it more to keep the bubbles in. The long ferment time is the problem I think - it possibly over proved.

Thanks for the advice ... will let you know how the current batch does.

I read a few things on here and I also added some rye to my starter and it really got it going well. Let's hope that has helped too.



aroma 2014 September 18

Personally, I've never been a big fan of Paul Hollywood - I have some of his books but he seems to try to justify his status by making his recipes over-complicated.  I've read his sourdough recipes and passed them by.  If I were you, I'd try a simple recipe 


farinam's picture
farinam 2014 September 20

Hi jess,

If you have a read of SourDom's beginners blogs on this site, he gives a good simple recipe that I and many others have used to get off of their training wheels.  It is called Pane francesa and he gives a couple of versions, one of which is sure to suit but remember that practice makes perfect and you might need some minor adjustments to suit your ingredients and conditions.  And this applies to any recipe including the one that you have been struggling with.  Timings particularly are at best a guide and the best tool is a trained eye and hands.

Good luck with your projects.


mickharris 2014 October 2


You want your oven as hot as it goes. Your proving does sound too long to me.

I don't see any value in rye in your starter if you are not making a loaf containing rye. If it’s wheat loaf just a wheat starter, but make sure it’s a happy bubbly starter.

If it is a really wet dough then the loaf will be a low profile loaf, really not a problem. And yes, keep the bubbles in, don't knock back, be gentle as you shape. 

Sourdough gets tired, it uses up the available "food" and stops growing. The yeasts and bacteria use up the sugars. That is why it doesn't always make toast that looks good, the sugars give you the colour when you toast.

My gas oven isn't all that good. So I bake on a cast iron frying pan. It is an oven safe pan. I take is out of the oven and make it even hotter on the hob, smokingly hot. I slide my loaf on and put it in the oven. That gives me the oven burst I want. I often turn the oven right down for 5 minutes so the upper surface of the loaf doesn't harden too quickly allowing more of an oven burst. 

Another problem with a long proving time is the glutens are being digested. If you prove too long the dough gets stickier and the glutens get weaker.

I think Paul Hollywood is great. He has done a lot to get people baking. I am interested in his methods and opinions. There are better recipes out there.


Use lots of butter. Buy stoneground flour. Love your bread. Have fun. Experiment.

jesstaylor1603 2014 October 5

.... I haven't given up and have tried a few recipes now. I agree that Paul Hollywood has done a lot to get people baking and as I'm following new recipes there are lots of things that he has written that stick in my mind. You have to find your own rhythm I suppose. What with working and having an 11 month yr old, I am geting used to timings and putting it to rise in the fridge overnight!

I am now having issues with an only just cooked base. I cannot get my base to be as crunchy as the top. I have tried pizza stone, parchment on stone and all with steam. I wonder if the steam goes into the stone? As it is so porous and should never be washed I wondered if any steam was getting into the stone.

I have also made a Pain de Champagne, wgich uses yeast too. It tastes really good but I feel like a sourdough companion cheat!

Thanks again for all the hints and tips.Mickharris loads of technical things there that I didn't know - cheers.

Happy baking! J xx


Brent 2014 October 9
How is the bread making Jess? Mick has some excellent advice. From your comments I wonder if your bread is a bit too wet? Do you know the hydration? I'd agree that the final rise went for too long, I did that earlier this week, just got distracted with my son... The last house we lived had a crummy gas oven, and I had many bread disasters and I could never be certain what the problem(s) was: handling, yeast, over-proving, oven... So many variables. We moved house and I quickly figured out the problem. It was the oven. As for recipes, Dan Lepard is who I recommend. He has two very good books, both have clear instructions on handling dough. Short and Sweet has straight forward white bread recipes and The Handmade Loaf is absolutely lovely. You should be able to find the basic recipes online, though to read the handling techniques it might be better to try the library. Hope you persevere, Brent.

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