My first efforts, not a huge success



Hello all,

I have started following the tutorials in Sourdom's beginners blog yesterday. Because I live in Bangladesh, if I want a decent bread, I will have to bake it myself. Which is what I've been doing for quite a while now. Although my baking mostly existed out of kneading basic ingredients together, give it time to rise and bake. And a lot of hoping the result would turn out ok. The breads have been pretty nice, mostly compared to what is available here ;). But I've discovered that there is a whole lot more to it and interested to learn.

Since my knowledge on baking bread is limited, I just started with the first tutorial on kneading. But I guess a lot went wrong and I would like some feedback.

First of all, the sponge didn't really look like a sponge. It was still very liquid after two hours. Which can't be the temperature because it's hot and humid here at the moment. It might be the yeast that's not effective enough?


After the first two kneads, the bread was still very, very sticky (left picture above). This made it very difficult to knead properly. The bread was constantly sticking to the surface I was kneading on. Turning it ninety degrees every time was almost impossible. So after kneading two times, I decided that I was adding some extra flour to make it easier to knead. The dough felt much nicer but it got tough, it didn't stretch as easy as I would have expected based on the descriptions (right picture above). I think the cause might have been the wet sponge? But I also think adding the extra flour was a mistake as my bread got really dense (a problem I have had in the pas as well)?


I still had some hope but the next problem occured during the 45 minutes where it was supposed to double in size. The pictures above show before and after. It clearly didn't double. Again, I do think lack of active yeast played a role? But I also wonder if the bowl I'm using is to wide? My only other option is a plastic container with walls straight up, maybe a bit to small for this quantity of dough as well.


The baking of course resulted in, well, not much! The bread was very flat, contained no air and the crust had become really hard. I would like some advice on if the yeast / sponge caused most of the problems along the way and if there are other things I should have done differently? I only have all purpose flower to bake with. No other options here either.

Thank you!

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farinam's picture
farinam 2012 August 8

Hello Gijs,

Can you clarifiy whether you are working with a sourdough starter or are you just using yeast?  Some details of your recipe would be good as well.

There are a couple of other points.  If your humidity is high, it is possible that the moisture content of your flour is also high and the effective hydration of your dough will be higher as a result but that should not stop you from making good bread.  But perhaps you could try reducing the water that you add to make your dough.  I know this might sound the same as adding extra flour, as you did, but the extra flour does not have the same chance to develop as the original flour and will affect the result .

The other thing is that the activity of your yeast/starter will be higher with the higher room temperature that you have and it is possible that your dough is over-proving in the time that you are allowing.  If you have access to a refrigerator, perhaps you could try doing your proving under cold conditions to see what the result of that is.

I understand that people make good bread with AP flour but if the protein level is particularly low, either due to the season/type of wheat or the age of the flour, then if you could get hold of some gluten flour and strengthen the flour that way it might help.

The other thing that comes into the equation is practice and sometimes, after a few more bakes, things 'come good' of their own accord, which is why I say, stick with it.

Keep on bakin'


Gijs 2012 August 8

It's my only chance to eat real bread, there is no way I will give up. It didn't taste as awful as it looked either. My second attempt is now in the oven and looking much better. There are still some issues to solve though. I will post a picture in an hour or so (or maybe a bit longer since we are having a power cut now)!

At this moment I'm using yeast and the, very basic, recipe is as follows: I've started with making a sponge: 1 tea spoon yeast, 50 ml water. Wait for ten minutes and add 50 ml water & 100 gram flower. After two hours, I've added 320 ml water and 500 gram flower. Mix, wait ten minutes. Knead briefly, wait ten minutes (3x). Wait 30 minutes, knead one more time. Wait 45 minutes, shape, roll in tea towel with flower. Wait 45 minutes, bake! The extensive description can be found here.

Thank you for the advice, very helpful. I will use a bit less water for the next loaf to see if the dough is less sticky. Will using more olive oil during kneading help as well? Or will that ruin the taste of the bread? I've used two tea spoons of yeast today and it worked really well. I'm kind of worried I killed the yeast yesterday with water that was to hot.

I've only prooved (that's the stage after shaping right?) for less then an hour. That shouldn't be to much? Also: how can I prevent it from spreading out? When I took it out of the tea towel and rolled it on the baking tray, it spread out. Creating a very flat bread. At least twice the size from yesterday and with more air, but the shape was still gone.

I have started my second attempt to a starter yesterday. I went wrong with feeding during the first one, I panicked a bit :-). But found this site with a very clear instruction so have good hope I'll be baking my first sourdough next weekend. Will get a picture together with the bread, I could probably use some advice on that as well!

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 August 9

Hello Gijs,

When you are using yeast, everything happens much faster because the yeast is pure and has been selected for high activity.  For yeasted bread, I would be mixing all ingredients at once and doing all my kneading right at the start (maybe 10 minutes of vigourous kneading) to develop the dough to the window stage.  Then leave to rise for an hour (possibly less with your higher temperature), then shaping and proving for 45 minutes (or less for you) then baking.

I am pretty sure you have been taking far too long for a yeasted bread at high temperature and the dough is well over-proved.  Working at a lower hydration will also help to hold the shape for a free form loaf.

When you get your sourdough going, then you will need to take longer with the dough development and proving.  As a guide, I would monitor your starter after feeding (and at the temperature that you will be working at) and note how long it takes to reach its maximum volume and to just start falling back.  That time is about how long your dough preparation should take from mixing to ready for the oven.

Let us know how you go.


Gijs 2012 August 9

I had to bake the bread in three stages yesterday, I got interrupted by two power cuts. I'm pretty sure this had an impact on the result since the bottom didn't become as hard as the top and it also smells a bit sour. But, it is already quite an improvement over the first attempt with this recipe. Breakfast was good this morning!


I will try making two breads tonight when I come home from work. Both with a lower hydration, one following the recipe and one following your instructions. Just to see the different outcomes.

As for my starter, it was bubbling pretty nice! It doesn't really increase in size yet (or not during the hours I've been watching it). But next weekend it will be more then a week old and I will make sure to check before baking with it. Should I change the hydration of the starter as well? The description uses 100% hydration.

Thank you for the advice Farinam!

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 August 9

Sounds like you are doing it tough over there what with hot weather, power failures etc.

When you shape your loaf, make sure that you get a nice smooth 'stretched' surface to the top of the loaf.  The lower hydration and well developed dough will help in achieving this.  It also looks as if your slashes are fairly deep, perhaps try to make them a bit shallower next time.  Also, it is generally recommended that you angle your blade so that the slash is undercut..  This helps to get the nice crispy browned lip or 'grigne' on the finished loaf.  Just a nicety and in no way essential.

The amount that your starter rises depends on a number of factors including hydration but 100% should be fine (most people probably use that or thereabouts).  It will depend on the steepness of the sides of the container that you have it in.  I keep my stock in a wide mouthed jar but when I am getting a starter ready for a loaf I take 90g of my stock into a 500ml pyrex measuring jug and feed it up with 45g flour and 45g water.  That usually gives a significant rise while in the stock jar the rise is not so great.  It has to do with the strength of the bubble walls and the distance across which they have to form a structure etc.

I think as long as your starter is bubbling along nicely and doesn't smell nasty, then you should be fine to use it some time soon.

Good luck with your projects.


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