Very Long Proof


When making a white sourdough, I usually have to bulk proof for 6 hours, shape the loaf, then proof for another 4-5 hours before placing it in the fridge to retard. After taking it out of the fridge, I usually leave it out for a few more hours while heating up the oven.

I am finding my white sourdough is still slightly underproofed. This is with a 10+ hours total proof time, plus 8 hours of retardation in the fridge! The temperature here over the past few days has been over 20 degrees Celcius. One thing I have noticed, when I make a millers loaf (combination of white, rye and wholemeal flour), my proof times are far shorter and the loaf continues to grow while retarding. I can bake this straight out of the fridge (I do the poke test). I always thought white sourdough was suppose to proof quicker?

The bread is tasty and the crumb is good, it's just my white loaves still occasionally blow out at the slashes and the shape distorts (particularly the bottom). With my millers loaf, this doesn't happen.

Once my loaf finishes baking, I will post pictures.

342 users have voted.


benh 2010 October 27


Okay, turned out pretty good! Slightly banana shaped. It could also be the fact that my oven is fan-forced (and with no option to turn it off). Maybe the side closest to the fan is far hotter than the other? Still doesn't explain why only my white sourdough does this.



You can kind of see in this photo how the bottom isn't very flat.

Do white loaves usually proof slower?

Smells good. Can't wait to try it.

mlucas 2010 October 27

That is some of the best oven spring I've seen!! Don't complain about the bottom not being flat, that's what you want!

What temp do you use in your oven? Do you use steam? What is the crumb like?

20 C is only 68 F, whereas a lot of recipes call for proofing around 74F (23C), so maybe that's why the proof is longer. I'm not sure the bread in the picture is underproofed though, it looks pretty good.  Note for that shape of loaf (batard / football) you might want to try lengthwise slashes, either two that overlap in the middle, or one long one all the way down.

Rye and whole wheat do provide more "food" for the yeast so that could explain the shorter proofs with those. If you want to speed of proofing with the white sourdough, maybe try using more starter in the dough recipe, or you could try to proof in a wamer spot.

Happy baking!

rossnroller 2010 October 27

Good looking loaf!

Re your proof times: they do seem excessive.

You live in Perth, I think, like me? Lately, our temps have been close to ideal in bread terms, and I have reduced my winter proof times considerably. eg: My most recent bake was a pain au levain with a bulk proof of 2 hours, and a final proof consisting only of an overnight retarding period of 8 hours in the fridge. I baked straight out of the fridge.

Might be worth posting the recipes you're using that are requiring such long proof times.

Also, how are you shaping your batards, I wonder? Are you de-gassing gently beforehand? Have you tried a same-day bake, or shaping after retarding in the fridge overnight? Might be interesting to try a few variations like that to compare the results.

Whatever, I wouldn't be too concerned - your bread is turning out pretty well going by your pics.


benh 2010 October 27

My baking times:

15 minutes @ 250 degrees Celsius
Turn the loaf around and bake for 10 minutes
Another 10 minutes @ 240 degrees Celsius

I bake on a pizza stone with a baking tray underneath, where I pour boiling water before placing the loaf in the oven (for steam). After placing the loaf in the oven, I spray with water for the first 10 seconds.

The crumb is quite open and has lots of air pockets which is surprising for a loaf with low hydration.




Flour - 380g
Water - 200g
Starter (100% hydration) - 200g
Salt - 10g

I was slashing my loaf from top to bottom but decided to try something different this time.

Maybe my starter is simply not active enough? Usually it stays in the fridge and I pull it out a few days before baking. I keep 100g of my existing starter (I throw away the rest), feed it at 1pm, and some more at 9pm. The following morning I feed it at 7am and make up the dough before lunch time. I let it proof for the day, retard that night, then bake the next morning.

I usually do 2 knock backs during the bulk proof.

So I could just skip the retardation and throw it in the oven that night?

rossnroller 2010 October 27

...shaping and doing a final proof next day? Not saying this is better or worse, but it's always interesting to experiment and see what the result is.

Why do you do two knockbacks during the bulk proof? Most recipes only call for a couple of stretch and folds. Maybe knocking back is extending your time the dough needs for the BP? Just a thought.

Hopefully, others will have some more ideas for you...


PS: Another good pic!

benh 2010 October 28

Stretch and folds and knock backs are the same thing, right? Maybe I'm knocking all the air out of my dough. In the book 'Bourke Street Bakery' it recommended one or two so that's what I've always done.


I'm going to do only one next time and be very very gentle.

rossnroller 2010 October 28


Stretch and folds and knock backs are the same thing, right?[/quote]

No. Knock backs are when you punch the dough down to degas it completely. S&Fs - well, I've explained this before and referred you to a demo by Peter Reinhart. Do a search on YouTube if you don't remember.

I think gentle S&Fs are the way to go, but one way to find out - give it a try.

benh 2010 October 30

This time I did two stretch and folds instead of knocking back the dough. Instead of bulk proofing for 6 hours, I did it for 5. After shaping I left it out for about 3 hours before putting it in the fridge and baking the following morning. Before baking, I left the dough at room temperature while the oven was warming up. So my overall  proof time was under 10 hours this time and my loaf was about the same, minus any blowouts.




Still a few things to try to get the proofing time down, but overall I'm happy with it.

benh 2010 December 6

This is driving me crazy. I cannot for the life of me bake consistently shaped bread (as many of you have seen from my previous posts). I've tried skipping retardation and baking straight after the final proof. This week I thought I'd keep my starter at room temperature and feed it everyday, instead of refrigerating it. My oven spring is out of control! Today I thought I'd drop the temperature by 10 degrees Celsius (240 instead of 250) to see if that made a difference. Is my fan-forced oven the culprit? Unfortunately it cannot be turned off.

Same recipe:

405g white starter (100% hydration)

765g bread flour (Wallaby)

400g water 20g sea salt

Makes two loaves.

Heated the oven up to 250 degrees Celsius. Loaded the bread in and turned it down to 240 degrees and baked for 15 minutes (I also give it a quick spray). Turned the loaf around and baked for another 15 minutes. Lowered the temperature to 230 degrees for the last 10 minutes.

I've been making notes religiously every bake.

Today: 9AM - Mixed flour, starter and water. Autopsy for 20 minutes. Add salt and kneaded quickly for 5 minutes or so.

9:30 - Bulk fermentation for 4 hours. Temperature was 25 degrees Celsius. 2 stretch and folds during this period.

1:30PM - Bulk fermentation finished (nearly doubled in sized), divided dough into two loaves and shaped into a ball. Let sit for 20 minutes.

1:50 - Shaped loaves and placed in banneton.

2-3:30 - Final proof for first loaf.

2-5:10 - Final proof for second loaf. (Temperature was around 26 degrees Celsius in my garage, where the final proof took place. Second loaf spent it's last hour at about 24 degrees.)


First loaf

Second loaf

Does my sufficient proofing (at warm temperatures) suggest my shaping is crap? I'm going by the book, which has pictures and instructions on shaping a batard, and I'm doing exactly what the book tells me. I've also tried shaping according to the Northwest Sourdough video (YouTube video). I even have purposely overproofed my bread, and it turns out flat (as expected). Does it still appear to be underproofing? The proof time and temperature just seem so excessive. I have such great difficulty getting in between underproofed and overproofed.

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2010 December 6

 I think the first loaf looks like it had to much oven spring and maybe under proofed.  The second one looks wonderful to me.  Are you steaming your oven or covering them with a pot during the first part of the bake?  The bread will expand more in a humid oven during the first part of the bake.  That is why you will see people say that they steam their ovens.  The one quick spray might not be enough steam.  Try cooking the bread under a pot or bowl for the bake except the last 10 to 15 minutes might help with the steaming and the fan in your oven.

benh 2010 December 17

 What has me stumped, is that I can proof a loaf for 10+ hours (plus overnight retardation), load it in the oven overproofed (flat and deflated, no spring back in poke test), and it will still blow out. I think I might try 15-20 hours and see what happens.

rossnroller 2010 December 19

There's something very whacko going on, Ben, and I can't work out what it could be. I can say that if you are baking in typical current Perth non-air-conditioned ambient temperatures (ie: 27C or so), as I am, there is no way you need a bulk proof of 10 hours, and any longer than that is just ludicrous.

Instead of extending your bulk proof even further to 20 hours (!!), why not try reducing it and just see what happens.

Because of the warmer temperatures here, recently I have had to reduce my room temperature bulk proof to under 2 hours, followed by a final proof overnight in the fridge, and baking straight out of the fridge next morning. I baked a bread this morning with a BP of only 1 hour 40 minutes the night before, and it came out fine.

I don't know what recipe you're using, but I assume it's a Bourke St Bakery one, which I imagine follows a fairly standard procedure. Unless there is something very unusual about the recipe you're using, a 2 hour BP should be ample in Perth's current conditions.

It's great that you've continued to experiment to try to resolve your slash-burst issues, but I think it's time to go back to basics and start from there. Pushing your BP duration further and further out as the weather gets warmer and warmer just doesn't make sense.

In summary, there just HAS to be something else that is amiss, but until someone can put their finger on whatever it is, my sense is that you need to get back to a more ambient-temperature-appropriate BP and go from there.



LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2010 December 20

 It is possible that your yeast and bacteria are not in balance.  The bacteria make the acid that weakens the gluten and the loaf ends up being flat.  The yeast do the expanding of the dough by making CO2 but it is possible that your yeast are few and far between or they are weak.  I could see something along these lines as being your problem but I'm not sure.


TheMadScientist 2011 November 27

If I was you, I would proove in the oven between 97 and 100 degrees F.

You will find you only need 1 proving time at that temp.


After I mix my dough in the mixer for 10 minutes, I shape it into a ball and make sure

there is enough surface tension on the ball to where to skin of it is very smooth.

I then place it in the oven in a slightly oiled non stick bread mold and proove untill double

or 2.5 times the size (usually about 40 - 60 minutes. I also make sure the catch pan in the bottom

of the oven has water in it so my prooving oven is VERY humid! Once it has grown to the size i desire,

I then take it out, score the tops with diaginal slashes after sprinkeling it with flower on the top.

I then rush it over to the oven with I have set the temp to 320 Degrees F on the bottom of the oven

and the top of the oven is off. I let it bake for 30 minutes then turn down the oven to 300 Degrees F.


I get some amazingly fluffy bread from this and my crust is wonderful!


Here is the Recipe:


400g of flour

200g of white bread flour starter.

4 tables spoons of sugar

2 teaspoons of salt

400 - 425 ml of very warm water (130 Degress F)


Make sure the dough is still sticky, almost to the point where it's almost not going to stick to your fingers

but still does. After you finish mixing it, flour your hands, scoop it out of the mixer bowl, throw it into some flour,

make sure it's lightly floured on all sides. the proove as stated above.


Sourdough Onion Bread:



This works wonders for me and I get some amazing bread that is almost ( I hate to say this) - compairable to dempsters!




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