Why is my bread so flat?


I have been usung the same starter for about 6 months but the las few months the loaves have gotten flatter.


I am using the 1-2-3 recipe and it works quite well.   I mix my bread as dry as I can, just enough to soak up the water, and it usualy has just a sheen to it when done and is very thick to mix with a spoon and is ready to sit over night.  It never requires all of the cup of water in the recipe to reach this stage.   I let it sit for 12 hours and I get a great rise out of it but it comes out looser than it used to.


I  use distilled water (1 cup maybe), King Arthur bread flour (3 cups), and 2 teaspoons of salt.


My starter is usualy pretty thick and almost always doubles in volume after feeding. I always split the mixture after feeding wheather it be for cooking or throwing half away.


It rises some when baking but not a bunch.  Pretty much what it looks like when put in oven to cook is what I get back.


I cook it in a big enamel pot where the bread does not touch the sides so the pot does not form the bread at all unless I miss the center when dropping it into the hot pot.


Always tastes great.

Yesterday I added Sesame seeds to the dough before baking and it was great.


Any help would be appreciated.




286 users have voted.


weelburt 2012 July 13

hello... if i understand it right, your starter is now 6 months old? starters produce certain acids and enzymes that "mellow" gluten in your dough system... over time, in your case 6 months, your starter should now have more acids and enzymes than the first few months. as a result, your breads are more flat than the first few months of the life of your starter.


to further explain: 1. gluten in the flour is responsible for the absorption of water, and the resulting dough is a dough functional/strong enough to retain the gases produced by the yeast. 2. when the gluten in the dough system is mellowed, the shape if the final product is affected by the fact that mellowed gluten slacks to the side. ergo, the bread flattens.


possible solution: 1. reduce the amount of the starter used. (for example: use 1/3, instead of 1/2?). :)

davo 2012 July 13

Well I reckon your answer is likely in your explanation of your approach to hydration. Making it as dry as possible is an odd objective. This just makes for a very stiff dough which will have little gas bubbles forming that will be much much harder to "blow up" than for a nice soft, extensible dough. The airiest loaves have high hydration. In high hydration, the soft elastic dough expands easily under the small pressure of gas produced by the bugs. The bugs in a hard dough are trying to pump up tractor tyres with a bike pump...


Now it is a compromise, because if it's very high hydration and you overprove it, it will end up flat anyway, but at least you gave it a chance. With a super stiff dough, it never gets that chance. BTW 12 hours is a long time unless it is at a temp well down in the 10-12 deg C range (at a guess), so if you need to let sit overnight, you might want to cool it by fridge retard or place in a cool box with a frozen bottle of water, or something. Maximum overall rise including oven spring will not occur after you have allowed proofing to extend to the maximum possible rise of dough before the oven - that dough will be overproved and will yield poor results.


How do you knead it after mixing? I think a good way of determining an OK degree of hydration is if you can do several french folds ("Slap and fold"). (Google if unclear.) If it is too stiff to take a number of such folds in succession without tearing or simply refusing to fold over itself, it's too stiff/dry (in my reckoning, anyway).

BonesD 2012 July 14

I have been mixing the final product the same since I started it as with a full 1 to 1 to 3 ratio(starter, water, flour), the resulting dough after mixing is extremley wet. Usualy I reduce the water by 1/4 or so. By the way the  starter used  varies from very stretchy to sloppy depending on wheather it was recently fed or coming out of the fridge after a week or 2 and seems to be about right acording to the instructions I started with.

The 1 2 3 recipe does not call for kneading. I simply remove it from the bowl after 11 to 12 hours, on to a floured surface. I wait this long because it is normaly still rising in the 11th hour. It comes out of the bowl very stretchy and full of air. Looks like something from a monster movie.  When it hits the board it flattens out quite a bit.   I then fold it over on itself and then again and then 1 more time.  At this point I pick it up and dance it around it my hands a couple times to form into a ball of some sort and then place it in large cereal bowl and it rests for 30 minutes before putting in the oven.  It will again flatten out at this point. It basicaly is the same shape when it is done as when it went in.

I just took one out of the oven that is about 3 inches tall and almost 8 inche's in diameter.   Am I asking to much?

I managed to add a picture of this loaf but it is at the bottom of my first post on this page. It is a beautiful golden brown top and bottom with a springy crust.

I added sesame seeds to one yesterday and it was delicous so I did it again this morning and hope it is the same.


I will try going back to more hydration and see what happens. As far as the rising time, I can't see shortening it if it is still activley rising.


I will also try reducing the amount of starter as welburt suggested. I will try these seperatly to hopefully be able to determine the results properly.




davo 2012 July 14

 Most recipes call for kneading or stretching/folding of some kind, so the gluten is well developed. I have read that is is less  important for HIGH hydration doughs, but people don't knead just for the fun of it - it gives better gluten development, which makes the dough extensible and allows the gas to be captured.


OK I see a different issue as well. Whatever rise you have got , you are largely shaping out of the dough just before baking. A sourdough that has been fed (as wehn mixed into a final bread dough) has only so much capacity to rise, as once the food goes there is no more gas to be produced. Most recipes allows for the dough to be mixed, then for there to be some proportion of the time before baking allowing an initial, partial rise (the "bulk ferment"). If the total time from mixing dough to baking is say 8 hours, the bulk ferment is usually around 3 hours and the period after shaping is 5 hours (give or take on those proportions). The reason is that if you do the loaf shaping right at the end, you are knocking out much of the gas, and there's no more to get in the dough.  Your dough on shaping I reckon should have only small bubbles in it and not deflate too much when handled/shaped into a loaf - there's your air that will potentially end up in your loaf disappearing right there.


If you need to leave overnight, you maybe need to either let go through that bulk ferment warm, then shape the loaves, then keep it a bit cool overnight (cold room in house, or fridge). If you use the fridge it really slows it down so it will require some warm time back out of the fridge to rise before baking. Or you retard in the fridge after 3 hour (ish) of bulk ferment, then shape the dough soon affter removing from fridge, and allow your final proof to occur after that.


I do see some recipes that allow only a short time after shaping before baking, and I have tried this but it doesn;t workl so well for me.


Just because it's still rising doesn't mean it is not overproved. You want the biggest overall rise including the oven spring. This does not e3quat to the biggest rise that is possible before it goes in the oven.

Panevino 2012 July 16

I let it sit for 12 hours and I get a great rise out of it but it comes out looser than it used to.


If you're getting a good first rise and a poor second rise/oven spring, it could be the sugar required for the final push is all used up.  Maybe add some malt or shorten you fermentation time, as already suggested.




My starter is usualy pretty thick and almost always doubles in volume after feeding. I always split the mixture after feeding wheather it be for cooking or throwing half away.


Not sure how you are feeding your storage culture from what you say, but simply splitting your starter and building it back to where it was before using it will likely kill your starter.  Slowly, but surely.  You might want to try an acid dump.  Throw away all but what clings to the jar and build it up from there.  (When I do this, I always keep some of what I toss in a separate container, just in case.  Once the "new" feed cultures proves itself, I throw away the insurance.)  Just a couple of thoughts.  Good luck.

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