Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Sourdough Failure - Help Required

I am failing at making sourdough and I have no idea why.  I have a theory but let me give you some back ground.
I made my starter and it was everything that the various websites said it should be.
Starter bubbling away
And the first couple of times I used my starter I made semi-leaven bred ie it still had a small amount of yeast in it but the finished bread has the taste of sourdough.

Semi-leaven dough risen nicely
So then I decided it was time to move onto a pure sourdough.  We were going out for a BBQ lunch so I thought rolls would be nice.  After making a successful sponge with starter, water and flour I added the rest of the flour, shaped the rolls and waited for it to prove.  And I waited, and waited and waited and nothing.  Nope, nada, zip.
And after much waiting I figured they would not rise more than the tiny amount they had so I baked.  They rose a bit more but hardly.  And once out of the oven it was plain to see I had made some sourdough rocks.

The sourdough rocks
Not to be put off by my previous attempt I figured another try was required but this time I followed a wholegrain recipe that the writer said they could make over a 24 hr period.
So I made my starter sponge. All going well so far.

Starter Sponge
And I gave it plenty of time to develop.  Then I mixed it into the other ingredients gave it a good knead, shaped it and left it to prove. 
The dry mix
Shaped ready to prove.
This is the end result but I must tell you this took 48 hours not the 24 hours it should have and it is still a dense un-risen loaf that I now feel obliged to eat.

So now for my theory.  I do not think that my starter is strong enough do do it's thing. But really I have no idea.
I live in a warm climate so now that the days are around the 30 degree mark, and I only want to make bread once a week.  I keep the starter in the fridge which I believe from what I have read to be ok.
I am looking for some guidance here so to help you all make some recommendations here are some other things that might help with suggestions.

  • We have tank water so chlorine is not an issue.
  • I get the starter out of the fridge and feed it the day before I want to use it.
  • Our home is not super sterile
  • I am using bread flour

So if you can help me with this I would be very grateful.


  1. can't help, yet to try this myself, but hope you keep trying to work it out and don't get put off....

  2. Fiona have a look here:


    I'd love to know how you get on.

  3. I wish I knew how to help - sourdough is on my wish list - but from what I read it was tedious and time consuming just to make the starter. good luck I hope you have some success.

  4. Hi Fiona, now I'm no sourdough expert so I'm just throwing in suggestions also I've not used a sponge to make bread with yet. I don't think its uncommon for first loaves to be bricks. You'll just have to keep at it getting to know your starter and how long you have to let it rest and prove.
    I would be inclined to follow one basic white bread recipe until you have mastered it. You can then try adding other types of flour and grains in small percentages. Using wholemeal and grain etc will have an effect on the dough and how much liquid you need to add.

    Also I wonder if you would have more success giving your starter two small feeds before using it. Take it out in the morning feed it then later in the day give it another feed. Perhaps then make your dough later that night or the next day.

    When I bake I'll take the starter out before in the evening, feed it, the make the dough the next morning, lightly knead or fold it a few times over a two hour period, then let it rest for 4 - 5 hours, sometimes longer, shape it then prove for 1 1/2 to 2 hours before baking.

    This seems to work for me.
    Don't give up :)

  5. I use Lisa's method, pretty nearly - feed in the evening, make dough in the morning, (but I only knead once, and not much), rest for the day (about 9 hours), knock down, shape and prove for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, bake. I had a look at the link Rose provided - what a treasuretrove of tips! Your starter looks good in the picture, nice and lively, but it seems like that must be the problem. I think I was really lucky and was given a really strong starter in the beginning. I think I'd spend a few days and a few cups of flour strengthening up the starter - feeding it, proving for 12 hours or so, discarding half (or using for pikelets), feeding again. Then try making a mini-loaf of white bread just to see if it rises nicely before using it. Bit of a waste of flour, but once you get it strong, you should be away.


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