Are you a sourdough enthusiast who’s been struggling with flat, dense loaves? It’s a common problem that many bakers face, but don’t worry; you’re not alone!
Sourdough baking is an art that requires precision and patience, and there are numerous factors that can impact the rise of your sourdough bread during baking.
But fear not! Understanding the science behind sourdough fermentation and learning some handy troubleshooting tips can help you get the perfect rise every time.
Today we’ll explore some of the common reasons why your sourdough may not be rising during baking and provide you with practical solutions to help you achieve beautifully risen loaves. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get ready to bake!
How To Fix Sourdough Bread Not Rising In The Oven?
There are many reasons why your sourdough does not rise in the oven, but the short answer is that the yeast is exhausted when they reach the oven.
Retrace your steps and pinpoint the problem. You should consider starter strength, fermentation, scoring, and shaping.
There’s a good chance that if your bread does not rise at all in the oven, it’s because you have over-fermented and over-proofed the dough, so all the yeast’s energy has been used up.
You’re likely facing the following problems, and here’s how you can resolve them:
1. Over Fermented Dough
Over fermented sourdough develops a sticky pool of liquid caused by the breakdown of gluten. You can’t go back from this point, and your dough won’t rise when baked.
Therefore, all your effort to make your sourdough will seem pointless. You may feel that you have wasted all that time, but you have the perfect opportunity to learn from it and do better in the future.
It’s easy for sourdough to over ferment if you leave it too long, so check it frequently and time it correctly to avoid regrets.
You are unlikely to ruin your sourdough unless you completely misjudge the temperature or forget about it.
Here’s How You Can Tell If Your Dough Has Been Proofed
The problem with proofing dough is that it’s hard to know when it’s ready to bake. Unless you are very familiar with sourdough, you will likely bake it under or overproof if you don’t know when it’s ready.
You can determine whether your sourdough is proofed or not by performing the poke test (or finger dent test). To do this simple test, poke your finger into the proofing dough and observe the result.
You can learn more about the test in this video:
2. Weak Sourdough Starter
You may make this mistake if you are eager to make sourdough bread after cultivating your starter.
Getting a sourdough starter to its full potential (to become very strong) may take weeks or even months for some. Your starter may work after a week, but it’s unlikely that it’s strong enough to rise your dough effectively if you’re using it after only a week.
The key to making sourdough bread is patience, regardless of how hard it might be to wait after creating your starter. It’s just a matter of waiting for your starter to signal that it’s ready to make sourdough.
You Can Tell If Your Starter Is Strong By Looking For These Signs
You should expect your sourdough starter to double, or even triple in size before using it. Even though this is a good sign, don’t immediately throw the starter in even though it’s a good sign.
Each time you feed your starter, you want to see it rise and fall over a period of 4-12 hours. The fact that your starter can do this consistently indicates that it can rise the dough.
3. Your Oven Wasn’t Hot Enough
The key to getting a good oven spring is to have a hot oven. Your dough will start rising rapidly as soon as it is contacted by high heat.
Without a high enough oven temperature, the oven spring will take much longer, causing the crust to set before it has a chance to rise fully.
Preheating an oven too little or letting too much heat escape when loading it are two of the most common mistakes people make. The solution to this problem is very simple, despite its severity.
Solution: Preheat It Higher Than You Think
Using high heat when making crusty bread, such as sourdough, is crucial. Your oven should be set to a higher temperature to create more steam, raise the dough faster, and develop a crisp crust on the bread.
In order to ensure the dough rises as much as possible during the first stage of baking, you need to heat the oven as much as possible.
If you want your crust not to brown too quickly, simply lower the temperature once the dough has sufficiently risen.
Remember that your oven’s thermostat may be off, preventing it from preheating to the right temperature. If you want to be sure you are baking at the correct temperature, you need to check what temperature your oven is actually reaching.
4. You Didn’t Use The Starter To Its Full Potential
Timing is crucial when making sourdough bread. Identify when the bulk fermentation is complete, when the dough has been proofed and is ready to bake, and when your sourdough starter is at its peak.
Unless you know when your sourdough starter is ready, you risk ruining it. You need to use the starter during its peak to get the best rise from your sourdough.
As a result, the results are optimal since you get a maximum rise. A dough that is used too early or too late will not rise as well as one that is used correctly.
Using Your Starter At The Right Time Is The Key To Success
It’s easy to use your starter too young or too mature if you haven’t researched when it’s best to use it. A sweet spot exists between being too young and too mature, where the starter has fully risen and is just beginning to dip. It is called the “starter’s peak”.
This is the time when the starter has finished eating all of its food, so it begins to dip. Mixing it into the dough just as it runs out of food is ideally the best time to use it because you can provide it with more food at this moment.
5. There Was A Lack Of Surface Tension
Your dough won’t bake properly if it isn’t strong enough. You can’t make a well-shaped sourdough loaf without using the right shaping technique.
If you want your dough to hold its shape, you must start building surface tension on it. The alveoli will remain in good shape as they rise upwards rather than spreading out and losing their structure.
Solution: Tighten The Dough Surface
Once the dough has been turned out of the banneton, it should hold its shape much longer if the gluten is tightened on the surface.
To do this, fold the dough over on itself so that it produces a smooth surface before placing it in the panneton seam side up.
Here is a video showing one of the methods for shaping sourdough.
6. You Didn’t Utilize Steam
You should use plenty of steam to ensure that your bread gets as much oven spring as possible. In the absence of steam, your bread’s crust will form too fast, preventing it from rising.
Steam gives the dough more elasticity and prevents it from crusting too quickly by gelatinizing its exterior. You can make a taller and nicer loaf of bread by allowing the dough to rise more before the crust forms.
It’s a good idea to begin steaming your sourdough loaves yourself if you want to get extra oven springs. Don’t let it intimidate you.
Solution: Create Plenty Of Steam
Steam improves the spring of the oven, so not using it will limit the rise of your bread. The addition of steam to an oven is relatively easy, and almost anyone can do it. In most ovens, adding steam isn’t difficult.
In a lidded Dutch oven, steam is trapped around the bread so it can rise, then the lid is removed so that the crust can form, and the bread is ready to be served.
Another method is to pour boiling water (or ice-cold water) into a ripping hot, thick pan. It does a great job as well. Obviously, other methods of creating steam exist, but most aren’t as effective as these two.
7. You Didn’t Score Deep Enough
Sourdough may have a limited rising potential if its surface is tight and its score is too shallow.
There will either be unwanted bursts of dough, or there won’t be any bursts but there will be limited oven spring.
It won’t allow the dough to burst out as it should if you don’t score it deep enough, so the oven spring will be limited.
Solution: Develop A Better Scoring Technique
Scoring the dough is essential to avoid blowouts and ugly results when you bake bread. Learning how to score sourdough properly is essential if you want it to look good.
You should use the right blade and score about 1/2 inch deep to achieve great results. It’s important not to score the dough too shallow, or it may stick back together, but you also don’t want to score too deep, or it will deflate too much.
It can be tricky to get it right consistently, so find out what depth suits you and use the right tool. If you need blades, the best would be a bread lame or a very sharp knife. Sharper knives are better because they allow you to cut through dough easily.
8. A Lack Of Gluten Development
Your bread needs gluten if you want it to have any structure. Bread is literally built on it, so without it you won’t be able to achieve anything good.
You want to maximize gluten development in your bread to get the most rise. It can either be done with a lot of physical kneading, with time, or with a combination of both.
By the time the gluten is fully developed, it will be able to maintain its shape, contain the gases much more easily, and have more oven spring.
Solution: Use The Right Techniques To Maximize Gluten Development
Your flour or the techniques you use are likely the cause of a poorly developed gluten network. Start by identifying how much protein is in your flour if you’re struggling.
A flour’s protein content should be over 12 grams per 100 grams for best results. This is best done with bread flour. You should also consider your kneading technique.
To assist gluten development, you might start with an autolyze, followed by stretching and folding, slapping and folding, rubaud kneading, etc. Whatever method you choose, the dough must be elastic and not easily tear able.
Additional Tips For A Better Rise
You can improve your sourdough-making skills even more by following these tips:
Score At A Shallow Angle
For the best results, score your loaf at a 45-degree angle. You may get less oven spring if you score at a steeper angle because the dough expands in a flat V shape.
The dough expands more and develops an ear when you score shallower. In the case of a decorative loaf, scoring at a shallow angle is not necessary.
Dampen The Surface Of The Dough Before Baking
Before you put the dough in the oven, lightly brush it with water to help it gelatinize, which helps it expand more and delays crust formation.
Use A Proofing Box
You can maintain a constant temperature for the dough with a proofing box. This method lets you know when your dough is almost proofed.
Microwaves and ovens can replicate these results, but they’re not as accurate as they should be.
Be Very Gentle
When handling sourdough, especially after it’s proofed, you should be very gentle so that you don’t compress too much air out of it.
Don’t press too hard on it or throw it around too much, or you’ll release some of the gas. To score it, gently remove it from the banneton and apply little pressure.
In conclusion, baking sourdough bread is a true art that requires patience, persistence, and understanding of the various factors that impact the rise of your dough during baking.
From the quality of your starter to the hydration level of your dough, there are numerous variables that can influence the outcome of your bread.
However, armed with the knowledge and troubleshooting tips that we’ve shared in this article, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle any sourdough challenge that comes your way.
Don’t let a flat loaf discourage you— keep experimenting, keep learning, and keep striving for that perfect rise!
With practice, you’ll be able to whip up fluffier, airier, and more delectable sourdough bread that you and your loved ones will enjoy for years to come.