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Jun 9, 2013 11:43 AM


I am at my wits end. I have been fiddling with my sourdough starter... feeding it... giving it lots of love and attempting to bake but my loaves are coming out SO HARD on the outside and still not fully done on the inside. I was attempting to use the no-knead technique to bake them..... for instance I mixed the starter, part of the flour & water the night before and allow it to rest on the counter. Then the next day I am adding the rest of the flour... allowing it to rise a few hours and then to knead it again and then shape the loaves.

I have preheated the oven to 500 with the crock..... put the bread in quickly with the lid on for 30 minutes... then take the lid off --- turning the heat down to 450 for 15 minutes and then after attempting to bake it for 15 more.... IT IS NOT WORKING!

I tried increasing the baking time by 1/2 hour in an attempt to get the middle cooked through but it does not work..... instead of having a nice crust..... IT IS SO HARD it's tough to cut it! and still not cooked through!


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  1. You say you are leaving it to rise for a few hours; is it actually rising? Doubling in size?

    I'm not sure what the underlying cause is but the problem is that the bread is not rising in the oven.

    I'm not that familiar with the no knead methods but aren't you supposed to let it rise after shaping the loaf and before it goes in the oven?

    3 Replies
    1. re: kengk

      Tomorrow I plan to leave it to rise once in the bowl after adding the final flour and then to shape and allow it to rise again.

      Do you ever allow it to rise on top of your just warmed oven after you've turned it off? Would that cause it to rise TOO fast?

      1. re: kengk

        Yes, 2nd rise before baking, definitely.

      2. I've found making AKNB with my sourdough starter to be tricky. What I can say is that I heat my DO in the oven until it reaches 500, then plop the bread dough in (lowering with parchment) and begin to bake at 425 for 25 min. lid on, 20-25 min lid off.
        Are you measuring the internal temps of your breads?

        2 Replies
        1. re: monavano

          What do you do your internal temp to?

          Also..... I'm assuming you just keep the thermometer in the bread while cooking but how does it not take the temperature of the crock? I was concerned that if part of the metal was touching the thermometer it would throw off the reading?

          1. re: prego_cook

            Temp = 210F

            I use an instaread thermometer when I take it out after the top-off bake. Usually within 2-3 degrees of done, but mostly spot on. You also look for that hollow "thump".

        2. What kind of flour are you using? Do you weigh your ingredients? Do you use an oven thermometer?

          6 Replies
          1. re: bcc

            I haven't been weighing my flour..... I was just measuring it out. Do you weigh it all? And I DID use a thermometer last week but it didn't seem to make a difference.... I think I brought it to 190 degrees... does that sound right?

            1. re: prego_cook

              I weigh everything, flour, water, salt, starter. I also use a firm starter, so my experience won't be quite the same as yours. There are two advantages to a firm starter. (1) It does not need daily care; (2) if it rises to 4 times its volume in 8 hours, you know it's ready to raise your dough. Whether the starter is wet or firm, sourdough yeasts and bacteria affect the gluten differently from the way baker's yeast does. Over-rising is more harmful to your bread's volume with sourdough than with yeast dough. For most doughs, if the weight of the total liquid is 60% to 70% of the weight of the total flour, you should have a successful bake, providing that your oven temperature is not off. I realize that I'm making it sound difficult, but once you get it to work, it's a breeze!

              1. re: bcc

                When you say you use a "firm starter"... do you mean that it's just stiffer or is that a specific kind of starter?

                If you wouldn't mind... I would be VERY interested in understanding your way of doing it if you can share. I really would love to try to get this. If you wouldn't mind.... I would LOVE it if you shared your weights & times for the recipe you use.

                I do have some bubbles when I feed my starter. I've been trying to get it really active so I've had it on the counter the last week and feeding it 1/2 cup flour --- 1/2 cup water to keep it happy. Do you only feed your starter right before you are going to bake or for a few days prior?


                1. re: prego_cook

                  Hi prego,

                  I had baked occasional breads from cookbooks as diverse as Fanny Farmer and Elizabeth David, but I feel that I really learned what I was doing when I got Maggie Glezer's "A Blessing of Bread." I jumped right into sourdough baking following her instructions. Glezer favors a "firm" starter. This means that the starter is firm and can be kneaded. The firm starter does not need regular maintenance. When you want to bake, you have to bring your starter, which has been staying dormant in your refrigerator, up to speed. This can take anywhere from one day to two weeks, depending on how long it's been since the starter was last refreshed. It usually takes me two or three days. If you use a pyrex measuring cup for refreshing your starter, you can easily see the change in volume. If volume of starter you have mixed up reaches the 2 ounce line just after mixing, and then reaches the 8 oz line 8 hours later, your starter is active enough to raise bread.
                  So how do you get such a starter? Glezer allowed her method to be posted online. Note that it also includes directions for converting a batter-type starter to a firm starter. Here it is:
                  The bread I make most often is an adaptation of Glezer's recipe for Pan Horiadaki, Daily Bread in Greek.

                  175 grams refreshed starter
                  875 grams flour
                  595 grams water
                  20 grams salt

                  I use various flours mixed together. The largest component is what is called here Ruchmehl. This is something between white flour and whole wheat flour. I don't know the percentage of milling that takes place. I also add whte flour, bread flour, and/or rye flour.
                  I mix the flours and water and let the mixture hydrate, covered. Then I knead (in my Kitchenaid) for two minutes or so, mix in the starter and knead, then the salt and knead further, until it looks done. Some do the window-pane test, but you can only do that when your dough is primarily made of hard wheat (i.e, bread) flour. I keep the bread flour in my doughs to a minimum because I think that the other flours give a tastier bread.
                  I let the dough rise, covered, for two hours; fold twice; rise again for one hour; fold, shape and put into oiled tins. I put
                  the tins in a plastic bag, seal it, and let the loaves rise for 5 hours. Then I bake them at 200°C / 390°F for 55 minutes. When they're done, I let them cool for a good 6 hours (or more). One goes in the freezer.

                  Since mastering this bread I have branched out to recipes from Peter Reinhart and others. I especially like the rye bread recipes in Jeffrey Hamelman's "Bread" from King Arthur flour.

                  I hope that this hasn't been too long and wordy.

                  1. re: bcc

                    THANK YOU SO MUCH! AMAZON here I come! I don't know that I can find the flours here but I can bring them back with me..... (we live overseas)

                    This has been a little frustrating and challenging all at the same time because I bake ALL the time and I *love* to experiment to find which recipe I prefer whenever I do this kind of thing.... I'll take cookie recipes and make 3 different ones to compare etc.... and I have a seasonal business in our community around the holidays etc.....

                    This sourdough just has me at a loss because I KNOW what it should taste like... look like and I've been experimenting for 3 weeks now and not ONE time has it been "perfect"..... Grrrr! It has become my nemesis!

                    I am going to be in Denver this summer so I was thinking about trying to get with someone who has it mastered and see if I could bake with them one day...... anyway while i was starting that search I happened upon this blog and it looks like what you are talking about..... is this what the stiff starter looks like?


                    AND THANKS AGAIN FOR YOUR METICULOUS NOTES... I am copy/pasting them and will try that if i can figure out how to get the firm starter going..........

                    I have Peter Reinhart's book CRUST & CRUMB.... i will have to spend some time in it too.

                    1. re: prego_cook

                      You can order flour from King Arthur, but you may well be happier with something you find locally. My hard wheat flour comes from the States, but most of the flour I use is local, Swiss Bio (organic) flour. It gives a much tastier bread.

                      Let me know how it works out.

          2. I was using 1 cup starter + 1-1/4 water + 1-1/2 cups AP flour leave that overnight.... then tomorrow I'll add 2 tsp salt and flour until it gets to consistency.

            Also.... I am trying to get the sourdough to WORK at this point and I am admittedly cheating a little and adding 1/2 tsp yeast just to get the RECIPE RIGHT first. Then I'll play around with it once I know I can get it to work.

            So what I tried yesterday was (after allowing the initial ingredients to rest overnight) I added the rest of the flour and - kneaded it and allowed it to rise for 2 hours. in parchment in a small bowl. Then I preheated the crock with its lid to 500 ---- quickly lifted out the parchment/bread and cooked 1/2 hour with the lid on.... 15 minutes at 450 with lid off.... and then since I'd had the middle not done before I lengthened the time to 1/2 hour and kept the lid on.

            Taste would be good if I can get the middle cooked and the outside to not be rock hard....

            I'm considering just free form baking it on a stone tomorrow instead.

            What do you suggest for time + temp?

            I always have a bowl of water underneath and then thrown some cold water on the bottom of the oven to give it a little steam at the beginning for the crust when I bake bread that way........

            ** don't cast me out for using a little yeast.... I'm a total beginner and it's my crutch - i LOVE to bake artisan breads and sourdough is just my nemesis **

            **** also we live overseas so it's past midnight here -- so I might not respond until the morning but I am OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS!!!! ****

            1 Reply
            1. re: prego_cook

              I don't think time or temp is your problem. If your sourdough isn't very active and you only added a half teaspoon of yeast, I doubt it is rising enough in two hours.

              It needs to at least double in size. If it's not, that's your problem.

            2. I always have a bowl of water underneath and then thrown some cold water on the bottom of the oven to give it a little steam at the beginning for the crust when I bake bread that way........
              I think this is your problem. Sourdough starter dough is wet. Try it at lower temps, no water on the bottom, it'll give off steam in the lid-on portion of the program.

              4 Replies
              1. re: monavano

                I agree. The minute I read "I always have a bowl of water underneath..." I thought aha! Think that might be the problem. I've tried using a pan of water in with the bread in the past, any kind of bread, and the crust becomes quite a bit harder than it would without the water pan.

                Peter Reinhart, Artisan Breads Every Day, says " only need steam for about 5 minutes; after that it has done its job and it's better to let the oven dry out. Too much moisture in the oven after the steam phase delays caramelization of the crust, making it thicker and chewier."

                1. re: ePressureCooker

                  but.... i have only done that with regular bread........ with my sourdough - i've been using the no-knead method. heat the crock to 500 for 1/2 hour then put the dough in at 500 with lid on for 1/2 hour... lid off for 15 and then continue baking 15 minutes......

                  so at first i tried the regular no knead where the dough is really pretty wet.... yeah... that didn't work so great. then i did a little research and had seen people allowing it to rise in the parchment paper which then makes it easy to place it in the EXTREMELY hot crock and place the lid over.... but then my middle STILL wasn't getting done so i tried to bake it a little longer with the lid on.... and in doing so - the outside went from nice and *crusty* to so HARD to cut through and the middle still not done.

                  i'm thinking instead of trying to wing the measurements.... i really need to just find SOMEONE who has had success. i want those nice holes and textures......... i'm a "seasoned" baker.... not professional by any means but i'm no Fraidy Cat and i'm willing to do the research.... but right now i am overwhelmed by too many websites saying different things......

                  i could just use a little teeny hand holding and then i promise to step away from the yeast.


                  1. re: prego_cook

                    Oh OK, it sounded like from your post above that you were using the water bath with your sourdough.

                    And just as an aside, no one is, or should, chastize you for supplementing with a little yeast. Who cares? Whatever works.

                    Yeah, there is a lot of contradictory advice out there, but playing around with measurements can also be a recipe for disaster. Can I make a suggestion? I'm about to go to bed and don't have time to look for you, but see if you can find a recipe online from Peter Reinhart's "Artisan Bread Every Day" - there's not much kneading, and he uses the refrigerator to do most of the fermentation, so the recipes in that particular cookbook are probably along the lines of what you want to do.

                    See if you can find one of his recipes online. He also has videos on YouTube. And if it still doesn't work, he's got a website where I believe you can contact him and ask questions. I've never used one of those crocks, perhaps he could give you some guidance on that score as well.

                  2. re: ePressureCooker

                    I have also wondered about the bowl of water being in there the entire time with regular bread and i think i will now change my tactic and just throw in a little cool water at the beginning for the steam effect and forgo the bowl after your comment. THANK YOU! these are the kind of tips i need! I LOVE chowhound cooks!