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Troubleshooting Sourdough Bread that Won’t Rise

August 06, 2020 4 min read

Troubleshooting Sourdough Bread that Won’t Rise

As delicious and satisfying as sourdough bread is, it takes patience and practice to bake a great loaf. Though there are many steps throughout the process that can go wrong, one of the most common issues is the failure for dough to rise properly. If you are experiencing sourdough rise trouble, there could be a variety of causes. From conducting a float test to ensuring the correct sourdough rise time, this guide covers many common mistakes, answering the popular question, “why won’t my sourdough bread rise?”

The Sourdough Starter

When it comes to achieving the perfect proof, it is essential the sourdough starter is well taken care of. The first step is to ensure it is properly stored. Though plastic containers can be used, starters tend to quickly overflow these types of containers. Instead, try housing the starter in a glass container to allow for ample growth and easier access to stir.

sourdough starter affects wild bread rise

If your starter fits comfortably within the container but you are still experiencing sourdough rise trouble, the next focus should be feeding the sourdough starter. For many, especially new bakers, maintaining the correct feeding schedule can be the most challenging part. If baking loaves regularly, the starter can be stored at room temperature and will need to be fed at least once every 12 hours to make sure it stays active.

For those baking only occasionally, the best method is to store the container in the refrigerator. When stored in a consistently cool place, feeding the sourdough starter becomes a once-a-week activity, rather than once every 12 hours. This broader feeding schedule will allow for more flexibility while keeping the starter in ready-to-bake condition.

sourdough starter float test troubleshoots sourdough bread that wont rise

The final step to ensuring the starter is in good health is using the float test. This should be conducted right before using the starter to make your dough. To test, simply drop a small amount of the starter into a cup of water. If the mixture is ready to be used, the dollop will float at the top of the glass. If the dollop sinks, your bread will likely not rise.

Proofing the Dough

Even with the starter being verified to be in good working condition, sourdough rise trouble may still occur. The next critical phase after the dough creation is the two proofing stages. Dough is particularly sensitive to changing temperatures during its rise. Even a draft within the kitchen could affect the process. Therefore, it is critical to maintain a consistent temperature during the entire sourdough rise time. The best way to combat fluctuating temperatures is using a banneton and your oven.

dough proofing for better soursough rising

Although there are specially made proofing boxes that fully cover the dough to create a consistent temperature, the ideal proofing environment can also be made readily at home. To make, simply place the dough into a banneton (also called a proofing basket). Next, place a warm, damp towel over the basket and place on the lower rack of the oven. If the house is kept cooler, try warming the oven slightly to give the dough a boost. Using a banneton in a slightly warm oven instead of the fridge or countertop will encourage the dough to rise in a timely manner.

The Perfect Timing

Speaking of timing, the last step to troubleshooting dough that will not rise is making sure you have allowed for the proper sourdough rise time.

perfect timing for the best rising dough in oven

Every dough requires a slightly different proofing time. The optimal proof to avoid any sourdough rise trouble is approximately 8 – 10 hours if proofing at room temperature. However, for those that opt not to use the proofing basket and oven technique or choose to proof their dough in a cool place, even 10 hours may not be enough. If the dough has not risen in 10 hours, all is not lost!

Sourdough rise time simply takes longer in cooler environments. Allow it a few more hours as the dough may simply be forming air bubbles more slowly. On the other hand, in environments above room temperature, the dough may rise faster. Keep a close eye on the dough as it may be ready in 6 – 8 hours and over proof if left for much longer.

troubleshooting sourdough bread that won't rise

Do not spend frustrating hours wondering why won’t my sourdough rise?Instead, carefully evaluate each step of the process and find the areas the learnings above can be applied. With these techniques and persistence, you will be baking the best sourdough bread in no time


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