Sourdough baking can be a rewarding but challenging process. Here are five of the most common challenges people face when it comes to sourdough baking. And believe me, I had them too in my 11+ practice of baking with sourdough. But I didn’t give up, so neither should you.
Let’s face these challenges together and overcome them too.
1. Starter Troubles: Creating and maintaining a healthy sourdough starter can be tricky. Starters can become too watery or too thick, develop an unpleasant odour, or fail to rise.
That’s why I always say, keep it on the thick side. It’s the safe side J When your starter is in perfect shape, everything else will fall into place too. If you want a truly great starter with a pedigree, you can buy my Rudl here.
2. Inconsistent Rising: Sourdough bread relies on natural yeast and lactic acid bacteria for rising. Achieving a consistent rise can be challenging, especially if the room temperature varies.
When your starter performs well, so will your dough. The temperatures affect the rise. The higher they are, the faster the rise, and vice versa. Optimum temperature is 21-25 degrees Celsius (70-77 F).
3. Overproofing or Underproofing: Finding the right proofing time is crucial. Overproofing can lead to a dense, flat loaf, while underproofing results in a compact crumb structure.
I’ve noticed that more than often people tend to underproof their bread/dough. So the crumb is dense, lacks flavour, and has inconsistent holes distributed over the crumb. Overproofed loaves tend to lose their shape, perhaps even get a big hole under the crust due to gluten collapsing.
4. Dough Handling: Sourdough dough is typically stickier and less elastic than dough made with commercial yeast. Shaping can be difficult, leading to misshapen loaves or deflation.
When just starting out, use less water so you’ll be able to handle the dough better. When following foreign recipes (like UK or American ones), keep in mind that their flour soaks more water than our Balkan ones.
5. Crust and Crumb Texture: Achieving the perfect crust and crumb can be elusive. Sometimes, the crust is too thick or too thin, and the crumb might be too dense or too airy.
As long as it’s edible, you’re on the right track, be patient with yourself and the process. Good things take time.
To overcome these challenges, it’s important to practice, observe, and learn from your mistakes. Keeping a sourdough baking journal can help you track what works and what doesn’t.
Additionally, joining sourdough baking communities (like my SourdoughMania Family) and forums can provide valuable insights and support from experienced bakers. As well as coming to hands-on workshops, where you can smell, taste, feel different flavour profiles of sourdough.
My next workshops in Croatia will be in January 2024, again in Zagreb and in Split. In just 2 hours, I share knowledge from my 11+ experience in how to maintain a healthy starter and how to bake the best bread.
I admit when I started in 2012 out of love for my late husband, I complicated a lot. Because I wanted to get to the gist of the process. But for good 2 years now, I’m simplifying the whole sourdough thing.
So in less than 3-8 min hands-on time one can make bread, pizza, focaccia and more.
Join me on the sourtastic journey and see for yourself that sourdough is no rocket science that it can be simplified.
Find more information on the workshops in Croatia here: bit.ly/live_radionice_2024
If you can’t join my live workshops, you can find all my online courses based on the same principle here:
Let’s bake the world a better place, one loaf at a time.
Yours truly fermented,
Photo: Klara Avsenik Žagar