Sourdough baking

Sourdough baking

Master the Art of Sourdough Bread Baking: From Beginner to Perfect Loaves

Making sourdough bread at home can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it is not without its challenges. From dense loaves to over-proofing, each step in the sourdough making process is crucial and can significantly influence the outcome of your bake. In this post, we'll go through some common issues that home bakers and culinary adventurers run into when making sourdough bread, and provide actionable solutions to get you back on track to creating the perfect loaf.

Understanding the Basics of Sourdough

Before we jump into troubleshooting, it's important to have a solid understanding of sourdough fundamentals. Sourdough baking is unique in that it relies on wild yeasts and bacteria to rise, rather than commercial yeast. This process is sensitive to many factors such as temperature, hydration, flour type, and timing – all of which play a part in the final product.

Common Sourdough Problems and Solutions

  1. Dense or Gummy Loaf

The Problem: Your bread comes out denser than a brick or has a slightly gummy texture inside.

The Solution: This could be due to under-proofing or insufficient gluten development. Make sure you’re allowing enough time for your dough to rise and develop structure. A longer bulk fermentation or more stretch-and-folds can help. Also, ensure your starter is active and bubbly before you begin.

  1. The Bread Isn't Rising

The Problem: You’ve waited hours, but your dough seems lifeless and is not doubling in volume as expected.

The Solution: Double-check your starter’s health; it should be fed regularly and be quite active before use. Additionally, consider the temperature – sourdough rises best between 75°F and 80°F (24°C to 27°C). Creating a warmer environment might be necessary to encourage activity.

  1. The Crust is Too Thick or Hard

The Problem: While a good crust is desired, sometimes the crust can turn out too thick or hard, making it difficult to enjoy the bread.

The Solution: Crust issues often stem from baking time and steaming. Try reducing the oven temperature after the initial burst of high heat or increasing steam within the first minutes of baking by adding a tray of boiling water to your oven.

  1. The Bread Has Little to No Oven Spring

The Problem: The loaf doesn't rise and become airy during baking.

The Solution: This is generally a sign of over-proofing. If the dough over-proofs, it exhausts the yeast, which then doesn’t have the strength for a good oven spring. Pay careful attention to proofing times and look for signs of readiness rather than sticking strictly to the clock.

  1. Uneven Holes or Crumb Structure

The Problem: The crumb structure is uneven, with large holes at the top and a dense bottom.

The Solution: Work on your shaping technique to ensure even gas distribution. Also, consider how you're placing your dough into the oven – if it stretches out when being transferred, it may cause an uneven crumb.

Perfecting Your Technique

Beyond these common issues, remember that sourdough bread making is as much an art as it is a science. Small adaptations and experiments – from adjusting hydration levels to experimenting with different flours – can lead to vastly different results.


Sourdough bread making is a delicious science project right in your own kitchen. Each challenge you encounter teaches you more about the intricacies of flour, water, and fermentation. Use these tips next time your sourdough doesn’t turn out as expected and remember that even the most experienced bakers encounter setbacks. With patience, practice, and a passion for the craft, you'll be creating beautiful, delectable sourdough bread in no time.

Happy baking! 🍞