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Sourdough Flops

I was cleaning up my files on my computer, and I came across some of my very earliest sourdough bread pictures. I had to laugh! I remembered back to being a newbie in sourdough baking, and all of the flops I had until my breakthrough loaf. I thought I would share some of the pictures with you , so that those of you who are newbies to sourdough baking, can see that we all bake those flops in the beginning. It is in persisting that we get the breakthrough loaf. Here are some of my very first sourdough trials:

I didn’t get anything right with this loaf . That porcelain look is from the dough being overproofed until the gluten broke down during the first proof and then underproofed during the second proof before baking :

Nothing right here

Here is the crumb: Yuck! Doughy and heavy!

crumb of early flop

Here is a Rye flop:

Rye flop

Nope, no success yet!

Here is a Sourdough White with some whole wheat, very underproofed:

white wheat flop

The next two were baked in the same batch, more underproofing during the second proof and for sure a first proof that turned into glue. This is what the combination of overproofing a first proof and then underproofing the second proof looks like:

flop 1

Notice the reddish tinge to the dough, that comes from overproofing during the initial proofing.

flop 2

The above loaf is what you call a brick!

Then I tried making the dough wetter but I was too scared to move the loaf onto the baking stone so I put it into a pan…and I finally got close.

almost there

Then I got courage and started flipping my dough onto the stone. I finally baked this next loaf and I felt like I might be able to actually bake sourdough bread! It even had crackles in the crust!

almost 2

Then one day it happened!!!! Breakthough Loaf !!! I did it !!!

breakthough loaf

To this day, this particular loaf is talked about. It was a near perfect crust. There were fine blisters all over the crust. It had fine cracks and the crust was crispy so that it crackled when you bit into it. The crumb still wasn’t perfect, but hey! This was a breakthrough moment. I became obsessed! I still am! I love baking sourdough !

Here is a closeup of the crust:

first crust

For my journey to Sourdough Heaven, credit goes to my daughter, Rochelle, who challenged me to make “real” sourdough (she said it could not be done). Also I have to give credit to Nancy Silverton, whose book turned me around about sourdough baking.

I don’t think I would have gotten past making the starter if it hadn’t been for her advice.

So after that you would think I was on my way, with no more mistakes, but you would be wrong! I still make mistakes, and still have flops. Here is a flop I had with Rye bread a ways back when Aussie Bill helped me with his advice. I hadn’t yet learned to not spray the crust directly and I was spraying this Rye loaf pretty heavily. It almost fell apart. Here it is:

Bill reminded me that Rye, having lower gluten couldn’t handle the water spray directly on the crust. I have followed his advice and have never made that mistake again!

There are always the random loaves that fall off of your peel going into the oven:


There’s always forgetting to spray your loaf because you are busy on the computer and so you don’t get the oven spring you would like. Or your starter is having a bad day because it skipped too many meals. There are all kinds of flops. However, as you go along, just like anything else, you get a feel for what to expect and what you are doing. Your loaves start turning out great most of the time. You actually learn more from any mistakes you do make and with confidence you begin to make up your own recipes and get a modest amount of fame in your neighborhood….you have finally reached Sourdough Heaven!

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  1. Matthew Caldwell Matthew Caldwell
    July 18, 2006    

    thank you all for your comments, and the great pics! the pic with the small blisters made me almost cry cause i keep telling my wife someday i will have a loaf with those little blisters! she was like uh huh. I got the fever. Ill be checking on your results and I hope you dont mind if I tell you mine. Matt

  2. July 14, 2006    

    Ah yes, the flops that we all make. You are completely correct when you say that we learn most from our mistakes. I still do.

  3. Gary Gary
    July 14, 2006    

    Yep, we’ve all made plenty of those. In my case I still do.

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