What’s the deal with my dense sourdough?

What’s the deal with my dense sourdough?

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Sourdough bread is well-known for its slightly sour taste, crunchy crust, and fluffy inside peppered with picture-perfect holes. It’s not recognized for being thick. Hence, if your sourdough bread is thick, you must determine why.

Hello, everyone! My name is Shea, and my family and I enjoy sourdough bread on a daily basis. And, although I originally found it difficult, I’ve learned how to create great sourdough bread and deal with challenges like denseness along the way.

For a variety of causes, sourdough bread may become thick. One of the most prevalent causes is using the incorrect flour or attempting to use an inactive or weak sourdough starter.

Other (less frequent) problems include under-kneading, under- or over-proofing, a lack of moisture, or incorrect scoring and temperatures.

Continue reading to find out why your sourdough is thick and how to improve it for next time!

7 Reasons Why Sourdough is So Dense  

Numerous factors might be causing your sourdough to be unappealingly thick. The following are the primary reasons.

1. Wrong type of flour

You will struggle with density if you use poor-quality flour or flour with a low protein level. This is due to their inability to form strong gluten networks, which are required for your dough to rise and provide a light, airy finish.

2. Inactive or weak sourdough starter

A sourdough starter is a key component in sourdough bread. Sourdough starter is a bacterium and yeast-based natural leavening agent. Although it is very advantageous to sourdough bread, it may be difficult to create.

Sourdough starts need at least a week to be active, however most bakers will not use them until they are two or three weeks old. Second, it needs to be fed. If you do not feed your beginning every 12 hours, it will get weak or perhaps die.

Employing a dormant or weak sourdough starter will result in thick sourdough. This is because the yeast isn’t performing properly, i.e. it’s not digesting carbohydrates to produce the essential carbon dioxide gasses for appropriate rising.

Your sourdough starter may die by accident at times. For example, you may have used bleached flour that still includes bleach residue, or you may have combined salt and yeast. In any case, a dead sourdough starter will not operate, leaving you with a worthless bread.

3. Under or Over-Proofing

Every bread-baking experience, including sourdough, requires proofing. Sourdough should be proofed in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, with a minimum of 12 hours. Sourdough may proof in as little as three or four hours at room temperature.

Under- or over-proofing will result in a thick mess.

Under-proofing will not give the yeast enough time to perform its magic. Over-proofing will result in an overabundance of yeast. As a result, the gluten strands begin to stretch and break. In either case, you will have an extremely thick and unappealing sourdough bread.

4. Under-Kneading

Few individuals love kneading bread. It’s a time-consuming operation that might result in sore hands and wrists. (This is why many folks choose to use their bread machine).

But, as much as we loathe it, kneading is necessary for bread-making. During the kneading phase, the gluten structure is formed, which ultimately retains gas to provide a lightweight texture.

If you do not knead for adequate time, the gluten network will not develop correctly. As a result, your dough will be unable to rise as needed, resulting in a thick result.

5. Lack of Moisture

A wetter dough will provide a moister, airier feel from your sourdough. Certainly, it will be more difficult to deal with, but it will be worth it in the end.

6. Improper Scoring

Some people may not believe that scoring their bread (sourdough or otherwise) is necessary, but believe me, it is. Scoring the bread allows it to release some steam, resulting in an ample rise and a wonderful texture.

Your bread will be left to its own devices if you do not score it or score it incorrectly. This implies that everything will get trapped within, resulting in thick bread with unattractive fractures running through it.

7. Incorrect Temperatures

When it comes to baking sourdough, it is always preferable bread stick to the recipe, and your recipe will never urge you to compromise for colder temps. Sourdough works best with high heat, thus a lower temperature may result in a longer baking time and, as a result, denser bread.

7 Ways to Prevent Dense Sourdough 

Apparently, there are several reasons why sourdough may get thick. Fortunately, there are several simple methods to avoid it. These are my top seven sourdough baking tips and tactics to keep in mind the next time you bake sourdough!

1. Use a different flour

Stop using whatever flour you’re currently using and replace it with strong white bread flour. It is the most highly recommended sourdough flour. Why? Due of the protein level, which ranges from 12% to 15%.

Use unbleached flour instead. Any bleach residue left behind might damage your sourdough starter. Always sift your flour to remove any lumps or clumps that might create difficulties later on.

2. Use an active and ripe sourdough starter

Employing a dead sourdough starter will result in a dead end, whereas inactive and underripe starts may provide unusual outcomes, such as thick sourdough. With this in mind, always keep your sourdough starter active and mature.

A mature sourdough starter will have doubled in size and will be producing small, frothy bubbles on top. It may have a yeasty or alcoholic aroma.

Sourdough starts that are less than two weeks old will not be developed enough to bake sourdough. Use sourdough starter when it is at its height, which is usually two to four hours after it has been fed.

3. Proof for the correct amount of time

By proofing for the appropriate period of time, you may avoid under- and over-proofing. Although your recipe should specify the optimal time and environment for your sourdough, a general rule of thumb is that sourdough performs best when stored in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.

Remember to keep an eye on your sourdough! It is ready if it has doubled in size and passes the poke test. Just poke your dough. It’s ready to bake when it gently springs back and leaves a little imprint.

4. Knead for the correct amount of time

Sourdough bread is simpler to knead than other forms of bread. That doesn’t take nearly as long. It doesn’t imply you should be careless about how long you knead for.

Knead your sourdough by hand for up to six minutes (but not longer). If using a mixer, knead for no more than 10 minutes.

Tip: Knead the dough until it passes the windowpane test. Essentially, you’ll want to stretch a piece of dough into a square. If light flows through it without tearing, it has been properly kneaded.

Be careful while using the stretch and fold method. The last thing you want to do is push the gas out of the dough by mistake.

5. Add more water

Adding additional water to your dough is a simple method to make it lighter and prevent density. Begin by adding one cup of water. Consider adding another cup if the dough is simple to handle. Don’t overdo it, however, since this might lead to problems later on.

Tip: Avoid using excessively chlorinated water, which might accidently kill the yeast. Your water should contain no more than two parts per million (ppm) of chlorine.

6. Score it before baking

Scoring is sometimes dismissed as unneeded, yet it serves a function and may be completed in about 10 seconds. So why wouldn’t you take a few minutes out of your day to score it?

Scoring is simple. For gorgeous sourdough, use the criss-cross design with -inch slices.

Be cautious if you use various patterns. Smaller cut designs do not need to be as deep. If you’re just making a few slices, they should be deep but not too deep. Try to keep it under an inch.

7. Bake at a higher temperature

Sourdough bread is not your typical loaf of bread. With that in mind, you should use extreme caution when it comes to temperatures. Begin by preheating your oven as much as possible (500F for most household ranges). Bake for approximately 20 minutes, then decrease to 450F and continue to bake until done.

Before you put your sourdough in the oven, make sure it’s warmed! The greatest results will be obtained by using a Dutch oven.


Wow! There is a lot of information. Yet, wouldn’t you agree, it’s all well worth the read? Although I am certain that I have addressed the majority of your issues and questions, I have included some frequently asked questions just in case.

Can you over-ferment sourdough?

While sourdough needs a long fermentation time, it is possible to overdo it. Fortunately, it is much less prevalent than under-proofing, but it is still conceivable. The best course of action is to keep an eye on it. Let it to ferment for no more than 24 hours or you risk over-fermenting it.

Can you overfeed sourdough?

Remember how I suggested utilizing the stretch and fold method earlier? Thus, I stand by my remark. The only thing I’ll add is that sourdough may be over-folded. This shouldn’t take more than five or six minutes to complete.

How do you know if sourdough is Overproofed?

Over-proofed dough is simple to identify. For one thing, it will have more than doubled in size and will be flowing out the edges of the pan or basin. Second, while conducting the poke test, the indentation will stay fixed and will not spring back.

How do you make a thin and crispy sourdough crust?

There are several methods for making a thin and crispy sourdough crust. I propose sprinkling some fat on the outside, such as olive oil (which pairs wonderfully with sourdough flavor). Always use a Dutch oven and avoid sprinkling too much flour on your work area.

Say Goodbye to Dense Sourdough Struggles for Good!

Without a certain, dense sourdough is a letdown. Yet, you now have the knowledge and instruments to put an end to terrible calamities! The main lesson is to always use an active starter, high-protein flour, and to never under-knead or under-proof your bread.

Have you ever had difficulty with thick sourdough? What steps did you take to avoid this in the future? We would be delighted to hear from you!


How do you fix dense sourdough?

Baking soda added to the dough during the shaping stage (immediately after the bulk ferment) can assist sourdough bread become lighter and more airy. Baking soda is a powerful alkaline that interacts with the acidity of sourdough.

Why is my sourdough dense and gummy?

CAUSE – Gummy sourdough may be created by a starter that is too young, inactive, or fermenting too quickly. Gumminess is often caused by inadequate fermentation (cutting the bulk fermentation time too short).

Why does my sourdough loaf feel heavy?

One of the primary causes of thick and sticky bread is underproofed dough. There will be insufficient gas in the dough because there is insufficient yeast activity. As a result, it will bake as an extremely thick sourdough bread. Take a look at this bread.

Why is my bread dense and heavy?

Thick or heavy bread may be caused by, among other things, not properly kneading the dough mix. Some possible causes include mixing the yeast and salt together, losing patience when baking, or not establishing enough tension in the completed loaf before baking the bread.

What does overproofed sourdough look like?

What to look for in a loaf that has been overproofed. An over proofed loaf will be extremely flat, with little rise or shape retention, similar to the symptoms of over proofed dough. Overproofing damages the structural integrity of the bread, therefore overproofed loaves cannot keep their form in the oven.

Can you let sourdough rise too long?

YES! You can bulk ferment sourdough for an extended period of time. If you allow the dough to ferment for an extended period of time, it will become “over fermented.” Over fermented dough loses structure and becomes a soupy, sloppy mass that is impossible to form.

What does over fermented sourdough look like?

When your dough is over-fermented, the scores will flatten and dissolve into the dough rather than “open up” while baking. The scores aren’t really opening up. The resultant bread will be flat and lack oven spring. The crumb might seem thick and compacted, particularly at the bottom of the loaf.

What temperature do you bake sourdough bread at?

Preheat the oven to 450°F and set a timer for 30 minutes. After the timer goes off, remove the cover and continue baking the bread until it’s a rich golden brown, about 25-30 minutes more.

How do you make bread less dense?

Use a dough enhancer like Vital Wheat Gluten to increase the fluffiness of your bread. A modest bit of dough enhancer per loaf is all that is required to produce a considerably lighter and fluffier product.

How do you know if sourdough is overworked?

Overworked dough can often feel tight and tough. This indicates that the liquid molecules have been broken and will no longer stretch correctly, making the bread more prone to breaking and tearing. Underworked dough, on the other hand, will be more difficult to form into a ball shape.

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