What happened?

I have been successfully baking bread for a few years. My last two days of baking I have found that my loaves are not rising like they use to, giving me flat bread and I’m not going for flatbread. I have changed nothing, I am doing everything the same. Any thoughts as to what is going on?
Feeling deflated,
Ed

Something has changed! If everything remains constant then so will the results. Results have changed ergo another part of the equation has changed too.

1: flour used
2: temperature
3: leavening agent (what are you using?)
4: temperature (seasonal change)
5: bad crop (don’t laugh as you’ll see)
6: yeast gone bad if you’re using yeast
7: sourdough not firing on all cylinders if using starter

So first things first the recipe you’re following. Secondly, have you changed the flour being used?

A few years back, here in the UK, all of a sudden there was a spike in flat loaf syndrome (I’ve coined that term - just now). To cut a long story short the reason was a bad crop due to bad weather. Remedy was simple… add one tablespoon of lemon juice for 500g of flour and all of sudden turning out great loaves again. So don’t discount the unknown but rest assured if results have changed then something else has changed as well.

Thank you Abe for your response. I plan on baking tomorrow and I am anxious to try the addition of lemon juice. Yes, I have changed flour which has been difficult to come by with the pandemic. I like how you think.
Yes there was a change, the flour and I didn’t think of that.
I will let you know the results tomorrow.
Thank you again.
Ed

I like your term, “flat bread syndrome “.

Hi Ed,

What I’d also take into account is hydration. Every flour will absorb water differently. It could be the dough was too hydrated. So either you can adjust the hydration and or add in some lemon juice. Here’s how I would tackle it…

In a jug measure out the water. If you just wish to try hydration first then miss out the lemon juice. If you wish to try tackling both then after you have measured out the water take out one tablespoon and replace with one tablespoon lemon juice. Mix.

In the bowl add the flour and yeast. Mix till fully combined and make a well in the centre. Add the salt into the well.

Pour in 3/4 of the water, dissolve the salt and begin to form the dough. If you think it’s too dry then slowly add in the remaining 1/4 till it feels right. Aim for tacky. Sticky to the touch but doesn’t come off in your hands. That’s a good hydration. Workable but not too dry. Then carry on as you would.

Let me know how it goes.

P.s. I’m assuming it’s a yeasted bread and you’re using instant dried yeast.

Hi Abe,
I will try attending to the hydration first. Actually I may just try baking 3 loaves, each changing one variable and noting the results.
I am using sourdough starter, not dry yeast.

I do appreciate your kindness in helping.

Ed

PS I live in New Jersey, May I ask where you are located?

Don’t know why I jumped to the conclusion it was dried yeast. Think it was just in case you were I’d assume so when devising the method, i.e. keeping the salt and yeast apart even though I don’t think it’s necessary. I’m strictly sourdough but in past I’ve done yeasted without being concerned about that but in keeping with tradition etc.

I agree with you. Hydration first. It’s the first thing one should think about when changing flour.

My pleasure Ed.

I’m in London.

@anon44372566 Abe, “flat flour syndrome” totally cracks me up! You know what though? It makes so much sense that a change in flour, either by type of flour used or growing conditions, etc. can affect the bake. Great observation. I’ve experienced it too!
@emorrows Edward, I only use sourdough in my bakes and I had a similar experience a number of months ago. I had been feeding my sourdough, affectionately named Cyril, regularly with seemingly no problems. I hadn’t changed my recipe or my ingredients (so I thought) but, it seemed that my bakes weren’t rising as high and I really didn’t know what was going on. Was something wrong with Cyril? What was I doing wrong? The flavor was fine but the final oven spring and rise were a bit disappointing.

It took me some time to think about it and as it turns out, there had been some changes in my routine I didn’t realize were affecting my bakes.

  1. The flour I had been using exclusively to feed Cyril had no longer become available and I had to change what I was using. The original all-purpose flour I used was organic, unbromated and unenriched. When I couldn’t get it anymore I was able to find another flour from another company that was also organic, unbromated and unenriched. It never dawned on me that what I thought was an identical replacement (which, logically, it was) might not be “identical” to Cyril. He had to get used to the change!
  2. Though I was regularly feeding Cyril I found I wasn’t feeding him ENOUGH! It seemed he was simply “getting a bit hungry.” Apparently I was only feeding him what amounted to being a snack instead of a whole meal, LOL! When I increased the amount I fed him, his behavior improved and my breads once again got a better rise. Cyril was hungry! I hadn’t been feeding him enough and he was complaining a bit. Cyril had been acting like a small child who when hungry and tired doesn’t act well. It took me a while to figure it out but now I make sure he gets a bigger meal each time I feed him.
  3. When I bake only with white bread flour (@anon44372566, that would be your strong flour in the UK, right?) I do get a bigger rise in the finished loaf then when I add whole grains to the dough. I love adding some freshly milled whole grain to my breads for nutrition and flavor and have noticed that the final rise isn’t as high as when I used only white bread flour.

That’s been my personal experience with “flat bread syndrome”.

Leah

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We’ve all had flat bread syndrome at one time or another @Leah1 . Everything goes swimmingly well for a long time and all of sudden pancakes. Usually I tell myself that’s exactly what I was after - ciabatta!

My other observation is when making pizza crust, which you want to be flatbread, is that is rises too well. Dough smells fear and misbehaves. You can trick dough sometimes and make pizza when you want a nice tall loaf :wink:

In the UK we have plain flour about 10% or less protein. Good for cakes. Then there is bread flour which is more like AP flour. About 11-12.6% protein. And then there’s strong bread flour 12.6% + protein. Up to about 15%. Yes, they rise really well. Make a flood strong dough.

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@anon44372566 I was curious. The organic high protein bread flour I use from Breadtopia is 13.5% protein. The organic select bread flour, which I totally love, is 14% protein. That would qualify both of those as definitely your STRONG bread flour!

When my husband developed some medical issues which necessitated my making his bread as “white” bread instead of whole grain, I switched the bread flour I was using. Both are absolutely wonderful. While I would SO love to be able to use the select bread flour, it’s safer for my husband’s health to use the white bread flour. I still make loaves that include whole grains, but he only eats those occasionally. I make a purely white sourdough cinnamon bread for him that he has for breakfast daily. With a lack of storage space and this whole COVID-19 situation, I opted to just keep the organic high protein bread flour as my go-to bread flour. Perhaps in the future I can add some of the select bread flour back into rotation. Until then…

Leah

Never have truer words been penned (or um, digitized).

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And never truer when shaping! I’m not joking. If someone is having trouble shaping then they need to shape without thinking about it for it to behave.

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@anon44372566 and @homebreadbaker

“Dough smells fear and misbehaves.” Yep, it sure does! It acts like a wayward child or a rambunctious puppy. Inconvenient, but loved all the same. :laughing:

Leah
:

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Hi, I’m new to sourdough baking. I have made 3 loaves of regular no bake bread and it’s amazing! But Whenever I try the no knead sourdough, I have a problem. The dough is okay at first… it seems to have okay consistency, wet but holds together and takes some stretches, holds a general shape. But the next morning, it is falling apart. There is nothing to stretch, nothing to hold on to, like sandy, muddy soup . This has happened twice now. The second attempt I added more flour in case it was just too wet, but no luck. My starter did create a rise in the bread overnight, so I’m pretty sure it’s active. Could it have risen too long? Or simply still too wet? I’m really looking forward to putting my new starter to use! Thanks in advance! Also, I used a scale to go strictly by weights from the recipe on Breadtopia instead of volume measurements when making the failed sourdough, and it seemed like the weights provided didn’t quite match up with the volume that was expected, sometimes around half a cup off.

It sounds like the bulk fermentation time is too long for your ambient temperature and starter strength.

Try making the dough in the morning so you can watch over it during the day, and stop things before it expands too much.

Another option would be to use much less starter and/or cold water in the dough mix, but first I’d probably do the daytime “watch the dough not the clock” thing so you get a sense of what the dough should look like when you move onto the pre-shape and bench rest.

Thank you @Fermentada! I will try that today. How will I know when it reaches that point? And what does the bulk fermentation do to the dough that makes it fall apart after sitting too long?

I wouldn’t let the dough get to doubling in size, maybe aim for 75% growth. It should have aeration visible through the sides of the bowl. Unfortunately, it’s hard to advise on this because depending on how many rounds of stretching and folding you do, you will mask some of the dough expansion. Experience and observation are your best bet.

If you look through some of the recipes on the Breadtopia blog, I do post a lot of before and after photos for both the first and second rises. This thread has photos too:

Over fermenting will eventually cause the gluten to break down in the dough. It’s a “sweet spot” situation, because under fermenting is not good either. The third paragraph in this blog post covers this issue.