Why Is My Sourdough Bread Not Rising?

Sourdough bread can be a challenge to any bread baker. There are troubles with the starter for the sourdough becoming moldy, there may be loaves that come out hard as a brick, or you may even create a loaf with large and irregular holes in it.

Then there are the difficulties from the sourdough bread not rising. It may take a bit of experience working with these loaves of bread, but you will find that sourdough bread can be relatively easy to make.

So, why is my sourdough bread not rising? Your sourdough bread is not rising maybe because the temperature is to low or the starter lacks power and potency. In order to control the temperature, you can use warm water.

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An Active Starter Will Encourage Your Sourdough Bread to Rise

If you have experienced trouble with your sourdough starter becoming active, you may want to check the flour you are using. If there are no wild yeasts, bacteria, or enzymes in the flour, it cannot become active.

A whole-grain flour may provide you greater success, or you can try the home-milled variety, or unbleached.

A very fast acting flour is the whole grain rye. This flour will work so quickly you will have your starter stable and ready in as little as three days.

It also eliminates flour waste as you do not have to continue feeding the starter flour as often. Once you have the active rye starter, you can then use it to make starters from other flours such as white or wheat.

The starter should rise to twice its size between feedings. If your starter is not doubling, it cannot double your bread, and this is why your sourdough bread is not rising. These are some tips on maintaining your starter, so it can help your sourdough loaf to rise properly.

Maintain Your Starter

Once you have gotten your starter stable, its time to maintain it. Almost all failures in sourdough bread rising can be contributed to not correctly maintaining the starter.

Your sourdough starter should be at room temperature and be fed at least twice a day. If you do not feed it twice, the starter loses its vitality and will die, making it useless.

When you feed the starter, you are adding volume, and it should double.

The weight of the feedings should be equal. As an approximation, you can use about three parts of flour to two parts water.

You want to remember that your starter is a living thing. You have to care for and feed it regularly. You will have to feed half of the starter twice a day at room temperature and discard the remaining portion.

This means if you are keeping one cup of starter, it should be fed a half cup of water and a half cup of flour. One thing to keep in mind is that flour scooped from a sack will yield a heavier weight. Weighing versus measuring your amounts may work better to achieve the correct proportions.

Another factor in how your sourdough bread will rise is how thick you make your starter. Bakers are divided on the question as to how thick a starter should be, but if you are having trouble with your sourdough bread rising, one reason may be your starter is too thin.

A thin starter doesn’t have the strength to rise on its own, and it will work very quickly, so if you haven’t fed it properly, it has most likely died.

A thicker starter is preferred by most bakers and will resemble caulking compound or putty. These thicker starters have also been said to create more flavor, and have more strength than the thinner starters.

How to Test the Starter

If you are having trouble with your sourdough bread rising, you may want to test your starter to ensure it has the right vibrancy and power. If you have given it a good feed, it is ready to use if it:

  • Has doubled in size
  • Is bubbling on the surface and has bubbles throughout the culture
  • Has a spongy texture, which reminds you of a roasted marshmallow

If you see these three signs, you should try the float test to see if it will raise your bread. The float test is done by dropping one teaspoon of the starter into a glass of water.

If the starter floats to the top, you have a healthy and ready to use starter.

Temperatures Affect Sourbread Rising

Another test for making sure your sourdough bread will rise is to check the temperature. Temperature plays a significant role in whether or not your bread is going to raise.

If it is too cold, your dough will take a much longer time to rise. If it is too warm, your dough will rise quicker. This same concept applies to all bread, not just sourdough.

An example of how temperatures can affect the rising of your sourdough bread is that a loaf should rise within eight to ten hours in a room set at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. But, if it is wintertime and the outside temperatures are dipping down to ten below zero, you are almost guaranteed not to have a room temp of 70 degrees Fahrenheit, even if this is where your thermostat is set.

There are a lot of factors that determine the temperature inside on a cold winter day. You could have drafts, doors being opened and shut, poor insulation, and other occurrences that not only change the room temp, but they also change your dough temp as well.

In these cases, you have to change your recipe and allow a longer rise time. You will know your dough is ready when it has doubled its size. The reverse for this situation is if where you live is hotter, the rise time will most likely reduce from eight to ten hours.

Other temperature tricks you can try if you live where the weather is cold is to use warm water during your mixing phase. The warm water will jumpstart the rising process.

The exact water temperature is not important; you just want it warm between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which will feel warm on your bare skin.

You also want to avoid storing your flour in the refrigerator. Some people believe this storage method prevents bugs from nesting in their flour bags. If you start with cold ingredients, you will have a cold dough.

Patience is probably the hardest tip a baker is given for making bread. Most find patience is hard to achieve in a world where what we want is so easy to access.

Sourdough bread will teach you this virtue if you are serious about creating a tasty loaf of bread. There are no short cuts, so relax, follow the tips and get ready to enjoy an amazing loaf of your home-made bread.