So you’d like to bake sourdough bread but you’ve heard it can take several days to get from start to finish. Firstly, don’t let that put you off if you’re baking sourdough for the first time – most of the time you just leave the dough to do the work.
But what if you leave the dough, only to return and find it hardly risen at all – no beautiful gas bubbles or soft, rounded mass ready to shape? What can you do to get your sourdough to rise faster so that you can get baking delicious bread?
Luckily there are a few factors that affect how your dough rise, and you can adjust these to help get your sourdough rising. Watch the video below to find out more, or read on.
Check the temperature
The yeast in your sourdough starter digest the flour in your dough and produce the gas which rises your dough, creating a beautiful loaf.
And as I often say during my online bread making classes, treat your yeast just like you’d like to be treated!
Yeast like to keep cosy and warm and have plenty of food available. When they have those things, they produce gas at the quickest rate.
So if you’ve decided it’s a bit chilly, perhaps you’ve got an extra layer of clothes on or the heating’s been nudged on, chances are your yeast are a bit cold too. And when the yeast are cold, they still produce gas, but much more slowly. So temperature is something to always bear in mind should your sourdough be looking a bit sluggish – especially as we come to a change in seasons here in the UK and overnight temperatures drop into single figures (brrr!).
However, this isn’t to say you should be getting your dough as warm as possible. There’s a balance – too warm and, whilst your dough might rise more quickly, it won’t leave any time for the dough to develop flavour. Plus you risk the dough over-proofing and collapsing. And at temperatures above 37C (98F), the yeast will begin to die off, ending gas production.
So don’t leave your dough in a warm oven, on a radiator or in sunlight. It will likely be too warm and will dry out your dough too. Instead, find a cosy spot, with no drafts, for your dough to rise. And, if your sourdough starter is struggling to get going, consider finding it a warmer spot too.
Check how much starter you’re using
Your sourdough starter is a mixture of flour (I use dark rye flour) and water in which the natural yeasts have been allowed to flourish (and if you don’t have one yet, you can sign up to get my free step-by-step guide to making one here).
You can therefore control the initial amount of yeast added to your dough by increasing or decreasing the amount of starter you use. The amount of starter you use will depend on how active your starter is – ie how quickly it becomes bubbly and ready to use.
So if you’d like to increase the speed at which your dough rises, try using a little more bubbly starter to make up your dough. This is one of the key things I taught in my recent membership club online class about baking sourdough bread. When your starter is new, and might not be very active yet, you could add more to your dough than the recipe calls for, to help speed up the rate the dough rises at.
But once you have a bubbly, active and reliable starter, you can start to adjust, either up or down, the amount of starter you use to create your dough. This will affect how quickly (or slowly) your dough rises – a useful way to control timings and help fit your bread making around whatever else you need to be doing.
Make your sourdough starter with more water
Adjusting how you feed your starter before baking can also have an effect on how quickly or slowly your final dough rises.
If you followed my recent live sourdough starter challenge, you’ll have seen that we made quite a liquid, runny rye flour starter. This helps the yeast as they try to get established in your starter – the ingredients in the starter are more easily moved around and yeast have more access to food (the flour). You may therefore find that a more runny starter becomes bubbly and active more quickly.
Conversely, if you want to slow down your starter, try feeding with more flour or less water, and make a thicker paste. The starter will still become bubbly and active, but it may just take a little longer.
Want to learn more about baking your own delicious sourdough bread at home?
If you’d like to learn more about baking your own delicious sourdough bread at home, do check out some of my other resources. You can get my free guide to making your own sourdough starter here. There are also plenty of bread making tips and recipes on my blog.
Want to follow along step-by-step with me to bake your first sourdough loaf? Tried to bake a loaf using your starter before but the results just weren’t what you expected? Join my membership and get access to the recent class teaching you how to bake a crusty white sourdough loaf. You can find out more at this link.