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A few days back I started a bread following a Youtube recipe, it had 400gms of flour and 350 gms of water. I had never made such high hydration bread before. I did 1 hour of autolyse followed by 4 round of 5 min kneading by hand. Still it was rising slowly, so I left it on the counter overnight (22-24°C).

Next morning it had doubled. But when I started lightly it folding for final proofing, it just collapsed into a sticky mass. I waited for 2-3 hours and when it didn't rise I added another 150 gms of flour hoping that it would rise again. But I'm waiting for almost 30 hours but there is no gluten development or rise!! Even the no knead sourdough dough rises much faster!

Could anyone explain what's going on and if there'a chance to revive it?

PS: I have been making 2-3 sourdough bread every week since the lock down due to COVID19 started. Some of them were no-knead bread, some were kneaded bread and most of them turned out pretty good. I just mentioned it to let you know that, although I'm an amateur, I'm not a complete novice for sourdough bread and my starter is good!

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This sounds very much like overproofed bread. You should have baked it much sooner, or retarded it in the fridge, not left it on the counter.

You cannot "rescue" overproofed bread in the sense that the loaf will never have good texture. If you really want to save the ingredients, you can reuse them as a preferment in a new bread. But it is not necessarily worth it, since the overproofing process creates very sharp off-flavors.

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    You can rescue overproofed bread: modernistcuisine.com/mc/dough-cpr
    – moscafj
    May 29 '20 at 11:24
  • Thank you. Next time I need to be more careful... Is there any thumb rule regarding how long can sour dough be fermented depending on different hydration level, temperature etc?
    – saicode
    May 29 '20 at 12:08
  • @moscafj I tried following it but it didn't help.
    – saicode
    May 29 '20 at 15:56
  • @saicode I've never seen such rules. Standard proof times are so far away from the overproofing time that bakers usually don't have to guard against that and so don't need to calculate it.
    – rumtscho
    Jun 8 '20 at 13:41
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I have had the same problem. I prefer to ferment my sourdough bread for a long time, 12-18 hours, usually at room temp. In my experience, proofing the dough in the fridge just leads to cold dough that does not develop.

With high-hydration dough this can lead to dough that lacks structure. The simplest fix I have found is to simply use high protein flour. For this kind of bread I have found that this makes a really big difference. Some softer flours will just never develop any shape after a long fermentation.

The other fix is to do your best to develop the gluten before the long fermentation. First step is "autolyse" which is to mix the flour and water (no other ingredients) together at least 30 minutes before you make the rest of the dough. Dry flour does not actually have any gluten, which requires water. It has glutenin and gliadin and they need to be introduced to water to form gluten. The autolyse starts this process. And then the kneading or "stretch and fold" also develops the gluten. High hydration doughs are usually too sticky for kneading so stretch and fold or a mixer with a dough hook are the only options.

When I use a high protein flour, usually I am only on my 2nd or 3rd "stretch and fold" and I can feel the dough already firming up, it almost immediately goes from slack to a tight ball. If I do this 4-5 times with 20-30 minute rests in between, the dough really develops. Then even after a long fermentation, a few more stretch-and-folds brings it back into shape.

Trying to add more dry flour to an overproofed or overfermented dough never seems to work for me, you can't really add enough flour to develop gluten, but it dries it out, meanwhile any gas that is created by the yeast simply escapes because of the lack of gluten. So you're left with a hard, dry loaf.

I will admit I have not perfected this, and my favorite flour for sourdough bread and baguettes is French T55 flour which is not especially high in protein. On my next batch I think I am going to use a stand mixer with a dough hook, and also back off on the hydration a little maybe down to 75%.

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  • Appreciate your reply! I have been doing autolyse for sometime but didn't know that dry flour has glutenin and gliadin that become gluten with water.. Unfortunately I don't get different varieties of flour based on protein content where I live, it's basically white flour, whole wheat flour and different organic variants. So sometime I tried added vital wheat gluten to get high protein flour - although I am not sure if the result is comparable to actual high protein flour. What I noticed is that 60-70% hydration is easy to handle but more than 80% is significantly more difficult...
    – saicode
    May 31 '20 at 15:49
  • Since I posted about this disaster, I have been getting good quality bread as usual. You mentioned that you ferment for '12-18 hours', usually at room temp. What's the room temp for you? does that time work during summer (~30-35 degree C) or do you live in very cold place where the temp never go so high? Thanks!
    – saicode
    Jun 17 '20 at 5:24

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