Was reading this question and reply, and wondering if it may pertain to my last night's effort for a good 'artisan' style sourdough loaf today: How does a sourdough sponge work?

At the end of the question, and answer, it was said that too much gluten could have been used- dough too weak, to round into a good loaf. I am completely new to sourdough, but have a good, strong starter going, and now, have been trying to learn how to use it.

I mixed it last night per a recipe that called for: 300 g. starter, 570-600g cold water, mixed into starter, then, 1 kilogram bread flour and 18g. salt., and I converted all measurements, if I did it correctly, to: -1c. starter, 2 1/3 c. ice water, 4 1/4 c. bread flour, and I used less salt, because we do not like salt much. there were explicit directions, plus pictures, at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial...(if I'm allowed to let you see the recipe I used), but mine appeared wrong from the start.

Questions are: 1. Did I convert the recipe correctly? 2. Was recipe too 'weak' to begin with? 3. Could I have over-proofed it, to where there was no structure left? (too long, too much eaten by starter action?) FYI: I mixed it at 9:30 PM, and attempted to make it into loaves at 10:30 AM. 4. Could I have just not known how to create a 'skin', a tight skin, for making this artisan type loaf? 5.I began emergency procedures to bake SOMETHING out of this...(I made 2 separate batches), and I did salvage it into bread and pizza dough, but after much folding and some flour being worked in. So, question 5: What would be a good 'emergency' procedure if dough is just too slack to hold any shape?

I have images, but will wait to post any, since I am new here, until I am or if I am asked. Totally appreciate any feedback, advice!!! Thank You.

Not sure if I worded this correctly, as I am new here, but if anyone can answer any part of the above questions, that would sure be helpful!! Maybe I should have put each question into a separate post? Thanks!

  • 1
    Woha! Just a few general comments: 1. Yes, we want pictures! But there might be a limit to how many you can post. 2. Yes, you may link to a recipe or type it here - just give the source. 3. Yes, please break this down into multiple questions. Each one could help other users independently. You can still link to the other questions, if you want to connect them. (And you could get more upvotes ^_^)
    – Stephie
    Feb 11, 2017 at 7:29
  • The best solution is to bake by weight rather than volume. It's easier and more accurate.
    – Wad Cheber
    Apr 28, 2017 at 6:34

1 Answer 1


There is no way to answer all you questions definitively. I can say your conversion most probably off because cups are not a precise way to measure flour by weight.

First and foremost if you want to bake bread on a regular basis learn to use the bakers percentages and the metric system. Buy a quality kitchen scale.

bakers percentages (BP) are what professional bakers use and for good reason. Dependable, repeatable results. You can scale up or down a formula with precision.

Basically the BP system is based on the amount flour always being 100% in the formula and all other ingredients are a percentage of that. For example a bread dough that has a hydration level ( amount of liquid in the dough ) of 70%

1000g. of flour so a hydration level of 70% would be 700g. of water - 1000 x .70 = 700

Every ingredients percentage is multiplied into the amount of flour. Salt is generally around 2%

1000 x .02 = 20g

Once you learn this system you can change the amount of flour and calculate all the other ingredients with precision. double it, triple it, cut by 67% whatever you want. Once you understand it you can develop your own formulas, you can backward engineer recipes in cups with the help of some conversion charts and math and/or your scale. if you go crazy like me you can make an excel spread sheet so all you have to do is enter a number of loaves you want and it will calculate the whole formula for you.

lets say it was 100% - 150g flour to 150g of water =300g

your formula called for

flour 100%-- 1 kilogram (1000g) of flour

water 60%-- 600g water 60%

salt 18%-- 18g salt (1000 x .018 = 18g ) 18%

starter 30%-- 300g starter (1000 x .30 = 300g ) 30%

Adding the starter changes things but because we assumed it 50% it is not much. starter and preferment's complicate the BP system but its all math it can be figured out, i will not go into here. your formula shows a overall hydration level with starter at 65.2% that should be a rather firm dough not wet and slack as you described. thus my saying your conversion was off. Also changing the salt % as you did will have effects on the leavening time. ( salt is an inhibitor, slows down yeast or starters )

Sourdoughs or starters or yeast do not "eat gluten" they feed on the sugars and enzymes in the flour. I will let you do your homework on that. Gluten is developed partly by this process and partly by kneading.

Learning to do a "window pane" test will help you to know when gluten is developed enough. I suspect that is what you meant by "create a 'skin', a tight skin, for making this artisan type loaf". Learn what the autolyze process is.

You "mixed it at 9:30 PM, and attempted to make it into loaves at 10:30 AM" That is long time to proof at room temps and would allow the leavening agents to exhaust themselves. did you proof in the fridge? Sourdough breads are more temperamental and finicky then commercial yeast breads and you have to be able to recognize when to bake them, it is easy to let them to far.

A sourdough mother can be any hydration you want and it will behave and taste differently depending that hydration level. You have feed it on a regular basis, you pull some of it make a starter, sponge, preferment, always feed/replenish it. NEVER feed it more than 50% of its total weight. lets say it is a 100% hydration mother and you have 1000 grams after pulling some to build a sponge, you would then feed it 250g water and 250g flour = 500g which is 50% of its weight.

A healthy mother will be forgiving, you let it go for a while and bring back to life with a few feedings, you freeze it for a while.

Have fun and enjoy a fresh loaf of bread soon.

  • I am currently learning to make sourdough bread. This is the most useful thing I have ever read about making bread. I want to give you +10.
    – RedSonja
    Oct 6, 2017 at 13:11
  • 'NEVER feed it more than 50% of its total weight' When did this become a rule? I keep approx 250g starter and I'll regularly use 180g of it at a time (one loaf, 2 pizzas) and replenish it back to 250g. What terrible thing is happening as a result of this that I have failed to notice fore years?
    – Spagirl
    May 19, 2020 at 14:45

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