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Current state of the dough I followed this recipe and did the stretch and fold three times according to the timings, just that my dough wasn't round enough at the end of the third time. I then left the dough at room temperature for 10h because I left home and when I returned, I got this wet dough with a few bubbles... Not sure how to troubleshoot this, and I'm leaving it in the fridge for now.

Any advice would be much appreciated!

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    What was your recipe? If the percent of sourdough starter was high, then the whole thing might have turned into starter. You can still use it to bake a massive loaf of bread.
    – user50726
    May 5, 2019 at 18:50
  • To me it looks like the dough is overhydrated (rather than overfermentation being the main problem). Also I can't tell if your starter is actually active. The level of fermentation does not look impressive (after 10 hours at room I would expect many more and larger bubbles). Assuming your starter is actually active, you could add flour to bring the hydration down to a manageable level, and basically start over from that point.
    – user50726
    May 6, 2019 at 0:49
  • Thanks for your advice Aris! Hmm do I just add flour by 'feel'?
    – Colin Hong
    May 6, 2019 at 1:48
  • Yeah, I would add flour little by little until it feels manageable and similar to what you see in the video tutorials. Don't sweat it. If you add too much flour, then you can always add a bit more water. The important thing though is that your starter sourdough culture is actually working. If you have doubts about it, put in some instant yeast. Also don't forget to put in a bit of salt to go with the flour.
    – user50726
    May 6, 2019 at 23:01

1 Answer 1

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This question has gone unanswered for a couple of years, but I'll have a go in case it helps anyone else.

It almost looks like you didn't have any starter or other yeast in there -- the linked recipe describes making a starter in some detail so I doubt that got missed, but I have to mention it as a possibility.

If you have any way of measuring the pH, then that's a good indicator -- if the mix isn't below a pH of 5 or so after 10 hours on the counter, then it may not be safe to eat and should be pitched. The low pH is an indicator of yeast activity and helps keep pathogens under control.

Likewise, if you happen to have a refractometer you can check the alcohol level -- if there aren't a few percentage points of alcohol after 10 hours at room temperature, then there's no yeast activity and again it may not be safe to continue. Like the low pH, the alcohol is a disinfectant.

It does look overhydrated, but too much hydration is likely not a reason for a lack of yeast activity -- I've run starters as high as 500%; basically a water/alcohol mix with some solids on the bottom. Looks like a really thick Guinness.

As an aside, the "three stretch and folds" along with the high hydration is likely not nearly enough kneading to develop gluten; that alone can result in shaggy glop instead of resilient dough.

Finally, if it does turn out that there is yeast in there, then I'd use the entire batch as one large wet preferment; keep it in the fridge, use all of it to hydrate a new dough batch, bake 2 lb and put the rest back in the fridge again as a solid preferment for the next batch, repeating on a weekly cycle or so. Mixing with flour and refrigerating the remainder like this will take care of feeding, lower the hydration, and gradually pare down the total volume held back. This can be thought of as an old dough (pâte fermentée) method as opposed to a starter, but will get things under some sort of management.

If you do want to go back to a starter, then once you've got the preferment portion down to size after a few cycles of the above procedure, go ahead and hydrate it back to 100% or whatever ratio you want to use, and resume a starter routine.

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