Q & A - My dough keeps splitting

Hello Jack, help!

 So I've made lovely loaves, wonderful texture, and now apparently have lost it, my loaves are splitting and flattening out.

I make a pre-ferment and wonder if that's the problem? Too lively?

Also, I'm attempting to keep my starter "ripe" by using it every few days. Ripe defined as doubling in less than 4 hours after feeding.

So possibly my starter is more active than a month ago when the loaves were beautiful?

What adjustments would you try, to stop the loaves from splitting when proofing?

Marc, Bradenton, Florida.

Hey Marc,

Ok, first can you send me your recipe. Also, what have you changed from before when they were a success?

One change I am making is my starter, keeping it ripe.

A recipe I'd read for starter said to refrigerate until alcohol forms, then use. I'm not doing that now. I refrigerate and use again in 2 or 3 days, and it hasn't changed much other than dropped in the jar. When I remove it and it has sat for a while it rises to the prior level.


Make sponge:
1 cup white whole wheat
3 cups bread flour
2 cups starter
1 3/4 cups water
Mix, allow 4 hours covered on counter then refrigerate 12 to 24 hrs.

Remove  sponge and allow to warm on counter 4 hours or so.
Soak 1 1/2 cup nuts and fruit for 30 minutes and drain. (pecans and dried cranberries)

Add remaining ingredients to sponge:
3 cups bread flour (6 total)
1 cup white whole wheat (2 total)
2 TBS honey
2 TBS soft butter
2.5 tsp salt
Once mixed knead 14 minutes.
Return to bowl 1 hour
Turn out and fold dough, return to bowl another hour
Again fold and return
A third time turn out and fold and return to bowl 2 more hours.
5 hours rising total including folding.
Divide,  shape,  proof.

Ok, another difference between my successes and now is how I'm treating my starter. I noted this on the page.  So it's more lively?
Thanks Jack.  You're a good guy.


So, your recipe checks out at around 60% Hydration in total (including the starter) which with the butter and honey added should be fine. Providing your starter is made up of equal parts flour and water in weight.

In that case I think the issue here is the amount of time you are resting.

The whole process is super long and that can lead to the breakdown of the dough hence the cracking on top. The fact that it happens after shaping while proving up could be coincidence. i.e. that’s the point in time when the dough has reached its limit!

Sounds like your starter is super excited from what you told me, doubling in four hours is pretty quick and this will contribute too. Yeast is multiplying and that is a key point. It multiplies and so the puff of your dough accelerates as it does so. So then, if your starter is super excited it will multiply in a shorter amount of time, eating up all the food in your dough quicker and so leading to a faster breakdown of the structure. Make sense?

Yet another thing that will contribute is the quantity of starter. By my very vague calculations you are close to 472g of starter which is a lot for that size dough. Same principle. More yeast to eat up more food faster, leading to the breakdown of your dough. So in fact in your original message it sounds like you were right! Too lively (for that quantity) to rest for that amount of time.


So you have a couple of options:

1. Cut down the amount of starter you are using, and follow the same method

2. Cut down the resting time either at the sponge stage or the resting stage and use the same recipe.

Let me know if this helps!

So I think it was exactly what you said.  Too much too much!  Too much starter and too much time.  I added less starter and didn't sponge.

Mixed, autolyse, kneaded, allowed to rise with no folding or deflation. Rose in three hourse more than double

Divided, shaped, proofed in the fridge for 12 hrs...

Nice white Italian bread.

Thank you.