Under Fermented Sourdough – What Happened and How to Fix it?

Published Categorized as Sourdough Bread Recipes

Fermentation is an essential step in sourdough baking. So what should one do when your dough is under-fermented? If you’re wondering what happened and how to fix it, then stick around for the guide.

Under fermented sourdough – what happened and how to fix it?

Table of Contents

How to Tell If My Sourdough Is Under Fermented?

The main tell-tale signs of underfermented sourdough are evident in the baked loaf. You may notice the following characteristics:

  • Cracked scoring and large ears.
  • An uneven crumb, or tight crumb with larger holes.
  • Gummy or wet texture
  • Will not brown in the oven, or toaster.
  • The loaf is small but feels heavy.

Truthfully, it’s pretty hard to determine whether your loaf was under-fermented, simply because of the appearance when you remove it from the oven. In fact, the yeasts from your sourdough starter will have done wonders for your dough, which is why you’ll still achieve that great oven spring.

You probably won’t even notice the difference until you finally slice the sourdough loaf, and take a look at the crumb structure. Generally, you can still eat and enjoy any sourdough loaf that has been under-fermented, unless it’s completely raw when sliced.

Cracked Scoring

Scoring your dough before placing it in the oven helps to produce a wonderful crust and sourdough ear. However, if your sourdough is tearing or cracking where you’ve scored, then this is a clear indication that your sourdough may have needed more time to ferment.

Generally, scoring your bread would have brought forth a neat and folded ear, but don’t worry too much about the appearance of the ear. As long as your loaf is nice and crisp, with the perfect texture, it shouldn’t cause much of a problem, other than the obvious destruction of appearance.

Uneven Crumb

Sourdough bread isn’t sourdough bread without its light and even crumb. And this is what most of us are looking for. The last thing you’d want to find is a series of uneven holes, some larger than others, as this not only destroys the aesthetic but doesn’t appear uniform in any way.

An uneven crumb is a very clear indication of under-fermented sourdough, and this can be construed from the strange structure of the crumb. This can be extremely frustrating, as the larger holes can make your slices of bread look torn and shredded, and not at all appealing. Not to mention that both jam and butter will be leaking through those huge holes!

Gummy Texture

A loaf of sourdough that has not been fermented long enough will have a gummy texture when sliced open. It may have such a gummy texture that you’ll find remnants attached to your bread knife.

You must wait until the loaf has cooled completely before slicing, so if you think you’ve cut your bread too early, this might be the case. Truthfully, if you were to leave your freshly baked loaf out to cool on a cooling rack for 8 hours, it will still feel moist and gummy inside.

This is purely because the under-fermented dough is unable to cook through completely, no matter how long you keep it in the oven.

This may cause confusion for those who use a thermometer to judge the doneness of their sourdough. The thermometer will only show the internal temperature of your dough, which in no way signifies how much your dough has cooked through. No matter how high the temperature rises, if the dough was under-fermented, it will remain gummy.

Doesn’t Brown

One of the main things most bakers are excited about is the wonderful brown sourdough crust. A perfectly fermented sourdough will produce a crisp, golden brown crust, that sounds absolutely satisfying when sliced into.

Unfortunately, under fermented sourdough will not only struggle to brown in the oven but will not be able to brown in a toaster, due to the excessive moisture in the dough.

Small But Heavy Loaf

The best way to tell whether your sourdough was under-fermented or not, is when you’re removing it from the oven. If it appears smaller than it should be, i.e., little to no oven spring but feels heavy in your hands, then it hasn’t spent enough time in bulk fermentation.

Sourdough that has fermented perfectly, will feel light and airy when lifted, with a wonderful oven spring. It will also feel lighter before you place it in the oven to bake. So if it’s feeling extremely heavy before the bake, then this could indicate that it hasn’t been fermented for long enough.

How to Fix Under-Fermented Sourdough Bread

Once you’ve established that your sourdough may have under-fermented, then fixing it is pretty easy. Primarily, time and patience make the perfect antidote for under-fermented sourdough bread.

You’ll need to extend the bulk fermentation to enable your sourdough starter to continue doing what it is supposed to.

Another thing to consider is the maturity of your sourdough starter. If it hasn’t matured enough then chances are your sourdough is going to end up under-fermented. The maturity of a sourdough starter is a process of its own. It requires time, patience, and lots of feeding. Eventually, when it has produced enough carbon dioxide to rise and help ferment your dough, you’ll be able to recognize this through the appearance of the starter.

For a better understanding, check out what is a mature sourdough starter.

What Is The Difference Between Under-Fermented Sourdough And Under Proofed Sourdough

Often these terms can be used synonymously, although under-fermentation really refers to the dough being removed from fermentation quicker than necessary. And under proofing refers to removing the dough from its second period of rest, which is often carried out in the fridge.

Both processes are extremely important and are the ticket to producing perfect-tasting loaves, with a wonderful airy texture and open crumb.

How to Use Under-Fermented Sourdough Bread

Under fermented sourdough bread isn’t nice at all. But once you’ve removed it from the oven and discovered the unfortunate result, you may have the urge to toss the entire loaf away completely.

While this reaction is completely understandable, I urge you to take a step back and consider some of these great ideas for your under fermented sourdough bread.

You can easily transform a disappointing loaf into something delicious, and here are just a few ways you could do this:

  • Sourdough croutons: While your sourdough might not look great, there’s no point sulking over appearances. Instead, you can make use of the wonderful taste, and transform the gummy loaf into some croutons! Simply dice your bread into cubes, toss them in olive oil, and bake them in the oven for 10 minutes. Toss this in your salad, for a wonderful crunchy addition.
  • Sourdough bread pudding: Bread pudding is probably one of the best ways to make use of an under-fermented loaf. Simply because you can enjoy this for dessert, and add any ingredient you like to create a sweet and crispy treat. I like to add dried fruits like raisins, dried nuts, and a sweet glaze for the perfect finish.
  • Sourdough bread crumbs: Bread crumbs are incredibly versatile because they can be used for absolutely anything. From fried chicken to fried potato sticks, there’s no telling what you can do with it. So toss your under-fermented loaf in a food processor and pulse until you’re left with coarse crumbs. Add these to soups, salads, or use them in your fun recipes for a delightful treat.

Under Fermented Sourdough

Under-fermented sourdough bread isn’t great, but is pretty easy to fix once recognized in time.


How Do You Know When Sourdough Has Risen Enough?

The best way to know when sourdough has risen enough is to use a combination of these indicators, including volume, texture, and the finger test.

By Natasha Krajnc

Hi! My name is Natasha and I'm specialized in home sourdough bread baking and currently based in Slovakia - a very small country in Central Europe. My bread baking story began in 2011 when I decided to give up commercial yeast. I felt tired all the time (especially after eating bread and other foods made with yeast), I wasn’t motivated to do anything, had trouble concentrating throughout the day, my abdomen was bloated and I was like a trumpet on steroids – basically, I was quite a wreck. I was a big bread lover (and still am) and having to stop eating bread was quite hard at that time but I felt I was on a right way to give my body a chance to heal itself.

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