Have you ever wondered how much sourdough bread should weigh once it's been baked? There is a difference between the dough weight and baked bread weight of sourdough bread. This difference is really important in the quality of the final product and can be indicative of fermentation and baking problems in some cases.
Once your sourdough bread has been baked, it should lose around 15% of it's dough weight and feel light and airy. If your sourdough bread isn't losing water weight whilst in the oven, this is a fairly good indication that it's been under fermented.
In this comprehensive guide, I will delve into the science behind sourdough bread weight loss, exploring the factors influencing it and providing insights into achieving the perfect loaf of sourdough (if there is such a thing?).
If you are new to the sourdough journey, and looking to increase your sourdough knowledge and skill sets, then I highly recommend also checking out some of these sourdough guides:
- Sourdough Glossary
- Beginner's Guide To Baking Simple Sourdough Bread
- How to Strengthen a Sourdough Starter
- What should sourdough bread actually look like?
How much water should sourdough lose when baked?
The amount of weight lost during the baking process can vary depending on several factors:
Hydration Level: Sourdough bread with higher hydration dough tends to lose more weight during baking due to increased moisture content.
Baking Time and Temperature: Longer baking times at higher temperatures can lead to greater evaporation of moisture, resulting in more significant weight loss.
Dough Composition: The ingredients used in the dough, such as flour type and additions like seeds, nuts or cheese, can influence the final weight loss of the bread.
Your sourdough bread should lose around 15 % of its weight during the baking process (give or take a few percent depending on the initial hydration of your dough).
For example, if your starting dough weight is 900g (as is the case with my simple sourdough recipe), you would expect the baked loaf to weigh around 765g when you take it out of the oven. This would mean that the dough has lost around 135g of water. Of course, it might lose slightly more or slightly less (and this could be due to weather conditions, fluctuating oven temps, fermentation etc). But somewhere around 15% is a good rule of thumb.
Why does sourdough bread lose some of its weight when baked?
Sourdough bread (like other types of baked bread) loses some of its weight whilst baking due to being subjected to high temperatures. The high temperatures inside the oven (and Dutch Oven if you use one) forces the water molecules to the surface of the dough, where they escape through the crust of the bread.
The reasons sourdough bread loses some of its weight when baked are:
Evaporation: As the bread bakes, moisture evaporates from its surface, resulting in weight loss. This evaporation occurs due to the high temperatures in the oven, causing water molecules to escape from the dough.
Leavening: During baking, the carbon dioxide produced by yeast and bacteria in the sourdough starter expands, creating air pockets within the dough. This leavening action further contributes to the loss of weight as the bread becomes lighter and filled with air (you can learn more about the scientific explanation of how sourdough starters work here).
Maillard Reaction: The Maillard reaction, responsible for the browning of the bread's crust, involves chemical reactions between amino acids and reducing sugars. While this reaction enhances flavor and aroma, it also leads to a reduction in moisture content, contributing to weight loss. You can read more about the Maillard Reaction in sourdough bread here.
Does Adding Steam or Using A Dutch Oven Prevent Sourdough Losing Dough Weight?
This is such an interesting question, since we are always told steam is best when it comes to baking sourdough. But if we are trying to make our sourdough lose water weight, how is steam beneficial to this process?
This is why the second half of your sourdough bake should be steam free. The steam free time allows the crust time to crisp up and the residual water in the dough to move to the surface.
Why Does My Bread Feel So Heavy?
If your sourdough feels heavy when you take it out of the oven, it's a good indication that it hasn't lost enough water weight. This will result in a gummy, wet crumb inside, often with a strip of unbaked dough towards the bottom.
The under lying cause of this heaviness is actually under fermentation. The dough hasn't had enough time during bulk fermentation to rise. Under fermented dough does not fully bake which also means that it doesn't lose enough water to gain the light, airy texture we all love in our bread. You might also find this guide to understanding when sourdough bread is cooked through too.
Under Proofing: Insufficient fermentation or proofing time can result in a denser loaf with a higher moisture content, leading to excess weight.
High Hydration: Excessive hydration levels in the dough can hinder gluten development and structure formation, resulting in a heavier loaf. This is particularly true if you aren't used to handling a high hydration dough and you don't work the dough enough to develop a strong gluten structure.
Improper Shaping: Inadequate shaping techniques can lead to an uneven distribution of air pockets, resulting in a dense and heavy crumb.
Oven Temperature: Baking sourdough bread at too low a temperature or for insufficient time can lead to inadequate oven spring and a heavier final product.
Does Sourdough Bread Lose More Water While Cooling?
Yes! Sourdough bread will actually lose an extra 1 to 2% of water weight while it's cooling. This is why it's so important not to cut sourdough right out of the oven. This extra water that is trapped inside the dough as steam will cause your crumb to become sticky and gummy if you cut it too soon.
It's best to allow your sourdough to cool at least 4 to 6 hours on the counter (or even overnight) before you cut into it. This allows the extra water trapped inside to make it's way to the crust and evaporate.
You might also find this guide to slicing sourdough perfectly helpful as it goes through more of the process of cooling sourdough adequately.