I have started a sourdough troubleshooting guide on my site; a page that I will update as and when I find solutions to problems I come across whilst baking sourdough, or common issues I see cropping up in the Facebook groups, etc. If you have any questions of your own, then please submit them via the contact form and if I have an answer that could help, I will add it to the page. But before you head over there I just wanted to preface the guide with this short blog.
Before you follow my advice or listen to my opinions I’d like to clarify that that’s exactly what they are – my advice and my opinions! Things that have worked for me and enabled me to overcome the many issues I’ve faced in sourdough baking, accompanied by a smattering of theoretical knowledge I’ve picked up from reading and researching along the way. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and no silver bullet that will immediately resolve all the issues for every baker - what works for me might not work for you. I know this sounds like a cop-out and it really frustrated the hell out of me in the early days, but unfortunately, it’s the truth. When I started out, all I wanted was for someone to be able to say ‘do X and it’ll resolve Y’, but with sourdough baking it’s just not that simple, there are too many variables at play. Having said that, there are people out there who I believe offer better advice than others, or at least they are able to present it in a more useful manner and that’s exactly what I try to do. The most frustrating answers are answers that don’t answer anything at all! A word salad of options that leave you no better off than when you first reached out for help. However, it's not all the 'teachers' fault, you may be able to elicit clearer, more concise guidance by being more specific with your questions. I see comments on Facebook like, ‘Why did my bread fail?’ or 'What went wrong?', but these questions are far too general to get any personalised or meaningful advice. In fact, most people will be put off responding as they’d have to write an essay to tackle all the potential solutions. You need to prioritise your issues and then set about resolving them one by one. When it comes to baking, if you change your process, formula or ingredients every time, how will you know what caused a certain improvement or failure in that specific bake and how will you repeat it or avoid it in the next one?
So, with that in mind, please feel free to head over to the new troubleshooting section of my website. Hopefully over time it will become a useful resource for beginners and more advanced home bakers alike. Even if you can’t find a direct answer to your particular issue, you might read something that at least offers encouragement and gets you thinking about tackling your problem in a different and more rational way.
Good Luck and Happy Baking!