How to Save Overproofed Sourdough? Make Focaccia

Last Updated on May 21, 2024 by Gabby Hatten

Over-proofing happens to the best of us. But before you throw that over-proofed dough out, read on to turn it into something as equally delicious as the artisan loaf you probably had planned! 

If you’re new to sourdough, you may not yet understand things like overproofed dough, gluten structure, cold proofing, etc. The easiest way to trouble shoot your dough is to understand the basics of how sourdough works, so let’s get into it! *If you need to create a sourdough starter, read my step by step instructions here*

Under-proofed Dough

The biggest cause of underproofed dough is insufficient fermentation time. Cutting your bulk fermentation time short can have dire consequences! But how does this happen if you follow a recipe to a T? Something that isn’t talked about enough is environment. If your environment is the polar opposite of the author whose recipe you’re following, you’re going to need to tweak it and make adjustments according to your personal environment. When I first began my sourdough journey, I had many failed attempts before I got anything edible. My first four were especially awful gummy, dense bread loaves. Other causes include low temperature, if you keep your house at a cold temperature like I do, you’re going to have a longer bulk rise than those with a warm environment. Inactive/weak starter is another big cause. It’s hard to wait once you’ve begun your sourdough journey. I tried to use my starter when it was just two weeks old, and after 4 underproofed loaves I gave up until it was a month old and never had that problem again!

Overproofed Sourdough

With overproofed dough, the causes are the opposite of under-proofing. This means excessive fermentation time, high temperature, high concentration of active starter, neglecting the dough during proofing. So what is the best warm temperature for sourdough? 75-78 degrees.

The good news with overproofing, is that it is usually edible (unlike underproofing). I have made many loaves with over-proofed dough HOWEVER, my favorite use for it is to make focaccia! It is absolutely divine with hummus.

The Best Way to Test Your Dough

You can do the poke test (fingertip test), if it doesn’t spring back at all, it is likely underproofed and needs to ferment longer. If it slowly springs back to about halfway or less, it is properly proofed and ready for baking. If the indentation springs back quickly and entirely, it is overproofed. You should be doing the poke test during the final proof. 

Helpful Sourdough Tools for the Home Baker

Type of Flour

While this is really up to personal preference/dietary restrictions, the type of flour you choose will also affect the recipe. I personally use a mix of organic all purpose flour and organic bread flour. If you choose to use a whole wheat flour for a whole wheat focaccia, keep in mind it will absorb things much faster and in my case it generally has a quicker rise time.

Simple Sourdough Focaccia 

Grab your favorite rectangular baking dish (like this one), and drizzle olive oil to coat the pan prior to adding your over-proofed dough. Place your dough into the pan, cover and let the dough proof for about two hours, or until almost doubled. Yes, this is the final rise I promise! Next, dip your fingers in the olive oil and gently tug the dough into the corners of the pan, creating an even rectangle. Now, massage your fingers into the dough, pushing up large bubbles and creating a textured surface. Finish it off by topping with whatever you have on hand; tomatoes, herbs, cheese, garlic, artichoke, the possibilities are endless! Give it one last olive oil drizzle and bake for 25-30 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Since bake times can vary, it should have a beautiful, golden brown crust when it’s ready! Let cool before slicing.

If you don’t have overproofed dough on hand, I included the recipe card for my artisan loaf which is the dough I use for this as well. I recommend making it in the evening and leaving it on your counter overnight to get the perfect overproofed dough you need (:

Helpful Notes

Remember, the amount of time it takes highly depends on your environment. If you want to speed up the fermentation process, you can place your dough in your oven with the light on. Just make sure to place a sticky note over the buttons so no-one accidentally turns it on! In my experience, when I do this shortcut, it cuts the length of time in half. If you get started on your dough late, do not leave it to room temperature proof overnight. Simply put it in the fridge for an overnight proof until you’re ready to bake the next day.

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Simple Artisan Sourdough

this is the perfect recipe for those just getting into the world of sourdough baking!
Prep Time 7 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Rising Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 52 minutes
Serving Size 6

Equipment

  • dutch oven
  • parchment paper
  • kitchenaid mixer

Ingredients

  • 450 grams all purpose flour
  • 300 grams room temp water
  • 150 grams active sourdough starter
  • 21 grams raw honey
  • 1 pinch Himalayan pink sea salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  • Make sure your kitchenaid is fitted with the dough hook, and add all your ingredients to the bowl. Mix on low (I use the 2 setting) for about 8 minutes.
    (If you do not have a mixer, you can knead by hand! It will take you 10-15 minutes)
  • Your dough should be in a ball on the hook, pulling away from the bowl and not leaving any dough behind.
  • Coat a mixing bowl with a light drizzle of oil, or a light dusting of flour. Plop your dough into the bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise for 45 minutes.
  • After the first rise, it's time to do stretch and folds. (See here for a video tutorial)
  • Cover with a tea towel for another 45 minutes before doing another set of stretch and folds and letting rise for at minimum 2 hours.
  • Sprinkle flour onto a clean surface, and plop your dough onto it. Now, you're going to stretch your dough and press it out into a rectangle shape. Next, you're going to fold it like an envelope. Once you have your envelope, you're going to roll it it until you have a ball.
  • Take the ball, and do the 'push pull' with your hands until the ball becomes smooth, and tight. This is a bit tricky if you're just getting started, so watch this video for a visual! The more you do it, the easier it gets (:
    Once it it shaped, you can place it into a banneton while your dutch oven pre-heats *OR YOU CAN LET FERMENT IN FRIDGE OVERNIGHT IF MAKING AHEAD. THIS IS MY PERSONAL PREFERRED METHOD AND WILL YIELD BEST RESULTS*
    Once your Dutch oven is ready, place the dough onto a piece of parchment paper, score however you like. Get fun with your designs!
  • Once oven is pre-heated to 450℉, remove your dutch oven. Use the parchment paper as a sling to place your bread into it. Put lid back on and place into the oven for 30 minutes.
    Remove your dutch oven lid, and bake an additional 15 minutes.
    When that 15 minutes is up, you're going to remove your dutch oven and place bread on a cooling rack for at minimum one hour.
  • Once cooled, you can slice and enjoy!
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Author Profile

Gabby Hatten
Gabby Hatten
Hello there, I'm Gabby! I am a mother of three, married to my wonderful husband Marco, and I have a deep passion for simple living, vintage homes, and cooking everything from scratch! Although I grew up in Las Vegas, my husband's military service brought us to the east coast, where we have now made coastal North Carolina our home. While I didn't grow up on a farm, I have always been fascinated by that lifestyle and have dedicated my adult life to learning and embracing those skills, which I am excited to share with all of you!

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